It’s like reading’s best kept secret or something. It’s like two storytelling mediums got married one afternoon, only you missed the reception. I don’t read comics because I think it makes me cool, but it does in fact make me cool. Where were you when Reed Richards was put on trial, when Batman caught the serial killer called Holiday, or when Spidey’s new costume tried to take over his life?
Were you busy sleeping with your eyes open, or did you just think comics weren’t for you because you were too old and sophisticated?
Let me lay a movie quote on you then, from an old favorite of my generation, The Neverending Story.
An old storekeeper tells the character Bastian, “The video arcade is down the street. Here we just sell small rectangular objects. They’re called ‘books.’ They require a little effort on your part, and make no bee-bee-bee-bee beeps. On your way, please!”
Bastian says, “I know books. I have 186 of them at home!”
And shockingly, in a most damning fashion–just like you were abut to do–the storekeeper replies, “Bah, comic books!”
Well storekeeper from The Neverending Story, you’re about to find out just how wrong you were. Let’s see if you were really looking at comic storytelling the way that I do.
Even if you protest that the storylines mentioned at the beginning of this article have no deep meaning, or literary significance, one could argue that neither does the newspaper or Time Magazine. But they do tell the story of a day’s or week’s events using words and pictures, and they have much more respect. Is the sin that comic books commit that their pictures are loud and alive instead of still and square? Or is the mistake that the words of comics are inside of bubbles and boxes instead of displayed in neat ruled margins?
Whatever the case, I assert that the storekeeper and his crowd has not looked any deeper, and has committed the far more common sin, that of judging a comic book by its cover.
Without giving comics a chance, you have not only robbed yourself of a true storytelling experience, you have also missed out on the importance of reading. I can say without a smirk on my face that reading a good comic book or graphic novel can be as significant as reading War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy or 1984 by George Orwell. How could it not be, if it is only reading enhanced with imagery?
The initial run of Marvel’s Fantastic Four was accompanied by the slogan “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!” and it was not all about product placement, Hollywood effects, or fight scenes to kill boredom. It was, at its core, about a dysfunctional family. From Reed, who is ever too smart for his own good, to Johnny, who’s young and brash with partying on his mind, to Ben who hates the look of his body, and Sue, who tries to hold them all together.
Not only is that worthwhile subject matter, but it’s also relatable. And the scope of comics doesn’t end there.
An important thing to remember is that comics aren’t all about superheroes and villains. The stories extend beyond anything classifiable nowadays, and the respect of comics is growing. If you are a prose reader making your way through the classics, look no further than international bestselling author Paulo Coelho, and his timeless story The Alchemist. If you have not read it, the book concerns dreams, omens, personal legends, and is widely considered to be a life-changing read. It was for me. And by the way, check out the graphic novel version, which was adapted for release in 2010, because that was one of Paulo Coelho’s dreams.
So, what are you waiting for? Start reading comics today. Start now, right in the middle of this sentence. If not today, then start tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, then at least donate one to somebody who will.