Monday, 14 January 2008

Why comics?

I intend this blog to be much like any other and cover whatever I feel like rambling on about but already there's a heavy comic content. So what is it that appeals to me about comics?

My grandad died when I was five but he was aa amateur painter and would entertain me for ages with his drawings and the bug soon caught me and I was drawing from a very young age apparently. Somewhere along the line, I was introduced to the Marvel UK weeklies, mainly Captain Britain, Spider-Man and Mighty World Of Marvel, which used to freak me out with the cyborg simians featured in the Planet of the Apes strip. I missed alot of school during my second year at infant school, thus falling way behind the rest of the class. I was withdrawn and nervous anyway so this didn't help but I lived in an area where all the local kids went to a different school. This isolated me to a large degree and while I had two or three pals around, I would go through long periods spent on my own, mainly through the winter. Entertainment would come from comics in that pre-home video age, and I learned to draw and read from following them. Within a few years, my literacy had shot me to the top of the class.

However, I fell away from comics when the last Byrne X-Men issues were reprinted (funnily enough, in a relaunched Mighty World of Marvel) by Marvel UK but a doodle of Shang-Chi caught the eye of a schoolmate at secondary school (well, GRAMMAR school actually, dotcha know...), who reintroduced me to comics, beginning with the Nomad issue of Marvel Team-Up. Spider-Man had a new look, Robin had become Nightwing and Crisis On Infinite Earths was around the corner. I was hooked and have been buying the buggers ever since.

I've got rid of literally thousands of comics and have tried to downsize my collection several times, which now consists of my favourite runs (Uncanny/Classic X-Men, JLI, David's Hulk, Starman, Preacher, New Teen Titans, etc) supplemented with comics featuring art by my favourite artists. These disparate issues form the bulk of my collection, featuring such names as Hughes, Maguire, Sprouse, Russell, Williams III, Warren, Doran and many others.

The artwork is my main concern nowadays as I've essentially read all the superhero stories I need to and still enjoy the genre but yearn for something new. I currently have a stack of Nexus issues by Steve Rude to study, as I want to develop a more cleanline approach to my art once I've finished The Jock #4. This is because it looks nicer and hopefully I'll be able to produce more, although clean lines leave no room for weaknesses in the basic drawing. I've also got to read a large stack of Wally Wood and Al Williamson EC science fiction stories (all of them, I think), after rediscovering these 50-year old gems again at last year's Birmingham comic convention.

I think you need to be a certain age when discovering comics to truly embrace the medium, and while there is a lot of rubbish out there, each month I find myself having to reluctantly miss items from my chosen advance order service.

They taught me to read, tought me to draw, entertained, informed, even shaped my moral views to a degree and have introduced me to some great people.

THAT'S why comics.


davey said...

Nicely put.

I lived in a backwater shithole of aone horse town, where that one horse wouldn't even be worth using to make gloy gum. Comics were brought in by my mum on her way home from working in the local town to stop me, my brother and sister from playing on tractors and fighting pigs all day Primary school consisted of two classes so you were either held back by the younger kids or competing with the older ones. I learnt to compete through Look and Learn, which my mum thought was accptably educational enough, and 2000ad, Tornado or Battle which my dad thought was macho enough for boys to read.

When the parents split up and we moved to the local town I was like a pig in shit because we actualy had four newsagents, and my new school had a stack of Tiger, Speed and Roy of the Rovers in the rainy day break cupboard.

I agree that there is a cut off point in appreciating comics for something other than cheap entertainment. My nephew is dispraxic and I give him comics to help him understand what he is reading. He's 13 and getting into manga. His younger sister is too. i see manga as the way forward for getting and keeping kids into comics shops. It's a sad state of affairs, but anything to keep the medium going is good enough for me. The Japanese know what they're doing, they know that mass audiences need variety of material otherwise it'll die. They say there are only five stories in the world, well if that is so how can you expect an industry to grow without learningto tell those five tales in as many different ways as possible?

Tone said...

There should be a test at school to spot the possible onset of comics-itis. Symptoms include introversion, creativity (artistic or otherwise), plus an inability to speak owt but gibberish to the opposite sex. Still, if such a condition exists, it's a bloody wonderful one.