Newsarama’s Vaneta Rogers reports on one new, plausibly-sounding, theory regarding comic fan outrage.
[W]hat gives with comic book fans? With both DC and Marvel embarking on major relaunches that’ll feature varying degrees of changes to iconic characters, are previous/classic verions of characters really that difficult for them to give up?
Yes, actually, they are, according Travis Langley, a psychology professor at Henderson State University who studies and writes about popular culture. As Langley describes it, the process of becoming familiar with a certain character is like making a “mental map.”
“In our heads, we have our own versions of these characters and stories, our mental maps of them,” Langley said. “When writers and companies make changes that don’t fit our mental maps, it can be jarring to us. We either have to alter our maps or reject the new information so we can keep our maps the same.”
As Langley explained it, when DC and Marvel changed Superman and Spider-Man’s circumstances, the publishers may have been trying to attract new fans, but the changes required long-time fans to rewrite their mental map of that character, which some of them rejected.
And when those publishers acknowledge or even bring back the circumstances of the pre-existing “mental map,” fans react positively. As one DC fan put it on Newsarama when DC brought back the potentially infinite Multiverse in the finale of Convergence, “I’m back because somewhere out there, there’s a Superman who still wears red trunks.”