Massage, with a Happy Ending

spaOver the last weeks I’ve been moving house. As most of you will know, moving house for us, engenders carrying a hell of a lot of boxes of comics. Boxes of comics are insanely heavy. I mean, really really heavy. Like, they hurt. And if you bend over at an angle while lifting them… well forget it. Something weird went “ping” in my back, and it’s been achey ever since. Achey in a sort of stabby way, in one specific spot. Not good.

I was thinking that it would be good to deal with this before it got worse, maybe do something nice to ease my aching muscles. I asked all of my friends for masseuse recommendations. “Now I live in a nice big grown-up apartment” I thought, “so now is the prefect time to go see some nice grown-up body worker. Somewhere like a proper spa, with smelly candles and new age music, and women that massage you while you breathe deeply and practically ignore them.” Right.

So I phoned some places, tried to get an emergency appointment, but no one was biting. It’s pretty close to the holidays, so everyone is stressed out and going for massages I suppose. Or all the bloody massage practitioners are on vacation already. Great. Then I remembered my friend Justin. He’s a professional masseuse at a fancy gym, and as a friend, was willing to fit me in at the last minute. What a relief.

The salient point here is that Justin is not just an incredibly good masseuse, but he’s also a talented comic book creator and an ardent comic book fan.

I arrive for my massage and Justin ushered me into the massage room. It was all very standard stuff; soft lighting, relaxing music, and I lay down on one of those tables with the hole for your head (those things are so weird, they smish your face). So far so good – just like any proper, grown-up lady spa place. Justin asked what was hurting, what was tense, where I’d need more work, (standard questions) and then began. Again, this was all very much the usual generic massage treatment experience.

teen titansBut this is where it gets good. While he’s working on my calf muscles (they get really crampy, which I never understand, because I do bloody nothing really, but anyway…), while he’s doing this, Justin says that he has a friend working on Teen Titans. We start talking about the characters we remember from our childhood, who we liked, who we didn’t, who was interesting, etc. While he works on my achey arms (too much moving combined with working at a desk all day has given me serious mouse-related tension problems), we talk about Cyborg. In many ways this was always a truly fascinating character, definitely a child of the 80’s, he always had a really Robocop look, and is one of those relatively rare black characters. He really is the most mechanical-looking of any cyborg character I’d ever seen in comics. What is his life like? Who are his friends? How does he deal with looking the way he does? Does he have an alter ego? I can’t imagine he does, what with all that hardware… And what about that hardware? Why hasn’t he ever upgraded to something less cumbersome, something more covert?

We’re talking about this, and it leads onto a discussion about Donna Troy (why hasn’t she ever had the same kind of cool origin retelling that Spider Woman did recently with the Luna Brothers? I think she’s ripe for it. I remember a mini-series about her after Infinite Crisis, but since she still had the spunky leotard look, I just ignored it. I guess the art style on her has always prejudiced me against her, I’d really like to see her with more of an Adrian Tomine look or something… This then leads to a discussion of how tedious Starfire is — we agreed that the only thing interesting about her was how her suit stays on (my opinion) and how her hair stays so big (Justin’s opinion).

DonnaAfter this, Justin is working my back and shoulders while he tells me about breaking his vintage Wonder Woman pint glass, and how disproportionately upsetting this was. I can relate, because while moving house I broke a Chococat bowl, which is also irreplaceable, but equally silly in the same kind of way. This makes me realize that I need to buy more glasses (because my new apartment has a dishwasher, and that really needs more dishes to get full before I do a wash) and I think it might be time to try something with comic characters on it. Basically I envy Justin’s taste in superhero drinking ware.

