Living The Superhero Lifestyle

No more.

No more.

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 can't run fast, so I added some wheels.

I can’t run fast, so I added some wheels.

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!


Ryan Haupt spends most days inside staring at a screen. Hear him inside talking to a microphone by listening to the podcast Science… sort of.


  1. Excellent ideas! I do triathlons and I’m going to find an Aquaman tri-suit ASAP.

  2. Excellent ideas. I’d add one thing to this. I think it’s also very important for our most “normal looking” fans to be a little more open about your love of comics. You know who you are! You’re the people who others act surprised when they find out your “into comics” because you don’t have a goatee, aren’t dressed like a hipster, are wearing shiny leather shoes and wool pants, etc.

    You don’t have to have a Green Lantern undershirt on or anything like that, but you can have an OGN or two on your office bookshelf and you can hang a piece of original art on your office wall. Those are little steps that let other “normals” to think that it’s okay to be seen reading comics. The problem we have luring those people in is that they don’t want to rub their reputation up against “Comic Book Guy”. We need to show them a few more “normal” faces.

  3. I’ve got a homemade Captain America helmet that I rock when I go mountain biking, and I’m always wearing comic book related t-shirts from we love fine when I ride.

  4. I’ve never had a good experience expressing any kind of “geek” fandom to anyone that is not in any kind of setting, including any activities such as mountain biking or rock climbing. Very few people, from my experience, will ever have a change of opinion or try to come to an understanding of being a “geek/nerd” so I just hide it. Thank god for the internet though, plenty of cool people to meet in communities such as this who share the same interests.

    • Senior year I wore a GL ring every day, and before that I made a “Watchmen” pin to celebrate the movie (ah to be young and naive). Neither instances went over as well as I would have liked. I took comics to school and read them all the time tho so I was used to being made fun of alot. The funny thing was I got hassled more for the GL ring by this one guy for some reason than the whole time I wear the pin.

    • Come to New York City my dude. All kinds rock comic related gear out here these days.

    • Well I noticed a couple of months after Avengers came out, here in Los Angeles, more guys were walking around in Avengers/xmen/spiderman shirts BUT none of these guys did I meet that actually are fans or willing to check out some comics. But I am talking about LA so i dont know…

    • There is a fair amount of that out here but I do feel like people respect comics out here a lot more then where I grew up (Minnesota) That and I feel like to community is really growing out here with adults and children. With that said I’ve never had more comic book conversations with random people then last year in a week in Austin, TX during SXSW. They love there comics and have a really great shop as well.

  5. I don’t think anything I do counts as extreme, although I currently have a yellowbelt in karate (not sure if that’s a geek streotype or not) and working on another one in Jukado. I try to keep in shape and be open about my reading comics. I actually do enjoy playing baseball (but I just can’t stand sitting around WATCHING sports, it bores me) and football if the mood strikes me. I suppose I could start wearing a t-shirt in my Jukado class of Shang Lau the Undying but I can’t think of any other ideas. I gotta ask; why does everyone hate on “Comic Book Men”? I really enjoy the show and look forward to it every week. I know it’s a reality show and alot of stuff is probably “planted” but I feel like it’s more genuine than most other reality shows.

  6. I’m amazed that Under Armour recently came out with a line of athletic tech shirts with superhero logos and none of them feature The Flash. I would totally rock a Flash tech shirt during my next marathon.

  7. Well I am a die hard training bodybuilder for almost 15 years and being 6’2″ and 270 lbs. I wear my Captain America, Thor or a Comicon T-shirt while training and people are shocked as all hell which always sparks up a conversation.

  8. I like to do mud run such as Spartan race and tough mudder, but haven’t really done much in the way of showing my geeky side at these events. But like @impossibilly said with the new under armor line i’m going to rock a superman shirt.

  9. I commute to work on my bike for as long as Michigan weather allows. I’m fortunate to have a lot of sidewalks to ride on, so it’s not too EXTREME, but I have to cross a few 40-50mph roads in an area where NO ONE is looking out for anyone not in a car, so I’ve had several close calls that get the adrenaline (and my misguided sense of righteous indignation) flowing.

    But it also helps me start the workday refreshed and more alert than the days I’m forced to drive, so it’s all worth it.

    I’d rock a Captain America helmet or shirt while I ride, that would be fun!

