Sunday, July 23, 2006

My Secret Reading Vice

Okay, so perhaps it's not so secret. But made you look!

Ever since I was a kid, I have loved comic books. Comic books were one of my early motivations in learning to read. I have a childhood memory from Grade 6, of an assignment from a teacher who understood the opportunity inherent in the number of comic books in evidence in his classroom. He required us to each pick one, and retell the story, focusing especially on written descriptions of the action happening on each page, in each panel. At the time, I thought of it as a better than average Reading assignment, but it never occurred to me that I could devote further analytical thought to comic books in general.

My first awareness of comics as something that mattered came when I read Lupoff and Thompson's "All In Color For A Dime" when I was 12 or 13. This book made me aware that comics had a history, and is probably the influence that made me start collecting them, as opposed to merely reading them.

My own collection extends back into the 50s (only a few examples, and all mostly cowboy comics), has some representation through the 1960s and early 70s, becomes fairly strong (at least as far as mainstream publications) in the late 70s and most of the 80s. By the time I met Jill in 1990, I had stopped regularly buying comic books. This happened for sseveral reasons -- first, available time became a semantically null concept as far as my own life was concerned; second, simple economics dictated other priorities; third, most importantly, I lost interest.

However, I have always resisted the notion of selling off my comics. Too many hours of personal history are tied up in those multi-coloured pages.
So therefore, it was a pleasure to find a web site that has thousands of comic book covers, many from books that I remember reading.

I am now an occasional comic book buyer. Prices are the most noticeable thing. How do kids afford comics today? The answer is that they probably don't -- the comic book market has shifted so that target audiences are mostly adults, rather than entirely for children. This is probably a development which would not have been anticipated, fifty years ago at the height of the anti-comics frenzy.

My son learned to read over the last year and a half, and I see some aspects of my own early reading experience repeating themselves. Corwin has gotten to the point where he can figure out a hitherto new word, all on his own. This last week, he could often be found with his nose buried inside a copy of "Teen Titans Go!" or the "Star Wars: Rogue Squadron" graphic novel. My nice warm feeling comes when I know that it took no effort to get him to read, and his reading is motivated by his own interest. How much better than that does it get??

An earlier geeneration, indoctrinated by the wrong-headedness of Fredric Wertham, would undoubtedly brand me as a Bad Parent for deliberately exposing my child to the corrupting influence of comic books. Nice to be able to relegate Wertham's views to being a msitake of history.

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