So Why Comics?

If someone put me in a line-up & asked you to pick out the comic book reader – I doubt you’d choose me first.

I mean c’mon…pick the gal in her 30’s in sling-backs & Ann Taylor? Choose the intellectual (look I said that with a straight face *giggle*) mother of two with the degree & the Dilbert-esque corporate career? Nah – it’s the big Goth girl or the little geek-guy – not main-stream-middle-class-church-going-little ol’ me, right?

And you are asking now, “What does this have to do with anything?” For years, people have been confounded that someone like me reads those COMIC BOOKS, so I get a lot of practice trying to explain. I’m not saying I actually succeed, but I try.

When I hear “Why comics?” the first thing I think is – Well, why movies? Why books? Why mythology? Heck, why storytelling at all?

Even the most Cro-Magnon members of our culture want to communicate & be understood (BE-lieve me I’ve dated them, I know *grin*). Fact based communication can take you so far. But when you’re ready to explore bigger ideas sometimes it helps to deliver that idea as metaphor, allegory, parable, etc.

So we tell stories. Books are perfectly acceptable – have been for centuries. The best ones inspire you to create your own vivid pictures in your imagination.

But let’s add pictures to help tell the story. Movies & television are still generally mainstream. These media allow the creators to tell a story but add their own vision of what the story “looks” like. Again, the best ones have the ability show you things outside your imagination. Or even when an already existing story is now told with pictures – you have the opportunity to see the same story in a whole new way.

And that’s all comics are, a story told with both words & pictures, right? Why choose this medium for entertainment when there are books to read and movies to watch?

Because it’s truly unique.

It takes the best of different media and creates a rich storytelling experience. It’s a marriage of original artwork & words. Then when it’s coupled with meaningful, iconic characters – it hardly gets better.

Think about the written word alone. The author’s imagination can be ablaze with colorful settings & characters, but the conveyance of his ideas can be restricted by the reader’s perceptions & limits to their imagination.

Words are powerful. They have amazing descriptive ability. But think of the capacity a picture has to covey a whole host of ideas at once.

I can think of the perfect example. I ripped up my collection looking for this issue so I could describe it, but couldn’t find it. (It was one of the X-men titles & they are always hopping around each others books.) But maybe it’s better to talk about it from memory so I can express the imprint it left behind.

It was a time when Colossus had left the X-men to join Magneto. Due to a serious head injury he received in his armored form he resolved to remain that way. The wound would probably be too severe to survive if he reverted to his human form.

His X-pals naturally still cared for him & figured out a way to repair the damage, but Colossus would not willingly submit to the procedure.

Because of Colossus’ unwavering trust in her, Xavier enlisted Kitty Pryde to ask him to return. The thought of deceiving him sickened her, but she wanted him to have the opportunity to heal, so she persuaded him to come to the mansion.

When he arrived & realized he was there under false pretenses he raged at the duplicity, but was quickly overpowered. The procedure to repair the damage was a success. Kitty was there when he woke up.

Here’s where the pictures turned this from an ordinary story to something I’ll never forget.

Kitty tries to convince him that he can return to his human form now. Colossus is angry, but more than that he is hurt by her betrayal. As they talk we learn the wound was really a convenient excuse. He wanted to stay armored up – it was “safer” that way. Not just physically, but emotionally.

As this already compelling conversation plays out we see him, literally SEE HIM, start to let go. Until the one picture that summed it up for me – a spent, vulnerable Colossus, now human again, is wrapped only in a sheet, clinging to an equally emotional Kitty.

The dialogue was moving, but when paired with the picture the message was perfectly communicated. It’s safer in the armor. How could people who loved him rob him of his reasons to stay protected & secure? He did NOT want to feel…to grieve…to forgive. But for that one moment, in the arms of safety, he let it all go.

Oh man I got to quit this – I’m getting teary all over again now. See – little pictures, big impact. And this is also a great example of the weight the mythology of these characters has. Colossus is such a great character. Who among us can say they haven’t had a time where we could relate to those feelings? C’mon – I think we all “armor-up” the minute we set foot out the door each day.

Okay this grows ridiculously long – I’ll try to wrap up with my last point. So if a “comic” is just storytelling with pictures – I can get that at the movies, right? Well, not exactly.

Where on earth are you going to find such a wealth of original artwork? Sure we all have different preferences & some of it is “out there” – but so much of it is fantastic!

Technology for making movies today is astounding, but it has limits. CG work can create almost anything now, but it’s a lengthy & expensive process. In a comic though a fantastic character, an exotic setting or an entire world can be just one sketch away. (I know, that’s waaaay oversimplified, but you get the point.) And those people & places can live on forever as long as there are artists to continue creating them.

I know, I just made mincemeat out of that last point trying to dash to the finish line. So I’ll wrap it up here. Unbelievably I had so much to say about “why comics” I lopped off half my thoughts here & put them on another essay. Look for it soon. Thanks for listening to the rant…..


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