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Committed: How Do Comic Books Impact Your Relationships?

A couple of weeks ago, the first survey we conducted told us a lot about how our reading has evolved over time. The next thing I’d like to explore is how comic book reading affects the people we care about.

Over the last decade or so, I’ve become increasingly aware of how my interest in this (supposedly) light-weight medium has disproportionately impacted other people’s perception of me. Whether it was as a child, (when other girls found it strange that I read “boys” comics) or as a adult (when people I dated labeled my interests “juvenile”). These days I’m very lucky that the people close to me understand the creative potential of this medium and appreciate my enthusiasm for it.

I’ve put together a short survey of only 7 questions which should help us get a picture of how the people we care about see our interest. It will be up for the next 6 days for you to answer, and to repost for other comic book readers. At the end of Tuesday next week, I’ll close the survey to collect the results and design an infographic from them (see last week’s results for an example of how this can look).

As always, all of the answers will be completely anonymous and I will have no way to know who answered what, so feel free to be completely honest!

Please repost this and share it, let’s try to get as many replies as we can, from as large an audience as possible. Thank you in advance for your input.

Here is a link to the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GM7JDSV

53 Comments

That was depressing. Most people don’t know I read comics, my family tolerates it (somewhat reluctantly on the part of my wife but she’s gotten used to it now) but don’t read them, and I’ve never “turned” a comic reader. No wonder there are so few of us.

Poor choice of words in the options there.

“Tolerate your comic book reading but don’t share your interest?”

“Tolerate”? Really didn’t need the negative slant there. “Know of” or “Aware of” would have been much better.

I wish there was a “kinda/sorta” option for some of these. Case in point, my wife supports my comic book habits and has even contributed some major issues to my collection, but she generally thinks most superhero comics are silly… with that said, she might have some of the smartest insights about Neil Gaiman’s Sandman that I’ve ever heard as she devoured that series with gusto.

Hey Mark, she sounds like a comic book reader who doesn’t share your interest. There’s an option for that!

And GP; you raise a fair point. I purposely used the word “tolerate” to reflect the way a lot of people talk about their relationships, so Instead of changing it, I added another option for “accepting and expressing a polite interest”. It isn’t different in terms of the impact on our lives, but it should help emotionally frame those relationships more positively if people so desire.

I would no sooner ‘turn’ someone onto comics than I would ‘turn’ them onto my religion. People are mature enough to make up their own decisions on what they do for enjoyment. This doesn’t mean I won’t donate trade paperbacks to my library to provide the public with a wider selection of comic material to encourage new readers.

To know me is to know a comic reader. Like my heritage and religion it is part of what I am and to interact with me is to interact with all parts of me. At the same time, when I was dating I didn’t lead with ‘I’m a comic book reader’.

There should’ve been an “Encourage your love of comics, but don’t share your interest.”

David; Acceptance is a healthy, nurturing emotion and equal to encouragement in this context. I’d suggest you choose that option if you can. Thank you for taking part.

Bernard the Poet

July 3, 2013 at 12:02 pm

@Whoizat: “At the same time, when I was dating I didn’t lead with ‘I’m a comic book reader’.” Agreed.

I once read a comment on the Absorbascon website, from a man who said that while on a first date, he discovered that his partner was into Marvel comics. He decided that there could be no second date, because Marvel readers have a completely different worldview to DC readers.

I always found the most amazing thing about that story was that someone would reveal they read comic books on a first date.

Since I do webcomics too (click on my name!), I’ve gotten people who don’t normally read comics to check out my work based on their interest in me. I don’t know if I’ve turned any readers via Ruby Nation, but I do think that everyone who’s become close to me has a generally higher opinion of the medium than they used to.

I have some friends and family that are in to comics, but most don’t really care for them. They also don’t care that I like them. I don’t keep my comic reading a secret but I don’t go bragging about it, either.

For myself, none of my friends, family, or wife are comics readers (in that they would not purchase or otherwise seek out on their own initiative), but they are all deeply supportive of my interest and hotly anticipate my opinions and purchases so that they can know what they should borrow from me when I recommend it.

