I've got several possible review items on my desk, most of them for the Science Fiction Repair Shop, and something crossed my mind as I was figuring out which one was best to talk about. Is a comic book movie best approached as a kind of fantasy, or can we sneak it into the SF Room by sliding it in under the door, so to speak?
Most nuts-and-bolts SF fans would try to brain me with their copies of The Foundation Trilogy if I insinuated that The Avengers or whatnot could be called "SF". I agree with them; I think labels and genres are important not just because they cultivate (and tame) expectations for audiences. It wasn't for nothing that Fred Pohl described the first half of the 1978 Superman as sci-fi and the second half as "comics".
Labels and genres also guide creators — not just in the sense of letting them choose what kinds of signals they want to send about their work for a specific audience, but also in the sense that they send signals to the creator as well about what kind of work they're producing. If you become that much more self-conscious about your work being on the shelf next to X, then you're going to hew that much more closely to the tropes, the philosophy, the whole bag of whatsit identified with X.
The word that wanted to come to my fingers was self-censorship, at the risk of it being misleading (and at the risk of devaluing a word I really don't want devalued). But I thought about it and found a grain, however tiny, of truth there. Whenever we ignore our own compass in favor of obeying some greater outside pressure about what's worthwhile, aren't we performing a kind of self-censorship? Aren't we, to use a phrase I have come to adore, sinning against our own talents?
Most of my work gets self-consciously filed as SF because that's the best place for it, I think, in terms of the readership that will respond best to it and see things in it of value. The pitfall there is if I looked to what SF consisted of — again, that much more self-consciously — and tried to contrive things that echoed all the more what was there, and brought in things from other places all the less. If I was creating comics, I suspect I'd be doing the same thing. My interest in other comics would be there to give me inspiration and direction, but not to make me feel I had to do something in this vein or that vein to be successful.
I'm not here to write someone else's work. I'm here to do only the things I can do. Knowing what those are at all is struggle enough without it also becoming a catering to passing whims.