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April 8, 2014

6 Reasons You Need To Start Reading Comic Books


Lauren Perry

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Is there anyone out there that doesnt love a good superhero film? Arguably the most popular, highest grossing
box-office genre of the past decade, superhero films never stop coming. Superhero films are getting made and
remade faster than those of us who actually read their graphic novel predecessors can keep up with. Though I
love Hugh Jackmans Wolverine as much or more than the next girl, Id like to take a few minutes to implore all
of those Marvel & DC character/story lovers to take some time to explore the comic beginnings of these stories.
As is with any novel to film adaptation, comics offer the true beginnings of a character or series, and often tell
better stories than the silver screen is capable of telling (examples would be Watchmen, Frank Millers Batman,
Thor, Priest, to name a few). Reading comics is not only a way to expand your understanding of these films, but
a unique medium by which some of the greatest stories get told. Here are a few reasons you should read comics,
above and beyond the superhero genre.

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Amazon / Watchmen

1. Elevated thinking/reading:

As Scott McCloud explains in his book Understanding Comics, comics teach our brains to read and digest text
from the gutter, or the space between frames of a comic book page. We use our imaginations or knowledge of
sequence and patterns to piece together parts of a story that arent explicitly drawn on the page. In a way, our
minds become the driving force behind reading a comic or graphic novel. Reading graphic novels is the most
participatory form of reading, and your brain learns to read in an entirely different way. If youve ever read
one of Neil Gaimans Sandman Chronicles, you know that comics are not just a lined up row of boxes with
artwork and text. Sometimes it takes a great deal of concentration to decode what a graphic page says, and even
more important, what the subtext of that page is. Try reading a page of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
WATCHMEN and tell me comic reading is easy. Comics are art; from the lettering (if you didnt know, most
comics employ a letterer or a calligrapher, seeing as how that falls outside the scope of the writer and the artist)
to artwork to the actual story. When reading a graphic novel, we become the driver of the story.

2. Graphic novels (comics) are more than merely superhero stories.

Dont quite buy into anything that aligns with Captain America or Superman? There are so many phenomenal
comic books and graphic novels that it would be a shame if anyone shied away from the medium simply

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because they didnt know what is out there. Maus by Art Spiegelman is arguably the most famous use of the
graphic novel medium. It tells the factual account of Spiegelmans father as a Holocaust survivor of World War
II. Spiegelman proves that even the most horrific stories can be told in muted, yet beautiful, cartoon artwork, in
which Jews are mice, Americans are golden retrievers, and Nazis are cats. You must read it to understand its
weight and significance. Theres Harvey Pekars American Splendor which is about the banalities of everyday
life and his experience with cancer in Our Cancer Year. Theres Marjane Satrapis Persepolis, which details her
personal experience as an Iranian young woman during the Islamic Revolution. Theres Alison Bechdels Fun
Home: An American Tragicomic, about her parents divorce and the relationship she maintains with her father
thereafter. The point is that there are comics about everything, and a style to suit everyone. Once you start
reading one series or graphic novel, you are sure to be lead to other series, other graphic novels that suit your
tastes and bring you enjoyable reading.

3. If you ARE into superhero stories, youll understand much more of the muted subplots.

Once you begin reading a comic series, you learn that there is usually an extensive back catalog of the comic
canon, if you will. Comics are a beautiful thing in that there are any number of series about the same
superhero written by different combinations of authors and artists. Neil Gaiman, for example, employs several
different artists per one graphic novel, so as to maintain an ever-shifting appearance of his Endless in the world
of the Sandman. Once you start reading Spiderman comics, youll realize that Peter Parkers REAL first love
was Gwen Stacy, and that Marc Webb didnt just make her up for the new Spiderman films, starring Andrew
Garfield. Not to say that decisions and changes made by directors are not good choices for the film versions, but
reading the comics allows you, the viewer, to know the various versions of the original stories. You can then
make the decision yourself as to whether these film directors are changing the stories for the better, or perhaps,
simply making them easier to fit to the screen. There are several comic book stories that I love, and I equally
love the films, although I do not agree with choices made by screenplay writers, etc.. The only way to really
know the characters origins is to read their comic counterparts. J. Michael Straczynski, Brian Michael Bendis,
Olivier Coipel, Frank Quitely, and Grant Morrison are a few of my faves who have created (whether visually or
through story) equally captivating comic characters that might make you question the screen adaptations. If you
want to start with the king himself, pick up any Frank Miller comic (Year One is probably my favorite).

