Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Why Is It Always Comics & Wrestling?

A weird thing about me is that although I am ostensibly a functional, capable, mature 30-year-old man, I spend a lot of my mental energy thinking about two things that a lot of the other functional, capable, mature grown people around me probably couldn't possibly care about: the worlds of comic books, and of pro wrestling.

In both cases, my interests were sparked as a kid, as they would have to be, and have fluctuated as I've grown. I had to stop keeping current on both about a year or so ago due to what I term "lifestyle changes." At that time I was starting a new job and my amount of "free time" to pursue these hobbies dwindled. I had to stop visiting my local comic shop on a weekly basis, and I couldn't find three hours during the week to watch WWE programming. Anyway by this time I was two years deep into my current relationship and it becomes less and less tenable to spend time away from your girlfriend so you can watch grown men grapple each other. It didn't hurt that, thinking about the state of those entertainment forms at the time, I was exhausted and unimpressed with what I was being offered and took the opportunity just to say "You know what, maybe we should take a break."

And yet, I still am consuming these media, in my own way. Just before I got that job I launched Uncanny X-Cerpts, which I have been able to work on thanks to Marvel Unlimited, a paid service that provides access to a thorough - albeit far from complete - archive of Marvel Comics for an annual fee that is a fraction of what I was spending annually on comics to keep current. Similarly, the WWE Network enables me to browse through their broad video library and experience their glory years at my convenience, and more importantly, is home to their key monthly events and the most consistently watchable promotion in the English-speaking world, NXT. I don't take advantage of either as much as I might - again, it all comes down to time, but it's still on my mind.

Both are seen as silly, shallow niche interests - kid stuff that appeals to base instincts. Not necessarily rightly of course - there's an entirely separate article to be written about how great pro wrestling storytelling can be when it is actually great. At their best (and I stress, like anything, these media are often not at their best,) both offer insight, drama, compelling stories, unreal feats and flights of fancy, and invite a shockingly great amount of analysis.

That last one is probably the true why I haven't, why I could never, actually "quit" either. There's too much to think about.

People love to overthink things. They love to find passions and delve into them. And for me, both have proven endlessly durable. For one thing, they are always on. Unlike sports, or TV shows, or blockbuster movies or book series, they don't operate seasonally, so every single week of your life there is new content to take in and analyze. Last November, I signed up for the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, after reading my brother's copies for years, which provides weekly news updates and analysis for every major promotion worldwide every week, and is home to a plethora of podcasts. At the same time, I follow numerous insightful and astute comics commentators on Twitter - for about a year while I was winding down my weekly comic shop visits, I relied on the sadly now departed ComicsAlliance website. So even though I'm not experiencing either of these media in real time, I still feel very up to date on both.

And then, if you ever get tired of picking apart the current scenes, there is always the old stuff to rehash, reminisce, and reconsider.

Most beautifully, I think is that both media represent a great deal of possibility. Both are dominated by clumsy mainstream brands that have a hard time pivoting in a changing marketplace, but are orbited by agile young upstart creators and performers who represent the future. Both are at a crossroads of incorporating inclusivity and progressivism in their largely masculinized and formerly exclusionary purviews. Both forever have the potential to be more cutting edge in attitude and politics than bigger media like movies and TV, just based on the kind of outsider weirdoes who are now attracted to working in, and consuming them. In both cases you can find a lot of great people online eager to discuss these things (and some rotten people, of course.)

I do go through fits where I am embarrassed to invest so much in either of them, to spend so much breath online about them, but lately I am of the mind that if you like something, and you've curated an online space, there's no reason not to share whatever thoughts you have there, and the people who are into it will be there.

Then I think about all the pleasure that thinking about, analyzing, and ingesting these media have given me, and will continue to give me for years since in both cases, for the most part, when they have you once, they have you forever. They make up a shocking amount of my sense of self, and it's not always healthy to suppress that.

I only hope that all the people who may be second-hand embarrassed for all the time I spend on twitter and in life talking about these things have their own things that give them that. Just uh, maybe make sure you're not ruining a relationship over it.

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