Category: Guest Writer

X-tinction Agenda, An Arc to End All Arcs

X-tinction Agenda is a story arc from the 1990s that encompasses three mutant superhero teams: the X-Men, X-Factor, and the New Mutants. It was produced in the halcyon days before certain film depictions hopelessly mangled beloved storylines (I’m looking at you, The Last Stand).

The storyline begins in Uncanny X-Men #270, when a strike group from Genosha is ordered by its leader, Cameron Hodge, is sent to the X-Mansion to kidnap Storm and the New Mutants Wolfsbane, Rictor, Boom Boom, and Warlock. Hodge is aided by the X-Man Havok, who had a frm of amnesia at the time.

So, what is Genosha, and why did said Genoshans go around kidnapping mutants? Genosha is an island off the east coast of Africa, close to Madagascar. It operated as a free state and was a very rich country, with its wealth and prosperity a direct result of its mutant slaves. Yep, you read that correctly, all the mutants on Genosha were brainwashed government slaves.

Genoshans began testing their children for mutant genes early on. If a child tested positive their free will was stripped, and they became mutates. They could be further mutated to fill certain labor shortages on the island, ensuring that the mutants toiled away while the rich got richer. The island ended up with certain labor shortages, and this gave Hodge the supremely bad idea of kidnapping some X-Men. That did not end well for him, most of the mutants, or Genosha in general.

The arc has a bittersweet ending, rather than a happily ever after. Warlock sacrifices himself to save his teammates, and the brainwashing leaves Wolfsbane stuck in wolf form and psychically bonded to Havok. Storm, whose body had been devolved to that of a child, regains her adult form and full use of her powers. The X-Men also get their first look at the “new” Psylocke, since these events take place right after she was rescued by Jubilee and Wolverine (that’s the Lady Mandarin storyline, another excellent arc well worth your time). X-Tinction Agenda is also when everyone’s favorite Cajun, Gambit, becomes an official X-Man.

Genosha’s story is still relevant today. Political agendas around the globe tout reduced rights and/or access for certain groups of people, be it based on race, religion, or lifestyle issues. (Yes, I realize that “lifestyle issues” is a huge umbrella to stick things under, but this isn’t a political blog. Y’all catch my meaning, amiright?) In the US, the current president-elect has openly stated he’d like to have all Muslims register with the state, an act eerily reminiscent of what happened in Europe in the days leading up to World War II. You’d think these world leaders would kick back and read a few comics, and realize that holding one group apart from the general population based on differences beyond anyone’s control never, ever ends well.

Maybe Chris Claremont will run for president in 2020. Him, I’d vote for.

X-tinction Agenda spans nine issues, and has been collected into a trade paperback. It was written by Chris Claremont and Louise Simonson, and drawn by Jim Lee, Rob Liefeld, and Jon Bogdanove. There’s a lot of character growth packed into these issues, and it’s definitely worth your time.


Jennifer Allis Provost writes books about faeries, orcs and elves. Zombies too. She grew up in the wilds of Western Massachusetts and had read every book in the local library by age twelve. (It was a small library.) An early love of mythology and folklore led to her epic fantasy series, The Chronicles of Parthalan, and her day job as a cubicle monkey helped shape her urban fantasy, Copper Girl. When she’s not writing about things that go bump in the night (and sometimes during the day) she’s working on her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. Connect with Jennifer online at www.authorjenniferallisprovost.com

Bibliography
Copper Girl – Urban Fantasy
Chronicles of Parthalan – Fantasy Romance


Again with the Superheroes?! A friendly, Well-Intentioned Rant.

I suspect I got asked to do this because my new circle of writer friends (I’m fairly new to telling stories with words only) know a few things about me: I have a Master’s degree in comic books (MFA in Sequential art, technically), and that I’ve painted, written, and self-published a handful of comics.

But this promotion doesn’t have anything to do with comics! It’s about a superhero novel! Why does the subject of superheroes always get paired with comics? And why do comics so often get paired with superheroes?

