Being a comic book reader can be lonely business. While comics are a huge part of who I am, it’s the rare day when my typical interactions with other earthlings involve comics, talk of comics, or anything relating to comics. Furthermore, being a reader/fan in search of good conversations about comics can be an uphill battle. This isn’t a revelation, I know, but there are certain days when the solitary nature of comic book fandom just feels like the universe itself is magnifying it. Today was one of those days. Maybe it was the gray nature of the morning or the first drizzle of early November, but today I felt especially alone with my comic book thoughts as I drove through the misty Santa Monica morning toward nowhere in particular.
While it’s no secret that I very much enjoy escaping into my comics each week, I often find myself loaded with opinions once I’m through my weekly stack. Whether it’s thoughts on a story or the desire to opine on some art that really impressed me, these are thoughts I want to share with other like-minded individuals. Get online, you say? That’s certainly a viable option. But while the Internets are undeniably a great place to find and interact with kindred comic spirits, the reality is that there are times when you simply want to have a good old-fashioned face-to-face chat about Spider-Man or Wolverine with another carbon-based life form. With that in mind, today’s morning drive found me almost melancholy as I wondered to myself: What’s a guy got to do to find someone to talk about comics with? Instead of pulling over to the side of the road and penning a sad song about solitary geekery, I decided that today I would seek out the conversation I required. Over the course of my day I would force it to happen. By sheer power of will I was going to talk comics with someone. I would manifest it. I was on a mission.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where true comic book obsession and knowledge isn’t something that’s shared by most people. Sure, there’s an obvious increase in superhero popularity thanks to the likes of summer superhero blockbusters. And if you want to talk about Marvel’s The Avengers, you’ll have no shortage of people willing to throw out an opinion. But despite the increase in a sort of general superhero awareness, few of these folks actually read comics, so it’s still hard to find a good old-fashioned conversation about comic books. Today I was going to change that.
My first stop is at an aggressively mediocre coffee shop where I meet up with an old friend for breakfast. I order a breakfast burrito and we promptly talk about the place where we used to work together. Reminiscing is the first order of business here, but I’m itching to steer the conversation toward comics, even though I’m pretty sure this gal has no interest in the topic. I actually doubt she’s ever read one. Maybe she’ll surprise me. Unfortunately, my efforts to segue from the topic of how tasty her pancakes to the topic of the fact that new Deadpool comic is written by “that guy” who used to be on Just Shoot Me proves clumsy and ineffective. The bill comes. I pay. We part ways. No comic talk. Mission: Failed.
Next stop is the office of a TV development executive. Being a TV writer I do a lot of these “general” meetings, which are essentially “meet and greet” get-to-know-you sessions that are designed to test for chemistry. Simply put, the TV decision-makers want to make sure that you’re not a complete creep and see if maybe you have some ideas they’d like to butcher sometime in the future. If it feels right, I occasionally bring up my comic book infatuation, which gets a perfunctory “We love comics here!” reaction most of the time. Simply put, I think there are a lot of development execs out there who claim to like comics, but don’t really know the first thing about them. I’m always hopeful that there will be a comic book connection, but it’s rare. I go into this meeting determined to talk comics no matter what. It’s a suicide mission perhaps, but damn it I’m forcing the issue. And I do bring up comics…for exactly three seconds. The exec abruptly shifts to the topic of local restaurants and an amazing pizza joint in Westwood. The meeting runs its usual course and I ultimately leave with my need for conversation less than sated. Though I am craving pizza at this point.
As I leave the studio lot, it dawns on me that a guaranteed place to find some good comic book conversation is a local comic book ship. There’s one particular comic store that I frequent where informed and spirited conversations are always flowing. The place is small and cramped and run by guys who really immerse themselves in their jobs. On any given Wednesday the place is a hotbed of conversation. Unfortunately, it’s Thursday and I’m nowhere near that shop. Nevertheless, a comic store still seems like to good place for me to seek out the cure for what’s ailing me. I eventually manage to find my way to the nearest comic shop, a tragically hip place in an even hipper neighborhood. Unfortunately, it’s too hip. There’s nobody inside save for a lone employee poking at her iPhone in the corner. I’m here so I browse a bit and eventually decide to buy the first trade of Grant Morrison’s Animal Man. Maybe the book will be a foray into a conversation about Grant Morrison. I recently listened to the audiobook of Grant Morrison’s most excellent book Supergods and have yet to talk to anyone about it. This could work. Unfortunately, the gal at the counter rings me up without so much as a grunt and I’m on my way.
With the day nearing an end, I head for home; I’m well aware that I’ve failed in what I’m now telling myself was a “silly little quest.” I get home, knowing full well that my wife isn’t going to want to talk comics. But just when all appears lost, the night takes a turn as I’m putting my 7-year-old son to bed. He asks me to read to him from the third trade paperback of the Jeff Smith’s Bone series. We’ve already read the first two and he’s hooked. Once we’re done, he mentions that his favorite “bone” is Smiley Bone and I realize that he’s actually soaking these stories in, experiencing them. And while this isn’t the deep and meandering conversation on comics that I’d fantasized about having all day, it’s somehow just perfect.
Gabe Roth is a TV writer trapped in the suburbs of Los Angeles. He loves breakfast burritos and craft beer. He’s @gaberoth on Twitter.