For my first blog I'm aiming right for the jugular; addressing an issue which has co-existed alongside comic books since their inception.
The stigma of reading comic books/graphic novels.
Unless you've been incredibly lucky, or you just have awesome friends who either a) read comic books themselves or b) would like to get into comic books, you've no doubt been exposed to this to some degree.
If you read comic books, you are a nerd. You are a social pariah. If you are older than 20 (as I'm dangerously close to becoming), you are clinging on to childhood. Comics, after all, are for children - and only children. At least this is what society tells us. It is with the last statement that I feel somewhat like Mr Glass (I can't actually remember is actual name at the moment - Elliot?) in "Unbreakable" when the man wants the piece of art for his very young son.
I live in the UK, where reading comics is still a hobby of the (very) few. Comic stores are few and far between- I would have to travel 40 miles to the nearest one. And only then, it would be a small, reclusive place with a camaraderie of men playing dungeons and dragons ( I personally love the game- but I'm creating the image) on the top floor.
I've just finished my first year of university. In that year I've met a huge variety of people from all walks of life. One of my closest friends recently confessed to me that my evident nerdiness was a "put off"- but, luckily, her opinion rapidly changed as I introduced her to the Marvel cinematic universe (she still refuses to go near DC or actual comic books). However, one incident sums up the general consensus of the stereotypical comic reader- (and I state this as a reader myself)- that we are all apparently aging balding men, socially nervous, who have endless trouble finding girlfriends (or in my case boyfriends) and lurk around in comic books stores with our shirts tucked into our waist high trousers. The incident is this: whilst watching "Thor" this aforementioned friend turned her head to face me and said, "Are the love story's in comic books just there because- not saying that you are one- nerds can't get girlfriends?" Or words to that general effect. I replied, trying not let my words sound harsher than I intended, that that was not the reason. And that love stories had been prevalent in fiction since the dawn of literature. "Who doesn't love a good love story?" And something about how the hero has to have someone to fight for and all that.
There was no malice or offence intended in her words, only genuine curiosity, yet the widely held stereotype had never been so at the forefront of my mind.
Another friend, who was born and raised in a small village, stated that she had never met anyone who actually read comic books - in much the same manner that someone would say "I've never met someone with 2 noses before." As I said, these are two of my closest friends, and the stigma appeared almost tangible when we first met (I was, admittedly, wearing my Superman t-shirt and carrying my comic long box to my room at the time).
Having recently read Grant Morrison's "Supergods; our world in the age of the Superhero" (if you haven't read it - read it) I started to ask myself why this stigma even exists. Perhaps it is merely the fantasy of it all. Worlds where people can gain extraordinary powers, fly, and run at the speed of light. As adults/teenagers we are supposed to be waist-deep in the real world, not drifting into the realms only dreams are made of. However, considering that movies, books, and theatre also share in the escapist whimsy, I find this only a small part of the problem. So why does a stigma exists? Does the stereotype hold any weight?
With the many comic book movies that now exist, it would be reasonable to suggest that this stigma would decrease. That reading comic books would become the norm. However, there is an apparent double-standard; it's absolutely fine to like comic book movies, but to like the original material it's based on - unthinkable.
My sister is still a closeted comic reader, having started late last year. She agrees with me; she doesn't quite understand the associated stigma, or why it exists. Yet her reluctance to actually tell anyone about her new interest - as if it is a huge burden to carry- says more about the issue than anything else. It is still a hobby that one shares in whispers, a hobby secretly discovered rather than shared.
As aforementioned, I live in the UK and have actually (as much as I want to ) never travelled to the US. My only working knowledge base on such issues, apart from what I have read, is The Big Bang Theory, which seems to exaggerate the stereotypical nerdiness of its central characters. Is the stigma as prevalent over there as it is here?
Finally, it is certain that reading comics has a stigma. A stigma which unfortunately clouds every layman’s opinion of comic books, and overshadows the hobby (read: obsession) itself. I enjoy reading comic books. I enjoy the universes, worlds and characters that these talented writers and artists create. Why is this form of literature/art so stigmatized when others are celebrated?
The answer is, simply, I don’t know. But, more importantly, it shouldn’t be.
Disclaimer: I apologize if anyone is offended by any of the things stated in the above blog- it was certainly not my intention.
Also – watch up for follow up blogs on this topic.