Today’s Free Comic Book Day coverage is sponsored by All Summer Long by Hope Larson, published by First Second.
Thirteen-year-old Bina has a long summer ahead of her. She and her best friend, Austin, usually do everything together, but he’s off to soccer camp for a month, and he’s been acting kind of weird lately anyway. So it’s up to Bina to see how much fun she can have on her own. At first it’s a lot of guitar playing, boredom, and bad TV, but things look up when she finds an unlikely companion in Austin’s older sister, who enjoys music just as much as Bina. But then Austin comes home from camp, and he’s acting even weirder than when he left. How Bina and Austin rise above their growing pains and reestablish their friendship and respect for their differences makes for a touching and funny coming-of-age story.
Convinced that comics aren’t your thing, but have never actually picked up a comic? Or you have, but it was eleventy billion years ago? As someone who is approaching 40 and who just got into comics, I’m here to tell you—it can still happen. Here’s a glimpse at the 20 stages of your new comic book obsession:
1. Listen to people rave about some new comics that—in theory—sound awesome. But hell, they’re comics, and that’s never been a medium that appeals to you. In fact, when you receive a comic book in one of your quarterly book subscription boxes, flip through it, admiring the stunning artwork but, in the end, put it aside. It’s just not your thing.
2. Six months later, go to a bookish con. Get carried away by the enthusiasm of the crowd and, while at the Strand for an after-party, purchase the first volumes of both Lumberjanes and Bitch Planet. That and a T-shirt that says, “Go away. I’m reading right meow.” Because, really: That’s genius, right??
3. The next day, read both Lumberjanes and Bitch Planet in one swift gulp. Realize that you have been making poor life decisions for the past 36 years of your life. Unearth the first volume of Saga that one of the women from your writing critique group passed along to you just the other week, saying only, “It’s super feminist! I mean, the protagonist is breastfeeding right on the cover while brandishing a gun!” Consider that there might actually be something to this comics thing.
4. Go to a local comic book expo with another woman from your critique group. She is a person who has been to comic book expos in the past, and who has actively collected comics. She is your ticket into this strange new world. Still, bristle with indignation when one of the expo organizers asks if you are “the friend tagging along with the comic book collector.” How could he tell?
5. Have the same friend bring you to a local comic shop because you are afraid to go by yourself. As you approach the shop, feel sick with anxiety. Imagine that the staff will immediately peg you as a comics noob and shame you for your cluelessness, forcing you to flee in disgrace. Become stunned into social awkwardness, however, when you are greeted by the friendliest person ever. Wander around in a daze while caressing a glorious bounty of comics upon comics upon comics. Feel overwhelmed by the selection. Leave with a random assortment of comics you’ve heard mentioned in the past.
6. Begin to learn the lingo. Single issues. Trade paperbacks. Series. Pull lists. Start to sound as if you actually know what you’re talking about.
7. Discover that you can start a pull list at your local comic shop using an online form, which is your favorite way to do anything because it requires zero interaction and zero opportunities for public embarrassment. Immediately request the trades for Giant Days, Bitch Planet, and Lumberjanes. Catch on pretty quickly that Wednesdays are New Comic Book Days. Get into a routine wherein you go to the shop to pick up items from your pull list and, while there, scan all of the new releases to see if there are any other series you should jump in on. Watch your pull list grow.
8. Read The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl for the first time and, for the first few pages, feel confused and disoriented. And then stunned. Realize that all of the other times you said you loved a comic, it wasn’t real love. Know that nothing has ever felt like this before.
9. Follow all of comics twitter so that you can always be aware of all of the things that are happening in the world of comics and never miss anything ever.
10. Find another comic that you love, feel way excited about it, and spend an evening searching the internet for as much information about it as possible. Discover that one of the original creators was sort of shitty, and feel betrayed. Go through the complex, conflicting emotions of someone who does not know if she can separate the art from the artist. Realize that no corner of publishing is safe.
11. But realize also that there is so much of comics publishing that is still good. Continue discovering new and amazing comics. Start to feel as if you actually belong at your local comic shop. Go to your very first Free Comic Book Day after scanning the list of available comics online. Realize that your comic shop is the best comic shop that ever existed because they are so generous with their free comic books. Be especially charmed by the copy you snag of Buffy: The High School Years.
12. Go to your first regional comic book expo, which is much larger than your local comic book expo. Drag along your husband and child. Take adorable photos of your 2-year-old daughter with a gaggle of stormtroopers. Marvel at the cosplayers.
13. Spend an entire week searching the internet for cosplay options instead of working. Even though you have no idea where you might cosplay. Put together two photo collages showing the possible components of two different Squirrel Girl outfits. Spend a ridiculous amount of time on this endeavor.
14. Allow comics paraphernalia to slowly encroach upon every corner of your home. Get four Funko Pop! collectibles. Three comics-related key chains. A Squirrel Girl enamel pin, plus another one depicting the Kitten Holy. A Ms. Marvel tank top and a tank dress. A Lumberjanes T-shirt. Wonder Woman knee-high socks. Comics combat boots. Always want more.
15. Realize that your favorite genre of literature—horror—overlaps with your new favorite medium—comics. Decide you actually need a longbox for all of your single issues. It has come to this. Alongside your issues of Regression, start storing issues of Victor LaValle’s Destroyer and Infidel and Abbott and Gideon Falls. Unearth the box of books you were planning to send off to the VVA and finally read that copy of Wytches you received in that long-ago book subscription box. Shudder at how close you came to missing the series entirely. Thank the heavens that horror comics exist.
16. Actually go to New York Comic Con. For the first time ever. And not only that but go all in, cosplaying as the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Wear a leotard and squirrel ears and a massive squirrel tail and a brown leather jacket with faux fur and go with your husband, who is dressed as himself.
17. Even though you are generally a cheapskate, commission a drawing from Erica Henderson, the artist behind the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Even though you have no artistic abilities, decoupage a frame to go with your new drawing. Vow to never use Mod Podge again.
18. Commission a second drawing from an artist online, even though you told yourself you would never do such a thing again because you are a writer and writers don’t have a whole lot of disposable income.
19. Start reading webcomics, too, because the new issues of your favorite comics don’t come fast enough. Start reading webcomics that have the most extensive archives ever. Spend entire mornings reading webcomics instead of working.
20. Wonder where this whole comics obsession will take you next.