I’m not easily offended, but when I came across one particular blurb titled “Comics and Combovers” on The New York Times’ City Room Blog, I couldn’t help but shake my shiny head in disgust. As many comic book fans know, New York Comic Con opens on February 6 and is the premier geek gathering outside of San Diego where the main event, Comic-Con International, opens in July. Of course, both events—and all comic book conventions—have grown beyond a sole focus on comic books to include programming to drum up awareness of new films, books, television series and video games.
However, whenever a comic book convention starts grabbing headlines, the geek culture—and I use the term affectionately—is approached with a disheartening ethnographic detachment, as it is in the City Room Blog piece. Posted by Alan Feuer, it reads, “The culture is strewn with examples of grown men in their 40s — some in their 50s — unabashedly proclaiming love for comic books, an obsession that hints at lingering boyhood hungers and ranks up there with coin collecting as something to be given up by age 13. Maybe the security of affluence has permitted men to remain adolescents at heart well after middle age has taken their bodies.” It then directs readers to New York Comic Con's website for ticket information so they can observe these sad, strange people in person.
What’s being said here perhaps isn’t all that bad. Comic books, since their inception, have always been viewed as a childish diversion. However, not only is the NY Times blogger ignoring the fact that the majority of comic book readers are adults these days—and not all of us are the basement-dwelling introverts that stereotypes would suggest—and that the subject matter of most books is geared toward a mature audience and has been since the mid-1980s or so. I would hardly call Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman “adolescent” in nature. But what do I know? I have “lingering boyhood hungers.”
The New York Times Building is located just seconds away from Midtown Comics’ Times Square location. Perhaps staffers should plan a visit and get educated before marginalizing a legitimate art form.