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Lessons From Strangers

by  in CBR Exclusives Comment
Lessons From Strangers

It appears I am destined to learn something about the way I view comics every time I leave the comforting confines of New York City. The Wednesdays following my previous two trips out of the five boroughs have seen my articles take on a particularly lesson-oriented slant, with me either reporting on the next generation of fans from the front lines of uncle-hood or giving tips on how to shop for comics. The most recent trip, the one that currently has me in an airport at an hour earlier than I normally see on much less sleep than I normally get, without fail, gave me some insight into the culture of comics.

I’m way into comic books.

And I don’t just mean that I’m so into comics that I could get Marvel Comics socks for Christmas and be totally on board with that (that happened, by the way). I mean that comics metaphorically surround me at all times. I mean that my existence has become so entangled in the minutiae of the industry that I found myself on a few occasions this past week muttering to myself, “do I like anything else?”

This may sound like I’m complaining about having a constantly replenishing itself to-do list of items that include words like “X-Men”; I’m not, really. I think that if I wasn’t aware just how thoroughly comics control my life, that’d be the biggest problem. I’m aware of the limits of my cultural intake, and I take steps to diversify regularly. But I’m still a comic book columnist/ reporter/ freelancer/ podcaster/ enthusiast who can’t be bothered to check out new music until all of the “best-of” lists have been published.

That used to not be the case. In college I followed music with the fervor I now reserve for BOOM! Studios’ “Planet of the Apes” comics (thank you Gabriel Hardman and Corinna Bechko for providing me with airport reading material). I had a radio show in college where I would play Gang of Four singles and Kinks album tracks that I had hunted for in used CD stores. I read Pitchfork like how I now read CBR and viewed the garage rock revival with the same enthusiasm I have for Marvel NOW! At some point my interests narrowed and I’m never more reminded of this fact than when I’m in my old college stomping grounds, amidst the friends that I obsessed with over music years ago.

And my interest in comics has narrowed even further, as I realized during my vacation. I got to talk to the handful of college friends who share my hobby (“handful” equals “two”) and also some complete strangers in a Hastings. Strangers talk to you in the South, as I discovered when someone’s dad felt compelled to give me all of his thoughts on HDMI cables while I was in a Walmart. Not to sound like a jerk, because I am indeed going somewhere with this, but all they had was enthusiasm for comics. They got character names and titles wrong, weren’t privy to the very latest rumors and news that I so ravenously digest daily, and were mostly behind on monthly titles that. But they more than made up for all of that in the “holy crap I love comics” department, which is kinda the most important department.

One of the strangers had just gotten back into comics with the New 52 and his newly rekindled love was palpable. The other stranger was a Hastings employee who was eagerly re-collecting Brian Michael Bendis’ “New Avengers” run after losing his first collection in a fire. When people are that excited about comics, the details don’t matter. I’d even let them get away with dropping the hyphen in “Spider-Man” (just once). They reminded me that beyond the arguing we all do about price points and character deaths, the only important thing about being a comic book fan is being a comic book fan.

At times I get so lost in the biz, where everyone on Twitter or on podcasts or on news sites are so deep in the guts of the biz that I forget that not every comic book fan lives that way. Also, yes, I know I used the term “the biz” twice in one sentence. You’re welcome.

I love everything I do related to comic books, and the past year has seen a previously unfathomable growth in my industry involvement. I like having my Google Reader stuffed like a new Loaded Griller Taco Bell burrito with comic book news. My detail-oriented brain didn’t let me get character names and volume numbers wrong even before I got to this place in my career. But what I can hope to match is that enthusiasm, and their desire to just read cool comics.

Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He co-hosts the podcast Matt & Brett Love Comics and is a writer for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre show Left Handed Radio: The Sequel Machine. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).

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