Let me say right here and now I have nothing against superheroes or superhero comics. I’ve read more than a handful that I really liked, from Marvel and DC and more. I love the recent proliferation of comics-based movies and TV shows. And I love that so much superhero fiction is popping up as novels and not just as comics. But it tends to get up my nose how so many people automatically equate comics with superheroes, and vice-versa.

Why? Because my entrance into comics came from two different angles at two distinctly different times, with neither one of them having anything to do with superheroes.

The first wave hit when I was 13 years old, or thereabouts. My older brother bought me the ElfQuest collection, an amazing effort of self-publishing in the days long before print-on-demand and promoting through the internet. I practically devoured the things, reading them over and over. And over the next few years, many of my sketchbooks frequently featured ElfQuest-style elves.

If internet fanfic were a thing back then, who knows what might’ve happened, and how much of my life might’ve got lost down such a rabbit hole. Luckily, my enjoyment of this title remained fairly healthy, and sadly never brought me to the next step: Going into a comic book store in search of anything else like it. It would take a few more years before comics as a thing would get some hooks into me.

Fast-forward five or so years, and I’m in college. Something has happened in comics. Some things actually. Some things that another ten or fifteen years later, I’d write about in my thesis for that MFA.

One of these things is this: The cost of paper, ink, and the printing process became cheap enough that comics could be printed on higher quality paper. This higher quality paper could withstand larger amounts of ink and preserve a higher level of detail. With this, people started to paint comics.

Well, actually they’d started to paint them some years before, in 1983 (Scott Hampton on Silverheels), and painted covers reach way back. But it still took a few more years for painted interiors to be relatively common in comics.

This technical development allowed for a wider range of artistic styles. The art could now better reflect darker themes, more dramatic expressions, and more passionate emotions.

And that’s the stuff that caught my eye.

I was working on a BFA in Illustration at the time. Along the way, I forged a strong and lifelong friendship with watercolors, and also with a bunch of nerds like me. But unlike me, some of those nerds were already comic book fans, and had been for a while. And so I started to read some of their comics. Much of it was mainstream and superhero, good stories for sure. But they still lacked an addictive “must read and re-read” quality for me.

Then I got my hands on some painted stuff.

I’m not sure which painted title showed up first. But the earliest offerings I can remember featured Moonshadow, The Books of Magic (the original 4-part series), Arkham Asylum, and Elektra: Assassin. You might note that two of these do in fact feature superheroes, but even these were more than superhero stories. They brought to the table far more satisfying superhero stories; darker, weirder, and creepier than comics had so far managed to offer – to me, at least.

More painted comics showed up on the scene, and most of them showed up in watercolors – Probably because they dry pretty darn fast, the colors scan well, and printing can reproduce them fairly accurately. So they spoke to me on that level.

The paint served as bait, but that wasn’t what kept me there. It wasn’t what drove me to comic book stores every Wednesday for the next twenty years or so.

It was some of the stuff that ran alongside the painted stuff.

I don’t know which came first; perhaps one is the chicken and the other the egg. But DC’s Vertigo imprint showed up around the same time as I tried to get elbows deep in reading painted comics. While the Vertigo interiors rarely featured fully painted art, the stories delivered metric tons of the darker, weirder, creepier, and not-so-much-with-the-fights-in-tights tales – the very stuff that lit up my life and made me wish all of those stories could be fully painted:

The Sandman. Hellblazer (John Constantine). The Books of Magic. Preacher. Transmetropolitan. Lucifer. Lots more. I did not read EVERY Vertigo title, nor did every title I read come from the Vertigo line. But there’s probably a solid 75% overlap between the two, and very little overlap with the superhero set. I love the idea of the anti-hero; the poor role-model as hero or main character. I love the morally ambiguous gray areas, surrealistic twists and turns, and stories that end messily, if they end at all.

So, I’ve spent about half my life up to my eyeballs in comics, but not so much with the superhero stuff. I’ve got maybe eight long-boxes worth of comic-y goodness. I drifted away as DC started to smoosh their universe and stuck Constantine in with the Justice League.