4. Theyre a link to history, critical theory, and literature.

If youre feeling particularly ambitious, DC Comics has put out a series of paperback compilations that include
all of the first appearances of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, and others from the very first issue of
Detective Comics that they appeared in. The original Batman, written by Bob Kane and Bill Finger, which
debuted in Detective Comics #27 in May 1939, is a goofily dressed masked character who solves a mystery. Its
easy to see why many comic scholars place Sherlock Holmes at the forefront of Batman history. After reading
his origins in these 1939 comics, its clear that he came onto the scene as a crime solver, as opposed to a

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monomaniacal vigilante. There is much to be learned about the history, critical theory, and literary influences
behind these formidable characters. Compilations of classics like these are available for most comic series,
including Thor, Prince Valiant, Spiderman, and many other characters. These characters arrived during the
Golden, Silver and Bronze age of comics, and are still dominating the Box Office and pop culture scene of
today. Thats quite a feat, even for a superhero.

5. They are a link to some of the most fantastic people out there.

Whether you love the Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or are a die-hard anti-Affleck Batman
sympathizer, reading comics is the connection to almost every pop culture platform today. While most comics
started on the page and grew to the screen, its now common practice for graphic novels to be created in the
wake of a popular show or movie. Comic fans are the greatest, smartest, nerdiest, most knowledgeable lot. Ever
heard of Cosplay? Want to dress up like Silk Spectre or Mystique? Read comics to find the characters that non-
comic readers wont know, and probably have the best costumes (Spiderwoman or Azazel, anyone?). Comic
people are usually pretty incredible and have awesome imaginations. One comic fandom leads to another
leads to another

6. Its more reading.

Period. If you love to read, comics are an embellished, beautiful medium with thousands and thousands of
stories. Most are becoming available on e-readers, and some can be previewed online. Arent sure what you
like? Head to a bookstore and leaf through a few pages of Hinterkind or Fable, XMEN or All-Star Superman. I
bet you wont be able to put it down.

Need more convincing? Check out this incredible TED Talk with Comics Theorist, Scott McCloud.

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Cataloged in

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Culture & Art
Graphic Novels
Inspirational
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Theory

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5 Comments Thought Catalog


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Guest 3 years ago


Just imagine a community where all comic lovers could share their views in a peaceful
manner without arguing over DC or Marvel
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Mari 3 years ago


I am literally writing all these down. I am devouring the graphic novels I hear about author
by author. I love this way of story telling. Please another other suggestions by the author or
commenters would be great! So far I big fan of walking dead, watchmen, persepolis, and im
reading a lot of Guy Delisle now. (I am commenting on all comic posts on TC, haha)
2 Reply Share

John 3 years ago


The problem I've found with suggesting comics for people is that they feel overwhelmed by
the continuity of the big 2. I usually throw out some Image titles that have only a few years
of publication in my suggestions.

But if you want to know the my suggestions, there's Y the Last Man, Fables, Saga, Morning
Glories, and ANYTHING Scott Snyder. I will give anything Scott Snyder has written a chance
and he always delivers. I'm a big fan of Robert Kirkman as well (Thief of Thieves, Super
Dinosaur, Invincible, and Walking Dead). Watchmen will forever be the pinnacle of graphic
novels though.

Great article.
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knox 3 years ago


hell yeah, comics are so much more than just superheroes stuff. Recent great stuff like Veil,

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