07 June 2014

Becoming A Comic Book Reader

I have an undying love for all things Marvel, but previously my exposure had been entirely through the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).  I was not, however, a reader of the "source material."  I was not a comic book fan.  Honestly, I was never a big fan of the format.  Being an avid reader of books I had a hard time getting into the plot lines of comics since the narrative was, to me at any rate, choppy and too reliant on the pictures. Graphic novels were not really my bag, this just wasn't really my thing.

None the less, as I immersed myself in the Marvel world and learned more back story for all the characters, I realized that delving into the comics, even if only a little, would really enhance the whole experience.  Just as I like to read the book before seeing the film because I love seeing how art translates over multiple forms, getting into the Cannon of Marvel would be neat as the movie franchise expanded.

Additionally, as I looked into the geek-culture based equality movement I kept seeing comics, and the artists who create them, as leaders for the cause.  Once I saw how some members of the comic industry were using the art form to further social issues, I was also very interested in how this art form would be playing a role in breaking down its own geek-culture gatekeeping. Lots of feminist rhetoric centers around media depictions of women and comic books were certainly an interesting microcosm of that discussion. Basically, these comics were going to become an important part of feminism in mainstream culture and I wanted to be there.

Chris took this statement under advisement and provided a selection of starter Avengers comics under our Christmas tree.

I started with Avengers Assemble (2012), and it was pretty good.  I got the hang of the format and got into it.  So far I was liking them and feeling like I could get into this whole comic thing. Then the magic happened.  That magic is known as "Avengers Assemble (2012) Number 9."  I had no idea why, but this one was head and shoulders above the others.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but somehow this one was better.  I continued on my merry way feeling pretty sure that comic books had finally sucked me in and it was going to be great. While expressing this to Chris he asked the (now seemingly obvious) question "Who wrote those?"  Well, it was none other than Ms. Kelly Sue DeConnick.  Of course that name rings a bell and I realized that I had been indirectly following her work since she was a somewhat unofficial spokesperson for women and feminism in comics.

Needless to say I found it very interesting that even when I has no idea who the author was, or what her previous role in my geek-dom had been, I was almost instantly able to identify a shift in the comics.  I am amazed at how much more accessible these books felt once the material was produced by someone who was like me.  Now, I am not saying that only women can write for women, or that men can't write for women, or that you should choose material created by women on principle...I am just saying it was an amazing feeling to see how the whole paradigm of reading comics shifted for me when suddenly "my" voice was represented.

So now I get it.  I get why comics can be so awesome.  I now am reading Avengers World (it is oscillating between "pretty good" and "meh," but that is another tale of gatekeeping hilarity), Hawkeye and Sex Criminals.  I also now get the resistance to change that seems to stem from your classic white-cis-hetero-male comic/game consumers.  The amazing feeling that comes from seeing representations of yourself is....well...amazing.  I can totally see how one would be reluctant to give up a world where everywhere you turn you see versions of yourself being awesome!  That said, representation is not a zero sum game. Seeing more women/people of color/LGBTQI/generally "other" people within these genres does not, by definition, mean that we can't still have white-dudes in their 30s saving the world.

I guess I accidentally became a comic book reader because I am a feminist?  Seems odd when I say it out loud that way, but it certainly appears to be the case.  Of course now that I am in this world of comics I am getting to experience first-hand some of the ways that the culture strives to be non-inclusive...but more on that tomorrow.  Thirty-two proposed posts means I should pace the rate at which I spew my feminist geekdom all over this space.