I was never good at dating. While I might excel at being a friend who is a girl I never seemed to understand how to act when it came to a budding romance. Even now, as a married woman, I can admit nothing has changed. The only reason this relationship works is because of who I’m with. HOWEVER, if there is something I do have quite a lot of experience in it’s watching people bring their dates into a comic shop. I have witnessed some serious chemistry between people but more often I have seen way too many spectacular failures. Today I’ll try to help out by detailing the best ways to showcase your geeky side without overwhelming your date.
DO MAKE SURE THEY GIVE A SHIT. Sometimes my regular customers will stop by the shop with a date in tow and their potential girlfriend/boyfriend is already mildly familiar with comic books. This is a good start. With the rise of geek culture most people have watched their share of superhero movies and usually that’s enough to get them out of their shell. Start off easy, “Hey, would you want to check out my local comic shop? I go almost every week, it’s really cool.” If they are up for it then you’re all set. Walk them around the shop first, just so they get an overview of the layout and then you can take them to your favorite display or bookcase.
DON’T OVERWHELM THEM. If they have never been into a comic shop before it’s going to be a little intimidating. Try not to spend forty minutes talking about the history of every single Robin and which one is your favorite and how this is the best graphic novel ever but oh my god over here this one is good too but never ever read this one because it’s utter shit. Even if they were entertaining the idea of starting to read comics, this will likely turn them off. Comic book universes are one hell of a convoluted mess and it takes some easing into. But they might find it adorable when you go on these crazed rants and if that’s the case YOU NEED TO LOCK THAT SHIT DOWN.
DO ASK THEM WHAT THEY LIKE. Maybe they liked the Captain America movie more than Batman: The Dark Knight Rises (which is more than a little likely since that was such a steaming pile) so lead them over to the wonderful world of Steve Rogers. Most stores carry a large number of graphic novels to browse but some, like Comics Unlimited, also have an extensive collection of back issues to page through. This might be the best way to get close to them physically without seeming aggressive. You can pick out your favorite covers and point out some appearance from other Avengers. Shoulder to shoulder, hands brushing occasionally, I’m getting hot and bothered just thinking about it.
DON’T HESITATE TO ASK AN EMPLOYEE FOR HELP. Let’s say your date asks about Michael Turner stuff and you’re all like, “Aspen Comics what??” I can’t stress enough to ask for recommendations from someone who works there. It not only shows humility but then you can learn and experience something together! How awesome is that?! If you try lying then you will eventually either be proven wrong or you’ll look like a condescending douche. Don’t do that. Just suck it up and ask, if you’re lucky then the employees will be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
DO SHARE SOME AWESOME, QUICK ANECDOTES. There’s no need to tell them your life story when all they asked was which Batman villain is your favorite. Answer in honest, concise replies and if they want to know more then you can geek out because they asked for it goddamnit. Feel free to dole out brief plotlines or characters you really love/hate but don’t make them feel like you’re lecturing them and there will be a test at the end. The whole point of bringing them to your shop was to let them in on something you love, you don’t want them to feel burdened by your hobbies. Conversations are a dialogue, not a monologue.
DON’T BE THAT GUY. When you get caught up in the excitement of showing them all these books you love you have to remember not to get too weird and talk about the overt sexiness of characters. It’s perfectly fine to mention that you had a super huge crush on Barbara Gordon or Gambit growing up (because, really who didn’t?) but don’t go into detail about any redhead obsessions or trenchcoat fetishes. At least not in public. If you haven’t been dating for very long that stuff might still be uncomfortable for the other person to talk about, especially when you’re referring to anatomically incorrect masterpieces. It’s always difficult to live up to the perfection of a fictional character but if they feel like they have to compare themselves physically to the impossible standards of superheroes they might have a panic attack.
DO DROP SOME GEEK KNOWLEDGE. If they are giving you room to let your geek flag fly then spread those wings you beautiful pop culture butterfly! While, yes, you brought your date to the shop to show them your preferred escape from reality, let’s be honest, you also wanted to show off a little. If they loved watching the Batman cartoons from the 90’s but haven’t thought about that show in years blow their mind and tell them Mark Hamill voiced the Joker. Talk about how when everyone else was bitching about Chris Evans getting cast as Captain America even though he was already Johnny Storm you weren’t phased at all because technically he had also played Lucas Lee for Scott Pilgrim and Jensen for The Losers. This is your time, all those stupid facts you picked up over the years are like little breadcrumbs you’re leaving for them leading straight to your heart.
DON’T BE A SMUG ASSHAT. There is a chance that if the date is going well you might get carried away and start acting a-fool. Don’t let your vast expertise of what happens to Buffy and the Scooby Gang after the show ended and the comics began trick you into thinking you’re actually Joss Whedon. You’re still just a fan and every fan starts out knowing nothing. I’ve seen some guys start out shy and meek, nervous about letting their geeky side out but after 30 minutes of not being shunned or puked on they develop outrageous egos. This is a date, not a parade celebrating your return as the king of Gondor.
DO POINT OUT YOUR FAVORITE WRITERS AND ARTISTS. People who don’t read comic books sometimes cannot comprehend the genius storytelling or gallery-worthy art that is hidden underneath the capes and cowls. Make sure you explain how Brian K. Vaughan took the simple Romeo & Juliet trope and turned it into the addicting space odyssey “Saga”. Or how Tony Moore used the tiniest details to convey the most depressing and horrific emotions in “Walking Dead”. Even superhero stories can be filled with so many twists and turns you find yourself holding your breath, like Brad Meltzer’s “Identity Crisis”. Alex Ross’ painted pages for “Marvels” are stunning and deserve to be in a museum. This is why adults still read comic books and they aren’t aimed at children anymore. There is a lot of depth and beauty in these stories.
DON’T TALK SHIT. There are some universal jokes among comic readers (no one takes Dazzler seriously, Mark Millar’s books never come out on time, and Batman constantly bringing up his dead parents will always be funny) but to someone new to this world you don’t want to make them feel bad for not knowing all the secret handshakes. And you especially do not want to kill their enthusiasm by disregarding things they might enjoy. So maybe you don’t like Superman, don’t rip apart the Man of Steel after they show interest. I can’t believe I have to say it again but don’t be a dick, it doesn’t make you look or seem cooler. It just makes you a dick.
DO LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR DATE IS SAYING. This kind of just seems like standard relationship advice but let’s apply it specifically to this situation. If they mention not having any interest in superheroes then walk them to Vertigo or Image or some Small Press titles. If they seemed more intrigued by Grimm Fairy Tales than Fables no matter how much you boast about the incredible story Bill Willingham weaves, let it go and let them buy the sexified Snow White. And sadly, if after 20 minutes they look bored out of their mind then bite the bullet and leave the shop. The important part is making sure they are enjoying themselves because your shop is most likely your haven so you’re obviously having a good time.
DON’T FORCE ANYTHING. As much as I pretend it isn’t true, there are some people who only want to read from one company or from one genre. If this is the case and your date is really excited to try something you would never read don’t take that fervor away from them by pressuring them to read your favorite book instead. There are hundreds of different books and thank god they aren’t all the same! Variety is the spice of life. And honestly, chances are you won’t always agree on every movie or TV show or song, the same goes for comics.
That’s the best I can offer. I wish you luck. Dating is scary and hard but maybe bonding over a shared love of everything Firefly can take some of the stress away. Of course this only applies to you if you are purposely bringing your date to your shop to get them stoked on comics. If you have no desire for comic books and just want to kill time before your table at Lazy Dog’s is ready then please put things back where you found them and why the hell are you still reading this?!