“Either way there is no etiquette or protocol
for seeing people that look like you in a comic shop”
“A Black guy walks into a comic shop, right?” Sounds like the beginning a bad joke. Yet, everyday this happens. Why even talk about it? Good and bad question. Here’s the deal. Black people like comic books. Black people like manga. Black people like board games. Black people like anime. Here’s a little secret. *whispering* “Black people like everything people like”. I have a book in my library called “I Wonder Why…” by Shirley Burden. It is a small book filled with pictures and words set in a poetry fashion. The first page of this book is only eight words. “I wonder why some people don’t like me”. The writer goes on to list a number of things she likes and yet she’s faced with this unfortunate reality.The book also ends with these same words.In comic book fandom, Black people have always been apart. When the comic book stores had nearly nothing featuring Black superheroes, we were there. We was there when the images of Black characters were less than favorable. Now, times have changed. Or have they? Pay that no mind, I was just messing with you to see if you was still paying attention. Yes, there are lots of Black characters in the comic shop now. But… where are the lots of Black people? It is almost odd to see more than one Black person in a comic shop. Let me be honest, for years. I was that only Black guy. Now this isn’t to say Black folks do not frequent said establishment. I just know they haven’t been there, when I was there. However, we know that the presence of Black characters generally mean the presence of Black dollars. We not stupid over here. We are thankful for the beautiful covers featuring Black characters. Yes, and I’m sure Boom! Studios, Image, Scout, Marvel and DC are thankful too. Their thankfulness lies in our coin. Sure, some are there to promote diversity and all that but we know at the end of the day. It is all about the money.
Now, the funny thing is there are different types of Black folks in these spaces. You have the lone wolf, who just observes and buys what’s on the wall. He or she doesn’t engage the shop personnel, they just quietly go about their business grabbing Black books. Then you have the Black guy who doesn’t want to be known as the Black guy. This bamma goes out of his way to not buy Black. He’s the guy that will buy a book but he wants to know if the story or the art is any good first. After all, color doesn’t matter even though it matters to the “civilized” world. Then you have the hokey dopey guy. The one Black guy at the shop always playing board games who basically is there like all day. He is comfortable, sometimes too comfortable. Dude needs an afro pick and new T-shirt because the charcoal gray shirt he is wearing used to be black. Come on bruh, step it up a notch. What’s weird about all these guys is that its a literally a chore to strike up conversations and talk about Black characters. Sure, Bobby the guy behind the counter is game to talk Black comic characters but sometimes that conversation has parameters and is surface level. Yet, you kind of want to chop it up with someone who looks like you. Sometimes though, you just have put yourself out there and initiate conversation. Sometimes it goes somewhere, sometimes it doesn’t. Either way there is no etiquette or protocol for seeing people who look like you in a comic shop. As Black people many of us have all had that experience of going into a restaurant you are not familiar with. You go in hoping to have a good meal but before that, your eyes search the establishment. You survey the landscape and as William H Foster alludes to, I am looking for a face like mine. Thank God for the internet. I have meaningful conversations about Black comic books and characters all the time now. Yet, God made us social beings. We need face to face interaction. Maybe I can the get the lone wolf to look up from the long box, or the sell out to grab Killadelphia by Rodney Barnes or chat up the dopey guy and recommend a dope T shirt. Maybe its just wishful thinking. -Richard J Wright
NOTE: Richard J Wright’s complete blog listing can be found at blackwardslivingincomics.blogspot.com