I didn’t need that peanut butter in this chocolate, thanks.

You wouldn’t assume every movie meant romantic comedy. You wouldn’t assume every TV show meant crime investigation drama. You wouldn’t assume every chocolate candy had to have peanut butter in it. (Or would you? Hmmm? It takes all types to make the world go ‘round, I suppose.)

So, please, stop and ask yourself. Do comics have to mean superheroes? Do superheroes always have to connect to comics? Because I’m a nerd here who’s had kind of a lot invested in one, with precious little of the other.

And that said, I am EXTREMELY grateful for the invitation to take part in this adventure, no matter how my invite got here! Hope I didn’t blow it. 😉

Superheroes are awesome, regardless, so go buy Remy’s awesome new book!


Angi Shearstone is an award-winning professional artist with a small herd of cats, undeniable geek tendencies and a great love for ska-core & punk rock. She’s worked with Scott Hampton comics on Batman: Gotham County Line and Simon Dark, and with Jeremy Whitley on Princeless: Tales of Girls who Rock. She also collaborated with Mur Lafferty in Beyond the Storm: Shadows of the Big Easy, and otherwise has self-published a handful of comic book projects, two of which with Joe Sutliff Sanders. Right now she focuses on turning her partly-published vampire comic BloodDreams into a series of books.


Necessary Evils

The need for justice.

It’s a concept we can pretty much all get behind.

In comics, with a flash of a cape, good deeds are done all the time in the name of it. Colorful heroes pop from pages left and right to deliver innocents from the machinations of crooks, villains and other general ne’er do wells.

They even have a league.

But are heroes the only ones to represent the concept? After all, the bad guys always want the same stuff, don’t they? Glory, power, cash, prizes and even the odd world to bow before them–these are the things that a comic book villain covets. Still, every now and then, someone from the wrong side of the tracks will come along who embodies those very virtues. Truth, justice and all that. And really, that is what I would like to discuss here. Not the bank robbers or the power grabbers… but a few rare and memorable comic antagonists who might just be doing wrong for the right reasons.

First up is a personal favorite of mine. A character far more complex than his name would suggest.

DC Comics’ Sinestro was created in 1961 to serve as a foil for the company’s “silver age” reboot of Green Lantern. Admittedly, like many characters of the day, Sinestro’s name is a bit on-the-nose–and after considering his general appearance, it’s easy enough to imagine the character twirling that David Niven ‘stache, whilst plotting world domination. But what separates the character from other notable mustache twirlers is a single key factor.

Thaal Sinestro didn’t want power for power’s sake… he needed it to save his world.

For those who aren’t familiar with the source material… The Green Lantern Corps are an organized force of what can most easily be likened to SPACE COPS. Each member is given a super powered ring and a jurisdiction to protect, which often includes numerous inhabited planets. ‘Nuff said.

Sinestro was introduced pretty much as the golden boy of the Green Lantern Corps. His designated sector (which just so happened to include his home planet of Thanagar), was completely at peace and the Guardians of the Universe (a council of small, blue skinned, nigh-immortals who long ago took it upon themselves to protect all that was) couldn’t be happier. That is, until a smart-mouthed rookie from Earth uncovered the truth. See, instead of policing Thanagar, Sinestro had actually been ruling it with an iron fist for some time.

Now, as far as the actions of comic book villains go, world domination is hardly an original motive. Many a would-be tyrant has been driven by just that over the years… but where Sinestro differs from all the rest lies not in his actions, but in the reasons behind those actions. Sure, the guy had ego enough to fill that ten gallon skull of his, but at his core, Sinestro believed himself to be the ultimate patriot. A man who loved and wished to protect both his home and its people. Granted, total world domination may have been a bit on the extreme side, but that was just his way of showing he cared.

And that wasn’t the only time.

