My Comic Experience

There has been a damn lot of talk lately about females and comics, from the sexualized costumes, to one woman’s experiences to a lot more articles on sexualization. I don’t know if I’m just finding these this week or if it’s actually just been a crazy week for it. Either way, it’s made me want to talk about my own experiences as a female comic geek type person.

Image by the lovely Joanna Sabatino

Now, I wasn’t always a comic geek, or even a geek at all. I got one Rogue comic back when I was in high school once, and read the Sunday Funnies and Archies, but that was it until University.

A friend of mine asked if I read comics and, when I said no, suggested a couple comics and hooked me up with the CBRs for two that he was reading: Runaways and Y The Last Man. They were really good, so I wanted to find more.

At the start, I didn’t go to a comic shop and downloaded the books instead. It wasn’t because I feared the comic shops and what they were supposed to be like, but because the one comic shop I knew of wasn’t very convenient to get to. I torrentes a lot of random titles and, to be honest, barely saw anything from Marvel or DC.

Side note here: I downloaded from torrents and usually downloaded packs. These were whole, complete stories. They don’t tend to do that very often for Marvel or DC, and even if they did, that would have been MONTHS I would have spent reading them. That wasn’t about to happen.

I got hooked and wanted to start actually purchasing comics and read them on paper, since the screen hurt my eyes after a while to read off of.

My local comic shop was a little hole in the wall. It was packed tight with stuff and there was barely any room to move in it. A lot of the back issues could be seen, but not accessed because they were burried under a ton of other things. Finding things was challenging to say the least and I liked trying to find things myself, which was fine because help only seemed to be offered if you asked regardless of who you were.

The shop was run by a guy who usually sat outside, not reading comics but chatting with anyone who passed by. Inside, the employees all had their different ways of dealing with people. The employees were also unique (Apparently) in that they were all female.

Comics were, however, a little expensive. I started trying to get them on my own, but I wasn’t working at the time, so I decided to apply to work at my local comic shop instead. And I got in, which was awesome because I used the hell out of that discount.

Now, working in a comic shop is different from being a comic fan. You don’t have to get involved in the fan community if you like reading comics. You have the option to just read comics and not give a damn about the other people who read the same thing as you do. Also, I was reading things like Strange Girl and had no idea if there even was a fan community around that.

Working in a comic store, you realize exactly how many guys read comics. It sounds stupid, I know. I didn’t even clue into it for a long time, given to I already went to a male-dominated school and was getting used to being one of the few or the only female in the room to the point where I didn’t even notice it anymore. After a while, though, I realized that there were just a damn lot of guys buying comics.

Not that this affected anything for me. It was just kind of weird given that I knew of only a few other comic readers at the time: my one friend and the girls at the comic shop.

I did brush up quite a bit on my comic knowledge when I started. My image of a comic book store staffer was someone who knew the comics and the stock, so I started reading everything that came through and very quickly found my preferences.

I didn’t really enjoy the Marvel and DC stuff because I felt like I wasn’t supposed to be reading it. At the time I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I just felt like they didn’t want me reading those books.

I think a lot of it came from the fact that I felt like these characters were still the same ones that I’d grown up with in the cartoons, without having changed or grown at all as characters from their experiences. When I looked things up about them and all the things that had happened, as well as how many times some of them had come back from the dead, I just about quit the big two right there.

DC wasn’t helping matters with the way they handled crossovers. Pick up two issues of a book I don’t normally pick up to get the next part of the story? Are you KIDDING me?

And the costumes. I have a thing against impractical costumes. I can accept spandex only because, in my mind, that spandex is tough like armour. However, domino masks are a stupid idea because they don’t cover your face, female costumes often leave vital organs exposed and YOU NEED YOUR LEGS SO COVER THEM DAMMIT. And this was on characters that weren’t invincible, so I couldn’t understand why they were wearing them. I considered it a small complaint, but it just annoyed me like crazy. I’d rather they stay in street clothes than costume because they were usually more battle ready in jeans than what they were actually wearing.

