Multiversity Says Goodbye: “Goodbye, Multiversity Comics (or, A Blog of One’s Own)”

By | May 31st, 2024
Posted in Columns | % Comments

Matthew Meylikhov started Multiversity Comics. We are all here because of him. Matt is easily the best editor I’ve (Brian) ever written for, and I take his words into account every time I write anything. He’s also a true friend and the owner of a fantastic beard. We’ve hosted podcasts and parties together, and he’s one of two Multiversity weddings I’ve attended. He loves Werther’s Originals more than you love anything.

A note before we start: in my latter days of being someone who wrote things online, I got in the (bad) habit of never self-editing and always writing thousand word essays. When Brian let us know the site was shutting down and offered everyone a chance to write One Last Thing, I knew that this would ostensibly be the last time I would ever write anything again — meaning that it’s my last chance to write thousands of words when a hundred would probably do (and over-use the word “ostensibly” online one last time).

If you don’t have time for yet another self-indulgent thousand word essay on the internet (and who can blame you?), then just skip ahead to the end where the last image break is and read the last few paragraphs alone. Everything else in this farewell piece was written after I wrote those, and the end sentiment is the only thing I really wanted to convey. I’m just a sucker for a long road to a simple point (it’s the journey, not the destination, right?).

With that out of the way, let us begin.

There’s a popular quote that gets tossed around a lot in comics. The legend goes that once upon a time, Jack Kirby told artist James Romberger to put his work in galleries because “comics will break your heart”. The idea was that the more time spent in the industry, immersed in sequential art and the industry / fans that make it up, the worse the experience will be for someone so talented and passionate about their art. This quote gets remixed in different fashions as initial intent is lost over time, but a generally straightforward reading of the quote seems apt enough to describe the woes of being a creator as well as the frustration of being a fan.

Being in a fandom has always been a catch-22. You want to dive in and immerse yourself in a culture of peers that celebrate a shared interest and hobby; to find yourself surrounded by like minded individuals who are excited to love the things you love. That’s supposed to be the joy of a hobby in the first place – the ability to transport yourself to somewhere magical, alongside a community to share that joy with.

Now, thanks in big part to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s actually a pretty cool time to be a nerd! I’ve made this joke before in other places, but the fact that most people know who Rocket Raccoon and Groot are these days is pretty wild; the fact that people care about them is almost unbelievable. Whether it’s in comics or games or movies and shows, all your favorite IPs and hobbies are part of the cultural zeitgeist and seeing a boom in popularity — which is great, if you want more people to talk with about Moon Knight or the Doom Patrol with, or you’re looking to finally get a Dungeons & Dragons game together. In many ways it has never been a better time or easier to find that community.

But there are two sides of every catch-22 – and for everyone that’s excited to share this space with others, the people who are not excited are here as well. Alongside every passionate and celebratory fan exists the equally persistent stereotype of the angry, bitter one. We see them represented in characters like the Comic Book Guy in The Simpsons or the cast of Evan Dorkin’s comic-turned-one-off-pilot “The Eltingville Club,” but I’m sure you know the exact concept I’m referencing with little explanation.

A few decades ago it was easy to write that persona off. They were an otherwise isolated sub-section of a particular fandom that kept to themselves, only found in dark corners of comic conventions, the back half of comic and gaming stores, or perhaps just isolated to a basement somewhere — a place otherwise easy to ignore. Now this amorphous group has so many more ways to spew that negativity: Twitter, YouTube, Reddit, blogs run by people who still believe in #comicsgate… everywhere you turn, it seems like loud, angry voices have become more and more emboldened and mainstream – and it’s becoming very hard to tune out.

Continued below

The proliferation of the internet and social media has certainly seen rise to generally aggressive rhetoric across all walks of life. A phrase that has been around for as long as the internet has been online is “if you’re not paying for the product, then you are the product”; every person with clickbait YouTube content (“____ Just Went Woke!” – an absolutely meaningless phrase at this point) or hot-take listicles knows that your angry clicks are their paychecks now. These antagonistic voices that traffic in controversy or pose disingenuous bad faith opinions do so because there’s attention to get and money to be made.

The consequence is that over time that behavior has just become normalized. It’s certainly becoming more normal to shoot out a sassy, anti-whatever tweet to drum up likes and retweets, even if you’re not passionate about the topic to begin with. We trade sarcastic quips, snide remarks, and digital eye rolls more easily than anything genuine or heartfelt, because it’s fun, or funny, or otherwise seemingly natural. Why lift up when you can put down? Especially when the latter might help you go viral.

An equally frustrating aspect of popularized anger, and something that has started boiling up more and more online within fandoms in the public arena, is the strange fascination people seem to have in dominating the experience others have with their media. Whether it’s about spoiling a plot point as soon as possible or otherwise rushing to be the first to offer a “definitive opinion” on a change, a lot of community discourse tends to devolve into who can shout their opinion the loudest and “lock in” a singular opinion as definitive — “This thing is BAD! EMBARRASSING, even! Can you believe it?” Sensitive reveals that used to be somewhat reserved to forums or leak-based subreddits are now headlines on articles in what has become a race to ensure that the digital traffic never slows down, because why respect any form of grace period to allow people to experience something for themselves if you can get something out of it.

