Friday, May 29, 2009

In which I take a moment to pimp some comic shops.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the things that kept me from die hard comic geekery for so many years was the lack of a decent comic shop nearby that dealt well with female customers. I know that I'm not the only "girl geek" who's had to deal with this (this was an issue I had in video game stores, also), and I know I'm not the only one that it got to. I may have thick skin, but I really really hate being talked down to or treated like I've walked into the wrong shop. The mall in my hometown had a shop called Treasure Chest Cards and Comics, and it was pretty cool, but I was there more to buy TPs and Magic Cards than individual issues, so the experience was different. Also it closed down after only a year or so. Sad.

So finding good comic shops is like manna from Heaven. (Not to be confused with mana, which refreshes at the beginning of ever turn. And, yes, I used to play Magic, why do you ask?) When my dad moved to Boston when I was a teenager, I discovered New England Comics. I went there from time to time, but mostly to browse (which they were nice enough to let me do), because I was too intimidated to buy anything. This was before BW (Before Wikipedia), so I had no idea where to even start.

Since moving back to Boston a few years ago, I've re-discovered NEC and have since become a card carrying member. They're a local New England chain, which I enjoy supporting, and I'd say that about half the time I walk into my local brance there's a woman behind the counter. Rock on. I wish they had a better website, with an online subscription-service sign up, 'cause it but it's got the important Wednesday List on it (and for some reason a lot of The Tick...), and I'm starting to learn that a lot of what I enjoy about being a comic geek again is physically going to the shop, browsing the new arrivals, and maybe picking up something I hadn't planned on.

[A small tangent about Newbury Comics, which a lot of non-Bostonians ask me about when I mention my local comic shop. No. I don't know if it started with a big comic selction, but the last time I went into one - and that was years ago, admittedly - the comics had been relegated to a ghetto in the back, and I had to wade through a combination of Hot Topic leftovers and CD racks to get to them. It's great for some things, but if you're ever in Boston and want comics, find the nearest NEC branch.]

So that's my main staple of comic book love. But while I was in the Pioneer Valley this last weekend, I needed a comic shop to get my fix at (I walked by the Marvel and Manga-heavy "graphic novel" section and Barnes & Nobles) and my iPhone pointed me towards Modern Myths in Northampton (I love that name, because it's so true and one of the reasons I love comics). The first thing in the google search result was the phrase: "majority woman owned," so I knew I had to check it out. I wasn't disappointed. There was a woman behind the counter, a few rousing D&D games going on in the back, and they have this really cool "Story Set/Full Run" shelf that collects the entire run of a particular storyline and packages it for sale (I picked up Green Arrow: Year One, because, well. Ollie.). I haven't seen that at any other comic shop I've been in, and I think it's completely awesome. They had some great runs in there, too, and it was all I could do not to plunk down a hundred dollars on various stories.

Like I said: for me the experience of physically going into the comic shop and browsing, interacting, and buying is a huge part of my rekindled love for the genre. It's not just about how well stocked they are, because they can always order stuff for you, but about how I feel while I'm there. Seeing a woman behind the counter is nice. Seeing a queer woman is super nice. But when I walk up to check out with my pile of comics, not getting a surprised look for my combination of Supergirl, Detective Comics, Captain America, Flash, and whatever else I've picked up that week, is what will keep me coming back.

(If anyone out there reads this, or stumbles on it sometime, I'd love to hear about good comic shops in other cities. I lived in San Francisco for 2 1/2 months before discovering there was a great shop right down the hill from me. The internet could have saved me sooo much time.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009


So. Here I am. Trying to figure out why I started a blog about comics when I'm not exactly an expert.

In the past few months I've gotten back into comics pretty hardcore. I've always loved comics, but I haven't always bothered with going to my local comic shop and following along issue by issue.

When I was young, my treat at the local convenience store was a random comic of that spinny rack with random comics on it. I don't remember consciously having brand loyalty, but I do remember watching the filmation Shazam! cartoon on my family's Beta Max VCR every night. I've always been very attached to motion pictures - television and film both - so I know I probably stuck with what I knew when I was picking comics up. I can say that I've definitely leaned towards DC as long as I can remember, though there are certain characters of Marvel's that I love (and, of course, I read The Crow in the mid-90s, devoured Sandman, and followed WildC.A.T.S. fairly regularly for awhile, so I'm not limited to the major imprints).

