Pop Culture: Comics, stop with the stigma already

comics disrespect

Comics – Wake Up

Yes, I’m a breathing society-contributing adult with a 9-to-5, hobbies and other normal stuff including a fondness for comics. Okay, some of my hobbies are odd: writing, gaming, anime… nothing dangerous (except possibly to my reputation).

Okay, so what’s got me whining? Check this, I recently did a nerve wracking presentation at the Mensa AG 2016. It was my first serious public speaking gig EVER. Three hundred really SMART people show up. I was — well I’ll spare you the cliche, but it goes something like: beating swullets.

Yes, just thinking about it makes my mind curly. Anyway, I got through my presentation on Sci-fi and Suspension of Disbelief with only one minor challenge, and overall the crowd laughed and seemed to have a good time. At the end, people were fairly enthusiastic with their questions, what did I think about thus and such. All good. Now, one of the hooks of the presentation, since I wasn’t getting paid, is I wanted to surreptitiously sneak in a plug for my book that the publisher was promoting by making it free. If the sale is still on, do me a solid and download it (Snag this – Shadow of the Avatar) if there’s even an iota’s chance you’ll read it and potentially give it a review. Digression over, any ways I worked in ‘free stuff’ for staying to the end. So, as things were wrapping up, a pretty red-head says to me. “Were you serious about the giveaway?” I was like, “Well, yes, of course.” Then she asks, “Are they for adults? The covers look like comic books?”

Comic books. She wasn’t the right audience for a rant, and I had to clean up before the next presenter. I patiently told her that comics inspired the multiverse idea of my novels. I quickly added that kids are only half of the target demographic and they’ve been that way for decades. What I wanted to scream was the WHOLE DARN PRESENTATION HAD BEEN ABOUT TROPES… and that comics are about finding gratification in the pursuit of tropes. Egads! I seethed for an hour. How are we STILL thinking of comics as being for kids? What KID can afford 4+ dollars per title? What other medium encompasses stories portrayed graphically across dozens of characters in a shared universe / continuity? Manga and anime (sort of)… and manga is just the Japanese flavor of serialized graphic stories.

Now, I became hooked on comics when they were in their heyday in the 80’s. I drooled over John Byrne and Chris Claremont’s X-Men and I was sad in issue #137 when Jim Shooter (damn you, Red Baron!) ordered the team to have the Phoenix die. I remember the Days of Future Past. I remember a lot of stupid comic book trivia… because the stories were F’ing fantastic. Yes, the dialogue was trite… they’re FRICKIN’ COMIC BOOKS… you want Wolverine spouting Shakespeare or something? While we’re on the subject of Wolverine– really popular character. Pop culture, big time movie huge. He’s not stolen from a book or a play, or a knock off, he was created by Len Wein who is ANOTHER great comics writer. He was created as an opponent for the Hulk. His backstory was tweaked by Frank Miller and Chris Claremont. Are we seeing a pattern? If you don’t know, Frank Miller is another comics icon, he did a little stint on a character you might know from the Netflix miniseries– Daredevil, you might also know him from Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. If you haven’t gotten it already… these people have created (and recreated) influential character icons. Comics is a medium, it’s an art, it has its own tropes. They are written by devoted professionals who give them WAY more thought than dismal dismissers can possibly imagine.

Instead of dissing, find a comic nerd and get them to loan you something they know is good. Appreciate the art, recognize the collaborative effort, get a glimpse of the giant vistas of the shared universes of the big players. Climb down off your high horse and open your mind. You might even like it.

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