Committed: Secret Obsession vs Community Support
Out of all of the interests and occupations of my life, comic books were always very privately mine. While nearly ever other aspect of my life is guided by (or experienced with) friends and family, I fell in love with comic books on my own and for most of my life I never discussed what to read with anyone. It is a habit I still have a difficult time breaking, I still don’t read reviews, but I’m slowly beginning to benefit from sharing the comic book love and learning about books I wouldn’t otherwise discover, (I suppose writing about them for 5 years will do that to a person).
There isn’t a lot in my life that I can claim credit for figuring out. Most things that work out well are based on recommendations from people I trust, food, music, films, make-up, cold-cures, any emotional tools I might have stumbled on through trial and error were taught to me, even if I had to make my own mistakes first, in order to believe them. My career too is based on skills passed down to my from my parents (whether genetically or learned) and then honed by learning more skills from teachers and colleagues. As a kid, I was quiet and insecure (as so many of us were) and often felt overwhelmed by the dominant personalities around me. When I liked something, I didn’t know if I was right to like it unless someone around me confirmed it (not that I was aware of this ridiculous custom until I found myself in a situation where a boyfriend got angry at me for wearing underwear and a bra that wasn’t a matching set, which was just too ridiculous to take seriously. Sometimes it takes the really stupid moments to make me stop and change). Despite all of this external validation, no one around me was remotely interested in comic books and so I had this one area of my life that was mine all alone and even though I didn’t realize it until it was over, they were precious to me because they were so completely mine.
Now as I sit down to write this without the ridiculous insecurities that plagued my youth I’m more aware of the benefits of taking advice from trusted friends. I’m drinking a cup of hot water with a spoon of honey and one of Bragg’s apple cider (recommended to combat allergy congestion by my friend Spain, icky but it works), and I just logged my food into a Daily Tracker website (which was recommended by one of his colleagues in an old Jason Aaron “Where the Hell Am I” column about comics making you fat, which all desk jobs do), and just having taken off my new CoverGirl mascara (which my friend Amanda recommended and seems to be better than the stuff which costs 4x as much). These are just three things in the last hour which make my life better, so I can see the benefits of sharing ideas with friends, but until about 7 years ago, I never really thought that comic books could even be something I would ever be able to share with anyone. I didn’t know about the websites and the conventions, I hardly spoke to store owners and most of my friends seemed to find comic books a “kids” thing.
With all of this, you can imagine what a wonderful surprise my first San Diego Comic Con was, finally not alone in my comic book love, plunged into a huge community of very excited, talkative comic book lovers. For all the people who bitch about it (and I’ve done it too, it is a crazy place), it feels amazing to be surrounded by thousands of people who are into similarly nerdy stuff as me. It opened my eyes and through my interactions online and designing for comic books, over the years I’ve gradually surrounded myself with people who share my interests until I find myself in a place where it actually seems a bit strange when I find that I have friends don’t like them!
I’ve loved being able to immerse myself in it, surrounded by people who are a little too obsessed by the same things I am. Even when I get the odd anal person freaking out because I mislabeled a thumbnail drawing, or got a date off by 2 months, or whatever tiny thing I missed, I LOVE those people so much for being even more into comic books than me (and yet still reading my article, they are so nice!). It makes me feel all gooey inside to know that I’m not alone, we might still be societal outsiders to some extent (and don’t tell me that comic book movies mean that comic books are mainstream – they’re different), and we might be known as a group of people with famously limited social skills, but that doesn’t matter to me because we all share a common love and that brings us together in a way I didn’t know would ever be possible.
Lately though, I’ve been feeling uncomfortable about comic books (not an aversion, but I don’t feel quite so drawn to them), and I couldn’t figure out why. I puzzled over it and I think the problem is that it is no longer my secret, private obsession. While coming out of the closet about the depth and breadth of my comic book enjoyment has been liberating, I’m also grieving the loss of this intimate relationship that I had with comic books. While I love to read them, I don’t know that I love to hear other people talk about them, but, if I don’t talk about them, I run the risk of missing out on good stuff (and I’ve missed out on a lot of good stuff). It is a quandary; how to keep the delicate balance between intensely personal enjoyment and yet still benefit from sharing ideas. I still haven’t figured it out, but since I’m admitting that advice improves my life, have you figured it out?
Note: I’ve been told that commenting isn’t working right now and so until this is sorted, you can leave comments on my facebook or twitter. Thanks and sorry about this. EDIT: Comments are working again! Go nuts! (Or don’t, and you’re still always welcome to say hi on FB or twitter.)