Seeking to disprove stereotypes that comics are merely simplistic or juvenile entertainment for the uncultured; to enlighten the open-minded and encourage the broadening of one's horizons; to examine comics as a text; to deepen appreciation for comics, comic books, and graphic novels as a formidable form of art in all cultures.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Introduction

I am a college grad with a degree in film. I lead a socially healthy life, I exercise, I enjoy art in many forms (music, literature, painting, sculpture, etc.), I'm a religious man, I regularly go on dates, I enjoy the outdoors, playing ultimate frisbee, cooking, singing, and traveling. And there's so much more!

In short: I'm a pretty normal dude. And I happen to enjoy comics.

I've never been the kind who spends $300 a month at the local comic shop -- at most I've spent one-twentieth of that on a regular basis. In fact, over the last eight years my readership in mainstream comics has significantly declined, mostly due to a disappointment in writing -- but NOT due to "growing up" or a lack of respect for the medium. I have never stopped enjoying well-made films with superhero subjects, and I've started reading webcomics more and more.

Over this past weekend I decided to visit my local comics shop, one I've never been to since recently relocating. My interest in familiarizing myself with the Marvel franchise prodded me to ask the cashier for suggestions on titles I should read to gain a greater appreciation. He excitedly got to work, and I soon found myself with a large stack of material in my arms. $80 later I was on my way to re-immersing myself in an aspect of my life that had gone mostly ignored for several years, and though I haven't finished getting through that stack at the time of this writing, I must admit that it's been refreshing.

But in returning to a part of my past, I began to think of how my peers would relate to my rediscovery of this hobby. Unlike many comic fans out there, I don't normally associate with other people who regularly read comics. My brother often borrows my new purchases once I've finished my perusings, but otherwise my friends and family, with the exception of general pop-culture knowledge of major comic book themes, are not a part of that world. I get along great with all of these people -- I've never felt like I needed or even wanted my kin to be comic fanatics.

I once had a girlfriend who told me, after being together for a few months, "If I had known you liked comic books before you'd asked me out, I never would have dated you." This statement is essentially the major issue I want to combat. There seems to be this popular notion, at least in American culture, that comics are "just for kids," "silly," or that anyone who reads them needs to "grow up" and "get a life." This, to me, is baffling. For a community who has strived to overcome prejudice and bias, we sure do a great job of making poor, negative assumptions about others based on topics we really aren't all that familiar with. My ex-girlfriend loved me for who I was, but admitted that she never would have let herself get to that point if she'd known that I liked comics -- and I think that too many people let themselves lump someone into the stereotype of "that guy who never grew up and lives in his parents' basement" without really getting to know them OR the comic form and what it is capable of.

(On a sidenote, I think a lot of the stereotypical, snooty comic nerds are born as a defensive reaction to this mindset of the general public. In an attempt to prove that there is substance in their hobby, they constantly regurgitate the mass amounts of information they've consumed in reading comics, and are quick to correct others when they mistake a minor detail of, say, a character's origin. In so doing, however, they only further alienate themselves, thus creating a vicious cycle of misunderstanding between the comic and non-comic enthusiasts.)

Thus the idea for this blog arose. Lest you think that this is purely a snooty comic enthusiast's knee-jerk reaction to hurt feelings produced by the disapproving words of his friends, let me also add that I also just ENJOY finding the deeper meanings in comics and reading them as a text, seeing what makes them work and how their unique structure affects our methods of interpreting and having a cathartic experience. I strengthened this skill as a film major and am now turning it to another medium.

Finally, let me add that I in no way consider myself an expert in interpreting and understanding ANY medium. Therefore this is a journey for me as much as it may be for the reader. This blog is in its skeletal stages -- I hope to flesh out the sidebars and posts with pertinent information as I continue exploring and sharing what I find.

Let me show you why comics and comics readers alike should be given a little more credit.


Cabeza said...

This is what I do too.

Warren said...

If only you didn't look like this I'd believe the whole "normal" thing.

Christina said...

Well written. Well expressed. Will you be examining anime or manga, as well? Just curious. I support your endeavors. Nerd on, my friend. Nerd on.

The Shark said...

I will touch on anime and manga in a future topic, but I won't get too deep into it. Since I've never been a big fan of Japanese art (with some big exceptions), I'm not as qualified to lead an in-depth discussion on it.

MF said...

well done, shark. you managed to prove your point, whether by your own device or just by happenstance.

at the prodding of your brother, I looked at your blog on comics as art. I started with the first one that is displayed and found myself a little bit intrigued, but not exactly following. it seemed that there needed to be more. as is the case with these blogs, they are put in an order, latest first and successively showing the older and older blogs next, ultimately landing on the initial post.

taken in any order, they can stand alone. however, by going to the beginning and following your posts (like the pages/panels in a comic), they make more sense and mean much more as you understand the sequence of it all. well done.

as for comics, it is sad that they are a "lesser" form of accessible art. it's too bad that the consumers have been pigeon-holed into categories that are less than approachable. with some of your arguments and ideas, I can appreciate your comments much more and say to you, read on. find the meaning in things this is what art is.

JonF said...

I'm not sure comic books carry the stigma that they once did. They certainly shouldn't. It seems like even someone who considers comic books a waste of time should concede that there are many things people do which are time wasters that should receive equal judgement.
Let me put it this way, I would rather that my kids spend some time reading comic books than spending their time involved in a popular but understigmatized recreational activity. Examples might include browsing YouTube, shopping recreationally, playing Grand Theft Auto, or reading "Glamour".

Daniel said...

Sidebar: Please define a "non-comic enthusiast". Is that like "jumbo shrimp" or "icy hot" or "liberal conservative"? Just wondering. :)

The Shark said...

Heh, yeah, I guess my word choice isn't the clearest in this case, but I think most readers understand what I'm saying enough that they won't miss a beat reading through the sentence.