Movin’ on up.

When I moved I had a decision to make. Would I spend the ninety dollars required to bring my comic collection with me or would I leave it behind?

I left it all behind—every comic, every graphic novel, every ashcan, every sketchbook, every ‘zine. Such a decision was not to be made lightly. I began first by pruning, eliminating books I knew I would not reread and would not miss. Great swaths of comics from the nineties were relinquished, banished to Ikea dustbins and set aside for donation. In the end, when I had accepted that I would be leaving my entire collection behind, I set aside a weekend to simply sit and read. I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the older works held up.

Though I had the funds to take my collection with me, I was reluctant to take it out of my “start-up money.” I knew that bringing the books with me was not a necessity. A more religious (and more annoying) person would probably mention the need to put away childish things. But comics are not childish things. How can a medium, a fully formed method of storytelling, be childish? The notion is absurd.

It is, however, an expensive thing—as a consumer and as a creator. As a consumer, one must have the space to house a personal library and the lucre required to spend $2.99 on roughly seven minutes of entertainment. That’s $25.00 an hour—nearly double the average person’s salary.

And yet that $2.99 must provide for nearly a half-dozen creative individuals—writers, pencillers, inkers, letterers, colorists, and editors. The amount of labor involved to produce such a small—though delectable—morsel of entertainment is astounding and should be adequately compensated. Often, it is not.

Artwork by Sean MurphyIn Chris Arrant’s interview with the talented Sean Murphy (who amusingly provided an image that once served as the logo for this site), Murphy was asked if the comics industry was a young man’s game.

“I think it probably helps to be young, not only because you have more energy, but it means you probably have less real-world responsibilities like a mortgage or children (I certainly wouldn’t have had the luxury of doing Punk Rock Jesus if I had two kids to feed). Going to conventions, staying out late and hobnobbing certainly isn’t as fun as it was when I was in my 20s.”

I have to disagree with Murphy. The comics industry—any entertainment industry—is a rich man’s game, be he young or old. Surprisingly, creation itself is a luxury—one that requires time, supplies, and a support network. Those who have wealth are able to acquire resources in greater abundance. Those who do not have money but still possess the desire to create are often expected to suffer for their art. Poverty is romanticized. We swoon over the starving artist or struggling writer. “You have to love comics to be in it.”

When I left my previous position at an academic publisher, I was adamant that I would remain in publishing. In fact, I was certain that I would make the switch to trade or comic publishing—and perhaps write as well. Had one stated that I would set my creative aspirations aside for the field of property management, I would have scoffed.

Yet I left the books behind for a reason. I am far too practical to let the wide-eyed writer inside of me drag me into noisy, cramped apartments; cold, polluted cities; and low-paying daytime drudgery in an attempt to satisfy her creative wishes. I am poised to purchase my first property; she will have to settle for a diary and a library card.

Perhaps when I make that last payment on that last house—somewhere near water where the skies are blue and the political affiliations are as well—I will allow her some leeway. Luckily, writing isn’t a young man’s game.

Why does Jessica Nigri think thinly-veiled nigger jokes are funny?

Not only does she have “Nigri Please,” a play on the phrase “Nigger, please” as the title of her F.A.Q. webpage, she has a Nigri Please banner above her booth at Emerald City Comicon this year. Not only is this callous, inconsiderate, and hateful behavior, it made for an unpleasant convention experience for me as a black woman—a convention I spent three weeks of my salary to attend. I flew all the way to Seattle expecting a pleasant vacation to be disrespected by this woman’s racism.

This is the kind of microaggresive and distressing behavior fans of color have to put up with from white fans—and now professionals. And it is why so many of us distance ourselves as consumers.

ETA: I received the following message in my mailbox after the above post.

hate mail

My initial reaction was simply cynical laughter rather than the anger and discomfort that arose when I saw Ms. Nigri’s banner. On the Internet, racism is expected. Those too timid to delight in the disrespect and denigration of black people in public will generally jump at the chance when anonymity is offered. In the wake of the controversies surrounding Paula Deen and several contestants on Big Brother, so many individuals who aren’t black have strangely questioned why they cannot say the word nigger—as if they have somehow been banned from doing so. They have not. Their real questions are as follows: why can’t I say nigger without large numbers of black people recoiling from me in disgust? Why can’t I publicly use racial slurs against minority groups without my coworkers and employers distancing themselves from me immediately? Why can’t I treat black people as if they are not worthy of respect as human beings and suffer no social consequences for it?

For all their cries of free speech these people cannot grasp that others exert that same right—that their actions will provoke reactions in others. Some simply cannot comprehend that the term nigger is a sign of disrespect—as are all racial slurs. To ask why one cannot say nigger is to have a childish fit at the fact that a black person might dare be offended by a word that was created and is still used by those who are not black to insult black people. Slurs are invectives that extend far beyond a personal attack to target an entire racial group.

As for me, I was not expecting to encounter racism (unintentional though it likely was in hindsight) when I attended the convention. I suffered for my naivety. When one is not prepared for it, the damage done can be severe. My solution is to speak out against racism in fandom when I encounter it—calmly, clearly, and without anger—then remove myself from the arenas where it is perpetuated. Doing so allows me to stand firm in my beliefs without infringing upon the freedoms of others or subjecting myself to abuse.