I’m always fascinated when white geeks go on and on about how accepting and wonderful geek culture is. I don’t question their experience, I just can’t personally relate. For me, I have to be cautious of what venues of fandom I venture in, because it’s not unlike walking through gen pop, where you constantly have to look over your shoulder to make sure an inmate or warden doesn’t attempt to shank you. Or a better analogy would be making sure that while you’re always outnumbered, that you’re never outgunned like my patronus Midnighter.

The following happened a few years ago, but this tale definitely warrants a post just the same.

Being a marginalized geek is never easy, especially in a comic book store. If you’re not having to endure some hillbilly randomly screaming “faggot” and “queer,” you may find yourself coming to the defense of a trans female Xena fan from hecklers and haters.

I’ve had more than a few brushes myself. Simply walking down the aisle to pick up my weekly grab, too often there would be some pasty white fanboy who would purposely block my path and scowl at me as if he was still bitter about the Emancipation Proclamation business. I would wait patiently while he’d read issues that he had no intentions of paying for.

Finally I would flex my biceps, crack my knuckles, channel my patronus and deliver a scowl of my own which conveyed a message loud and clear: YO MY MAN, WHATEVER YOUR ISSUES, I’LL BE HAPPY TO HELP YOU RESOLVE THEM. THE PARKING LOT IS RIGHT OUTSIDE THAT DOOR.

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He’d quickly vanish after that.

Shocker.

Even before Black Speculative Fiction Month, I would let my Wakandan Geek flag fly in February which is the month of my birthday.

In fact, Langston Hughes and I share a birthday.

One February, I decided to visit a new comic book store. With a little extra birthday cash to burn, I decided to purchase the graphic novels of Reginald Hudlin’s entire run of Black Panther.

The entire arc has everything, T’Challa, Shuri, Storm, the Dora Milaje, the Black Avengers, seriously everything. Hudlin’s run reads like a modern day fairy tale and a love letter to black comic book fans which I will always appreciate. I also grabbed some Cassandra Cain and Midnighter trade paperbacks because… well… do I even have to explain?

73225_467225253460832_3587053234390781784_nAnyway, upon entering the store, I realized I was the only non-white patron in attendance. I didn’t think much of it as that’s nothing new. However as I made my way to the register I noticed all eyes were on me and my selections. All conversation quickly ceased.

The cashier had an uneasy look on his face.

Cashier: Um…. Black Panther, I see.

Me (smiling and trying to put the nervous white man at ease): Yeah in honor of Black History Month. Thought it’d be kinda fun.

He still looked uneasy. How uneasy? You would’ve thought that entire scene was out of an episode of 24; those books were C4 explosives; and I was a Muslim terrorist holding those white folks hostage.

I kept glancing over my shoulder waiting for Kiefer Sutherland to pop out of nowhere and pistol whip me like I owed him money.

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I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Haven’t been back since. I’m proud to report CTU wasn’t waiting for me when I got home.

This is why I don’t lose sleep when I hear sob stories about comic book stores closing up shop.

This is also why digital comics hold a special place in my heart.

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14 thoughts on “Never Buy Black Panther Graphic Novels During Black History Month

  1. In your heart and in the hearts of many, many women, of all races and colors, who have been shabbily treated in comic book stores. Twenty years ago,I walked into the only comic book store, located in my downtown hometown. It was very convenient because it was right across the street from my job. I was delighted to find it. That went sour fast.

    It was my first time there and I was roundly ignored by the staff, and one customer, who all stopped talking when I walked in. Well, they ignored that I might need help finding something, and just stared at me like I was going to make off with the entire store stuffed in my pockets.

    I did not feel comfortable asking for help, so found my own way around. I visited a couple of times. Not one of those times did I get a “hello”, or a “may I help you” . Just stares. Lousiest customer service EVER! It would’ve been nice to talk about the comics I was buying or books in general. I tried to appear friendly. I smiled. I’m generally not a smiler. Nothing! And that’s nothing compared to the horror stories I’ve heard from some of my girlfriends.

    After that lousy experience I just got the books from the library. A couple of years later, I heard they’d closed down. I said to myself, “good riddance”. It served them right. Act like you don’t want my money and I guarantee you won’t get none.

    I was so overjoyed at the idea of digital comic stores, I didn’t want to believe it. I never have to set foot in a comic book store ever again! Me and a whole lot of women won’t have even one shit to give about closing comic books stores.

    P.S.: You realize T’Challa, Cassandra, Storm and The Midnighter would make one hell of a “gang in black” superhero team, yeah?

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  2. I’ve never experienced anything close or maybe I have and never noticed. But either way, Thank you for sharing.

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  3. wow, I guess I’m luck never to have been into shops like the ones you’ve been. For the most part I just deal with racist nerds online. the folks at my comic shop are cool or at least aren’t out with there racism. Never scarred anyone by buying black comics

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  4. Where can I buy Reginal Hudlin’s Black Panther graphic novels in it’s entirety?? (from 2005-2008)

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  5. I have never had that experience but geeze white folks like need to get a gripe though but its just karma that their business closed down

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  6. I buy my comics mostly via Amazon, so I have very little experience with comic book shops (and none with American ones; I’m European), but this sounds completely baffling to me. Do these shops not want people’s money? Sounds like they could take some lessons from Discworld dwarfs:

    “Dwarf shops were doing well these days, largely because they understood the first rule of merchandising, which is this: I have got goods for sale and the customer has got money. I should have the money and, regrettably, that involves the customer having my goods. To this end, therefore, I will not say ‘The one in the window is the last one we have, and we can’t sell it to you, because if we did no one would know we have them for sale’, or ‘We’ll probably have some more on Wednesday’, or ‘We just can’t keep them on the shelves’, or ‘I’m fed up with telling people there’s no demand for them’ I will make a sale by any means short of physical violence, because without one I am a waste of space.”
    – Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett.

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  7. The bit about not losing sleep over comic book shops closing is everything. I’ve been to comic book shops where someone explained to me that the title I’m looking for is, in fact, very good (ah, well. Clearly we should start with the default assumption that my taste is terrible because I’m female, and the only way we could establish that it’s not is if a man confirms it for me). However, they don’t carry it because all the other guys in the shop think “it’s just for girls”. Even the shop in town that carries basically everything is run by a guy who will sneer at my selection and openly tell me if he thinks it’s too girly.
    At which point I want to just furiously point at my breasts for five minutes. Yes. A girl. In your shop. Planning to give you money, but rapidly changing her mind about that.

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  8. Look… First before anything else..
    That Kiefer Sutherland comment.. Dont make me laugh like that!! I was swallowing some water, and suddenly a laugh started coming up.. A Laugh up, and water down HURTS! I was thinking if Kiefer from 24 starts pistol whipping you then you may as well quit right there because he is going to beat the living hell out of you.. That character was Crazy!
    Next while i understand thankfully i have not run into that at Comic shops much….

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  9. I grew up in a very white culture, so I can’t fully comprehend what it must have felt like to be treated the way you were, but I can use some of my own experiences to relate.
    Thanks for posting this – having insight into the lives of people helps us understand the struggles and advantages that we all have. Which in turn, helps us to be more civil to one another.
    Happy readings!

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