Comics Alliance Presents: Why We Love Comics
Comic books are just fantastic, and we here at ComicsAlliance really believe that. While the name "ComicsAlliance" might have stopped making sense as a phrase and just become the name of the website around six or seven years ago now, it's something we strive for in how we cover and represent the comics and communities we feature. Comics bring us together, and things that bring us together should be celebrated. With that in mind, we asked our staff why they love comics, and while it's a broad question, there's something in each answer worth thinking about.
I love comics because they’re both incredibly smart and incredibly dumb, often at the same time.
It’s a medium where shiny new costumes matter just as much as intricately woven panel structures. A way of telling stories which can be allegorical retellings of real history, or just an excuse to present the reader with as many cool ideas as possible, as quickly as possible. An imaginative space that encompasses thoughtful statements on how art enriches our lives, and also that one really heavy key to the Fortress of Solitude that Superman just leaves outside his front door because no one else on Earth is strong enough to pick it up.
And if you find the right one, a comic can be all of the above in the space of a single twenty-page pamphlet.
I’m talking about the medium as a whole here, but mostly the stories about the people in primary colours and capes. Superheroes are by no means the entirety of comics, especially here in 2017, but they remain the medium’s greatest invention – because the superhero is a mechanism for delivering a wealth of ideas through a simple image. Our greatest challenges, the ones that weigh down unbearably on top of us, overcome by sheer strength of will. Our very worst fears, being clocked square on the jaw. The good in all our hearts, externalised and made so strong by the world’s beauty that it can lift a goddamned car.
Try doing that in any other artform
Comics are great. Comics are so good.
Comics, as I've written about before, directly led to me realizing I was trans. Before I read Neil Gaiman's (and various artists) "A Game of You", I had never encountered a trans woman who was, you know, an actual woman. Before that, all the portrayals I had seen of trans woman had been of effeminate gay men, of crossdressers, of men — basically. But then came Wanda Mann (yes, she has an unfortunate last name, but my last name means Johnson and Laverne Cox is famous so I forgive it). She's presented, in death, as she actually is: a beautiful, awesome woman, who not only made me want to cosplay, but also gave me my first vision of someone like myself. Someone with this weird gangly body that didn't resonate with who I actually was. Honestly, as problematic as Wanda's portrayal is — there's lots of complaints made about "AGoY", almost none of which I care about — she helped me realize who I was and how I could actually... become myself. (No, not through death.)
There was Alysia Yeoh, there's Sera (the beautiful and perfect, married to Angela). There's Doctor Victoria October who — as all trans woman should — is portrayed as a sardonic sort of super villain. There's girls like me in comic books. Girls who look like me, act like me, but also do cooler stuff like kick butt like I very much want to but don't.
Not to sound too much like a movie trailer: In a world where women and minorities are often shut out of creative positions like director and writer, comics are a refreshing change. Now, I'm not saying the Big Two are stellar examples, but webcomics are. And indies. And, well, your friends, honestly.
Anyone, anyone can make a comic. That's the best part. Now, with the internet, to create a comic all you need is a twitter account, a pen, paper, and a camera/scanner. Anyone — literally anyone! — can make a comic about anything. As others have said, a space battle costs as much as a quiet scene in a coffee shop. Comics are unfiltered creativity. You don't need money. Heck, judging by a ton of webcomics out there — even great ones! — you don't even need a lot of talent: just dedication. Your dedication will sharpen your skills until you get better. Just check out the first Questionable Content strip versus the newest one. All you need to do to make good comics is to persevere.
Which is why I love comics. Because anyone can create them and everyone does, and so I can see girls like me — people like me — in the pages and behind the scenes. Because it's a huge entire world filled with every type of idea and thought and feeling and emotion and idea out there: it's an entire magical world and it's, just, wonderful.
Comics have been there for me my whole life. Some of my earliest memories are poring over my dad’s collection of newspaper strips like The Far Side, Peanuts and Calvin & Hobbes. When I was nine, reading Ultimate Spider-Man #1 changed my life and showed me a vibrant medium from the excitement and inspiration offered by the Big Two’s very best, the sheer variety from Image, Boom, IDW and Dark Horse, the thoughtfulness of great political cartoons and the medium-redefining work of webcomics and the action and introspection of manga. Comics are great and important. And they always will be.