I had no idea what the overarching storylines were (this was during Crisis on Infinite Earths), all I knew was that I loved the characters and seeing them do Cool and Super things.

A lot of things kept me from the comic book world growing up, and made me gravitate more towards the screen adaptations that were more readily available. First, and most importantly: I didn't have a comic book store nearby. As soon as one opened in the mall, while I was in high school, I became a member. That's when I discovered Frank Miller and Alan Moore. But it's also when I had pretty much zero income and had just logged onto this wild thing called the internet for the first time. Plus, the store closed down pretty quickly. Those were the dark days, prior to geek becoming cool again (thank you Matrix and Lord of the Rings) and before we had kick-ass mainstream superhero things like Heroes and the recent Batman and Iron-Man movies (which I think are probably due in large part to Singer's awesome adaptation of X-Men, my casting issues aside). So it crashed and I was once again left without a comic store until college (when I also didn't have much money).

Second, I'm not a dude. I know! Shocking! These days I walk into my local comic shop and see a woman behind the counter about half the time, which is awesome. But it wasn't always like that. And as much as I'd like to say that stuff like that doesn't bug me, there are only so many times I can be pointed towards the manga sections (seriously, I do not like manga) or asked what my boyfriend likes before I internalize that a little.

Third, I'm not straight. Sort of less of an issue, in that there have never really been gay or bisexual characters anywhere ever (unless you're into subtext, which I am), but by the time I was in college getting a Women's Studies degree (gasp!), that sort of thing kind of bothered me. On a side note, how excited am I for a lesbian title-runner with a lesbian back-up once Batwoman starts in on Detective Comics in June?

Wicked excited.

So there was that. And I kind of floated in and out of collecting. I own Superman 75, because... death of Superman... Mostly I got TPs (notably Reign of the Supermen and GenerationX) or graphic novels (would you believe I was lucky enough to snag a hardcover Watchmen, which I have since ruined by reading too much?). Meanwhile I had plenty of other things to keep me going: Tim Burton's Batman movies, the X-Men animated series, then the Batman animated series, Lois & Clark (yeah, yeah) and the occasional, more-than-likely-bad, movie (hey hey, Hasselhoff's Nick Fury).

The first thing that really drew me back to the fold was when Bart Allen became the Flash.

Sold! So I read up on the backstory, got a little annoyed at what had happened to the Flash Family, and then... Bart died.


But wait. While catching up on the goings on of the DCU, I found out that Superboy had died, too. (Superboy was a character I enjoyed in his eponymous TV series, that I totally adored rebooted during Reign of the Supermen.)


Meanwhile, over at Marvel... I had no idea. The X-Men movies had already come out, and they'd already massacred by favorite X-Man ever by turning him into a teenager.

WTF, Marvel movie division?

But now, as an adult, I've started to realize that a lot of what I love about things is... what I can hate. So having a teenaged Bobby Drake helped me rediscover my love of the real (in my head) Bobby Drake, so I got to reading. Having Bart die got me angry enough to read up on when he was Impulse, which led me to Young Justice and Teen Titans. The existence of Smallville made me want to bash my head against a wall - and keep current on the DCU. I don't know, that's just how I roll.

And along the way, I got involved with roleplaying. That helped, too. I keep up on what's happening so I can keep up. I discovered a new Captain America who could finally make me interested in Captain America (because Bucky Barnes has to atone, and that's more interesting than any of Steve Rogers' stories that I remember reading). I said hello to Supergirl for the first time since she was Helen Slater. And I found out that the writers at DC had brilliantly adapted Renee Montoya into the comic universe... and she had become one of my all time favorite heroes.

(Expect something on Crime Bible soon, 'cause I've got lots to say.)

I started to care about the characters again.

And, what do you know... I've got a local comic shop staffed with enough women (and I get treated with respect by the men that work there), the first GLBT lead of a major imprint is due in a month, and I've got a little disposable income handy.

So I'm back. We're on again, me and comics. And it's like I never left.