Today I would like to tell the story of how I got into comic books. It’s not that I didn’t read comics as a kid—I read all the Archie-type books, and my brother’s Batmans and X-Mens. But in retrospect, I can safely say that most of those comics sucked in the mid-80s, and so I didn’t get all that excited about it.
When I was in high school—I think sophomore year or so, when I was just 16—I had this totally geeky friend, Jason F. He was really into musical theater and comic books—like, sooo embarrassingly nerdy! Of course, this was the height of my Rocky Horror/Goth phase (*cringe* don't laugh!), and he was a Rocky-goer, so we hung out sometimes. One time I was over at his place, probably making fun of his comics, when he told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. “Just read this, and see if it’s stupid!” he said, and handed me the Dark Knight Returns (I originally wrote “threw” there, to highlight his exasperation, but I am fairly sure he took good care of his comics and would not have thrown them, ever).
I was totally blown away by the story—it was so DARK and interesting, and best of all, Robin was a GIRL! “Are there other comics like this?” I asked as he dragged me away to wherever we were going that day. I never did read the end of that comic until I got my own copy years later.
Since those were the dawn-days of the internet (did I still have a Prodigy account then, even?), I searched around online until I found Jeff Mason’s site. Back then, Indy Magazine was mostly a mail-order comic book business. I emailed Jeff asked if he knew about any comics that had girls in them, as main characters, maybe even real-ish girls, and if he did, could he mail them to my best friend’s house? (I had some inkling that my mother would think reading comic books was too weird for a teenage girl.)
By the way, i paid for all this with babysitting cash wrapped in notebook paper, so no one could see that the envelope was full of money and steal it.
He kindly mailed me the first issues of Strangers in Paradise and Action Girl, some Paul Pope THB stories, and some minicomics (also, the Crow graphic novel—like I said, I was trying the Goth thing). SiP and AG especially amazed me-—Sarah Dyer’s column in the back of AG even listed LOTS of comics that had girls in them! But fearing parental disapproval, I didn’t actively seek out too many more comics.
Until I got to college! My friend Guttridge from high school also went to PSU, and took me with him one day to the fabulous Comic Swap (he was getting some Tin Tin stuff). I sort of looked around and then hesitantly asked the bald, sunglasses-wearing guy behind the counter what he thought girls might like. He helped me find the first SiP trade and also suggested Sandman and Squee and, of course, Love and Rockets. After that, I went almost every week to get more recommendations from Damon and Kris, and even started drawing my own little comics in my journal.
Then, of course, came my 15 minutes of fame processing the Murray Collection at Duke and my newfound allegiance to Second Foundation/Chapel Hill Comics.
Now I’m working on parlaying all of this comic book geekery into a career, or at least a final project for my reference class. :)