And it continues in this vein… I think you get the picture. While getting a fabulously indulgent (and necessary) massage, I also got to have a fantastic conversation about all sorts of meandering comic thoughts. So fun. And it made me think; this themed massage was so much more relaxing and funny than the very grown-up and serious massage that I’d have had in a anonymous spa. I know that not all women enjoy comics as much as me, but it strikes me that if more spas had themed experiences like this available, then maybe the massages would be more effective and popular. Maybe I could talk about Star Trek with my manicurist? Or Asimov with my shoe salesman? My hairdresser once saw me with a copy of Buffy, and although she was curious, she wasn’t really a fan, so the conversation went nowhere…

Maybe this division between aesthetic pampering could relax a little? I think that I’d be a lot more comfortable indulging in these services if I felt like the people working on me had a something interesting to say. Perhaps it’s time to rethink the way we perceive our lives and divide up the tasks… It could just be that I’m not your average girly girl, but who the hell is average? We’re all different, so maybe we could be a bit more overt about sharing our interests and the tasks in our daily lives. I think it would add a much needed dimension to the things we have to do together.


Sonia Harris lives, reads comics, and works in San Francisco as a graphic designer. She has moved and still has a fair amount of unpacking to do. She’s pretty tired. If you want to contact her, send mail to


  1. Great article Sonia.

    It’s always great to get into a conversation about comics when you dont think the other person likes the medium. Thankfully my coworkers love comics so it’s easy to talk about things when huge events happen.

    BTW, I dont know what is a funnier title ‘Webcomics: So Sticky!’ or ‘Massage, with a happy ending’ but both are the best titles of the year for ifanboy. 🙂

  2. Smish?  I have never heard of that word, but I instantly love it.  Sorry to hear about your Chococat bowl.  You can probably go to China town or Japan town to get a new one…for like $50.

    Great article!  I hope I can one day have a conversation like that.  Maybe when I get my car worked on.

  3. If I had a masseuse that was well versed in comics only trouble would ensue.  The embarrassment that my family would feel following my arrest would haunt me forever.

  4. wow! sounds like the best massage ever. I’d pay extra for some comics talk during any kind of spa thing.

  5. Is Justin hot? Because that would be a killer combo right there. Hot comic nerd masseuse.

  6. I think the though of moving all my books has kept me from pursuing moving several times. 

     Teen Titans was the first DC book I started reading on a regular basis.  I tried the one with Robin and Kid Flash leaving the team because the cover intrigued me.  It made me realize maybe this DC Universe has some good stuff too.

  7. Aw, I like Starfire.

  8. I love the title of the article, and it is always nice to have someone to talk shop with.

    An interesting note though.  I’m sitting here toward the end of the school day, reading through the article and I clicked on the link to Justin’s website.  I’m just scoping it out, scrolling through it, not really noticing that its for gay comics.  Then one of my co-workers walks in.  Let’s just say, things got a little uncomfortable. 

  9. I had a pretty good convo with the girl cutting my hair the other day when she brought up Mortal Kombat vs. DCU. Apparently she loves it. Soon I will, as well. Come on Christmas!!

  10. @JumpingJupiter He is good looking in a very superhero sort of way:

    @neb Sorry about that… I guess his stuff is pretty risque. It’s funny as hell though.

  11. Can we get Green Lantern a codpiece or something?

  12. I’ve always wanted a massage, but I’ve also always been nervous that I’ll either become aroused or lolled into a false sense of security and robbed of my precious, precious vital organs.  

    Does Justin know pressure points like in the movies?  Can he kill a man by touching his wrist? See, this stuff terrifies me.  I’ll never be relaxed.   

  13. This article did n ot end the way I thought it was going to…


    I used to have like six or seven of those DC superheroes pint glasses that they sold at the now defunct WB Store (I miss that store so much, what a great resource for superhero swag), but one by one, like the Ten Little Indians, they broke.  Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Batgirl… all gone.  The only one left, appropriately enough, is my Flash pint glass (he moves too fast to get broken).  I live in fear of dropping it.  That, and the pint glass fromt he Darwyn Cooke party at Isotope.  I’m a bundle of nerves about them.

  14. I’m right there.  I have my Green Lantern pint glass, and it’s companion Flash glass was broken by my doltish brother.

