Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In answer to "why?"

Sometimes people ask me "why do you care so much about superhero comics, Lewis? I mean, you yourself say that people your age should long have outgrown them, so really, why are you, on your birthday, not only pontificating about them yet again. You have a whole blog dedicated to it . . .so, why?"

I shrink, usually, from posting big "mission statements," partially because I don't think in those terms (I'm not a Leader of Men by any means) and partly because mission statements are by and large a load of crap. So, owing to those two facts and the fact that I'm still suffering through a particularly brutal bout of the flu as I type this, I'm going to do my best to spell it all out and then, if it seems like a bad idea, I'm going to blame it all on being sick and obviously delirious.

I may not be a leader of men, but I have moments of cleverness, you see.

When I do have the occasional moment of wanting to get up on my K-Box, I try to put it in perspective thus--with any luck, the stuff I can't stand is absolutely adored by some 12-year old (all too often it seems to be exactly the stuff 49-year-olds seem to love) coming up after me and his love and enthusiasm will carry things forward and free me up to start caring about something else. Ideally, as I've said about creators many a time, fans also need to be good stewards and know when to let it go and pass into the hands of the next generation.

Give it to them, let them develop their own relationship with it, and hopefully they'll pass it down to the generation that follows them. That's how things endure, after all.

But more than that, it was comics--or my love of the possibilities of them, that started me down the road I'm on now.

I remember it as clearly as if it were a flashback--It was the early 90's and I and a whole bunch of kids in the most poorly-stocked art class run by the most unmotivated art teacher who was ever unleashed on the student body of NCHS-West.

His lack of motivation, however, was fertile ground for us. Coming up as we were in the times we were, excitedly passing around copies of the latest Image comics and whatever else struck us as exciting and we read them until the damn covers fell off. Studied them, took them apart, tried as best we could to draw like that (not having any art training--unmotivated teacher, remember?--we didn't know we shouldn't be doing that) but generally soaking in the energy of it, reveling in that adolescent rush of stuff that you and all your buddies think is the most awesome thing ever.

And so, we made out own superhero comics. They were the most limited edition comics it's possible to have, having a print run of 1 and all. And for the most part they were just us aping what was going on in what we'd read, but more often than not, some originality got through.

Looking back, I see what it was. If the comics I wanted to read didn't exist, I at least understood the possibility was there for me to make them myself.

And that was a pretty exciting prospect for me--I could make the stuff I wanted to see and read if it didn't exist, and it was an actual valid means of expression. God, the power I felt at knowing that--that ideas really do have power, and there's value in doing what you're passionate about.

That, I think, is why I still have a fondness for comics--it's a kind of gratitude.

And I'd like it to stay extant long enough for someone else to maybe learn that, too.


Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

Happy birthday! :) (Longer response to follow...)

Kazekage said...

Thanks, Diana! :)

C. Elam said...

Ah, I see I am not the only person who is trying to reinvent their blogging here. Good to see you!

I need to read the archives one day, but this is a heckuva fine post for someone sick as a dog. Get well, and happy birthday (again!).

Diana Kingston-Gabai said...

My interest in comics was always at least partially motivated by precisely that cultural stigma you mentioned: they're shallow, they're for kids, they're not "real" literature. Except you have "Sandman", and "Grendel", and "Watchmen", and even a ridiculously cartoonish character like the Hulk can have an epic, semi-mythical, poignant journey if you give him to Peter David for eleven years. As a medium, comics have produced some amazing stories that couldn't have been told anywhere else - that's why I read them, and defend them to anyone who'll listen. Because despite the stigma, they've still produced works of literature that are every bit as "real" as that damnable Harry Potter.

Kazekage said...

I think you're on to something Diana--I think that some of it has to do with the right concept at the right place at the right time to make the vital connection that opens one's mind to the possibilities of the genre and the art form.

It all depends on what clicks and when you find it, I reckon. :)