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The Middle Ground #56: Why Do I Read Comics?

by  in Comic News Comment
The Middle Ground #56: Why Do I Read Comics?

I’ve wondered, in the past, why people read superhero comics. It wasn’t meant as a snarky “But they’re for kids!” question setting the answerer up for a slap, but a genuine interest that came from me wondering why I read superhero comics and not being able to come up with an appropriately satisfying answer. Even more confusing to me, in so many ways – and not at all, in so many others – is why I read non-superhero comics.

For one thing, I read non-superhero comics differently from their costumed brethren. I’m not entirely sure why, but I tend to save up single issues until I’ve got enough for a solid chunk, and I tend to prefer collections and OGNs to single issues in general, whereas the single issue is by far by preferred format for superheroes. Is that because I’ve been taught to appreciate the cliffhanger, never-ending battle ongoing format for the latter, but appreciate more of a complete story for the former? I have no idea, but there’s a difference in what I get out of the superhero genre and the non-superhero genre work – What I can get out of it, as well, perhaps – and what I’m willing to forgive in superhero vs. non-superhero comics (I’m a far, far pickier reader for non-superhero work, finding fault more easily and less likely to give creators the benefit of the doubt, for some reason; I can find myself thinking an issue of Flashpoint is more enjoyable and entirely objectifiably “more successful” in some way than, say, Fantagraphics’ Wally Gropius, even though even I don’t necessarily believe that’s true).

For another, I have a nostalgic connection with superhero comics that I don’t, really, with other forms. Maybe science fiction with my 2000AD past? But the non-superhero comics I react most favorably too, I didn’t start reading until my teens, with Deadline and Eddie Campbell and the like. There’s no “I’ve known these characters since I was a kid!” feeling to get me interested; I need more of an individual hook, and I need something… new, for want of a better way of putting it: Something that makes it seem worth the investment of time and money.

But despite all of this, I’ve found out that I connect more strongly with non-superhero work now than I do the alternative. Maybe because I’m pickier, and it’s harder for me to settle for less, but the non-superhero work that I find myself really responding to, I’ll inevitably fall for more, and re-read more than the more recent superhero work.

I’m tempted to be cheeky and say, I read non-superhero comics because they’re better than superhero comics, but I’m not sure that’s true. Really, I read them because I read comics and you can’t stay in one genre forever, but there’s more to it than that… It’s just a more that I can’t quite put my finger on.

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