It’s interesting what can derail me from completing my weekly comic thoughts. I suppose real life does get in the way sometime, whether it is some new mandate passed down from my school district or just a massive amount of wedding planning.
Point being, finding time to write about comics is difficult. I love to do it, but it is difficult.
However, it is an even tougher time trying to be a comic book fan.
Amidst all the chaos of the world and the responsibilities I have for my 31 lovely 5th graders, I still purposefully make time to read. My resolution I set for myself was simple: Read 15 minutes every night before bed.
In a way, it was not all that different from what I ask my students to do every night for homework. I don’t ask them for any written work, just to find something to read for the joy of reading. To enhance their lives and brains maybe just a little more because of what’s been written on pages.
Is it a tad poetic and far-fetched? Sure. But I still require it of them.
And if I require it of them, then why not myself? So, I set out to accomplish something. That instead of waiting until Saturday night and reading all of my comics in one, twenty minute cram session, I would try to spread out my weekly stash across the course of one week. Savor each one and enjoy it the way I am sure that many artist and writers and publishers intend us to.
What I have discovered is that prolonging the reading process fundamentally changes what it means to read comics. I assume that many other fans or readers out there read in the same way that I used to. We would bring home our goods, plop down with a nice cup of coffee, read through them before the mug becomes cold and move on with our life.
That’s not how it should be though.
See, I think that’s the problem. We just want to indulge so much of it that we really don’t give ourselves time to process the occasional genius that we take in.
I’ve been sitting on these notions for a while, and I’ll come back to what my nightly reading sessions have revealed in just a minute. The reason I have been sitting with this is there are currently three shows on television that portray a group of people classified as “Nerds”.
One such is the classic “The Big Bang Theory”. Even though it does feature the lead group as a pair of nerds, it does allow some exploration into what makes their minds tick. When we see Sheldon and Leonard, two of the most interesting characters created for television, wallow in their toys and, more importantly, comics, what does that tell us?
That people need heroes. And they’re looking for anyone.
It’s a little disheartening as well as enlightening to see the treatment given to them as characters. However, a recent episode showcased their (female) friends Penny, Amy and Bernadette visiting a comic book shop. Hostility? Yep.
Just like all comic book shops, right? Filled with a bunch of losers that live at home with their parents hoping some pretty young thing will come up and talk to them…
Aren’t we all like that?
Wait, no. We’re not. We are a dedicated fan base that loves a medium of storytelling so much we spend most of lives caring for each page. Even slightly, we discuss and exchange and share in love together. The biggest part? We try to bring in others to share in it.
However, I think there are two television shows that create a not-so-pleasant feel to comic book fans.
AMC’s “Comic Book Men” and TBS’ “King of the Nerds” feel like a harsh, sarcastic look at people who consider themselves nerds.
“Comic Book Men” centers around Kevin Smith’s comic book shop “Secret Stash”. It was, I suppose, to be AMC’s inside look at the lives of those that run a comic book store. What it ended up being, however, is a look at how people who know nothing about comics are worse than the people that do. Constantly do Smith and his crew engage in sometimes crass discussions at the expense of customer knowledge.
Yes, they do have parties and events and take part in social outreach, but if the attitude is not behind it? Then there is no way to truly make new readers, or essentially new clientele, believe in what you say.
Working at a comic shop, I know that sometimes we are branded in such a way that does not accurately represent who we are. Heroes and Villains is one such shop to break the mold set by “Comic Book Men”, that we don’t hate you. We want you to come in and read some comic goodness. Even if you know nothing, we believe in this medium so much that we trust you can find something.
And then there’s “King of the Nerds”.
I think this picture speaks for itself. While not focused primarily on comic books, I do think that this show gives us a black eye for its stereotypical, if not loving, look at comic shops.
“Nerds are cool?”
I find this interesting. One of my students can wear a pair of glasses with no lenses and refer to herself as a “nerd” and I’ll find that slightly funny. Does she have any particular fandom to be a part of? Does she re-watch every episode of “Doctor Who” six times just to catch all the stuff she might have missed? Has she ever played through “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time” so many times she knows the ins and outs of every dungeon?
To me, that would classify a “nerd”. I don’t think she has, but I love that it is now more open and accessible to be a nerd than ever. Even only ten years ago, when I was in middle/high school, being a nerd was not a cool thing. Now?
It has become mainstream. Thanks to “The Big Bang Theory”. And, to a lesser extent, shows like “Comic Book Men” and “King of the Nerds”.
The good comic book fans, the real ones, the ones that are not openly mocked on AMC and TBS, those are the ones you want to get to know. That love stories about adventure and romance and action and larger-than-life-ideas-that-could-never-work-as-a-cinematic-adventure.
So, grab a comic book and revel in the fact that you are going to be part of a much larger group. A group that cares for characters and story arcs and the lives of fictional people.
And they will share it all with you. If you find the cool ones, at least.