So I saw in my site referrals a particular Google search (“comic books stupid”), which I then searched myself to see what would come up, and lo, there was this question on Yahoo Answers:
I like all the assumptions being made there, like there’s this incredible cachet of “coolness” surrounding the reading of comics. Seeing movies based on comics, sure, or maybe watching TV shows about people who read comics, but actually reading them? C’mon. And I’d like to hear more about the “good ones like ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Xmen.'” that the questioner apparently likes, in contradiction to the tone of his inquiry. They sound sort of similar to Spider-Man and X-Men…I wonder if Marvel knows about them?
Anyway, some of the responses to the question are pretty good, if occasionally veering into the “yeah, that’s not helping” realm. Then again, I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, because I was sitting there thinking how I could explain why I like comics, and…well, I can’t really articulate it. I mean, I could probably explain why I like certain comic books, or why I like particular genres of comics, but even then my explanation may not get much farther than “because Green Lantern has this awesome ring that does anything he wants and it’s awesome, yeah I said ‘awesome’ twice, shut up.”
But as to why I like comics in general? I don’t know. I simply like reading, whether it’s just words, or words with pictures. I think most people like comics, even if it’s just reading the funny pages in the newspapers…I’m sure people still do that, even if it’s perhaps not the universal experience it once was.
Maybe I just was never conditioned to not like comics, to not dismiss an entire storytelling method because someone told me it was stupid or worthless. And that I found enough of value in this medium that when I did start to get exposed to people who thought comics were worthless, I realized they were wrong. Not that every single story was a treasure, of course, but that comics were no more or less worthy a medium than any other. A bad TV show doesn’t invalidate television any more than a bad comic book invalidates comics.
Preaching to the converted, I know. But it did get me to wondering, as I said, how I would specifically explain why I like comics. An appreciation of the craft of cartooning, and the usage of drawings to communicate a story? Or, like one of the respondents to the original inquiry stated, “the unique experience of visually experiencing a story on paper.” Or on iPads, nowadays.
I could be going about it the wrong way. Perhaps my answer to “Why I Like Comics” should be “Jack Kirby. Carl Barks. Bernie Wrightson. Ramona Fradon. The Hernandez Brothers. Gilbert Shelton. Curt Swan. Charles Schulz. Sergio Aragones. Paul Chadwick. John Severin. Shary Flenniken. Mike Mignola. Jim Starlin. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.” And so on.
While I may not have a particularly pithy or detailed explanation as to why I like the comic book medium beyond “I enjoy stories told with pictures,” I do know that I would have missed out on a lot of great work if I’d rejected comics outright. Plus, I wouldn’t currently have a room full of Swamp Thing merchandise in the house…which probably also falls under the previously mentioned “yeah, that’s not helping” category.