  10. Hence forth I will be wearing one of my many comic book related t-shirts when I play pick up basketball.

  11. I’m not sure I do anything “extreme” but I play softball in the summer, participate in bowling leagues year round, I love to fish, go camping, and play golf…and I do most of those often times wearing superhero or Star Wars shirts. Then again where I grew up I’ve never really gotten the feeling that people think of comic book readers as the ultra nerd/comic book guy types of people. I’ve never been made fun of for my love of comics and geeky things and I know a lot of people who read comics and like geeky things, and only a couple of them would come close to fitting what I would consider to be the stereotypical image of what a comic book reader would look like. Granted, I see quite a few people at my LCS who fit that description, but I see far more who are just look like “normal” people (which, you know, they are since I live in a town called Normal).

  12. I’m a professional cyclist and I have a GL sticker on the top tube of my bike to remind me to race without fear. So every time I think I can’t do something in a race I look down at the GL symbol for positive affirmation.

  13. I don’t know how extreme it is, but I’ve been hitting the gym five days a week for about six months now, and the banner along the side of iFanboy prompted me to purchase two Under Armour tech shirts for me and my gym buddy (damn you web advertising). I bought myself an Iron Man and my buddy (who’s much, much bigger than me) a Hulk as a kind of “thank you” for training me and to celebrate six months of fitness without killing myself.

    They haven’t arrived yet, but I’m really excited to rock them at what I consider to be a fairly accepting and friendly gym atmosphere. And just in time for IM3!

    For anyone interested though: Beware. Dem shits expensive.

  14. Funny thing, I actually do “cage fighting” although it is really called Mixed Martial Arts. I’m 4-0 professionally and played football and wrestled in college. Every time we would go on athletic trips I would always bring a stack of comics to read on the way and everyone would ask why I read them. I always offered my teammates the books to read and quite a few of them did but no one ever got interested enough to go to my comic shop with me.

    I also own plenty of comic book clothing, but now it seems that doesn’t really signify someone who reads comics.

  15. Any excuse to wear tights.

  16. Good article! I think as a comic fan it is imperative to rock a Flash shirt while jogging. When I was in high school football, we used to paint white streaks in our hair like Hal Jordan and recite the Green Lantern Oath. No one gave us any crap. It was a pre-game ritual. Some guys rocked Aerosmith before a game, I quietly read Wild dog. Jesus whatever happened to him/??!!

  17. Honestly, it’s m

    • (I’m sorry, accidentally hit the submit button)

      Honestly, it’s more important to just be active and healthy so you can live longer and read more comics. I don’t pay much attention to what runners or gym rats wear unless it looks dumb. Then I make fun of them. Also, this article brought to you by The Under Armour Base Layer.

    • When I saw the blurb, that’s what I thought it was about.

      Being more like a superhero by being active and physical in an external environment.

      No matter what shirt you wear.

      That coincides with something I’ve been trying lately, inspired by an iFanboy article by Molly McIsaac. To think like your characters, act like your characters. To think like Batman, I’d have to act like Batman. Sounds like a lot of pushups. I think I’ll take a walk, that’s a good start.

      I just read a Doc Savage story by Doug Moench. I wonder if either he or Lester Dent ever worked out for two hours a day, every single day, like Doc does.

      I am inspired to go take the dog around the block. I’m going to get off the couch in an EX-treme! fashion, like in those commercials for chips and soda. Radical, dude.

      Thanks to Molly for that article, still using that and some books by Victoria Lynn Schmidt to great advantage. Having some fun experiences spending days as various cast members. Cheers.

  18. I always jog in a comic book themed tshirt, usually five times a week. Though being slow and sweaty in a Flash or
    Superman tshirt makes me laugh to myself. And all summer at the community pool those shirts get work. I hope that not looking like The Comic Book Store Guy, being in shape and having a wife and kids yet sporting Batman and Green Lantern logo tattoos makes my statement to the world.

  19. Is it wrong to not like comic book apparel? I think often times its tacky and childish. As a sports fan I don’t wear my jerseys outside of game day for similar reasons. I am not a closet comic book fan, most people know I like comic books. I had an artist from Paris make some classy comic art to display in my home office that I show most people who visit. I just think its silly to wear the stuff.

    I do run, lift weights, watch sports and play basketball every week with a group of guys but I don’t see how wearing a comic shirt would change their perspective of a comic fan, because they already know I am one. I think wearing the shirt would hurt the image of a comic fan rather than help it.