  15. Josh: Prof. X

    Josh’s doltish brother: Juggernaut 

  16. I imagine them more like Polaris and Cyclops.

  17. Wouldn’t that be my sister in law?

  18. My friend got me a Batman pint glass from Magic Mountain in Souther California few years back.  Moved last week…the glass is no where to be found 🙁

  19. Oh shoot, I meant Havok and Cyclops: two skinny, pissed off, east coast guys throwing things at each other.

    I just ordered a whole set of Flash glasses off of ebay. If I win them, and you stop saying nasty things about Justin’s package, maybe I will send you one.

  20. The scary part is that that makes me Cyclops, and as much as I want to argue it, I can’t.

    Who said anything nasty.  I saw a shape.

  21. It’s a shame those pint glasses aren’t still made.  They look pretty boss.

  22. As Ron has already no doubt explained to you, there is nothing wrong with being Cyclops.

    Though the twitchy X-Fan in me is saying, "The Summerses can’t be East Coast boys! They’re from Alaska!"

    It is, as often observed, a disease. 

  23. The takeaway, from this article, for massage therapists is this: Toss those oil-smudged Yanni tapes in the trash and plug in the soothing sounds of the iFanboy audio podcast!


    Whaddaya mean "not for everyone?"

  24. @daccampo – There’s no way I could avoid a woody then.  I don’t think nudity around strangers and comic book talk is a good mix.  Not for me anyway.

    Cyclops is awesome.

  25. By the way, Sonia, you should get Justin to pitch, "What if the X-Men ran a massage parlor?"

  26. @horatio – So, if I’m reading you correctly, listening to iFanboy while naked causes……………

    Well, I’m sure they’ll take that as a compliment.  


  27. The more disturbing question is, when its over, does it have a happy ending?

  28. No one needs to be naked for that to occur.

  29. New slogan:  iFanboy makes you hard.

  30. @Neb: It never ends happy, it always ends up in tears

    and naked with oil all over your body as well 🙂

  31. Wow, that sounds excellent! I would love to get a massage from Justin. We emailed a while ago about the True Porn 2 anthology and he was really great! I’m going to be in San Francisco for the first time in Feb. for Wondercon…any other suggestions of good stuff to do?

  32. I have never been more uncomfortable after reading the comments to an article.  Please continue.

  33. I’ve never been able to find a masseuse that will actually strike you with her fists.  No matter how much money I offer they just won’t go for it.  I wonder if I brought an issue of Tarot and asked her to read it while she massaged me if that would be okay.

  34. @LukeBunny You can visit my favorite comic store; Isotope comics. You could go to Japan Town to the excellently remodelled Kinokuniya book store, that has an entire ground floor devoted to manga. Nearby there’s a great toy and collectible shop called Super 7 (they have custom flocked, stormtrooper wallpaper). Then you could head to the upper Haight for more excellent toys and t-shirts at KidRobot and Giant Robot (where they have some lovely art too). There’s so much more… it’s a fantastic city for people like us. Have a great time, and maybe I’ll see you at Wondercon 🙂

    @stulach I’m with ya mate, and can only apologise profusely.

  35. @LukeBunny – AND, apparently you can get a damned good massage. From what we hear.

    @Sonia and stulach — Frankly I’m disappointed that this comment thread hasn’t derailed further. As far as I’m concerned, any article titled as suggestively as this one deserves far more debauchery than what we’ve seen so far.  😀

  36. @daccampo: Then we would be just as tasteful as bendisboards…..



  37. @Soniaharris: I was definitely planning on checking out Isotope, I’ve heard way too many good things about the shop to miss it! Thanks for the heads up on the other places, my action figure display case thanks you:) I think I’ll be in town for a week to ten days if anyone wants to go for coffee or show me your favorite places I’d be most appreciative.


    @Daccampo: I plan on it;) 

  38. Nobody’s even mentioned "the Shocker" yet.  Frankly I’m disappointed.

  39. @ultimatehoratio~ The villain or the surprise or the style?

  40. I leave it to the reader to decide.