The Top Coffee Drinkers in Comics
This story starts, as many stories do, with a young girl discovering comics for the first time. It happened for me at my local public library, having exhausted nearly all of the fiction and still hankering for stories, that I stumbled upon Watchmen. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since then, I took an interest in comics and graphic novels, especially when I reached college and started hanging out with some comix nerds. Thanks to them, I was introduced to Sandman, Bone, Fun House, Blankets, Scott Pilgrim, Asterios Polyp, King City, and many many more. Word of advice to everyone: hang out with comix nerds.
It’s a sporadic background, I’ll be the first to admit. But I love comics. As a writer, I love the freedom and power that comics give to storytelling. Great moments in comics leave me breathless and giddy, exuberant almost radiant.
Similar to a great moment with coffee.
Coffee and comics. At first blush they seem as separate as rock and chocolate. (Rockolate?) Well, maybe, you think. Comics creators probably drink coffee? Right? Or if you’re a dad reading the Sunday funnies, you’ve definitely got that big white coffee mug in your hand so you can do a spit-take when you’re offended by Dilbert.
But the more I delved into the world of coffee, the more parallels I saw. As in comix, a lot of the attention is drawn to a few big names. But as in comix, a lot of the coolest most innovative experiments are being done by the independent folks out there.
Likewise, coffee-makers (the people not the machines) and comix-makers are some of the coolest people you’ll meet. (Completely unbiased fact based on personal anecdotal evidence.) Furthermore, the more you learn about the two, the more you come to appreciate what they have to offer. Just as I learned to expand my understanding of the art and craftsmanship behind comics, so, too, I began to learn more about the science and magic of creating delicious coffee.
At the core of it, coffee professionals and comix-makers, the good ones anyway, are trying to facilitate connection: connections between people and connections with something transcendent, be that a cup of coffee or a graphic novel.
This connection then, begs an age-old question: who are the biggest coffee drinkers in comix?
For the answer, I had to turn to the experts.
“Oh man, I know there are names that should be really obvious. But I haven’t had my coffee yet this morning, so… What was the question again?”
Heather from Fantastic Comics was as startled by my question as I was that I had managed to ask it. Fantastic Comics, located in Berkeley just steps away from the Downtown BART station is one of those places you have to enter after taking a deep breath. It’s intimidating in its size and breadth, especially for a girl from the Midwest. Until relatively recently my idea of a comix store was a few well-thumbed copies of Spider-Man hidden in someone’s basement.
I had poked around the store a few minutes to get my bearings (and to see if there might be a “coffee-related” section), and located a heart-breakingly beautiful copy of My Favorite Thing is Monsters. At last, though, I stopped beating around the bush and worked up my nerve.
“I have probably a really weird question if you have time,” I began.
Heather was beyond helpful. She introduced me to Snotgirl.
Snotgirl is a new series co-created by Leslie Hung and Bryan Lee O’Malley. It is a series that focuses on a fashion blogger in LA, Lottie Person. Lottie is about as callous and self-absorbed as you might imagine, and coincidentally starts every day with a specialized coffee drink.
Fun side note: a character gets pushed into the pool ostensibly for messing up said drink. I related to that character. And I was intrigued enough to check it out.
Heather also did some quick brainstorming and referred me to Hawkeye and Kate Bishop. Hawkeye, as it turns out, beyond being a fair shot, is also down for a fair shot… of espresso! In multiple frames he can be seen drinking his java straight from the pot. Talk about commitment to caffeine. Not to mention he’s a bit of a sad sack. Kate Bishop, too, seems to have picked up her partner’s love of coffee. Perhaps there’s something in the combination, but as for myself, I likely won’t be drinking coffee and shooting a bow simultaneously. That seems a recipe for disaster.
“I’m sure I’ll think of more,” Heather tells me. And I’m sure she will, but it’s time for me to head out for some further research. Fantastic Comics, I’ll be back soon.
My next jaunt led me into the hills of the Claremont neighborhood, all the way up to Escapist Comics located right next-door to the delightful Dark Carnival, the store you never knew you needed. Escapist, like Fantastic, is a place you enter with reverence. But if Fantastic is like your great aunt’s library, Escapist might be your great-grandfather’s attic, a sort of treasure hunting space where you never know what you’ll find next.
This time, I was joined on my journey by Paul and Jessica.
“There’s Hellboy,” Paul says, “he’s always smoking, so you’d think he’d drink coffee as well.”
Paul works quickly, running down through a list of people he considers “hip” enough to drink coffee.
“Spiderman is a teenager,” he says. “He’s sort of a normal dude. Batgirl is a hipster. She’s on her phone a lot.”
This logic holds with me. Many of the people I know who drink a lot of coffee are also frequently on their phones.
“Of course, there’s Too Much Coffee Man,” Paul says. And leads me to said book, a collection by Shannon Wheeler featuring the titular character, a man with a coffeepot for a head dealing with an overload of existentialist dread.
Speaking of hitting close to home, Jessica, points me to a local artist, Adrian Tomine.
“He writes about the Bay Area,” she tells me. “I think one of his comics is set in a coffee shop.”
And it is. Among a variety of vignettes, Tomine has a short comic called “The Connecting Thread”, which tells a chilling story set in various fictional Bay Area cafes.
Jessica tells me she’ll forward my question to the group she’s in called The Valkyries (more evidence that she’s cooler than I’ll ever be) and try to kick me back more information. I eventually stumble out of the door already overloaded with more than I ever thought I’d find.
This is the thing about learning more about comics, and learning more about coffee. Pulling one thread leads to another and another and another. There aren’t really any coffee professionals who are doing it alone. The coffee bean has to be grown, harvested, processed, shipped, and roasted before it ever reaches a barista. Many hands are needed to make any one cup. Just as many comics are the work of several creative minds, letterers, writers, and artists.
So asking one question leads you to another and another until you realize there was more to the subject than you ever could have known.
That’s what I love about these two areas, they bring people and ideas together. Find people passionate about either subject and you’ve got a whole new world opening up before you. Sometimes, you just have to ask the weird questions to figure it out.
As for me, my money is still on J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker’s long-time boss. If there’s anyone who is hooked on coffee, it’s got to be that guy.
Until next time, Too Little Coffee Girl, signing off.
Written by Laura Freymiller for Rhetoric Coffee