Girl In The Clubhouse: Issue #1

Fri, October 7th, 2005 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Johanna Stokes, Columnist

HOW TO GET YOUR GIRL TO READ COMICS

So you've gone and got yourself a girlfriend. Congratulations. And she's the real deal. She's seen the toys (even if she hasn't touched them cause you told her you don't like that) and she's seen the video games (and has come to accept that playing "Halo" on the X-box is the closest you're going to get to any real exercise.) She's darn near perfect. There's just one thing. Your new love doesn't get along with your first love-- Comics.

Now this will suit some of you just fine. Comics serve as your sanctuary, your escape from the world, your private time. Mom could stomp around the house and scream at you for whatever you'd messed up that day, but you didn't care. You had the latest "Micronauts" comic tucked safely in your Social Studies book. Locked in your room, you could retreat from the battlefield of your home and venture into a fantastical world where little people rebelled and fought for freedom against a tyrannical overlord. And boy could you relate. So even now you want to keep the comics private. It's a door you can shut on the world-- your boss, your landlord, and yes, even your girlfriend.

This column is not for you.

But for those of you who dream of discussing "Y: The Last Man" over dinner with your girl or rolling over in bed to see her reading your latest copy of "The Walking Dead," I'm here to help.

Let's first assume you haven't completely turned her off of comics by pushing her into the deep end of the pool with no water wings and annoyed her to pieces by staring at her wide-eyed and expectantly as she read "Uncanny X-Men #137" and then tried to explain to her the deep and profound history of the Dark Phoenix saga. She. Doesn't. Care. And it's unfair to expect her to. If you've already gone and blown it, go sit in the corner. I'll get to you later.

For those of you who haven't treaded those dark waters, yet, snap to, sailor, we're about to set sail.

So you've got a girl who loves and accepts you. Could be the latest episode of "Unsolved Mysteries," but you're not complaining. And you want to share everything with her, including your love of comics. Here's your How-To-Guide from your friendly neighborhood newbie.

Building a relationship between your girl and comics is a lot like building any relationship, including the one you're in right now. It's about timing, patience and (gasp!) commitment. And you'll have to start slow. Chances are if you hounded this girl from the first day you met her, she never would have gone out with you to begin with. You had to see her around a couple of times, have a few conversations, a few common interests before that all important first date. You don't just pull out your long box and wave it around at her and hope she likes it. Baby steps, boyfriend. Baby steps.

Step One - Neil Gaiman is your friend.

So you've maybe offered up a comic or two, brought up your favorite series or taken her to see the latest comic book movie, but she just couldn't seem less interested. Not to worry. You're just trying to drive the nail with the wrong end of the hammer. You need a new approach. You need to make this less about you and more about her. Here's how.

Head your little bottom down to your local comic book retailer and pick up Gaiman's "The Dream Hunters" with the beautiful art of Yoshitaka Amano. Leave it by her bedside with a small red bow around it and a note stuck to it that says, "Little fox - This is how I love you." Now she has to read it. It's no longer comics or comics related. It's a testament to your love for her. We love that stuff! Plus, it isn't the traditional panel-by-panel sequential art comic book. It's more a short story with pictures. Baby steps, boyfriend. Baby steps.

Now, and this is important, wait patiently for her to come to you about the book. Don't call her in the middle of the night panting, "Did you read it, yet? Huh? Huh?" Let her come to you. If she doesn't say anything about it for a week, don't you say anything about it for a week. If she never says anything about it, you can ask her once, just once, if she got the book. She may say, "Yes, but I haven't had a chance to read it, yet." Respond sweetly and without pressure, "No worries. I just wanted you to have it. It reminds me of you." And if she never brings it up after that, well boys, that's a swing and a miss. Leave it alone. But she's a sweet girl, (you wouldn't be dating her otherwise) so she probably will bring it up. So, on to…

Step Two - What I Hear You Saying Is…

The next part is going to be hard, but I believe in you. I know you can do it. You're going to have to listen. Yes, yes. It goes against the very code of your damnable Y chromosome DNA. But somehow you've replaced that drive to go out and kill bears with the drive thru window at Jack In The Box. You can replace that low hum in the back of your skull that prevents you from hearing anything ever with the ability of occasionally listening to the woman that may one day let you see her naked - with the lights on.

