Posted by RedQueen (1171 posts) - - Show Bio

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.

#1 Posted by Rumble Man (11119 posts) - - Show Bio

They live in different worlds

#2 Posted by Twentyfive (2405 posts) - - Show Bio

It is a shame. The misconception that people make, which needs to change is that comics themselves are a genre. That is a totally asinine assumption. Comics are a medium through which stories can be told. There used to be a time when people wouldn't look at you as if you were mentally retarded because you were reading a comic. I don't know how bad it is in the UK, but here in America it is like that because hardly anyone wants to read books in the first place. But if you give them a good horror story like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, I'm sure that's enough to drag anyone into comics.

Comics are novels with pictures, and that is what people need to learn. They go beyond the realm of Superhero stories. You can find every kind of story in comic form.

#3 Posted by spiderpool94 (467 posts) - - Show Bio

A lot of people who claim they're for children have never read one. Or, more accurately, not the right ones.

#4 Edited by Jorgevy (5114 posts) - - Show Bio

it's funny because I also live in Europe (Mainlaind though) and because there are so little but so little comic book shops (like 5 or 6 in the whole country), reading them is very rare, but it makes it kinda OK. Nobody really gives a crap because almost no one has any knowledge about it. When you have some knowledge about something, usually stereotypes and misconceived ideas are created to fill in the gaps. When you are clueless though, you just don't know. So yeah, Im kinda lucky, nobody gives me a hard time because nobody really cares or understands what those are, except for the older people who collected during the heyday, but those obviously are not gonna discriminate.

#5 Posted by John Valentine (16270 posts) - - Show Bio

I live in the UK, London to be exact, and know loads of people who read comics. Second to that, a girl's never raised any issue with me reading comics; several of my female friends have read my graphic novels whilst in my room.

#6 Edited by Jorgevy (5114 posts) - - Show Bio

@RedQueen said:

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.

that's just stupid. No offense, but really, it REALLY is. the key in most if not all works of fiction, not just cinema, comics, books or theater, is love/relationships.

Also, dont go by BBT when seeing the general opinion of people. It's a show supposed to exagerate and hyperbolize the nerd/geek world to be funny

#7 Posted by RedQueen (1171 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jorgevy said:

@RedQueen said:

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.

that's just stupid. No offense, but really, it REALLY is. the key in most if not all works of fiction, not just cinema, comics, books or theater, is love/relationships.

Also, dont go by BBT when seeing the general opinion of people. It's a show supposed to exagerate and hyperbolize the nerd/geek world to be funny

Exactly.... I tried to emphasise that point to my friend. I would be hard-pressed to find any film/book e.t.c which doesn't involve some sort of relationship/friendship. BBT doesn't help in this respect; in fact it only reinforces this damaging stereotype. (As much as I actually enjoy the show...)

#8 Posted by Jorgevy (5114 posts) - - Show Bio

@RedQueen: yeah it's a really funny show, that uses characters that are nerds but makes them huge social outcasts just for the sake of the joke. Which is fine by me, but I get that some people wouldn't like that because like you said, it would emphasise on pre conceived and wrong ideas about geeks/nerds/whatever

#9 Edited by ArtGamer (1262 posts) - - Show Bio

well i think that 'stigma' depends of the culture and the people of the country where you live, the tv and movies and the popular culture in general, tell us the comic reader usually are pariahs like you describe, but that stigma usually exist in countries where the comic readers are common, but for example where i live the comics readers are a really really rare species,i'm the only one i know in my university and ok i'm not mr. popularity but i'm not a social pariah and some of my 'nerd' friends are manga/anime fans, like at least here the 99,999999% of the others 'nerds' and 'pariahs' , we have a yearly comic con and it's full of narutos and god knows what more, so usually people find us interesting and uncommon, and in this times when you see a lot of movies, video games, etc about comics people needs comic readers because usually we know things what for them are hard to know... or understand, well this is my point of view

#10 Posted by RedQueen (1171 posts) - - Show Bio

@Twentyfive said:

It is a shame. The misconception that people make, which needs to change is that comics themselves are a genre. That is a totally asinine assumption. Comics are a medium through which stories can be told. There used to be a time when people wouldn't look at you as if you were mentally retarded because you were reading a comic. I don't know how bad it is in the UK, but here in America it is like that because hardly anyone wants to read books in the first place. But if you give them a good horror story like Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, I'm sure that's enough to drag anyone into comics.

