I am not a dog person for one simple reason, poop. You may or may not be aware of this but apparently dogs poop every day and, if the mood strikes them, twice and even three times a day. As a Comics Ninja, I am obviously a cat person. What with the ability to sneak about, jump like a kangaroo and lick oneself what’s not to like. And, when I say lick oneself, I don’t mean in the half hearted dog sense but in the sense of the full feline embrace of the activity. Anyway, all of this went out the window when I began co-habitating with two canines shortly after getting married.
Both dogs, Roger and Nancy, are good natured and pleasant enough but they pegged me right off as only lukewarm on the whole arrangement and thus became my inseparable shadows for antagonistic purposes. As of this writing, I am the full time feeder, walker and best of all, potty time guy for my canine posse.
Roger, the older dog, is a big male with the all the finer attributes of a good drinking buddy. He spends the bulk of his days shuffling about in a seemingly inebriated stupor throwing in some gas for spice. Now the smaller female, Nancy, is some sort of corgi/healer mix and is all dog in every sense. She can usually be found in a state of frustration looking for some adventure or at least something surgery inducing to swallow.
When one of her moods becomes unbearable she will make eye contact with me and then, without blinking even once, inch closer and closer to me until we are sitting on the couch eyeball to eyeball. Since this blocks my view of the television I usually take the hint and walk her. But, here’s the rub. On principle I would enjoy the jaunts outside but they are fraught with a certain terror and here it is.
No matter how many bowel movements Nancy has had during the day or even immediately before the walk, she has the uncanny ability to produce more poop at the drop of a hat. This is especially true if we pass someone on the sidewalk or perhaps the neighborhood security happens to drive by. To make matters worse, while defiling the sidewalk in her ungodly way, she likes to give a little grimace which, by all that’s holy, appears to be a smile.
Now, I didn’t make it through the trials of adolescence, struggle through high school, drink my way through college and get a real job just so I could become a public poop handler. In fact, I refuse. This leaves me in the awkward position of trying to pretend I haven’t notice the whole atrocity occurring at the end of the leash. Usually I’ll resort to something like shouting “Hey everybody look, is that a pterodactyl flying over head?”
Of course, this attempt at purposeful obliviousness isn’t helped by the smiling fiend’s little victory dance she does once her mission is accomplished. No amount of ninja skills or clinging to the shadows can save me from my fate, out comes the plastic baggy.
Anyway, this all relates to comic books in that I have a similar fear of getting caught reading comic books in public, or as I prefer to call it “Fear of Reading Comic Books in Public Dysfunction” (“FRCBPD”). Maybe it’s my own insecurities, I don’t know. What I do know is that I am not alone.
How often do you see other adults reading comic books in public? Is the business man on the bus taking in the latest Avengers? Is the Podiatrist reading Spiderwoman at Starbucks or the construction worker taking time out at lunch for Metal Men? I don’t think so, and if they did, you, me and everyone else would be looking at them a little askew.
Now there are some brave souls out there who don’t seem to be as self-conscious about committing this faux paux, but I haven’t gotten there yet. Coincidently, they all seem to be reading Spider Man but that is a subject for another article.
Once I nearly worked up my courage to read an innocuous looking Wizard Magazine on a plane but I couldn’t quite pull the trigger. What if that mom two aisles over saw me in action or, God forbid, the stewardess? Is this something that could land me on a no fly list? I don’t know, maybe. All I know is that I’m not going to be the guy who tests the boundaries on this issue.
With that said, comics are beginning to gain an air of respectability these days. It began in the 80’s with the first “mature” themed comics from Independent publishers. Not mature in the dirty sense but in the sense where adult topics, dialogue and stories became the norm. The mature themed comics brought a whole new audience back to comics or into comics for the first time and the mainstream publishers pounced on it and capitalized upon it further in the 90’s.
Mass media soon got the hint and movies made from comic books followed in droves. The final cement of comic books mainstream status seemed to have arisen with a generation raised on video games with similar themes and imagery. Shazam suddenly comics weren’t just for kids anymore. The Japanese have known this for years, that and how cool ninjas and Sumo wrestlers are. Various stars like Nicholas Cage and Ben Affleck go for street cred by admitting that they collect comic books and Hollywood now buys up all of the tickets to the San Diego Comic Con (leaving the actual readers out in the cold I might note).
So why, if comics books are so mainstream, is it still a big no, no for adult men to lay about and read books with pictures in them? Many comics these days are more complex or sophisticated than a Dan Brown or John Grisham paint by the numbers novel and people have no issue with passing off these off as serious literature. On this same note, one of my favorite tiles, The Walking Dead, will soon be a weekly series on AMC side by side with Madmen but, God forbid, I get caught reading the series in public while sipping my skinny latte at Starbucks.
In the past, I’ve pleaded with my local comic book shops to create a little reading lounge and maybe sell us some coffee. A space where collectors and readers can get together, spontaneous purchases can occur and conversations can happen. What’s to lose, a little sense of community and increased revenue? Some shops have actually gotten the hint with gaming, allowing players to hold regular sessions in dedicated gaming space. But, with that said, gaming by nature is a group activity, they don’t necessarily need a sanctuary and who’s going to mess with a bunch of hairy dudes screaming about the range of a World War II cannon or the armor class of a hill giant?
One comic book shop near the Comic Ninja’s home lair has gotten hip to the idea and opened up a large coffee/gaming/comic book shop. Frankly, if you are hanging out in there and not gaming or reading the latest issue of Green Lantern you are in the minority. It’s a little slice of heaven for the Comics Ninja.
While reading my monthly comics I usually position myself in close proximity to the D&D gamers for sheer entertainment purposes and of course they don’t disappoint. Just recently I finished an issue of Batman and turned off my Ipod just in time to hear a fifty year old man yell at another adult man, in public, out loud “You know you can’t get away with that! A member of the Knights of the Unicorn would never kill an innocent villager!”
In my attempt to stifle laughter I actually snorted out loud which, after a brief pause, drew matching laughs from the gamers themselves (accept for the guy pissed about the unchivalrous activity of the unicorn dudes). See, now that’s a little sense of community, acceptance, that’s what I’m talking about.
I think the increased mainstreaming of comic books, the little reading havens popping up here and there and my advanced ninja skills have given me the boost in confidence I need to make another attempt to attack my FRCBPD issues.
I think this weekend I will grab a couple of my favorite titles and read them out in public exhibiting the same heroics contained within the comics themselves. I of course will do this under cover of darkness, near deep foliage, in full ninja gear, but hey, it’s a start.
The Comics Ninja