Saturday, November 12, 2011

Keeping Comics Alive

Working as a freelance writer is a blast. Mostly. The parts not encompassed by that "mostly" include that "not having a lot of money" thing. And that often leads to adjunct-professoring (raises hand) and working in retail (raises other hand). Neither of those are writing, so that is a bit of a downer... but hey, at least I have jobs that help me live in this crazy job market. I'll be honest, though: sometimes, working in retail - even if the job is in a bookstore - can be a bit of an inspiration killer.

However... there are those few occasions when something happens that makes you smile, think, and then smile some more.

I'm working a seasonal job at Barnes and Noble, and I've had a bit of a hard time balancing it with my teaching job and writing. This past Friday, I was in a grumpy "I should be writing" kind of mood when a little girl came up to me and asked me where the Sonic comics were. I took her to our comics section, which had the monthlies, and then to the Independent Reader area, which had many, many collections of the stories. Much to her mother's chagrin, this little girl proceeded to talk my ear off for an entire half hour about how awesome Sonic is, how great comics are, and how every supporting character in Sonic is better than Justin Bieber.

Now, it's cool to see anyone geek out over something. Thing is, though, I wouldn't have expected to see a girl who couldn't be more than ten so fully entranced by comics. Why? Well, the industry has been marginalizing women for quite a while, and recent comics have turned characters that young girls loved into space-bimbos. That's not even really it, though. Anyone paying attention knows that, despite what some creators and shop owners will try to get folks to think, comics is no longer an all boys club. What surprised me was how young this girl was. Comics have long since been going the whole "comics aren't for kids anymore!" route. But... why? Sure, the gritty stories have their places and I enjoy a lot of them, but even when I was a kid (and I'm just in my early twenties here), I had a collection of superhero comics that didn't feature faces being ripped off.

A lot of people stick with the whole "this is a dying industry" spiel. I disagree. As long as fans as passionate as that young Sonic fan exist, the industry will survive. However, we should give fans like that more comics that they can read. More stories that they can love. DC is doing a great job with their Tiny Titans book, but it's a bit silly that not one of the New 52 has an "everyone" rating. Why?

And remember... writers don't have to dumb down their stories to appeal to kids. Batman: The Animated Series showed that it's possible to create a complicated, engaging story that will appeal to adults the same way it will to children.

So let's keep this industry alive. If not for my livelihood, for those young Sonic fans that want more books to geek out over.

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