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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

How To Get Your Boyfriend To Read Comics 

Oh sure, we've all seen by now the various columns and blog posts on the topic of "Hey Nerds! Now that you've found a woman desperately lonely enough that she's willing to overlook your personality defects, lack of socialization and poor hygiene to date you, now you need to passive-aggressively manipulate her into reading comics!" We've even seen a few "Hey gals, want to get your guy to read your manga, but don't want to have to explain to him that those characters are actually both guys, or what they're doing to each other?" type writings here and there. But what we haven't seen, and what we really need, is a guide for men who read comics and want their boyfriends to read comics as well. And this is that guide.

Step One: Set The Mood
You can't just expect to shove a comic in a guy's face and expect him to want to read it. No, first you have to open up the possibility of reading a comic to him. Making sure that the decorations are right in your place when he comes over for the first time is important. Take down those framed Abercrombie and Finch ads and replace them with some Tom of Finland drawings. You still have pictures of naked men up on your walls, but now he knows you're interested in art, not just twinkie boys. A couple of well-placed action figures are a good step as well. Make sure that they're actually figures that could be considered "cool" or "knowingly hip" or "ironic." This will keep him from being completely scared away. Nobody wants to sleep with a nerd. Star Wars and Transformers are right out. You might be able to get away with G.I. Joe or He-Man, but make sure that they're posed in a sexually suggestive manner.

Step Two: Build Up To It
Make sure all those Marvel Essential paper-backs are off your side-table in the bedroom. You want to slowly get him used to the idea of dating a comic book reader. Start him off easy by taking him to see comic book movies. You don't have to tell him that this is because you need to check the film-makers adherence to continuity. Tell him that you just think Hugh Jackman is hot. If he doesn't decide to dump you for your terrible taste in films, start leaving a couple of the artier and more intellectual "graphic novels" around your place. Dear God, don't call them comic books. They should have a spine and, for preference, reviews from real magazines and newspapers somewhere on the cover. No, Wizard doesn't count. The Comics Journal does, but only because of the word "journal." If he asks about them, simply say "Oh, I've had an abiding interest in sequential narratives for quite some time. Didn't I mention it before?" This will make you seem smart and imply that you have better taste than you actually do. Try to let him "catch" you reading one from time to time.
If he still shows interest in you, it's time to bring out the big guns.

Step Three: Acclimating Him To Super-Heroes
Okay, those Tom of Finland drawings? Take them down and replace them with framed Alex Ross prints. Alex Ross has a very old-school, American-illustrated-magazine, commercially appealing style that non comics readers respond to. It looks enough like real art that they can overlook the fact that they're just fetish pictures of people in convention costumes, basically. When he asks what's up with the constipated photo-realistic Batman, tell him that there's a lot of sophisticated and engaging dramatic serial storytelling in monthly comics periodicals, and that you enjoy them as well, particularly the better illustrated ones. For God's sake, don't call them comic books.
Start leaving a few super-hero comics here and there. The coffee table or the bedroom are good places, as those are the places he's most likely to have some time alone from you for a brief period. Give him time alone in these rooms with nothing to do but read the comics. Don't put them in the bathroom, you don't want them to get wrecked, do you? And if you put them in the bedroom, make sure that they're not on the same end-table as the condoms and lube.
Now, the kinds of comics you leave are very important, and it depends largely on what kind of guy he is. Here's a simple chart with suggestions by gay "type":

Boy Next Door--Superman or Spider-Man
Military--Captain America or Sgt. Rock
Queer Activist--Authority or Young Avengers
Flaming Queen--Wonder Woman or Supergirl
Muscle Queen--Warlord or anything by Bart Sears
Leather Daddy--Batman

