Ever since I tapped into my inner geek, I did something I never did as a child — I started reading comic books.
Oh, I watched science fiction films, animated shows featuring superheroes and other characters and played around with action figures. But it wasn’t until I got much older that I learned that I needed to be true to who I was — that was when I bought my first graphic novel and learned more about what comics have to offer.
I guess I was one of those kids who thought that if you liked comics, you weren’t really cool. Everybody loved Star Wars, for example, but comics were something that you didn’t admit to liking.
But when I got older and read several graphic novels, watched multiple animated films and explored the world of superheroes, I realized that comics were, in fact, targeting older audiences and exploring more sophisticated storylines.
Granted, comic books differ from regular books in that a lot of illustrations tell you what you need to know about the world around you, how characters interact and what emotions they might be going through. But they are still dependent on the written word to get everything across, whether that’s dialogue or a character’s inner thoughts.
There are a few titles that I follow, though admittedly I find myself more interested in DC Comics. I’ve learned what it means to have a pull list (Titans and Justice League are the regular titles I have on mine) and I look forward to some of the special crossover storylines they roll out (Heroes in Crisis and Doomsday Clock would be the two I’m following).
I do think that comics and graphic novels complement other forms of literature, in that you can explore a storyline by focusing more on dialogue and thoughts and let the artwork get across world building. However, I do believe that writing about emotions and interactions is lost to an extent — I’ve found through my writing that a great challenge is to describe interactions through woods. You don’t get that with comics, because the artwork does that for you.
But there are several comics and graphic novels that, I think, rank up there with some of the best novels I’ve read. Watchmen really hits the mark in exploring what superheroes are really all about. The New Frontier excels at exploring themes that were relevant as the Silver Age of comics got underway.
And more recently, Heroes in Crisis explores the burden that superheroes carry and how they cope. That’s a concept one could apply to many real-life people. Military personnel, police officers, counselors, any person who has experienced tragedy or painful situations — they all go through struggles in coping with their life experiences.
Through reading comics and graphic novels, I’ve learned that what I thought about them as a kid was a misconception — that it’s fine to say you enjoy them and that they can present quality material, just in a way that’s different from the traditional novel.
Next week, I’ll sit down and talk more about Heroes in Crisis, which may be DC Comics’ most compelling crossover series yet.