I’m going to say something that may shock you, so make sure you’re sitting down. I think comics’ fans might have an image problem. It seems like people might look at us as a bunch of adolescent nerds who’d rather spend Saturday afternoon in a basement surrounded by old newsprint that out amongst the normals who sit on the couch to watch sports on a floor above the basement. Well I’m tired of that. We may mock the X-TREME trend of the 90’s, but I think we as a community could stand to embrace a little bit of this attitude, if only to promote a different picture of the average comic reader.
What’s extreme? That’s a pretty loose definition, at least in my estimation. I’m going to say that extreme is anything that people wouldn’t expect a comic geek to do based on their admittedly stereotyped misconceptions. You don’t have to sign up for a local cage fight, unless you’re a short Canadian with metal bones then by all means go right ahead.
And you may already have an extreme activity you enjoy doing in addition to reading comics. Josh likes to mountain bike, other Josh likes to ski, I like to go rock climbing, BUT, and this is the crux, where’s the overlap? Do we use our preexisting hobbies to promote a comics lifestyle?
In this case I’m definitely referring to superheroes, something I’m loathe to do because we all know superheroes are genre within the medium of comics. I admire superheroes, they’re people of action who do their best to help those around them. I don’t thinking hitting bad guys is the best way to help others in our world, but I do think we could all use a bit more adventure. The comedian Greg Behrendt talks about this too in the sense of everyone should get to live like a rockstar. Get that reported submitted in time? Flash-bang goes off and a banner drops with your name on it. Finish cleaning the house? Smash your vacuum like a guitar. I’m suggesting something similar, but instead of rockstars as the template suggesting superheroes.
Practically, what I think we ought to do is develop hobbies that seem out of step with normal comics reading, then use those hobbies to show that people who read comics are also out in the world doing cool stuff. I realize this is a bit silly, because we all know the stereotype is wrong, but at the same time what’s wrong with developing a fun new pastime AND getting to show off your comics cred while doing it. One stone, many birds.
Here’s an actual example of what I’m talking about. There’s a video floating around of some folks who set up a 400 foot rope swing through a canyon in Utah. I like to rock climb out doors, but this video gives me butterflies. I’ve watched it with a few friends and the question is always, “Well, would you do it?” The first time I was asked I thought for a moment, then said, “Only if I could wear a cape.” Getting up the courage to dive headfirst off a cliff might still be an issue, but if I could get up the nerve I’d be doing so while also showing off my fandom of Superman.
I think this could be applied to any activity. Go running in a Flash t-shirt. Go climbing in a Spider-Man shirt (something I actually do). Go surfing in an Aquaman wetsuit. Anything that puts you outside the realm of where people expect to see nerds like us and then just own the hell out of it. I think that’s the key really, we live in an era of unfortunate ironic detachment, so people are likely to assume you’re wearing Captain Marvel jumpsuit to flight school ironically. But you tell those assumers, “NAY! I’m wearing this because Carol Danvers is cool and I want to learn to fly planes.”
And honestly, this may have no effect on the popular perception of comics fans. There will still be shows like Comic Book Men and The Big Bang Theory. I highly doubt even a force like the iFanbase is enough to shift those juggernauts, but at the end of the day you might wind up with a new activity outside of reading comics, you might make some new friends you can then introduce to comics, and you might, just might, have fun. Having fun is why we all go into comics in the first place, so let’s get out and do something else too but without leaving the comics behind.
And now, as has become somewhat the tradition in my columns, it’s Q&A time. Do you already do something extreme in your free time? If so, what? Have you ever done it in a way that promotes comics? How’d it go? And for those who aren’t already in the adrenaline club, what activity have you secretly been hankering to try? Is this the call to action you’ve been waiting for? The time is now! I really want us all to get out there and tear it up, comic style!