My Love Affair with Comics
At this point in my life it is hard to imagine a day passing without me either reading, writing or just thinking about comics. They have become an integral part of my life and it seems strange to me that many people I know still do not value the medium as one of any literary worth.
My initial introduction to comics came in the form of the lightweight children’s weekly, The Beano. The anarchic tales of Dennis the Menace, Minnie the Minx and,The Bash Street Kids hooked me instantly. I also read a lot of books, with Brian Jacques Redwall series ranking high amongst my favourites at the time I first discovered The Beano at the tender age of eight. But nothing had prepared me for the pure mad-cap fun I encountered within the pages of this gift from the gods and I was instantly hooked.
Though it is hard to argue that The Beano has much (if any) literary worth, it served its purpose as my personal gateway to one of the most diverse and challenging literary genres alive today. A few years later I could be found buried deep in the legendary 2000AD avidly following the tales of Judge Dredd, Slaine, Durham Red, Sinister Dexter, Nikolai Dante, and a whole host of other zarjaz creator-owned works. The stories and characters were so vivid and the complex worlds they inhabited were presented with such depth, often within the space of just one frame, I couldn’t help but be bewitched by this exciting and often challenging medium.
Cut forward another couple of years and Neil Gaiman was blowing my mind with The Sandman. Admittedly I was a little late to the party as far as the tales of Dream were concerned, but I was a kid when they started so I think it can be excused. From the pages of The Sandman I then leapt into the other worlds of Vertigo and beyond where I discovered Garth Ennis’ Preacher (another masterwork), Grant Morrison’s, The Invisibles (which also served as my introduction to the writings of Austin Osman Spare) and of course, the works of the incomparable Alan Moore.
Yet after the many hours of escapism, knowledge and happiness these books gave me, it wasn’t until I stumbled across the writings of Warren Ellis that I began to take the medium as seriously as I do now. Mr Ellis’ body of work, whilst invariable of a futuristic bent, is constant in its relevance to the now. His Orwellian insistence in examining the present through the future allows him to produce work that is as vital as the writings of any serious political or social commentator, if not more so since he doesn’t have to pander to mainstream market pressure. Whether reading his vitriolic evisceration of politicians in Transmetropolitan, enjoying the technological complexities of Doktor Sleepless, or basking in the seeming simplicity of, Fell; Ellis’ desire to tell stories that reflect, refract and question the world around us is addictive.
The minute Spider Jerusalem launched into his first tirade in Transmetropolitan, I realised that I’d finally found a writer who was as pissed off with ridiculous, outdated social dictates and injustices as me. But by writing comics instead of newspaper columns or novels, he was able to get his voice out into the world with minimal censorship. Something that is maybe best illustrated by his graphic short series, Black Summer that begins with the President of the United States and his advisers being executed by a super-powered vigilante for committing crimes against the American people and the rest of the world that bear an uncanny resemblance to the actions of George W. Bush and his administration post September 11th, 2001.
This medium that I have loved for two decades is so much more than cheap entertainment for kids and self-confessed nerds & geeks. Amongst the independent publishers, as well as in some parts of the DC/Marvel publishing houses, it is a hotbed of social commentary and information dressed-up with beautiful art, (e.g. Brian Wood’s, DMZ) written and drawn by some of our most talented authors and artists. You just have to know where to look.