I loved comics as a kid, but within a very limited scope. My sister and I both collected Archie comics (I still have a couple shelves full in my living room), and I had a subscription to Mad Magazine for many years (before William Gaines died and it started to go downhill). Then of course there were the comic strips I'd eagerly read in the paper each day and later collect in book form, especially Calvin and Hobbes and the Far Side.
My love for Archie and Mad came from the large classic collections of both found at my grandparent's place in Quebec, home to our annual family reunion. It was home also to many other beloved comics of my childhood: Tintin and Asterix were the favorites among our entire extended family, regardless of age. The bookshelves also contained other random ancient treasures, mostly collected by my older cousins, like Little Lulu, Sgt. Rock, Tales from the Crypt and a smattering of superhero comics. I ate them all up, and continued to read them each summer at the reunion into my adulthood, but for some reason I never went beyond that narrow sphere... until quite recently.
Several years ago I was lucky enough to have a roommate who worked at a bookstore and had a small library in her bedroom (thanks Polly!). She got me into Neil Gaiman's The Sandman series, and also introduced me to Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For. I loved them, but again I didn't push myself to make further inroads into the world of comics. I guess what finally nudged me over the edge was when Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a TV series I loved and had been sad to see end after 7 seasons, put out season 8 in comic book form. I had to get in on this! After devouring this series, I began to think maybe it was time to reread some other old comic favorites. So last year for my birthday I asked my mom to get me a gift certificate to a comics shop. My plan was merely to start my own complete collection of the Sandman, since I remembered loving it enough that I wanted to own it.
Even though I'm a longtime techy and music geek, as a woman I'd always felt a bit intimidated by comic book shops and the whole comics world culture. In fact, when I went to my local comic store to buy the first few Sandman books it was the first time I'd ever spent any real time in a comic shop. I wandered around, soaking it all in, and picked out a few other things that looked interesting to me. It helped that there was a woman working behind the counter and she offered some advice. I came back a few times, slowly building the whole Sandman collection series, but also slowly expanding my repertoire. I started to grill all my comics-loving friends, and even acquaintances and friends-of-friends, for advice.
Eventually my girlfriend helpfully suggested that I could read a lot more comics if I wasn't trying to buy all of them as I went, so I turned to my local library. I was pleased to learn that the Seattle Public Library has a pretty substantial collection of comic books and graphic novels. I could read as many as I wanted for free, as long as I was willing to hunt them down and wait for holds. This also meant I could become a more conscious comics collector: now I don't own a comic until I decide I really liked it enough to want it in my permanent collection.
Ever since then there has been no turning back. I've got a perpetual waiting list at the library and a permanent stack of comics standing by on my living room shelves. Coming home from a long day at work and sitting on my back porch with a comic book, or relaxing on a weekend morning with a graphic novel in bed, have become some of my very favorite things to do.
I'm still very new to this genre but I'm exploring it voraciously, and I have so many thoughts about all the new comic worlds I'm wandering through that I decided I really needed a place to share them. I hope you'll come back to read about my explorations, leave me lots of comments with new ideas for where to go next, and join me in this grand(ish) experiment.