Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Does This Comic Go With My Eyes

I'm sure many of us have experienced the glee of finding people who like the same things we do. It's an almost instant sense of belonging, but how many of us also get the belated sense of isolation? The first time I walked into a comic shop with my brother, every guy in the place turned around and looked at me. Initially, I thought it was because I was so young, I was eight or nine at he time. Now that I'm older and return to that and other shops, I think it was because I'm a chick. I come to this conclusion, because there aren't that many women comic fans; there aren't that many strong female characters to draw women in; and even outsiders treat other people like outsiders.

I like to think of comic shops are pockets of sanctuary, a place where other comic fans congregate to discuss this niche thing we dig. From going to these shops, though, I've never seen a lot of women. When I have seen them, they've been there with their boyfriend or, like me, their brother. So , when I hear guys say," isn't it nice that your (so and so male consort) brought you along, I understand it, but it still pisses me off. Most of these guys have been fans for years, they've had to have seen a girl come in from time to time, the novelty should have worn off. As to why there aren't that many women fans, I'm not quite sure. I think part of the reason is those looks we get. It takes a confident person to go back to a place, on regular basis, where they don't feel welcome.

Then there's the aspect of not having a lot of strong female characters. Some women can't read a comic unless there's a strong women in it, because they need a women to identify with. Superhero comics, and lets face it, that's the most talked about, advertised, and published genre of comic out there, are guilty of not having these characters in them. A lot of them are basically beat'em ups with cheesecake characters who aren't that aesthetically appealing to women. That's not to say these comics don't contain great story lines with complex, interesting characters.

I don't always notice a character's gender when reading a story, I look at their characteristics and how they're written, and it's those things that keep me coming back. Two instances of this are Green Lantern and Immortal Iron Fist. I've been a fan of Iron Fist since he was teamed up with Power Man. When Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction reintroduced him, I rediscovered my love and enthusiasm for him. This often forgotten character has been made more interesting then I remember. He's strong of will and moral fortitude, but he's also human with human failings and the writers aren't afraid to have him get beaten up or lose. Most of the characters are men with a few exceptions. Green Lantern is a series I've been following for a little over a year. Hal Jordan has a troubled past, but he's been given a chance at redemption, something I think is appealing no matter what the character's gender. He, too, is basically human with a ring that gives him powers, but those powers aren't god-like. The series gives a great mix of action and character development that keeps me anxiously awaiting my monthly DCBS shipment.

Finally there's the fact that we, as a society, like to gather into smaller and smaller groups. We divide ourselves by race, or gender, or age or even interests. I think we get a stronger sense of belonging when these groups are smaller and more personal. As comic fans, we see someone who can talk about the medium and we see a fellow outsider, someone who doesn't fit in with everyone else. Somehow, that other person being female flips some internal switch that says," this can't be a part of my group, because it violates my gender division rule." Or maybe these guys feel like they need their boys only club, that this is their last place they can call their own. To that I say, get the fuck over it! Having female comic fans isn't going to topple this world you've made for yourselves. We aren't trying to take over or dictate what your comics should be about, we just want to be treated like human-geeky-beings.