Comic Book Guys

  • user warning: Table 'tuttles.date_format_types' doesn't exist query: SELECT dft.type, dft.title, dft.locked FROM date_format_types dft ORDER BY dft.title in /home/public/sites/all/modules/date/date_api.module on line 2098.
  • user warning: Table 'tuttles.date_format_locale' doesn't exist query: SELECT format, type, language FROM date_format_locale in /home/public/sites/all/modules/date/date_api.module on line 2227.

I like comic strips. Recently, at a local bookstore, I saw a magazine about comic art so I picked it up (to read it there, I didn’t pay anything). A quick perusal of the table of contents and the contents themselves proved that the mag was focused on comic books rather than comic strips.

So I wound up reading only the opening editorial. While needlessly peppered with moronically-used profanity, it did bring up some interesting questions. To whit, the comic book industry’s sales figures have remained remarkably static for the past forty years, despite the fact that the country’s population has more than doubled (aren’t we getting close to triple?). Why is this? Especially in a country where movies based on comic book characters have done extremely well.

I go back to my own experience. I read comic books as a child, but almost never bought any. I was more than happy to sponge off those who did. Over the years, I accumulated maybe 2 dozen comic books (mostly Star Trek and Star Wars), none of them purchased after age 12 or 13.

In college, I had a roommate who still read and collected comic books. I read some of his books (at his prompting) and was never particularly enthused. Though I did read all 12 issues of his "Crisis on Infinite Earths" series wherein DC tried to reconcile the many derivations of their basic storyline. And there lies one of my reasons for not reading comic books: the on-going story-line. When I see something listed as Issue #5346, and reading the opening pages leads me to believe it is part of an on-going story, I am suddenly wondering if I need to read all 5345 issues I’ve missed to keep up with the story. And how many issues in the future will I need to read? Even a "limited" series like "Crisis" entailed a year’s worth of reading. Call me a lazy American with a short attention span, but that’s more time than I want to devote to most any stories.

Another reason—maybe the primary reason—I don’t read comic books is because so little happens in them. I am frequently hearing about how the writing and story-telling has improved in comic books over the last couple decades. This may be true, but I like to read and a sixty page comic book has about as many words as a single newspaper column. Sure it’s got visuals—in some cases quite stunning visuals—but I have to like the writing first; visuals for me are just gravy. Also, what is considered great comic book writing is not necessarily what I consider great writing. That’s not an insult. Great newspaper writing is not the same as great novel writing. I prefer one over the other. What is great writing for a comic book is not great writing I like to read. [This explains my approach to almost all art: I like what I like and respect that in other people. Some people don’t like my art, and that’s fine.]

As well, for many people (I’m not one of these), comic books are viewed as strictly a kids’ thing. These same people will go to a Spider-Man movie, but you’ll never convince them to read a comic book because they’re grown-ups. The comic book people can say that’s a non-sequitur all day long, but they won’t change any minds.

And finally, in an attempt to reach more adult audiences, some of the comic book people have tried to introduce adult themes (i.e. profanity, promiscuity, soft-core porn, etc.). I hate to tell them this, but even to those adults who aren’t offended by such things, seeing it in a comic book is like seeing that nerdy kid from junior high who thought it made him appear grown-up to cuss. It becomes less a sign of maturity and more a highway sign (with flashing yellow lights) of immaturity and, thus, one more reason not to read comic books.