I recently got back into superhero comics after a hiatus of almost fifteen years. Oh, I still bought graphic novels, mostly of the independent or mature* varieties, but after moving to a town without anywhere to buy comics halfway through high school, I fell out of reading the cape stuff.
I never realized how much I missed it until I started again.
Still, I get weird comments about it occasionally. I’m a thirty-year-old woman, so people assume that I should be, I don’t know, off having babies or breaking the glass ceiling or something. Not reading something that, at its heart, was designed for twelve-year-old boys.** They want to know why I’m wasting my time on something like that. They call it unrealistic and juvenile.
To which I say, well, yeah.
I get enough realism by fucking living. I don’t need more of it. That’s why I like fantasy, sci fi, horror, comics, surrealism, all that stuff that takes you away from the every day. If realism was the sole basis for choosing entertainment, we’d read nothing but encyclopedias. And considering Jersey Shore and The Real Housewives of Somewhere You Don’t Give a Shit About are ‘realistic’, I don’t think the word is the high praise these people think it is.
As for juvenile, I’m going to let C.S. Lewis handle this one:
When I became a man, I put away childish things. Including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.
Besides, people who focus on those aspects of comics are missing other points. As a medium, comics are a great combination of writing and art***. It’s a unique form of story telling. It allows techniques that work only within the confines of the panels. It makes me think about creating images with writing, focusing on those perfect moments that pull the story along.
And in the end they’re about heroes. Damaged people who are still trying to do their best for the world, day after day. Couldn’t we all use a little more of that attitude?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s new comic book day and I’ve got reading to do.
*Not porn. Just stuff that is very obviously not for children: Transmetropolitan, Preacher, Hellblazer, Maus, that sort of stuff.
**As a lot of the costuming shows. Any women out there who want to read about a strong female superhero who doesn’t wander around with her tits falling out and her cervix on display should try the new Captain Marvel, written by Kelly Sue Deconnick. Good story, good characters, lots of kicking ass.
***When they’re done well, of course, but isn’t that true of everything?