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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Comics: Why they really ARE legitimate forms of literature.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 Posted by Chris Tung , , , , , No comments
Context:

My love for comics and my need to attend a university hardly ever cross paths. On the rare occasions that they do, they tend to be quite enjoyable. For example, I read American Born Chinese by Gene Yang in my Children's Literature class, and I loved it (in fact it is now one of my favorite graphic novels).

However, in recent weeks, my Literature of Sexuality and Gender class has started reading Persepolis, which I thought was going to be as fun as reading ABC; however, my professor this quarter constantly belittles the comic book medium with these comments. She reassures the class that this REALLY is a book when I feel that the reassurance is not necessary. She makes comments that do not promote the literature but instead reinforces binaries like book versus comic book or even graphic novel versus comic book.

I started this blog to chronicle my adventures of breaking into the industry, but I feel that members of academia who have begun to realize that comic books are no longer the funny books that they used to be, they need to remember that principle because if they don't students will eat up whatever you say. So I wanted to just write a little schpeel on why they really are legitimate forms of literature:

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It's difficult to find the exact point where the shit happened. Many would argue that it was with the release of Watchmen that altered the worlds perception of comic books. Now I don't want to contradict that because it does have some truth in it. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did something that very few books have done before, but I feel that the general public that are watching movies like V for Vendetta, The Dark Knight, and Watchmen need to remember that comic books aren't SUDDENLY grown up. That is false and very very stupid.

It was a steady change. It takes individuals like Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Frank Miller from the past and even current writers like Allan Heinberg, Brian Michael Bendis, Greg Pak, Gene Yang, etc. that maintain this steady move from comedic paper back book to literature.

Today, comic books are no longer what they used to be. In no way do I want to slight Bob Kane, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and the other original creators, but comic books have evolved and use the confines of panels and the 22 page format to do something that the standard novel or a theatrical film could and can not do.

Looking to Watchmen, the constant repetition of the couple holding one another could not be done in a novel and could not (and did not) appear in the Watchmen film. The little visual nuances that flow throughout the entire series is unique only to the comic book medium.

Moreover, the unique thing about the comic book is the ability to rewind. Separating itself from other visual mediums, the comic book allows the reader to go back and see what they may not have caught at first. The DVD/VHS/Blu-ray does allow this with the modern day rewind, but unlike the comic book, it lacks the rich textual substance and narrative that a book has. Thus, the comic book is perfect merging of both text and visuals to create something entirely different than the two materials that have created it.

The comic book is a difficult thing to accept, but I believe that--like Bob Dylan says--the times are a changin'. Comic books have become accepted by regular society more and more. After all, a comic book film was nominated for an Academy Award. If you asked Bob Kane if he would ever see the day, I'm sure he would have said no (may he rest in peace). I feel it is necessary that academics, readers, movie goers, and the general public need to approach it with an open mind. Remember their previous knowledge of comic books, but also focus on how things have changed. Comics books have grown up just like its reader, it's time that we treat it as such.

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