Being a girl who professes to be a geek is a troublesome business. You constantly have to clean your black, thick-rimmed glasses, for one thing. Practicing a heavily lip-glossed pout whilst posing with a Madcatz controller can take hours out of a weekend. And, through bitter experience, cutting your own manic pixie dream fringe after three ciders is A. Bad. Plan.
But alongside such nightmarish conditions, you do also seem to be asked to prove your credentials a lot. You’re not a real gamer unless you’ve tanked your way through Defence of the Ancients 2. You’re not a real nerd unless you’ve DNDed it through the wee hours of the morning with a guy who calls himself Mat Cauthon.
And you’re not a real geek unless you’ve… well, unless you’ve done something comic book-y. Um… until you’ve Batmaned your… oh I don’t know. I’m out of my league. You see, I’ve never got into comics.
I wanted to. Or, at least, I’ve often thought about it. Surely everyone has? Thought about crossing over and dabbling in the graphic arts? It’s BOOKS plus PICTURES. Books and pictures are two of my favourite things. If comics are a club, I want in. But sadly, comics, like most actual real life clubs, feel like somewhere that doesn’t want me anywhere near them. I’m like the creepy old dude sipping a Bacardi Breezer in the corner who keeps staring at everyone, not really getting it but trying to fit in.
I’ve tried previously. I once went into a bookshop near Charing Cross and asked the guy whether he had any. He sighed and muttered something about them being graphic novels, putting paid to my plan of asking him where I should start. After pretending to consider my options carefully, I grabbed one book from the shelf, threw some money and left hastily. The one I’d grabbed was actually mid-way through a Batgirl series; I had no idea what was going on but couldn’t go back for the shame. Instead, I cut it up and made a collage for a houseparty and have never braved it since. That was 8yrs ago – and that collage looked great. That guy. Worst salesperson ever.
And yet. I should try again, right? It’s a bit like someone saying they don’t watch films because they don’t like stories. Or that they don’t listen to music because they don’t know where to start. Rejecting a whole medium because it’s big seems counter intuitive – “I hate this assortment of things where there’s choice and variety and wide-ranging talent; please immediately give me a single shot of consistent, non-descript average Joe. Thank you, barkeep.”
But there’s SO MUCH and it’s SO EXPENSIVE. I don’t want to dive into the middle of something when there are story arcs and whole mythologies built that have been developed over actual decades. No one wants to watch Home Alone just from the bit where Joe Pesci gets a paint can in the face. You need to see mannequins dancing to ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’, and Kevin ordering a nice cheese pizza just for me, first.
I need to know where to start. Something juicy enough to get me hooked, but doesn’t rely on me knowing anything (CLARIFICATION: by “anything”, I mean “anything I couldn’t have learnt from watching any Marvel film or by obsessing about the 90s X-men animated series of which I was a big big, Rogue-loving, Remy-fancying fan”).
I need a guide. A big, internet-shaped spirit animal to help me on my adventures through comics. Someone to help me pick out something to start with and maybe give me a few pointers on where to go from there. And, also, please, maybe not to pick things that will cost eight gabillionty pounds to buy.
So please, help me. Tell me where to start – and where to go next. If you tell me to read it, I will. And I’ll write it up too. Promise. I want to know what geek is. I want you to show me.