They are comics readers in a casual sense. If you put a good book in front of them, they will read it and enjoy it. And they want you to put a good book in front of them. My parents will read comics when they come to visit but generally at no other time (though my mom, having read my review of it, picked up Lucy Knisley’s Relish apart from my direct intervention). My friends will come over and ask what they should borrow, but they wouldn’t ever visit a comicbook store (though one woman, having borrowed Cross Game did go online and read scanlations of two of Adachi’s other series while on pregnancy bed-rest).

And my wife, who had never read a comic before marrying me, now reads every graphic novel I bring home. She enjoys them but if I were to die on the way home tonight, our collection would probably remain exactly its current size for the rest of her life.

I didn’t feel like my friends and family were represented in the choices, but I chose the most positive answer since it probably best represents my situation. And while I answered that I read alone in public, there was a moment last night in which my family was in my living room reading: I with a graphic novel, my wife with her own, my two parents each with a different volume of a manga series, and my daughter looking through a volume of Bone. It was a good (though rare) moment.

Bernard: That’s pretty hilarious. I had no idea that my tolerance of Marvelites even qualified as tolerance. AFK to pat myself on the back.

All my friends read comics. My family tolerates my collecting. They understand why I like them but they have zero interest in them. I don’t have a girlfriend (living the stereotype, guys! :P ). I read in a private space as I don’t like distracting noises. I give comics to my friends. Never bought a comic for someone who doesn’t like comics. Never had the opportunity to really turn someone into comic reader, though I have a great track-record of turning people into Wargamers and Table Top RPGers, so I would probably be fairly successful at making new comic book readers, if I tried.

Fantastic topic for a poll! My interest in comics has waxed and waned over the years and is now more the realm of interest as opposed to hobby, but this reminded me of some of the friends I’ve sucked or cajoled into the hobby, which, in some cases, I’d completely forgotten about.

The results should be interesting.

LouReedRichards

July 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm

Wow Seth, that sounds like a semi-mystical experience!

My wife doesn’t actively seek out or read most comics, but she loves most of the animated series and movies. When we first started dating I was delighted to find out that she owned a copy of “The Mystery Play” by Morrison and Muth. She knows who Jack Kirby, Alex Toth, Moebius, Mignola and Ditko are, she can even identify Ditko as “the Objectivist guy”. That’s good enough for me!

My mom read “Batman Year One” 20 years ago after she asked me what it was about comics that I liked so much.
She said it was ok, but didn’t ask to read anymore (not that I thought she would), but I was very gratified that she even read it – I never offered to read any of her Danielle Steel books…

Almost all of my friends have been apathetic about comics, more polite disinterest than anything else.

One of my closest friends read Watchmen after I implored him to before seeing the movie. I told him that in 18 years I had never once asked him to read a comic book, but that he NEEDED to read the comic before he watched the movie. He read it and liked it, but again no instant conversion to comic book fan.

I don’t try to “turn” people. I’m 40, if my grown friends didn’t get into comics before our friendship, my evangelizing won’t change their minds now.

Ok, sharing time is over.

Yeah, LouReedRichards, if you had asked my fifteen-year-old self whether I could imagine my parents and a wife or girlfriend and my future offspring sitting around reading comics, I would have thought you were some kind of moron. My parents never expressed any interest in comics when I was a kid. I never knew anyone (male or female) who shared my interest in them. Comicbook movies weren’t even cool back then (apart from a blip of popularity surrounding the merchandising of Tim Burton’s first Batman film.

I’ll turn forty later this month and what changed, I think more than anything, was comics developing in directions other than the superhero book. The last fifteen years have seen more and more graphic novels planting themselves in more solidly literary ground. When the best I had to offer was Watchmen or Dark Knight Returns, there would have been no way to attract my parents to the medium. Superheroes are superheroes are superoes in the minds of many. A few years ago, I was hosting a graphic novel discussion group and selling it as literary discussion of the comics medium. We were reading stuff like Footnotes in Gaza and Blankets and Asterios Polyp and Daytripper etc. From there it was really easy to say, Hey, mom, why don’t you check out this book and join us. The discussions are very intelligent and you might learn something cool.

