I want to preface this article by saying I’m not a hardcore comic book nerd, nor am I a complete novice oblivious to anything comic book related outside of Marvel movies. I do attend a monthly comic book club (though, a big reason for that is because it’s a great excuse to drink with fun people and talk about interesting books I normally wouldn’t read), and I certainly have read some of the greatest comic story arcs to date. But I don’t have a weekly (or monthly) pull-list. I’m probably the least knowledgable person in my book club in regards to specific story arcs, writers, artists, and comic book news in general. I watch most of the movies but hardly ever see them in theater or even within three months of their theatrical releases. Hell, I’m not even entirely comfortable going into my local comic shop because I feel slightly out of place. But more on that later.
So if I had to pinpoint my place in the comic book community, I’d say I’m smack dab in the middle. I appreciate the art form and enjoy reading comics. I’m more interested in comic books than the casual reader—as I have been since I was a kid—but I’m not obsessive about them. I’d much prefer to read a Neil Gaiman novel than a Neil Gaiman comic run, but I thoroughly enjoy both mediums. Unfortunately, as you can tell by the title of this article, I have some major caveats with comic book culture. And I think many of you—even the hardcore comic book fans out there—might agree with some of these points. Let’s get into it!
5. Constant Knowledge Testing
I’m an introvert by nature. And while I may seem outgoing if you run into me in public, chances are pretty good I’m fairly anxious speaking to you. Even if we’ve been friends for a long time. For whatever reason talking to people outside of comfortable settings (like running into people at Walmart or Target) sets me off on a weird mental tangent where I’m constantly thinking about what I should say next instead of focusing on the conversation at hand. It’s really annoying.
I bring this up because I find in general, comic book fans are the worst at making others feel comfortable in their world. This goes back to when I said I feel slightly out of place at my local comic shop. It doesn’t have anything to do with the owner or some of the regular customers (they are pretty damn cool, actually), but rather has to do with the anxiety I get when people randomly challenge me to useless comic book knowledge. This happens to me a lot when I try to talk comics with strangers at cons or online, which I hardly do anymore because I don’t need to test my knowledge about menstruation based villains.
I have an athletic build and don’t look like your stereotypical comic book reader, which probably lumps me in with female readers who constantly get challenged by the annoying incels of the comic book world. And I’m not using that as an insult to hardcore comic readers; it’s the one thing most of these guys (and in my experience, it’s always guys who challenge people) have in common.
The “nerds” who feel the need to challenge you on anything comic related usually are the ones with the worst personalities, worst views on women, and usually have the worst physical appearance. It’s almost as if they are a member of a once-secret society that has been forced to let commoners join. This is especially true with the explosion in comic book movies over the last 15 or so years.
Now don’t get me wrong, while many who are deeply involved in comic culture can be socially awkward or different (I choose to refer to them as unique because that’s what they are), most aren’t confrontational or douchey. Even so—at least in my numerous encounters—if you do something as innocuous as accidentally calling The Punisher Hank Castle instead of Frank Castle, comic fans will immediately correct you in the most direct way—interuppting you mid-sentence. This can be pretty jarring to someone new to the scene.
And while this is more harmless than the whole challenging your comic knowledge cred, it’s more than enough to scare people with social anxiety away from the culture. Even when I’m surrounded by people in my book club who I have become comfortable around, I still remain quiet during topics that I’m not 100% knowledgable about because of the dreaded “actually” or “what you mean is” that immediately occurs as a result of a mild gaffe.
4. There Are Too Many Damn Titles
This one is self-explanatory so I won’t elaborate too much on it. For a few years, I was buying monthly comics at a steady rate. I was reading around six different titles via single issues. Not counting trades or anything else I was buying at the time, that means I was spending about 24 dollars a month on just those six issues. Those runs ran anywhere between 6-30 issues depending on the title. I know people who buy way more than that every WEEK.
I’m not bringing this up to bitch about the cost of comics—though that certainly is a factor in all of this—I just want to point out how many damn titles come out each week. Seriously, go into a decent comic shop and look around. There’s no way any normal person can keep up a normal reading schedule with so many options. Not saying it’s bad to have a lot of options. After all, you can make the same claim about how many novels come out every year. But my gripe has more to do with the Big Two.
As someone who has to carefully manage his reading time, I can tell you there’s no way I’d ever be able to buy Marvel and DC books on a monthly basis. There seem to be way too many titles to keep up with. And sure, you can simply read The Hulk and not buy any of the other stuff, but what about when a major event comes up (which seems to be all the damn time) and you have to buy the crossovers? But you know what, this is only a small part of the bigger problem.