Years later, when Sinestro returned with a shiny new yellow ring and his own matching CORPS to go with it, he declared war on his former brothers in arms. The motive of such a bold move seemed crystal clear: he wanted revenge.

As generally is the case with any war, things got hairy for a while there. As if the yellow ring slingers weren’t bad enough, they released a couple “evil versions of Superman” and yes, some green lanterns died along the way. Fearing the cost of losing the war, the Guardians of the Universe (not the Galaxy) made a rather brash decision. They repealed a very old law, which stated that all Green Lanterns must only ever protect life and never take it. It was a soul crushing move for the Guardians, but proved the strategic equivalent of “pulling the goalie”, giving them the edge they so desperately needed.

In the end, armed with their new ability to wield deadly force, the green did defeat the yellow, finally tossing their mustachioed leader in a cell once and for all. But was that really the whole story?

Turns out, not so much. Revenge, as was revealed by a defeated and deeply pensive Sinestro, was only a means to an end. Apparently, he had long regarded the ban on deadly force as the one fatal flaw held by his old outfit. And so… he decided to present a threat so dire, the Guardians would have no recourse but to alter that ancient law. It was a move that, in his eyes, would serve to strengthen the one force capable of maintaining order in the universe–his sworn enemies–the Green Lantern Corps.

For those keeping score, that is two cliched villain motives (world domination and revenge) that Sinestro somehow managed to add a new dimension to. The character’s methods, while questionable, always had layers. There were reasons behind his reasons and justifications behind those–even if he happened to be the only one that fully understood them.

Next up is another complicated fan favorite. A character who like Sinestro, has often straddled that precarious edge between savior and despot.

Marvel’s Uncanny X-Men first faced the man called Magneto in 1963. The character has gone by many names over the years (Magnus, Erik, Joseph & others) but his ultimate goals have remained constant. Much like Sinestro, Magneto desired to protect his people (mutants)–or more specifically, to deliver them from the evils of bigotry and persecution. Also like Sinestro, the man managed to cross back over into the hero category many times over the years–even taking leadership of his original foes (the X-Men) when the need (or alternate timeline) arose.

For those who aren’t familiar with the source material… By the 60s, Marvel comic’s chief writer Stan Lee, had essentially grown tired of crafting unique origins for his slew of characters. After all, there are only so many radiation based accidents the populace is gonna swallow, am I right? So, wily Stan devised a way that would allow for many different powered characters to not only suddenly exist, but to continue coming out of the woodwork as time went on. He simply decided that these characters were born with their powers–as evolutionary anomalies called mutants. Beyond that, all you need to know is that the X-Men represent Dr. King (seeking peace and acceptance with the humans) while Magneto is more of a Malcolm X. ‘Nuff said.

The fact was, whether he was seen as champion or terrorist mattered little to the so-called master of magnetism. One of the more powerful mutant characters at the time, Magneto could manipulate magnetic fields to varying and astounding result. On the surface, he was an angry man whose actions came off as more “mutant terrorist” than anything. But at his core, he was a deeply troubled individual who was secretly fighting two wars at the same time. There was mutants vs. humans for sure, but there was an older fight as well, one which he could never win. As it turned out, the boy who would be Magneto was born to a Jewish family in 1920s Germany. And like so many others, he had eventually been captured and shipped like so much cargo, off to a Nazi prison camp.

In this writer’s opinion, choosing Auschwitz as a point of origin for the character has to be considered one of Stan Lee’s most shining strokes of brilliance. The backdrop allowed Magneto’s crusade against humanity to echo not only racism and persecution, but the all too real, penultimate conclusion of those hate-fueled doctrines. As more and more of his tragic backstory was revealed, we began to understand that what the man truly hated was not humanity itself, but rather the ugliness it was capable of.

For any medium, these are some seriously heavy issues, but for funny books of the 1960’s this was groundbreaking stuff.

Magneto didn’t want riches or power or even a world to bow before him… what he wanted was justice. Same as anyone. With many readers, the character simply struck a chord. A very real, very deep chord (maybe an e minor). After all, he wasn’t just trying to stop the persecution of his people from happening, he was trying to stop it from happening again.