Comics are novels with pictures, and that is what people need to learn. They go beyond the realm of Superhero stories. You can find every kind of story in comic form.

I agree with you 100%. Couldn't have put it any better......

Thanks for the insight ;)

#11 Posted by thespideyguy (2579 posts) - - Show Bio

I'm open about reading comic books and when I changed schools that's what I lead with, and there was a stigma for a year or two but now I've gained more friends. And the ones who don't read comics are still cool with it.

#12 Posted by Renchamp (2056 posts) - - Show Bio

I live in the U.S. in what would be called "the West." In my years of living in Wyoming and Utah I have met one friend who shares a love of comic books. (They got me outside of Marvel and enjoying The Walking Dead.) It may be territorial (because there are so many close-minded hicks out here) but I don't advertise that I read comics, let alone edit an effing wiki related to them. I'm sure there's a message out there about being comfortable in one's own skin, but I'm not going to be the one preaching it.

Online
#13 Posted by RedQueen (1171 posts) - - Show Bio

@thespideyguy said:

I'm open about reading comic books and when I changed schools that's what I lead with, and there was a stigma for a year or two but now I've gained more friends. And the ones who don't read comics are still cool with it.

It's only recently that - I'm ashamed to say- I've actually become comfortable as thinking of myself as a nerd. Now I'm quite open about it,but in High School it was another matter. Luckily my friends have grown to accept it.... I probably should have added that to the blog. Thanks for commenting :)

#14 Edited by Blood1991 (8098 posts) - - Show Bio

Movies have made comic nerdiness cool where I'm from. Mostly people think it is intresting that I read comics and ask a bunch of questions, but they may just be acting polite or trying to create small talk about something I OBVIOUSLY enjoy lol. I get called a man-child alot, but I really don't mind because honestly I am childish, but I'm responsible enough tto pay my bills, go to work/school, and I clean and cook. I may not pretend to be as mature as some people, but why should I have to?

#15 Posted by RedQueen (1171 posts) - - Show Bio

@Renchamp said:

I live in the U.S. in what would be called "the West." In my years of living in Wyoming and Utah I have met one friend who shares a love of comic books. (They got me outside of Marvel and enjoying The Walking Dead.) It may be territorial (because there are so many close-minded hicks out here) but I don't advertise that I read comics, let alone edit an effing wiki related to them. I'm sure there's a message out there about being comfortable in one's own skin, but I'm not going to be the one preaching it.

The sad part is it shouldn't be something that we feel has to be hidden. *preaching*. I'm actually surprised that the stigma seems to be more prevalent over there than here.

#16 Posted by Manwhohaseverything (1421 posts) - - Show Bio

Maybe I live in a different world. i read comics, none of my friends do, all my friends know I do, (this includes my wife) and I've never felt any "stigma" from them. And I'm older than most viners I bet. I have a step-son that collect lego's (he's in his 30's) same thing. Some have even stated it makes birthday/Christmas easier. I'm foresee copies of both "The Amazing Spider-man, and "The Dark Knight Rises" as gifts within the year. :) 

#17 Posted by RedQueen (1171 posts) - - Show Bio

@spiderpool94 said:

A lot of people who claim they're for children have never read one. Or, more accurately, not the right ones.

Like Watchmen, or the Killing Joke, or any of Frank Miller's work. Some of the best pieces of literature right there.

#18 Posted by Loki9876 (2981 posts) - - Show Bio

great post. I live in Belgium and in here I think reading comics is more rare than in the UK. i think people believe comics are childish because of the drawings in the story, we as fans appriciate them as art and a plus but people who never read any don't. People also tend to believe the stories themselves are childish which they are not ex machina is an example it deals with political themes and gruesome scenes of corpes, etc What I do mean is that people don't know that comics as like any kind of media you have stories of all kinds comedie comics and creepy comics. I am not ashamed of my hobby infact I have pride in it and I was (I finished schools this year) in my class the dude who knew about comics and I dragged my nephew also in the world of comics.

#19 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

Most people don't know there's actual things such as comic books (like Marvel & DC) so I never dealt wit this stigma.

#20 Posted by KainScion (2973 posts) - - Show Bio

you on your own there brah

#21 Edited by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@KainScion: You could've just used that in a reply

@Blood1991 said:

Movies have made comic nerdiness cool where I'm from. Mostly people think it is intresting that I read comics and ask a bunch of questions, but they may just be acting polite or trying to create small talk about something I OBVIOUSLY enjoy lol. I get called a man-child alot, but I really don't mind because honestly I am childish, but I'm responsible enough tto pay my bills, go to work/school, and I clean and cook. I may not pretend to be as mature as some people, but why should I have to?

