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Shaenon K. Garrity
This is where I write stuff.
Trick Your Woman Into Liking What You Like 
20th-Feb-2007 02:33 am
I love the John Byrne Forum because it's pure distilled comic-book fanboy nerdiness at its sweatsock-stinkiest. You know those ubiquitous message-board threads where guys post photos of hot women and swap hubba-hubba comments? The Byrne board has one that's been running nonstop since 2004 and is currently 304 pages long. Not 304 posts. 304 pages. It's a jackoff thread longer than One Hundred Years of Solitude. (Byrne himself patrols the thread daily to make sure that no one posts photos of women he thinks have had breast implants, but that's a whole 'nother story.)

It's no surprise that the board also routinely plays host to another of the universal comic-book forum threads, the How To Get Your Girl Into Comics thread. If, like me, you're foolish enough to spend any time in comics fandom at all, you know the thread: one of the regulars has acquired a girlfriend or wife, but he's not content. He can't help thinking how great it would be if he could indoctrinate her into his favorite hobby and indulge in both of his passions at once, like that episode of "Seinfeld" where George tries to eat, screw, and watch TV at the same time. But girls hate comics! Obviously, the solution is to find that one magical uterus-friendly comic that all humans of the female persuasion are genetically programmed to love. And who better to locate the Bestest Comic for Girls than a bunch of nerdy men on the Internet?

The thread currently running on the Byrne board is notable only because it's such a perfect, Platonic example of the genre. It's like a template for all Get Your Girl Into Comics threads on all comic-book forums for all eternity. It's got every one of the essential elements:

1. Sandman, Strangers in Paradise, Fables, and True Story Swear To God are recommended over and over and over. And over.
2. Manga isn't so much as mentioned.
3. Neither are comic strips. Or webcomics, unless you count the print collections of Girl Genius.
4. "Romance" is repeatedly cited as something all women adore. The "romance comics" recommended are frequently just superhero comics that include a love interest, like Frank Miller's run on Daredevil. (That sound you hear is Lea Hernandez's head exploding at the notion of Frank Miller as the perfect female-friendly cartoonist.)
5. Everyone with a girlfriend or wife weighs in, even though none of their girlfriends or wives like comics. Mostly, they just want everyone to know they're not single, either.
6. Someone uses the phrase "chicks dig it," possibly without irony.

And, most essentially...

7. The thread is now two pages long, and no one has thought to ask about the tastes of the woman in question.

You know, like what kind of books or movies or TV shows or off-Broadway musicals she enjoys. Like whether she actually likes romance, or if she's more into mysteries or slapstick comedy or The Da Vinci Code. On the contrary, everyone's been blissfully ignoring what little information the original poster provided. He said only that his wife found Jeff Smith's new Captain Marvel comic too disturbing (huh?), and people are cheerfully recommending that he hand her Hellboy and The Walking Dead.

Basically, you read the John Byrne forum so that you never have to read another comic-book forum ever again. It's all there, pure and uncut.
20th-Feb-2007 11:31 am (UTC)
I took a break from the Byrne forum because it was depressing me, and after reading your post I feel the need to extend my sabbatical. In a word: thanks.
16th-Jul-2008 08:49 pm (UTC)
I took to saying then (and please forgive me my stereotyping based only on my experience from way back when; I'm thinking it's changed since) that the television production culture was more akin to the car-mechanic culture; and as such equally pin-up, macho and male.
20th-Feb-2007 11:37 am (UTC)
I haven't given a female friend comics in a while. But the last time was when I gave one of the women I gamed with my Bone trades after I bought the complete series omnibus. Before that was probably...hmmm...Torso. But that was my LARPing days, when 90% of the women I knew were goths...
20th-Feb-2007 11:58 am (UTC)
Actually thats not totally true. I gave one of my step-nieces the first two Leave it to Chance trades...
20th-Feb-2007 11:57 am (UTC)
Ha! My girlfriend reads most of the same comics as I do, but then I don't bother reading shit comics.
16th-Jul-2008 05:31 pm (UTC)
Both by the industry and by most people that don’t read comics. Shit, even by many who do. Marvel is banking on this selling like hot cakes, which it probably will.
20th-Feb-2007 12:17 pm (UTC)
I feel dirty just reading a first-order description of those boards. ::shiver::
20th-Feb-2007 01:35 pm (UTC)
Seconded. Ew.

Not surprising, though- I did quiz bowl in college and ran across a lot of guys like that. They were too frustrating to bother trying to deal with, most of the time.

And, as a girl myself, I'd recommend stuff like Maus, Persepolis, Pyongyang and the like before I'd say, "Hey, pick up a copy of Hellboy!" I personally like a lot of the superhero comics, but there are a lot of girls who don't get much out of them. And much as I love Wolvie and the rest, book to book, something like Pyongyang is usually a more satisfying read, intellectually-speaking, than, say, the latest issue of Gambit or whatever.