Point is, if he hijacks some missiles or overthrows a made-up nation in Brazil, maybe you cut the guy a little slack. Besides, most of the time Magneto was trying to set up a sovereign nation for mutant kind. A home that would separate them from the race of humans who feared and detested them. Problem was, not everyone appreciated being shipped off to some uncharted island or asteroid that happened to be in orbit at the time.

But I guess, that’s gratitude for ya.

Characters like Magneto, and Sinestro believed one thing above all the rest. That whatever evils they wrought were not only justified but were of the necessary variety. In their own ways, each understood that old adage about the omlette. It was a path neither revelled in walking, but one they ultimately embraced with near fanatical fervor. As readers we may not have agreed with their specific actions, yet whenever misdeeds are motivated by love, they have a tendency of drawing out our sympathies and sparking our imaginations. Striking that e minor, as it were.

Make no mistake, these characters are the bad-guys. They are the destroyers, the fear mongers, the would-be tyrants… but in the scope of a good story, the “what” doesn’t matter half as much as the “why”.

Some grab power only because they can.

Others do so because they see no other choice.


Steve Van Samson is a graphic designer/dad/nice guy by trade. He is also a part time podcaster, singer of the band Enchanted Exile, and a great lover of all things GEEK. 

So far, Steve has written two unpublished books: “Broken Guardian,” which is intended to be Book One in a YA fantasy/adventure series called “Shatterscale”–as well as an adult horror novella (about vampires in Africa) called “The Bone Eater King”.

At this moment, he is more than halfway through a third book called “Marrow Dust” (a sequel to “The Bone Eater King”). When that one is finished, he plans on self publishing the two books at once, while continuing to shop around the first novel. In addition to that, he maintains a monthly column over at Cinema Knife Fight called “Monochrome Manor”. 


Once Upon a Time, We Were All Kitty Pryde of the X-Men

While most people will recall the 1992 X-Men the Animated Series, three years prior, Marvel attempted its first go at an animated X-Men. The premise followed the popular roster of Xavier’s students, Cyclops, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, Dazzler and Wolverine and the joining of Kitty Pryde. While the production value at the time received high praise, the campy story line, Australian Wolverine (did they know Hugh Jackman would join later?) and whiney Kitty Pryde killed all forward momentum.

While watching it, I realized something,  Kitty Pryde, more than any other mutant, is a reflection of the reader.

I wish I could say we’ve all had the ability to phase through solid objects, alter our density, and tame a pet dragon or that we’ve all fallen in love with beefy, sexy men named Peter (no seriously, she’s on her third Peter now?) No, it’s even more profound than that. Kitty Pryde unlike her brethren X-Men is not a symbol of a people persecuted for the difference, she is the face of the individual ostracized within their people.

Kitty Pryde originally joined Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters because like the other students, she was different. Not only a mutant, Pryde had a genius level intellect. We’ve each experienced a new school, moving from middle grades to high school. We have been outsiders amongst outsiders. Unlike the original five X-Men who were born into a generation when being rebellious was staying out late at night, Kitty Pryde had no problem throwing attitude at Xavier, her father-like figure and threatening not on his physical self, but his entire ideology. We grapple with her anger because like her, we’ve rallied against our parents (even if at a minor level.) We rooted for her to come into her own, to prove all others wrong because once, we wanted somebody to root for us in the same way.

It took years for her to discover herself. It took some of us years to do the same. We weren’t accepted by the outside world and later, we even question our acceptance among our peer group. But as Sprite became Ariel, and then turned to Shadowcat, we watched her experiment with her identity as we did the same. The scared girl, unsure of her own abilities grew into an angry and defiant teen who enter womanhood with the need to prove herself to nobody but herself.

