Meet me at the Comic Shop
Black clouds loom across the early morning sky with the heavy burden of rain as I am forced from the warmth of my bed to begin the day. Nothing will console me at this hour, not even the most caffeinated of beverages. That is, until I remember it is Wednesday. Suddenly my world seems to brighten as if I spontaneously gained power over the universe, raising the sun from beneath the horizon to melt away the clouds. But why? Why is my day made anew at the thought of hump day? It is because on this day I am going to the comic book store. Each week legions of fanboys and fangirls journey to their local comic shop to stock up, dream, admire, and discuss all things comics. It is the reason that Wednesday is their favorite day of the week. It is their Friday, their TARDIS, their light at the end of the tunnel where you no longer have to wait for that one, or maybe ten, issues you’ve been desperate to continue. For many it’s a hobby. For some it is a lifestyle. But where is this passion born? It’s not crafted in the fires of Mt. Doom and it probably doesn’t have to do with midichlorian levels, although some may argue it does. All it takes is a mild interest or a friendly suggestion to read one issue then BAM! They’re hooked.
But these aren’t “at-risk” fanboys/girls who take a break from World of Warcraft every Friday night to play Dungeons and Dragons. Anyone could start making weekly trips on new comic Wednesday for the same reasons someone goes to the movies or reads all seven Harry Potters every year.
We love stories. But what we love most about story telling is not the plot itself but what fills in the plot: characters. Without good characters you will lose the audience, and comics are no exception. These aren’t pages simply loaded with explosions and spandex covered fighting machines for the sake of cheap visual stimulation, although there are comics specifically for this. The heroes and villains boxed in these pages are tasked with trying to save, or take over, the world while also trying to deal with struggles slightly more relatable to ours. A few slightly more realistic examples are Allen Moore’s graphic novels V for Vendetta and Watchmen, both with their own film adaptation.
Once you read them it is easy to understand why these graphic novels and so many others are adapted into film. They are both extremely character driven, infused with more depth than just fist fights and costumed heroes. They give us someone to cheer for on a global level as well as on the personal level. You see both inner and external conflicts, the relational struggles, and the variety of personalities in different characters. These stories can quickly turn from action-motivated reading to emotionally-invested reading.
But action still has its place: when a villain is punched half way across a city, or Hal Jordan (Green Lantern) runs over some aliens with a green will-powered fire truck, or Deadpool does a donut in a monster truck with the windows down to let a trailing missile fly through the cab while breaking the fourth wall, these are what make comics so fun to read. They entertain us with the absurdly impossible, presenting it in a way that keeps us in momentary suspense, as if every turn of the page is an epic reveal.
Yet comics are still kept beautifully simple. They are an excellent bridge between literature and magazines or the funny pages. The mixture of both visual arts and written word are a very aesthetically pleasing way to integrate two creative expressions. The art by itself can be enough for some to become engrossed in comics.
But more than the art, more than the action, and possibly more than all the stories, one of the best parts about the world of comics is the community of those who share the passion. It’s not just about getting the new issues but also going down to the comic book shop. It’s seeing who gets what, finding out who is loyal to Marvel or DC, arguing over the Star Wars prequels, and debating who the best Doctor is. It is more than enough to get you out of your warm bed on a dark miserable Wednesday morning. Look outside and think, “This is going to be a good day.”