Are You A Comics Evangelist?

Good news, comrades: I think we got our hooks into another one over the weekend.

Saturday, my family went to the zoo with some old friends of ours. (That's what you do once you hit those thirties and everyone gets two year olds. Sometimes watching an episode of Lost takes five days, The Hurt Locker sits unwatched on the shelf for a month while you finish your eleventh go-round of Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, you spend more time than you ever would have imagined in college debating with other grown people whether or not "Tinker Bell" is supposed to be one word, and on Saturdays you all hit the zoo in the morning instead of the bar at night.) We had just finished hiking through Big Cat Country and stopped to catch our breath in the monkey house when one of my friends came up to me eagerly.

"I bought two comics today before we got here!" she said proudly. "I got Strangers in Paradise and Girl Comics."

"Those are good choices," I said. "I mean, technically I haven't gotten around to reading either one yet, but both come highly recommended by people whose taste has cost me vast sums of money in the past." I tried to play it cool as best I could, but inside my mind was racing. Find Out More There's no way she buys Strangers in Paradise Volume 1 without coming back for Volume 2. This is really happening. A New Reader! I've heard about them for all these years, but I assumed they were just a myth we told comic shop owners to make them behave themselves between Christmases. And better yet, it's a New Reader that I get credit for! I'm the one who's been filling her head with all those Lantern colors. I'm the one who talked up Scott Pilgrim and introduced her to all those people on Twitter. I'm the one who gave that lecture in the mall parking lot, "Watchmen: The Seminal Work Of Literature Vs. The Movie We Just Got Out Of." They are going to have to award the points to me… oh oh oh! And she's a woman! Female New Readers are worth double points!!

We do get points for introducing new people to comics, right? Points that we can redeem for pocky and maquettes?

We don't?

I guess we don't. But you wouldn't know it to talk to some people, would you?

In my time on your planet, I have known a lot of people in a lot of cultural subgroups. I've known people who wanted me to start watching Doctor Who. I've known guys (and only guys) who wanted me to play D&D. I've known people who priced Starfleet uniforms and had heated real-life feuds that began as trade disputes in Settlers of Catan. But I have never seen an evangelist preach as hard or seen a Circuit City sales associate push a warranty with as much fervor as one of my fellow comics people trying to ensnare a New Reader. Some of us act like we're trying to ensure the survival of the species. Which is probably not far from how some people look at it.

I want there to be new readers too, of course. I want to share the things I enjoy with the people I enjoy, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. Plus, in the last few years, I've learned that there's basically something for everyone I know in a well-stocked comic shop. The person who hates Spider-Man will love Queen and Country. The person who hates Queen and Country will love Mouse Guard. The person who hates Mouse Guard is empty inside and would probably enjoy Deadpool. If I boiled some coffee, took a few days off work and locked myself in, I could even find a comic book for my mother. No way a woman who's watched that much Days of Our Lives doesn't like a comic. Ooh! Eighties X-Men. Done.

Still, I think a lot of us are a little too zealous about This Thing Of Ours. It gets into sort of an Amway area with some people. I hear things at Christmastime that make me a little uneasy. "What comic should I get my girlfriend who doesn't read comics? What comic should I get my teenage sister who already thinks I'm an unbearable geek?" Why don't you get them each that one-shot, Here's Something You Like For Christmas Instead of Something I Like from Considerate Person Press? Maybe save the proselytizing for late January?

I imagine what I would do if my sports fanatic friends were constantly pressing cheap baseball tickets into my hands, or the look on my face on the day a friend piped up with, "Surprise! It's L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics!"

At the zoo the other day, my friend described her Girl Comics buying experience as just the sort of thing that makes me twitchy. It sounded like she asked the clerk in a small-talky way if Girl Comics was any good, and he started listing all the people who worked on it (whom she'd never heard of) before trying to foist the Strange Tales hardcover (featuring forty more people she'd never heard of– and frankly, in many cases, neither had I– doing experiments she might not be ready for with characters she knows nothing about) onto her pile. Note to clerk: that is intimidating. If she hadn't already decided she was in, if she had just walked in off the street because she was curious, she would have bolted, leaving only a her-shaped cloud of dust and a her-shaped hole in the wall of the store. Maybe I'm wrong, and Strange Tales would have been a great first comic, but that would not be my strategy.

