Comics

Just saw this speech by Neil Gaiman, which includes sensible things about comics as a medium.

I’ve rediscovered my love of comics lately. Or rather, trade paperback collections of comics, since I can no longer be bothered faffing about with the flimsy little monthly leaflets. (Yes, I am that person who doesn’t support monthly comics but waits for the trade, resulting in poor sales and quality series being cancelled.)

I used to read heaps of Spiderman comics as a kid, but grew past them, as you tend to. Like a lot of people, Neil Gaiman really got me back into comics as an adult, when I read volume two of his immensely famous Sandman series. It was unlike anything I expected comics to be – contemporary, mature, intelligent. From there his standalone graphic novels like Violent Cases and Signal to Noise just blew me away. Likewise Alan Moore’s stuff (especially V for Vendetta) was just definingly good. Nowadays I’m reading much more broadly (even getting past my snobbery and dipping my toes back in the best written end of the superhero market).

I’ve noticed that a lot of people, even SF and fantasy fans, have a strange mental block about comics. I understand it; after all, many comics are little more than puerile superhero fisticuffs. But a lot of comics don’t actually involve people in capes hitting one another with cars. It frustrates me that after years of writers and artists producing acclaimed, literary work, comics are still largely judged by the worst examples of the medium. It’s a bit like forming an opinion of all novels based on the quality of junior movie novelisations.

It comes down to that age-old confusion of the medium and the content, I suspect. People don’t like bad TV shows, cheap romance books, and crappy B-movies, but they recognise that there are also high quality TV shows, books and movies. With comics, they make no such differentiation. Content and quality appear to be meaningless considerations. It’s a comic, ergo it’s juvenile. It’s like someone telling you they watched a movie when they were nine years old, and it wasn’t very good, so they’re not going to try another one.

At their best I really believe that comics are a truly sublime combination of words and images. It’s the same alchemy you get in great songs, when the words and the music come together perfectly. I think it’s a shame most people never get to experience it.

I, er, seem to have started a short entry about comics and drifted into a rant. This is generally a sign that I should shut up. Also, the cat draped over my arm is making it hard to use the mouse…

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