Your pull list is an embarrassment.

Every community, from LARPers to knitting circles, has its version of the hipster. If you think about it, comics are particularly fertile ground for these creatures, because the medium marries literature and art — two subjects that bring out the hipster’s trademark qualities: pretension and a penchant for constant one-upsmanship. Let’s call this geek/hipster hybrid the “geepster” (pork pie hat, optional).

When you meet another comics lover and begin the what-do-you-read dance, there’s always the danger of being harshly judged if your pull list contains Spandex. Or as V. recalled from one such maddening encounter, “You read superhero comics? That’s so mainstream.” It’s like talking to a Sigur Ros fan and proudly saying you adore Coldplay (raises hand).

“I haven’t read those books since I was in high school,” the geepster sniffs. “I mean, they’re fine for what they do, but I’m really into this series by a French farmer/architect that you can’t even get in local shops. It’s a wordless commentary on sexuality and environmental warfare, and, no offense, but it makes Sandman look juvenile.”

The geepster’s blanket dismissal of popular comics grinds my gears. First of all, there’s nothing mainstream about reading comic books, and that includes capes. I live in a city where it’s considered normal to paint oneself a festive shade of cranberry on football game day, but put a Dr. Fate figurine on your desk, and suddenly, you’re downright alternative. The major publishers are staunchly corporate, but comics have deep underdog roots. Some of the best-loved characters were created by Jewish guys who, in their day, were considered outside of mainstream American culture and the power structure. Plus, if reading comics of any kind were a common pursuit, geeks wouldn’t need the equivalent of an international coming-out day to show the world that “normal” people read then. Superhero movies are popular with the general public, but that’s not the same as having a standing date on Wednesday with your LCS owner. Not even close.

V. and I read under-the-radar books all the time, and we are evangelical about the ones we like. Our issues with the Big Two are well documented, and who hasn’t cracked open a superhero book on occasion and groaned with disdain? But when geepsters act as though there are no worthwhile “mainstream” comics, that tells me they haven’t read any in a long time. Secret SixFantastic FourX-Force? Invincible? Call me crazy, but those are some pretty damn fine books. And I’m not reading them ironically. A good comic is a good comic, and some of the indie stuff is sketchy, too.

On a related note, I ran across some thoughtful essays on the shaky relationship between geeks and hipsters, and how some books (Scott Pilgrim) are bridging the divide. So perhaps we can all put down our trade paperback-stuffed messenger bags, roll up the sleeves of our shrunken, Goodwill cardigans and hold hands.* For giggles, I highly recommend this.

*In the interest of full disclosure, I do own a messenger bag and a shrunken cardigan sweater. Don’t judge me.

15 thoughts on “Pull List Pomposity

  1. Such a great post! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been judged by fellow geeks because of my comic selections. Every sub-culture has some sort of factions, but they don’t have to be so pretentious to one another. Well done, E!

    Geek unity!

    The Irredeemable Shag


    1. As is the norm for your posts Vanessa. I check in with you ladies during breakfast and on my break at work. I make sure that I’m not eating or drinking anything when I follow up on the latest adventures of you and Ms. E. Snarfing Lucky Charms or piping hot coffee tends to ruin one’s day.

      And is it snowing in here or do I need to clean my monitor?


  2. Well put. I can definitely relate as most of my reads are courtesy of the spandex (over-undies) brigade. My cube at work has been dubbed “The Batcave” by my boss as between my Dark Knight calendar and my 5 or 6 Joker figures, I’ve provided significantly more than the recommended daily allowance of geek to this manufacturing facility.