When she talks about "The Dream Hunters," listen to what she is saying. What did she like about it and why? Let her do the talking. You can ask leading questions, but resist the urge to start splashing around the deep end and telling her everything you ever liked about every comic you've ever read ever. Play it cool. And if you can, keep it about her. Kiss her sweetly and tell her that if anything ever happened to her you would follow her to the world of dreams and sacrifice your very life just so she could continue to be. Why? Because the world is a better place with her in it. Suddenly she's associating comics with romance. This is a good thing.

Now, if you've been paying attention, you may have some ideas on where to go from here. If her very most favorite thing was the art, maybe you want to casually pass her "Elektra/Wolverine: The Redeemer." If she loved Gaiman's writing style, hand over "Stardust." If you're still a little unsure where to go, don't worry, little one. I'm not done with you, yet.

Step Three - In Which Our Hero Gets Boned

So how did that land? Did the comic-book-as-gift go over well? Great. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Let's do it again. Only bigger. You let a little time go by and keep the comic talk to a minimum. If you can time this next step to when she's having a bad day at work, all the better. You send her a dozen roses, (or a single if you're on a budget, but do try to remember that you're really doing this for yourself so it's money well spent,) along with the first volume of "Bone" by Jeff Smith. Attached she will find a note from you that reads "To my Rose - Thanks for being the girl that makes hearts pop outta my head."

This is probably gonna get you some. But take heed. Do not use this tactic to apologize for something stupid you have done and do not do this in lieu of an actual present on Valentine's Day or her birthday. This has to be an out of the blue, just thinking of you kinda present. If you try to double up, it is not going to go well. There will be conversations with her mother and girlfriends that go something like this:

"Soooooooooo, what did he get you for Valentine's Day?"

"Pffft. A comic book."

"A what?"

"A comic book."

"… Oh."

"Yeah, I know."

If you're too dense to realize this isn't a good conversation, you're not ready for a girlfriend. Try again next year.

But a "sorry you're having a bad day at work, I'll meet you at your house with take-out, rub your back and then put you in a hot bath where you can read this book" kinda present… well now you're earning your girlfriend, aren't ya?

There are several different ways to go from here. Obviously, if she enjoys "Bone," (and how could she not, he's just so damn cute!) then you dole out one book at a time, per her request. (If you dumped all 101 volumes on her at once she could easily become overwhelmed. This will be true for all future endeavors in getting her immersed in the comic world so make a mental note. Remember, this should feel like a rewarding experience for her, not a homework assignment.) Or you could go straight to "Sandman" or a dozen other series, but here is what I recommend.

Step Four - Keep her wanting Moore

So you think she's ready to take the plunge. She's been wading around the shallow end of the pool for a while now and has even ventured to the drop off point. Nice and easy, let's lead her in.

Alan Moore's "Swamp Thing." Play it up. Without getting all frothy at the mouth, very calmly explain how this comic, above all others, changed the world of comics. And not only was this a milestone for the industry, it's got a star-crossed romance that will just rip your heart out.

This may be a hard sell. She flips through it and the production value is dated and the lead is a shambling mound. Don't worry. It's time to call in the back-up. Set up a dinner between you, your girl and your friend that she thinks is cute, smart and/or funny. You know the one. If he's single she's always saying, "So-and-so is so cute, smart and/or funny. I can't believe he doesn't have a girlfriend." Which means 'I love you and if something ever happened to you I would mourn you for an appropriate amount of time, but lean on so-and-so in the interim and then date him and you could rest in peace in the great here-after knowing that the two people you loved the most were brought together through your untimely demise and are taking care of each other now that you are gone.'

Don't be worried about this. This guy is just her contingency plan and if that plan is set into motion you're probably already dead so get over yourself. Don't be threatened by so-and-so. He's your wingman. Use him to get what you want: your girl-- reading comics.

So you and your girl and so-and-so are out to dinner and you casually (read: pre-planned down to the last syllable) say, "Hey so-and-so, did I tell you I just kicked my girl the first issue of Moore's 'Swamp Thing?'" And so-and-so will say, "Noooooo, really?" And she'll say, "Oh yeah, but I haven't read it, yet." And here is where your friend earns his right to borrow your Playstation II any damn time he likes. He looks her straight in the eye and says, "Well let me know when you do. I'd love to hear what you think."

