There has been a bit of doom and gloom on our site lately. Andrew, Ed, and I have all written some glass half empty articles recently, and I wanted to let our intrepid readers know that all is fine at the CBD offices. We have not started dressing in all black and writing sad poetry. Yet.
It is always very easy to write about why you don’t like something. It is quite simple to wax longingly for the halcyon days of youth when things were ‘better’ and comic books were comic books. It is harder to talk about some of the things we like without sounding like mindless automaton fanboys. However, I am hopeful that our site fits that tiny niche between slobbering fandom and rabid internet trolling.
After all, we must like comic books, right? We do write for a website. And who in their right mind would create a website strictly to defecate all over the hobby which they love? Not us my friends, not us. To this end I thought I would share with you a simple question and with a hard answer: why do I like comic books?
I have been collecting comic books for about a quarter of a century now. Longer than some, a fraction of time compared to others, but enough time that I have seen trends change, characters come and go, and prices skyrocket ever-upwards. And yet I remain. I have stuck with reboots, new costumes, glossy covers, polybagged-foolishness, and hackneyed plot devices. Why? Because I like comic books.
A terribly simple answer to why I enjoy comics books is that I enjoy movies and I enjoy books. And comics are sort of book-movies. We get the visual action, the set up shot, the special effects, and we are able to read elegant prose, snappy dialogue, or amazing one-liners. Comic books provide the best of both worlds. Every 30 days I get a new mini-movie featuring Spider-Man, or a new short story with Batman.
I always had comic books here and there as a very young child but it wasn’t until I was about 9 that I started collecting comics. The title that had me coming back for more was Sergio Aragones’s Groo The Wanderer. I found the stories enticing, the art amazing, and the humour perfect. I wanted to find out what happens next, and that desire for more story is still the driving factor towards my weekly trip to my local comic shop. When I no longer care about what happens next I tend to drop a title.
Of course with purchasing comics on a regular basis comes the joy of collecting. The desire to own every issue, or every issue drawn by so and so, or every issue featuring who’s his face drive us back for more. The quest is part of the fun of comic books. It is part of what makes it a hobby. However, not everyone needs to enjoy the hobby in the same way that I do. Some care very little for the interior content of a comic book. There are many collectors who simply wish to own the best CGC copy of their favourite silver-age tales. They enjoy comic books for the quest, for the collecting, for the cover art, and, possibly, for the financial investment.
The way in which comic books as a hobby and medium can appeal to such a wide range of collectors/readers is another reason why I enjoy them so much. Visual artists, cinematographers, writers, fanboys, children, adults, casual readers, critics, and scholars all can enjoy the same comic in different ways. The medium has vast unending potential and I feel privileged to have this column as a forum to discuss that which I love. That is part of the reason why I am so harsh at times in my critique of comics or the shops which sell them: the medium deserves better.
There will always be highs and lows in any artistic medium, but I know that I will be reading comic books when I am old and grey. I will still look forward to turning that cover page and seeing the shapes and colours within. I will still have a small box of comic books filled with a handful of Spideys, a Groo #1, and a G.I. Joe #1. I will enjoy seeing what wacky adventures my favourite heroes have gotten themselves into this month. I will enjoy sharing the medium with future generations. And I will enjoy seeing children develop a love a reading or an appreciation for art because they picked up a comic book.
So yes, sometimes there is a bit of doom and gloom in the industry, but we should always remember that those zany, awesome funny-books will get better and will be ready to appeal to the artist, collector, or reader in all of us.