Comic Shop Unicorn-Spotting

My LCS isn’t exactly conveniently located, so I have to plan my Wednesday pick-ups strategically. If I don’t get them on my lunch break, I have to be sufficiently motivated to drive in the opposite direction of my house on a cold winter evening. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to brave some crappy after-hours weather to get my books. It turned out to be worth it in ways I didn’t anticipate.

While I’ve gotten used to being one of the few female regulars at comic shops, it’s really not all that unusual to spot another woman browsing the aisles. However, in all my years of fandom, I had never encountered another black woman in a comic book shop — at least not since college, when my friend C. and I visited the one near campus. Um, that was 20 years ago. So when I looked up to see a twentysomething black woman — one also wearing geek/hipster specs! — walking into my LCS, it was like seeing a unicorn. A fellow unicorn. I started to whip out my cell to send my husband photo evidence, but I didn’t want to frighten her away.

Fortunately, she was as tickled as I was to see someone in our shared demographic leafing through Marvels and Blackest Night tie-ins. After we traded wow-this-is-cool comments, she (I’ll call her M.) told me that she was a college student and an aspiring writer who had been frequenting my LCS for a few months. She also said her friends gave her a hard time for spending so much money on comic books. (Yeah, I’m sure they’re all squirreling away cash in Roth IRAs.) Then, she asked the question every experienced geek longs to hear: “What do you recommend?”

Best. Wednesday. Ever.

M. and I traded phone numbers, and I went home feeling like I had actually helped someone. I realize this is hardly the equivalent of mentoring at-risk youth or building a Habitat for Humanity home, but when you’re a minority in your chosen subculture, it’s nice to see a face that looks like yours once in awhile.

This is probably less of an issue for M.’s generation, but when I was growing up, other black girls my age found my love of sci-fi and costumed heroes a little … eccentric. Dabbling in the geek arts was socially risky for me — at least as risky as it could be for someone who wore Bass Weejuns and played second-chair flute and  piccolo. I wasn’t exactly sitting at the Unfriendly Black Hottie* table to begin with.

By the time I went off to a historically black college in the late ‘80s, I decided those interests were best shared on a very limited basis, with people like my pal, C. (There’s a street in our college town named Jim Lee Road, and I’m fairly certain she and I once talked about taking a picture of the street sign and mailing it to Jim Lee. Does that make us geeks or dorks?) I stopped caring about being alternative a long time ago, but it sure would have been nice to occasionally bump into a woman of color — any color — back in the day. So if talking to me made M. feel even a tiny bit more confident about loving comics, well, that makes me happy.

Which reminds me: I need to check in with my padawan to see if she wants to borrow some Fables trades. Geeking ain’t easy, or cheap — but it’s worth it.

*This is a term from the movie “Mean Girls,” which you should have seen by now.

4 thoughts on “Comic Shop Unicorn-Spotting

  1. Being part of a rare breed has its irritating ticks. I found that out quickly when I became a fan of comics a few months ago. Crossing “rarity” and “total noob” has even more pitfalls. When I first walked into my LCS I didn’t know there were so many different titles outside the typical Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, X-Men, Spider-man, the big stuff. (Though I have no fancy for Marvel. I find some of their business-related actions somewhat childish. Plus Marvel doesn’t have Batman.) So I salivated for a good ten minutes before leaving, and did not going back for a good while.

    Completely. Lost.

    I mean, it’s a decent bet to look around the Internet about what’s good and what isn’t, but it would be so much better to have a live person to talk to. Maybe I should try stopping by my LCS to see if anyone nice will help out a girl appearing quite intimidated by the large selection. I can say one thing, and I don’t mean to sound silly, but I was really glad when I came upon this site. Like one of those “Ahhh!” moments when the angels sing. Or something. So thanks for that!

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    • I think I just got a little teary-eyed. Thanks Jennifer! YOU are exactly why we are here.

      The DCU is a convoluted, beautiful mess of color ” in what seems like a bajillion titles which is overwhelming at first. We’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty awesome fanboys in our geek posse who enjoy our input, and have provided some great suggestions along the way. But we are also familiar with how territorial and condescending some long-standing geeks can be (see comments on my review of The Question).

      Comics are our passion, and we are here to stay. If you ever want any suggestions, just ask! Between me and E. we’ve got all kinds of rabbits in our hat. Thanks for reading!

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    • Welcome, Jennifer! We are thrilled — thrilled! — that this site is helping you navigate the world of comics and to feel a little less alone. I know how intimidating it can be at the beginning. I’d been reading comics off and on since I was 7 or 8, but when I got back into the habit in a serious way a few years ago, it was overwhelming. Don’t be afraid to ask the folks at your LCS for some recommendations! They want your repeat business, so if they’re smart, they’ll be nice and helpful to you. At some point, V. and I will be posting our own “Comics 101” list. Please stay in touch and visit often. We’re happy you’re here.

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  2. Hey, wow. Thanks to both of you!

    I’ll definitely stop by often. It’s one thing to have a blog to refer to, but a whole different beast—say, a unicorn, perhaps—entirely to really enjoy what the bloggers have to say, and to have such a response. I’ve got to say, I was blown away when you both replied. That’s so awesome!

    I’ve found that, at first, sticking with what you know helps ease a person into comics. Or it did for me. Stuff like Batman, Teen Titans, Justice League of America, and dabbling a little into Wonder Woman TPBs to start with. Can’t wait for that “Comics 101” list, too.

    Anyway, I don’t want to take too much of your time. Thanks so much again!

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