This isn’t unique to comics. It never was. Toxic fandoms always found ways to slip out into the mainstream. I tend to think about the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy, and the way that the fandom treated those films in the early Internet forum days. It became a running joke to the point it entered our pop culture lexicon about the “trash quality” of these films, over-shadowing any discourse about the groundbreaking CGI or sound mixing for Jar Jar Binks jokes. It wasn’t until many years passed (and Dave Filoni “fixed” things) that people both started to lean into what used to be actively reviled; now we’re at the 25th Anniversary of the Phantom Menace, and all the local showings near me are sold out! But it’s not like that anger and resentment disappeared; in fact, it arguably just transferred to the Sequel Trilogy.

There’s obviously a difference between offering nuanced constructive critique and putting out a diatribe full of hot takes and blatant negativity. (Author’s Note: ideally this whole post comes off as a nuanced constructive critique but I’ve been around long enough to know authorial intent doesn’t matter.) However, over the past decade (minimum), I would propose that the latter has dominated the digital discourse; it feels like every attempt I’ve made to try and engage in mainstream spaces for community building has been overwhelmingly doused in antagonism, vitriol and bland memes. Blame what you will for the “why”, but the end result is that I personally got tired of it all, and am now just simply not online anymore.

Is all this kind of a cynical take? Perhaps. But I would wager it generally rings true for most of you, though. And while I’m assuredly guilty of having shared my fair deal of hot / bad takes and bland quippery online, I can’t say it doesn’t take an emotional toll after a while; it’s just all so gosh darn exhausting.

Maybe I’m just not good at being angry. Cynical, sure — but generally not angry. It’s a noted truth that everyone loves a good group teardown, or we wouldn’t have a phrase for it: “mob mentality”. Just read “A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 7: The Vile Village”; it’s “fun” to pile on! And let’s be real: the thing that’s going to engage clicks and hits isn’t gonna be the positive take, trying to defend something that “everyone” agrees is bad, right?

Continued below

… Or is it?

On May 1st, 2009, X-Men Origins: Wolverine debuted in theaters. It earned a 38% positive rating with Critics and a 58% positive rating with Fans (at time of writing), and was generally lambasted and derided.

Two days later on May 3rd, Multiversity Comics was born with its first article: X-Men Origins: Wolverine Review (or, Why Everyone Should Shut Up And Stop Bitching About Deadpool) – a poorly titled “too long for my Facebook” rant. We all giggle at this origin story, but the truth is that I was happy to be part of the 38% or the 58% at the time, and to this very day as I type this run-on sentence I still could not give two shits why my opinion is “wrong” or “bad.”

As I started to write more content, was sustained on the idea that it could be a place to celebrate comics, to look at parts of our culture and shared interests that may have imperfections but still find the things to love and champion about it all. As the site grew the slogan became “by people who love comics, for people who love comics.” – and that ethos carried this site for 15 years.

To me, the saddest part of hearing that the site was shutting down was knowing that the ideals that MC played its little part in championing will now have one less chorus to it. I can’t fault the decision to shut the site down for all the reasons Brian wrote about, but it’s sad to see one less collective voice out there trying to remind everyone daily that for all the flaws and imperfections, comics are pretty good actually. MC had a habit of attracting passionate people, new and exciting voices who just wanted a space to share, and ensuring they had that space. I’m sorry for that loss; I don’t know where that sort of thing lives anymore.

So with Multiversity closing up shop, it felt prudent to come back one last time before Brian turned the lights off and just share what I learned from my time of being Way Too Online and my years since being Simply Not Online — and that’s just: fuck the noise, and ignore the popularized hostility. Listen to your heart, and love the things you love.

Falling in love with a comic book is easy. You pick it up, you let the words and illustrations consume your attention, and even after you put it down, it finds ways to stay with you – whether it was a particularly cool action sequence or a truly touching / poignant moment that offers you insight into yourself. Last year I read “It’s Lonely at the Centre of the Earth”, and I still think about it all the time; great art offers us not just an escape or some time away from reality but also a mirror as well. In comics we get the privilege of being weekly Wednesday Warriors who get to dive into strange and distant worlds, explore the multiverse, find parts of ourselves out there in the unknown – and whether they’re found in a limited series or as part of the never-ending drama of superheroes is always the best part of the adventure. You never know when a “Thor” comic book is going to make you cry.

And liking things is easy! Do you know how simple it is to just share things you like? Look, I’ll get us started: these days I like “Wonder Woman,” “COPRA”, “Chainsaw Man”, “Ice Cream Man”, “Local Man”, probably some other comics that have the word “Man” in them, “Tokyo These Days”, “The Outsiders”, anything that Jed MacKay or Kieron Gillen write, and holding onto the hope that someday Fraction / Ba / Moon get back together to do more “Casanova”.

