The New Reader: Mistakes I Have Made
By Amy Devine
Although I have been admiring the comic world for a long time, I have been reading in earnest for a little under two years now. That makes me older than some and newer than most. My journey thus far has been largely successful but there have been some speed bumps along the way.
Like most people, I like to present myself as a flawless, perfect human being but I too made mistakes. So here are a few of my blunders from my past two years of comic reading that you may learn from and laugh at them.
- I chose to read something that I knew I wouldn’t like
When you’re trying something new and you have a bad experience, it’s easy to let that colour your view on that thing. The very first comic that I ever read was Arkham Asylum: A Serious House On A Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. I chose it, not because I thought that I would like it, but because the name was familiar. The Arkham Asylum game had just come out and pretty much everyone was talking about it. I came across the book in a mainstream bookstore and flicked through the first couple of pages. I was immediately put off by the art and writing style. This was not a Batman or Arkham that my limited experience was used to. But I bought it anyway, hoping that perhaps Poison Ivy would be in it and I would like the story. She was not. I did not. I didn’t pick up another book for a long time.
- I stayed away from books that I knew that I would like
That’s right. I purposefully did not purchase books that I was interested in. Specifically, books marketed to kids or young adults. I watched a lot of cartoon shows and read a lot of young adult fiction but was concerned that reading comics aimed at a younger audience would tip the scales a little too much. I thought that I was supposed to be reading ‘serious’ comics or books for adults because otherwise nobody would take me seriously as a reader. I am happy to report that I got over that very quickly and now have a full collection of Adventure Time trades. They are my pride and joy.
- I had a self-imposed ‘Capes Only’ policy
This was pretty ridiculous. As far as I knew when I started reading, “real” comic book fans only read Marvel or DC. My knowledge of comic book stores was based almost entirely on my dad quoting Big Bang Theory at me and all they seemed to talk about were superheroes. Superheroes were safe because mainstream media had given me some rudimentary knowledge of most of them. I knew that Batman’s parents were rich and died in front of him; I knew that Superman was an alien; I knew that Wonder Woman had a lasso. I figured that if I was tested upon purchasing a comic then I was reasonably safe with a superhero book. Of course, this meant that I missed out on many amazing stories including many of my now-favourites.
- I hid from the community
This harkens back to my main issue in mistake #2, in that I was constantly afraid of being quizzed about my comic book knowledge to the point where I did not even buy comics from physical stores for a long time. I don’t know exactly what I thought would happen but it probably involved approaching the counter, having a bright light shone in my face and a disembodied voice asking me to name every member of the Justice League from it’s conception to now. Only then would I be allowed to make my purchase. This viewpoint stems largely from misinformation and irresponsible media representation, but also of online encounters that I had witnessed and experienced. The constant pressure of presenting myself as a “real fan” kept me out of the comic book community for a significant portion of my time as a reader. Now, of course, I flaunt my imperfect knowledge with wanton abandon. It is definitely more fun.
- I refused to buy digital
I was still doing this up until a few weeks ago. To be honest, it isn’t necessarily a mistake. It’s perfectly okay to prefer physical copies of books. I certainly do! But if you are on a budget or simply cannot practically provide space for multiple single issues, do not shy away from the digital world due to prejudice or mistrust. It’s the old ‘e-reader or real-book’ argument in a new medium. You CAN have both! To save on time and money, I read monthly single issues digitally and then I can save up to buy the shiny trades when they come out. It gives me something to do on long commutes and means that I always have some of my favourite comics with me to show others.
In the end, you create your reading journey. The take away from this list is probably the same thing that any reader of any experience level would tell you: be the kind of reader that you want to be. Read the books that you want to and how you want to. Do not buy into any idea of a “real” fan and never, ever think that you have to impress somebody else.
And, you know, make your own mistakes.