You can bet your sweet bippy she'll be in bed that very night with "Swamp Thing" open across her knees. Again, this is about making reading comics an enjoyable experience for her. She just got an engraved invitation from your cute, smart and/or funny friend to join the boys club. And God help me, I don't know why, and it shouldn't be this way, but that invite is gonna mean more coming from him than coming from you. But the good news? She will RSVP Yes!

Step Five - The rest is easy

If you get her going on "Swamp Thing," it's all down hill from here. When she finishes that series, move her on over to Gaiman's run on "Sandman." You might have thought I would have sent you straight here after "The Dream Hunters," but one of the stories in the first trade is the serial killer in the caf and that's pretty brutal for a newbie. Let's let her get her sea legs before she sees that darkness, kay?

But now that she has a firm foundation, you can get her going on "Queen & Country," "Watchmen," "Planetary" and "Boneyard." Encourage her to form her own opinions and figure out which writers and artists she likes and why. If she dares to speak up when you and your friends are in your third hour of the Superman v Batman debate, validate her opinion and don't fail to point out that Sue Storm could kick both their butts with her eyes closed. Always welcome her thoughts on comics. If you chastise her for not knowing a series like you do or being unfamiliar with the history of characters, don't be surprised if she throws your "Kabuki" comic right back in your face and refuses to read another funny book ever again. As in all things, you should make her feel special and important. You don't have to always agree with her. Debate is healthy. But there is a difference between debating something and telling her she's stupid for not knowing that "Supreme Power" is a "Justice League" knockoff.

You getting what I'm saying here, stud? For the last time, make it an enjoyable experience for her.

Step Six - You can lead a girl to comics…

So you've either tried to take it slow and she didn't take the bait or you buried her in all things comics and subsequently freaked her out causing her to swear off comics, if not you, forever.

How do you recover?

You need to understand that your sweet baby, sitting in your lap, discussing "Sin City" the graphic novel versus "Sin City" the movie, may not be in the cards for you. And you need to be okay with that. To each his own, etc. etc. But there is still but one more thing you can try.

Subterfuge.

You no longer speak of comics or try to get her to read them. Let them fall completely off her radar.

Then start laying the trap.

Comics are amazing because there's something for everybody. You just have to know where to look. So put on your detective hat and pay attention to your woman. Try to tune into what she likes and why. Pick out some appropriate comics and then leave them where she might be inclined to pick them up.

Here's an example.

Let's say you've got a girl who collects moons. She's got little moon statues from every place she's ever been, a moon wind chime outside her door and moon magnets on her fridge. And let's say her favorite show is "24." "Keifer's so dreamy and don't you just love the way every show is so intense?" And add on to that her favorite book is "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Here's how it goes down.

She's waiting in the car while you run into the bank? Well, you just happen to leave a copy of DeMatteis' Moonshadow on the car seat behind you. Over at her house? Oops! You left the licensed copy of "24" on her kitchen table. Over at your house? Well lookie there. A copy of "Books of Magic" is in your bathroom.

See how that works?

And if luck is in your corner and the planets have aligned just so, maybe, just maybe, she'll pick one of those books up on her own and give it a read and you're in like Flynn, who, evidently, is a guy who gets into a lot of places. No muss. No fuss. You've got a girl that reads comics.

And one final note-- please, please, please understand that comics are probably never going to be a commodity to us. We're not going to view them as sacred texts to be handled with the delicacy befitting the Dead Sea Scrolls. So if you've got a problem with us bending the spines or dog-earring the pages, just get us our own copy. We don't want to get yelled at cause we didn't put your "New Avengers" #6 back in its mylar bag. If we ask to read your super special, first edition, autographed copy of "Amazing Fantasy" #15, then yes, you can have the talk with us about how to handle comics properly. But until then, leave us alone and let us enjoy.

So there you have it, lovey. Pretty simple really. Make it about her and always be supportive and encouraging. Good advice for any aspect of your relationship. She'll learn to trust you and soon you'll be sailing the high seas of the adventure that is comics together. Don't believe me?

Well, all I can say is, that's what worked on me.

I've been making stuff up for a very long time. Who knew that was a profession? New to the comics industry, I have an 8 page story in both "Zombie Tales" & "Zombie Tales: Oblivion" and this fall will have two 48 page comics called "Zombie Tales: Death Valley." I promise the next book will have little-to-no zombies in it at all. Probably. Let me hear from you at johanna@comicbookresources.com and for more info stop by http://johannastokes.blogspot.com/. Now git 'fore I sic the dawgs on ya.

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