I don’t think that if comics still meant Superheroes to me that I would have had any success in drawing people in. My parents are even now convinced enough of the value of the medium that I *might* even be able to get them to look at a superhero book. Maybe not, but it’s way more plausible today than when I was a kid.

Wish there was a way to find a partner that shared my interest!

“tolerate” sounds pretty accurate to me regarding my wife’s disposition towards my comic hobby. She allowed me to construct a man cave, and doesn’t have too much problem with the amount of money I spend on comics and toys which is often too much, not to mention the amount of money I spend on DVDs and blurays. Of course she puts it into the context of remembering that I don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, don’t spend all my time watching sports or going to games etc, etc. I think she has the attitude of, “could be worse!” but if I turned around today and said “I’m done with comics” she’d be happy as we’d put the money to better use in her opinion (holidays, paying off the mortgage.) we’ve been happily married for 19 years.
I don’t read comics in public, mainly because I’m never in a position to do so. I don’t adepvertise the fact that I read comics in my workplace either, mainly because I’m a private person, but I wouldn’t deny it if asked.

I’d say my wife accepts my reading comics but tolerates how much I talk about them. That’s true of a lot of family and friends too, come to think of it.

What an odd survey. The whole tone of it comes across as very negative.

Still, I successfully converted two people (one of them being my partner), and expanded the comic interests of at least two others. It’s not that hard. Don’t be a dick about it, don’t force it, and don’t start with super heroes unless they’re already a fan. I cannot stress that enough. Manga is very, very useful in this regard.

My partner used to read nothing. Then I told him to read a copy of Gunsmith Cats when he was commuting for work (well by told, I put it in his bag and he found it in his own time), which he devoured and moved onto Death Note which he again devoured and has now moved onto a mix of manga, big 2 comics, and smaller independents. He reads about six titles a month, plus the various manga and OGN volumes I get for him.

He can actually show me surprising comics that I never would have thought of, now. Saga of Rex and Empowered spring to mind.

Most of my friends have a more than polite interest in comics, though most only borrow them from me. I have gotten my wife turned on to Wonder Woman, and she’s liking the new X-Men. As was said earlier, “turning” someone into a reader starts with smartly analyzing what they might like in a medium that is much more diverse than movies or television.

survey seems pretty shallow with the questions. might want to either do a follow up based on results or add more questions to the current survey to get more descriptive results.

Needs a few extra choices, like “Would like to bury you under all those long boxes of comics you think you’ll finally get around to reading when you retire”

Richard Bishop

July 3, 2013 at 6:37 pm

I agree with the posters who felt there was something off about the way the questions were worded, such as “where do you usually read your comics?” I picked “alone in a private space” but it’s not like I’m a hermit about it. I have an entire room in my house devoted to my collection of almost 8,000 books and other comic-related items, and I have a very comfortable chair in there that I sit in to read; it’s a “private space”, but I’m not hiding in a closet with a flashlight.

My coworkers know I collect, the guys in my Bible study know I collect, my friends and neighbors know I collect, and while they aren’t collectors themselves, they don’t show any outward disdain for my love of the hobby. The guys who work for me will ask if I scored anything good if they know I went to a convention, but they don’t ask to see what I bought.

My wife doesn’t read comics herself, but she takes more than a polite interest in my collection. She’ll ask to see what I picked up at a convention or if I am enjoying what I am reading, and she will listen to me talk about my collection. I’ve gotten both of my daughters into the hobby (they’re pretty young and only interested in “My Little Pony” comics right now, but they also are watching The Super Hero Squad Show and can identify pretty much every Marvel character and if Daddy has comics with that character in it), and I’ve given my sister the first Fables TPB to read, but I can’t say any of them has really embraced comics as a hobby yet.

I bought my sister Marian Churchland’s Beast for Christmas the first year she was in art school. Lukewarm reception. I also tried to get my mom to read Criminal because I figured it had crossover appeal with her interest in The Wire and all the crime fiction she reads. No dice. Getting people to consider comics as a medium is freaking difficult! For whatever reason, it’s been stigmatized (and people don’t like to read as much in general anymore). I have had some success passing The Invisibles, The Enigma, Moonshadow and other Vertigo among my friends at college, which has been nice. By and large, it’s something others tolerate in me.

