Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Time-Honored Game of Nerd Superiority

You know, William just asked me why comics bloggers are so condescending, and I found a livejournal post that articulates why:

*Honest to God, there'’s a freakish sort of pressure when you'’re a woman buying comics. I can't count the number of times I've walked into my local store and felt eyes on me, discreetly appraising my comic book choices. I know guys get this same pressure too, which is part of the problem, but women are judged twice as harshly and we know it (here'’s where I wish I had more women friends who read comics, so somebody could back me up).

This is a self-perpetuating attitude. Geekier than Thou. This is why the first week or two at Blog@Newsarama, most of my posts were greeted with one-upper comments, with the exception of Amateur Art Appreciation posts. Because those posts exude snobbery. They condescension. They have Big Words and they discuss Symbolism. The Geeks who ventured across them feared to challenge them because they may have to deal with long-winded and difficult to dismiss response. But my newblogging, on the other hand, was fair game.

All the newbies get the treatment from the old guard, and realize that's the way you need to be to fit in. The only way to deal with judgment is to be twice as arrogant as the person doing the judging. It's like some weird pack-animal dominance exercise. If you win, you get to be in respected and look down your nose at the losers who read the unpopular books (you know, the ones that actually sell). If you lose, you can look forward to pseudo-intellectual mockery every Wednesday.

You are scored at the cash register:
+3 for each Independant Comic in your pull.
-2 for every superhero book not written by Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, or Warren Ellis
-3 if you are Female*
+1 for every complaint company direction
+1 for every complaint about art
+2 for every complaint about writing
+3 for every complaint about editing
+2 for pessimistic assumptions about industry news
+3 for gratuitous display of continuity knowledge
+4 if you win a Nerd Superiority Challenge with another patron
+5 if you win a Nerd Superiority Challenge with the clerk

*This limits your social standing to a choice of "Fluffy Bunny" or "Force of Nature" depending upon whether you score enough to be in the in-crowd.


  1. One of the regulars at my local, 4th Dimension, is Rihanna (I may have mispelled that, she goes by Rinky). One of the singular joys of 4th is that, while owner Steeve and week-end guy Dave both have cutting wits, they HATE the nerd factor. So it's pretty much a given-- Rinky is just another customer.

    Interestingly, she usually plays males in our RPG campaigns, and does a damn fine job of it. Nary a sterotype in the lot; some stereo typical behavior, but they have that Depth Kalinara mentioned recently.

  2. +10 for every complaint about how the latest company-wide megacrossover is missing the mark or not living up to its hype or for how terrible and time wasting it is.

    +5 more for reading it anyway.

    -25 for enjoying it in spite of itself.

  3. I never felt out of place in a comic shop. It might be because I've always shopped in NYC comic shops. When I was a kid, I got my comics at the local drug store where all they cared about was whether or not the kiddies were gonna shoplift, because the staff weren't comic readers, probably, just adults trying to make a living.

    By the time I discovered comic shops, I was heavily into superhero comics and just another customer at Forbidden Planet or the now-gone Action comics. I didn't get friendly with the staff back then, but I never felt anyone staring at me. I paid with good money which was all that mattered. I didn't need to be in the in-crowd. Female customers were in the decided minority, but I was never the only woman customer.

    Nowadays, I shop in Forbidden Planet where almost half the staff is female. I'm friendly with many of the folks working there, including one of the managers with whom I discuss recent titles and I can kid around with him (he might be young enough to be my kid, but he has a baby face, so it's hard to tell).

    It's kinda nice, actually. I've been reading comics for 46 years now, which I've mentioned there once or twice, so they know I'm not new to the format. I feel I get a bit of respect from some of the staff, the ocassional "what's up with the old gal?" looks from some of the younger, newer staff, and am treated like a valued customer by the rest. They especially go out of their way to please me after they screw up my pull list titles for the week. heh

  4. I should add that maybe a third or more of the customers there are women, too. And since they, like most comic shops these days, sell a wide variety of comics, plus pbs and games and toys, action figures, etc, they have a varied customer base. Plenty of tourists, too, looking for a comics fix.

  5. Two additions for the list:

    -5 for buying anything Rob Liefeld is involved in.

    -10 for defending Rob Liefeld's skills as an artist/writer in public

  6. While close, this is not the actual rubrick that I, the most judgemental thing to hit comics since Arishem the Judge, use to evaluate my customers.

    That list of criteria includes scores like: "-Infinity: You ask when the next issue of 52 is coming out with no trace of humor."

  7. -10 for being an occasional reader who picks something up because it looks interesting with ought caring if it is mainstream or indie or whatever.

  8. I've never found this, but I've never had a conversation with a clerk at a comic store either, beyond "do you have such-and-such an issue in stock?"

  9. -150 if you've read Spawn
    -200 if you ever enjoyed reading Spawn

  10. That doesn't reflect my experiences or observations.

    If a female adult enters a comic shop, I usually see people *drooling* over this rare sub-species of female humanity.

    Attractiveness immediately graded on a curve if you're female and even APPROACH the threshold of your local comic book store.

    *That's* why people are staring.

    I ain't saying there aren't a bunch of snobby nerds out there. There definitely are and I can't stand to breathe the same air as most of'em, but I think this is a different phenomenon.