    This is one of the reason I don’t want to go to a comic con. I would love to meet the creators, get original art and visit the panels but don’t like the cosplay culture that goes with it. It’s definitely would freak out my fiancé if I brought her too.

    So I would say do the opposite of this article. Let people know you’re a comic fans but stay classy. Don’t wear your silly shirts or capes. It will be more hurt than help. If you put art up make sure it looks nice and isn’t tacky. If you come across someone who likes to read fiction lend them your Captain America: Winter Solider trade. I think he’ll be much more likely to try it if you aren’t wearing your cape when you hand it to him 😉

    • C’mon, man. I didn’t say walk around handing out comics while wearing a cape. I said do something awesome while wearing a cape and let the chips fall where they may.

      Honest question, you wear a jersey on game day, so why not wear some superhero stuff on Wednesday? Sounds like you’re just playing into the idea that it’s OK to be a nerdy sports fan but NOT OK to be a nerdy comics’ fan.

      At the end of the day, none of it matters, but it’s fun so we shouldn’t be afraid to embrace it. Yes, look classy when appropriate (I LOVE wearing a suit), but going biking or jogging or climbing or whatever is not a time to look classy, wear what makes sense, and embrace the chance to blow someone’s mind.

    • You must have missed the winkie face at the end of my last sentence.

      I wear my OSU jersey 13 times a year on game day for 3 hrs and I like the way it looks. I haven’t seen many comic shirts that I have liked. I would hardly say that’s a double standard.

      Maybe classy miscommunicated what I was going for. I don’t suit up when I’m playing basketball. Wearing a comic shirt though seems childish and tacky. To me it would send this message, “He likes comics therefore he wears a comic shirt even when playing basketball. Comic fans wear stupid shirts. I don’t want to be a comic fan because I don’t want to have to wear stupid shirts.” Obviously this is slightly overdramatic but I think better conveys what I was trying to say.

      I’m a fan of reading science fiction, classic fiction and nonfiction books. I don’t wear shirts for the characters or authors of those books. Comic books to me should be in the same category. They aren’t though. They’re the ugly stepchild of story telling.

      That said I’m not overly worried about all of this. Just stating my opinion on how to get more “converts.” I’m not mad that you do cool things in comic shirts. Its refreshing to know there are “normal” comic fans out there. My old comic shop had a “still lives in mom’s basement”, “my cat’s and wonder woman are the only girls I love” or “showers are for special occasions” feel to it. None of which is part of the culture I want to embrace.

  20. Not exactly what you are describing here, but at my church, some of us occasionally stand around between services discussing super-heroes. Our pastor occasionally references Captain America (his favorite character) in his sermons, and often says “Shazam!” in them as well. Some guys even wear super-hero T-shirts to church. I don’t go that far, personally, but it’s always good to see them. My best friend is a pastor who has written a book about Superman, and who occasionally alludes to super-heroes (especially the Man of Steel) in his messages, too.

  21. I used to be a runner years ago, ran 5 to 10km every other day. Did a couple of half-marathons. I loved those Coolmax tshirts that wicked away the sweat, but unfortunately they don’t make any super-hero ones otherwise I woulda worn those no problem. But kids came along and that activity fell by the wayside.

    Being an older dad who’s into comics is tough to be honest. Most of other guys my age wouldn’t dare read comics because they view it as a “geeky” or “childish” thing to do. I think that is such an ignorant and stupid attitude. Anyhow I’m at the point I don’t care what people think. Family friends come over… I have my trades and statues in my corner office on proud display. I take my kids to the comic shop with me when I can. I’ll pull out a physical or digital comic and read it in public. And I wear superhero tshirts quite often.

    Oh and since I quit running. I now walk everywhere not driving anywhere if I don’t have to, have changed my diet and ironically have lost a bunch of weight over the past few years. I am as slim now as I was in my early 20’s. I think when I ran I ate more!

  22. I don’t do much in the way of extreme, but I wear super hero t-shirts on almost a daily basis. I have more of them than I do any other kind of shirt. Sometimes people ask, and most are surprised that I have the collection I do or that I’m into comics at all. I’m in my 40s with 3 teenage daughters. My family and friends are the ones who get me the shirts so they all know how much I love comics. I’ve never had a negative reaction to my hobby from anyone, at least not to my face!