Dr. Mike Robinson ~ UL Communication Studies Professor
I’m not sure if technically it was a curse or a prophecy, but it went something like this:
“One day, you’ll see Doctor Doom come back from the dead one too many times and that’ll be it.”
The source of this ominous portent was a curious one. This was not some grizzled old fan complaining about the good ole days. Bumper was the co-owner of The Twilight Zone, my beloved first comic book shop in downtown Annapolis. If memory serves, Bumper’s real name was Roger. He had a kind of young Bill Murray vibe about him. Along with the other co-owner Scott, Bumper had shepherded my early fandom since my friends and I discovered the shop in my high school days. To me, Bumper and Scott were like the cool, older brothers of comics.
This would have been about three decades ago. I was interviewing Bumper for a project I was doing about comic book fans for an undergrad class. At the time, I was freshly thrilled with the idea that I could study the things that I loved in college (heck, I am still thrilled). And so when the opportunity to explore audience experiences with comics arose, I began talking with a number of fans. I had gone to Bumper in order to learn about how the shop owner saw this phenomenon.
So when I asked Bumper about his fandom, I got the surprising response that he did not read many comics himself. Like a lot of fans, I had assumed that one of the main perks of working in a comic book shop was that one would get to sit around all day reading comic books. But Bumper explained that he had seen it all too many times. Nothing was fresh anymore.
To me, that was a sobering thought. At the time, I was terrified that there was somehow an end to fandom.
On the specific level, I loved seeing Doctor Doom come back from the dead. Along with his wonderful arrogance and tragic origin, tenacity is one of Doom’s defining traits. That guy just does not quit. Any defeat of this greatest of Marvel villains is just the prelude to his next scheme that will, of course, also fail. After all, superheroes are measured by the quality of their supervillains.
In all honesty, I am still a little worried about this prophecy. While I never did get tired of seeing Doom come back, I have reached similar moments in which I understood what Bumper meant. My Superman fandom was so strong that when I bailed on the series back in the early 2000s, I actually got a message of sympathy from my mentor and professor of the class I conducted this interview for.
Right now, I am really down on the latest twist in the X-Men saga. With virtually the whole team apparently dead (do not worry they are just in another dimension or something) after a titanic struggle between Nate Grey and Legion, I was not sure that I wanted to go through yet another particularly brutal spin on the X-Men being hated and feared by the world they have sworn to protect.
But then Cyclops and Wolverine rescued a bunch of New Mutant characters I liked, so I might just stick around there and see what happens. Curiously, those characters are from the days when I did that study. Characters—so far, that is how they have kept me.