Comic books are often viewed as entertainment for children. Because every other artistic medium facilitates children’s audiences, I use the term “unfairly”. It’s difficult to imagine a world where there aren’t books, films, or television shows for children. The adult market for this medium is still very niche despite its on-screen success. Graphic novels are the name given to comic books that break into the literary canon. This is akin to the popularized term “elevated terror”, which dissociates canonical work from a medium that self-esteemed intellectuals are otherwise ashamed of.
Two of the most important works in the west are Watchmen (1986-1987), by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, colourist John Higgons, and John Gibbons. Maus (191980-1991) is a cartoonist by Art Spiegelman. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mean to dismiss these canonical works. They have crossed these boundaries for a reason. I want to encourage a wider audience to a medium that is just as diverse as any other.
Marvel and DC Comics remain the largest publishers in the industry. However, there are a wide variety of trade paperbacks and monthly titles that can be used to satisfy any genre cravings you might have.
Marvel and DC Comics remain the largest publishers in the industry. However, there are a wide variety of trade paperbacks and monthly titles that can be used to satisfy any fiction-loving taste. Indian writer Ram V recently completed his five-issue limited series The Many Deaths Of Laila Starr. This series follows the titular character from Mumbai and explores the borders between life and death.
This theme of existentialism can also be found on Tom King’s and Mitch Gerard’s award-winning limited series Mister Miracle. It is a darkly comic sci-fi drama about the titular character’s struggles with depression and his journey to fatherhood following a suicide attempt. It is visually striking with 9-panel grids, which are interrupted occasionally by Television static. Talk-show host panels also serve to explore the character’s psychology. This series is a personal favorite of mine, as it makes full use its medium to arrange images that are both psychedelic yet all-too familiar in its examinations of masculinity.
Despite my decade-long passion for the medium, I have only recently been able to find the words to describe how comic book texts can affect me.
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Despite my decade-long passion for the medium, I have only recently been able to find the words to explain how comic book texts can affect me. It was actually Scott McCloud, my tutor, who suggested that I read Understanding Comics. The Invisible Art. McCloud explains what a comic is, how it differs from other art forms, and how the various elements (panels and lettering, splash pages, etc.) work to create different emotions. This work is a comic book! McCloud explains and then shows, making it a light but informative read.
Many people have expressed interest in reading comics, but found the world of superheroes intimidating (many characters have over 100 years of continuous story history). My advice to superheroes is that they start with classics ( Batman – The Long Halloween), etc. You can also choose self-contained limited series that are available in abundance each year. Comic books, like any other art form have an annual awards show called The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards. You will find a list of the top annual series with their respective styles and generic forms.
Lists and curations are only able to do so much. The only way to begin is to start. Talk to the staff at your local comic book stores or book shops about what you are looking for and they will help you find the right way. The rest is up to you. Safe travels on your journey through one the most undervalued art forms in the world!