I'm going to attempt to update this blog every Wednesday to regale you with facts, tales and overly verbose and grammatically unsound paragraphs about things which make me happy. While this is self-serving in the extreme, I'd be happy to see some comments from you giving your opinion on what you like about the topic. Wednesday sucks, pretty much, so this blog is all about positivity.
The inaugural entry is an obvious choice for me. I love comics, so that's where I start.
Comics have shaped my life in many ways. I've learned things about US, European and Japanese culture through reading comics. I've discovered a need to create art as a direct result of reading comics. Comics have taught me life lessons, instilled morals (to some degree) and put me in touch with a great number of talented people, many of which I'm proud to say are my friends.
I think some people hear 'comics' and think of The Beano or The Dandy. Most of these people would be British, I suppose. Some think of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Hulk et al. I would bet the majority of those people would be North American or British again. Rarely does the word 'comics' conjure up the immediate mental image of Stray Toasters, The Boy Who Made Silence or The Nightly News.
I'm as guilty as most, though. I think 'movie' and I picture a huge cinema screen, darkness, popcorn and I can hear the Pearl & Dean theme tune. I think 'books' and I picture a library or bookstore. I think 'comics' and my mind immediately throws up an image of Wolverine as drawn by Leinil Francis Yu. A specific image of a specific character in a specific genre. Not an experience (although the issue the image is from was great).
It's unfair, because my love of comics is a love of the artform as a whole. My tastes happen to fall into the superhero genre (you know, I don't actually think 'superhero' is a genre either, but I digress) arena, I'll admit, but that hardly precludes the rest of comicdom from getting a look-in. I love comics which try something different and I love comics which are no-frills but solid. I just love comics.
Examples? European titles like IR$, Orbital, XIII and the classics like Tin Tin, Asterix and Lucky Luke are what I would call fantastic no-frills comics. Look at the number of panels per page and you begin to see how it's not always necessary to have 'splash pages' (full page panels, usually depicting a dramatic moment -- I'm aware not everybody is a comic book reader...) and fancy layouts. Most of the European books I've read are technically incredible, with sharp storytelling and a narrative flow which is hard to find elsewhere.
Then you have the uniquely British 2000AD. I like it, although I'm not quite sure I 'get' it. I will say, however, that I'm very glad it exists, providing an anarchic alternative on UK shelves to the licensed kiddie fare and reprints of US titles.
I grew up on licensed titles, so I find them to be more worthwhile than most. Transformers was my gateway into comics, having already been a fan of the cartoon and toys. Thundercats, too and it certainly didn't hurt that Masters of the Universe had a mini-comic packaged with each action figure in the 80s (one of those mini-comics taught me what an obelisk was. I later saw a real one and remembered what it was because of a comic. It also helped me understand the Obelix pun in the Asterix books, so it came full circle). If they continue to lead kids into reading comics as a hobby, then more licensed books, please.
US superhero titles have become the bread-and-butter of the industry and seemingly Hollywood's industry too. They're great fun, bombastic and sensational and its hard to argue that the top talent in the world is engaged in them in some form or another. In the last decade or so, they've matured greatly along with their readership, meaning we now have a strange brew of characters with kooky names and costumes involved in distinctly non-kooky scenarios and real-world issues. An odd place for a genre (hmm...) to find itself, for sure.
This isn't even scratching the surface. Not even close. I can't categorise well enough to carry on as above. When you consider the variety on hand with comics like The Walking Dead, Bone, Cerebus, Pride of Baghdad, Moonshadow, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Corporate Skull, American Jesus, Transmetropolitan, Planetary, Tumor, Sweets, Atomic Robo, 100 Bullets, SuperTron, Scalped, The Originals, Pax Romana, Axe Cop, I See a Darkness and The Perry Bible Fellowship... a comic reader who limits themselves to and, as a by-product, limits the market to primarily one type of comic book is not what I'd call a person who loves comics. Just as a book reader who only ever reads Mills & Boon novels is not what I'd consider to be a person who loves books.
I heartily recommend all of the aforementioned books, strips and webcomics. Buy them, read them, support them, love them (but not physically). If you've never read a comic before, don't dismiss them out of hand. It's a medium, not a sub-culture. There just happens to be a vocal and visible majority of fans who make it seem that way (and more power to them).
So.... yeah, I love comics. Another happy blog this time next week.