The Importance Of Welcoming New Readers To Comics

I’ve  written before about when I started to get into comics,  and while it is true that my first comic was a British reprint comic entitled Wolverine Unleashed (that I continued to read for many years), and although the first American comic I picked up was Wolverine #118 from a short lived indoor market stall in my hometown of Exmouth, England. It wasn’t until a visit to the nearest city, Exeter, on a typically dismal early winter weekend a week or two later, when I first became aware of a shop just for comics.

My twelve year old self  had been drawn to the graphic novel section of the book shop that my dad and I had wandered into (Waterstones, I think) where after finding the book he was looking for, he was trying to help me pick just a couple graphic novels to take home when a boy, probably in his mid-teens, told us that there was a comic shop about ten minutes down the street. My dad thanked him, and told me that how about we get the graphic novels in my hands (a Spider-Man one with a Silver Sable story inside, and an X-Men story that took place around issue #200), because we needed to take the thirty minute drive back to Exmouth shortly, promised me we’d head back up to Exeter either next weekend or the weekend after and he’d take me to the Mythical Comic Shop. Looking back on this nearly twenty years later I realize now just how awesome that kid was; there I was a twelve year old boy with his dad trying to decide between two different graphic novels (and probably being very annoying), and he did what a lot of people his age may not have; he gave us a nudge I the right direction. I have no idea who he was, and I’d be hard pressed now to remember what he looked like, but had he never told us about the comic shop then it’s unlikely I’d ever have discovered it by myself.

There are two people without whom I’d never have been able to discover and nurture my love of comic books, one is the previously mentioned teenager in the book shop, and the other is my dad; because true to his word, we went back to Exeter the following weekend.

So began my entry into the culture of comics.

Part of the brilliance of the comic book scene is that there are so many people who are willing to help you get into comics. Obviously I can only really talk about my own experiences,  but I’ve found that if you walk into most comic shops then you will find someone there (usually behind the counter, but not always) that is willing to help you. For most comics fans the opportunity to talk about comics is one that we seldom pass up – give me half a chance, and I’ll talk about comics until your ears bleed. The more people I can encourage to check out a comic – whether a single issue, trade paper back, or a digital comic – the better for the industry. Fifteen years ago comic books were much less socially acceptable, perhaps in part to the implosion of the comic book investor market in the 90’s, and finding Captain America’s shield on a t-shirt would have been much less common than in today’s superhero obsessed culture. These days characters from comics are everywhere; the more movies, TV shows and merchandise that is produced will generate more people interested in the source material.

They will eventually find us. We love comics, and most of us love sharing them with people who may enjoy them. And we should do that; just because comics have always been part of what we use to define ourselves, have been Our Thing, and now the people who mocked us for reading them want to start reading them doesn’t mean we’ve lost our identity, not at all. I do understand the stance of those who think this way, I do, but I can bet that they would encourage sons, daughters, nieces and nephews to pick up a comic, and do their best to grow a love of the medium within these young heart and minds, so why not a burgeoning adult fan? Why is there a difference?

I love comics, I love finding comic shops, and I love sharing comics with people who are interested in talking about them. In an age where critically acclaimed titles are being cancelled due to low sales, why wouldn’t you want to encourage new readers to join us?

Not all of us were lucky enough to be introduced to comics by someone who would take the time and really talk us into this wonderful world. So if you know of someone who’s interested in comics, then talk to them! Tell them where the comic shop is, show them how awesome the hobby we love is, and recommend your favourite comics.

We were all new to comics once. Sometimes that can be easy to forget.

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