World Comic Book Day 2015: Comic Books Count!

asmfam003_covIt would be remiss of me, a supposed writer, to let World Book Day go by without writing a few quick words about.  Here they are:

Books are awesome.  Read more.

I could go on and on about the inherent merits of literature and the many advantages of reading it, but there are a million places on the web where you can read about that.  Those five words are all you need.  If you don’t know it already anyway, then you’re a dope.

I could add a disclaimer: read more good books – actual literature instead of whatever “erotic” drivel or cookie-cutter crime tedium you have on your bedside table.  I am a little snobby about literature, but today’s not the day to blather about it.  JUST READ.  Whatever you can get your hands on.  Leave the TV off for just one day.

I’m lucky enough to have been extremely busy this last month.  I’ve written, edited, proof-read and critiqued a great number of texts with hardly a moment to devote to myself or my loved ones.  I’ve been so busy that I’ve had to “make time” for my own needs, and so I set aside half an hour every morning before switching on the laptop to work.  I spend it reading.  One of my personal joys is re-reading old comic books that I read when I was younger. The sheer happiness of nostalgia is a pleasure that is very hard to take away from you.

ASM390_18

I don’t talk about comic books often, because there is still a vast stigma against them in the world of literature.  Despite the incredible success of recent comic book franchises in cinema, like Marvel’s The Avengers and DC’s Batman Begins/Dark Knight films, people like me are still seen as dorks.  It’s now socially acceptable to enjoy seeing Robert Downey Jr. play the superhero Iron Man on screen, but if I were to whip out an issue of Iron Man, such as one from the award-winning Demon in a Bottle storyline, whilst on the bus, then I’d still get a lot of funny looks.  TV shows like The Big Bang Theory have popularised comic book references, but ridicule comic book readers.  The reason I don’t bring up comics books during polite conversation is because I’m tired of having the same old debate about why the best of comics books can stand tall alongside the best of literary novels, because they are literature (in the same way that the worst of comics books should be confined to weekend bonfires, just like the worst of published novels).

Many of the arguments against comics books as literature come from people who don’t read comic books, and so they’ve never seen the best that comics can be.  One could argue that those who support the notion of comics as literature are already fans, so you can’t trust them either – except that readers of comic books agree that 90% of it is silly crud.  But the best of the best – such as Watchmen, Y: the Last Man, Blankets and Daytripper – have more literary/artistic value than 90% of published novels.  It’s not all superheroes, you know.

This year, I urge everyone to try, or at least acknowledge, that for the purposes of World Book Day 2015 we can extend “books” to include comics.  During today’s nostalgic re-read of The Amazing Spider-Man from circa 1994 I read some of the best damn material I’ve seen for a long time (if you’re interested, I beg you to find a copy of ASM #390 and #400).

ASM-400-29ASM-400-30

The 400th anniversary issue of The Amazing Spider-Man creates powerful emotions in me.  This is not just because it was the first comic book I ever read, aged about 9 years old, but because of its adult treatment of the material.  There’s barely a spandex costume in sight in either of the issues mentioned above; instead they are character-driven narratives with insights into genuine emotion and trauma, such as guilt, child abuse, hopelessness, redemption, identity crises, failing relationships and grief.  That might seem like a lot to cram into 44 pages, but it’s some of the most respectful, psychologically acute, emotional literature that I’ve read in the last two years.

Open your mind a crack.  If your child or loved one asks if comic books count on World Book Day, you know the answer!

Comic books count!

—db

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