Some Love (and a Little Hate) for Comics

I was thinking this morning about the amount of time and mental energy I give to indie comics and wondering if I should spend more time reading screenplays and online short stories instead. For example, if you’ve been paying attention to my recent posts you’ve probably seen references to at least some of the following:

And these aren’t even all the comics I read–just the ones I love the most and spend the most time on.

Later in the day I decided that the answer is: No, I don’t spend too much time on these. It seems like a lot in the aggregate, but really it only takes a few seconds to read a comic page, so even the ones that update daily don’t usurp too much of my attention.

(I’m going to conveniently ignore the time I spend re-reading the same ones over and over. Scary Go Round, I’m looking at you, you sexy, addictive beast.)

Anyway, even the comics that suck up a significant portion of my time are ultimately still “literature”, and they provide most, if not all, the same benefits that reading narrative fiction or watching movies provide.

For exmple, I’ve been puzzling over why the characters in Scary Go Round are so very delightful and endearing. You’ll have to go read it yourself or just take my word for it, but the majority of the characters are selfish, blindly-inconsiderate people with no real ethics of any kind. You should really hate them, and you would if you knew them in real life, so why do I actually love them so very much? I finally figured it out (I think): because they’re all just big kids.

John Allison, the writer of Scary Go Round and Bad Machinery, gets away with writing alarmingly near-sociopathic characters because he writes them like 5th-graders–non-empathetic beings full of life and cheeriness and curiosity. They can be thoughtlessly cruel one moment and overwhelmingly affectionate the next, then throw relationship out the window to wander off on some vain and quixotic adventure.

This may have significance for me because I struggle with giving my characters flaws. Maybe my way into creating people who have actual bad qualities lies somewhere in this notion of turning them into pre-adolescents, who can be forgiven because they’re just so damned cute.

Urgh. Don’t judge that last sentence too harshly; I’m still following up this train of thought.

Anyway, Shut Up! I’ll keep reading comics if I want, and you should, too. Start with the ones I listed; if you like one of them, move on to other comics they recommend.

For example, Gunnerkrigg Court is a particularly wonderful blend of sci-fi and fantasy and British boarding schools.