Step Four: Encouraging Him To Read More
Okay, so with any luck he hasn't left you for being a hopeless nerd wasting your life reading comic books. With even more luck, you might have actually managed to get him to read a comic book and come to the conclusion that it isn't completely stupid juvenile pap for sub-literates. So now you want to find him something that he'll enjoy on his own so that he'll stop folding back the covers of your books and trying to open your CGC cases. This is where it pays to pay attention to his personality and pre-existing interests. You can't just hand him Watchmen and expect him to enjoy it. Likewise, you should probably avoid any of the comics that have been highly praised by comic book readers. Steer him clear of Swamp Thing, for example. He'll have no idea who Alan Moore is and will only remember the terrible, terrible movies. Likewise, don't hand him Sandman. You're gay, not a goth. Don't hand him Preacher because he'll think you're a serial killer. And avoid anything written by Grant Morrison unless you want him to think you're on seriously good drugs. Frankly, there's really only one way to help him find what he likes to read and that's to move on to the next step...

Step Five: Taking Him To The Comic Book Store
This is the make-it or break-it point, really. Either he'll find something interesting or he's dumping you because you're a sad, pathetic freak. So, a couple of things to prepare for, since this will be a trying experience for both of you.
Yes, he will laugh at the store. Either at the sun-faded posters in the window or the Michael Turner covers or the Magic players or something with Power Girl on it, something will make him laugh. He can't help it, it's going to be an involuntary reaction. Actually, it's a good sign. It means he's finding at least some entertainment value in the outing. The bad sign is when he looks around the shop and sighs.
Of course, since you just walked in with man who isn't a comic book fan (we know our own...) or obviously related to you, you've probably just outed yourself to the entire store. As we all know by now, comic book fans hate anything that is different to themselves, almost as much as they hate change, and so be prepared to be treated like Bill Bennett at an NAACP meeting by the staff and other customers from now on.
He's probably going to be confused by the displays of new comics. Gently guide him through them. Patiently explain the difference between Fantastic Four, 4 and Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four. Be prepared to explain why Wolverine is on the cover of every comic published by Marvel this week and on the covers of Wizard and Comic Buyers Guide. Try not to roll your eyes when he asks if people actually think Jim Lee is a good artist.
If the notion of monthly comics overwhelms him, you might try showing him the trade paperbacks. Tell him that you get a better bargain here, since you can read the incredibly decompressed stories in which nothing happens in one inexpensive volume. Assure him that, yes, actually, people do enjoy reading five issues of filler on Ultimate Spider-Man in one go. Again, be prepared to patiently explain why the world needed an Essential Human Torch book, or a Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremeont. If possible however, try to steer him towards the monthly books. You don't want to date one of those people who are killing the industry, do you?
Under no circumstances should you permit him to even glance at the manga. You have to have some standards, after all, and the last thing in the world you want is to be dating somebody who actually likes that crap.

Step Six: Exposing Him To The Comics Internet
Don't.

Step Seven: Sharing Comics Together
If all has gone according to plan, you've now managed to find him one or two titles he grudgingly admits to liking. Oh sure, he may just be saying it because he doesn't want to hurt your feelings, but the point is, you've now made him one of us!
But how do you share your interests together? Compromise is the word to focus on here. When you spend the money that should have gone to this month's car payment buying 9.8 CGC graded Jim Lee variant covers on e-Bay, be sure to point out that he didn't really need to fly out to visit his dying grandfather, so he has no room to complain about your spending.
When his plans and your plans conflict, look for creative ways around the problem. For example, have you ever noticed how often gay events are scheduled for the same weekends as comic book conventions? Tell him that you'll let him whip you in the street all morning at the Leather Festival if he'll go buy Silver Age back issues with you at Super-Ultra-Con in the afternoon. You don't even need to change clothes in that case. Just tell the folks at the con that he's Grimbor the Chainsman and you're Cosmic Boy!

Yes, you can successfully build a two-comic-reader household if you follow these simple steps. And why wouldn't you want to? I mean, who ever heard of a successful relationship in which both partners are accepting of each others interests?

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