The study of comics consumption has regularly focused on the study of teens and young people. However, the association between the fan experience and comics has colonized the experience of reading comics, especially in mainstream culture, leaving almost no room for the possibility of other recognizable experiences: if you are committed to reading comics, inevitably you are, will become, or are expected to be, a fan. However, Gabilliet (2010), Pustz (1999), Parsons (1991), and Barker (1989) point at the presence and need for more research about what they labelled as “casual readers,” or the bulk of the comics readership.
This presentation is based on doctoral work that focused on exploring and understanding the role of comics as reading material for young people, emphasizing the experience of the readers themselves. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of seventeen participants, from sixteen to twenty-five years of age, nine females and eight males. This group of readers repeatedly compared their practices and experiences with those of the fan, negotiating this process externally, both with and against the comics community, as well as internally, as a process of identity construction. Three aspects of this process are the focus of the presentation: 1) How terminology (like graphic novel) helps to differentiate community members status; 2) Comics reading primarily as a solitary/private experience which subsequently becomes social because of, among others, the need for sharing, for discussion to understand, or for companionship; 3) The role of comics knowledge acquisition as a personal project that emerges in connection with the construction of the reader-self. This project is a stepping stone in the process of diversifying the identities and voices that construct the research discourse about comics and about teens and young adults as part of increasingly prevalent communities, such as the comics community.