Saturday, February 25, 2012

Discuss: Why I Like Comic Books


Rip Jagger said...

There's no doubt I keep up with comics because they are a touchstone to specific times and places in my life.

I've read that we all cleave to that magic time when we ten (or thereabouts) and life seemed ideal. Comics came into my life about that time, and they came to identify who I was in school and elsewhere.

My beloved Mother dutifully took my list of wanted comics and got them for me at the local newsstand when she went into to town to shop while I was trapped at school and couldn't get there myself. I've long adored her for this above-and-beyond effort.

Comics were the means by which I met my wife as we got together for the first time after I bought a bunch of comics on a school trip and shared them around. She has little use for them today alas. She matured, I didn't.

In college comics became a way to connect with professors and friends who were interested in the hobby and as the direct sales market developed the hobby was a bunch of fun.

Comics became a way to connect with my students as a teacher and I've used them from time to time as a means to get into Shakespeare and such.

Comics today bore me beyond words, as they lumber along with shiny gimmicks and lugubrious stories. But I still love to dabble in the old stuff, the old times and I still get a thrill from reading some comic I always wanted to read but never had the chance to do.

Rip Off

Redartz said...

The appeal comics hold for me is varied. As Rip implied, there is certainly an element of nostalgia involved. The books of our Bronze Age, especially, return me to those years between 10 and 18 when my biggest concern was schoolwork. A good friend got me interested in comics (after a number of years; as a child I read some, but gave them up about 1970). Junior high; he got me hooked and the collecting habit stuck.

Again, like Rip, comics had influence in later years. My love for comics led me to art school (sadly, my figure drawing skills are a bit weak). Resulting from that education I eventually met my wife (who has always graciously humored my hobby, she even reads a few herself).

Still later, my two sons were introduced to comics via my ongoing hobby. One of my greatest memories was taking them both to their first comic convention and seeing their eyes pop at the array of back issues!

Aside from personal reasons, I enjoy comics because I enjoy a good story. I love line arwork and good design, so esthetically comics hold twin benefits.

Finally, comics are fun. Fun to read, fun to discuss, fun to hunt for in flea markets on sunny summer weekends.

MattComix said...

For me it started when I was very little. In the late 70's there was a convenience store at the end of the road where my grandparents lived and my grandpa as part of his routine to get the morning paper one day decided to just pull something at random off the stores spinner rack and bring it to me. This basically became a regular thing until I was old enough to walk down there by myself. I've pretty much had a love of superheroes as well as comics and animation ever since. Getting my first comicbooks was also intertwined with experience of seeing Star Wars and the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. Even early anime offerings like the dub of Gatchaman called "Battle of the Planets".

I wasn't even able to quite read yet but something really clicked with me about comicbooks. I think I really just loved the fantasy, the costumes, and the cartoony coolness of it all but there was also the heroic aspect that made a lasting impression on me. I just liked that these cool and colorful characters were willing to strive to do the right thing and fight to protect others.

With all that there was also the appreciation for the artwork itself. I started drawing at around the same age so even then I was wearing the spines out on my books just from studying the pictures trying to figure out how they worked. My love of those characters and comics as a storytelling medium remains but modern superhero comics obsession with convoluted crossover events, excessive darkness, horror movie gore and so-called "realism" just leave me either frustrated or cold.

I think one of the strengths of the Bronze Age is that it had gotten away from some of the wackyness of the Silver Age but had not swung to the other extreme that he modern superhero comics eventually did. So with the Bronze Age and even some of the earlier modern stuff you kind of have this nice middle ground where things can be action packed and dramatic but not ashamed of being comicbooky fun accessible to the young and the young at heart, if that makes sense.

david_b said...

Wow, I LOVE the rich sentiment expressed thus far..

In regards to what MattComix mentioned about heroics, I loved comics when there were few heroes to cheer on in the age of 'anti-heroes'. I loved the dashing, stylistic approach of the sixties, heroics of strong protagonists, fighting for justice. Perhaps it grew out of watching 'Batman', and the Marvel '60s cartoons. Perhaps that's what my Dad cultivated when he bought me my first comics when I was sick once in '69, Captain America 113 and Hulk 114; along with my Captain Action sets, starting the whole ball rolling.

Since that day, comics created a special bond with my Dad. Never a collector, he loved my whimsical pursuits, and would indulge me whenever possible. Even when he was broke in his twilight years, if I mentioned I saw an auction for a rare GI Joe space helmet, he'd offer money just so I'd get it. I summize it brought us both back to a simpler time.

In heroics, it meant selfless awareness of what we can strive for, at our finest hour. Much like Sam Wilson's comment in Cap 174, watching Cap against seemingly unlimited odds, "Look at 'im, everythings falling apart but he won't say die!"

As corny as non-comic lovers would lament, that's what richly embellished my childhood, and carved my future.

Like Rip, opening a vintage issue I bought at the local drugstoren in '73 and I'm 10yrs old all over again.

Edo Bosnar said...

