“Just old and stupid since 1969.”

§ April 18th, 2012 § Filed under I have no idea how to tag this § 22 Comments

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.

22 Responses to ““Just old and stupid since 1969.””

  • Martin Wisse says:

    Didn’t you do a series about 1,001 things I like about comics once, or was that another prominent comics blogger?

    Because, yeah, ultimately liking comics comes down to a series of things you can only find in comics and nowhere else.

  • Mikester says:

    I think Spurgeon did 1,001 things…I did two or three lists of 100 things I liked on successive Valentine’s Days.

  • Dave-El says:

    I said on Twitter that I don’t really know why I like comics, I just do. But if I had to make one sweeping statement, it’s this: comic books present a world where the wildest flights of the imagination are made real and the reader is invited to stay. Sounds pompous, I know, but I think that kind of sums up the appeal of this medium and the continued involvement of its fans.

  • Snark Shark says:

    yup, that’s why I read comics, to be “COOL”.

  • Mike, whenever I see questions like that one, “Why I Like Comics” I’d simply answer, well,
    Why I Like Movies
    Why I Like Non Fiction Books
    Why I Like Football
    It doesn’t matter what some slug on an internet site says about why someone likes something, I like something because I do and that’s all that matters to me. I don’t need to explain my reasons to anyone.

  • Dan Wars says:

    I actually do like comics to be “cool”. All the babes really dig guys that carry around their want lists with them so they know what copies of Weird War Tales they need if they happen to come across some back issues during their day. Sometimes Ill bring home a random girl from a bar and impress her with my 5.5 graded copy of Spawn #2.

  • Wayne Allen Sallee says:

    I was fortunate enough to read Superman comics on cassette for a man who went blind at the age of 17. This was when there were four titles, and reading it that way presented every panel differently. Much “cooler” than reading him a copy of Thirsty Thursday, which is also comic related, but, hey, its a real book, right?

  • Roel Torres says:

    I think if that person just went ahead and asked himself “why do people go to museums and enjoy good art?” and “why do people go to bookstores and enjoy good stories?” and combined the answers — they could probably answer the question on why people like comic books without any assistance.

  • Jim Kingman says:

    I like the idea that I can take a couple of very limited pockets of time during the day and read three or four comics at a time, for example, an issue of All-Star Superman, then House of Secrets, followed by Scalped and Shade the Changing Man in the morning, then close out a long work day with an issue of Man-Bat, followed by Green Lantern, Howard the Duck, and American Flagg! Whatever I feel like choosing, whenever I can squeeze it in, and still feel like I’ve absorbed a lot. And I don’t have to deal with commercial breaks and long credits at the end. And that’s only ONE reason I love comics!

  • danjack says:

    Here’s something that you could say as to why you like comic books:

    Comics are a unique way of telling a story. Its a combo of words and pictures where each is dependent on the other AND that requires interaction by the reader.

    Comics are also often periodicals that present a story that moves forward [or at least seems to] along with a history & world building.

    Or you could just say, “They’re fun and exciting!” and smack the person asking.

    i’d do the latter.

  • danjack says:

    Also, check out Scott McCloud’s books on comics for all sorts of breakdowns about why comic books are the greatest form of communication evah!

  • Robert in New Orleans says:

    I like comics because reading them today reminds me of when I was a kid and would go down to the drug store, buy some comics, get home fast as I could, and get lost in the adventures inside. I still love the process of deciding which ones I can afford and the anticipation of finding out what my favorite characters (and creators) will do this month. I still have that sense of wonder when I pick up a comic and read it.

  • Sky says:

    I just love seeing how the artist interrupt the story and how the colorist sees the pencilers… Together with some of the worlds greatest story tellers… when it comes together and its right thats what makes a good comic book

  • Roger Green says:

    The idea that people read comics in order to fit into a subculture is so utterly absurd. Grownups who read comics are STILL not “cool”; tolerated as nerdy/geeky, maybe. Have you ever seen the stories the mainstream media does for even San Diego Con in 2011? Oh, “look, see all the presumed adults and teens dressed up as though it were Halloween. It’s so a-MUS-ing?”

  • Scott Phillips says:

    “I enjoy stories told with pictures” is actually one of the closest answers I could come up with to explain my visceral love for the medium….

  • Kevin Tam says:

    A combination of the people above me: comic books tell a story in a way that no other medium can tell. It’s a collection of visual snapshots of a narrative, and that can’t be captured by prose OR moving pictures. They aren’t restricted by a budget and can tell more imaginative things than even the biggest big-budget films!

    I actually talked about this a while ago, when I was gushing about The Flash: http://chezkevin.blogspot.com/2011/10/on-flash-and-freedom.html

  • Michael Grabowski says:

    Reading comics really would make you look COOL if Crime was the One True Genre that pop culture associates with comics, as opposed to the softcore B & D porn featuring circus performers that dominates the shelves and the comic-based movies.

    I can’t articulate why I like reading comics, other than to say I’ve had reading (and re-reading) experiences with some comics that have been as stirring and emotional and thought-provoking and, yes, cool, as the best works I’ve encountered in some films, music and prose.

  • Anonymous says:

    Literature + Art = Comics.

    Avid Comic Book Reader = Panelogist.

    Without comic books I would never have learned to read or experience art. Nuff said!

  • You never, NEVER, NEVER should expect anything approaching intelligence from anything named Yahoo!

  • i read comics cause mikester made do it.

  • Hey, I’m in that list! Made my day.

    Awesome blog.

  • Shelly says:

    It’s a good question. I’ve been reading them since I was 7, and comic strips in the newspaper even before that. And I’m still reading comics and comic strips some 50 plus years later. My parents supported my love for comics, being fans themselves, and I never outgrew graphic storytelling. I’ll read anything good: books and comics. I like words with pictures, pictures with words. I like reading them because they give me pleasure. I can’t get more profound than that.