Stop snickering, there really is such an animal. Granted, finding one is as easy as locating a Kardashian who doesn’t have a live-in camera crew, but we do exist.
A comic book nerd can actually evolve without being exposed to cosmic rays or a radioactive arachnid.
But it ain’t easy.
It’s taken me years to modify my behavior to suppress my innate ability to self-destruct while dealing with the women-folk in my family. (It helps immensely if I don’t refer to them as “women-folk”.)
But all the hard work curbing my fanboy-in-a-mostly-grown-man’s-body tendencies has paid off. Now my daughter isn’t ashamed to be seen with me at comic book conventions or movies. My wife still is, though…
At any rate, it can be hard work convincing a teenage girl you’re not a complete loser, even if you are linked by blood. To that point, here a few tips from my personal repertoire. Use them wisely. With great dadhood comes great responsibility- the greatest, in fact.
10) Go easy on the explanations. Have you ever tried to explain comic book continuity to a youngster? Or a teenage girl? Or anyone who isn’t into comics?
It can give both of you nosebleeds. As comic fans, our internal vibrations run at a different frequency from “Normal Folk”, much like Barry Allen while traveling the Multiverse.
Yeah, I’m a mega-nerd. What of it?
I once tried to explain the Barry Allen Flash’s history to my child. I lost her at his “death” in Crisis on Infinite Earths. After that, her eyes glazed over and she started foaming at the mouth. We don’t talk about that day anymore in our house…
Now I know better. I temper my zeal when it comes to explaining comic book history and all its winding retcons. Now my daughter only foams at the mouth on allowance day.
9) Make the transition as smooth as possible.
If your child hasn’t discovered or embraced the glory of comic books youmay want to ease them into it slowly. Younger kids are easy; I recommend Tiny Titans or My Little Pony. Then you can steer them to Archie Andrews and the gang. Girls especially love Betty and Veronica. Until they grow old enough to question the love triangle and obvious three-way fantasy subtext, that is.
As for older kids, you may have to squeeze them a bit for info on their preferences. And yes, it’s as scary as it sounds. Sure, bribery works well, but it’s a slippery slope. One misstep and the next thing you know, you’re on a street corner selling bodily fluid and kidneys to rich old people who smell like cheese and desperation. But I’ve said too much; time to move on.
8) Make the weekly trip to the comic book store an event. My kid lives for our Wednesday exodus to the local purveyor of books, toys, shirts and all things nerdy. We have lunch. We talk. (Yep.) It’s a blast.
7) It won’t happen instantly. Be patient, grasshopper. These things take time. Especially if you haven’t started early. Take your kids with you once and if they don’t respond to the comic store, ease off for a while. It’s a process.
But if you stay focused on the payoff you’ll get there. The same can be said of parenting in general. My daughter used to be terrified of the concept of mortal combat but now she can incapacitate a man twice her size with just a thumb.
6) If you have a spouse, get them onboard. To suggest my wife is not a fan of comics is to suggest Bieber has been acting out. But my spouse realizes our daughter is into Disney, comics, writing, horror flicks and millions of other past-times simultaneously. And she supports them all.
5) Know when to shut your “nerd” switch off. I learned this lesson after one particularly memorable piano recital. Apparently my Black Lantern tee was not a hit with the upper crust of Niagara Falls high society.
And on the opposite side of the coin…
4) Own your passion. I’ve never hid my fanboy side from my child and as a result, she knows her parents accept all people, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, etc. Arguably, nerds are the most welcoming sub-group in society. I love that.
3) Be understanding if your child decides to turn away from your religion. It’s sad to say, but not everyone is cut out to be a nerd. Some kids prefers romantic comedies or standard action flicks to superhero fare. Some would rather read John Green (he wrote The Fault In Our Stars, muggles), than Alan Moore. But that’s okay. I’d miss my daughter terribly if she decided to stop joining me on Wednesdays but I’d understand. The wife would literally kill me if I didn’t.
2) Don’t do half-measures. Yes, I know I advised caution earlier, but if all systems are “go” and your kid is a little nerd, then feel free to let your inner geek Hulk-out to the max. Dress to the nines at a con. Brush up on the history of your child’s favorite characters. Be all the nerd you can be.
And finally, here is the most valuable piece of wisdom I can impart to you on the subject of being a cool comic book dad:
1) Listen to your child. Get to know your kid. If you’re laughing, consider this: there are far too many parents out there who have no idea who the little human they created actually is. I don’t expect you to pump your child for info on their deepest secrets. (They hate it when you give them money for the movies so you can be sure they’ll be out of the house while you read their diary. Trust me on this.) But you’d be amazed what you can learn when you really try.
I get it. Being a dad is more terrifying than being Victor von Doom’s dermatologist, but you can do it. There’s a reason your child was paired up with you; you’re a hero. Deep down, perhaps. (Some of us have had to dig really deep, in fact.) The boys from Liverpool were actually right; all it really takes is love. Let your kid know they’re your hero and suddenly your lifelong hobby will become more rewarding than you could ever have imagined.
Or it could blow up in your face. What do I know? I’m a forty-something nerd.