Comics: Not Just Kidstuff

When the average person thinks of comics, he or she probably thinks of superheroes in spandex tights. Y’know, the kind of stuff you used to read as a kid.

Robert Crumb- The Godfather of Alternative Comics
Robert Crumb- The Godfather of Alternative Comics

However, comics are not kidstuff necessarily. You can arguably trace the beginnings of so-called “alternative comics” to artist/writers like R. Crumb, magazines like RAW and Art Speigelman’s  Maus  (in which the artist depicted his father’s experiences as a survivor of the Holocaust by drawing Nazis as cats and Jews as mice.) Originally serialized in RAW , the book won a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

The term “graphic novel” came into widespread use following the success of Maus, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (named one of TIME MAGAZINE’s 100 Best English Language Novels Since 1923) , Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Will Eisner’s A Contract With God And Other Tenement Stories.

Today you can find “graphic novels” or book-length comic books for adults of all ages (if you prefer) in bookstores and libraries.

Antonella Caputo - A Woman of Many Talents (including comic books)
Antonella Caputo – A Woman of Many Talents (including comic books)

An archeologist, art restorer, architect and actress/director (among other things), Antonella Caputo is an artist who proudly lists her contributions to comics on her website. Isabelle Arsenault is a Canadian illustrator who has won the Governor General’s Literary Award several times; Allie Brosh wrote and illustrated a piece to deal with her depression; Tom Hart used the graphic novel format (Rosalie Lightning) to help cope with the grief he and his wife, cartoonist Leela Corman, experienced following the loss of a baby daughter; John Lewis is “an icon of the Civil Rights movement” and U.S. Congressman “who has joined co-writer Andrew Aydin and artist Nate Powell for the new graphic novel March: Book One. (Mr. Lewis says his background as a civil rights activist was inspired by reading the comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story in !958.) Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home has been turned into a hit Broadway musical.

The late great and truly splendid (in spite of himself) HARVEY PEKAR
The late great and truly splendid (in spite of himself) HARVEY PEKAR

Among other things, the graphic novel format can introduce kids to timeless novels. Put off by blocks of print and thinking more in visual terms,  younger readers may like Marvel’s Pride and Prejudice. Ms. Caputo has adapted works of literature by O. Henry, Ambrose Bierce and Mark Twain (among others) for the Graphic Classics series. There is even a graphic novel version of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past on Amazon.

Of course, there is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with reading a Fantastic Four compilation or watching an X-Men movie for those of us wishing to relive our childhood for a couple of hours.


Author: rixbitz

media gadfly

One thought on “Comics: Not Just Kidstuff”

  1. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I cover comics, and create my own comics. I regularly review comics on my blog, Comics Grinder. And I’ve created a number of works in comics, including A Night at the Sorrento and Other Stories. That said, I see comics all the time. And, in Seattle, we’re pretty comics-friendly. I’m surprised, when I still read something where the writer needs to explain that comics aren’t for kids anymore.

    Well, I believe comics have made such huge strides in the last 30 some years that I would hope a general audience has gotten some sense of what’s going on, but maybe the vast majority don’t know and never will.

    Oddly enough, the tide has turned in comics that now it seems like we actually need to say, hey, comics aren’t for adults anymore. Ideally, I think there would be more of an all-ages comics spirit. Truth be told, we have a relatively large amount of comics being published. The story of comics and graphic novels continues to unfold.

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