Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"Comic Book Guy?" Not So Much

If you talk to me for even like 15 minutes at a party, you'll probably find out I know some stuff about comic books. But if you've talked to me in the last couple months, you'll probably know that I'm also realizing "comic books" are not exactly my thing.

"Blasphemy!" said the nerds and the geeks! But I don't mean it like that. Let me explain.

For a very long time, one of the shortcut qualities that people would use to introduce me was that I was a comic book guy. Not THE comic book guy, but A comic book guy. Was this somewhat accurate? Definitely. I own comic books. I own comic book t-shirts. I go to comic book conventions. Hell, I've been known to collect comic book artwork. But was I, am I, a "comic book guy?" No. This was not entirely accurate for quite some time.


Comic books and their fandom in the modern day have a lot to do with blind loyalty. They have a lot to do with buying into hype. They have a lot to do with undying favoritism. They have a lot to do with 20 and 30 and 40 year old fans (and older) arguing with others over what books and publishers and creative teams are better. It's almost like watching a political debate, where no matter what decision anybody makes, there's someone to say it's great even if it's incredibly stupid. It's almost like a religion in some ways. Blind loyalty and "spin" do not appeal to me in any way.


Furthermore, comic books in the modern day have often become more about shock value and getting a blurb on a newsreel or creating a fervor with the fans with hyper-violence or hyper-sexuality. It comes down to, "Let's kill a hero. Let's make a super-heroine a super-slut - again." These are NOT things that I love. Often, it feels like comic books have become little more than fan-fiction for the folks who grew up reading them. That, and proving grounds for comic book movies.

I, generally, do not love the comic book movie. The last comic book movie I saw that I really thought was good was Batman with Michael Keaton in 1989. And I was 9 years old.

To me, movies are to comic books (quite often) the same thing that they are to fans of fiction. Ruiners. Someone I know has (or at least had) a shirt that said, "Movies, Ruining the Book since 1920," and the general sentiment of that sums up my feelings on comic book movies pretty well.

I DO love what comic books were to me growing up. Namely, stories that encourage kids to try, to persevere, to believe in themselves, that can give kids a progressive counterpoint to the smalltown worlds they grow up in, that can help get them through hard times, that can help tell them to hope. Namely, stories where the good people win every time if they try hard enough and believe in themselves - because that's what's supposed to happen in the real world even though it often doesn't, and it's nice to remember it CAN happen at least in a fake world on paper. If that starts being what comic books are again, that's when I'll love them. But it still wouldn't make me a "comic book guy."

See, we are all much more than the shortcut qualities we know each other (and ourselves) by. We are more complex. We are not just bowlers or karaoke lovers, writers or sisters, jazz dancers or experts in wine. We are not just uncles or people who quote Monty Python, not just guys who are good with a grill or people who might drink too much socially. We are people. Incredibly complex people, with layers of depth and gravity we often have no idea are inside us.

Over time, if we're not careful, we can come to see ourselves by the qualities and limitations that others (and we ourselves) put upon us - but we do ourselves and each other injustices by choosing to be so simple about it.

That's not to say we're bad people. The ability to make snap judgments or general guesses is part of how we get to know people - but when we forget to stop learning and we simply see them, or ourselves, as those generalizations we already know or accept, we make both ourselves and them something lesser. I think that everyone needs to let themselves really get to know themselves. I believe it's only then that you can ever really get to know others.

So no. I'm not a comic book guy. I worked at a comic book store for eight years growing up, and comic books got me through some hard times. But I'm not a comic book guy. I AM a guy who knows a lot about comic books - and that's something I can live with.


Autumn said...

I totally still have that shirt.

Dave of Apocalypse said...

Badass. It's a really good one. (And apparently a replacement would only be $5 btw.)