I'd say the reasons I like comics can be boiled down to two things: partly nostalgia, as I enjoy reading stuff from the '70s and '80s the most, but also because I just like the medium. It is a really effective story-telling form that I find immensely enjoyable (by extension, this also applies to cartoons and animated features).

pete doree said...

Eesh, where do I start? I guess the simple answer is: What makes you think I have a choice?!

Looks like we probably all have the same reasons: A love of story, a love of great artwork & a love of fantasy & imagination. As well as a hefty dose of nostalgia.

If I hadn't been bitten by The Mighty World Of Marvel no. 1 when I was 8, maybe I'd prefer movies or TV, but for me, comics tick all my entertainment boxes.

There's also one I don't think anyone's mentioned yet, and that's the collecting itself: Finding a book by a favourite creator you always wanted to read, or didn't even know existed, that's a great one.
Or more basically, tracking down that one missing issue you need to complete the set, there's an itch that's fun to scratch.

Even modern comics throw up the odd gem, and I'd still rather read a bad comic than watch a bad TV show. I guess the really simple answer is:
Because they're fun!

Doug said...

Thanks to those who have responded so far. If I were to cut-and-paste from the previous six comments, I could certainly build my own reply to the question at hand.

Rip, I think what you say about cleaving to those times of our childhood is exactly right. Just last night I ran a search for Megos on eBay, just to see what was for sale. There are books Karen and I use for our reviews that really take me back to easier times.

Redartz and Mattcomix -- can very much relate to drawing from comics. I was never good enough to create my own drawings from my mind, but up through college I became a pretty good mimic. My oldest son has a minor interest in comics, and the two of us along with the younger son have shared some good times at the Chicago Comicon.

david_b and Edo -- the comments about heroes being heroes, and that all forms of the comics media appeal are in line with my beliefs.

Pete -- you nail it with the thrill of the chase. Building my complete run of the Avengers was a thrill. An expensive thrill, but just a blast nonetheless.

So to summarize, it's a wonderful visual medium with soap opera qualities. Marvels in particular gave us "people" we could relate to -- who hadn't gone through some of the dysfunction of the FF family, or of Peter Parker's myriad problems? How many of us longed to be on an invincible fighting force like the Avengers or the JLA? The good guys were good, all of the women were beautiful, and the bad guys left with their tails tucked between their legs. But the best part was that we knew they'd be back! And we also knew that they'd lose again! What a wonderful form of escapist entertainment.


Anonymous said...

Because they are (or used to be--haven't bought any new ones in about 25 years) fun. And funny, as I prefer the lighthearted, satirical, and parodic ones like the Inferior Five, the Spirit, Captain Marvel, Captain Carrot, Dynomutt & Blue Falcon, etc.

--Matt alias Anonymous

Fred W. Hill said...

With the best of comics, I love the combo of interesting stories and good art. Although I stopped collecting ages ago, I still have a nostalgic love for the things that brought me some escapist cheer in my youth and to some extent even helped shape my thoughts about how people should relate to one another (no, no, not by turning green and smashing things whenever we get upset!). My earliest comics-related memories are of selecting a few my parents would buy for me & my brother when we in the Navy Exchange at the base in Yokusaka, Japan, circa 1968. Marvel comics quickly became my favorites because they generally had the more exciting art, more intriguing stories and mix of drama and humor that appealed to me. That was no longer true by the early '80s, by which time far more writers were routinely going back & forth between Marvel & DC, and I became increasingly more interested in comics that didn't involve costumed heroes & villains, such that I could even enjoy Harvey Pekar's American Splendor. Maybe because a big part of what I enjoy, far more than "action, action, action," is displays of interaction between characters, or learning to deal with a variety of problems which usually can't be resolved with a punch to a bad guy's jaw.

Inkstained Wretch said...

For me it is two things. One of them is, as Rip eloquently described, nostalgia.

When I crack open a comic from the late 70s or early to mid 80s, I can remember the wind blowing against my face as I rode my bike up and down steep hills to the one pharmacy in Southport, Connecticut, that had them. I can still feel the lack of breath I had when I finally arrived at the store. I can still taste Welch's grape soda I used to buy when I purchased my finds. The world is briefly as it once was and will never be again.

Of course, I wasn't buying comic books for nostalgia at the time. Back then, I just thrilled to the stories. I was always a bookish kid who read stuff like Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, H G. Wells, and Ray Bradbury without it being assigned to me by my school.

Parents and teachers viewed my comics as garbage and didn't mind telling me so. I countered that comics were the modern-day extensions of the classic adventure tales I was reading. How could they encourage one and discourage the other? I flummoxed more than one English teacher with that argument. (It also worked with Stephen King novels.) And I stand by that argument today. The best comics are great adventures and morality plays with all of the drama, mystery, romance and intrigue of the best fiction. They expanded my world and made me love the art of storytelling. It is doubtful that I would have become a journalist without them.

I didn't hurt that I lived through a golden age in the art form (even if we now call it the Bronze Age). Comics in the 70s and 80s came of age, becoming deeper, more complex and more relevant to real world while still providing escapist thrills. In many ways the Avengers were my civics teachers.