Like Richard I tend to read alone but it’s not because of any stigma attached to comic reading. I live alone and tend to read there where I won’t be disturbed. But on occasion I’ve read comics at work or lunch if I stayed in or waiting at the doctor office or such. But to fairly answer the question I generally read in private, no matter if it be comics, magazines or novels.

Richard & Brodie: “Alone” and “privacy” are subjective terms, not at all intended negatively. Your perception of the terms is noted. My friends with kids would give their right arms for private space to read a comic book alone (or even just go to the bathroom for 5 minutes without a toddler interrupting them!), I prefer to read alone and in private too.

Dean: Maybe you can share more of your story in the comments as other people are doing? (I’m really enjoying reading these.) The survey itself it’s less discursive and more about nailing down a few broad trends.

I’m a lucky guy because my girlfriend loves comics too, moreso since we’ve been together because I’m more knowledgeable and helped her out a lot with discovering new stuff, we don’t like all the same stuff, but I got her to read Nextwave and more and she loved it, got her into Northlanders since she loves vikings (but I have zero interest in reading it myself), etc. Needless to say it’s the best relationship I’ve ever had hahaha

I’m very open about my love of comics but don’t force it on people around me. Although I often am the one they will refer to when the movies come out and they want to know more about what the hell they just saw haha

Being able to pick more than one answer would have been a good option for me.
I have a few friends and a brother who also love comics, but most other people in my life generally don’t care about them or my interest in them.

And I read comics both alone at home AND in public (laundromat, bus/subway, etc)

I read in public on the tablet. I never take single issues to public places and rarely take trades to public places. It’s not that I’m ashamed of it, not in the least, I am, however, very cynical about people, and I want to avoid having the “no, ma’am, comic books aren’t just for kids. I’m 34″ conversation. I realize that makes me sound like a dick, but it’s how I feel most of the time. My wife likes that I like comics, she’s very supportive, she reads 2 or 3 books a month and wants to cosplay for next year’s Puerto Rico Comic-Con. Her brother was into them when they were younger, but she started reading them after we got married.

I met my girlfriend in a comic book shop (I worked there, she shopped there) so I have no problems at home. My whole family have always been fairly accepting of it as a hobby, and my brother used to read a few comics and still occasionally dips in. I got my mum to read Asterios Polyp and Blankets and she really enjoyed them both, but has never been tempted to read any others.

Also, I completely converted my ex-girlfriend to a comic reader, first with Scott Pilgrim and then slowly onto other things until she owned a small but decent library of classics and as far as I’m aware continued to read them after we broke up.

I generally read at home, but when I used to have to commute to work I’d always read them on the journey. No shame about them whatsoever, and I’ve always tried to be a very vocal advocate of the medium to all of my friends, colleagues and family members.

JC Lebourdais

July 4, 2013 at 2:31 am

Very odd question indeed. I can’t understand why anyone would define themselves as a “comic book reader”. I love reading as a hobby, lots of that being of the illustrated kind, but that makes no difference whatsoever. Why should it? A good book is a good book, regardless of whether it has pictures or not. Most people I know who would denigrate reading as nerdy make no difference either.

My brother and my two best friends (one male and one female) from college all enjoy and actively read comics. Oddly enough my two friends didn’t start reading comics until after college. (There must have been some kind of delayed reaction affect I had on them.) My dad loves to read DC comics from the 1960s in the from of the DC Showcases. He mainly likes Batman, Superman, and Legion. He has no concept of comic stories today and is perfectly fine with that.

My mom and sister will tell you they don’t like comics. But that is because they have never read any. Not to be rude but they are just plain ignorant towards the medium and think its all about superheroes and “boy” stories.

My fiance occasionally reads comics, and is “polite.” She has read Fables, From Hell, Persepolis, and a couple of others. She thinks I’m a little manic about my comic obsession… but she is right! :)

My girlfriend has started ading comics after I showed her how great the stories and characters are. A the beginning of our realtionship, she knew next to nothing about superheroes, now she is pretty knowledgable in most DC characters.
She is a big fan of serialized fiction, so I thought comics could be something she would like. I showed her Batman stuff at first and she read a lot in a very short time (complete Morrison Batman run up to the beginning of Inc.) and then branched out into the female characters books. She now really follows Catwoman, Batgirl and reads all Wnder Woman trades I give her. She also keeps up with Batman when I tell her that something was especially great. I do have to remind her of reading sometimes though, since she still enjoys watching tv shows a lot more, but she enjoys the type of stories and characters now, which is a huge thing for me. She is especially happy when she gets to see DC characters in a new movie (like MoS which she and I loved) or a tv show.

