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.
He’d quickly vanish after that.
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?
Anyway, 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.
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.