I read comics briefly in high school but nothing stuck.
Then, in my freshman year of college, I discovered the Ultimate Spider-Man comics starring Miles Morales. The comic was exciting, especially because I had never heard of someone other than Peter Parker being Spider-Man before.
Spider-Man crossed over with other titles and I started reading those too. Before I knew it, I was hooked.
The more I read, the more I felt a part of the comic book community. I didn’t have many friends in high school or at the start of college, so this was one of the few ways I was able to meet people and socialize.
A few months after I got into comics, I started buying comics at local comic book stores, like Wade’s Comic Madness and Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse instead of through Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s website in 2018.
When the pandemic began, and the local stores I frequented temporarily closed, I started going stir crazy. I tried to pass time by streaming movies with my friends and rereading the comics I already had. But escapism was no substitute for leaving the four walls of my apartment.
Going to the store in-person was the only source of connection I had to other fans outside of the internet. While the internet let me connect with people I would never have met otherwise, the comic book community in my own backyard was special in its own way because I could see who I was talking to, which bolstered the sense of community.
Some stores offered curbside pickup but there was little opportunity for conversation that way. The cashier would step outside, take my credit card, go back inside, step back out with my books and card and disappear back into the store.
I understood their desire to protect themselves and anyone they might live with from COVID-19, but I felt lonely.
It got worse when Diamond Comics Distributor stopped shipping comics because of the pandemic from April 1 to May 20, interrupting ongoing storylines and pushing back every release date.
Not only had I lost the ability to connect with other fans in person, but now the ongoing comics I was reading were being put on hold, too.
The first time I went back to a comic book store was when I went to Fat Jack’s Comicrypt last March. I was looking for old Star Trek comics and Fat Jack’s was the only store with them in stock.
It was a little strange walking into the store the first time but being able to sit on the floor and sort through the back issues was almost therapeutic. I was able to take my mind off everything else going on in my life, I didn’t think about anything other than the books I was looking at.
I didn’t talk to anyone there that day but after a few trips for more Star Trek comics, the cashier started to recognize me and we would chat for a little bit about the books I was buying. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to ease my loneliness for a while.
The last time I went was on Nov. 23 to get a copy of “DC vs Vampires #2” and look through more back issues just to see what I could find. When I was checking out at the register the cashier started talking to me about “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and threw in the sketchbook for the first two “Next Generation” movies for free.
I was touched by the gesture. It was the first time since the pandemic started I felt seen on a personal level. Being given the sketchbook showed that I am more than just a face in a crowd and there is a place where I can share my weird interests with others.
The pandemic isn’t over yet, but I’m glad that I can connect with other people in person again. These small conversations help bring back that sense of community I felt prior to the start of the pandemic and give me something to look forward to.