I‘ve been thinking a lot about communities over the last few months—I’m going to avoid wordvomiting any of the other platitudes that have been going on around these roly-poly ‘Rona times, but since the world hasn’t been working, and is looking like it won’t be working again for the next twelve months, at least, community continues to become more and more important.
I also spend a lot of time thinking about labels—I’m autistic, I like to know what things are, where they stand, and all of that good stuff. Variability kind of freaks me out, at times, which is why I can never fault Batman for that whole Tower of Babel thing—if my main community was made up of people who could sneeze and break the world, I’d probably have a back-up plan or thirty to take care of them if they decided to go rogue too.
Luckily, for all of us, that is not the case: my communities are very open, for the most part, about their flaws and weaknesses, so I don’t need to plan like Batsy does. Also, my last pieces have been kind of heavy on the real life side of things, so I’m not going to make this column about how I know my friends well enough to systematically disassemble them.
(Maybe next month, if they don’t stop sassing me. You’ve been put on alert.)
As an LGBTQIA+ nerd of all trades, there are a lot of communities I sneak into. However, the community of interest for this space is probably my comic nerd community circle.
My Friday nights tend to be dogeared to watch movies with the amazing and wonderful group of people I break comic canon with on the regular in our pan-comic-universe-forum-board-roleplay—and yeah, it’s as much of a mess as it sounds, but those nerds are my most favorite nerds ever. We’ve been writing together, as a group, for nearly half a decade and that’s hella cool.
The night that Chadwick Boseman (Rest in Power)’s death was announced, it was a movie night, and I had maneuvered a date into seeing the New Mutants movie—and, whew, was that a thing. I’m still not sure how I feel about giving Ilyana possession of Lockheed. I know it was a cute and a lowkey nod to her relationship with Kitty Pryde, but… still…*struggles in canon-adherence* (I might write something about it eventually. That list will never end—I’ll be hip-deep in my Dissertation and still be like “I really need to write a column about that.”) When I arrived home, there were no arguments over watching Black Panther. So, from California to Pennsylvania, covering four times zones (and a touch late, because that’s how I roll sometimes), we gathered in Discord and watched Black Panther.
I know that watching movies in theaters is a communal thing, in and of themselves, but watching a movie in a theater with a bunch of strangers doesn’t compare to the intimacy of watching a movie with your best friends and people you love—even if they’re miles and miles away. It’s almost a better way to watch them, I’d argue: you’re near the bathroom when you put too much butter on your popcorn, you can talk to your friends the whole time (in text—we’re not the types who interrupt movies with our gabbing), and you still get that watching-movies-with-other-people feel. All of this and: there’s guaranteed discussion topics for the movie and afterwards.
I have a few different groups of friends: my Warcraft friends, my D&D friends, my school friends, etc., but this group of friends that I watched this movie with is the one that I talk to the most. They’ve made me appreciate having consistent friends—it’s a wonderful thing to know that as soon as I start talking shit about Cyclops in our group Discord, I know, for sure, the people who are going to agree with whatever I’m popping off about and the people who are going to come rushing to the mutant’s defense. That predictability generally gets me thinking, in some corner of my mind, about how things continue to stay the same in the comics community, at large, even as things around us are changing.
I’ve written about this topic: the lack of change in the comics community from a few different angles. My second column over at Playback was about comic book nerds needing to get along with comic television nerds, I’ve written about All-New All-Different Marvel and my angsting over the walkback of those changes, I touched on DC’s lack of response to its female audience in the critical essay I wrote for my Master’s program, and I’m sure that fan studies is something I will get my hands dirty with when I eventually wander into a Doctorate program. We’re lucky, as a comics community, that our beloved industry hasn’t been totally shut down by everything going on in the world.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t suffered some massive layoffs and delays, and comic book store closures due to diminished sales and rent still being due—because it has—but it has managed to pick itself back up again. I can’t wait for ten to twenty years from now when people will be able to study the impact that the Rona has had on the comics community. Maybe I’ll be one of those people—it wouldn’t surprise me, or anyone that I know, if I was one of those people. It hasn’t been all bad, though: I know more than a few people who have been able to take this time to get caught up with what’s going on in comics with their favorite characters and in their favorite medium (we don’t shame the television watchers here) or who finally have the time to actually get into reading comics.
And that, my friends, is awesome.
So until we know when things are going to settle back down again, let’s all take this time to be open and welcoming to the new people who are poking their heads into our world or the old people who are reconnecting. Let’s continue using comics as something that keeps us together, keeps us connected, and not something that drives us apart—unless you’re a diehard Frank Miller fan, then…. maybe not so much. I am going to continue hosting movie nights for my friends, having anxious fits over my PhD applications, trying to decide what I’m going to write next month’s column on, and turning my homework in on time. | Catherine Bathe