Comics

Newbies Aren’t Ruining Anything: A Comic Book Memoir

On this day in 2008, I read my first comic book. It was Watchmen. 

I’d loved several superhero movies, specifically X-Men and Spiderman — and by “loved,” I mean “was obsessed with beyond all reason.” (My mother will gladly attest to this). My attempts to read real comics hadn’t gone well, though. They were too complicated, and too boring. (I now realize that X-Men comics are notoriously self-referential, and that the black-and-white Essential Spider-Man collections, while entertaining in retrospect, are not actually the best the genre has to offer, but I didn’t know that at the time!)

Watchmen DVD coverI saw the trailer for the Watchmen movie, and thought it looked like something I’d like, but oop! Based on a book! I couldn’t possibly watch it without reading the book first! I figured it was a standalone comic book, so why not give it a try? I had no idea what I was getting in for. It honestly still stands as one of my most intense experiences.

I decided I must like comics after all, it just must not be ongoing superhero comics, the ones that were so complicated and confusing and boring. So, I ate up other kinds of comics: The first volumes of Sandman, the sequel comics to the Angel TV show, V for Vendetta, Bone. I even loved superheroes, like the ones in Watchmen and Astro City. Just not DC and Marvel. Too confusing, too boring.

And then I saw Batman Begins. 

It had been out for several years at that point, and I was vaguely aware of it, but hadn’t ever felt the need to see it. I loved the old Adam West show, though, and I was vaguely aware of Batman as a cultural item in the same way that I knew about Superman despite having never seen him in anything. So, I checked Batman Begins out from the library at some point and watched it.

The details in my memory are sadly vague, except for the part where I became obsessed with Batman beyond all reason. If only there was some other media about Batman I could consume! It was such a shame that I didn’t like superhero comics!

Kingdom Come coverI’ve always worked in libraries, and one afternoon I was bored at work. I have no idea what my reasoning was, but I didn’t have any work to do or I was going to lunch, and I wanted Batman, so I decided to grab Kingdom Come off the shelf and read it. I’ve since given it to other newbies and they were hopelessly confused, but for me, it was serendipitous: Kingdom Come is basically Watchmen with real DC characters instead of stand-ins, and I loved the heck out of it!

At that point, the dam was broken. I went on to read every single DC book in the entire county’s library system, and begged-borrowed-traded-or-bought more, probably in the hundreds. And here I am now, with “comic book nerd” as one of my most dearly-held identities! The Watchmen movie finally came out in March of 2009, and I went to the midnight showing. (It seems like such a long gap that maybe what originally sparked my interest was some kind of teaser or even news article well in advance of the movie). I was less than impressed, but by that point, it didn’t matter at all, because I was a comic book nerd and there was no going back.

It’s not just DC, either, although for a while I said “Okay, I just only like superhero comics from DC…”  but the more Marvel movies that came out, the more Marvel books I tried. I’m still a DC, but I like a lot of Marvel stuff too — even some X-Men comics!

So, this is the point of this post: I wouldn’t be into comics without Batman Begins. Really, I wouldn’t be into comics without that teaser for the Watchmen movie, whatever it was! People in every fandom get upset when a movie or other reboot brings newbies into that fandom. I get that — I put in my time loving Doctor Who and Star Trek, and I don’t always feel like those new fans love the same thing I did. Plus a lot of them drop out of the fandom as soon as that movie series or whatever is over. But that’s okay. New fans bring the energy and the attention and the money that’s needed to make new stuff. Sometimes, like me, they really do plunge into the old stuff too, or sometimes they just stay in the “new stuff” segment of the fandom, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t real fans. New fans are people who had no idea your awesome thing existed, or may even have thought the thing wasn’t much good, but who have seen your thing and said “Yes! I would like to love this thing too!” and that should be celebrated! Maybe if they were more welcome, actually encouraged to explore the fandom, they wouldn’t be so quick to move on. Old fandoms have a treasure trove of awesome stories that newbies don’t know about, and may never know about if nothing sparks their interest. I intensely dislike the new Star Trek movies, but they’re like a big billboard leading potential new friends toward me and the show I do like, and it’s the same for comic book movies.

And with that, I’m off to celebrate my comicaversary!

You tell me: How did you get into comics, or your fandom of choice, and what’s your newbie philosophy?

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12 thoughts on “Newbies Aren’t Ruining Anything: A Comic Book Memoir

  1. Yeah, those 90s cartoons were my gateway (Batman, Superman, X-men). But nobody else I knew was into superheroes, so it didn’t really go anywhere. In high school, I started watching anime and got into manga (I did have friends into that). Now, I’m working my way into more “traditional” comics and I’m enjoying the ride. All the comic book movies sure make it easy!

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  2. I grew up on superhero comics. They’ve just always been a part of my life. The ’90s had some ridiculously awesome cartoons (X-Men, Spider-Man, Superman and Batman all had great cartoons at the same time), which only further cemented my love of superheroes.

    I’m fine with newbies. The comic book industry is very niche right now. It needs more readers.

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  3. The Watchmen is quite the place to start. Such a heavy read.

    I could write a full blog post on how I got into comics, in fact I probably should, but the short version is that I’ve always been passively interested in them. I always liked the idea of superheroes and enjoyed most of the movies I saw over the years, but didn’t read my first comic until in college. It quickly became my new obsession and while I’ve calmed down a lot on that front, it’s remained among my favourite hobbies since.

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