I don't think I've ever gotten anywhere buying people comics, though I too have tried a couple of times before. I think you sort of have to "lead by example." Any friend of mine who's become a New Reader got that way not because someone like me gave them a stack of homework assignments, insisting, "No, you will like this," but rather because they just saw someone like me consistently having a good time with comics, thought for themselves, "Say, that does look like fun," and then came to me on their own for answers or recommendations.

Your mileage may vary, of course. Even interested parties don't always survive the sticker shock. When my friend mentioned that Girl Comics was five dollars, I wanted to apologize to her like I had priced the book personally. I had no idea it was that much. I rarely pay attention to the prices on comics after all these years, not because I am above your petty material concerns but because I just want the effing things and if I looked hard at how much I was spending per issue it would depress me more than the books excite me. Prices on a lot of books have gone up 60% just since I started reading again. Be careful what you're getting into.

Are you an evangelist? Have you ever bought or loaned someone a comic or graphic novel in an attempt to swell our ranks? How many points do you have? Share your strategies, for the good of the species.


Jim Mroczkowski used the word "ensnare" and has not been able to stop thinking about how great that word will be on his next consonant-heavy Scrabble day. Whether or not he's on Twitter this week is anybody's guess.


  1. Did somebody really gift you a copy of Dianetics? Your friends are crazy!

  2. "The person who hates Mouse Guard is empty inside and would probably enjoy Deadpool." hah!

  3. The key to reccomending anyone anything is to keep their own interests mind. Example: Older brother Dan recently expressed an interest in Kant having absorded something of his ideas about epistimelogy through conversation. He was curious what came after Kant so I gave SchopenHauer’s the Word is Will and Representation.

    Your friend became interested in Girl Comics and Strangers in Paradise without your help. When peope become interested in your hobby, be ready but don’t pressure.

  4. I lend out a lot of comics to friends because I think they would dig a particular series based on their other interests. I don’t do it to get them into comics but instead to open their mind to the possibility that there are some comics that may actually be good(Walking Dead is my go to book here) or to help out a friend that may be interested in comics but not interested enough to choose comics over feeding their family. I have never bought a comic as a gift for a non-comic fan. I have never even considered doing so because I get gifts based on that person’s interests not my own.  

  5. I have to say that, when I first started reading comics a few years ago, and would enthusiastically recommend them to other people — in the same vein that I would enthusiastically recommend favorite shows or movies or books — I ran into a small number of people who would completely shut me down, and I couldn’t understand the reaction.  The only other time I had gotten something similar was when I recommended a particular television show that rhymes with "Wirefly."  I was only able to put the reaction in context some time later, when I was introduced to *other* people with a habit of enthusiastically recommending the comics reading experience (and that particular show) . . .and were manifestly insane about the way they went about it.  So, in retrospect, I’m assuming people were reacting to bad past experiences.

    Since then, I have learned to be a little more sensitive to the way I go about it, and I’ve had better results simply making my enthusiasm known, and then actually being approached by people who had questions.  It’s a better use of my time and results in giving my friends something they really want.  In theory.  And, hypothetically, if I was talking about the same person happening to pick up a couple books I’d expressed enthusiasm about, I’d be flattered.

  6. I’ve tried it in the past then cooled off on it; but then my cousin asked to borrow my Kingdom Come and LoEG Vol 1 and still hasn’t given them back.

  7. Great article and really on the mark. Luckily, the guys that run my local shop are really good with the "is this good?" question. They tend to be able to suss out if you’re a reader or not and usually relate whatever it is to a movie or tv show that everyone would have some general knowledge of. I also hear a lot of "just remember, it’s probably not going to be what you liked about the movie." It’s probably a detriment to their bottom line, considering how cautious they are. 


    I’m an evangelist. My friend and I lent out Ultimate Spider-man to anyone willing to listen and it netted us a very healthy little crew of comics readers while we were in high school. Although most of us are incredibly poor college students right now, some of us still find the time to score a few trades now and then. A lot of borrowing and lending goes on.  

