23 July 2023|Updated 24 Jul 23
I’ve had a little bit to say about social media, very occasionally, in what I write on this site, and once in a while have the thought that it’s a topic I ought to be discussing only more. It’s certainly a topic that takes up space in my head. It is also, however, a hard thing to talk about well — even for those who don’t feel always well behind the leading edge of public discussion, as I do.
Much less difficult will be simply to relate a nice thing that happened to me in one of the ‘social’ contexts where I’m a participant. The other day I was looking at recent Instagram submissions from a comics artist whose work I’m especially fond of, Gabriel Walta (subject also of a brief items post earlier this year), and I noticed one of the comments left by another comics pro praising him. Comics pros do this with each other a lot in social-media arena. It’s not necessarily something to pay attention to. In this case, however, the person who’d extended the compliment was someone who is among the really exceptional, a world-class illustration talent and certainly one of the very best working for the N.-American-published market today, Lewis LaRosa. Now, it’s hardly the first time I’ve noticed LaRosa complimenting a fellow artist’s Instagram post. He’s clearly a real comic-art fan, as I think most comics artists are. But this was a moving instance, a particularly nice gesture, and I felt compelled to leave a reply to him saying so.
update (jul. 24)
The link to Instagram above won’t work for all, I see. Here’s a screenshot:
This was just at beginning of my day here in Chicago. When I got around to another look at Instagram that evening, I found that both guys, Walta and LaRosa, had caught my comment and given it a like — which happens infrequently enough when you’re the nobody commenting on the big name’s post. But something else: LaRosa had given me — an account barely breaking 100 followers, most of them friends and family — a follow back. I regard that as a special thing in the generally cool climate of the social platforms, a gratuitous kindness of another order altogether next to what we might think of as customary (too rare though they are) internet decencies.
Unusual as this truly is, it happens not to be the first time I’ve encountered such a thing in online interaction with a comic-art great. A number of years ago, when fairly new to Facebook, that platform’s darker side still quite a way from being widely apparent, Bill Sienkiewicz sent me a friend request. Not the other way around! I’d been one of a bunch of people, dozens I imagine, adding my reply to one of his public posts (about what, I couldn’t tell you, though I vaguely recall it being personal or family-related). A day or so afterward, I found in the notifications that he’d not merely affirmed my commenting but turned to me his own initiative of social-media mutuality. One doesn’t want to mistake this kind of notice for more than it is, of course. The guy didn’t say, you know, ‘Hey we should get together sometime.’ It was just friending on Facebook. It cost him a mouse click. It’s a click somebody in his shoes won’t often make, though, as I don’t have to explain. The gesture was a striking one. It altered my view of the world a little.
So an expression of generosity like LaRosa’s is not totally unique even in one person’s experience, mine. Yet it is unquestionably remarkable, the sort of thing one just doesn’t look for, nor that one quickly forgets. What to think about this, if anything, besides acknowledging the guy as a decent, apparently quite unselfish person and registering my gratitude for the encounter?
Worth a little reflection is the reality that, though there are a few in this line of work who keep themselves out of online circulation, not to take some direct hand in staying social-media current isn’t a choice people whose income depends finally on book sales (and, for many, on selling original artwork) much have. One imagines, that being true, that some of name and a degree of influence among the so-tethered will go to a little trouble to encourage kinder, gentler behaviors to surface as they find occasion for it, if only from an idea of making the whole thing bearable to deal with.
Worth perhaps more reflection, I think we can say, is the peculiar character of what’s often referred to by those close to it as ‘the comics community’ and of the impulses toward solidarity a good deal of one’s life being taken up with it may call forth. I am generally cautious about how this word community stands to be used in connection with marketplace phenomena, and in any case have always been more follower of than thoroughly-engaged participant in the scene around comic books. So I’m offering no observation or comment here, really. But there’s space for question in this that I want to recognize. Maybe I’ll find my way back to it in future posts.