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Monday, June 3, 2013

The Worst Misconceptions About Comic Books

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     It's the 21st century and yet we still have to deal with some of the most idiotic and baseless assumptions, misconceptions and flat-out lies to hit human ears. Batman and The Avengers have blown apart the box-office, worldwide, and still we have incredibly clueless human beings saying and thinking dumb things about comic books, graphic novels, and really, genre entertainment as a whole. Well, I've had enough of it. Working at a comic book store brings you an even more defined perspective on the subject matter at hand, and I'm going to do my best to just fire a cannon in the to the crowd of stupid that has become the general consensus. With some of these things dispelled, maybe more people will come out of the "comic book closet" about their passion and love for the format, and stop hiding in the dark shadows of social acceptance.

  • Girls/Women don't really know anything about/read comics.
    Yeah, you're an idiot. Not only do women read and know just as much about comics as us penis-owning folk, they are also major players in the industry. With names like Gail Simone, Marie Severin, Fiona Staples, Louise Simonson, Amanda Conner, Jo Duffy, Ann Nocenti, Wendy Pini and so many more, how could anyone think otherwise? The shop I work at has more female employees than male and they all know what the hell they are talking about. The average customer that asks me questions about a specific character and follows it up with "I don't really know anything about comics" is usually male, whereas the ones that can name the entire history of one creator's career are usually the women. We're at an even split, just as we should be, because comics are intended to be read by people,  not just one specific gender. Burn your comic-book bras, people.
  • Comics are for kids.
    For shit's sake, I don't know how anyone can try to read anything that requires you to pay attention to one character's life over a period of decades and think that it was intended for kids. Forget the fact that some of the top comics right now, like "Saga," "The Manhattan Projects," and "The Walking Dead," as well as classics like "Preacher," "Sandman," "Y The Last Man," and "Kick-Ass" are all MATURE rated titles, what kind of young child's attention span could really hold on to all of that information, when some of them go on one story over 60 to 100 issues? Sure, some of the superhero books can blast out an arch in 3 issues or a one-shot, but even then, the reading comprehension is generally above a 7 year-old's level. Also, when I see someone swinging around a horse penis, and bludgeoning people to death with in in "Crossed," I hardly think of that being suitable for a child's eyes and mind. Additionally, there are better stories with more sophisticated writing being told in comics than in some of the best-selling books being published today. The books I mentioned above are fine literature, especially when compared to the 3rd-grade-reading-level likes of "50 Shades of Grey," "Twilight," and "The Hunger Games."
  • There are no comics for kids.
    Yeah, I know, how could both extreme thoughts exist out there? Easily. People are clueless about things they don't really know anything about. There are so many comics out there suitable for children, and like I mentioned earlier, it isn't just about the content, but the reading comprehension level. Sure, there are titles specifically for young readers, like "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic," "Amulet," and "Sesame Street," but there are so many regular comics out there, not geared directly for children, that are suitable. If you look back at some of the classic Marvel and DC comic books, especially those that adhered to the Comics Code Authority, they will never have any really objectionable material, and they are usually easy to read. On top of that, most parents don't even know about the grading system that most mainstream comics have. Just look for the "A" on the back of the book for "All Ages' and they'll be fine. Do they usually adhere to this? Not really. I can tell you how many times I've seen parents come in to get the latest issue of "The Walking Dead" for their 8 year old child and completely ignore my warnings. Ugh...
  • All of my "old" comic books are worth something and you should buy them.
    Here it goes: most of your comic books are worth nothing more than the price you paid for them. At the very least, if they've gone up in value, it is because of inflation. The comic book that you bought for $1.50 back in the 90s is now worth 3.99 because that is the average price of a comic book. Sometimes I feel like I have to start teaching a class in economics to get people to understand certain things about shit like this. When someone tells me that they have "The Death of Superman" and that it must be worth something I generally tell them "yes, whatever you paid for it." Sure, you might find someone willing to pay 5 dollars or so for a book that has absolutely no relevance in the overall story of a character that came back to life and had his origin retold and rewritten a few dozen times, but that is rare. 80s and 90s comics, especially, were over-printed to the their detriment. Everyone had a copy of Jim Lee's "X-Men #1." Everyone had a copy of "Spawn #1." These books are not rare and are not going to skyrocket in value unless someone starts buying up every copy of them and destroying them. Ah, crap, I think I just gave someone an idea. Now, if you have some "key" books from those time periods, especially books that did not have a high print run, they may be an exception. Otherwise, you want to invest in some Golden and Silver age books. Oh, and no one wants your baseball cards, basketball cards or pogs either.
  • Comic book creators are rich.
    Unless you're talking about some incredibly prolific writers and artists, the average comic book creator is just as rich as a local musician, teacher, or rookie police officer. You're talking about an art-form, and that almost never pays well until you hit it big. Even then, many of the field's biggest writers and artists will undertake multiple books at a time, not just because of their passions, but because they have to hit a certain page rate to meet the income they need to survive or thrive on. When you buy a Marvel or DC comic, it is somewhat similar to buying a gallon of gas. The cover price of that comic is split so many times by the time it gets back to the creators. With creator-owned works it becomes very different, but even then they often have to recoup finances before making a profit, not unlike a band paying back money to a record label. So what does this mean? Stop stealing comic books. Every comic book you download, illegally, is literally taking money directly from the creators that made it. If you love someone's writing or art, please, buy a book from them. I can't tell you how many fundraising pages I've seen in the last few years for medical bills for incredible talent, simply because they don't make enough to afford medical insurance or the insurance they do have can't cover what they need.

     All in all, if you love something, be proud of it, evangelize it and share it with those you think would appreciate it. Comic books are a fantastic art form that combines everything that people already respect and love, into a format that still gets so much stigma and disrespect, for no real reason. Ignorance and bias have hurt the industry but all some of us really have to do is just buy that one trade paperback we love for someone who we think will love it too, regardless of whether they have read a comic book before or not. If you want to get less dumb questions about comics it is up to you to start informing folks about them. Be your loved ones library for a while, eventually they'll start buying their own and will be able to sustain an actual real conversation with you, and then you can argue with them about why you think the "Age of Ultron" sucks!

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