MARTHA THOMASES: Out and Proud for Comics!
For the longest time I thought the ultimate act one could commit to drag comics out of its closet of nerdiness was to read them on the New York City subway. Unlike a bus or a train, because of the way the cars are configured, on the subway most riders face the other people. As a result, every other rider can see what you’re doing or reading – or pretending to be reading to avoid eye contact.
I loved to read comics on the subway. I especially loved to read DC’s Wednesday Comics, oversized and colorful as they were. Not only did I enjoy the stories, but I felt like I was making an ironic comment on those engrossed in their equally large New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.
Deciding what to read on the subway is a lot like deciding what to wear. New Yorkers judge each other on style, and one’s reading material is a key accessory. Several years ago, when Amazon’s Kindle was first breaking through, the Times did a feature about people who loved everything about the device except that other people couldn’t tell what they were reading.
That’s sure changed. Now, I’d guess, at least 60 percent of riders are using some kind of device, either to read or play games or listen to music. And half of the others are eating smelly food, talking loudly to their friends on the other side of the car, or applying nail polish, oblivious to any drips they get on my shoes.
Over the past several months, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the waiting rooms of hospitals and doctors’ offices. If you want to be out and proud about your comics habit, read them there.
Admittedly, people in these situations are not concerned about showing off their highfalutin’ tastes. I’ve seen no one reading Proust. Still, with my gray hair and knitting bag, I’m not exactly the person you expect to see reading four-color pamphlets.
And yet, comics are the perfect thing to read. You can finish one in less than 20 minutes, which is handy if the doctors are running late and you don’t know how long you’ll be waiting. If you’re anxious (and you probably are), an inability to concentrate is not a problem. Going back to find that plot-point you missed is easy. There is something I find soothing about watching unrealistically drawn people beat each other up. You are unlikely to come across a story that reminds you of your personal situation, and therefore you are even less likely to have to consider the less attractive aspects of human mortality.
While I enjoy the fictional violence, and don’t care who knows it, I find myself oddly self-conscious about sexual content. I love The Boys, but there is a lot of (hilarious) nudity in that book. It’s not something I feel comfortable accidentally exposing to other people waiting. They might not share my sense of humor. They probably have other things on their minds.
In any case, it’s easy to fold back the cover and be discreet.
SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman
As an adult female fan of comics/manga/graphic novels, I have had a lot of fun with reading them in public over the years. I’d read them in the school yard waiting for my kids, at sport facilities during their lessons, in gyms during their games, in a variety of public spaces waiting on friends, etc. You get the picture.
What is fascinating is the reactions I get. Adult women will eye me then look away, saying nothing. Kids stare in awe. Preteens try to figure out what I’m reading. Teen males will glance at what I’m reading & do a quick mental calculation of it’s cool factor, while teen girls either look at me in confusion or knowingly smile. Adult males though are utterly confused and sometimes feel compelled to ask me if I review comics for a living. When I tell them ‘nope just read them’ they back off with a nervous smile as though I just broke their understanding of the universe. :D
I am 60 years old. When I was a kid, Leave it to Beaver was popular show. Lumpy Rutherford was a character on that show and he was a dummy. You knew he was a dummy because he read comics. Today Big Bang Theory is a hit show and those characters, although a bit geeky, read comics and they are university professors and physicists.
I’ve read comics in public for years. I usually read comics during lunch at work. I have an Alex Ross DC characters poster in my cubicle. I am friendly, outgoing and good at my job. If people form a negative opinion about me because I read comics that’s not my problem, but I don’t think there is a stigma to reading comics today.
I guess I should add that when Leave it to Beaver was on comics were not being written by people like Neil Gaiman, Mark Waid, Alan Moore Garth Ennis, etc. Instead, Mort Weisinger was coming up with multi-color kryptonite and changing Superman into Superman Red and Superman Blue. I do not have fond memories of Weisinger’s “contributions” to the Superman canon and am considered a traitor to my generation by some.
Martha, you should see the reaction when I read comics at lunchtime at work!
I could care less!