Comics Are The Almost Perfect Medium
Every year I set out to read 52 books. Or at least I have as long as I’ve been a member of Goodreads and taken part in their yearly reading challenges. Fifty two books used to be a reasonable amount to read for me. I was going through one to two a week. So unless I burnt out I was sure to achieve it.
Now, only two months after the birth of my daughter, I’m not quite burnt out. Only tired. I may read a couple pages before I fall asleep every night. But with a 500 page tome I won’t be finishing it or anything else any time soon. That’s to say nothing of completing this year’s reading challenge.
But I have been able to supplement my reading with comic books. Star Wars and Saga mainly. They’re perfect for the little time I have because of their serial nature and short length. My commitment to them is never more than momentary. If I need to put a comic book down to play with my daughter or switch trams during my commute I won’t find myself lost when I return.
That’s in part because of the stories told by most comic books, as Mark Bernadin of Fatman on Batman and numerous comic projects says, are “All second act.” (I’m paraphrasing or remembering him poorly). There’s little in the way or setup and characterization and even less payoff. Instead one problem and its solution lead into another.
This is in part to keep you reading, hence the serial nature of comic books. But it’s also because most such stories are melodramatic. And that’s not a bad thing. There’s a lot that can be said and achieved through over-the-top actions and emotions. Comics are in some ways better suited to such than soap operas given their ability to show the action. While soap operas are confined to largely personal actions.
Others have remarked upon how comics have matured greatly since their golden and silver ages. It’s not just a matter of becoming more grim, but telling stories more intune with older audiences. Which is why I like reading Saga — it is a story about new parents after all.
But comics aren’t perfect. Not just because of the focus on the second act. Their production cycle is such that story arcs may never be completed because sales are not good enough. So you can start a comic and never finish it. Or as is the case with most superhero comic books, there’s such a convoluted history that parsing it is overwhelming. Then there are the issues regarding representation, gender, identity, etc. But these are problems that plague all forms of media.
I may never feel as committed to a comic book as I do a book. But then I never find myself putting down a comic unfinished. With the little time I have for personal interests, comics don’t leave me feeling unsatisfied as a poor choice in other mediums can. They’re also going to be a great way to get my daughter reading. That though is something for the future, hopefully I can find a good source for comic books in Swedish so we can both work on it.
Originally published at www.gregorypellechi.com.