But all of this is moot if the guys making recommendations were ignoring what the OP said about his girlfriend's tastes in the first place.
20th-Feb-2007 02:05 pm (UTC)
That explains why I got all of the good comics from women. (Though I did start with Sandman, I admit.) I got all of my webcomic recommendations from guys until I started reading Narbonic, at which point a more satisfying source of recommendations opened up.

The forum is a space where they can talk about women without having to actually talk to women. As if talking around them might somehow give them the answers they crave. Would recommending comics that the guys themselves don't like really solve their perceived problems? Does reading any comic suffice, or are all of these supposedly girl-friendly things hoped to act as a gateway drug to get the women into whatever guy comic currently turns them off?

No, I'm not going to look for myself. Sorry. I need to find zombie photos meeting standards for gender and racial representation.
20th-Feb-2007 06:08 pm (UTC)

Does reading any comic suffice, or are all of these supposedly girl-friendly things hoped to act as a gateway drug to get the women into whatever guy comic currently turns them off?

That is, of course, the next level of the challenge. Once you get the woman into comics, you have to get her into the right comics. This may be why manga, comic strips, webcomics, and almost anything that doesn't come in a 32-page pamphlet format is generally assumed from the get-go to not count. It's important that she read something that's at least the same size and shape as X-Men.

These threads always kind of remind me of debates in the evangelical Christian community about why you shouldn't date people for the purpose of converting them.
20th-Feb-2007 02:05 pm (UTC)
I've always seen "manga" mentioned as being this monolithic, inpenetrable other thing. Like "you could try manga...women like the manga."

I can imagine some fanboy luring his girlfriend toward the graphic novel section of Barnes and Nobles and shoving her facefirst into the manga shelf and running away...

Or possibly leaving a random manga book under a box held up by a stick on a string (oh, wait, maybe that's the equally-ubiquitous "how-to-get-a-girlfriend" thread?)
20th-Feb-2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
blergh. that sounds ... special. particularly the part where Frank Miller is clearly a woman-reader friendly writer. O.o

May I quote the oft used phrase "why is common sense so rare"?
20th-Feb-2007 02:27 pm (UTC)
Gahhhhh. I've peeked at the John Byrne board once or twice, and then had to run away to the Gail Simone board until the room stopped spinning.
20th-Feb-2007 02:38 pm (UTC)
I've seen this before in "how do I get my girlfriend into sports" and "how do I get my girlfriend into video games." Nobody ever seems to get the unifying answer to all "how do I get my girlfriend into..." and that's stop thinking of your hobby as a gendered thing and start thinking of it as something you like because it fits your particular entertainment needs. It's not "girls like this...," it's "you might like this because you enjoy mysteries/strategy games/true crime/international competitions..."

If the significant other doesn't bite, then it's time to focus on the other thing these questions never seem to grasp, which is that couples are not legally or morally bound to share every single hobby and interest, and if comics/video games/sports are such a big deal to you that you couldn't possibly imagine being with someone who didn't enjoy them, then either you work out a compromise or you split up and find someone who shares your tastes.
20th-Feb-2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
That totally hits the nail on the head. You can't hook people on comics/video games/RPGs or any other nerdy pursuit just by showing them what you like. Understand their entertainment needs and cater appropriately. If you asked my Dad if he was a video gamer, he'd say "No"... but he loves Popcap's Bookworm because its very similar to Scrabble, one of his favorite board games. It's not about what I like, it's what entertains him. Understand that and you can hook anyone on geekly pursuits.
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21st-Feb-2007 03:24 pm (UTC)
I'm the one who posted in that thread about my wife liking Miller comics. She does. You're suggesting women can't, or shouldn't, like them. This is the same as saying women readers only like "girl comics" and should only be shown "girl comics."

She dug Persepolis. She read Watchmen. She like Tale of One Bad Rat. But she, and her non-comic reading sister, loved 300 and Sin City and Hard Boiled. I showed her a shelf of comics, and she chose what she read. This is hardly "tricking" her into reading anything.

Gregory Dickens
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20th-Feb-2007 03:03 pm (UTC)
You so need to repost this on the Women's Work blog. XD
20th-Feb-2007 03:12 pm (UTC)
I remember, in an issue of Previews a while back, the solicitations were scheduled to arrive in February. So they had a Valentine's Day section, with reccomendations of what comics your girlfriend/wife would like.

I stopped reading after taking note of the high ratio of Archie titles mentioned.

And, it's probably a freak outlier, but the Fables forum doesn't have that thread. I just went through the entire 'Comics in General' forum and there are a grand total of four reccomendation threads. Two are webcomic-specific, and the other two were started by females(. . . actually, all four were), and were more "What would you reccomend that I, a comics newbie check out" than anything gender-specific.
20th-Feb-2007 03:13 pm (UTC)
My brain hurts.

