Fandom Detox: Tips to Avoid Becoming a Toxic Fan

Clive Dodge

ByClive Dodge

May 26, 2024

The Internet undeniably has a positive influence on the comic book industry. Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, readers’ ability to receive comic books electronically brought unprecedented new revenue to the industry. The Internet has also opened up the availability of comics to and from international markets and made it easier for creators to self-publish and deliver content. But the coin has two sides.

                When an ugly situation rears its head, circumstances can be exacerbated by inappropriate reactions from online users, sometimes unfairly. All kinds of internet chaos happening currently in light of Comicsgate associated YouTuber Nick Rekieta’s arrest and not too long ago, we saw an internet dog-piling in a grim situation contributing to the suicide of Ed Piskor. There’s no doubt these two individuals endured the pressure of great online attention in negative ways.

Nick Rekieta
Nick Rekieta

Recap: Nick Rekieta

On Thursday, May 23rd, Nick Rekieta and his wife, Kayla, were taken into custody and booked by the Kandiyohi County Sheriff’s Office in Minnesota. Rekieta, whose YouTube page (@RekietaLaw) boasts 448,000+ subscribers, and his wife were arrested on felony possession of a controlled substance of 25 grams or more, misdemeanor possession of firearms in the presence of a controlled substance, and misdemeanor child negligence.

Nick Rekieta could potentially go to prison for 25-30 years and lose custody of his five children. While he has exhibited controversial behaviors in the past, the Internet seems divided between critics and those supportive of his family and his recovery. Rekieta and his wife were able to bond out on Friday for $50,000 and with travel restrictions. The third defendant in this case, April Imholte, was also released.

Ed Piskor, R.I.P.


Recap: Ed Piskor

Ed Piskor (Red RoomHip Hop Family Tree) committed suicide on April 1 shortly after allegations of sexual misconduct were made against him. The co-host of the Cartoonist Kayfabe YouTube channel left a suicide note defending himself and leaving the declaration that he was the victim of Internet bullying. Jim Rugg, his co-host and frequent artistic collaborator, ended his professional relationship with Piskor two days earlier.

Ed Piskor’s Lesson to Us: Think Before you Post

            Comic book fandom has benefited from social media. People have opportunities to get word-of-mouth out about projects that they love or loathe on Xitter, in Facebook groups, and in the forums of sites like ComicVine. While these platforms all have community rules about responsible content, it feels like they all fail. One does not have to go very far in any of the places I mentioned to find sexism, racism, agism, and nationalist propaganda.

How to Avoid Becoming a Toxic Fan

I assume that if you are reading this, you have not rolled your eyes and discounted this as a diatribe against social media. Almost every Kickstarter that I have contributed to has been for projects that I learned about through social media. Xitter and Facebook have allowed me to interact with comic book creators in positive ways. What follows is not the recreation of a responsible Internet usage brochure, but observations and experiences that have led to more positive engagements than negative ‘uns.

YOU AREN’T OWED ANYTHING. I wrote this first because it is the realization that you should have before you even try to tag Eric Powell to your Goon fanart or send Mike Nelson (MST3KRiffTrax) a friend request. Artists who have a social media presence are there to communicate with their fans, but on their own terms. If their profile says, “No DMs,” it is unlikely that they view you as a diamond in the rough among all of their followers and are going to look favorably upon your Direct Messages. They are there to get you excited about their newest project and respond to comments as their schedules allow. Patience and politeness do go a long way, but please don’t take it personally if they don’t respond as quickly as you would like.

Don’t be a poseur. I once asked an indie pro-wrestler friend why he didn’t do conventions. He told me, “I don’t want to pretend to be something I am not.” You should do the same. Even if you read a lot of industry sites and the Jablonski behind the counter at your brick-and-mortar shop gives you logical-sounding opinions, you are not an insider. You are either a retailer or a fan online, and you need to stick to that role. The artist is doing you a favor by taking the time to talk to you, not the other way around. It’s the height of arrogance to think that you are any better than anyone else and post insults or passive aggressive jokes.

Women in the industry aren’t looking for a hook-up. …So don’t be a creep. ‘Nuff said.

With Great Power. Some actors use stage names and writers use pen names. If you accidentally stumble upon a comic creator or performer’s personal account, move on. These profiles generally don’t have as many followers and don’t show that they follow as many people back as their “professional” accounts. They are regular human beings entitled to the same privacy as you are. Leave them alone and don’t be pushy.

Know Your Own Rhetoric. Here is a slapdash lesson in rhetoric for you: Logos are appeals to one’s logic, usually supported with precedent and evidence; Pathos are emotional appeals—“the feels”—and Ethos are appeals to the listener’s sense of right and wrong. These three are not interchangeable, though it feels like an appalling number of Internet users are guilty of trying to make them thus. In so doing, they transform into gooey, green Internet trolls who are nowhere near as fun to be around as Shrek.

Know Your Audience. Another lesson in rhetoric for free (unless you are a Comics Illustrated paid subscriber): the three argumentation styles are linked to the audience that one is trying to persuade. Classic Arguments go hand-in-hand with a neutral audience. Like in a court proceeding, both sides present their case and it is left to the listener or reader to choose the more compelling perspective. Rogerian Argument (not named after Mr. Rogers) are most effective when the audience is opposed to the speaker or writer’s way of thinking. One often cannot change an audience member’s mind if it is already made up. The Rogerian arguer tries to find room for compromise. Finally, there’s Choir-Preaching. If you are snug in your worldview, use this to seek out your echo chamber. The Internet is the way it is because very little effort is put into audience awareness.

Demonstrating as much humanity online as you expect from others in your daily life speaks to your character.


Piskor committed suicide. He is beyond your apologies. Rekieta may lose his family and children. Weighing in with cutting jibes and reposting generic memes might get a chuckle out of one’s friends, but that mob mentality can also have negative effects that one hopefully never sees in news headlines. Young bullies and predators have led to proposals for restrictive legislation with regards to Internet use. If someone makes you mad, block them, go on with your day. Odds are high that you do not know the user in person, so why give them power over you? And before you try to exert influence over someone else? As cliché as it sounds, think before you post.

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Clive Dodge

ByClive Dodge

Clive Dodge lives in the American Midwest with his spousal equivalent and an imaginary cockatrice named Pete. He has written fiction and pop culture under various pen names for an impossibly long time.

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