3. The Market Is Oversaturated Yet People Begrudgingly Continue To Buy
As I briefly touched upon earlier, comic culture seems to breed obsessive behavior. It’s like comics and hoarders go together like Aquaman and fish jokes. I feel many fans fear they’ll miss out on something if they don’t see every movie, buy every title, and generally do everything they can to stay current. The thing is though, I’ve spoken to a lot of comic book fans who’ve continued buying and reading a series they didn’t like because they had so many issues already.
I think this is why fans can be so critical of the comic book movies. They’ve spent so much time and money already on the comics and characters that they feel like the makers of these movies owe them something. In reality, there’s no reason to support a product you don’t like. I saw this first hand with Captain Marvel.
A lot of fans (again, many were incels) were hating on the Captain Marvel movie as soon as the first trailer dropped. They weren’t interested in the character. They didn’t like the casting. They felt there was a feminist or political agenda. It’s almost like they didn’t realize they could simply not see the movie. Or any of these movies in fact. Which brings me to my next point.
2. Everyone Is A Critic
Maybe it was with the rise of social media but at some point, everyone became a damn movie critic. Seriously. It’s one thing to shit on a comic book run that took a bad turn after 12 issues, but would you talk smack about a title before it even released the first issue? Yet this is exactly what has been happening with the movies.
Sure, we saw this behavior with Black Panther and Captain Marvel because a lot of these angry Alt-Right assholes felt those movies were too politically motivated (I actually didn’t enjoy either film that much, but we’ll get to my view on watching movies in a bit), but if you take a look at the DC films you’ll see a disturbing trend.
Going all the way back to the casting of Micheal Keaton as Batman in the late 80s, DC has always dealt with haters. We saw this with every movie iteration of The Joker after Jack Nicholson: Heath Ledger, Jared Leto, and now Joaquin Phoenix (before the trailer dropped, now people seem to be on board). For whatever reason people can’t go into a comic book movie without a strong opinion. It’s almost as if they have their mind already made up in regards to whether they’ll like or dislike it.
Robert Pattinson is the newest actor feeling the nerd anger since he’s been cast as the next Batman. But I’m not going to get into that right now. I’ve always been the type where I won’t judge a movie (unless the trailer looks especially terrible) until I watch it. And if a movie doesn’t appeal to me, or I don’t like the casting, I just won’t see it. For instance, I’ve always been a big X-Men fan, but Dark Phoenix looks like trash to me. So I’m not going to waste my time or money watching it. Yet many who feel the same will go and see it, then complain about how much it sucked. If you knew it was going to suck and you weren’t interested in seeing it in the first place, why waste your time on it? I’ll never understand this mindset other than it being a result of obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
1. You Aren’t Allowed To Like Or Dislike Certain Things
Go online, find a comic book forum or comment section, and tell everyone there that you loved Captain Marvel and Black Panther. Then sit back and watch the shit-show. If you say you liked one of those movies a significant portion of the men (again, mostly incels) will tell you why YOUR opinion is wrong and maybe even tell you why you should just kill yourself for liking something they don’t. If that isn’t the most toxic shit ever, I don’t know what is. Seriously, imagine telling a stranger you hope they die of cancer because they liked a superhero movie. WTF!
And I said men because in the last three years I’ve never once seen a woman say such harsh things over a difference of opinion regarding a movie. Not saying they aren’t out there, but they are definitely the minority. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll have normal discussions with people about why they liked or disliked a movie, but there will always be a series of toxic assholes who take things too far. Unless you go on YouTube, that is. Then it’s damn near 100% that your life will be threatened because you like Black Panther more than Captain America.
I’m not going into this in more detail because I know for a fact if you’re reading this article you’ve probably seen this behavior too many times to count. And if there’s one thing I hate most about comic book culture, it’s that there will always be people out there who want to tell you the things you enjoy suck and that you suck for liking them. You know what I say? Those people can get bent!
I don’t want to end this article on a negative note, though. Because when things are all said and done, there’s a reason I still consider myself a member of the comic book community. Even though many comic book fans have strong opinions or might be too quick to correct you when you mess something up, most are happy to have someone to share their love of comic culture with.
So my advice to anyone new to comic books who wants to get more involved beyond the movies, more often than not comic book readers are pretty friendly and accepting. Just don’t talk to the assholes on the internet. They give everyone a bad name!
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