This weekend’s shift at the comic store (Gatekeeper Hobbies, Huntoon & Gage, Topeka!  Ask me about the first appearance of Bizarro!) included an extended conversation with a young woman about 18 years old who was just killing time while her laundry finished drying across the street.  Although initially uncertain about the whole “comic book store” experience, she had an understanding of RPGs, liked the Walking Dead television show and was kind of fascinated by the D&D game going on in the back game room.  Our discussion ranged from the simple (“How do you know what order to put the books in?”) to the surprisingly complicated (“Do you think barbarian is a better class choice for damage in 4th Edition?”) and at the end of the day, she indicated that she might return to the store and purchase things for herself.  Given the recent hubbub regarding “fake geek girls,” I find myself hoping that her next experiences with nerdity will be positive ones, with her fellow enthusiasts helping her to discover the awesome that gaming and comics have to offer, rather than quizzing her about the finer points of Batman’s Silver Age adventures or mocking her for not knowing that Rick Grimes and his friends started out in the comics…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) always imagines the “ONE OF US!” scene from ‘Freaks’ when someone blunders into the more territorial corners of nerd culture, asking: What can we, as conscientious fanboys & girls do to keep our shared hobbies from turning into gated communities of judgemental exclusionist jerks?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


    • I know that has got to be hard and it is much appreciated. There are multiple sites that I will not participate in due to this problem, It is also the reason I will not go on XBox live with head set anymore.

  1. I think recruitment is the best way. My girlfriend, for instance. When i met her, she hated everything related to my nerdity. Through a decently long while of careful coaxing here and there, she now is a video gamer of mid-range talent and high-range potential, a tabletop gamer, willingly playing in a 3.5 game with me and open to trying 4th, AND she likes The Lord of the rings movies now. (Working on Star Wars still.) recruitment takes time, but if you’re willing, I think it’s the best way to go.

    • With those I’ve dated, it has always started with compromise. I’d watch a movie they want to see (usually a romance movie or something) if they watch a geeky movie with me next. It usually doesn’t take long before they realize that the “geeky” stuff isn’t all that different aside from having the sci-fi or fantasy element.

      One of my ex’s hadn’t seen Star Wars before we got together, so I took her to see the re-releases in the theaters (the “Special Edition” when they came out). While she complained a bit on the way to see it, she fell in love with it after actually seeing it.

  2. I’m not sure about the average fanboy & fangirl, but the suggestion I would make for the couple of Little Comics Shops I frequent is to try and have more professional counter & sales staff. Maybe I’m not the norm, but what I’m looking for at a LCS, whether my regular one, or one I’ve never been into is a level of interaction akin to a good professional bartender. Offer to help me, certainly, make recommendations if asked, be professional and don’t editorialize unless I’m a regular and you know me really, really well. And put a sock in that, if a newbie is in the store. I hate it when you make it seem like I’m interrupting your gaming/schmoozing/shoot the sh*t session by asking you to ring me up.

    The impressions you make go a long way to either building another fan, or just proving out the “comic book guy” stereotype. Doing a lot of traveling for a living, I’ve been to a lot of stores and some have really been off putting, even to a comic book nerd like me. I can only imagine what a customer like that young woman doing her laundry would have thought.

    And look, I’m not expecting a Apple Store level of fit and finish here; I get these are by and large small ventures, a lot of which are run by first time business people, with a lot of young kids working in them, but please a little common sense here. Every first time or extremely casual customer that gets put off by your un-emptied garbage can, loud debate about Batman movies, mildly offensive tee-shirt, majorly offensive tee-shirt, or tentacle porn poster is another nail in the the coffin for this industry, at least the print and non-digital side of it. You can’t depend on us of farts forever…

  3. I think the elitist attitude has to stop. I’ve been reading comics for 25 years and I couldn’t tell you what issue was the first appearance of Bat-Mite. And frankly I don’t give a $h!t. Does that make me less of a comic fan? No. I work in a comic book store and happily tell customers what books I think are the best and try to get every person who comes into the store to want to leave with at least one comic they’re interested in. This includes wife’s and girlfriends. We have to remember, there was a point when you started reading comics too and knew very little “history”. There’s also always gonna be someone who has been reading longer than you and knows more

  4. My two cents, the elitism and exclusion is a defensive reaction. We got treated like crap, either for our hobbies or we used those hobbies as an escape from the attacks. We became guarded about any communities we developed and paranoid over anyone who tried to join in, which inevitably lead to the elitism some people experience.

    The “fake” nerd girl reaction is just a matter of prolonged exposure to a closed community. Maybe even a little bit of self-loathing, in a “I’ve suffered for being involved in this area why would someone with other options on the table chose this community.”

    The issue at hand, I think, is just a matter of outgrowing this mindset. Most of our hobbies getting mixed up with teenaged angst and not letting it go is where it goes wrong.

  5. I think the biggest thing we can do is invite all into our midst. Sure some will flame out, but excluding people will allow for the hobby to eventually fall. So inviting all and educating by inclusion is the way to go.

    When I say educate I don’t mean be derisive in your response, but to teach them a few things and allow them to have their own opinion. When you do that you may see something from the angle of fresh eyes.

  6. To reiterate what some have said, drop the “us vs them” with those who are unfamiliar with pop culture. I never considered myself a “nerd” until some others gave me that moniker and many never lump me into that category in the first place. If people would just 1.enjoy the things they like, 2.share whats cool about it with those who are willing to listen and 3.stop worrying about what label you have/ want placed upon you, you’ll find your hobbies to be much more enjoyable.

  7. I miss the comic shop I used to frequent because they really did go the extra step towards making sure the environment was always pleasant and there was always someone willing to help new people out, be it staff or a regular customer. Arguments were not allowed (friendly debates were, but if it got too aggressive, it was asked they either stop or take it elsewhere) and there was almost always someone around to explain a subject to a new person. If someone came in on a gaming day, there would also be someone willing to break it down and explain it if someone was interested.

    It was a shame when the owner’s health took a bad turn and he couldn’t afford to keep the shop open anymore and nobody else could afford to take over for him.

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