by Amir Hafizi

Pix credit:  Matt Groening and Fox Broadcasting Company
I’ll tell you a secret - I never had money to buy comics as a child. My family was poor, so the only thing I could do to enjoy comics (and I do love them) was to read newspapers and online reviews of comics. Only after I landed a job did I finally manage to buy all the comics I wanted... and get myself into credit card debt, but that’s another story. 

For years, in order to borrow comics from my geekier friends, I faked it. I didn’t lie. I just faked it, and no other comics fans figured it out. Or so I think.
One day you need to do the same - impress some comics geeks. Maybe the world has turned and all the cool people who loved Sex Pistols as teenagers are all dead. Those who raged against the machine are all now cogs in the giant machinery - robots with no soul. The jocks and overachievers are all married with children, and servicing 30-year loans so hard, they have gone bald.

The only cool people left are comics geeks, who retain their youthful vigour by refusing to grow up. You need to run with the pack, otherwise they will sniff you out and destroy you, because the comics community is just like any other.

So here are some tips to get you started:

1. Specialise
No one has read all the comics in the world, so you don’t need to know all of them. In fact, focus on one publisher, one genre or one artist/writer.

For example, I love DC Comics’ Vertigo imprint. This is a small, limited line of adult and mature comics - not of the pornographic kind, but of the highly conceptual, multi-layered story-telling kind. 

 I love it, and before I had the money to buy all the Sandmans, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Transmetropolitan stuff, I merely focused on reading about these comics and the people who do them.

Pix credit: DC Vertigo Comics
See, you’re not expected to know everything, and if you specialise your knowledge, you can easily say, “I love Vertigo” or “I love Spider-Man, during the Todd MacFarlane era” or “I love Gen-13” and they will leave you alone.

Information? Wikipedia and Google are your friends. Wish I had them back then, instead of reading an English master’s thesis on signifying in comics.

2. The essentials
Regardless of what genre you specialise in, there are essential information and undeniable truths that you must know.

For example, be aware that starting from the ‘80s, an influx of British writers flooded the American market and changed the face of American comics forever. These people include Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis and a few more.

American writers/artistes who are legendary include Brian Michael Bendis (Jinx) and Frank Miller (Sin City, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, 300).

Pix credit: Frank Miller
Also, please note that Rob Liefeld is mainly considered an embarrassment by some comics people. He is a remnant of the days when superheroes are drawn with 132 teeth and take steroids from birth. Also, a good Liefeld insult is that ALL his characters have the same pose - one of being in perpetual constipation.

These are the essentials you need to know about. Do a bit of research and you’re in!

3. Indie
If you want to seem hardcore, say “I am into indie.” and mention the pioneers of independently-published comics - Dave Sim (who did Cerberus), Scott McCloud (Zot! and two books concerning comics), Jeff Smith (Bone) and read more on these people, who were part of a real revolution.

More accessible is Terry Moore, who did the amazing Strangers in Paradise - one of the greatest works in the world of comics.

There’s also David Lapham (Stray Bullets) - which takes non-linear narrative to greater heights.

4. Foreign Comics
Silly term, since all these are ‘foreign’, but since we’re talking about American comics, anything from outside is cool. Don’t mention Bleach or Naruto. If you have to mention manga, say Usagi Yojimbo or Vagabond.

Pix credit: Inoue Takehiko
Also, drop a few Europeans in such as Moebius (who drew The Incal) and Alexander Jodorowsky (writer of The Incal, Technopriest and Metabarons).

5. Or...
If you’ve read this far, here’s a suggestion: why don’t you just be a real comics fan, and read all these wonderful works. Life’s too short to fake everything.