It’s like a bad joke.
I had been itching to get into comics. I walked into my local comic shop (LCS) for the first time a year ago and looked around; stunned, amazed and overwhelmed at all the colorful comics staring back at me. Issues, volumes, and editions lined the walls from floor to ceiling. There were large boxes stacked with carefully organized issues. Then, I finally worked up the courage to ask someone knowledgeable where to start.
I walked to the front counter in hopes of asking for friendly recommendations. The guy behind the counter looked, sniffed disinterestedly, and pointed to the white children’s titles rack next to the register. That was not what I was there for. I wanted something that had superheroes and villains, intense plot lines, and amazing art. I was the only one in the shop, or I would have asked a fellow customer for help. This guy was in a judgmental mood, and I don’t deal well with conflict.
“I’m looking to start reading about Superman or the Justice League. Could you point me in the right direction?” I persisted.
The clerk rolled his eyes, irritated. He pointed to the far corner of the small, stuffy shop. The fluorescent lights overhead hummed loudly in my ears. My face started to redden with embarrassment. I walked past some scantily clad female superhero cardboard cutout. I eyed the large-breasted figurines in the glass cases self-consciously.
This was not going how I thought it would.
I wanted someone to tell me, “Here’s issue #1 of this comic. I think you might like it because [insert reasons here],” or “This comic has [detail one, detail two, and detail three], is that something that interests you?” I wanted someone to outfit me. Instead, I felt like I was ruining this man’s day merely by existing. Discouraged, I walked back to the section to which he pointed. I compared a few issues, uncertain. I looked helplessly back at the clerk. He was watching The Avengers as it played on a flat screen above the register.
“Excuse me…” I began again from across the store. I just wanted help on where to start. Point me to issue #1 of something. Anything.
He marched over to me. “Look, you’re clearly not smart enough to figure out what to do, so you obviously shouldn’t be here. Now figure it out yourself or leave.”
He towered over me, making me feel like a bug he was about to squish. I promptly excused myself and left the store. I was a puppy that had tucked her tail and ran. This was my first experience trying to get into comics: Embarrassed. Unwelcome. Stupid.
I didn’t try to pick up comics again. This guy was a jerk, so I figured everyone else was going to be a jerk to me, too. Nobody likes feeling stupid – but that was all that I felt. I associated these negative feelings with comics, the comic industry and the people who read them. I did not want to be a part of a community that ostracized “outsiders.” Or even a community that defined themselves as “us” against “them.”
Recently, I reconnected with a friend from college who is an avid comic book reader. He isn’t a jerk. In fact, he’s a very lovely person. This went against my entirety experience was with comics and their readers. If my friend is nice to me and likes comics, maybe everyone who reads comics isn’t a jerk?
I asked my friend for a few recommendations, which he was thrilled to give me. He quizzed me on what I think I would like in a comic. Who did you want to read about? What kind of magic do you like? What do superpowers mean to you? What do you know already?
I could not have been happier to think critically about these questions and provide him with some answers. He outfitted me with some New 52 selections.
“New 52? What does that even mean?” I asked. I learned that DC rebooted their entire line of comics with 52 titles for people like me: new readers. I was intimidated by complicated backstories and character histories. The New 52 gave me a way to dive in fresh. I didn’t have to know all the details to get into a comic!
My friend pointed me to Justice League Dark, my very first endeavor into comics. I ate it up. I loved the fantasy, horror, and the supernatural themes and powers. I grew a soft spot in my heart for Zatanna (her magic is badass). Constantine is smarmy and gets himself (and everyone else) into trouble, but he always finds a way back out. These characters and plot lines were fascinating and gripping – it held my attention in a way I hadn’t expected.
Reading about the JLD was… liberating. I was a part of something I had wanted to be a part of for a long time. If I had not reconnected with my friend, I would not be here writing this article and published on a comic website. If you told me a year ago this is something I’d be doing, I’d say you were out-of-your-mind crazy. The comic industry doesn’t want me.
But I was wrong. One negative sample defined my whole experience with comics. I let one bad apple spoil the bunch. I am grateful to my friend – not only for providing me with an avenue into comics, but for being excited to help me.
His attitude was a welcome reaction to my interest in comics. I wasn’t ridiculed for being “weird” or “a nerd” for having interest in comics. I also wasn’t told that I can’t “join an exclusive club” because I don’t know every backstory and plotline in Superman’s history.
It’s fantastic to love comics. It’s great to introduce others to the things you love. Do you have a friend who wants to read the comic before the movie comes out? Recommend a place to start. Does your sister love to read books or graphic novels? Put a comic book in her hand. Does Dad travel a lot? Put an app on his tablet that lets him read comics on the go. If you love something, share it. Passion, enthusiasm and excitement for comics is your superpower – go into the world and use that power for good.
Meg is a comic book reader nestled in the foothills of Denver, Colorado. She loves reading and writing about comics, walking her rescue pup Winnie and all things Disney. Stop by and tweet hi to her @justplainmeg.
Feb 19, 2015