For the past few years, I have started the new year with a challenge to myself. Specifically, I have given myself a reading challenge in an effort to increase the number and variety of the books I read through pigheadedness and the threat of personal shame. I really only completed the first year’s challenge to read one book for every letter of the alphabet, before flooding the following year.
Last year, I attempted to change things up and start a writing challenge. We don’t talk about last year.
This year, we’re back to reading, but with a different spin. This year, it’s all about the comics … and I’m definitely not going to count.
That’s a lie. I’m probably still going to count, but I’m not going to set a number goal.
So if I’m not going to make this about the numbers, what is it about? Well, self, I’m so glad you asked. It’s about education. I promise it’s much more interesting than it sounds.
A while back I wrote about how I first got into comics. It’s a lovely tale full of lady heroes. But while I’ve been a fan of comic books for going on 5 years now, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what is out there to read.
For the most part, the first few years of my comics adventure has been about reading what I like and largely sticking to those handful of titles. I’ve ready LOTS of Batgirl, every Birds of Prey title available, a bit of Wonder Woman, and some Buffy comics. This past year, I added a handful of new titles, branching out into the world of indie comics, and even into Marvel comics, which I’d largely avoided up until that point. It was fun, and I want to do more of it.
There’s another element to this, too. It mostly boils down to the Imposter Syndrome, a deep fear of being exposed as a fraud. Fan communities (like comics nerds) can be a bit … unwelcoming … to those they deem as outsiders. They’re especially vicious to women. We get quizzed about fandoms we claim to belong to, and called fake geeks when we don’t know all the minutiae or when we seem somehow “threatening” to their domain in that fandom. Generally, this doesn’t affect me. I know my stuff. I even know what I’m talking about when it comes to comics, despite my general lack of actual consumption of what many deem “necessary titles.” But despite my confidence in private, I still feel like I’ve just become really good at faking knowledge.
So ultimately, this is about vanity. Intellectual vanity anyway.
The plan has a few facets, but mostly it’s about filling in gaps in my knowledge without reading things I dislike. I’m going to be exploring the big books of the last 20 years or so, diving into the biggest, most widely discussed stories from Gotham and Metropolis, while also trying to branch out a little further into the world of Marvel Comics and indie publishers. My list is already full of things like No Man’s Land, Gotham Central, Y the Last Man, Preacher, Saga, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, and every Crisis the heroes of DC Comics have caused in the multiverse.
But it’s not about reading deeply. It’s about reading broadly. I’m not here to read every single Batman comic ever written. I’m here for the highlights, to get down into the terrifying back catalogue of the world of comics and wade around for a while … hopefully without drowning.
So here’s the thing: I want suggestions. Tell me what to read! What are your favorite books? Your favorite writers? I especially want to read books by and about women, people of color, and LGBT folks. My hope is to read two or three a month, splitting it as equally between DC, Marvel, and indie publishers (and self-publishing, of course).
So … fill up my TBR!