A most remarkable thing happened to me at work the other day. A coworker of mine, who knows that I love comics, asked me about the medium. He mentioned that his boyfriend and he were starting to read Blankets, an original graphic novel by Craig Thompson. Our conversation eventually led towards Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire, and my coworker was fascinated by the story. As fate would have it, he pitched a similar story a few years back as a television pilot and series. It never took off. But what he said next was really the most significant part of the entire conversation.
“I think that comic books are the future.”
Right there, in that moment, comics were validated. The medium that had struggled to get across as a legitimate form of entertainment had done just that. It could be a story telling medium worthy of good stories, not just explosions and spandex clad heroes. It had merit in itself and could do so much more. That somebody who had barely read a comic in his life said this made the statement even more telling. People knew that comics had something new to offer the world.
Comics are probably the simplest media to create. It is relatively inexpensive to make the product itself, and it markets to an audience that is actively engaged in many other media such as TV and film, and serve as a target audience for expanding the product. It’s no wonder then that many comic books, both independent and mainstream, are used as a stepping stone to something bigger. Whether you realize it or not, 2013 features eight movies based on comics, with many more properties closely associated with the media adapted as well. These films are among the highest grossing of the year, with Iron Man 3 making an estimated $1.21 BILLION. That speaks volumes about the potential in the properties that have proven to test well with audiences in comic book form.
In addition, the comic book medium is an amazing way for writers to prove their worth and stretch their legs. The overlap between comic book writers and television writers is nothing short of astounding, with the likes of J. Michael Straczynski and Brian K. Vaughan among the more noteworthy. Hell, even Kevin Smith likes to keep in the habit of writing from time to time by creating a new comic, or working for Marvel and DC. Many up-and-coming writers can easily pitch their ideas to the comic book community, impressing people in the event of their success, and losing little if their product doesn’t succeed. It’s the ultimate sandbox, a world with a scope limited only by imagination.
But while those things are all fine and good, what I take away from my co-worker is that people are interested in the medium itself. People want to read the comic book of Scott Pilgrim not to get more, but to see how it played out in that medium. They want to admire the art and the spectacle of it all. The control one has over the world of story in a comic is endless. You can create a muted color scheme to set the tone, and the reader will easily accept it in a way unlike film. If you were to write these details out, they would get lost in a sea of words and limited by the reader’s capacity for information. Last year, DC Comics ran an issue of Batman in which he was caught in a maze. As he ran through it’s corridors, the orientation of the page changed. Suddenly the book was sideways, and eventually upside-down. The mere act of turning the page meant that you could accidentally turn the book the wrong way, feeling like a madman in much the same way Batman did in that moment. THAT is something only comics can do. The interaction the reader has with the product is truly unique. They can hang on a moment and gaze upon the imagery. And in that moment, every reader knows the book is art.
Comics are in a great era right now. For all the complaining people do about the media exposure that comics is receiving and what it does to the product, the end result is that their is an influx of interest unheard of before. While many people may have liked comics in the past or thought they were cool, this is the first time that many people are taking comics seriously. Comics aren’t just for kids. Comics are an art unto themselves. That’s an amazing feat. Here’s to the future.