“Comic Book” is not a derogatory adjective

It is an growing peeve of mine when literary folk look down on comic books. (What does a peeve grow up into? Mine has gotten pretty big over the years.) Yesterday I read comics referred to on a literary blog as trash reading. In Ebert and Roeper’s review of Stealth, both agreed that it had “comic-book” effects, meaning flashy and non-substantive. “Comic book” is not an adjectival phrase that means simple and bad. Yes, some comic books are trash, just as some books are trash. But comic books and graphic novels can be art in a way that non-picture books can’t. Comic books and graphic novels can be literature told with words and pictures. If one loves books, I believe one can love comics. Comics, like all art , have myriad genres. If a comic book neophyte tells me what kind of book she likes, I can recommend a complementary comic book or graphic novel.

Victorian lit? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Cop thrillers? Top Ten
Horror/fantasy? Shakespeare? Sandman
Military/Spy novels? Queen and Country
Mysteries? The Whiteout graphic novels
The Kite Runner/Reading Lolita in Tehran? Persepolis 1 & 2
Young adult coming of age? Goodbye Chunky Rice, Blankets
Travelogue? Carnet de Voyage

One of my favorite events is our family’s weekly trip to the comic store on Wednesday, which is new-comic day. Yesterday there were three–three!–new graphic novels (Tricked by Alex Robinson, Mort Grim by Doug Fraser, and the hardcover collection of Bryan K. Vaughan’s Runaways) plus a few issues from my favorite ongoing series (Fables and 100 Bullets.) When I go to the comic shop, I get to see friends, buy books, and watch Drake while he runs up and down the aisles, crowing with glee. It’s a rich joy, not non-substantive trash.

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