We’ve watched her develop a young girl’s crush on the dashingly handsome Russian Peter Rasputin. While the romance remained plutonic and not returned by Colossus due to her young age (a subject that was even discussed in the comic) we rooted for them. Our teenage crushes were unrequited and we wanted this one, this forbidden romance, to play out even though if it did, we would lose faith in the honorable Russian. Later when they finally have sex, we experience a similar gratification in the moment, seeing Kitty’s childhood crush finally play out much like we wish ours idealized forgotten loves would have.

Later when she rejoins the team as a more mature Kitty Pryde, she sits at the “big kids” table and frequently spars with Emma Frost, the queen of vain. Her mini tantrums remind of us the young girl, partaking with the adults but still viewed as less, perhaps not earning her place. However, this changes during a physical confrontation between Kitty and Emma. We watch Kitty not only physically dominate the White Queen, she does so while unleashing decades of pent up rage. Ultimately she wins the battle and what little childhood remained in our beloved teen is wiped away and we’re left admiring a battle tested member of the X-Men. While we applaud her badassness, it’s only enhanced by her ability to still be the noble and empathic X-Man.

For a stint she serves as the Headmaster of Jean Grey’s School for the Gifted and we watch her character come full circle. Unlike many of her cohorts, Kitty does and has aged, moving from teenager to twenty-something. The student, the scared and timid girl becomes the pillar of a new movement of a different generation.

While we empathize with the rest of the mutants as they represent an allegory for civil rights, gay rights and minority persecution, Kitty Pryde is different. She isn’t the face of a movement or the icon of a species. In 1973, Byrne and Claremont had no idea they were creating the face of every awkward teen who felt uncomfortable in their own skin. We can only hope that as we grow with Kitty, we come into our own as she did. In the meantime, we continue to follow her journey, because in part, it’s like reading a super powered diary of our own lives.


The Folly of Subcultural Gatekeeping, or WWXD?

 

My favorite superhero comic property has always been The X-Men. Their powers were varied and interesting, the individual heroes had deep backstories and complex relationships with each other, so much of what they did was just so incredibly cool. But what I loved about the X-Men most of all was what they stood for: these heroes were mutants. They were different, shunned by society, told they were dangerous and shouldn’t exist and yet with all the hate thrown
their way they chose to use their powers to try to make the world a better place. The followers of Professor Charles Xavier put their lives on the line to protect the same people who would just as soon see them dead. What could be more heroic than that?

Obviously I’m not alone in my adoration of the X-Men. There have been 10 blockbuster movies, 3 animated television shows, and thousands (and counting) of individual comic issues. People love the X-Men and many people relate to them. Super-powered mutants on the embattled fringes of society work as metaphorical stand-ins for anyone who is off the mainstream; from racial and ethnic minorities to LGBTQ people to your garden-variety outcast or nerd (that last one would be me – hi!) Many people who love the X-Men do so in part because they know what it’s like to feel like they don’t fit in with the rest of the world, but that they still want to make a positive impact on it.

So I really have to say – it confuses the hell out of me when fellow geeks try to exclude people.

Let me just pause here and explain what I’m talking about: there’s this thing that some nerds sometimes do where they try to test and see if you’re a “Real Nerd™”. They may casually throw some quiz questions into their conversation with you, or make an obscure reference to see if you catch it, or suddenly quote something to see if you provide the next line. If for whatever reason you fail these tests then you have proved yourself not a “Real Nerd™” and will therefore get the cold shoulder or some snickering remark about how you probably never read any of the comics anyway. It doesn’t just happen with nerds trying to see who belongs in the clubhouse, it happens in all sorts of subcultures, professions, and social circles. People do it because they think for some reason (usually superficial) that the person they are dealing with doesn’t belong in the same group they do. It’s an insecure, childish behavior and it has a name: Gatekeeping. At the lowest levels, Gatekeeping is people telling others that they can’t be “Real Nerds™” or “Real Fans” or whatever and giving them the brush off in a social setting. At the highest levels, Gatekeeping shuts people out of careers, neighborhoods, countries, entire parts of their lives. Pretty shitty, huh?

