Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

My Name is Beth and I Went Into a Comic Book Store

"My name is Beth and I went into a comic book store"

"Hi Beth!"

Last weekend I went to see the new movie "Coraline" based on the dark children's book by Neil Gaimen. It is a puppetry animated film dealing in strange fantasies. How I got C to go still mystifies me. In the end she says she agreed to go to only because of rave reviews. Otherwise she despises all such entertainments, preferring instead leaden fiction featuring cold and distant mothers. C's tolerance for anything remotely sci fi or fantasy is similar to my tolerance for new country music: I might actually storm across the dance floor in a bar, pull the jukebox plug and glare at the patrons while emitting a low growl.

Perhaps the mother in this film, I thought, would suffice in terms of the requisit "cold". In fact she was so "distant" she came from another dimension and if you've read the book or seen the film, you have to admit 'other mother' is pretty evil. But to no avail, C hated the film and no degree of familial dysfunctionality could induce her to be interested. Mid-way through the picture a child quite too young to be at such a twisted film called out: "Mommy I want to go!!" C muttered rather loudly: "So do I kid.."

C has a history of hating fantasy that goes beyond "Coraline". When I saw "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" C reluctantly came along with me and my sister. Here was a new film that had broken all rules to bring the Ring Trilogy to shining life on film. Two thirds through the movie a critical juncture: Frodo has been stabbed by a wraith and will die. My sister and every other punter in the theatre were on the edge of our seats watching breathlessly as the brave Elven Princess rides furiously to make Rivendel carrying dying Frodo slumped upon her horse; seven great black wraiths chase her on seven black horses; they weave in and out of towering green pines! Will she make it to the river?! I could barely stand the excitement!!! All of a sudden a new noise rose above the gasps of the audience! It came slowly, then grew louder and louder! It was a... ummm...snore. C had fallen asleep in her seat. The conclusion must be that the last place C wanted to go on a Sunday was looking for comic books.

I however, having seen "Coraline" realized it was time for me to reaquaint myself with my love of Gaiman's Sandman comic work in the early 90s.

In those days I ate up the Sandman series like a kid wolfs down pancakes. Somehow though, after my mother's death I guess and a rather acrimonious split between a roomate and I, I lost touch with all my Sandman compilations, comics and attendant nerdy accroutements that had been given to me over a number of birthdays: my Death shirt was gone, my Counsellor Troy coffee mug was nowhere to be found and I can't even remember the last time I saw my "Starship the Next Generation" kitchen wall clock". In any event I had an hour to kill before walking the dog. I decided to go and find some Sandman comics.

I went first to the Coles in the local mall. It was then I realized that, well frankly, I was now a 43 year old woman. I think I still look cool, you know, pierced, coloured hair, but as I went towards the 'sci fi' 'fantasy' section of the store, I began to feel a taint of embarassment. Even back in my 20s being a comic book fan wasn't exactly akin to the cache of heroin addicted alt. At the section I was met with Star Wars fiction books in giant size, then Star Trek novelettes followed by countless fantasy paperbacks with drawings of warriors about as tawdry as the covers of a Harlequin Romance. Substitute a helmeted dwarve for the lady with the heaving bosom and ripped bodice in the Harlequin series and you've got a fantasy novel cover. Then came countless Batman and Supermen comic compilations. Even as an alternative comic lover in 90s Superman weren't ever cool.

I kept looking behind me while while searching the shelves desperately for "Sandman" and began to feel as if I was at the local small town Shopper's Drugmart buying condoms and flavoured lube. I rushed out of the store.

Driving along First Avenue I realized there was another option: The Gauntlet, a comic book and fantasy game store in town. Now if I was embarrassed to be seen in the sci fi section of Coles, what would it mean for me to actually drive all the way to a comic store in a strip mall and then be seen walking in.

But I did it. Worst of all and what made me cringe was the very reality of the stereotype of the guys who hang out in comic book stores. I walked in. There in the back a number of pimply and overweight men, some in their teens others in their late thirties sat around homemade "fantasy" game tables featuring models of castles and moats and played with small figurines of wizards, knights and clerics...my heart sank. By going into the store, I was admitting in some strange way, I was one of them.

I think I was the first woman any of them had seen in months and they were all genuinely friendly including the affable owner, a late 30 something, overweight guy, with little silver round rim glasses wearing a Superman t-shirt. I bought my Sandman comic and thought about asking him to put into a brown paper bag like pornography. I did a quick people check as I left the store and skulked into my car, prize in hand, embarassed even that the teens at Tim Hortons had seen me.

On our walk, I began to tell my friend Denise about the shame of going to the Coles sci fi fantasy section and she couldn't stop laughing, the very stigma of such interests being known to all women. Between gales of laughter she shreiked: "Well at least you didn't go into the Gauntlet....!!!!"

May the Force be With You...