Not too long ago, my girlfriend bought a new mattress. The stockboy at the mattress store brought the mattress out to the curb and that’s when he noticed that I was wearing a Fantastic Four t-shirt. And then, instead of doing his job, this happened:
“Fantastic Four!” he said.
I looked perplexed, so he pointed at my chest (or rather, at the Fantastic Four t-shirt covering it) and said it again: “Fantastic Four!”
I am, at this point, trying to tie a competent knot with piece of nylon rope to the roof rack on a Subaru, while he stands there pointing at me. My knot tying skills have atrophied since my Scouting days; you’d be surprised at how rarely you need to tie a sheep shank on a daily basis. I say, “Yeah,” because it seems like the least painful thing to say in the moment.
I’ve miscalculated, because he takes that as an opening to say, “Any comic book fan is a friend of mine!” So now we’re friends. I’m still working on knots and he’s still just standing there, paralyzed by how cool it is that I’m here for him right now. He tells me, dude, did you hear that a copy of Fantastic Four #1 sold for, like, a million dollars, wow, that’s amazing, and you know, I used to have X-Men #1, Avengers #1, all of the number ones, basically, it’s so crazy. And then he wanted to show me his tattoo.
His own statement to the contrary, I am not this guy’s friend. That’s not to say that he’s not a great guy, or that I don’t want to see his decidedly lackluster tattoo of the Nemesis from the Resident Evil video games. I snarked this in a comment on Tumblr a few days ago, and I guess I really do mean every word of it:
There are moments when I allow myself to think of comics fandom as a community; then I realize that I don’t want to commune with most of these people.
I mean, Age of the Geek, baby, right? It’s okay to come up out of the basements and talk openly about which Doctor was secretly a Cylon during our favorite seasons of Deep Space 9, right? I’m all for being open about liking what you like, but this assumption I encounter that We Are All the Same Because We Share One Thing in Common.
And this is comics – it’s a medium, not a thing. We make this mistake, culturally, where we equivocate all comics. Mattress Dude might have a full run of Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose (unironically) or share any number of opinions about the medium that I don’t share. I’m not saying he’s wrong to like what he likes, but I am saying that maybe it’s a stretch to assume that we’re comics bros 4 lyfe because I have a t-shirt with Ben Grimm on it.
Look at the fighting game community. Those guys are not my bros. But I own some fighting games. I enjoy them. That doesn’t give me common ground with the pack of malsocialized misogynists that represent the loudest voice in that ‘community’.
Let’s stop deciding who is worth our time based solely on the things they like. And get back to lifting mattresses.