Comic Fandom: Don't Be Doing It Wrong

By | Thursday, October 21, 2010 Leave a Comment
I am not a follower. I just don't care to tag along just because somebody said this was the way to go; I'd rather think for myself and decide which way I want to go (if anywhere!) and why. I'm just going to go out and do my thing whether or not someone else is going that way.

On the flip side, I'm not a leader either. I'm not terribly commanding or inspiring, and who am I to presume to think for somebody else anyway? I'll be happy to throw out my thoughts and ideas if you like, but I don't expect you to agree with all of them. In fact, I'm used to people disagreeing with most of them.

I had this bit of self-actualization understood at least as far back as high school, so by the time I got to college, I was accustomed to just being myself regardless of what else was going on. What I hadn't yet realized, though, was that being independent was a very different thing than being isolated.

The way the design program was set up when I went to college was that our first year covered most all of the basic school requirements. We got our English and psychology and history classes, as well as the basic art classes (drawing, color theory, etc.) out of the way right off the bat. Then the rest of our time in college was set up to focus almost exclusively on design courses specific to our major. Which meant that A) starting in our second year, we essentially had the same half dozen or so professors for the rest of all our classes, and B) our classes got progressively less restrictive. By our third year, our classes largely consisted of showing up for the first day to get that course's assignment and then making sure it was done for a critique during finals week 2-3 months later. Class time essentially became office hours for the instructors.

I was totally cool with that. In effect, I didn't have a schedule and could work when/where/how/as I needed to. Obviously, it took a fair amount of discipline to make sure you didn't wait until the last minute to do everything. But I had got that part mostly figured out, so I essentially stayed in my apartment, working by myself, for the entire term. I didn't have to go to class, and didn't have many questions for the professors, so why leave my apartment?

What I was surprised to find, though, was that I did in fact miss the human contact. Me, the guy who's hated people all of his adult life and who was yelling at kids to "stay off my damn lawn" before I even had a lawn! My only human interaction at all was when I paid for groceries. I did get a lot of reading done around that time, but after around six weeks, it got to be too much. Not only was I going stir-crazy from being in a small apartment all the time, but I could tell I was starting to feel out of sorts all the time. As much as I didn't want to admit it, I needed people. I wound up going to class more regularly, only to find very few other people were going either. But one of my friends was there and, in a desperate plea for being around someone, I literally put her over my shoulder and carried her back to my apartment.

My point to this rambling is that, while reading is something of an isolationist hobby, comic books shouldn't be. What I mean by that is that when you read a comic book, you pretty much HAVE to do it by yourself. There can be other people around, but if you're trying to get into the story, you have to shut out the outside world and focus on the comic itself. But that doesn't mean you should stay in that world. You can and absolutely should talk to people at your local comic shop, or chat with folks on Twitter and Facebook and online message boards. You should strike up a conversation with somebody at a convention.

Speaking as someone who's generally pretty introverted AND who doesn't generally like people, I know this type of thing can be difficult for a lot of people. I'm absolute rubbish at conventions; I do little talking and most of it is centered around buying old comics or asking for creators' signatures. I hate getting into long conversations at comic shops because A) I'm usually on a fairly tight schedule and don't have time to chat then and there, and B) the topics of conversation tend to be overly fanboyish for my tastes.


That's not to say that I don't try. Because, as I point out towards the end of my book, the best part about being in a fandom like comics is being able to share that experience with others. Humans are inherently social creators and need to make connections with other humans. Comics are a means of doing making those connections. And, yeah, maybe you're scared or nervous about putting yourself out there and getting hurt. But if you don't do anything, you'll definitely end up hurting yourself.

Back in college, my circle of friends was largely limited to who I was going to class with. My circle is much larger now, in no small part, thanks to comics. I know folks working in the business, I know folks who just comment on it, I know folks who keep up with it but we don't actually talk about it much. All of those are cool because it's not about the comics themselves, it's about using the comics to connect with Life. Take advantage of that!
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