#22 Posted by Renchamp (2056 posts) - - Show Bio

@RedQueen said:

@Renchamp said:

I live in the U.S. in what would be called "the West." In my years of living in Wyoming and Utah I have met one friend who shares a love of comic books. (They got me outside of Marvel and enjoying The Walking Dead.) It may be territorial (because there are so many close-minded hicks out here) but I don't advertise that I read comics, let alone edit an effing wiki related to them. I'm sure there's a message out there about being comfortable in one's own skin, but I'm not going to be the one preaching it.

The sad part is it shouldn't be something that we feel has to be hidden. *preaching*. I'm actually surprised that the stigma seems to be more prevalent over there than here.

I'm not going to go on the record and say it's a big stigma over here, but the U.S. is not as open-minded as we parade ourselves to be. It's conform or die. Sure, give us your poor and needy and blah, blah, blah, just make sure they speak English and revere Chuck Norris. Other parts of the country may be better about this, but I'm dealing with one (albeit large) portion.

Online
#23 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

I think you'd be ashamed to read comics if it's all you do. None of us are ashamed probably because we do other things.

#24 Posted by Superguy0009e (2259 posts) - - Show Bio

It use to be a lot worse. Some people even believed that it caused youth to become juvinile and violent. As years have gone by, it has gotten more respectful, especially due to the success of the Marvel Cinematic universe. There will always be a biased hate against it, but I don't think we have much to worry. It is way more socially acceptable to read comics nowadays. Still, I am one of the only people in my school that reads comics (I may be the only one), but people are more open to it.

#25 Posted by Manwhohaseverything (1421 posts) - - Show Bio
@Loki9876: In Belgium? That surprises me (I've visited it twice, including for a few days on my honeymoon..( I love Galler chocolate and Hoeegrarden and the frites.) Anyhow, I know how nuts they can be about Tin-Tin and The Smurfs. (BTW, I think Herges was genius!)
#26 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Superguy0009e said:

It use to be a lot worse. Some people even believed that it caused youth to become juvinile and violent. As years have gone by, it has gotten more respectful, especially due to the success of the Marvel Cinematic universe. There will always be a biased hate against it, but I don't think we have much to worry. It is way more socially acceptable to read comics nowadays. Still, I am one of the only people in my school that reads comics (I may be the only one), but people are more open to it.

I don't see how it causes us to be violent. No matter how deep you are a fan, we all know comics will always be fantasy heroes flying in the sky to save the world from an alien threat.

#27 Posted by Lvenger (16049 posts) - - Show Bio

Great blog post. I live in the UK as well, order my comics online. I'm always a month behind but fortunately the internet catches me up on everything else. Anyway I haven't exactly been forthcoming with my reading comics with my friends. Most of them watch the comic book films released every year but have never shown any interest in comics themselves so I simply don't mention that specific hobby of mine. It's not as if I don't share plenty of other stuff in common with them.

It's unfortunate that this medium of popular culture is generalised by stereotypes such as balding middle age men or the thin, gawky geeky outcast and I suppose that this stereotype has prevented me from publicly showing my love of comics. Though I did read The Amazing Spider-Man #686 in a Spanish airport whilst waiting for a delayed flight. Never in England though. Back in the good old days, all sorts of people from students to adults to kids read comic books. There was much more popular acceptance of the art in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. Nowadays it is all hushed whispers and (no offence to anyone on here) thread discussions. That's why I became a member of Comicvine, to talk about comics with people who shared my interest. That's something I haven't been able to do where I live.

#28 Posted by Loki9876 (2981 posts) - - Show Bio

@Manwhohaseverything: yeah, Ti tin and the smurfs the local comics are pretty popular but American comics are not well known.

#29 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Lvenger said:

Great blog post. I live in the UK as well, order my comics online. I'm always a month behind but fortunately the internet catches me up on everything else. Anyway I haven't exactly been forthcoming with my reading comics with my friends. Most of them watch the comic book films released every year but have never shown any interest in comics themselves so I simply don't mention that specific hobby of mine. It's not as if I don't share plenty of other stuff in common with them.

