I came to comics, actually, fairly late in my nerdy development. Not to superheroes, mind. Like much of my generation, I grew up watching cartoons like Ghostbusters and Ninja Turtles and Captain Planet, so I was around the genre from the beginning. My parents had a VHS of the original Tim Burton Batman movie, taped from broadcast, which I used to watch alongside the Care Bears Movie II and reruns of Star Trek. I watched Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman religiously, and I still get a charge out of the theme songs from the 90s X-Men and Spider-Man and Timmverse cartoons. The Batman animated series especially; Batman, really, was the first superhero who was mine, in that possessive, passionate way that fans get about their favorite characters. Introverted genius with a good heart and poor social skills – what young nerd wouldn’t latch onto that?
Comics, though, I didn’t come to until my freshman year of college. My whole social circle was a huge pile of nerds, a few even nerdier than me, and they quickly indoctrinated me in all the nerd culture I had missed. I was taught D&D and taken to the game shop to hoard polyhedral dice and strapped in for Cowboy Bebop marathons, and somewhere in there, my roommate loaned me a couple Sandman trades (which I liked, but wasn’t blown away by), and a friend explained about the multiple Robins (she didn’t know about Girl Robin, though), and I started to wonder if maybe superhero comics weren’t something I should look into.
I have no recollection of exactly how I heard about BIRDS OF PREY. A suggestion by a friend who liked Buffy, and been led from Buffy to try out that abysmal live action Birds adaptation (and I use the word loosely), and thought that might be a good comic to start with, maybe? It seems likely, almost sounds familiar, but honestly I don’t know. It was such a small, casual thing, I didn’t have high expectations, Sandman hadn’t been very awe-inspiring after all… the decision was hardly a memorable one, more of a whim. It does seem like an odd place to have come to on my own. I had no investment in Batgirl, I’d never even heard of Black Canary; you’d think I’d have started with Batman, regardless of how intimidating the issue numbers might be. I was becoming vaguely feminist and picky about my fandoms by that point, though. Maybe it was just the first thing that looked sort of familiar and starred women. If that was it, I’m really lucky I didn’t start with Tomb Raider.
I didn’t start with a trade. I was a comic noob, I didn’t know about trades (or Crises, or mantle-switching, or crossovers, or author changes and the Bold New Directions that accompany them, or any of that, for that matter). All I knew is what I have always done with every new story I consume: start at the beginning, and proceed in sequence. No, I started from issue one. And then I read every issue in sequence, all the way up to Gail’s then-current run, mainlining in the best mainlining nerd tradition. I think it took me about two days. Maybe three.
Somewhere in there, I found out about the minis that came out before the series proper started, and tracked those down and read them too. While the title had long since spun out into its own discrete thing by the time I caught up with it, the earlier issues – pretty much the entirety of Dixon’s tenure, basically – were fairly solidly under the Gotham umbrella, and regularly tied into the other Bat-books; there was a short Nightwing crossover, an issue or two given over to the Bruce Wayne: Murderer and Officer Down storyarcs, and much of the beginning of the series took place during the massive No Man’s Land crossover (hell, NML was an Event). So from those brief ties, it was pretty natural to expand into reading the other Bat-books, to pick up BATGIRL and NIGHTWING and start exploring the wider DCU. I followed Black Canary to the JLA, and met Wonder Woman. Basically every ounce of frustration, joy, laughter, catharsis, anticipation, triumph and sorrow comic reading has ever brought me; every single friend I’ve made in this community; every bit of inspiration and opportunity being a comic fan has ever provided me; I owe all of it to Birds of Prey and the passion and delight they evoked in me.
Nobody wake me up from this beautiful dream.