Monday, August 31, 2009

Why I Love Comic Books

My love of comic books, as many of my loves in life such as scifi, history, Watership Down and armchair philosophizing, is a result of who my father is. In oh so many ways, I am my father's daughter, despite us never having a real conversation my entire life. He had been a huge comic book fan and collector as a child and we still had an enormous box full of comics sitting in the area of the basement we wittily called "the back."

This was a cardboard box only slightly shorter than a refrigerator box and though it was chock-full of a variety of comics, it was only half of what my dad had collected over the years. Unfortunately, his little brother's gerbil ate through half of them, which is why were were never allowed to own anything smaller than a guinea pig.

Reading was the escape from reality I turned to when I was inside the house and had to stay there and I would literally lose myself in whatever I was reading, which was anything I could get my hands on. After I discovered the big box of comics in the back, I started going there to curl up with all the random shit my parents had acquired over the years and read through the comics one by one.

He had Sad Sack, Superman, Justice League, Batman, Dr. Strange and tons more random adventure and sci fi story collections. Sad Sack was one of my favorites because I could identify with getting kicked around all the time and the army situations seemed so absurd to me that I couldn't help but laugh. Superman wasn't really interesting as a character, but I loved the drama that surrounded him trying to keep his secret and it was interesting to read stories that were about him as a kid and teen to see how they changed up elements of his life. The Justice League didn't really leave an impression, but Batman was kickass with all his gadgetry. Dr Strange was probably my favorite and was my first exposure to the idea of astral projection and interaction with the spirit world to combat the ills of the planet, which I thought was awesome. The adventure and scifi stories were pretty hit and miss, but I think that's where my emphasis on first person narration came later when I first started writing short stories.

But even the lamest comics had a leg up on the books I read, because they had pictures! I've always been a visual person. I think in pictures/moving pictures and the bright colors set off by dark inking were like a buffet for my eyes. The way I see the world and draw is ridiculously influenced by comic books, most clearly seen in the drawing at the top of this post which now belongs to my little nephew.

I'd get lost for hours in those images, which even in the lamest adventure story, were still pretty kick-ass and had all sorts of impressive made-up monsters in them. Sometimes there were even adventure stories about strong women, which I loved. My favorite was the woman who lived in the jungle with the big cats and was their leader. She ran around with a spear and defended the jungle from poachers and what-have-you.

My love of comic books spilled over into loving cartoons, certain anime, web comics and, of course, other comic books that later would capture my imagination like Sam & Max: Freelance Police, The Sandman series, Watchmen and more. I love the ridiculousness of comics, free from the pretension that often ruins books that would otherwise be really awesome to read. I like that people use this less "serious" format to discuss and explore everything from the craziness of human DNA to completely imagined landscapes. And, of course, even if the story sucked, at least you had some interesting pictures to look at.

And that's why I love comic books.

Related posts:
Jackie Ormes: The First Female African-American Cartoonist
Megan Rose Gedris: Lesbian Comic Artist Extraodinaire
Frank: The Trippy Cartoon Whatsit

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1 comment:

Kris the Vagabond said...

Your lucky to have such an early introduction to comic books. I didn't really get into them until later in life. My dad and I shared a love of the newspaper comics and still do. It was in college a roommate introduced me to Jhonen Vasquez and Roman Dirge and Neil Gaiman's Sandman. What followed is the bookcase of comic books in my living room. :)