Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Why am I reading comics?

Lately I've been a bit obsessed with graphica, graphic novels, comics, manga, stories told through images - whatever you want to call it. I thought it was a recent obsession until I started thinking back to my childhood.

When I was younger I read voraciously, but I spent hours reading my Dad's old Peanuts comic books. I collected funnies from the newspaper and even saved the daily calendar comics from my Dad's Far Side calendars (I have a binder full of them to this day). We had one Uncle Scrooge comic book that I read and reread until it was falling apart. I stumbled across it the other day and felt that thrill of happiness as I gingerly handled its crumbling corners. But somewhere around the age of 12 or 13 I sort of put them behind me - not from any feeling of shame or childishness, but they just weren't a big part of our lives. I read the weekly funnies, read and collected Calvin & Hobbes books, but other than that my reading became more "serious."

Then, when I became a Lostie and got involved in an online discussion group, Brian K. Vaughn's Y: The Last Man series was highly recommended by one of the members. I was able to borrow books from Borders as part of their employee benefits program so I blew through the series in about two weeks. There was way more profanity and sex than I liked, but the story line and the medium fascinated me. Next I checked out The Walking Dead, which I loved even more. Jeff Smith's Bone series was amazing and I recommend it to people all the time. After that I felt a bit lost at sea. I read a couple of Alice in Wonderland manga, but they mostly confused me, and I was way too intimidated by the vast amounts of superhero storylines to even start. So I sort of phased out of them again for a year or two.

This past year I started picking them up again. I read Buffy Season 8, Maus, and anything else that caught my interest at my local library. I took a class on Young Adult Resources in pursuing my Masters in Library and Information Science and the discussion on Graphica reinspired me. I also read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics which blew my mind and opened up the world of comics in a way I had never considered. (I seriously recommend this book to anyone who loves comics, wonders what comics are all about, or isn't sold on the whole graphic narrative thing.)

So over the last few months most of what I've been reading are graphic novels - from the Amelia Rules! series by Jimmy Gownley - one of the best Middle School series I can recommend - Amulet, Peanut - a fantastic YA novel, etc., etc., etc.

And now I've taken the plunge into Manga. Maybe it's because I've been immersing myself in the world of the graphic novel, or maybe it's just that I found the right ones, but I adore them. XXX-holic will probably get its own review from me after I've read a few more, Neon Genesis Evangelion, though I've only read the first installment, has captured my attention, and Juliet W was pretty interesting too.

So why do I read comics? Because they're literature. Because they are creative. Because they present stories in unique, thought-provoking ways. Because I'm a visual person and I love seeing the story unfold and the interplay between text and images. Because they are complex and delightful and painful and everything that a story should be. Are there bad comics? Of course - just like there are bad books. But I think they are incredibly underrated. Am I leaving "regular" books behind? Absolutely not. But now I have a whole additional list of books I've added to my TBR and my to own list.

Are you a comic book reader? Have a passion for manga? Never tried any of them? I'd love recommendations or discussion as to why comics aren't for you!

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