  8. Interesting as always Jim.

  9. I’ve been able to net one friend.  I think the stigma is too much for most of my friends, so they usually refuse to read anything comic book related.

  10. I’ve yet to get any of my friends into comics. One of them asked to read Y: The Last Man after hearing me talk about it. She read that and I Kill Giants in the same week. Wasn’t a fan of either. I’ve given up on her. Another friend has my copy of Wanted (it’s perfect for him, no matter what I think of it) that is still sitting unread on his desk, while another friend has my copy of the first Umbrella Academy trade… I’m not sure if she still has it. Haven’t talked to her in months. SHIT! 

  11. I’ve been using the approach @ohcaroline described above with excellent results.  I am lucky to work in a VERY open minded environment (a public liberal arts university), so many of the people I interact with are already willing to try something new.  When a student approaches me with an interest in checking out comic books I generally point them toward iFanboy and suggest they start with something like Y: The Last Man.  [One of my students was so appreciative that he bought me a copy of MAUS 1 and 2.]

  12. @stuclach – Y failed with one of my friends. I just can’t get over that…

  13. I’ve been able to get my friend back onto the Marvel bandwagon. He (aka alienheadhunter) never wanted to touch a comic….even though he loved the animated series and films of Marvel. But I convinced him to read Thor and he’s been hooked on it ever since. Then he learned Deadpool had a new series, and then he got on the ASM bangwagon.

    Eventually he started to read Green Lantern without me recommending it. Cause the idea of ‘zombie’ superheroes with Blackest Night peaked his interest. Now I learn he’s ordering books at my work (we work together) behind my back and it’s Walking Dead! He went from Marvel to Image in a one year span and I barely had to sway him.

  14. I come for the podcasts, but I stay for the jimski articles.  Well done, as usual.  I wonder why the clerk stopped at Strange Tales?   I always try and snare first time customers with Age Of Apocalypse Volume 3, and random issues of Glamourpuss.

  15. @Anson   I feel like if you can’t get over the fact that your friend doesn’t like something you like, you’re missing a key ingredient here!

  16. I kinda did…my friend used to read comics on a regular basis but pretty much quit.  He still liked to watch all the comic movies and would occasionally read some trades (mostly Marvel Masterpiece type books, nothing modern) but not on a regular basis at all.  For his birthday, I got him the first two volumes of The Walking Dead because he likes zombie movies a lot.  Three weeks later and he now owns all 11 volumes and told me he is having withdrawal like symptoms waiting for the next one to come out.

  17. @Anson17 – Different strokes for different folks.  I will admit that Yorick isn’t the most likable character. Maybe you need something with a more agreeable lead.  Lobo, for example.

  18. I plead guilty.

  19. I’m more like a patient fisherman when it comes to reeling in New Readers. I wait for them to come to me.

    …That sounded really creepy.

  20. My method isn’t very evangalist. I just mention comics I read. A lot of people say "You read comics?" I think before you can even get people into comics, you have to get them to overcome the stigma of being a comic reader.

    Then, I talk about the comics I like, to pique their interest. Let the stories and characters simmer.

    Then I offer them something to read that they should interest in.

  21. Great post.

    I have a habit of dragging my friends to comic shops because I need to pick up my comics and since most of my friends are readers, they eventually start asking me what I’m buying and/or start browsing some graphic novels.

    It’s key to recommend something along their tastes & interests, especially if they’re leery of reading comics. I’ve often recommended things I haven’t read to others because I know enough about the themes/writers of the story to feel that while it’s never attracted me, my friend would really like it. 

    Plus, how annoying is it to get something you know you aren’t going to like shoved in your face by an overly enthusiastic fan of it. (No, I’m never going to like Supernatural, fellow fangirls.) I’m sure we’ve all had that happen, and it’s good to remember we didn’t like that experience either.

  22. I gave one of my friends the DEMO trade and she liked it. Thats about the only type I’ve ever done.

  23. Great article jimski. I’ve turned a few to the wonderful world of comics but there is a problem. Most people I get introduced to comics don’t stick with it. They buy a while or  may just pick up a graphic novel occasionally but ultimately the drop reading comics.

