The Nexus of Pop-Culture Fandom

Learning to love comics again

Written by: Laura Hong-Tuason, CC2K Comics Editor

CC2K is back, and I’m excited to immerse myself back into the community and talk comics. However, I would be lying if I said I’m not afraid. It’s been over two years since I’ve written for CC2K, or any other medium. In writer years, that’s a long time. Though the real fear stems from returning to a community that both welcomed me with open arms, and also inadvertently pushed me away.

The truth is, I return to CC2K without the same fervor I once had for comics when I was at the peak of my enthusiasm and wonder. I return today cautious and hardened. More than that, I come with the deep desire to recapture the love I once had for comics all those years ago. I look forward to sharing this journey of comic book self-discovery with everyone, and I hope I can revive the joy in those who have become just as jaded. I write these opening words not to be cynical, but to embrace the belief that optimism and fun can be reclaimed, because that’s the way it should be when reading comics.

As bittersweet and ambiguous as my experience with comics over the years sounds, it wasn’t always like this. I remember my first true lightbulb moment with comics; the one that turned on and asked, “Why haven’t I been reading comics sooner?” I grew up in the ’90s watching superhero shows like Batman: The Animated Series, Spiderman, and X-Men, and I had one-off comics gifted to me from time to time, so comics were always going to be a natural progression in my realm of interests.

That moment didn’t come until I attended my first San Diego Comic-Con in 2010. While I followed my avid comic book reading boyfriend to creator signings and panels, I felt I was missing out on something amazing. I asked him for a recommendation. I thought he’d lend me Batman. Instead, he gave me Green Lantern, a hero I’d barely heard of, and one who would change the course of my life.

The Green Lantern books came at a good time. For a shy, recent college graduate who was unemployed for what felt like an eternity, the concept of willpower and overcoming your fears, which encapsulated the Green Lantern mythos, was alluring. I identified with the Green Lanterns. More specifically, I identified with lost artist Kyle Rayner, who wanted to belong and be a part something bigger.

Inevitably, I spiraled into comic book mania, expanding my reading across DC, Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and smaller independent publishers. Comics being such a niche interest, I took to Twitter to find fellow fans and creators to geek out with. I even started a blog with no real intent except to practice my writing and have fun. Eventually CC2K Comics Editor Gary Kenny recruited me to the site, where I began my tenure diving deeper into the books and community I loved. I was pumped. I belonged.

It was such a momentous time to be reading and writing about comics, too. The increasing popularity of superhero films aside, comics were changing and becoming more progressive. The industry was finally becoming mindful of including more female and minority characters, and hiring new talent to reflect an evolving and very real demographic. It aimed for inclusiveness and diversity. It wasn’t perfect (nothing ever is), but it was a start. The point is, publishers were being called out to do better and they were.

While certain comic book characters at the time still resonated with me, it was a whole different story to see one, especially a superhero, who looked or acted like me. I longed for it, but I never realized how much it meant to me until it became a reality. Characters like Green Lantern Jessica Cruz or Hawkeye Kate Bishop? Their existence matters because it means everyone else who sees themselves in those characters matter.

But of course, there was backlash. We know the story all too well: Entitled old school minded—usually white—male readers who felt their comics were being threatened, and that no progress needed to be made. That the characters and comics were fine the way they were. That diversity was only a part of the “liberal agenda” or whatever. Phrases like “comic gate” and “social justice warrior” became the norm and it poisoned the community.

Nevertheless, the other side is not without fault. While I applaud the community for calling out publishers or creators when an offense was clearly made, the so-called outrages or scandals were becoming a constant occurrence. What used to be good, constructive criticism became hateful rants. The comics community became so warped by both sides of the spectrum that even non-comic book readers jumped into the mix of dissent and finger pointing. It was hard to determine who was more in the right anymore. It was hard to see progress.

I saw creators I knew and loved for years get caught in the crossfire. I witnessed a creator I had known since the beginning of his career spiral into depression. I saw another look more ragged with each passing year. I watched as creators and fellow friends left social media, and as the community collapsed I was devastated. It broke me and it broke a lot of others.

I slowly stopped reading and writing. I stopped logging into Twitter and interacting. That life I lived began to feel like a lifetime ago and I was apathetic to it. I wasn’t sure if I could ever return.

But after two years of monotonously writing technical manuals in my day job, I started to feel an emptiness. I still interacted with a handful of comic book friends and creators on occasion, but I was now looking at everything from the outside in. I missed the stories, the characters, the people, and the writing. I missed the pure joy that came from simply reading a comic book.

That is when CC2K’s new Editor-in-Chief Kristen Lopez contacted me about returning to an all new, revived CC2K. I was ecstatic. It was like a sign calling me home because after such a long time, I finally felt hopeful and optimistic again. Now here I am.

All the negativity of the past few years may have burned me out, but I refuse to let it continue to fester. Moving forward, I want to focus on the positive side of the comic book industry and what they’re doing right. I want to celebrate both the great stories and the bad. I want to applaud the man or woman behind the words and beyond the lines. I want to provide balanced, constructive criticism and remind us all—myself included—why we love comics and being a part of the community in the first place. Like Kyle Rayner, I am finding my way. Like Jessica Cruz, I am returning to a community I long hid from out of fear. Because only in this way can comics be fun again.