The Social Stigma of Comic Book Reading
Comic Books. What comes to mind when you hear that particular word? Childhood memories when you used to read Spider-Man and X-Men in the comfort of your own home on an 8AM Tuesday morning before middle school started? That is what comes to mind when I think about comic books. Comic books. Either that or Steve Rogers or something I am currently reading.
However, do I refrain from calling them comic books because people consider them to be childish? No. I still will proudly say that I read comics books and go comic book shopping on the regular for the new and improved redo of a comic that I used to know and love. I am sure some people on the outside judge me for that and say “She is still reading comic books?” And, that is perfectly fine; however, where did that stigma come from? Why have people seemed to connect comic books to immaturity or childish people? When did that exactly start and why did it start?
Throughout the years, I have noticed some of the comic book community itself being just as detrimental as the people calling us childish for reading comic books. The comic book community will down you for getting a character wrong, or for not liking a certain comic. They will find any reason to be pretentious about a comic book, and not teach you about the comic. They are not very welcoming, depending on who you bump into. So, the answer then becomes is the social stigma around comic books derived from the comic book community itself? That is where we land.
What Are Comic Books?
Comic books are different than graphic novels. One is shorter and one is longer, sometimes the content is different as well – in the recent years, graphic novels are also issues lumped together to make a whole series of a particular comic. So, Black Canary would have a huge graphic novel full of the issues that came out in this run of her series. Normally, consists of about 10 or less, sometimes more; however, it just depends on the series and how long it runs.
Issues are much cheaper on the scale of things; they range from one to four dollars and have about 10-20 pages. This depends on the issue and what issue it is, if it left on a cliffhanger or not, etc. They come out weekly or monthly, again depending on the series and the comic itself. Some people can argue that it’s cheaper to buy the graphic novel at the end of the series because you are paying for the same exact thing. If you want to buy separate issues that is okay too, it is normally what you prefer to do for yourself.
So, where does the stigma come into play? Well, some people say comic books are “childish” or “a hobby you never let go of.” Which, may be true to some extent; however, why is there even a stigma to begin with? Comics are not necessarily based on age, you read them as you read them and that is kind of it. There is no “I am 12 years old because I am reading Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur.” Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur can be for anyone to read – although, its main audience might be for children or teens. That is not to say someone in their twenties is not reading it and it is perfectly okay for them to read it because they are not childish for that.
There may be comic books meant for teens and children, but they are a damn good read for adults as well. Comics are meant to be fun and you read them because the art and writing is so exciting. It is exciting in a sense that reading every issue that comes out weekly or monthly is fun. It becomes something that is entertaining and fun to go and buy these issues that you like. Certain comics may have childish tendencies, but that does not mean they are mean for children. The audience of comics is universal. Which, I do not think a lot of non-comic book reader understand. It is not childish to still read Archie still at the age of twenty-three. Comics are ageless, in a sense, because they don’t depict who is childish and who is not.
Yes, some comics are made for adults and some are made for children, but the only concern should be that children are not reading Sex Criminals. They have borderline pornographic comics (old school and new school versions), they have comics that depict sexual intercourse, they have naked human beings on comics nowadays; so, the stigma is kind of dated. Frank Miller is an example of that with his Sin City and 300 comic releases. The comic Preacher, which includes situations such as sex, violence, and profanity by Vertigo comics is an example as well. And, those are just a few of the ones on the market right now. If you really wanted to go out and find “adult” comics, they do have them.
The stigma that it is “childish” or “a hobby you never gave up” is lame, really. There’s comics for everyone and anyone; there is no one person that a comic is made for. There’s Joker comics that may have sensitive material, but, still, if someone wanted to read it – it is easily accessible. It is not made for adults, but it is an adult comic. There’s no really set age for comics, they do have Rated T or Rated M; but, at the end of the day, you read exactly what you want to read. If you are going to categorize comics between adult and non-adult, then you are saying borderline pornographic comics are for adults and everything else is childish. That is pretty much what is being stated, in other words.
What Are Graphic Novels?
