by Lindsay Young, CMRO Editor
Why Read Comic Books? One Fan’s Defense of the Genre.
Most comic book fans, I would guess, have had their taste questioned at least once. Oh, you read comic books? Those stories with the dudes in tights and capes? While the popularity of the superhero film genre has helped to elevate public opinion somewhat–I think most people can agree that the Christopher Nolan Batman films are pretty darn competent, even if you’re not a fan–there still seems to be a certain stigma attached to the books themselves.
I’ve experienced this. But Alan Moore, I’ve cried! Time Magazine liked Watchmen enough to put it on its all-TIME 100 books list! What about Ghost World, Maus, Jimmy Corrigan? All great, evocative works of fiction, and all graphic novels! I’ve studied all of these at a university level, but the professor still talked about how hard he had to work to justify the course at all.
Superhero comics are often called modern-day myths. Sometimes they’re called soap operas. However you define them, the one thing that they seem to have in common is the idea of heroism, whether it’s the fantastic heroism of superheroes or the distinct lack of it in Jimmy Corrigan. The human spirit. I won’t pretend there aren’t a ton of comic books out there that are more interested in breaking women’s spines to get them into provocative poses and making things go boom, but since when do we judge entire genres on their most basic offerings? Do we look down on Frankenstein because there are trashy sci-fi/horror novels out there, or write off The Princess Bride because it’s a romantic comedy?
It’s completely possible to enjoy comic books, and also to have discerning tastes. When I look at comic books, I see tons of creativity. I see worlds that are realized more fluidly in animation than perhaps is possible in live action. At their best, I see personal stories of people trying to do good, to improve the world around them. I see stories of people failing, but choosing to go on anyway. I see stories of resilience and compassion and selflessness. And while representation in comic books is often problematic, I do think that superhero comics have the potential to be the most accepting of society’s ‘others.’
Call me crazy, but I think that’s enough to justify why I like comic books.