  3. E, it’s a great article and all dead on. I don’t mean to offend, but it seems like the point leans towards “we’re just as alternative as you geepsters” rather than “we shouldn’t be trying to one-up each other with being alternative for the sake of being alternative”, no? I got the sense in the beginning of the post that you were arguing against pretension, but by the end it was more of a “we’re cool, too”. Which I think is totally true, being a dyed-in-the-wool superhero fan, but I’m not sure it’s a responsible message. Of course, I may have completely misread things :/


  4. Hi, there! I probably should have said this more clearly, but I guess you could say I have a foot in both the Spandex and the indie worlds. However, I am firmly on the side of those who enjoy comics for comics’ sake, and many of my favorite books are all about capes. I love them without shame or irony. I think anyone who reads comic books IS alternative in the best possible way. (I have a lot of non-geek friends who think the hobby is almost exotic.) My overall point is that we’re all in it together, and passing judgment on people who read the marquee books — and I certainly do — is lame.


  5. Haha! Hilariously fantastic post! Geepsters! Yup that’s officially been added to my vocabulary. It is down right ridiculous how comic nerds judge each other. I seriously take so much shit because I’m apparently the only person in the world who doesn’t really have a taste for “All Star Superman” or “The Walking Dead.” I don’t even want to mention the shit that being a DC girl in the 90s brought me. The truth of the matter is that there wouldn’t be great indies if there wasn’t the capes… and the superhero genre, i’m sure, gets tons of inspiration from the indies! I mean… amazing artist and writers like Jonathan Hickman have gone from smaller orginal books to the big two…. anyway…. bottom line… if you read comics you are in the minority…. and no matter what you read you are fraking rad!


  6. You guys make my day. Heidi, shake them haters off! Superhero comics are where it’s at, and they paved the way for so much of what we enjoy today. Frak, yeah! (And girl, I’m not reading the Walking Dead either.)


  7. I always laugh out loud (that’s LOL to all you kids) whenever I see any kind of comics “indie vs. mainstream” discussions. There are, AT MOST, 500,000 people in the USA reading comics on a regular basis. That’s already the perfect picture of a sub-culture almost too small to notice. Further divisions are just silly. It’s kind of like a feud between left-handed blue-eyed people of French descent based on whether they prefer red or white wines.

    BTW, my new comic, “Left-handed Blue-eyed People of French Descent Arguing about Wine” comes out next fall from Marvel. It stars Wolverine.


  8. I couldn’t agree more. I hate hipsters in general, and the comic book variety are even more annoying. Thankfully, my LCS has precious few of them, and they tend to keep to themselves. Like you said, we’ve all had our problems with mainstream stuff, but there’s no reason to be a dick about it to others.


  9. You’re very right. A good book is a good book is a good book.

    I used to have the reverse problem with my comic book store employee. He’d look at the James Kochalka stuff in my pull pile and snif derisively that a child could draw better. Dude, I’M GIVING YOU MY MONEY FOR THIS EVEN AS WE SPEAK! And please stop pointing me towards your choice of Mark Millar projects. So there are “snobs” on both sides of the fence. Neither attitude is warranted.


  10. My problem has been the repeated writer and artist changes at DC and Marvel.

    I mean, I like everything Gail Simone writes, but I haven’t found a comic shop which can handle “Pull every comic by Gail Simone”. After a while all the writer changes and artist changes got intolerable to deal with. Given the gross quality differences between different writers (and artists to a lesser extent), I found myself having to change my pull list over and over and over. Even doing that, jumping into the middle of storylines is not so much fun. So I just stopped.

    In contrast, indies tend to have one writer per title and often one artist per title. Makes it a lot easier to pull what I want.

    If I’d been following comics in the 1930s or 1980s I probably would have followed some of the titles — many kept the same writers for many years on end. The fact that DC and Marvel will not, nowadays, keep the same people on the same book for long periods these has been very frustrating. This is honestly why I might say that there are no worthwhile DC/Marvel comics — because they’re worthwhile for 6, maybe 12 issues and then *they change the writer and the artist*.

    I don’t think I’m the target of this rant, but this is one thing which makes it hard to introduce ‘mainstream’ comics to someone who’s prejudiced against them — Sure, it looks good to your target for a while, then the writer changes and you lose all your cred.


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