It's unfortunate that this medium of popular culture is generalised by stereotypes such as balding middle age men or the thin, gawky geeky outcast and I suppose that this stereotype has prevented me from publicly showing my love of comics. Though I did read The Amazing Spider-Man #686 in a Spanish airport whilst waiting for a delayed flight. Never in England though. Back in the good old days, all sorts of people from students to adults to kids read comic books. There was much more popular acceptance of the art in the 60s, 70s and early 80s. Nowadays it is all hushed whispers and (no offence to anyone on here) thread discussions. That's why I became a member of Comicvine, to talk about comics with people who shared my interest. That's something I haven't been able to do where I live.

Yeah again with the comic book films thing. Most people don't know that comics actually exists.

#30 Posted by AgeofHurricane (7202 posts) - - Show Bio

I live in London, anytime i refer to comic-book reading or anything comic-book related, i classify it as my "secret life", because that's exactly what it is. LOL.

The thing is, comic-book reading, is like, a myth around here, there isn't exactly your local CBS to walk into or anything like that, there're just issues of Essential X-Men. S'why i'm a digital guy.

#31 Posted by spiderpool94 (467 posts) - - Show Bio

@RedQueen said:

@spiderpool94 said:

A lot of people who claim they're for children have never read one. Or, more accurately, not the right ones.

Like Watchmen, or the Killing Joke, or any of Frank Miller's work. Some of the best pieces of literature right there.

Exactly. Or Mike Mignola's Hellboy. I lent this girl my copy of Seeds of Destruction and she totally loved it and admitted there was nothing childish about it, with it combining myths and folk lore form different cultures. Or indeed like 300, people go and see the film not realizing it was a graphic novel. I find that the themes of X-men such as the allusions to Nazism through Magneto or the Civil Rights movements to Xavier are much bigger than crappy soap operas which are conceived to be adult. I pick X-Men over Emmerdale any day.

#32 Posted by RedQueen (1171 posts) - - Show Bio

@Jnr6Lil: Or they take the Big Bang Theory too literally and at face value. Unfortunately, those are normally the kind of people I bump into.@spiderpool94 said:

@RedQueen said:

@spiderpool94 said:

A lot of people who claim they're for children have never read one. Or, more accurately, not the right ones.

Like Watchmen, or the Killing Joke, or any of Frank Miller's work. Some of the best pieces of literature right there.

Exactly. Or Mike Mignola's Hellboy. I lent this girl my copy of Seeds of Destruction and she totally loved it and admitted there was nothing childish about it, with it combining myths and folk lore form different cultures. Or indeed like 300, people go and see the film not realizing it was a graphic novel. I find that the themes of X-men such as the allusions to Nazism through Magneto or the Civil Rights movements to Xavier are much bigger than crappy soap operas which are conceived to be adult. I pick X-Men over Emmerdale any day.

Reminds me: I really need to re-read some of my Hellboy material ....

Problem is, the majority of my friends won't even entertain the idea of reading a comic book. I will wear them down eventually.

*shudders* Soap Operas....Emmerdale, Coronation Street..... and ditto, definitely would choose X-men over any of those any day.

#33 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@spiderpool94 said:

@RedQueen said:

@spiderpool94 said:

A lot of people who claim they're for children have never read one. Or, more accurately, not the right ones.

Like Watchmen, or the Killing Joke, or any of Frank Miller's work. Some of the best pieces of literature right there.

Exactly. Or Mike Mignola's Hellboy. I lent this girl my copy of Seeds of Destruction and she totally loved it and admitted there was nothing childish about it, with it combining myths and folk lore form different cultures. Or indeed like 300, people go and see the film not realizing it was a graphic novel. I find that the themes of X-men such as the allusions to Nazism through Magneto or the Civil Rights movements to Xavier are much bigger than crappy soap operas which are conceived to be adult. I pick X-Men over Emmerdale any day.

X-Men is a movie I would take anyone to see.

#34 Posted by Trodorne (2569 posts) - - Show Bio

Great blog. :)

We ourselves have already embraced everything that comes with it. for millions of years its been the same. a stigma gets created when people who don't understand fear or disapprove of it. Comics are neither right nor wrong. it is one of those media's that offer something new and different than say watching a tv show.

#35 Posted by Jnr6Lil (7622 posts) - - Show Bio

@Trodorne said:

Great blog. :)

We ourselves have already embraced everything that comes with it. for millions of years its been the same. a stigma gets created when people who don't understand fear or disapprove of it. Comics are neither right nor wrong. it is one of those media's that offer something new and different than say watching a tv show.