April 29, 2017 was remarkable in some ways. There was the People’s Climate March. Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Cairo following two bombings of Coptic Christian churches in Egypt earlier that week. It was also the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which was not attended by a sitting president for the first time in a generation.
For me, April 29th was the day that the Brooklyn Flea Market’s Williamsburg location was closed, and I ended up walking into Anyone Comics in Crown Heights, Brooklyn for the first time.
Little did I know then that walking into that store — as cliched as this is — was going to change my life.
The plan for the day was to spend it at the flea market, but when I got to the location I found no flea market; it had been canceled at the last minute due to space concerns. Annoyed, I paced around the food market that was there in its place for a good hour figuring out what to do next with my day.
I had just listened to an episode of the Geeks OUT podcast that had been a live show at this new store called Anyone Comics in Brooklyn. Why not take a trip there, I thought? Sure, it’s on the completely opposite side of the borough from where you are, and you haven’t really been reading much of your comics lately, but it’s sure better than fuming over not being able to look at other people’s junk for an afternoon.
Now when I go shopping, I’m a “keep to myself” person. If I need help, I’ll ask for it — but please, don’t follow me around the store. I’m also not one to interact with other customers too much unless I’m a store regular, like I have been at any one of the various yarn shops in New York City. Plus, being out of the comics loop for longer than I care to admit, I didn’t want to look like That Girl Who Really Doesn’t Know What on Earth She’s Doing.
But there was this really gregarious guy named Tony in there, who was talking to the owner, and seemed to be down to earth and funny. Maybe I can let my guard down, I thought.
I don’t remember exactly when I decided to butt into the conversation, or exactly what I said, but I remember it was some quip about understanding space limitations for a comic collection (I was having my own with my yarn) and how I read everything on my iPad.
That perked Tony’s interest, and I ended up giving him a few recommendations on where to read comics digitally.
Then we started talking about Paper Girls (the one series I was reading consistently) and how we were both close to just giving up on it because the plot had been going in too many different directions making it hard to keep up, especially with long production time between issues. Then I found out he drew his own comic, called Greenpoint of View. Greenpoint is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Brooklyn, no doubt passed down to me in my DNA as my maternal grandfather was born there.
I left the store with an autographed copy of “Greenpoint of View” and a new friend. From there, the floodgates opened, and my life really did change. Through Tony, I found other nerd podcasts to listen to, many of them local New Yorkers who I now consider very dear friends. The social circle widened even further with friends of these friends, mainly a small group that I got to know well when we all participated in GISHWHES, aka Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen. When you debase yourself in the name of charity (let’s just say a lot of rubber chickens and Photoshops of unicorns into movie posters from Rambo were involved), you become friends for life.
Getting back to comics, I started reading my comics more regularly (as opposed to letting the issues pile up for when I had precious little free time), and am now a regular at Midtown Comics’ downtown location (right by my office) and a semi-regular at Anyone Comics. With my weekly trips, I found new artists and stories to enjoy, not just the few series I would get digitally. I discovered a love of indie comics and Image Comics; creators that have the freedom to tell a story on their own terms without a corporate machine behind them. These were comics I could recommend to friends and family that only thought of comics as superhero stories. There were adaptations of popular literature (Titan’s interpretation of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, Dark Horse’s American Gods series), TV and movie properties that became comics (the various Doctor Who comics, BOOM! Studios’ reboots of the Rugrats TV series and the movie Big Trouble in Little China), stories that took on the current political and social climate (“Divided States of Hysteria,” “Calexit,”and “Dark Fang”), and stories with familiar, relatable characters (“Heavy Vinyl” and “Moonstruck”). The librarian in me loved these kinds of books; they fulfilled one of our basic tenets of the profession: Every Book Its Reader.Continued below
The most life-altering change that the store brought me is the reason I am writing this post. If it wasn’t for finding the joy in comics, and some gentle prodding from Tony, I wouldn’t be writing here on Multiversity today. While I had been contemplating my volunteer work with Geeks OUT prior to that day in Brooklyn, and was published there first, Tony encouraged me to look at other writing jobs, which led me to this site. With help from our editorial team and the consistency of a weekly schedule, I now have a strong writing portfolio that I can be proud of, and use to find other outlets, be they freelance or a full time career.
Looking back, this was a sign from the universe that I was in need of a change, which of course I did not realize at the time. (Who ever does?) I had some professional commitments that were thankfully nearing their end that spring (they were starting to be the source of some stress), and suffering a bit of burnout from my day job thanks to office politics. My deep dive into comics reviewing could have very well saved me from prolonged anxiety or depression, giving me something to strive for when I needed fulfillment in my life that I just wasn’t getting in my career. Could comics have saved my life? Quite possibly.
One closed flea market, one last minute decision, one shop led to so much more than the purchase that I left with on that Saturday. This holiday season, I raise a glass to that shop on Union Street in Brooklyn, the man that runs it (shout out to Dimitrios!), and the people that are in my life as a direct result of it (Tony and so many more). They are my new family.