To be fair, I say that it confuses me when geeks (those typically shunned and shut out for as superficial a reason as being slightly awkward and liking nerdy things) engage in this behavior, I can extrapolate why people do it. Sometimes it’s a feeling of ownership: comics are “their” thing and other people could not possibly share their deep personal connection to them. Sometimes it’s a feeling of vulnerability and mistrust: the person that they are eyeing suspiciously reminds them of people who would normally ridicule them for liking comics so they must only be feigning interest to gain a hurtful new advantage over them. Sometimes it’s a certain element of snobbery: they have spent countless hours dedicated to learning all about these comics, this casual interloper has no place among the Hard Core Fans like them!

My rebuttal to all of this is basically, grow up.

Comics, superheroes, nerdy stuff in general is not just for you. Unless you are a wealthy Renaissance patron you probably don’t have an entire stable of artists and writers creating content for you, personally. Comics creators create their work hoping that as many people as possible will enjoy it since you know, that’s how they make their living.

No adult is going to spend their precious free time and money going to crowded comic conventions or digging through longboxes in the local comic shop just so they can find your weakness and get some zinger in at you. As disappointing as it may be, we live in the real world, not a middle-school made-for-TV special where mustache-twirling villains scheme to hurt your feelings.

I take special umbrage with the “Real Nerd™” snobbery of being a more casual, or just less experienced, fan. Not having the hundreds of hours (and thousands of dollars) investment into a fandom doesn’t mean you are any less sincere or enthusiastic. It is often just a question of access. I grew up in rural Maine, you know what my local “comic shop” was? Rite Aid. Yeah, the pharmacy. They carried maybe 4 different superhero comic titles on their magazine rack (plus Archie, of course!) On top of that my parents didn’t “believe in” allowance (yeah, I don’t know either) so I almost never even had pocket money to purchase those comics with until I was old enough to drive myself to a part time job. By the time I left home for college I had only ever read maybe a hundred out of literally thousands of X-Men comics. There was no way I was going to catch up and become a “Real Nerd™” before I started my freshman semester! I would be forever shamed!

Because I was going to college to get my degree in comics.

You see, despite not being able to find, purchase, and therefore read many comic books, I always loved them. I was drawing comics before I knew what comics were. I had always loved to draw, I had always loved to write, so I did the two together my entire life until I realized that it was really the only thing I wanted to do and skipped off down to the Savannah College of Art and Design to maybe learn how to actually do it well. Along that winding path there were so many people, “Real Hard Core Nerd™” people, who saw my enthusiasm and drive and welcomed me in and helped me along. From the English teacher who first suggested I look into SCAD, to the Comic’s Lit Book Club organizer who shoved Alan Moore’s “Watchmen” into my hands after the first meeting I attended, to all my college professors, to friends I made over conversations that started with, “oh, you haven’t read that? You should totally check out this…”

I would never have gotten this far in my amazing comic-creating journey without those people, the ones who saw someone who maybe didn’t quite fit their notion of “belonging” but welcomed them anyway. I have definitely encountered my fair share of Gatekeeping trolls – occasionally to my social or professional detriment – but I am eternally grateful for all the people who decided to embody the inclusive spirit of the X-Men and help me on my way instead. It may not be fighting Apocalypse to restore the timeline, but they put themselves out there in small ways to make the world a better place for people that may not have been just like them.

That’s the thing, really: you can’t tell from a quick look or nerd-password-test who you’re really talking to, who could end up being a great friend, or even a creator of some of your favorite comics some day. So the next time you think you’ve encountered a casual comics’ fan, someone who’s only into superheroes because of the CW, or any other less-than-fully-vetted nerd, and are tempted to quiz and cold-shoulder them, just take a moment and ask yourself, “What would Xavier do?”


Amanda Kahl is a comic artist and writer and the creator of the fantasy webcomic “Age of Night.” She also illustrates for the tabletop gaming industry and likes to play games, hang out with her kids, and read. Check out some of her comics at www.ageofnight.com!


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