Comic’s and the Populist View

Anyone who has even a passing association with the world of comic books will know of DC’s New 52 range, a reboot of many of the distributors most popular titles as well as a collection of new titles thrown into the mix.

Among these are household names like Superman and Action Comics, Batman and Detective Comics; all four of which are cornerstones to the DC universe and, in the case of Action and Detective the reboot offers a rare chance to pick up an issue 1 at a price we can all afford.

It should go without saying that this has caused some discussion, even controversy amongst the DC collectors but as a comic fan I have to say that this reboot has been a major turning point for me. I read a great many of DC’s titles, but up till now I have always waited until a trade paperback (often refereed to by the uninitiated as “graphic novel”) was released and rarely picked up the monthly issues. Mainly this is because of the lack of “dropping in points” on these long running series and the my need to feel a collection is “complete” (something that is, in all honesty, near impossible with many titles).

Restarting such long running titles as Detective Comics from issue one (albeit issue one of volume two) mean that I can finally feel a part of DC once more on an immediate level, rather than the more casual terms of the trade paperback. Collecting monthly takes far more dedication and adds to the feeling that I am reading these adventures as they happen as opposed to the archival context of the TPB’s. It also allows me to become aware of the wider DC universe by seeing advertisements for other titles and even those for TV and theatrical releases.

Yes, even the adverts add something to the experience for me as odd as that may sound.

I would suppose that much of what I’m talking about could be summed up in a single word: belong, as in “to belong” but there is more to it than that. I ponder the phrase many comic book enthusiasts come to dread, “aren’t you too old for this?” And I think that this is inextricably linked with another aspect of collecting that drives me and perhaps many other fans into the comic medium.

I would argue that comic books are the greatest and most important story telling medium there is. The first written works were undoubtedly primitive comics, paintings on cave walls depict a visual representation of stories. These wall paintings evolved to the pictographs on Egyptian tombs and all across the world what is now called “sequential art” can be seen.

It seems that the only reason modern comic books are not considered art in the same vein as these earlier works is simply because they are considered a medium fit only for children, and it is this single belief that keeps the art form from the acclaim it deserves. But what of this belief, is there merit to it? Obviously I would argue not, but is there more to the idea that comics should be relegated to children’s entertainment than I would allow?

After some considerable thought I have to say that a good argument for this theory does not present itself. Yes, many complaints could be raised against comic books, but no more than could be raised against any medium and a great many less than some.

It seems to me that what we are against is what can only be described as a bigotry against the medium. Asking “aren’t you too old for comics” is no different from asking whether someone is “too young for newspapers” or “too old for watching football!”; the statement makes absolutely no objective sense. In fact the argument could be taken even further to attack those people who do not read the medium by asking why they don’t read them and presenting the replies as the idiocy it often is.

Over all it would seem that the medium of comics is seen merely as the vehicle of the superhero telling stories of juvenile wish fulfilment and it is that that people often bring up when asked why they have never read them. In itself this is no argument at all of course, saying you don’t like superhero tales and you don’t read comic because of this is ridiculous (much like me not watching films because I don’t like dinosaurs), but it is a peek into the mind of the bigotry behind the wholesale disregard of the medium.

To most people comic books are a genre and not a medium.

This of course is completely false, but even if it were true it would make little difference. A war movie does not have to glorify combat to be a war movie, it does not have to adhere to a set of rules or criteria other than to have a subject connected with war. Movie’s that could be considered war films are as diverse as Catch-22 or Salvador, Katyn or even Starship Troopers. Movie’s such as Die Hard and First Blood also follow the same basic premise of the war film, as well as movie’s like Predator and Aliens.

If the genre encompassing war films could be considered diverse then the genre of comic books known as “Costumed Heroes” is no less so. Here we have the household names such as Superman, Batman, Iron Man and Spiderman but looking slightly further afield there’s a whole universe of diversity.

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