Calvin College Chimes

Don’t be pretentious, read a comic book

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I’ve met too many “book lovers” who religiously refuse to touch a comic book or graphic novel. Don’t be that person. I’m not really sure where this came from but it makes little sense in a culture so inundated with superhero movies; you saw “Black Panther,” nearly everyone did, so why not read the source material?

There is no reason why one medium would be any less artistic or literary than any other medium. “The Good Earth,Things Fall Apart,” “Dracula” and the apocalyptic Norse myth “Ragnarok” are all beautiful storytelling achievements that many book nerds have declared masterpieces or “must reads.” They’re part of the Western canon, and we read them in core English classes. But  our personal canons should include the best of Marvel, DC, Image, etc., the homes to many great graphic novels and comic books. They tell stories just like other modern classics; the only difference is they use pictures in addition to words. Even if our English professors don’t give us comics, there is no reason we shouldn’t pick them up on our own.

And no, they aren’t all about superheros either. BOOM! Studio’s ongoing “Grass Kings” reads like a trailer park Shakespearean drama in watercolors as it follows three brothers who undergo a series of trials while seeking a “promised land,” according to BOOM!.

But that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the superhero ones. The 70’s Iron Man title “Demon in a Bottle” handles alcoholism and anxiety more poignantly and realistically than any regular novel I’ve encountered. Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” pushes mythology as far as J.R.R Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” or George Lucas’ “Star Wars.” In truth, the superhero genre contains countless other genres: they aren’t carbon copies with new caped crusaders every issue. Perhaps my favorite comic, “The Death of Captain Marvel,” illustrates this best. “The Death of Captain Marvel” follows a beloved hero through their battle, and ultimate loss, to cancer. And Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Black Panther” engages race as well as anything else by Coates, who won the National Book Award for his memoir “Between the World and Me.”

Maybe it has just never occurred to you to pick up a comic because of their age-old stigma, and the way popular media often falls prey to depicting comic stores as places riddled with mostly men, few women, who haven’t been out of their parents basements in years. Going to a single comic book store, especially the Vault of Midnight downtown, will change this perception. And if you don’t have this perception, but still don’t pick up a monthly title, try one out.

If you’re not reading comic books just because they’re comics — because they just “aren’t for you” — then you’re missing out on a treasure trove of stories.

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