Since I moved to New York, I’ve developed a little tradition whenever I come visit my home town right outside of Philadelphia. A group of friends and I go to this restaurant where they make these delicious tacos with boneless buffalo wings, then we go dig through long boxes at a fantastic comic book store up the block. I’ve done this countless times over the years, but a conversation during one trip sticks with me to this day. It really highlighted some of the unnecessary stigmas associated with being a “into comics.” But, you don’t have to be a comic book reader to read comics!
On this particular afternoon, a group of about six of us stumbled into the comic store desperately trying to fight off the itis, which was brought on by a mountain of guacamole and too many tacos. My girlfriend made a beeline to the Vertigo section, where she snagged the latest Sweet Tooth and Locke and Key trades and started paging through Daytripper. One of the other girls we came with approached her from behind, with her own stack of comics, and said to her in a inquisitive tone, “I didn’t think you were into comics.” My girlfriend replied, “I’m not,” as she continued to page through her selections. The other girl was left confused and speechless, reading comics but not being “into comics?” Absurd!
That conversation actually left ME confused, but in a different way. Why is there an emphasis on a binary classification system of “comic book readers” and “non-comic book readers?” I think it has a lot to do with the stereotypes associated with being “into comics”.
What does it mean to be “into comics?” Such a connotation seems almost as elusive as membership to the freemasons or the illuminati. It’s one of those “I know it when I see it” things. One of those things that no one can quite put their finger on. So, I asked a few friends about it, and the consensus is that it’s based on a combination of a lot of different factors, such as:
What frequency does a person buy comics? Are they a weekly Wednesday reader or is it something more irregular? Where do they buy comics? Is it at a comic book store or a bookstore or even online? What genres are they into? Are they strictly capes and tights or do they prefer non-fiction and memoir? Do they keep up on industry news of what’s hot? Do they know what upcoming releases a particular publisher is putting out? The list goes on.
Even still, a person might consider themselves to be “into comics,” yet be scoffed at by elite readers who can identify the name of the inker on any obscure back issue from the 70’s. Or on the other side of the spectrum, someone could have a wall of comics and consider themselves to not be “into comics.” It’s clear that the classification system is wildly subjective. On top of that, it’s wholly unnecessary to pigeonhole people based on their reading habits.
The comics community is small, it should strive to inclusive rather than exclusive.. New and casual readers should be welcomed with open arms, not barred because they haven’t read every single issue of Thunderbolts. There are all types of readers! We should really erase the terms “into comics” and “comic book readers” from our vocabulary and replace them with “into reading” or “into art” or just plain, old “readers.”
There seems to be a misconception that you have to be “into comics” in order to read one. The comic reading community is often separated from the “normal” book reading community. But, why? There is a stigma attached to comics as only being for children, or for nerds, or for white, heterosexual males. Let’s clear things up right now. Age, sex, gender, religion, shape, size, reading habits, interest, political beliefs…. it doesn’t matter. Comics are for everybody and you don’t have to be “into comics” to enjoy them.
Like books, comic book genres run the gamut, you’ve got everything from superheroes to memoirs to weirdo sci-fi nonsense to sports. Just because the medium uses art to facilitate the storytelling process doesn’t mean that all comics are juvenile. Comics can be lighthearted all-ages read, but they can also be dense and violent. Story-wise, you would be hard pressed to find a comic that didn’t fit someone’s interests. Then, you’ve got your art. It’s not all just newspaper comic strip art. Some of it is photorealistic, others abstract. There’s pencil and ink art, there’s painted art, there’s computer art. Again, there’s something for everyone.
If you want to read a good story that happens to be told in a medium that uses sequential art, just do it! Nothing should stand in your way from reading something just because you aren’t “into comics” or don’t fit into a certain demographic. Whether you’re in it for the writing, the art, or both, just read and enjoy! You don’t have to be part of any in group just to read book with pictures.
What comics would you recommend for someone who is scared to take the plunge?