Comic Books and Me: A Nerdy Coming of Age Story

I don’t remember when I encountered my first comic book, or my first superhero. But I’m pretty sure both were Spider-Man. My parents encouraged me to pursue whatever interested in me, and for a kid who liked Power Rangers and whatever video games he could get his hands on, the adventure stories found in superhero comics were extremely attractive to me.

To be honest, though, while my exposure to comics started early and I’ve always been confused by people who discounted comic books as juvenile or meaningless, it took a while before I began reading them with any consistency. When I was in middle school I was, like many kids, caught up in an influx of media coming into the United States from Japan, and I found myself a reader of Japanese comic books (manga). I enjoyed them  for a while, but manga is expensive, and I just didn’t see the point in buying a book I could read in an hour for the same price that I could get a book that would last me a couple of weeks.

Would you believe that this costs like 12.95 in some places?

So my reading of comics sort of petered out– until Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. As a kid, I didn’t find the Dark Knight a very interesting character. He seemed like an unpleasant, grouchy grown-up who wouldn’t be very fun to spend one’s time around. But as I got older, and saw Nolan’s extremely mature, intelligent adaptations of the Batman mythology, I became more and more of a fan. After I saw The Dark Knight (2008) in theaters and had my mind pretty thoroughly blown, I started tracking down Batman graphic novels. Frank Miller, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore: I read all the must-reads of Batman’s past and from there entered into the broader world of DC Comics and modern comic books in general.

So when I came into reading Y: The Last Man in this class, I came in when a pretty thorough knowledge of comics, and I had heard of this book before. I was enthused to read it. Unfortunately, the actual product, at least in this first collection… left me fairly unimpressed. The art is great, certainly, and the pages are laid out in a great, interesting way. It’s always a fun book to look at. The premise is interesting, as well, and I feel like Vaughan could have done some pretty compelling things with it. I found the writing in general, however, sort of lackluster. The dialogue, especially Yorick’s, was cheesy and a bit grating, and the book didn’t do a good enough job, in my opinion, of exploring the world without men and how society would actually respond to such a thing. It all seemed a bit caricatured. And it bothered me that the only voice of feminism in this book (which could be all about feminism) seemed to be coming from the caricatured, fairly ridiculous Amazon cult. I frankly found myself rolling my eyes a few times.

Another book in the apocalyptic-comic-book genre that I want to read, and that, if it were more accessible, would have been an interesting assignment for this class, is Katushiro Otomo’s Akira. Akira is an extremely influential manga series, having inspired what is commonly called the best anime film ever made (Akira (1988)). I’ve seen the movie, and it’s absolutely fantastic, albeit very hard to understand. I’m eager to read the manga that inspired it.

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