Chances are, if you’re here at Panels you not only love comic books, you love comic book community. Because you love comics and you want to share that love with like-minded people. If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably also tried to share that love with your partner, friends, colleagues, parents, neighbors, and other un-like-minded people. You seek out places to talk about your favorite comics, to discover new artists and writers, to squee over the latest casting announcements, or to lament the cancellation of your favorite book.
If you find yourself nodding along right now, have I got a suggestion for you: comic book club!
I know of at least two LCSs in my area that host book clubs and I’ve been running a comic book club at my library for just over a year now. Around these parts, at least, it’s a growing trend. Here are some tips I have for anyone thinking about jumping on the bandwagon. (Which you absolutely should do. The bandwagon is where it’s at.)
Ice Breakers — Who would win in a fight: Batman or Superman?
Have members introduce themselves and share what superpower they wish they had; which team they’d like to be on; what their costume would look like; who they’d fantasy cast in the new super-iron-captain-wonder-person movie.
Let the book inspire you! If you read Aquaman, ask everyone to introduce themselves and share their favorite seafood dishes. For Lumberjanes, ask which badge they’d be most excited to earn or to make up their own. For Silk, ask what three things they’d take to entertain themselves while locked in a bunker.
And by the way, maybe don’t actually ask who would win in a fight or you’ll spend the entire meeting time talking about that instead of whatever book you read.
History Lessons — So, Wiccan and Speed are the reincarnations of the children of Scarlet Witch and the Vision? What now?
Of course you want to discuss the events, characters, and dialog of the book itself, but feel free to branch out and talk about it in the context of the comic book canon. When discussing Ms. Marvel, ask how Kamala Khan compares to other teenage superheroes like Miles Morales or Peter Parker. If you read The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, discuss how it compares to other post-apocalyptic comics like Y the Last Man.
Take some time to compare the book with other depictions of the main character(s) and other works by the same writers and artists. With other depictions, there’s no need to limit yourself to just those appearing on the page, but again, I’ll caution you against questions like, “who is the best movie Batman?” You’ll never get back to the book. Another small warning about this part of any book club discussion: your to-read list will increase exponentially. But you’ll also learn a lot!
Picture This — Art is supposed to make you feel something.
Don’t forget to talk about the art!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I’m a librarian with an English degree. I’m trained to think about words, to talk about language, to focus on storytelling and plot and narration and characterization. But after years of reading comic books, I’m still developing my vocabulary for talking about art. Nobody ever gave me that tool the way they gave me the tools to think about language in my many years of schooling. Plus, you know, I actually do a fair amount of writing and speaking. I use language. Put a paintbrush in my hand and I’m useless.
But this is part of why we read comics, right? The specific method of pairing pictures with text in comics is what distinguishes this medium from the many other formats we read. Challenge people to put into words what they liked or didn’t like about the art. Did the characters have distinct faces and facial expressions? Were readers able to follow the action in a fight scene? What did they think of the coloring? Did they even notice the lettering? Why does Saga look SO GOOD?
Of course, before you can do any of these things, you’ll need to recruit people for your book club. Already part of a book club? Try introducing some comics and graphic novels to your rotation. Approach your friendly public or school librarian about starting a club hosted by the library or do the same with your LCS.