It’s hard for me to articulate why I love comics when it feels like comics so rarely loves me, or the things I love about it, back. But, barring some Stockholm syndrome type situation, I think I do love comics. Or, more accurately, I love so many of the people in comics. I love the webcomics creators who guide with individuality and embarrass convention with their success. I love those valiant who drag an unwilling industry into the light. I love peers who offer guidance and support, nuance and understanding. I love critics who face termsearching creators and walk backwards into hell.
I stayed away from comics as a kid because I didn’t think that they could be for me beyond the newspaper comic strips. I really came to comics as an adult, but the best of them make me feel like a kid again. It’s a medium that allows for both the silliest of moments and the most nuanced of stories. There are comics out there that stick with you, that force you to change your worldview, and that make you feel less alone. But the best thing about reading comics is when you can share them with people who get what makes them special like you do.
I love comics simply because they're unique. There isn't another medium that can do what comics can do. Films are always the first thing to be compared with them, and while hey, I do love film, the two mediums still stand alone. The uniqueness of comics as an interactive medium is hard to get anywhere else. You're telling your audience a story that might not seem like they participate in, but the mere act of reading, turning a page, that build up, the slow-down, flicking back a few pages to check something, allowing them to delve into details in the background... That controlled pace is a wonderful tool. It's not what made me fall in love with comics, but it's what made me excited to stay.
If you've read or seen any of my Strip Panel Naked columns or videos, you'll know what really drives my passion for this weird little medium is the opportunities available to the storytellers. Even though pictures and words have been used in combination since people were still trying to figure out how to communicate, there's new and intriguing ways still being explored and discovered, and it's truly magic to be a part of that and witness it happening. On top of that, it's a real privilege to be able to break it down and understand that language as it forms.
I initially fell in love with comics because they told a story I didn't get chance to see anywhere else. Like most of you reading this I'm sure, it was superhero comics that sucked me in. Spider-Man swinging around in black and white reprints of his first stories. What a weird and wonderful world the early Marvel books were, and I'd never been exposed to anything like that before. As time went on, I realised there was more to comics than just spandex. There was real, genuinely form-changing stories being told in this space, in the same as other mediums. It was thanks to websites like ComicsAlliance and others that I got exposed to these kinds of stories, and my appreciation of this world of comics grew and developed.
And that's the final reason I love comics. It's so under-appreciated for the horrendous amount of work that goes into it. It's more often a labor of love for people than a job, and even for those who does this for their living it can be one hell of a strenuous and difficult job. But you persevere, because nothing else in the world let's you tell stories the way comics do. Here's a medium where creators have — for the most part — a small amount of eyes on them, and yet some of the stories and work is mind-blowing. Comics deserve criticism, they deserve press, and they deserve people standing up to shout from the rafters that this medium exists and it's here to stay. It's not just kids books, it's not just a space for sci-fi fans, it's literature and it's art. It's heart pouring into and out of the pages. It's comics. And I love it.
A panel in isolation is its own work of art, with its own rules and assumptions, and can stand alone. But add panels before that one, and panels after it, position it a certain way on the page, and all that context shifts what the panel is and what it means without changing the panel itself. A simple shift in context can change everything around a panel — adding a few panels to a sequence before it, or after it, or positioning it at the end of the story or the beginning. And the panel is still the same panel, only changed when it's snapped, like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, into the larger picture. I love comics because they're a puzzle the reader gets to assemble into a story, but every piece is a story all its own.
Passion. That's what I love about comics.
I love the structures, the melding of words and images, the non-stop flow of ideas and all the other typical stuff that typical people typically love about comics. But the thing I appreciate most about comic books is the amount of passion that they inspire. I love that "casual comic reader" is practically nonexistent. I love that everyone from teenagers to 50-year-old adults can be so enamored with this medium that they will regularly engage in heated arguments over who drew the best Spider-Man, memorize each and every disparate thread of continuity as though these were true life experiences, flood the inboxes of editors and publishers with praise and criticism, and create amazing websites dedicated to the art and culture of the form like this one. I love that comics brought me ComicsAlliance for eight years, writing alongside scores of incredibly talented people who made me feel privileged just to have my work printed next to theirs.
