I’ve never really talked about my weird, half-obsessive, half-ambivalent interest in comics. Even those who’ve known me for years aren’t fully aware of it because I don’t really talk about comics to people.
It’s one of those things that’s earned a certain amount of legitimacy in the past decade, not least because popular culture is now ruled by mainstream interpretations of traditionally geeky pursuits. Everyone’s a geek nowadays, but only insofar as it’s cool to be: the recent popularity of A Song of Ice and Fire pleases me because I tried for years to get friends to read it to no avail, but its popularity is much less to do with a sudden, widespread realisation that not everything ‘geeky’ is necessarily bad, rather that it inspired a high-budget television adaptation that made it socially acceptable to read. As my friend Allan Kennedy told me over a pint one night, “the books are the same as they’ve always been, the only thing that’s changed is the public’s perception of them.”
Comics share a similar space. We all love the big-budget movies that rake in staggering amounts of cash, but the comics themselves remain the province of the true geeks, that is to say, the ones that don’t look like supermodels with thick-rimmed glasses who witter on about how much they love their Xbox. The weird ones with questionable hygiene who honestly give a shit whether or not Twyin Lannister has hair.
It seems to me that either you’re obsessed with superhero comics and spend hours arguing over pointless details of canon, or you don’t care for the medium at all. I’m somewhere in the middle, which leaves me in the uncomfortable position of having a real, genuine interest in something and no-one to really talk to about it. So I don’t really talk about comics to people.
I do love them, however. I had anywhere between 30 and 50 paperbacks of Peanuts, Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield and Dilbert as a kid. I’ve since replaced those with The Complete Calvin and Hobbes hardcover collection and the ongoing Complete Peanuts, which currently stands at 14 beautiful volumes on my shelf. I used to have complete collections of Preacher, The Sandman and Powers, though I’ve loaned out various books over time. I have a number of Alan Moore trades, some of the collected Penny Arcade trades and there was a whole bunch of books I had to sell when I realised I’d spent around £400 on comics in one year at university. I’ve read dozens I borrowed from libraries or other people. I follow about 10 online comics regularly, not to mention all those that have finished.
I really, really like comics. But I’ve never come out as a comic book lover, because I don’t fit into the stereotype of the superhero-lovin’ superfan. I think that’s a little sad.