Overall, she is not a big time comic reader like me, but enjoys it somehwat infrequently.
Another bonus for me is that I got her over comics into videogames and now she plays every coop game with me and loves that! She also buys me a lot of statues for xmas or birthdays, so she is ok with me decking out or livingroom with Batman stuff^^

Oh and my family looks down on comics. They think its pretty childish and stupid. Even my smaller sister, which is normally pretty edgy dislikes comics. She always says that she prefers a real book, when I want to show her a good comic, which is funny, because I also read “real” books and I think they have nothing to do with comics. Comics are closer to movies, in my eyes at least.
Anyway, that my sister dislikes them is very strange since she is otherwise a BIG superhero fan, loves all the movies, animated shows, games and even has a Batman tattoo.

I find a lot if people tend to look down on the fact that I rea comics, like ut is a childish thing to do, nit that I care, I’m covered in tattoos and piercings so used to it lol, the general reception I get when its made aware I read comics us why, there for kids, what a waste of money.

I don’t go around telling everyone I read comics but I also don’t hide the fact, people know I do and when asked I proudly let them know I do :)

I’m sorry, but this was a terrible survey, and so I decided not to submit my answers.

“Tolerate” implies that we have some condition that must be tolerated. Reading comics isn’t something bad. My wife and my parents/siblings don’t read comics, but they don’t view it any differently than reading anything else. There is nothing to “tolerate.”

Frankly, the only ways that my comic book reading affects my family are:
1- I go to my city’s Comic-Con every year, and buy books/schwag there;
2- I spend money on comics every month, and I take active care in ensuring that I don’t spend way too much; and
3- My mother loves The Big Bang Theory, and so when I tell her how I went to the comic book store, she thinks of the boys on that show going to Stuart’s and is amused.

Regarding #2, my wife and I turn a blind eye to each other’s book-buying budgets, because we both buy a lot (me comics, her teen lit).

As a female comic reader myself who has seen alot of different reactions to my reading and taste in general, I though this survey was interesting and kinda made me think about the different ppl in my circles.

Hey Sonia, great idea….but I have to say poor choice of options. I have been collecting for 20 years. All the people around me know that I collect comics and figures, and while yes I get the occasional look of “you collect toys?” (which is rare very), I have to say I am fully supported by my family, friends, workplace and community. I don’t feel I had an option that truly expresses that me and those around me fully embrace and accept this medium a million%.

When I was a kid my mom would tell me she sensed an evil presence from my comic books. 100% serious, little old church lady, lol.

My sister will read them if I put them infront of her, as will her husband. My dad likes the movies, but dosen’t show much interest in reading them. Mom still just sits there rocking back and forth mumbling while reading her bible, occasionally screaming out poorly constructed religous slogans.

It’s funny:

My girlfriend was interested in getting into comics so I turned her on to Morning Glories, the Unwritten, Planetary, stuff like that, which she accepted lukewarmly. I asked her what kind of thing she wanted to read next and she /very/ emphatically said “superheroes.”

So I gave her New X-Men and she’s been gleefully tearing through my Marvel U. stuff ever since.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves that underneath all the exciting creator-owned stuff and the rapid expansion of the medium, old-as-dirt continuity-laden superhero universes are fucking /cool/.

I thought most questions had answers that basically fit my life. I decided to discount friends I’d made through comic-relate activities and focus on friends from work or other interests. Only a couple of whom read comics. Most express some interest in my hobby, or at least a fascination with the number of comics I have. And many friends over the years have asked me to recommend or lend them comics, which I happily do. One friend just finished “Y the last man”. A couple have recently read “iZombie” and another is reading “Usagi Yojimbo”.

