The Kindness of Strangers

I have found, throughout my years of being a comic book lover, there is something very strange about the way comic book fans treat each other. When one comic book fan meets another, there is a back and forth quiz that happens. “What do you read?” “What is your favourite comic?” “Who is your favourite writer/artist/character?” Instead of just being excited to meet another comic lover, we have to make sure they are worthy, but mostly, we make sure we know more than they do.

I have found, throughout my years of being a comic book lover, there is something very strange about the way comic book fans treat each other. When one comic book fan meets another, there is a back and forth quiz that happens. “What do you read?” “What is your favourite comic?” “Who is your favourite writer/artist/character?” Instead of just being excited to meet another comic lover, we have to make sure they are worthy, but mostly, we make sure we know more than they do. Ok, that might be going a little far, but we do at least make sure they can keep up. If the other person doesn’t know enough about comics or doesn’t likes comics as much as us, we think they are “inferior” and the other person loses nerd points.comic book guy

We should be embracing people with similar interests as ours. Comic book communities can be small, and sure, some people like the feeling of exclusivity, but being exclusive is only hurting the industry. Scaring off newbies with our extreme knowledge of comics isn’t going to impress them, it is going to make them feel excluded and inferior and no one likes that feeling. Being exclusive is killing the thing we love.

So why do we do this to each other?

Comic book lovers find comfort and protection in their small community. A community that has accepted them and their intense passion, a place that celebrates their vast knowledge and gives them the power of outsmarting “muggles”. They are away from the mainstream that stereotypes them and makes them feel like outcasts. If we allow more people in, people who aren’t as intense and knowledgeable as us, we could be opening our community up for scrutiny. But what we are really doing is dooming our community to extinction. Like all businesses, comic book publishers need money to run, and as our community get smaller, so do the profits. This community wide mentality of staying exclusive, being judgmental of newcomers and labeling people as fakes or posers is doing more damage than good.

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How do we fix it?

If we want our community to survive and flourish, as a group, we need to change our outlook on newcomers. Here are some of my suggestions on what to do to help. First off, help out noobs, if you encounter someone who is just getting into comics or is interested in comics help them out, don’t overwhelm them or force the books that you enjoy on them. Instead, find out their interests and let them know about books that they may find interesting. Don’t spew knowledge all over them, they probably don’t care that you know what happened in Amazing Spider-man issue #121 and you don’t need to prove that you know more than them. Next, I would suggest going to or putting on community events. The Comic Book Lounge has Ladies Nights where women are promoted to bring friends even if they aren’t comic book lovers, but may have a small interest, this might not help out you males or non-Torontonians but if your community doesn’t have these sort of events I would suggest approaching your local comic book store and asking if you can host one. If these events do happen in your community, attend them and be inclusive, if someone is alone or looks out of place engage them in a conversation, ask them to join you, be a friendly face. My third suggestion, I think, is the most important. I personally got into comics around the age of 17. I was always interested in comics, but never knew where to start. It was the kindness of a stranger that allowed me to figure out what I was interested in, from there my love of comics grew. So, if it wasn’t for a comic book nerd who stretched out a helping hand, you wouldn’t be reading this article today!

Change your mentality and other will follow, include newcomers and part-time comic lovers. Be positive and keep our community alive.

This article is dedicated to Debra Shelly, an amazing woman who was involved in the comic community in Toronto. She was welcoming and, would always smile and take the time to talk to everyone, comic lover or not. She passed away on January 25, 2014 and will be greatly missed.

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Leigh Hart
Leigh Woodhall - Soapbox Nerd. Aerialist. Writer. Podcaster. All around tough guy (but a lady version). Follow me on twitter @Leigh_Louise
Articles: 55

7 Comments

  1. When Debra was a teen in the 1990’s she was a comics fan. She stopped because the store she frequented was unable to deal with female customers, preferring to revert to even worse shunning and alienating techniques than holding knowledge over another’s head – they made lewd comments and said things like “hey, it’s Debbie Does Dallas” and she was disgusted, eventually quitting entirely for many years. Dinosaur shops and fans have to wake up and realize were a community, and where the door is if they can’t play nice. Deb made sure to welcome and be friendly to everyone, she did not want people to go through what she went through.

  2. you are a class act Kevin- wonderful people like yourself and Debra are to be celebrated

  3. Thank you for your reply Kevin, Deb was always the first one to welcome anyone. And, although she had bad experience in the past I am happy she didn’t let that affect the way she treated others in the community. When I was new to the Toronto Comic Book scene she welcomed me with open arms (litterally, she hugged me the first time we met). I think others should follow her actions and not let their negative experiences affect the way they treat others.

  4. Deb was very much about making sure people didn’t have to go through what she went through. She was an amazing, uplifting spirit. Turn sour apples into applesauce with plenty of sugar was her basic philosophy, although she would never use that analogy.

  5. Very Good, Leigh. I try to be friends with all comics lovers and promote comics in the media every chance I get. Good article.

  6. PS. I particularly encourage young girls and women, but warn them a bit about the content and character of some of male comic fans. I’ve seen the same treatment and never stand for it.

  7. Hmmm… On the surface, this appears to comic related write up… however, the theme is universal and can be interpreted as a commentary on the human condition. But I don’t think Leigh is looking to discuss Man’s nature…

    There is nothing that can fill the emptiness after a passing but there is solace in having known that person. In other words, it’s a sad occasion because you feel enriched by her… so this is a good thing. All life ends, but relationships live on…

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