I'll not contain you

The publishing debut of a Twitter micro-legend and much, much more

Greetings, citizens! Abe Riesman here, writing to you from my desk in Brooklyn. Hoo boy, what a few months since the last one of these newsletters! Or was it weeks? Or years? Time is smudged into illegibility these days. The point is, I’ve had a bunch of life changes, including the fact that I got a second book deal! That’s right, folks: yours truly is writing an unauthorized biography of pro-wrestling emperor Vince McMahon, tentatively titled Ringmaster: The Life and Times of Vince McMahon. Hooray! A few more life changes are on the horizon, but I’m not 100% at liberty to discuss them for fear of jinxing, so stay tuned for future elucidation. Today, I’ve got a bunch of #content for you that I hope you’ll enjoy, including a main course that consists of an essay by one of my favorite Twitter users, the pseudonymous @gwenpool_ebooks, who has never been published in any non-Twitter venue before! How exciting! Devour away…

Cat update

The cats have been good! No health issues of any note, other than Barb’s characteristic tendency to barf once a day or so. Here are some pictures.

Elegant Barb.

Defiant Tim.

As a special treat, here’s a drawing of my kitties as tarot cards that the great Matt Lubchansky drew for me a few years ago!

Perusal

Grouper, “Heavy Water / I’d Rather Be Sleeping” — A truly wonderful song from a musician who I had somehow missed until she came up on a Spotify recommendation. It’s like being lost in the woods on a cool day while stoned and pondering What It All Means. If you want to give me goosebumps the next time you see me, just bring an acoustic guitar and replicate the chords here.

Babylon — My snobby new procrastination topic is watching great movies on the Criterion Channel, and this one is probably the best discovery I’ve made so far. It chronicles the lives of first- and second-generation Jamaican immigrants in London, circa its release in 1980, and the empathy and gimlet-eyed observations will simply blow you away. Plus, as you might expect, the soundtrack fucking kills.

William Gibson, Pattern Recognition — At the behest of my honey, I’ve finally started reading my first Gibson novel since I read Neuromancer in college. I’ve long adored Gibson as a nonfiction writer and a subject of interviews, but I have only consumed a few of his fiction works, and Pattern Recognition is making me wonder what took me so damn long. I’m not done yet, but I’ve loved what I’ve read so far and don’t want to spoiler anything, so find out for yourself.

Cooking — I’ve been cooking food a bunch lately and it’s really great!

Me, me, me

As stated above, it’s been a little while since the last newsletter and I’ve been busy with two books, so I haven’t published a ton of stuff recently, but I did put out two pieces you may enjoy! One is this essay about the tragedy of the triumph of the #ReleaseTheSnyderCut campaign that I wrote for Vulture. Don’t know what I’m talking about? If you care about entertainment and/or online bullying, you should learn by reading the essay! The other piece was a conversation in Jewish Currents with leftist philanthropy theorist/scholar Amy Schiller about how to donate money in a way that actually makes change, especially if you’re Jewish. Hope you find them edifying!

Main course

Sometime in the past year — who can say when? — I became aware of @gwenpool_ebooks. It’s a pseudonymous Twitter account written by a twentysomething comics geek with a brilliant sense of humor and an observant wisdom about the glories and debasements of the comic-book industry. I’ve long wanted to boost their signal and make them more known to the world, so we teamed up for this newsletter! They wrote this lovely little essay about Comics Twitter that I’m proud to say is their first published work. Read and enjoy!

“Sometimes the Internet is Good, Actually” by @gwenpool_ebooks

When Steve Jobs unleashed the iPhone in 2007, few people could’ve imagined what horrors his glowing Hell Rectangle would bring upon the world. Believe me, I get it, the internet absolutely sucks and there’s so much vile garbage being spewed in our faces by the hour that it’s hard to clean the shit from our eyes and see the cool stuff that does, indeed, occasionally happen. I’ve seen it happen! I’ve helped make it happen! Early last year, I started my own gimmick twitter account named “gwenpool_ebooks”, based off the Marvel character Gwenpool, a young woman who was transported from our world into the world of comics. Half of the reason I started the account was to tell some funny comics jokes, my most famous bit being whenever a comic creator held aTwitter AMA, I’d ask them if it would be fucked up or not if there were two guys on the moon and one of them killed the other with a rock. The other half was because there was a new Gwenpool comic being written by my friend Leah Williams, and I wanted to promote it since Marvel wasn’t doing much to advertise it.

