Prior to falling in love with comics, I had a mixed perception of what the comic world was. I thought that everyone that read comics had to be extremely flawed: They were reading floppy backed serials with pictures, for goodness sake. I pictured everyone that read comics as being basement-dwelling, mouth-breathing, dirty t-shirt wearing nerds. And because I'm judgmental, that turned me off to an entire art form.
That's really unfortunate. But I don't think I was alone.
And then fell in my hands "Blankets" by Craig Thompson. A friend kept insisting that I read it so I obliged. (Somewhat of a mega-nerd in my mind, but at this point I'm not far behind him.) At first it felt as though I was being given homework ("Blankets" is a heavy book: in physical weight and emotional.) and the book sat on my shelf for a week or two before I actually touched it.
Then I opened the pages. The art was not what I had thought comics were about. I thought that every comic in existence involved bright, primary colors, cartoon-y speech bubbles and superheroes. Now I think all those things are great, but at the time it didn't relate. I was barely out of high school and knew it all. I was too high-brow for picture books. But this, this just wasn't a picture book. This was a masterpiece. "This guy drawing and writing, he must know me!" And to an extent, he did.
"Blankets" was dreamy. Like I had dreamt it and it came alive on paper. The art was a black and white reel of things I had experienced. The doubt of your upbringing as a young adult, the mixed emotions of falling for a person for the first time, the struggle with finding yourself. Craig Thompson, how did you get inside my brain?
That was enough for me: I was hooked.
For the first time in all my reading, I was narrating a story internally and feeling the emotion, all the while seeing the story in film-like style. Before, I could read a book and create my own world around it, but somehow I was not those people. I was never the great storytellers I was reading. I could watch movies and realize, I'm a fly on the wall: never putting myself inside the film. Movies and literature were a safe place. This, this was dangerous and new. I was reading and seeing and feeling, all at once.
There are many ways to tell a story. It can be an epic poem with grandiose phrasing and gods and mysticism and adventure: and at the time that was great to me. It could be a novel, with simple words yet detailed and elegantly delivered: accessible. A story can be told by mouth where the emotion is on the actor's face, on a screen. At that time in my life classic literature and film were my loves. I could lose myself and find myself and see the world, without having to actually encounter others or experience leaving my bed. But picture books?
I had learned: they're a story too.
And because they were a story just like other medias I loved, it didn't matter who read them. If I was feeling something from reading them, and I was now a part of that culture. I was sharing emotions with others. Guess what I found out about that culture? It was nothing like I thought. Sure, there are a lot of nerds. But there are some amazing people in the comic world. Ones that are fashionable and intelligent. Ones that loved film and literature just as I do. Ones that cook and run and lift weights. I had stuck the art form in a box. Never again.
I love comics because they continually surprise me. The world surrounding comics is the most accepting world I've have ever been a part of. The artists involved are that: they're artists and insanely talented. The fans? The fans are the best.
I love comics and I will continue to tell you how much I love comics. Even if it annoys you. Even if you think that I'm a geek. I will continue to tell you about my love for comics until I convince those that don't read comics, to read comics. And I will continue to tell you about my love for comics so that I can talk to those of you that agree. You ready?