Anger and rage, whether it’s fake or not, takes effort. Being mad at something is consuming; you’ve got to find reasons, you’ve got to justify it, you’ve got to lock yourself in a narrow mindset to somehow justify why Superman’s cape is ugly now or how this Spider-Man comic is good but that Spider-Man comic is bad – and then you have to repeat it over and over, as if saying it multiple times makes it more true. Perhaps it’s for attention, perhaps you need to convince your self – but anger and rage, it’s exhausting; it’s boring.

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You know what I don’t like? Who cares. Doesn’t matter. It’s not worth the time or effort – mine, or yours. Celebrating the good is easier than trying to vamp out a diatribe about the bad, and that was always an intended tenant of Multiversity Comics and one of the things I’ll miss about it.

At the end of it all, though, do you know what the best part about starting Multiversity Comics was for me? It was never the fleeting / temporary / mild “internet fame”, or having some celebrity tolerate being on a phone call or podcast for an interview. It was also never cram-reading comics so I could churn out a review or sticking with titles I wasn’t interested in to keep up with the narrative in case it came up for the site. It was assuredly never the constant sense of imposter syndrome, the self-doubt over my writing or the con-related panic attacks I tried (and failed) to hide from others.

The best part about starting Multiversity Comics was forging a small community of like-minded people who wanted to celebrate the things we loved with each other and others we didn’t know. The people were and are everything. People who cared, and still care. All those site clicks and retweets will be lost in time, like tears in rain – and they will never amount to how good it felt to have been able to spend time with people that I could call friends; people who were there for me not just when things were good and we were a Top 10 Comics Blog, but when they were really bad too (professionally, and personally).

When the only remnants of this site are archives, what I’m personally going to cherish is the time I spent with the people who found their way to the site and contributed to it. It’s Brian putting together charity events for the Hero Initiative or fundraising for Bill Mantlo; it’s hanging out in a tiny hotel room with August, Mike and Greg, or getting to hang out with Michelle; it’s trying to get a cat out of NYC traffic with Vince before taking it back to its bodega; it’s running a game show with Chad; it’s watching LOST and reading comics with Crit; it’s long drives and hours of back issue diving with Vincenty; it’s never ending movie discussions with Jess; it’s hanging out with the Marveling at the Movies crew DiChiara and Alexis in a cramped room laughing about Bush’s Baked Beans on mic; it’s Brandon on the phone with me after we lost the Eisner and refusing to let me get go until he was sure I was laughing about it; it’s dancing at Walt and Emily’s wedding.

Turns out the rumors are true: the real treasure was in fact the friends we made along the way.

And you can be damn sure that we have comics to thank for that. The good ones, the bad ones; every wonderful or imperfect piece about the whole darn production.

If you were ever a fan of this site and what it offered to the broader comics discourse, I would imagine and hope that our slogan / mantra rings true for you and lives on past us — so even when Multiversity Comics is gone, don’t forget that love. Hold it true to yourself, to your heart, no matter how challenging it gets; start your own blog, write an article about the thing you like. See where it brings you; see who it brings as well. There are highs and lows around the whole endeavor, sure, but hold on to the passion from where you start to whatever degree you can.

And if you find yourself stuck in a community that insists on anger, and revels in its toxicity? It’s ok to leave. (Quick plug on the mental health benefits of deleting your social media accounts, OK, cool, thank you.) There’s always somewhere else to go, a better community to find — or build. If I can share nothing else before the site goes dark, it’s the importance of making the space you need for yourself, the things you love and the people who will enrich it. Every piece of excitement and cheer you put out there in the world makes it a little bit better. As one of my favorite movies says: you can’t change the world, but you can make a dent.

Continued below

So to recap: OK, sure: comics will break your heart. It’s a given. But I think relentless optimism will save it.

The world is dark enough. Existence is hard enough. Life’s too short to waste your time on things (or people) that don’t add joy. Towards the end of my stint online and for some time after,  I kinda hated comics because the joy had been sucked out of it for me – but with time to reflect (and therapy — don’t forget the therapy!) I’ve learned to retain one single universal mantra that I hold true: if the thing that makes you happy is watching a comic book movie with a low Rotten Tomatoes score and enjoying it for what it is, then do just that.

The love of comic books brought all of us at Multiversity Comics together. I hope the love you have for something can take you wherever you need to be as well.

And hey, maybe someday people will come around on X-Men Origins: Wolverine just like they did the Star Wars Prequels. Maybe when Deadpool vs. Wolverine comes out, perhaps suddenly the prequel will be justified in some fashion? Fingers crossed, true believers! If nothing else, it’s probably a good opportunity for someone to start a new blog.

– Matthew Meylikhov

From a bunker in the woods with limited internet access

Probably re-watching X-Men Origins: Wolverine

//TAGS | Multiversity Says Goodbye

Matthew Meylikhov

Once upon a time, Matthew Meylikhov became the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Multiversity Comics, where he was known for his beard and fondness for cats. Then he became only one of those things. Now, if you listen really carefully at night, you may still hear from whispers on the wind a faint voice saying, "X-Men Origins: Wolverine is not as bad as everyone says it issss."


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