  11. Gotta side with west. is it possible you (the female geek) are not being graded, appraised or condescended to with any kids of rubric --- but actually watched so that a male can approach with, "oh, i like that comic too!"?

  12. "any KIND [not kids] of rubric"... thought that typo was too meaning-obfuscating to avoid correction

  13. West and Chance -- Fair enough, but I'd call that a kind of grading too. Because in a new city it kills my chances of being fully integrated into the social circle of geeks I need to be in. If he approaches to try and get a date, and I'm not interested, I lose any points I'd get for attractiveness. Not only that, I'm still not a "real member" of the community, because of the romantic hopes tied up in any interaction with me. They color the conversations I might have. I can't be "one of the guys" that way.

    I'll concede that attractiveness could be used to up a few points, but on the whole being female is a negative when trying for Nerd Superiority. Something that needs to be compensated for.

  14. Shelly and D.Ed -- You guys have been to a better clas of stores than me. I've moved about 6 or 7 times since graduation, and I was speaking from experience of trying to find a new regular store each time and trying to hunt down back issues. I get out the phone book and run all over the city, on average I find one or two girl-friendly stores. The one I frequent now is half-Hello Kitty and Manga, and Hello Kitty is where most of the profits come from. I think I'm the only woman who hovers in the American Comics section.

    This was also peppered with my online experiences.

  15. Hmm.. On third thought, perhaps it should be amended to:

    +2 if you are an attractive woman
    -2 if you make it clear you're unavailable
    -4 if you are an "unattractive" woman

  16. Wow, I got linked by Ragnell! I'm moving on up in the comics blogosphere =).

    I think the condescending aspect is in order to make the customer "prove their chops". That may sound horrible, but it really is a pissing contest sometimes. I'm not a woman, so I don't know, but I feel that the whole "woman entering the comic shop" is NOT judged more harshly than men. Comic shops, especially the fanboy dungeons some have described, are populated by regulars. They're gonna be wary of those they've never seen you before, regardless of gender. Same thing with online. Over on reappropriate, I went off on a guy until he showed me he knew what he was talking about. He earned my fanboy respect. If "belonging" is something you care about, it's a great feeling when you DO prove yourself, but if you're not into that, then it's probably going to be a negative aspect of the comic buying experience. The first time I went into Big Monkey Comics, I was nervous, but the guys (Devon, et al.) were welcoming enough that I had a great time. Now, I drop by for almost "comic spiritual rejuvenation". Sounds lame, but it's akin to going to comic church or something. It's a cool experience.

    Don't get me wrong; it's not cool for them to judge your purchases, but I'll bet they also get tired of the speculators coming in to buy the book they just read about in the Times. Sure, these media events can brng in new readers, but they also contribute to unnecessary variant covers, inflated sales figures, etc. From a retailer perspective, I guess they don't wanna get close if you're just going to break their comic heart and not come back. Plus, if I hear one more "newbie" ask the cashier, "Is this going to be worth anything?" I think to those of us who take the hobby seriously, we don't really take kindly to those who see it as something "cute" or "quirky". So, we get defensive and snarky to see if they're in it for keeps or just passing through. Wow, sorry...I really ranted there.

  17. Willaim -- True, the clerks do have a right to get angry, but the patrons -- the other patrons do it too. And the scoring is at the cashier's desk because that's where they see what you'll actually spend money on.

  18. I've been in a lot of comic book
    stores, and for the most part have
    been that not only
    am I a woman, but a MIDDLE-AGED
    woman! Frankly I think I scrared
    them more than they did me. However, once some of the guys found out that I was getting Preacher and Hitman, they calmed down a bit. Also...bringing in
    homemade cookies for your comic book store owner gets you the best covers. Heh heh.

  19. Even though I am often the only female in the stores I frequent, I've never felt judged or ogled. Maybe that's the perk of being in LA, that nothing surprises anyone (I do notice though, that my comics get more approving nods from the clerks than my husband 's :) ). I dunno, maybe they realize that a geekier than thou attitude doesn't bring repeat customers. But if the customer comes in like they have something to prove, then let the Nerd Sup. Challenge begin.

  20. Sally -- No cookies on the blog?

    ohgrl -- :)

  21. Hey, now, I never had the standard problems locally... So, maybe you forgot one...

    +56 if you have a very strong opinion about who would win in a fight between any two random characters
    +10 if you can back it up with examples

  22. Sin -- That's a way to get a name for yourself, actually. My LCS clerk teased me for months when we heard Superman and Wonder Woman were going to fight in WW#219.

    Also, every time it looks like Kyle Rayner's going to die... When his series ended, Obsidian Age, Identity Crisis, Rebirth, Recharge, Infinite Crisis...

  23. Damn! No one informed me of the score card! No wonder customers try so goddamned hard to impress or show of psudo-intellectualism! Here I thought I was selling funny books.
    It all makes sense now. =)

  24. Carla -- You've been judging without an Official Scorecard? ACK! Recount! Recount!

  25. I think that I established my proper geek credentials at my comic book shop when we had an hour long conversation over whether or nor Cyclops sees in shades of red...which would mean that to him, Jean actually had white hair, and Emma has red hair.

    Oh, and Ragnell, what KIND of cookies would you like? Choc chip, molasses or peanutbutter?
    The chocolate and macadamia nut ones are good too.