Full Circle

I was fourteen and on the bus on the way back from the comic book store. I grew up in Darwin, so it was all the way up town. If we finished school early we would venture up, buy some comics and jump back on the bus and be home before nightfall. On one particular trip, on the way home, I decided to pull my comic book out of its brown paper bag and read it. As the bus chugged along, we got closer and closer to all the high schools. Kids would get on this bus that would then take them to the main terminal, where they would all get off and get different buses home. Myself and a friend were near the back, reading our comics and in total immersion with everything about them. Then we heard someone say, ‘Are you reading comics?’

Keiths-Comics.jpgI knew we had made a mistake. Four teenagers climbed over seats to come and sit around us, forming a circle. We quickly tucked our comics back into their non-discreet bags and just sat there while being berated for reading comics at our age. ‘Why are you reading comics?’ ‘Get a life,’ and ‘losers,’ were said amongst other things. I thought it was going to turn violent, but they got off a few stops later. I remember making a mental note, not to ever read comics in public again.

Fast forward a few years and I’m on the bus again with a good friend of mine and he sees two girls he knows at the back of the bus. He makes me go and sit next to them and we all started chatting. It was coming to the end of High School and we were all heading into Senior College (year 11 and 12), and they were asking what sort of courses we were going to do and if we were going to go on to university. My friend knew what he was going to do, to the point I felt a bit bad that I didn’t have my career life planned like he did. The girls turned to me. My friend said, ‘You’re not going to try and draw comics, are you?’

rgvyhu6nipx8azgbozkt.pngI was mortified. Reading comics and drawing my own comics was a secret I didn’t want anyone to know about, especially after the bus incident. I shook my head, ‘No,’ and said I didn’t know yet. The very idea of writing or drawing comics was so absurd to some people that it made them uncomfortable to the point they needed to ridicule me about it. I never thought that was a viable career path for a fifteen-year-old living in Darwin.

Years later, when I was working for an insurance company, I printed out pictures of Alan Moore, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman and pinned them up on my cubicle. Half were authors, half were comic book writers. I loved their work, all in different ways and I aspired to be like them. When people came by my cubicle, they would point to Alan Moore and ask, ‘Is that your dad?’ ‘No, it is not my dad, it’s Alan Moore. He writes comics.’ I’d get a strange look and then they would leave.

4351820-alan-moore.jpgIn the last few years a lot has changed. There is no closet for the comic book reader, because everyone is now into it. A lot of it started with the Iron Man movies, then the Walking Dead. My boss at my job now loves Walking Dead and we chat about it every other day. I offered to give her the comics so she can read more about it, and even read ahead of the TV show, but she’s still a bit apprehensive about reading comics. My mother watches Daredevil and my father watches Arrow. We now have work discussions about Aquaman and who the best Batman villain is. We talk about the Inhumans TV show coming out and the new Defenders. Everyone in my office is looking forward to the Punisher TV show and the Justice League movie. People know about the Watchmen movie, Legion, Flash, Supergirl, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Preacher and Fear the Walking Dead TV shows. I get on the train after work to head home and people are openly reading graphic novels and Avengers Omnibuses. They are watching Game of Thrones or Preacher on their phones or ipads. It’s out in the open now. To be mocked for liking comics or fantasy no longer has justification. You’re almost ridiculed for not watching it.

AbsoluteSandmanVol2I still can’t read comics on the train, but I don’t hide the fact that I read them anymore. I’ve posted a picture of Grant Morrison’s Multiversity on my Instagram page and received a few likes. I’ve even gone as far as submitting scripts and comic book ideas to Image comics. I’ve submitted two so far and I’ve got another three to write and submit. My friend on the bus who mocked me for even thinking about writing comics laid the groundwork for my self-doubt very early on. When I first started writing I only dreamt of being an author and I didn’t tell anyone. Now that I have three books published, I tell everyone. And if I can be an author, I can be a comic book writer. Maybe those guys who picked on us on the bus over twenty years ago are now watching Walking Dead or Luke Cage. Maybe they go into a newsagent to get the newspaper and see the comics there and think about buying them, but don’t. Maybe their kids are reading them and it’s their bed time reading material. There’s even a possibility they dressed as Iron Man or Flash at a dress up party and feel like an outsider like I once did.

I don’t have animosity for people who are getting into comics or the fantasy world now. Everyone is welcome. You can be a tourist if you want. If you watched Wonder Woman and wanted to know more, drop into your local comic book shop, they won’t bite. Ask them about where to start, they’ll point you in the right direction. Welcome, you’ve got a lot of reading to do.

– Mitchell Tierney

 

 

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Published in: on September 10, 2017 at 10:33 am  Leave a Comment  

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