  24. I think trades have made it much easier to at least get people to try a comic.  In the past I tried to hand 6 or 8 issues to someone and they would lose interest quickly but handing them a trade and they will ususally at least give it a try.  I have had very limited success with friends and family. I haven’t converted anyone into a regular reader but many will borrow something from me when they are in the mood or have heard something is good.  I have been with my wife for 20 years and the only time she has touched a comic is to move it out of her way.  On the other hand she has no problem going to a superhero movie.  She is actually amazed at how many non-superhero movies are based on a graphic novel.  Not amazed enough to actually read one.

  25. If I read a comic and immediately think, "Hey, my buddy Joe would really like this," then I might shoot him an e-mail or mention it the next time I see him.  But in generaly, I don’t care whether or not other people read comics.

  26. "Kick-Ass" the #1 best comic to give to new readers, giving them something they’ll actually like reading.  And it’s all about me!

  27. I work w/ a lot of "mens,men" and it’s always kinda of hard to mention comics without looking like a total loser, but the movies have helped alot. And latley guys have brought up upcoming movies and have asked me if they are comic book related , like the losers.Comics like these are easier for a new fan to ease into. as opposed to Blackest Night or Dark Reign.

  28. Pfft. Loser. I found a comic book for my mother and I didn’t have to lock myself into a room somewhere for a weekend (she loves Disney princess movies and so she really likes Fables).

  29. @madmarvelgirl – oh no, our relationship is just fine. I was being a bit facetious. A ton of my friends have read Y if nothing else. She’s the only one that Y didn’t hook. 

  30. My earlier post should have said "I’ve yet to get any of my college friends into comics" Most of my friends from high school still borrow stuff from me all the time. Some have even gotten the courage to go into a comic shop without me. So proud. 

  31. hey @redlibertyx I resemble that remark.

  32. Good article. Perhaps it’s regional thing, or perhaps it’s a personal thing but I’ve never really had this happen. That said, it’s not in my nature to proselytize. When I started reading comics again in 2001, I was in high school and didn’t really say much to anyone about it. However, at the theatre group many of the kids (mostly guys, but one or two girls) would see we walk in with a pile of comics and rush over and read the books while I was on stage or after I’d finished with them. I’m not sure if it was boredom or familiarity with the medium, but people seemed interested in them before seeking out mine. It was fun to have people to talk to about comics thought.

    Come college, I fell in with people who liked comics in that realm there were always efforts to get someone to read our pet books. At the time, my friend was getting his girlfriend (and my good friend) into comics. She had become interested in how her friends were so in love with this medium. After reading Sandman, she was hooked. Oddly enough, I ended up lending her out the most stuff because I had most of the "indie" stuff at the time. She’s currently an English teacher at a catholic all-boys HS and to my credit, I introduced her to THE ROAD TO PERDITION which has since incorporated into her syllabus. This was the first year she used it and almost across the board the book was a success with the students.

    So for me, it’s never been a matter of shoving Green Lantern in people’s faces and demanding they read it. If they show interest, I might root out some things from collection that they’re interested in. Y-THE LAST MAN tends to be the biggest "gateway" book for some reason. I’m not quite sure why, either. But Freshman year of College, I had to lug all 50 or so issues of it at the time to college with me to lend out to 4 people! (Y, its self was gently suggested to me by the father of my LCS owner, who does their orders for them.) 

  33. I like to Moderate with how I show comics to my friends. I suggest books to people, buy them for their birthdays and other such occations(Usually with an "I’m sorry I’m such a Geek" DVD, which is usually something like Buckeroo Banzai or Battle for Terra) and of course, I read comic books around them all the time. When talking about comics, I try to keep stuff about Writers and Artist to a minimum, and I try to not stray past names they’re at least "Somewhat" familiar with, never going past "Martian ManHunter" grade characters. Over the years, I’ve gotten a few people onto Comics, I’d say maybe 10, sadly though, only two got into DC Marvel SuperHero Territory, the rest have had long stays into elseworld titles, but ended up picking the Creator Owned books of the 90s, like Cerebus, Bone and Strangers. I did get one friend into pulp heroes from the golden and silver age who particularly likes The BlackHawks and The Challs.

