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Panels’ New Feature: Dear Comics Geek

Brenna Clarke Gray

Staff Writer

Part muppet and part college faculty member, Brenna Clarke Gray holds a PhD in Canadian Literature while simultaneously holding two cats named Chaucer and Swift. It's a juggling act. Raised in small-town Ontario, Brenna has since been transported by school to the Atlantic provinces and by work to the Vancouver area, where she now lives with her stylish cyclist/webgeek husband and the aforementioned cats. When not posing by day as a forserious academic, she can be found painting her nails and watching Degrassi (through the critical lens of awesomeness). She posts about graphic narratives at Graphixia, and occasionally she remembers to update her own blog, Not That Kind of Doctor. Blog: Not That Kind of Doctor Twitter: @brennacgray

This post was originally published at Panels, our sister site about all things comics! Check out more from them here.



Welcome to a new feature at Panels where you can ask a real, live comics geek any questions you have about the world of comics: Dear Comics Geek. If you want help with the concept of a pull list, the backstory on a character, or some insight on the weird things comics fans do, this is your judgement-free place to ask! You can also ask Agony Aunt-style questions here, like when should you break up with your Local Comics Shop and how do you tell a publisher making bad decisions that it’s not you, it’s them? Whether you’re new to comics or have been reading forever but just don’t get some aspect of this wacky world, we’re here to help.

I’ll be your comics geek guide on this journey! My bona fides: I’ve been a Marvel fangirl for as long as I can remember (I even had the entire Series 2 set of Marvel trading cards), but in my university days I developed a deep love of indie comics, especially Canadian ones. I’m now an English prof who occasionally gets to teach comics. My favourite thing is that I get to research and write about comics — my area of expertise is Canadian superheroes and representations of Canada in American superhero comics. And I write for Panels! So you know my cred is legit. In other words? I’m a geek.

But! I haven’t drunk the flavour-aid completely. The struggles of comics life are real. I don’t have a Local Comics Shop of my own, because the closest ones to me aren’t super lady-friendly. I wrestle a lot with digital versus floppies versus trades, and I don’t keep a longbox even though I totally get the appeal. I’m often deeply torn between supporting a comic I love and boycotting bad company decisions. When creators say things on Twitter that harm others, I feel that pain acutely. And I think a lot about how we can make comics more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming.

You can send questions to us by commenting on this (or any Dear Comics Geek) post or by reaching out on Twitter or Facebook or even emailing us questions: community[at]panels[dot]net. No question is too small, too weird, too n00b, or too convoluted for this column, so get at us with the things you’re dying to know.

Here are a couple of questions I’ve pulled from around the site to get us started.

Why does everyone love ___________________ so much? I read it and I don’t get it. Am I bad at comics?

Oh man. There’s nothing like comics fandom to make you feel like such a complete moron for not liking what everyone else seems to love. But comics, like any art form, are intensely, deeply personal. You should never feel bad for not being into something huge, even if it’s a classic. If you’re not into Dickens, no one assumes you’re bad at books!

Here’s my deepest confession: I do not like Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. That’s like telling a film buff that you prefer your movies colourized, right? But the story doesn’t sit well with me and I’m especially uncomfortable with the trans discourse. So I don’t read it! And I don’t listen to people who want me to feel like a lesser comics fan because of it.

You’re not bad at comics for not being into a single title or property or even publisher. Just keep reading to find the stuff you love. There’s a niche for everyone in comics — you’ll find yours!

Is it okay that I only want to read literary graphic novels?

Everyone has preferences, of course — and if the kind of stuff that First Second and Drawn and Quarterly publish is more likely to turn your crank, that’s totally fine. You’re not less of a fan or less of anything for having a preference.

That said, make sure you’re not cutting yourself off from really great reading experiences because of a preconceived notion about what big-2 or superhero or mainstream comics are all about. Most people I know who loved Persepolis also really love Ms. Marvel, and people who dig on This One Summer are likely to click with Lumberjanes. Like anything in life, don’t limit your possibilities — read widely and trust recommendations from the people who get you. And don’t assume you’ll hate it before you start.

Now it’s your turn to ask — add your questions to the comments, and stay tuned for the next edition of Dear Comics Geek!