So why do comics get the bad rap?

The first essay about “Why Comics?” got just too daggone long, so I broke it down into 2 parts (a la “Kill Bill” *chuckle*). But after this I’ve got to knock it off with this pseudo-scholarly junk. I can’t have people thinking I take myself too seriously. J Here we go – same song, different verse….

So why do comics get the bad rap? (Alternately titled: Why I feel sorry for others who think they are too good to pick up a comic book *smile*.) I think there are a couple stereotypes that hold people back. Okay, I’m sure there are a billion, but I’m sliding into my stream-of-consciousness thing now & that’s what popped into my head.

The first biggie (naturally) is that it’s a kid thing. Grown ups don’t read books with pictures & comics have nothing of significant value to say. And the second reason is “I don’t go for that science fiction/fantasy crap.”

The lazy one word “Duh” response to that is, of course,” Maus”. I read & was deeply moved by this Pulitzer Prize winner (and its sequel). So you tell a non-reader it’s about the horrifying time a man spent in a Nazi concentration camp & the lasting effects it had his life & on his future father/son relationship. Most people are still with you at this point. Now tell them that the main characters are mice.

Yep, we lost ‘em.

And what a shame for them. We’ve all read about the Holocaust. We have our ideas of what evils were perpetrated by one group of people against another. But by stripping labels the “Jew” and “Nazi” away from the people and re-casting them all as different species we can understand from a new perspective. Sheesh, nobody gets teased for reading Adams’ “Watership Down” or Orwell’s “Animal Farm” now do they?

I could do a whole freaking dissertation on this one alone, but this is the INTERNET folks so I’ll try to keep it snappy.

It doesn’t take much effort to prove that any kind of writing/media can take on important, mature topics. I believe it’s the “fantasy-phobia” that still bars potential readership. It’s probably safe to say that an affinity for science fiction is often the gateway drug that leads to comic book reading.

You may have gazed up in wonder as Star Wars flickered before you at 24 frames per second. Or you fought with your brother & sister that the one TV in the house should be on Justice League for Saturday cartoons (or the special 2 hour Buck Rogers movie – I cried to get my way on that one *laughing*). Or you devoured Asimov, Tolkien, or Herbert stories. Or you just found GI Joe & Barbie not nearly as interesting as Batman & Superman action figures.

I think I just SERIOUSLY dated myself with the list above.*grin* But I also think you get the point.

People who already have a certain proclivity for catching Star Trek reruns are more likely to be open to what a comic book has to offer.

I know I’m biased, but non-readers have no idea what they are missing. There’s a wealth of ideas & potential for growth of perspective that can be gleaned from being open to the “superhero” metaphor.

(I’m apologizing in advance – I cut my teeth on X-Men books, so I’m way more steeped in Marvel culture than any other. I’m afraid that makes a lot of my reference points from the Marvel Universe.)

I’ve already discussed Colossus’ symbolism & the idea of emotional armor. Peter Parker – the perfect conduit for thoughts on how we are torn between the pursuit of our personal desires & our need to serve the greater good (all the while being completely unappreciated for our efforts).

And let’s not forget one of my total faves; Rogue. I so relate to this gal. She’s a LITTLE too close to home for me to go into too much detail as to why. Let’s just say anyone who’s spent a good amount of time participating in this barbaric custom we refer to as “dating” could probably relate to the sense of isolation she embodies because she is untouchable.

It’s bigger than just characters too. Nothing like an alternate reality to create the perfect forum for discussion. I dated a man a few years back who overheard his pre-teen son making some pretty hateful & ignorant comments. I gave him a copy of “God Loves, Man Kills”. This Chris Claremont X-book is a powerful treatise on bigotry & tolerance. I lost touch with the guy, but I hope the son was left at least a little more enlightened.

I’d recommend “The Crow” to anyone grieving over lost love. I’d suggest “Bone” for family reading. Try “The Tick” is you love to laugh. Pick up “The Watchman” (another totally not for kids book) if you like political & social commentary mixed with questions about “playing god”. And you can always count on Batman (especially Frank Miller) for challenging moral & ethical quandaries.

It’s funny; I started writing this thinking it could be something that might convince a non-reader to pick up a book, any book. I feel pretty secure that I’ve failed in that respect. I’m not sure it’s even “doable” with any amount of words to persuade an uninterested faction with no predilection for, or openness to, Sci-Fi or fantasy to try out a book.

At the same time, I also puzzled over what to write about next – I was blank on ideas. Maybe we can kill two birds with one stone (I’ve dropped into clichés, better wrap up fast now *smile*).

I think I may have to go back through some of the books, issues or story arcs that had a big impact on me & write from a reviewer’s perspective. Maybe go more in-depth on some of the books listed above. Who knows, maybe it would pique someone’s interest. And, hey, if I got one person – whether they are an established reader or non reader – to pick up one of my favorite graphic novels, I’d say mission accomplished.

Look at me, assuming people read this stuff. All I have to say to that is “Quit it – You’ll never get that time back!” *laughing*


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