Comics with Rachel: Carver Conversations #2


Rachel Glen with 3 of her favorite comics.

Khadijah Olufayo, Editor

Rachel Glen (she/they) is opinionated. She doesn’t shy away from takes on people, politics, and especially, media. One of their friends remarked that he “never doubts how she’s feeling” because she expresses it so clearly; she forces her audience to listen, but compels them to remember. Every interesting person has a topic they can discuss better than anyone else in the room and for 11th grader Rachel, that story starts with comic books.


The first comic Rachel ever read was one of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic serials. Eight-year-old Rachel found herself so enamored with the childhood fables saturated in bright colors that she frequented comic bookstores weekly. “I bought, like, thirty My Little Pony books,” they explained, “That’s what started getting me to go to comic bookstores and be interested in reading comics”. The local bookstore ignited Rachel’s love for comics, but the public library preserved her passion. They spotted an issue of Batgirl on the display shelves and immersed themself in their “first real comic”.


Subsequent trips to the bookstore would result in more varied purchases than the latest My Little Pony installment. She found artists she liked, following them to other series. “The comics world is so interconnected that you can almost always find something that is related to something”. Social media also contributed to the diversification of Rachel’s reading; they credit TikTok and Instagram for introducing them to new books and series they never would’ve read without algorithmic encouragement.


Rachel discovered thriving communities in the stores she visited, usually small businesses with workers and customers alike regularly engaged in conversation: “There’s like a community at a lot of these stores where… you can play DND or tabletop games there, and they have clubs that meet at the stores”. Their favorite is Alternate Worlds in Cockeysville, 4 minutes from their house. But the best time to sample new spots is Free Comic Book Day, a national promotional event that encourages readers to support their local independent shops. Most Maryland stores participate, from franchise stores to secluded spots “in someone’s basement that you’d never know” without taking a chance and investing in your community.


Rachel, age 8, as Ms. Marvel

Of course, the intersection between the comic and superhero movie communities makes new releases all the more enjoyable for Rachel. Her most anticipated comic-to-screen adaptation is the upcoming Ms. Marvel, a series centering Kamala Khan, a Pakistani Muslim superhero. Aside from the representation she offers to other comic lovers, “most people find her relatable because she’s just like a… comic book nerd in the comic book universe”. Their favorite adaptation is the Netflix Original show I Am Not Okay With This, lifted from a short graphic novel of the same name by Charles Forsman: “I read part of the comic and it’s pretty accurate, but for me, honestly, accuracy is not as primary as storytelling. If it’s a good story, I don’t care if they mess with it.”


Underneath the action and excitement of comics, Rachel prefers “funny stories” with interesting characters. She’s excited that franchises are realizing “they could expand their audiences if they included more people”. Both DC and Marvel have released Pride editions of their books including gay characters. But in the midst of wonderful inclusivity, companies are also moving to make their comics more palatable to liberal audiences. Rachel mourns the anti-military themes of earlier issues that have been replaced with excessive military involvement. The US military even collaborates in the creation of some Marvel films. Like all media, comic books can be used as propaganda, and thus have a moral responsibility to their audience, even though this covenant with the reader is rarely honored. Consuming media critically can resist such influences, as Rachel often encourages on social media channels.


The average comic book is only thirty-two pages long, and yet they have an incontestable cultural impact on our society. As the material behind our favorite TV and movies, whether we acknowledge it or not, we are always talking about comics. Visit your local bookstore or library to join the expanding comic niche. You can connect with Rachel on Instagram @glenandink or by walking the halls here at Carver Center.