Kevin Smith, Mark Hamill, the team behind “Spider-Man: Into to Spiderverse,” Clark Gregg, and many others gave a special tribute to Stan Lee at the famed Chinese Theater in Hollywood. The proceeds for that event went to the Hero Initiative, a charity to help comic creators with health expenses. However, no good deed ever goes unpunished on the Internet. Bill Maher doubled down on his blog post that he posted after Stan Lee’s death in November 2018, describing comic book and superhero movie fans as children who need to grow up. Looks like someone is #adulting pop culture again.
Bill Maher, in his segment titled, “Goodbye, Mr. Strips,” implied that Stan Lee did comic strips. Comic strips and comic books are two different art forms. Stan Lee never did comic stripes for newspapers. He did comic books that appeared with the newspapers at the newsstand. A Spider-Man comic strip for the newspapers didn’t happen until 1977, years after he put down his pen to run Marvel Comics. The rest of Bill Maher’s editorial makes it painfully obvious that he had never ever stepped inside a comic book store in his life.
That Bill Maher lost 40,000 Twitter followers after publishing his blog post doesn’t surprise me. To put that number into perspective, consider Super Bowl 50 and Silicon Valley Comic Con 2016. When Super Bowl 50 played at the brand new Levi’s Stadium in February 2016, 71,000 people attended that football game. When Silicon Valley Comic Con at the San Jose Convention Center met a month later, 60,000 people attended the three-day event. Both events had the same economic impact on the regional economy.
Silicon Valley Comic Con is not one of the biggest comic cons. New York Comic Con had 250,000 people, San Diego Comic Con had 130,000 people, and Silicon Valley Comic Con had 70,000 people in 2018. Nearly a half-million people attended just those three events. Most of those people were adults with money to spend on travel, hotel rooms, admission and photo-op tickets, and a ton of collectible swag.
Another number to consider is the latest superhero movie, “Aquaman,” made $1 billion USD in worldwide ticket sales. Not a bad return on a movie that cost $160 million USD to make. And some people wonder why every other movie in the past decade was a superhero movie.
I guess Bill Maher never read the graphic novel or seen the movie called “The Watchmen,” where nearly all the superheroes and villains had neither superpowers nor glowy things. The exception being Dr. Manhattan, who got caught in a radiation experiment that turned him into a hairless Smurf. He had a glowy blue penis when he wasn’t wearing a Speedo in public.
I saw the first 20 minutes of “The Watchmen” at WonderCon 2009 in San Francisco. Several people decided to cosplay, or dressed up, as Watchmen characters like Silk Spectre and Dr. Manhattan. One man showed up at as Dr. Manhattan wearing nothing but blue body paint, a Speedo and sandals. Silicon Valley comic cons in recent years are no longer allowing people to wear near nude costumes with just Speedos or bikinis.
Bill Maher, in response to the open letter by Team Stan, was wrong about Dickens, Steinbeck, Melville and Shakespeare in terms of pop culture history. Society today regards those authors as being worthy of reading because their novels and plays are on approved classroom reading lists. Unless you are an English major, you’re most likely not going read them on your own. Those novels and plays were often condemned by early literary critics for fictionalizing controversial events and becoming popular with the reading masses.
Dickens wrote about work houses, Steinbeck wrote about grape workers, and Melville wrote about white whales. Shakespeare stole from everyone in Western Civilization for his ideas, invented new words for the English language, and became popular with the “groundlings” that paid a penny to stand in front of the stage because it was cheap entertainment. No surprise that Bill Maher jumped on the culture war bandwagon to condemn comic book and superhero movie fans.
Bill Maher doesn’t understand what #adulting mean. That hashtag should apply to anyone who appoints themselves as an “adult” to put down other people as “children” because they do not understand today’s pop culture. People who enjoy reading comic books and watching superhero movies are not children. They are adults who want to spend their hard earned money on larger than life entertainment.