I know not everyone reads comics. I know not everyone gets comics. But being that it is 2017, I’m more than a little sick of people who don’t consider reading comics to be reading. OK, let me back up a little, so I don’t delve straight into stereotypical angry blogger mode.
I work at a library. You know, the place where the books live. And there are many times that I have to listen to people talk about their children reading comics. Either they don’t want them to read comics, they barley put up with them reading comics because “at least they’re reading”, or they are surprised by how good a comic can be. This is, to say the least, frustrating for me to hear. Far be it from me to tell anyone how to raise a child, but once you start talking about comics, you have effectively entered my dojo. My problem is this: what I hear most the time is, “My kid is reading more, it’s graphic novels, but he’s reading.” Or, “They’re not like you or I think of comics. They have plot and are actually kind of complex.” The issue here is that there’s a big preconceived notion that comics aren’t real reading. Or, if they are, they are inferior reading. I get it, there are pictures. And, we as a culture have assigned pictures to the bottom of the reading hierarchy. Well, get off that high horse, America.
When I hear people talking about comics “being complex” I have a hard time not saying “there have always been complex comics!” I have to keep myself in check because, you know…job. But these people who have never explored the medium are just now finding out that wait a minute, these aren’t just for kids! And I guess to me it’s more than a little frustrating. I mean, this is something I’ve dedicated my entire life to, and there’s a lot of ignorance on the subject. I hate to say that, and sound like I’m superior, but that’s what it boils down to. The thing is that many, many people think that comics have no substance. And calling them literature? Whoa buddy, forget about it! It gets a little personal when you are literally making comics, you know.
Anyway, this isn’t just about me. It’s about giving comics respect as reading material. As I said once, in a rant to a date, tell me that Jeff Lemire’s Essex County isn’t art. Tell me that’s not a story worth reading. Tell me that Watchmen isn’t complex. Go ahead and label that one “the funnies.”
Hardy har har.
It’s time for people to stop feeling like they have to justify reading comics. I don’t want to hear parents tell other parents “well, at least he’s reading.” Like reading a comic is one step away from illiteracy. It’s not. There is nothing wrong with reading a comic. There’s nothing wrong with reading a picture book, or a sci-fi novel. I think reading has sort of become this thing where you have to talk about these lofty books you’ve read, something to show the signs of how smart and classy you are, when really, you should be reading for yourself, not for other people. I currently have a damn near 700 page collection of Doonesbury to read. Do you think I will let anyone discount that book because it’s full of comic strips? No way, buddy. That’s a lot of pages, no matter how you slice it!
Now, playing on that point, of reading for you, that doesn’t mean you have to read a complex comic like Watchmen. If you like comics, read whatever you want. Do you think that most super hero comics really have that much depth? There are some, but for the most part, they’re just adventure stories. But you know what? If you like adventure stories, read them. No one is going around chastising people who read James Patterson novels, and I’m sure those are no War and Peace. You don’t have to read things to impress people. I’ve just finished a big book of original Popeye comic strips. I don’t care what that says. As a side note, E.C. Segar’s Popeye is actually AMAZING.
More on that later.
This is all to say that, when I hear someone say, “Comics aren’t what you or I think they art, they have plot” and blah blah blah, I mean, who cares? If we’re talking about a kid who likes to read, then what does it matter? They can read a thousand pages of Garfield for all I care (no offense, Jim). Just get books into those hands. Nothing bad will happen to your kid if they decide they want to read something funny or light. Not every book has to be used to be a certified classic. It feels like people are self conscious about comics as reading material. Even for other people!
I guess it bugs me on a lot of levels. More than I realized when I sat down to write this. As an unashamed reader (which, there is NO reason you should feel shame reading comics, really!) and as someone who sees the value in kids reading. But I know I’ll continue to hear this sort of discussion. Comics have come a long way, but there’s still a lot to be learned about the medium. As I said earlier, the name of the game is ignorance. Thus, people don’t believe it’s real reading, or it’s some sort of settling act. I mean, what if that kid grows up to make comics, and then gets rich? Who’s going to look foolish then, huh?
This is devolving into some kind of power fantasy! Just do me a favor and help to educate people, huh? Reading is reading, and if someone enjoys something, there shouldn’t be any shame in that, huh (as long as you’re not hurting anyone.) But I notice a lot of the time, people put down the things that people like, just because they don’t do said thing themselves. And that’s why we can’t have nice things. Anyway, to sum it all up, I read almost entirely comics, and I’m smarte, ain’t I, reederz?