Eventually though, my reasons for running the account started to grow into something I hadn’t really predicted. This January, as the wildfires in Australia were burning, I got some real-life friends together to help me run a charity livestream for the Australian Red Cross. I put the link up on my Twitter, where it was retweeted by comics fans and creators alike. When it came time to stream, we helped raise nearly $400 for relief efforts, well above my $250 initial goal. That might not sound like a lot, but for someone who’s never really interacted with a larger online community before, much less been remotely prominent in one, that was a very powerful moment for me. It opened my eyes to how amazing internet communities, and in particular the comics community, can be. This online comics community, with a diverse cast of characters almost as colorful as the books themselves, is capable of such amazing things that make the bad parts infinitely more bearable. 

Over the past year of running my account, I’ve seen a lot of shifts both within the comic industry and the comics fandom community, especially in the past few months as the COVID-19 pandemic has begun taking its toll on comics distribution. As of right now, the comic community as a whole seems to be undergoing something of a “MeToo” moment of its own, with prominent industry figures like Cameron Stewart and Warren Ellis being accused of sexual misconduct. Geek spaces in general are, all too often, not accommodating towards marginalized genders and identities. Comics Twitter as a whole isn’t much of an exception, especially since the advent of “movements” like Gamergate and Comicsgate.

That being said, there’s a thin slice of Comics Twitter, away from Snyder Cut cultists and Iron Man stans, where marginalized people and their allies can speak freely about their shared love of the medium through the lens of queerness, race, religion, or gender. This community rarely agrees about everything but there’s generally (though not always) a sense of respect and understanding among them. Occasionally something from this small part of Comics Twitter will break into the overall larger Comics Twitter community (I once wrote a tweet about Peter Parker’s Jewishness that garnered millions of views and tens of thousands of retweets, which I unfortunately ended up deleting due to harassment), but generally from my understanding the community mostly keeps to itself and remains fairly tightly knit. 

As I continued to interact with people, this sense of community started to grow on me. Seeing people come together from diverse sexualities, ethnicities, religions, and genders to express their love of a medium I hold dear felt powerful. That isn’t to say things are perfect, or that bad actors don’t pop their heads in from time to time. Every single group will have to deal with predatory elements at some point, and I believe the worth of a group can be found in how quickly it deals with these predatory elements, how long it lets them stay around and continue to damage others. So far in my experience it seems like Comics Twitter does not accept this shit from these kinds of people. Marginalized groups get enough of it in their day-to-day lives, and they aren’t about to take it in spaces they dominate. 

Earlier this year, as I was reflecting on the growth of my account, I started to wonder what I really wanted out of gwenpool_ebooks and if I could use it as a springboard for something even bigger. Before I even started the account, one of the first conversations I’d ever had with Leah was about writing. She told me I had a strong voice, and that I should consider using it in some professional sense. Something about that really stuck with me, and I hope I can one day make some sort of career by writing. I don’t know how long this community will last — groups rise and fall as people come and go — but one day when I write for this industry, these are the kinds of people I’m going to be writing for. The kinds of people who donated nearly $400 to help strangers in Australia, or the kinds of people who sent me the receipts of their donations to the Atlanta Solidarity Fund after I tweeted out a link during the protests in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, or the kinds of people who come together to support those who’ve spoken up against industry legends for personal and professional misconduct. These are the kinds of people I want to support, and these are the kinds of people I’m proud to call members of my community.

At the beginning of June, I broke quarantine to hang out with a couple of my friends in their apartment. The three of us had been pretty good about maintaining social distancing and isolating ourselves, so we figured it’d be fairly safe to get together for a while. We all got blasted out of our minds on shrooms and then decided to watch Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. I could’ve committed a robbery. I could’ve set something on fire. I could’ve read something by Frank Miller. And none of those things would’ve inspired me to write what you’re reading now. I wrote this because, unlike Raoul Duke thinking back on the failure of the counterculture movement of the 60’s, most of the people I’ve met through comics culture have me feeling pretty good about people in general. If this one slice of fandom is at all representative of what my generation is like (I’m in my early twenties), then I have a feeling everything might turn out okay, no matter how fucked up the world gets in the meantime.

Right now, things definitely seem pretty fucked. I might be crazy, basing all of my optimism based off of strangers on the internet, but I have to have something that keeps me energized and away from despair. Everyone’s got some little thing that helps them push through the day. For me, it’s comics. I love comics. I love people. I love the people who read and make comics. And I love the people who’ve helped me build a platform that lets me talk about how much I love comics. After all, how else am I going to ask people if moon murder would be fucked up or not?

Illustration by @GrayComics