Comics 101

My love affair with comics started on a day that I had to go to work with my dad in fifth grade. After an hour of boredom from hanging out in an office, I decided to venture down 1st Avenue in LaSalle, Illinois. While what I really wished to happen upon was an arcade, it turned out my only option was to wander around in a Dollar General or go to this store called Metropolis Comics. I opted with Metropolis. When I got in there, I remember being so overwhelmed. First off, the store had one shelf that housed about twenty different comics featuring a plethora of superheroes. On one row there was Spider-man and Superman, on another Batman and six different X-men titles. If that wasn’t enough, there were also boxes, full of comics, laying around the store, along with more shelves that had books larger then the standard 22 page comic. Confused and unsure of what to do, I went to the person working behind the desk and stared at him without blinking. He asked me ‘is there anything I could help you with’ and still not blinking I muttered something to the effect of ‘help’.  Well that nice man took me over to the shelf with all the superheroes and told me these were the new comics books they just got in, and after a couple months on the shelf these comics would become back issues and would be placed in the boxes. Finally after 5 or 6 issues (one story arc, I would come to learn later) came out they could be collected and released in book form. I said, okay, well what should I read. At the time this little series called Death of Superman was coming out, so he gave me a copy and said that I could read it right there if I wanted. That was my first week learning about comics but not my last.

Soon I would read Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, and learn how to appreciate comics as a medium and not just stories about superheroes. Now I can read into the metatextual cues that Alan Moore and David Gibbons added to The Watchmen and see how in Maus, Art Spielgman could craft a powerful story about the horrors of Nazism with character who are drawn as mice.  And to this day I still have a boring day and a walk down 1st Ave to thank for that.

This month’s display in the PSC Library features comics books, so stop by and maybe have your own boring walk down 1st Ave. For some more books and articles about reading comics, continue reading.

Books and Articles

Heer, J., & Worcester, K. (2009). A comics studies reader. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.

Ito, K. (2005). A history of manga in the context of japanese culture and society. Journal of Popular Culture, 38(3), 456-475. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

McCloud, S. (1994). Understanding comics: The invisible art. New York: HarperPerennial.

Meskin, A. (2007). Defining comics?. Journal of Aesthetics & Art Criticism, 65(4), 369-379. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Schwartz, B. (2010). The best American comics criticism. Seattle, Wash: Fantagraphics Books.

Wolk, D. (2007). Reading comics: How graphic novels work and what they mean. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press.

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