I’ve found myself thinking a lot recently about comics, writing, how they fit into the grand scheme of things within myself and society. I have been emailing back and forth with someone about another potential freelance gig and part of the discussion is what you can really get out of comics, how they can change people (or not), etc… I just wanted to elaborate on some of my thoughts.
Comic books are an interesting medium. For the most part, comic books published over the last number of decades are disposable mass-market entertainment. Is that a bad thing? Well, no, of course not. Millions of kids were raised on a healthy diet of the medium, learned things about people indirectly through the exploits of their favorite characters from Clark Kent to Reed Richards, from Peter Parker to Hal Jordan, from Ororo Munroe to Diana Prince, etc etc etc… Intentionally or subconsciously, the writers taught children the meaning of right and wrong, standing up for what you believe in, why prejudice was wrong, and other great things. Somewhere along the way, though, it became more about bigger and bigger battles, what threat is there to the universe this time, and which heroes can we get away with killing, bringing back, changing reality, going to the future, changing the past… Well, you get the idea.
Now, what has changed? Nothing for the most part, but there is a larger group of writers these days who challenge what it means to be a comic book, throw in more reality to the medium, often hidden within the pages but there. Now the question is, just how much reality do you want in the comic books? Non-fiction comic books are around, drama comic books are around, but do we need a comic book about literal modern struggles or should there be a separation between the two? Do we need to turn on the news to hear about all of the world’s problems and then open a comic book to hear the same thing? I would argue not… Any life lessons picked up from a comic book should be subtle. Any commentary on the world should be done the same way. Writers through characters, villains and heroes, inspired by the real world but not of it. Again, biographical and non-fiction books are different. Personally, I would be depressed reading about the real world in comic books. Now unlike the latest issues of South Park, which are often created in a very short span of time, comic books are often months in development. A hot topic now might be moot in two months (supporting NOT making comics too real).
My point to all of this? Make comics real to themselves, not to our reality. Create your own, even if inspired by real events, rather than forcing “reality” down people’s throats through yet another medium, as if the constant barrage of tv, internet, newspaper, radio, and water-cooler sources didn’t take care of it on their own. Life and death can be contained in comics and still have as much impact as reality would, but events can be driven to a point with a little more concrete black and white resolutions over the real world. In the new show “Castle” on ABC, the main character, Castle, often looks within the “plot” of murders, thinking that the truth isn’t telling a good enough “story”, so there must be more to it. Unfortunately, in the real world the story isn’t always there. Sometimes violence is done for violence’s sake and nothing more. Though I don’t want to see another fifty years of disposable comic books, I would rather see drama in the books between the characters and the events in their world, not ours.
Probably enough ranting for now… I’m not positive what point I was trying to make for this except that comic books, while not disposable all the time, should try NOT to be TOO real.