I’d never really given this a lot of thought until Harry happened to drop the subject of the social ramifications of being a comic book reader into an email conversation that we were having. In Harry’s words, “Does that instantly make you a geek or whether social status upon what is read is pretty much a myth?” As it inevitably turned out, I was too busy reading comic books (‘Nemesis the Warlock’ rules!) to give the matter the level of consideration that it deserved...
I’m not just picking words out of thin air and throwing them onto the page though! Here’s what I think...
If you’re anything like me then the odds are that you were well and truly a geek before you even saw a comic book for the first time. My interest in comics sprang from books and films that I enjoyed and wanted to find out more about. Getting into comics was a natural progression really; if you wanted to find out more about ‘Batman’ after having seen the films then where else was there to go? (Bear in mind that this was years before I was able to spend hours finding this information online) From there it was a small step to ‘X-Men’, ‘Ghost’ (shame that one came to an end), ‘Zombie World’ and the stuff I’m reading today.
In that respect, being a comic book reader doesn’t make you a geek. Not at all. How can it if you’re one already?
Despite that, there is a stigma though isn’t there? It doesn’t matter about the story, if it’s told in pictures then people assume a level of immaturity that just isn’t there. They don’t just assume this about the book either; the person reading it is fair game. Again, this is in my experience (I’ve had this attitude off some people) but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’d had a similar one...
Comics are one of those things that are very much a part of people’s childhoods and it’s an association that casts a dark shadow over what they see on the bookshelves today. If you’re no longer a child, would you want to carry on doing things that you see as childish (although there’s a definition that’s open for debate...)? I personally would answer a big ol’ resounding “Yes!” but that’s just me :o) Hollywood also has much to answer for as far as this goes with it’s depictions of an ‘average comic book reader’ that can barely dress himself appropriately let alone interact with the adult world. Put these things together (along with the ever constant ‘book snobbery’ where people put down other’s favourites and raise up their own) and you’ve got a situation where reading comic books makes you a geek in the eye of the beholder. Not in a good way either.
So where does this leave us comic book reading types? Damned if you do or damned if you don’t? As far as I’m concerned it pretty much leaves me right where I was at the beginning, happily reading comic books on the train home from work. If anyone fancies peering over my shoulder and having a read too then I’m cool with that; I always read cool stuff and it would be great if anyone else fancied coming along for the ride.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog then I’m probably preaching to the converted in any case. I’ll wager that you don’t really care what some random stranger thinks of your reading choice. That’s the way it should be; I’ve always thought that it was more important to just read than worry about what it is that you’re reading. As far as I’m concerned, a well-written comic is as valid a piece of literature as a well-written book.
Keep an eye open for me on the train tomorrow, I’ll be the one reading ‘Nemesis: Book 2’ and not really giving a stuff what anyone else thinks… ;o)
----Graeme Flory: I can say a lot of things about Graeme and I have already said them a great while, but one thing you can expect for certain is that he is one fin Brit with extensive reading habits and a well refined taste for the written word. Also he is my evil twin. Check his blog out at Graeme's Fantasy Book Review.