Some may consider graphic novels to be more “adult” in a sense of Maus and other readings such as The Killer Joke as well. I know when I first got into comics Maus was popular, and graphic novels were not necessarily issues that were put together into a huge graphic novel. The difference between Maus and novels such as Killer Joke is they were not issues beforehand. At least I don’t think Killer Joke was, it might have had a few; but, I believe it was a release that followed a movie as well. You had novels such as The Watchmen, Sandman, Scott Pilgrim, The Walking Dead, and a ton of Batman issues are predominately graphic novels just like Joker and Harley Quinn as well. Anniversary issues include graphic novel releases and many graphic novel series have extras that are not in the issues that they release prior.
Graphic novels used to be original releases such as Dark Rain and Persepolis; however, that is not the case much anymore. They are probably still being made, yes, but as far as the popularity they are not as well-known as they used to be. There was a specific time where they were extremely popular. The fanbase of comics and graphic novels are equally the same, most of the time if you buy comics, you also buy the graphic novel at times as well. The graphic novels are extremely smoother and neater because you can keep reading it as a novel, which is why they are called as such.
They are not meant to be for adults, or children, they are simply all the same. Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur has a graphic novel counterpart as well, and if it was strictly made for “adults” or a certain age of type of person then that specific comic would not be made into a novel form. If people say graphic novels are for a certain age of type of person. Graphic novels, possibly in the past, used to be for adults or an older type of person; but, have faltered in the recent years. They are simply another version of a comic book. The same comic that’s instilled in a graphic novel was probably once an issue beforehand. There are cases where that is not the case, but it has become popular somewhat for that in the recent years.
At the end of the day, comics and graphic novels are no different from one another. A ton of graphic novels are still called comics from some. You can google “Maus Comic” and it will come up with the same graphic novel, instead of searching “Maus graphic novel.” There is no specific way to talk about them, which is what makes them enjoyable.
The Stigma & Comic Community
The stigma from the comic book community is where things falter. You have one-half of the community that is extremely cool and nice; however, you also have another half that is detrimental. Which is slightly where I think the stigma comes from. A couple of people from the community can be very “If you don’t know this, then you are stupid.” If you read a comic or graphic novel, better expect to know every single detail. Now, not everyone is like this and probably not many are, but it’s still there. The stigma I think derives from this and the childish comes from the pretentious you have within the community. People are going to think you are childish because you act that way.
I, personally, have come in contact with this. Now, for someone who is just getting into a comic or wants to know more – you should be, ever so willing, to fill them in and show you know what your favorite comic instills. However, instead, it is the opposite sometimes. This is not to be like “woe, is me,” it is more so to show what the childish aspect could derive from. How people answer comic questions in a very “duh” kind of way is childish. If we surpass that and really focus on making people feel loved for the comics they read, and make them feel happy to be a part of a community – the stigma could easily go away to an extent. Of course, people will still say you are childish, or nostalgic; but, it won’t be because you are an asshole about comics. It will be because they are an asshole to think that, rather.
Comic-Con’s & Con’s In General
Comic-Con is closely related comics as well, with that idea that it is for children – or that you have to have some sort of immaturity to even go and dress up in cosplay. That is not the case. There are worldwide competitions for money and different prizes for people who dress up in the best cosplay. There are even times at this Con’s where they have prizes as well. People who dress up in cosplay spend an entire year and more on these costumes, they sew these costumes themselves and they make sure they are up to par. This takes work. You may say it’s immature and childish, but they spend a lot of time making these costumes for themselves.
Comic-Con will never be childish. Adults take their time to go to these Con’s to see writers, artists, actors, that are the exact same age (or older) as them. The “childish” aspect is weird to say because the famous people who attend these Con’s are exactly around the same age as the adult people attending. That compares to the graphic novels and comic book association to childhood in a sense too. People are not meeting other nerds because they want to have a cool past time and pay for the money for it, they want to meet their childhood. They want to meet that nostalgia; people actually really love these Con’s and it is fun for them. Meeting people who love the same thing as you is empowering, it is not childish when it comes down to it. There should be no stigma pertaining to cosplay because cosplaying is a serious endeavor and people get paid for it.
The stigma should go away, there is no need to be called childish anymore in 2017 for reading comics. The next steps would be to stop having that mindset and change the part of the community to be welcoming. At the end of the day, if you google “why are comic book nerds pretentious” it comes up with more than it should. It is something to think about when it comes to thinking about the stigma of comics books and graphic novels. Maybe people are not bringing that mindset to the table on their own, it could be because of who or what they encountered.
What do you think? Leave a comment.