Only #4 was tricky. I guess “Alone and in a private place” is the best answer, as I usually read comics at home. However, much of my reading is done in the living room, and I have a roommate, so it’s not completely private.

However, my life has irregular opportunities to read comics in “public places” (train rides, plane rides, the rare nice day where I have time to go to a park and read) and so I do this as well.

The best opportunity to read comics is simply usually at home at night, once the day’s work and social activities are done.

I do keep comics at my desk at work for the purpose of reading on a lunch break (or lending to any who express interest) but usually I end up eating lunch with friends. So that only works on the odd day that I have nobody to eat with and the thing I’m eating is easy to eat while holding a comic.

The stereotypes regarding comics here in Brazil are slightly different.

Yes, it’s still a bit of a geek thing, but Brazilians correctly assume that anyone who reads regularly, even “lowly” superhero comics, must be of higher intelligence, as compared to the average person who never reads anything.

There was always a sense of respect from the people around me, even envy. But no one in my family has a strong interest in comics.

I am also blessed with a wife that is amazing. She has always supported me in everything, including my geek exploits. She is not much of a comic reader herself, though she has read a bit of X-Men when she was a teen. The extent of her geekness nowadays is watching DOCTOR WHO with me. She is also a huge Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fan and had read all the novels.

As to my parents, they have generally been supportive of my habit throughout my life. My mom read Fantastic Four comics as a kid and my father always liked Reid Fleming.

But I think that as the boxes turned into dozens, and then into hundreds, they have felt the occasional weariness. Even though I’m long gone, my brother has enough comics that their house remains full of boxes.

And I know my mom occasionally thinks back to that day in Walgreens 24 years ago when she suggested my brother and I pick out a comic each, and imagine how life would have looked if she hadn’t.

I don’t have a relationship, but I don’t blame the comics, I blame the fact that I’m short and ugly.

dam that questionnaire made me feel like a sadsack.
I also wonder what would have happened if i hadnt had
the marvel secret wars pannini sticker book tie in
to start me off…

My wife actively encourages me to read comics, has no interest in them solely for herself, but is very interested in them in that they are important to me. The “accepts” and “expresses polite interest” answer doesn’t really cover the dynamic – something more like “encourages” and “expresses genuine interest” would be more accurate.

A survey of this nature can in no way reflect how comics impacts my relationships. It is a complete folly. Relationships are based on love, attraction, connections, shared values, excitement, interests, etc. trying to break it down for ‘geeks’ like a survey in a magazine is ridiculous. I have non comic reading friends that will buy every Star Wars book ever written. My wife read the preacher in one sitting over a weekend. My brother is super into Spider-Man. But you know what? none of them regularly read comics. The audience is too vast. The material too diverse. The only way to address this question with any sort of accuracy is to go out and talk to people, but we’re all hidden away in our houses reading our comics (myself included) so that’s never going to happen :)

Mike Loughlin

July 4, 2013 at 5:07 pm

If I ask my wife to read a comic she will. She’s read a Concrete trade, a couple of Kyle Baker books, and a few more but never asked to read any others. I took the hint and stopped trying to get her to read any more.

On the other hand, she likes that I’m easy to buy for at holidays; get me a comic book store gift certificate and I’m set.

Poorly worded survey options!!

Fun survey.

I will never get used to my non-comic reading friends chuckling over Wolverine and Thor references. It used to be a kind of secret handshake, but not anymore. So many people have been exposed to comic book characters in the movies and on TV that it is like being a native speaker of a language surrounded by people learning it as a second language.

It wasn’t always that way to say the least.

Maybe it isn’t so much poorly worded, as it seems to express a narrow view of comic reading/buying habits, acceptance, proliferation, and relationship status than some of the subjects of the survey are used to.

I work in a library, used to freelance for an arts paper, and hang out in (for lack of a better term – god I am already cringing now) the “punk scene”, and generally I find that 50-60% of the people I know have either read, purchased, collected, or otherwise been exposed to comic books and graphic novels,

It’s not so much the answers that surprised me, but the range of questions seemed somewhat limited. But then again, I work and learn in a space that pretty much actively encourages people to read comic books, manga etc.

[...] COMMITTED: How Do Comic Books Affect Your Relationships? [...]

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