Some days you just want to grab people by the throat, shake them vigorously, and then explain, very gently, the great secret that women are almost exactly like real people.

On the other hand, I'd give good money to see a thread based on "How do I get my Mom into comics?"
20th-Feb-2007 03:29 pm (UTC)
The breakthrough was Donna Barr's Stinz for me. Since then, she's gotten me into Finder, and amassed a substantial collection of Vertigo stuff, Eurocomics, and Takahashi manga that I don't read.
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20th-Feb-2007 03:37 pm (UTC)
The CBR forums are grim, too, and CBR runs ads that make my eyes try to get away.
The Engine, at least, is ad-free. Or was. I read a thread once, since I was kicked out and all my posts deleted.
Yes, that's right: kicked off The Engine. I'm so proud.
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20th-Feb-2007 03:32 pm (UTC)
Indeed, my head did just explode--from laughing.

Girl Genius is becoming one of those comics that's getting rec's just because it has a female lead and a woman working on it. It's going to edge out Strangers in Paradise for "comic I don't read, but I heard chicks dig it and it's got a girl in it."
(This chick, in fact, gave both of those more than a college try and digs neither, although she liked parts of both.)

John Byrne, bles 'im, is pure and unchanged.
20th-Feb-2007 03:45 pm (UTC)
You know, I'm having the very devil of a time getting my fiancé interested in knitting. What kind of yarn should I buy him? I hear guys like sportweight acrylic yarn, because it's made of petrochemicals and has the word "sport" in the name.
20th-Feb-2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
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20th-Feb-2007 04:25 pm (UTC)
It's so sweet to see what the boys think we want to read, isn't it?

I still haven't read True Story, Swear To God -- does that mean I have to hand back my Genuine 100% Red-Blooded American Comic-Book-Reading Gurl badge? And how come all the "recommended girly books" are written by, um, boys?

But wait...I can't hand back anything, because my head? Also 'sploded at the thought of Frank Miller, romance cartoonist.

20th-Feb-2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
Aha. I knew there was a reason I decided not to often venture out into the wilds of the Internet.
20th-Feb-2007 05:03 pm (UTC)
People seem more surprised as to me reading comics than actually drawing them. Weird, huh?

When a gal-friend of mine asked for a recommendation of a good comic for her to read I tried to cater to a genre she liked. She likes mysteries and love stories so I lent her Blacksad. "She was hooked," she said. Now, 4 years later she reads more French comics and Manga than I do. and always finds these weird little avant-garde gems that I would never even know about if it weren't for her.

20th-Feb-2007 05:13 pm (UTC)
I wonder how many of these guys trying to get their "chicks" into comics would be willing to take up any of their SO's hobbies?
20th-Feb-2007 05:31 pm (UTC)
Very true.

A lot of geeks seem to need validation/acceptance of their hobbies from their SO's. The idea that they might not be in to the exact same things terrifies them for some reason.
20th-Feb-2007 05:47 pm (UTC)
"Let's get closer together by consuming the same media."

20th-Feb-2007 06:12 pm (UTC)
Ugh. That reminds me of couple I know that schedule time to 'watch t.v. together.' Not shows they both like. Just time spent sitting on the sofa, staring at the same screen. Unless one of them is reading.

Again, ugh.

20th-Feb-2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
born Again wasn't recommended as something romantic, but rather as something to give to a woman who is interested in noir - the "this is romantic" nod was to Sandman Mystery Theatre. And in all fairness to that particular poster, he at least came close to asking what the OP's wife's tastes, by framing each of his recommendatons in terms of "If she likes this genre, try this title."

Too much of a trainwreck quality to too many of the other posters there, though.
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22nd-Feb-2007 07:48 pm (UTC)
Me and mine never did merge longboxes, but he did pull out his so I could touch his bags and boards.

20th-Feb-2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
I should add that I've been in the position of Clueless Girlfriend myself, because I dated a guy who was heavy into tabletop gaming, the one nerd thing I've never gotten into. I am deeply grateful to this day that he never tried to trick, cajole, or force me into sharing his hobby. He talked about it, because it was a big part of his social life, but he never pushed me to play. (He also never Told Me About His Character, a very smooth move.)

Funny thing is, even though I never joined him at the gaming table, I learned a lot about gaming, had long conversations about his gaming experiences, and even read gaming books. And I attended Origins with him. Twice. Just because it was something he was into, and it was fun to do things with him.

This may be why I pity these unseen girlfriends and wives, even though I'm a huge comic-book nerd myself and have read and enjoyed most of the "girl comics" that get recommended on these threads. Sharing interests is cool. Hobby evangelism is not.
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