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Comic Books

A friend once took me to an authentic Chinese restaurant. The menu was in Chinese, which I don’t read, but I browsed it anyway because that’s what proper diners do.

Ultimately, I had to trust my friend’s discretion and eat what he ordered. It was delicious. But I found the whole experience disorienting, like stepping out of an airport into a city you’ve never visited, clueless to which way is north.

That’s how I feel when I read comic books — which I almost never do. I didn’t grow up reading them, so the navigation system is foreign; I don’t know where to look first (pictures? word balloons?) or where to look second (left-to-right? top-to-bottom?). And so many of them have repugnant content: ghastly violence toward painfully proportioned women and, not to be accused of sexism, ghastly violence at the hands of painfully proportioned women.

A literary snob, I always figured comic books were for people who had trouble with, you know, actual reading.

But then I married a comic-book geek. My husband grew up with his nose buried in Spider-Man comics and now makes his living as a graphic designer in the comic-book biz. This weekend, he’s dragging me once again to San Diego’s annual Comic-Con, the nation’s biggest celebration of pop-culture fringe. The convention’s 100,000-plus visitors are a motley jumble of Star Trek, Twilight, and Bettie Page fanatics, but what binds them all together is comic books. Four-color, saddle-stitched, your-grandpa-used-to-read-’em comic books. Comics about superheroes, bad guys and, lately, nerd girls.

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