    Of course, if there was a Point Based system, I’d say I wouldn’t get any points. They all enjoy comics, but haven’t gotten to the level I’d expect a true comic lover to be. They just aren’t "One of Us." Now, I don’t expect that, but for me, until I can have long winded conversation about Grant Morrison’s Three sides, or why Frank Miller has some sort of fetish with killing whores, or about the Character Paths of Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, and Joker, and how they represent the 4 basic character structures of all sides of Humanity, and yet they also represent fully the D&D Character Allignment each, I can’t quite say I’ve converted anyone.

    But one of my friends does think Darwyn Cooke is the greatest gift from God the world has ever seen, so maybe I get one point. OH it’s a girl too, that means Two!

  34. I gave Walking Dead and Y: The Last Man to a friend based on the fact that, at the time, I thought they were  being made into a TV show and movie. This was a year ago and he still hasn’t read them. I guess considering he is a non-reader I shouldn’t be surprised. 

     I also tried to force the mini-series version of Neil Gaiman’s Dream Hunters onto my neighbor’s girlfriend because she mentioned she read a couple of his novels and really liked them. She flipped through the first issue for a minute and then gave it back and said she didn’t think it was for her. I remember feeling slightly offended for some reason. In retrospect, I’m glad she didn’t take them because shortly thereafter my neighbor dumped her, claiming she queefed too much. So I probably would have never seen those comics again, or if I did they would smell like queefs.

  35. I have a friend who has similar interests to me who I think could get into comics, or at least reading trades.  He asked to borrow Watchmen before the film came out and enjoyed it, but showed no further interest in reading anything else.
    When he was over my flat recently he was looking curiously at my trades and I suggested he read The Killing Joke, it also being Alan Moore and him being a fan of the Nolan Batman films.  However, he didn’t enjoy it, stating the lack of resolution.  Maybe the ongoing nature of comic stories are not suited then.
    So close.
  36. ok, you make some good points, but is it still ok for me to give friends and family civil-war memorabilia?

  37. I do the gift things if my friends show interest. But it’ll be a double gift. So I’ll get them something they want, and "Box Office Poison" or "Civil War’ or whatever. At this point, if someone shows an interest I’ll give them a DVD, or book or tickets to something for b-day/x-mas, and put a comic on that with a "Let me know what you think, I think you’ll dig it". Results so far, have been awesome.

  38. 2 years ago My wife and I were out with some some friends and one of them randomly turned to me and said "You read comics right? What is this ‘Y: The Last Man?’" I said I could lend ihim the first 2 or 3 trades if he wanted, though I expected he really just wanted me to sum up the plot of this potential movie/show. He accepted, loved it and has since gone through all my trades of Y: The Last Man, The Walking Dead, Powers, Invincible, Scalped, Ex Machina, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Daredevil (Bendis/Maleev), Astonishing X-Men, Alias, Torso, Queen and Country, as well as random issues i don have trades of like Miller’s Daredevil and Ultimate SPider-Man. He’s loved most of it, but I don’t think he’d buy anything if I cut off the supply, which I have found to be true with the several other people I’ve lent comics to. I gave another friend my stack of 35 issues of Scalped and he told me it was one of the best things he’s read in the last year (he works in publishing for Simon and Schuster), but that’s didn’t serve as any type of gateway or anything. I am happy that next time I pass something to him, I have some collateral built up.

    Now that I think about it, the one friend I have who has branched out from what I lend just torrents a ton of material. So, uh, that’s not really a win.

  39. i have 8 points.  Yay that girls count as two.

  40. a co-worker kind of made fun of me buying comics so i loaned him "walking dead"trade paperback #1-#7.

    now he reads it every month and tells me whats going on per issue while i buy the trades .he’s more exited by them  than me!

  41. There’s a guy at work I have been lending trade paperbacks to almost every week since The Dark Knight. He’s started picking up a few books himself, mainly Ultimates and Ultimae X-men, but it’s a start. Just loaned him that Yellow bastard…so far he’s not been a fan of non-marvel/dc, so it’s a risky move.

  42. I just give people stuff that matches what I know they’re into. My buddy into the Dark Tower series? I got him the comics. My friend into Buffy? Got her the comics. My friend into Dr. Who? I’ll probably buy her the comics. 🙂

    See? It’s *easy*.