The second in a series of columns by “Irene Alder” for Bleeding Cool.
This morning at work I was handed a large stack of books and given a perfectly reasonable instruction – Sort by age recommendation. As I tucked into the job at hand the bosslady sashayed out. But not before looking over her shoulder and giving one final direction: “When you’re done, separate them into ‘girl books’ and ‘boy books’.” And just like that, she was gone.
My first reaction was disbelief, followed quickly by a day dream in which I drew little phalluses on half the books, and big bouncy breasts on the rest. It was frustrating, tiring and all too familiar. Girl books. Boy books. Like it really was just that black and white.
Things aren’t, though we’ve all seen someone try to portray them that way. After my last column, I had several people try to paint me in strokes nearly that broad. Dark hair? I’m a goth girl. I like the way a corset makes me look? I’m a dominatrix. I enjoy the company of men? I’m teeming with venereal disease. I appreciate talent? I have no personal aspirations. And my personal favorite? Throw a bit of sex into the mix and – you guessed it – I’m not even a woman.
Bullshit. Nothing is ever that simple, and you know it. Attractive doesn’t equal stupid. Geek doesn’t equal living in your mother’s basement. Comics are not “boy books.”
And I grew up on comics. Sure, the occasional Betty & Veronica slipped in there, but the majority were decaying science fiction and dog-eared GI Joes inherited from a father who never threw anything away. I learned to love comics at his knee and he merely shared with me what he had loved as a kid. There was never any question of it being “ok for a girl.” Just two people, enjoying something fun, dorky, and exciting.
Naturally, my tastes changed as I grew up and out into the world. I discovered the local comics shop and whiled away countless hours flipping through newsprint that left ink stains on my hands. The guys that owned it, barely grown ups themselves, were always very kind to a young, gawky girl who spent all of her allowance at their fine establishment. When I left home to go to school, I missed that comics store as much as I missed my mother’s cooking.
But then I found other stores, other places to get my comics fix. Independents. Book stores. Ebay. Conventions. My appreciation of the art form grew as I grew. I found favorite writers, artists I admired, series that I just couldn’t put down. Comics did battle with clothes for pride of place in my small apartment.
And not once, not in all my life, was I told that comics weren’t for girls. Maybe I was lucky. Maybe someone tried to tell me and I just didn’t listen. Maybe they were too distracted by my tits to tell me what I should be reading. Because yes, somewhere in that journey between GI Joe and Watchmen I got tits. And hips. And a very healthy sex drive. And none of those things made me love comics any less. Comics are not “boy books.” They aren’t even books for boys and girls that act like one of the boys. Comics are for whoever decides to venture into their neighborhood store, shell out a few bucks, and go along for the ride.
So, what does all this exposition have to do with “the sexy side of fandom?” Nothing. But has everything to do with why I love comics. And my love for comics is why I do what I do. It’s why I count these incredible writers and artists among my closest friends. It’s why I go to conventions and walk the dealers’ room til I’m footsore & blistered. It’s why I lust after the creative spark, and it’s why I am who I am.
I’m Irene Adler. I have tits and a brain and I love comics. If you’re reading this now, we’ve got at least two of those things in common. Maybe all three.
Photo by Dan Wickline.