Anonymous said...

"I like comic books" from the Bronze Age because they saved my life.
I came from a broken home. That's putting it mildly.
Morality, heroism and self sacrifice equaled weakness and deserved victimhood.
Comic books taught me to how to be a good person. I learned that strength can come from selflessness and virtue.
This all may sound exaggerated to you. But if you come from a similar upbringing, you understand.
I am removed from my birth family and have made my own life. I am surrounded by friends and my own family. I owe much of it to comicbooks. Without their positive influence, my life would have been much different. I only have to look to my siblings lives for evidence.

Todays comics are too dark...I don't want and edgy Superman or Spiderman.
I wish they were there for kids that need the example.

Doug said...

Inkstained --

You must be clairvoyant. Come back on Wednesday and expand on your thoughts. I actually wrote the upcoming post a week ago, but you are treading on it already!


William said...

Since I first watched the Super Friends as a kid on Saturday morning I've been in love with super heroes. I love the fun-filled, fast paced action stories, combined with dynamic, colorful art. It's always made me happy. The escapist fun and adventure helped me through some tough times as a kid. I remember my mom used to drive me to this "regular" book store that had two or three shelves of nothing but comics. I especially recall buying the Byrne/Claremont issues of Marvel Team-Up back then. I used to read them over and over. I was absolutely captivated by the sheer awesomeness of those books. The amount of joy that comics have brought me over the years is really immeasurable to tell you the truth. I just really love everything about them. I could tell 20 comic related stories off the top of my head that had a lasting and positive impact on my childhood and beyond.

For instance from around the age of ten all I wanted to be was a comic book artist. I told my dad, "I want to be a comic book drawer." and he said "That's called a cartoonist." and ever since then I've been in love with that word. All through middle school and high school, whenever I was asked what I was going to be when I "grew up", I would always answer without hesitation "a cartoonist". Unfortunately "real life" got in the way of my dream and I ended up as a graphic designer instead, but I still love to create comics in my own way.

For all the reasons that I love classic comics, (the fun, imaginative, hopeful and adventuresome writing, and the bold, dynamic and colorful artwork) is also the reason that I absolutely loath "modern" comics. The "creators" today have basically desecrated everything that made comics what they were. "Fun" seems to be a dirty word these days. For the most part, the writing is boring, slow, cynical, and depressing, while the artwork is dark, dull, muddy and over colored. There are no more "cartoonists" in comics today, now they are all "illustrators". Bleh! It's like these people who supposedly grew up reading and loving comics are actually ashamed of them. In response to this, they have set out to turn them into something for so-called "mature readers", as if this will somehow make them more "legitimate". I'll bet they think this has helped comic-books become more accepted. But in reality, all they've actually succeeded in doing is destroying an original American art-form.

It's like I've always said, "The world that was portrayed in Marvel and DC Comics used to be a place I wanted to escape TO. Now it would be a place I'd want to escape FROM." Nuff said on that though.

I'd like to end on a positive note, so I will say that I still read comics almost every single day. However, when it comes to most comics I'm living in the past. I pretty much stick to reading stuff created anywhere from 1961 to around 1989 or so. Some of it is material I read as a kid and some is stuff that I never read at all before. So, between back issues and trade paperbacks (like the recent and totally awesome "Marvel Firsts" series) I estimate I could read at least one comic a day for the next several years and not run out of material. Maybe by then the comic companies will have come to their senses and comics will be back to being comics again. I'm probably dreaming, but hey, I'm a comic book reader that's what we do : )

Karen said...

Anonymous -thank you for sharing, and I agree with you: the morality that Stan, Roy, etc. put in the books was important. I did not come from the same circumstances as you, but I always felt that comics and Star Trek in particular reinforced and expanded upon the morals my parents imparted to me and my brother. When I look at books today, it's hard to tell who the heroes are supposed to be, and that's a shame.

William said...

I've read through everybody's responses to this question, and I must say, we all pretty much came up with similar stories. In fact (aside from a few details here and there) almost any one of the other posts could have been written by me.

I would also like to add that (like some others have stated) that, I really love the comics format as a storytelling medium in general. I recently read a graphic novel about a French animator who lived and worked in North Korea for a time, and he chronicled his experiences in a "comic book" style journal. I must say, it was absolutely as compelling as any prose novel I've ever read.

Frank C. said...

I don't have anything to add (it's all been so wonderfully expressed already) so I will simply state that it feels good knowing that so many others share my thoughts and feelings about this wonderful medium/hobby.

Joseph said...

This is almost as hard as answering "why do you like music?". I have to echo what others have said, only because I feel the same way.

On one level it resonates with the 7-9 year old in me that is oblivious to my parents fighting. A simpler time before I found sports and girls and all those things that make life more complicated.

On another level I just love the art, the stories, and (above all) the heroes. Even in my everyday life, I try to find the moral compass of the Thing or the Silver Surfer.

Finally, comics are a great way to relate to my son when he was young. He was fascinated with superheroes and I was more than willing to feed that obsession.

In short, they are a connection to my past and something that brings me joy in the present.

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