I’ve picked up a passion in my young adult life that I never had as a kid. It’s an experience I can now say I shared with my young, prepubescent father, one I never shared when I was as young as he was though. I’ve slowly but surely become something of a comic book nerd. The thing is, the comics I read would not be ones I’d like to show to my ten-year-old dad, if we were to meet up in some wacky time-travelling comic book shop. The stuff I savor often features graphic violence (looking at you, Walking Dead,) sexual situations, (looking at you, Saga,) and a whole bunch of language my grandma would not appreciate her little boy learning so soon, (looking at you, pretty much all of my comics.)
In a lot of ways, the years between my dad buying The Amazing and/or Spectacular Spiderman issues every week at the local newsstand and my comic book hobby today have really changed the industry. Nerd culture has become more “cool” and acceptable to the mainstream public. Comic book fans have grown up and introduced new, darker, edgier twists to their old favorites, and created original material that added an adult edge to the medium. Think Frank Miller’s edgy Batman, a huge inspiration for the Ben Affleck Batman in the admittedly ill-fated Batman vs. Superman or Alan Moore’s Watchmen, which was also turned into a film, and definitely a more successful one. People eat edgy comics up, even when they aren’t comics.
Sure, just like the Marvel super hero movies are still very much billed as family affairs, there’s still places for younger readers in the comic book world. Still, the scene has changed. Probably the main reason I didn’t get into comic books as a kid was that there was no friendly neighborhood newsstand to grab the latest Marvel or DC comic books from. That practice, along with a whole lot of print media, was already dying by the time I was a kid. Comic books moved to comic book stores, which were intimidating to me as a young girl. Sure, some titles were also stocked in bookstores, which I definitely frequented, but I was so distracted by all the regular old books that the most I ever picked up from the bookstores was a relatively brief but still embarrassing fixation on Archie comics.
I started my love affair with comics when the Walking Dead became a hit TV show, and my nerdy uncle gave me a few volumes of the series to try out. I was then introduced to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and I slowly but surely started exploring these wild worlds of sex and violence layered over rich writing that introduced characters and plots as beautifully fleshed out as any of the novels I’d be reading. It was all much better written and drawn than my Archie books with two identical hot girls you could only tell apart by their hair color fighting over a less than photogenic red-headed boy that barely deserved either of them.
With that, I slowly started to explore the comic book world. I looked at the comic book sections in bookstores and libraries more closely. I was even brave enough to find comic book shops and face down the intimidating nerd man-cave vibe. Turns the people in these stores were mostly perfectly friendly and didn’t angrily challenge me with obscure trivia facts as soon as I walked in the door. Even if there were less than friendly people, I’d had the experience of growing up a girl and eventual woman on the internet, where I’d gotten used to angry nerds typing out vitriol they’d never spew in person. I could handle the comic book shop, it turned out, although visiting one now poses such a threat to my wallet I still try not to go too often.
Now I’m reading loads of comic books, ranging from the artsy memoir kind like Persepolis and Maus, to the outlandish and fantastical, like The Wicked and The Divine or Fables. I read some superhero stuff, but honestly not too much. The super hero comic industry has a habit of treating artists, writers, and their visions as disposable, taking in and kicking out people to best serve what they see as the superhero’s image. So many artists through the ages covering one hero can create an interesting variety, but I more often stick to series written by one author. Like traditional novel series, I feel this practice allows writers and artists to create a fuller story and world. That’s just my personal taste though, and like I said I’m not against exploring DC’s New 52 or perhaps some Deadpool and Ms. Marvel from Marvel comics.
I’m a grown up and a comic book nerd, and I encourage others to try following in my path. The comic book as a medium has a huge variety of genres to explore, and a quality that would shock people around for the comic’s original pulp fiction roots. All your favorite movies are coming from comic books. If you give the real thing a try, you’ll find out Hollywood is, as usual, holding back. There’s loads of brilliant books and series that Hollywood is missing out by not exploring. Don’t make the same mistake. Feel free to check out any of the series I’ve name dropped here, unless maybe you are twelve or younger. Then ask your parents first. This stuff can be pretty grown up.