Thank you, Comic Books!
Happy Thanksgiving, America!
You can live in any country to express some gratitude. So, The Comics Observer crew sits down around a virtual dinner table to reflect on what they are thankful for in the world of comics.
Share your own in the comments.
(Oh, and that cartoon to the left has been making the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites but it’s actually been around for three years. A good sign of an instant classic.)
Miguel Cima, Dig Comics columnist:
- Boundless creativity and limitless variation – Yes, this is true of ALL art forms. But most narrative art forms are too costly and difficult to control to allow artists to really push against the edges (and no, not ALL comics must be narrative, but most are). Even in comics, only a tiny minority published are in any way experimental, or at least offering of a fresh voice. Nevertheless, there is no other mass-produced art form that walks off the narrow road of all the conservative wisdom norms imposed by the culture at large quite as often.
- Surprise – Really an extension of #1, I love to be surprised. I love going to a comic store and really biting into something new. And it’s not just that comics offer the most per capita surprise, but comics are just so much more instantly accessible. A book needs several pages before a reader judges a writer’s style. Music requires several bars before the song can reveal itself. But just flip a few pages of comics and your eyes start talking to you. Sometimes, my eyes bug out and my skull pulls back, the better to soak it all in. You can’t fake that sort of spontaneous, visceral sensation.
- Mythology – The Kirby/Lee universe allowed me to develop with a strong sense of perpetual mythos. This is something largely lost outside the often sterile experience of religious sermons. The stories, the drama, the heroes and villains, the losses and the triumphs, and the slavish obsession I felt for so many years to know every little bit of it, is something of an extinct tradition in modern life. I suppose one can lend such devotion and fabled storylines over to sports or military traditions. But REAL mythology makes sure not to have both feet planted in the ground. The impossible, the unknowable, the imagined – none of those qualities can be applied to real people. Even the loftiest of them become all too familiar when closely examined. Submerging oneself into a world beyond seeing is a crucial element to the experience. Comics offered me a portal into that consciousness, and a lot of other people too. I like being a 21st century guy feeling linked to Ancient Greece.
- Pretty pictures.
- Having lived long enough to see the completion of Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know. Part 3 came out last month and is on the top of my pile. My Thanksgiving present to myself this year is to save the book for reading this coming weekend.
Scott Shaw!, Confessions of a Cranky Comic Book Cartoonist columnist:
No. 5. …That having been born late in 1951, I was able to enjoy first-hand, right off the ol’ spinner-rack: the greatest kids’ comics in the 1950s (by Carl Barks, John Stanley, Bob Bolling, Sheldon Mayer, etc.); the Mort Weisinger-edited line of “Superman” comics for DC in the late 1950s/early 1960s; DC’s Silver Age comics edited by Julius Schwartz; the birth of the Marvel Universe as created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and others, and the birth of the underground comix movement by R. Crumb, Gilbert Shelton and others.
No. 4. …That, back in 1970, I was one of the kids who organized the very first San Diego Comic-Con, now known as Comic-Con International.
No. 3. …That I’ve been lucky enough to work with many of my favorite entertainers, including Jonathan Winters, Tex Avery, John Candy, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Gary Owens, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas, Andrea Martin, Laraine Newman, Christopher Guest, the Monkees, Henry Corden and others. Hey, Marvel Comics published a funnybook series based on John Candy’s Camp Candy cartoon series – which I produced and directed, Joseph Barbera owned Dearfield Publishing Co., which published “Red” Rabbit Comics, Dexter Comics, Foxy Fagan Comics, Junie Prom and Panhandle Pete And Jennifer) and the Monkees had their very own comic book series from Dell!
No. 2. …That over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to know and even work with a number of my favorite comic book creators, including Jack Kirby, Sergio Aragonés, Bob Bolling, Sam Glanzman, Carl Barks, Mike Sekowsky, Jack Mendelsohn, Owen Fitzgerald, Roy Thomas and many others.
No. 1. …That at age 61, I’m still a busy professional cartoonist, writing and drawing comic books (as well as animated cartoons, advertising and other applications of cartooning) for over forty years.
Bree Todish, reviewer:
5. New Discoveries — Being what I will dub a non-comics-reading-comics-reader (meaning my knowledge base is above that of most people who don’t read comics, but my actual comic reading library is pretty small), I love finding new and unexpected comics, or story lines, or characters that intrigue me. It also sometimes inspires me to think in comics terms for what is missing in the medium. (Yeah, I’m one of those people who looks at stuff and goes: well, that’s cool, but what would make it better?)
4. Self-contained stories — aka the One Shot. I’m thankful that comics can have a series with ever-changing plots and characters and rebirths but then have one off-shoot which is self-contained in its own little realm and we just leave it there. There’s a tendency to over-do and over-saturate with all forms of entertainment/artistic media and what is enjoyable about a one shot is the stand-alone novel quality it has. There’s a thing. It happened. That’s it. THE END.
3. Batman — SUPERheroes are great and all, but I’ll always go in for a born billionaire with a depressing past who trains himself for taking vengeance and ends up being a symbol of awesome in a gritty city with some completely whacked out villains. Plus, he’s based on the ultimate sophisticated rich man saving people model.
2. Extreme Escapism — While I may not go in for some varieties of comics in general, I do love that comics allow for the ultimate in written and visual escapism. If you can think it and draw it, it can exist in the comics world. It does provide for an almost inexhaustible supply of creative fodder.
1. Daily Strips — Say what you like about monthly issues and their artwork and story development, my first initiation to comics and what remains my favorite are the daily newspaper strips. The ability of the creators to craft stories on a daily basis and remain interesting, funny, relevant, and touching never ceases to astound me.
Corey Blake, The Comics Observer editor:
1. A New Golden Age – This has been said before but it’s so true it deserves to be repeated. Over the last 5-10 years, comics have been producing more unique, diverse, inventive, creative and entertaining material than ever before. It’s impossible to keep up with it all but there’s never been a better time to read comics whether it’s for the first time or the millionth time. The level of craft, the diverse choice of material – there has never been a more rich period. It’s a comics renaissance.
2. GoComics Go! – Recently, I finally broke down and set up an account at GoComics.com, the online home for comic strips distributed by Universal Uclick (previously Universal Press Syndicate). When I was a kid, my father would come home from work with a copy of The Boston Globe. Every day, I would grab the comics section and read Calvin & Hobbes, For Better or For Worse and FoxTrot. Now I get an email each morning from GoComics that takes me to the day’s comic strips. What’s even better is I get to handpick the comics I want to read. It’s like getting to create your own comics page in your own personal newspaper. Universal Uclick doesn’t have every comic I want to read, but it’s got a really impressive roster.
3. Print Still Surprises – Yes we’re in the digital age. Comic strips are online, comic books are digital, webcomics… well they figured it out years ago, didn’t they? But print can still impress. Opening up Chris Ware’s Building Stories made me feel like 10-year-old me opening up a brand new board game. It’s a magnificent example that there’s no reason to publish stories in the same old way just because everything else is a traditional book-shaped product.
4. Comics Have Heart – From The Hero Initiative helping creators who have hit on hard time to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund protecting the First Amendment to countless successful Kickstarter and Indiegogo fundraisers that help bring to life creators’ dreams, the community in comics is wonderfully generous. Whenever terrible news comes in of someone’s house being flooded or burnt to the ground, our readers and creators and other comics folk always make a beautiful effort to help.
5. This – More selfishly, I’m extremely grateful for getting to write about comics here at The Comics Observer and at Robot 6, for the privilege of getting to share others’ writings about comics, and for the people that read, share and/or respond.