Comics journey #7: How to set up a pull list, and a note on impostor syndrome

Today I’m excited to say I’ve graduated a level in geek – I set up a pull list at Orbital Comics, my local comic shop!

For my fellow newbies, setting up a pull list is what you do when you are following a current series as it’s coming out, and you want to make sure you get a copy of every issue from your local comic shop (LCS). They don’t always advertise that you can do this, so you’ll probably have to go in and ask. When you subscribe to a series, they set a copy of each new issue aside for you, and then you pay when you go in and collect your comics. (Just to disambiguate, because sometimes the terminology is confusing: “issues” are the short comics that come out every couple of weeks or every month. “Trades” or “trade paperbacks” [TPBs] are the longer volumes which collect a series of issues. You can also get these in a pull list, but they come out a long time afterwards.)

This is something you should only do if you know for sure that you want to stay up to date on a series and you have both the money to buy comics regularly and the time to visit the shop every couple of weeks. If not, go in when you can and catch up on any issues you miss online via something like Comixology, or wait for the TPBs to come out. I say this because setting up a list and then not collecting your comics means the shop loses money. You might think they won’t miss it if it’s just you, but it happens quite a lot and comic shops are often small and independent, so it matters.

I was pretty nervous about finally doing this. Obviously it’s a financial commitment, but to be honest, mostly I was worried about looking dumb. Like what if I said the name of the series wrong and they laughed? Or maybe it would be really obvious that I didn’t know what I was doing (and they’d laugh). Or, or maybe the dude behind the counter would see my list of female-led titles and the Wonder Woman badges on my jacket and jump to a bunch of conclusions (and laugh). Rationally this is all very silly, but it’s hard to overcome the feeling that I don’t quite belong.

I know I’m not the only one who struggles with feeling like an outsider, so here is a rundown of my experience – though things might work differently at your LCS.

  1. Arrive at Orbital with moral support/comic-buying buddy (my husband, who is the reason I know what a pull list is.)
  2. Dither around the new issues section for twenty minutes and consider buying stuff I already have because maybe if I buy the latest issues of the things I want on my list, I can just point to them and avoid fucking it up???
  3. Decide on Volume 2 of Greg Rucka’s early-2000s run and the latest issue of DC Rebirth Harley Quinn, which is starting a new arc so why not.
  4. Approach the counter with trepidation. It’s at the back, in the classic comics section where only the hardcore collectors venture, flicking through boxes with practiced fingers. I feel about seventeen years old and conspicuously female and basic.
  5. Lay comics on the counter, crack jokes with the guy on the register and finally ask, in an oddly high-pitched voice, “how would I go about setting up a pull list?”
  6. Thank all the gods that might exist when the guy behind the desk hands me a pen and a form to fill out. I don’t have to mispronounce¬†anything!
  7. Fill out my name, contact details and the titles I want: Wonder Woman Rebirth, Harley Quinn Rebirth and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (y’all I just started this and I adore it. Post on its way.)
  8. Slide form back across the counter, mumbling “is this, um.”
  9. Counter dude looks it over and nods. He informs me they will let me know when I have comics to collect, which should be on Wednesdays (when the new orders come in) roughly every couple of weeks, starting next week.
  10. Pay for the books I’m buying today (important)
  11. Peace out of there, aglow with success!

I’m not going to pretend I’m not still slightly looking over my shoulder, waiting for someone to tell me I don’t belong – but it was definitely not the ordeal I had imagined it to be. If you nodded along with this post, remember that a comic shop is not just for vintage comic collectors and know-it-all fanboys. You can be buying the floofiest girliest trendiest books in the place and you still have as much right to be there as anyone, because¬†you are buying comics.

This is not a very accessible hobby, it’s true. Comics need a lot of upfront investment to get up to date, they’re full of intricate plots and obscure characters and badly-designed distribution systems and yes, sometimes the fans can get a little bit gatekeeper-y. It does help if you have a knowledgeable buddy to steer you round the vocab – and your local library is a great way to get started without hurting your wallet! But I have to say that since I started this project, not a single fan has said anything unkind to me either online or in the meatspace, even though I’m a lady having opinions about geek stuff on the internet. I’ve even had positive reactions from people who I never expected to be encouraging. It feels like the community in general is in a very welcoming place for newcomers right now, and I hope it stays that way.