Daniel Amrhein is a blogger over at Journey Into Awesome as part of my ‘Layman’s introduction to comic books’ series. ‘Journey Into Awesome’ has just short of 4ooo subscribers and it has been featured on wordpress.com’s ‘Freshly Pressed’ so I figure he knows what he is on about Enjoy.
What got you into comic books?
I first got into comics because of Batman Returns and the ‘90s X-Men cartoon (1992 was a good year to get into super heroes). They made me want to check out the comics and after a few Batman and X-Men comics, I was hooked. I had always been into stories and art and here was a medium that blended the two perfectly.
Do you consider yourself an eccentric fan?
I’m definitely a comic nerd. I define a geek, nerd, etc. as someone who is interested in or engages with a particular interest more than is socially acceptable. So, yes, I think it’s fair to say all of us geeks are at least a little eccentric.
Do you think you have to be a certain type of person to get into comic books?
I don’t think it necessarily takes a certain type of person to get into comics. There might be certain types of people more inclined to become heavily involved in certain aspects of hobby or community, but right now there are so many different types of comics on the market that there really is something for everyone regardless of if you’re hardcore fan or casual reader.
Do you think there’s a snobbery facing people who want to get into comic books?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of obstacles for people trying to get into comics right now.
Comic fans tend to be very passionate people which can either be really amazing or really frustrating. Then a fan channels that passion into promoting the books, characters, and creators they love by sharing them with new people it’s a great thing. Unfortunately, there are those fans who channel their passion into browbeating other fans. Women, people of colour, and LGBTQ fans are often especially singled out by Gamergate adjacent groups and individuals.
There’s also the direct market to contend with. The direct market is a distribution method which started in the ‘70s that limits comics’ availability to be sold anywhere other than specialty comics shops. This has contributed to a gate keeping culture wherein small independent retailers control what comics are ordered and sold. This system can be especially limiting to fans or potential fans who live in smaller cities or towns without many (or any) choices in comics retailers.
Let’s say someone who just saw the latest Marvel movie decides to checkout comics for the very first time. If their only local comic shop treats them unfairly or doesn’t adequately stock the books they’re interested in, then the potential fan is pretty much out of luck. (Thankfully, digital comics and a widening availability of trade paperbacks are starting to change this, but an unwelcoming environment at a local shop can still limit a fan’s ability to engage with the community and culture.)
Of course there are a lot of really great comic shops just like there are a lot of helpful fans, but unfortunately those bad shops and fans contribute to a sometimes less than friendly environment for new readers.
Would the same type of person that’s into comic books be able to equally get into sport?
The same type of person who is into sports can absolutely be into comics and vice versa. I know of plenty of people who are fans of both.
Really, there are a ton of similarities between diehard comics and sports fans. Both get dressed up in elaborate costumes to go to events, they love stats and obscure trivia, and they love debating which team would wins in various scenarios. And of course, fantasy football is really just a pen and paper RPG for sports fans.
Do you think people who get into comic books are victims of a sort of ‘social pigeonholing?’
Thanks to the recent success of comic movies and shows, being a comic fan is starting to become a little more socially acceptable, but there’s still some pigeonholing. Comics have been largely considered kids’ stuff by those outside the fandom and that attitude still persists.
Do you think it’s a bit hypocritical that traditionally hardcore sports fans or things like that look down on comic book fans for a similar obsession/interest?
Sadly, there is sometimes tension between hardcore sports fans and comic geeks.
I’ve been going to DragonCon for several years and the weekend happens to overlap with the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game with both events being relatively close to one another. Unfortunately, some years there have been issue with a few football fans sneaking in to DragonCon and causing problems.
One year it was particularly bad with them actually throwing bottles and things at the con goers. Of course, the vast majority of the football fans weren’t causing problems, but a few bad apples through it would be fun to get drunk and assault the nerds in costume. The con has since doubled down on security and there haven’t been any more problems like that but it does help demonstrate some of the tension between the two groups.
It is hypocritical for society to treat hardcore sports and hardcore comic fans differently.
Do you think the release of all these superhero films helps take the stigma of liking comic books down?
The popularity of movies and TV shows based on comics is absolutely helping take some of the stigma off of being a fan but we’re still a long way from comics being seen as mainstream.
What’s your favourite aspect of being a comic book fan?
My favorite thing about being a comic fan is the community. Despite those few hateful fans and their bullshit, the majority are really passionate, intelligent, lovely people. There’s really nothing like going to a con where everyone is able to let their guard down a little and let their freak flag fly while enjoying the company of other people with shared interests.
I’ve had a few really horrible isolated encounters at cons, but I’ve met far more amazing people through fandom than I have bad.
Are you going to many comic cons this year?
I’ve going to a few cons this year. I’ll be speaking at Momo Con and DragonCon. I also hit up Atlanta Comic Con a few months ago looking for old Wonder Woman comics and I might end up at one or two more small cons by the time the year is done.
Do you think that certain comic book fans want to have their niche?/Do you think they willingly look for stuff nobody’s heard of?
Comic fans are a pretty diverse group and they’re becoming more diverse each day so it’s kind of hard to say. I do think that for many fans collecting is a big part of the culture. For some people that means collecting comics or toys but for others it’s collecting obscure knowledge. So some fans absolutely seek out those little-known books and bits of trivia and some just happen to dig those things a little off the beaten track. There are so many different types of comics that it doesn’t matter what you’re into, there probably a comic for you. Even if it is maybe more than a little weird.
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Read more from Daniel Amrhein HERE.