Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Woggy Project #10: Understanding Comics

Like many people of my gender, I did not grow up reading comic books. This is not to say I was entirely unfamiliar with the medium, of course. I read the newspaper comics every day, and if I do remember correctly, much of every rainy-day fun book I ever remember reading/ activity-izing contained alot of what would probably be considered graphic storytelling. The memories are vague, to be sure, but I definitely remember a comic-drawn George Washington telling me all about the Minutemen.

As an adult, I have read and collected a small collection of books that I now realize are basically of this genre, even though their location in the bookstore made me unaware of this fact. Wanting to understand various facts about Relativity, Physics, and other topics, I gravitated towards the books which told these facts using pictures rather than plain words. They have names like Relativity Visualized and Introducing the Universe.

Also as an adult, continuing my enjoyment of newspaper comics, I did find a few which when put into book collections do actually find themselves shelved with the graphic novels rather than humor. And, as a fan of animated films whose primary feature is not their accessibility to the grade-school demographic, I have found myself really liking a whole host of films which, I am told, have graphic novel counterparts I should probably try reading one of these days.

So for a fairly long time I have had the general impression that comics might be something I'd like to try. However, while I can't deny the evidence that I should be interested in them, there has been a mighty obstacle standing in my way, and that is the culture of comic books and comic book stores. Having attended a college that was not only filled with geeks but specifically filled with male geeks at a ratio of 3:1 female geeks, it was of course completely impossible for the institution of the comic book store to have escaped my notice. I had, in the course of palling around with friends inadvertently found myself inside of these mysterious buildings on more than one occasion, and in an attempt to be one of the guys tried in vain to make sense of the culture, or at least to blend in. Suffice it to say that while I occasionally managed to find something that I could actually stand in front of for more than a few minutes without giggling, rolling my eyes, being horrified, or needing to suppress a strongly impending feminist tirade, those moments were very few, very far between, and never long enough to get me past the sea of content that was clearly not for me and all the way up to the register with my wallet.

Any female who is reading this and is still somehow unaware of what I'm talking about, let's just suffice it to say that it's a bit of a boy's club. And a strange one at that, stuck somewhere in adolescence where there is plenty of discussion of girls, unless one actually shows up, in which case she better get out of here because who wants a stupid girl around here? For additional assistance and reasons, you may want to more closely observe Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons.

So anyway, this takes me to today's subject (yes, finally, I know...) which is the book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud. Having occasionally voiced my dilemma over comic books, I had found this book recommended by several male (and comic-book-reading) friends as not only a book I might actually like to read, but also one that might demystify some of the mystifications I was experiencing.

Very happily, buying this book did not require me actually having to visit a comic book store. My favorite bookstore actually has a very civilized looking "Graphic Novel" section, where I can stand and look over the shelves and still feel like a grown up lady in a bookstore reviewing my sophisticated literature choices. I still feared that some "Comic Book Guy" might be lying in ambush to ask me "Excuse me lady, and I dooo use that term loosely, but the romance section is that way," or worse, that he might just rip the book out of my hand and give me a disdainful sound with a curt "I don't think so; " but it seems my fears may have been a bit exaggerated.

So, I got the book home and began reading it along with the remaining pile of books I brought from the store. And I did really like it. Very interesting and thoughtful and educational, even. But like many other books, it somehow ended up set aside one evening not to be picked up again, and eventually made it back onto the graphic and art book shelf, and I haven't gone back to it since. I'm looking forward to it, though!

Things to Complete This Woggy Project:
  • Set aside an evening or afternoon
  • Take book off shelf and begin reading again
  • Repeat until book has been finished
  • Consider buying another book from the graphic novel section!


Kelly said...

a random comics comment from me: i never did laugh at a single "peanuts" comic strip... i feel guilty admitting that. it seems almost unamerican, right?

happypippi said...

yeah, I don't know, that IS pretty unamerican. But what do I know? I was born in Germany... :oP

maybe you're too american? Peanuts is pretty existential..

Personally, I still laugh at the reruns of Peanuts.

But don't get me started on Family Circus, or Garfield, or Cathy for that matter, now those are some seriously unfunny comics!!

Get Fuzzy, however is genius. I highly recommend checking that one if you haven't seen it.