I also love all of them, and I love all of you. Keep the passion, everybody.
My grandad loved comic books, and he was my hero.
I don’t remember exactly where it started, but I remember the X-Men. The X-Men cartoon was huge for me, and when I found out I could get comics — Panini reprints of Scott Lobdell Uncanny X-Men and Generation X from the start, combined into one A4 magazine with games, prizes and art competitions — at the local newsagents, I was hooked. I still have the first seventeen copies of Essential X-Men. My nan told me they stopped doing them, I found out a few years ago it ran for 186 issues.
I dipped back into comics, embarrassingly enough, because I heard that Kevin Smith was writing them, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve devoured All-Star Superman, Batman: Year One and Criminal countless times. I’ve re-read Asterios Polyp again and again and cried every time because I always forget how it ends. I’ve been exposed to work like Copra, Blacksad and Achewood, all seminal works in the canon of me. I’ve stayed up until 3AM reading Transmetropolitan from start-to-finish, and I’ve given my cousin her first comics in Gotham Academy and Nimona.
Asking my why I love comics is like asking my why I love air or water, as cliche as that sounds. They’re a vital part of me, and they have been since I can remember anything at all. I’ve made so many lifelong friendships though the medium and seen it grow and flourish in the digital age. The industry still has a long way to go, but seeing the increase in both accessibility and representation in comics has been one of the great joys of being in and around the industry.
My grandad never got to see me make a career for myself in comics, it’s one of two life events — the other being my engagement — that I wish he was around for. I did him proud though, I reckon. Comic books changed my life, and will continue to do so for decades to come.
I love comic books because it never occurred to me not to love comic books. I was flipping through comic books before I could read. There were comics in my house that were too old for me to remember where they came from. I love comic books because when I was ten I read What If #3, and when Captain America died, I cried real tears that I was old enough to be embarrassed by, and I think that’s when I realized how powerful the medium could be.
I don’t have space or time to explain everything I love about comics, because I’m so full of that love. Comics are a part of the fabric of my life, even moreso now that I’ve been writing about them professionally for a year and a half, and I plan to continue writing about comics in whatever capacity I can, because I think the medium matters, and while I won’t claim that they’re objectively the best art form (because what does “best” mean?), they remain my favorite.
I imagine like most people my age, I fell in love with comics thanks in large part to the Uncanny X-Men of the '80s. Sure I'd read other comics before and after, but it was in visiting this world of outcasts that comics became more than just something I could read to pass the time; they became a place for me to visit friends when I had none, to find guidance when I needed direction, to fall for my first childhood crushes when I didn't even know what that meant, and most importantly, to be inspired like all children must be to find their place in the universe.
Comics have never failed to inspire me, and that's what I continue to love about them today. The art, the words, the colors, the craftsmanship, all of it striking different parts of me that no other creative endeavor possibly could. Comics are always there to remind me that good will always triumph, friendships will forever endure, and there are no obstacles that cannot be overcome by a strong optic blast.
Above all else, comics aren't just a hobby or a passion, they are my friends, my family, my heart.
We don't come to comics. We only leave them. I grew up with Mary Tourtel's Rupert the Bear; Terry Bave's Odd Ball; Tove Jansson's Moomin; Goscinny and Uderzo's Asterix the Gaul. In a dusty garage sale, Stegron the Dinosaur Man lured me towards a lifelong love of superheroes. Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Storm became my first queer family, and Simonson and Brigman's Power Pack let me play when I was sick with measles.
I was too young when I first met Simon Bisley's Slaine, and far too young when my mum brought me an issue of From Hell without looking inside. But I grew up with comics, and I never grew out of them. How could I grow out of the elegance of Sergio Toppi, or the brilliance of Alison Bechdel, or the wit of Lewis Trondheim? When would I be too mature for Blacksad, too clever for Uzumaki, too jaded for Nextwave?
We don't get too old for comics; we just get chased away, by shame or ignorance or hostility. But I love them just as much today as the day I cracked open Fungus the Bogeyman, because comics can do anything, and they can make room for everyone. No-one should ever be chased away by an artform this versatile. I love comics because of their potential. Comics can let everyone in.