There was always more to it, but I didn’t know what it was at the time. The stories were fine, but something about the books just felt like I shouldn’t be reading them. So I took the logic I had about why I disliked the books and stuck to the fringe titles and the indies, where the books could be cancelled at any moment, so anything could happen and there was a greater chance that events would hold long term affects and there was the possibility of characters changing and growing. And that the dead would stay dead for good.

I did a lot of back reading for these conclusions. It’s a damn good thing I did because then I got to deal with the actual comic fans and shop patrons. Most of them were fine. they were regulars and already knew there were girls working here. They laughed and joked around and got used to me pretty quickly.

The folks that came from other shops, though, or ones that were just getting into comics were a little annoying. Some were fine. A lot thought I was only interested in manga, as all girls are, or so I’ve been told. Most assumed that I didn’t work there, even when I was helping them find things and making recommendations. Me stepping behind the counter was a shock to some of them and it was kind of funny.

Others quizzed me. I had read enough back issues to know the origins of all four (At the time) Robins, some Spiderman and X-Men tidbits and other scattered trivia that was enough to get me through the quizzing, though it annoyed me to no end. It wasn’t even the fact that I had to prove my comic knowledge before anyone would take me seriously, and more that they kept asking about the big two comics. I didn’t even enjoy the big two stuff! Ask me something about vertigo! IDW! Image! I was actually reading stuff from those!

Overall, though, I made sure I knew more than the customers when they first showed up and it got me through fine. I stopped reading the big two all together beyond the major crossovers quickly enough, since those crossovers were more than enough to let me know what was going on. The ones I remember are *deep breath* 52, Secret Invasion, Civil War, Countdown (Though didn’t get too far in that one), World War Hulk, Something with the New gods, Messiah Complex, and I think three other ones. By the end of it, I didn’t care about any Marvel or DC outside of the titles that, surprise surprise, are now all cancelled.

I know how to pick ’em.

At one point, me and the other girls at the shop decided to hit every other comic shop in the lower mainland. That experience was fine, but the comic shop employees in most of the places didn’t even look at us twice, so we were free to do whatever we wanted. We had our lists of things we wanted and we went to it, occasionally asking if they had things on our lists, but that was about it.

Actually, I might have been the only one with a list.

End of that part of the story, though, is that visiting the other comic shops wasn’t a terrible experience and we had a lot of fun. I was with other girl geeks and we didn’t really need to interact with the employees, so them not paying any attention to us went completely unnoticed until I look back on it. I don’t even care if there’s a reason for it, honestly. I got my comics and the employees can assume I was getting them for my non-existent boyfriend for all I care.

I quit working at the comic shop in favour of working in web development. I continued to get comics weekly, though, for a very long time and even became the unofficial fangirl in residence for Zeros2Heroes, helping out on Comic Creation Nation and a few other projects before moving on with other things.

And then, a couple years ago I found video reviews and decided to try to give them a shot. I’ve been making Comic Minutes and Spoileriffic! reviews ever since, (Damn I need to fix those sections) talking about the comics I enjoy. Well, usually enjoy. This experience has generally been positive. I get the random comment or message about how I’m a dumb bitch or how beautiful I am, which leaves me wondering what they think of the review or the comic.

The comments on the Assassin’s Creed video on Youtube make me happy I have a very small fanbase, though.

And that pretty much brings me to today. I haven’t had too much trouble being a comic geek girl, but my experience was a little special. I didn’t have to deal with anything until after I was grown up enough to know people were stupid and could handle it. My current comic shop is run by two women and I’ve always had comic shops with girls in them. I read the books I like and drop the ones that don’t interest me and stay away from the fandoms so I can do this. Seriously, have you ever gotten into something and stuck with it because you like the community? Because I have. You never leave, no matter how much you hate it and you just keep hating on everything about it until finally you quit it and leave the fandom and you feel so much better when you do, even if there’s a bit of a hole where that community used to be.

And that’s my story. Who’s sharing next?