Seen as I’m on a massive comics binge lately, I’m going to write about this fascinating artistic medium and what it means to me.
I’ve been reading comics since I was a pre-teen but I first got into ‘adult’ comics when I was about fifteen. I was into this amazing author named Clive Barker and I discovered that there were comics with his name on them as well. So, I bought all of his comics – both the Hellraiser and Nightbreed comics that were published by Epic, an imprint of Marvel, as well as the adaptations of stories from his Books of Blood collections which were published by Titan and Eclipse. I remember the tiny little shop within a shop where I bought them. It was called Ummagumma Rose and I believe it was the first ever comics shop in Cork. Basically, it was made up of some shelves with comics on them and a guy behind a cash register.
The next comics I got into were by Neil Gaiman. Unlike Clive Barker, this guy was writing the comics and not just being a consultant and coming up with ideas. I devoured his Sandman comics but there are other titles he wrote that have a special place in my heart including Miracleman, Black Orchid and the Books of Magic. For quite a long time I read only Neil Gaiman comics until I discovered Alan Moore and it was like ‘where have you been all my life?’. Another great discovery was Garth Ennis.
These days I’m not limited to British and Irish comics writers. Frank Miller, Jason Aaron and Geoff Johns are all comics writers I enjoy. I’ve read up on the history of comics and I’ve even ordered a trade paperback made up of Lee and Ditko’s run on Spiderman, to find out what all the fuss is about!
So, what’s so great about comics? Well, for me, the best thing is that you get two artforms in one: writing and illustration. This gives the comic book a special status as a work of fiction. If you really ‘read’ Alan Moore’s Watchmen there is so much going on in the illustrations which act on and interact with the narrative and dialogue. Everywhere there are visual clues as to what the author is trying to say to us. This is part of what makes Watchmen such a layered, complex and fascinating work and it is why Alan Moore’s panel descriptions in his scripts are so obsessively detailed.
Is that it? What else is so great about comics? Well, to take Watchmen as an example again, there is no other artform that can convey a sense of a unique world and ambience like the comic book. Part of what people love about Watchmen is the creation of a unique, self-contained world. Here the artist, Dave Gibbons, deserves as much praise as Alan Moore. Largely through artwork can the atmosphere and sensibility of a comic book be achieved.
Another, less artistic, reason for why I love comic books is that they are so damned collectable! I have an office filing cabinet in my room, half filled with my comics which are all bagged and boarded to keep them safe from harm. There is a satisfaction you get from completing a series or a particular writer’s or artist’s run on a title which is like no other. Finding rare comics is also a delight, especially if you paid a euro or so for it.
You might laugh but comics can also get you high! They are a stimulant that goes well with coffee and energy drinks. I must admit that sometimes I can’t resist smelling the ink of old comic books to get a little rush of nostalgia. I’m pretty sure this won’t get me into trouble with the law but, just in case, drink in moderation kiddies!
So, there you have it! Try comics. It doesn’t matter what age you are or what your taste is there is a comic book out there waiting to be loved and looked after by you. It’s addictive but it’s a healthy addiction, as comics are relatively cheap and, as the old folks always say, reading is good for the mind.