Holy Comics Batman!
For a few years now I have had a growing obsession with comics. When it started, I was enamored by the colorful pages and vivid graphics. Not much has changed since then. I love the juxtaposition of panels and how a story can be told with both words and pictures working together on a page.
I am constantly amazed by how many different types of graphic novels are out there. The world of comics seems to be expanding before my very eyes. There are comics for every age and of varying genres. There are originals like the Batman and Robin detective comics or the horror series, Tales from the Crypt, which were sold in cheap floppies, and there are more contemporary comics, like the art focused Asterios Polyp or the memoir based Persepolis. Even comic adaptations of novels and movies are growing in popular. For years, comics were aimed mostly towards young boys, but that is changing. The audience for graphic novels is expanding—particularly in young adults from early teens to late twenties. The comic publishers have made a move to expand to teen-friendly story lines and relatable characters.
This semester in college, I am taking a course about comics and graphic novels. On the first day of class, we talked about the expectations that surround comics. Past popular culture deemed comic fans “geeks” or “nerds,” something to be ashamed of. But in recent years, most of society has embraced the idea of being a “comic geek.” Just look at the growing popularity of the DC and Marvel franchises and excitement for the yearly San Diego and New York Comic Cons.
The first kinds of comics I read were about superheroes. Superhero comics are great—no, they’re fabulous. I am a complete Marvel geek. I just read the new Marvel Now! arc of Hawkeye (by Matt Fraction and David Aja) and I absolutely loved it. The new superhero storylines retain a bit of a classical feel while, at the same time, they bring a new page-turning, crime-fighting experience. But the cool thing about comics is that they are no longer just the traditional old Superman action comics or new Batman 52’s (both published by DC).
Last week, for my graphic novel class, I read Art Spiegelman’s Maus collection, a Holocaust story between a father and a son. Maus was not the first non-superhero comic I’ve read. Years ago I read Craig Thompson’s Blankets and, more recently, his Goodbye, Chunky Rice (both of which come highly recommended for anyone wanting to read graphic novels). Blankets and Good-bye, Chunky Rice are memoirs about Thompson’s childhood and adolescent years and his experiences. All of these particularly excel because they are real life shown in a stunning visual format.
The perception of comics is that they are not a serious art form. They are dismissed by many for not falling completely under the literature or art umbrellas, but, in fact, can be considered both literature and art. Comics are gloriously complex in that way—combining text and images to create fluid, vivid movement in a story.