03 February 2008

Liking Superheroes Is Nothing To Be Ashamed Of

Essex County Volume 1: Tales from the Farm
Jeff Lemire

Possible spoilers

Something I mentioned in my last post that I think warrants further discussion is Lester's comic, the one originally drawn and written by Jeff Lemire at the age of nine. Mainly I think it's worth looking at because it's good evidence of where he started from, comics-wise.

First off, the art. Even here he doesn't use a lot of shading. Not that nine-year-olds often do, but his art now is still very much like this--more competent, more abstract, but primarily just line art, with all shadows in one shade of black. The people aren't that bad either; this child is in need of an anatomy book, but given the shapes of the muscles and the poses in which they stand, at least he's been observing and absorbing the world around him. Can't say much for consistency, but it's no worse than, say, a low-budget cartoon from the Seventies. Inconsistent enough to be noticeable, but not enough to really make someone wince.

The writing is...well, it's a kid-written superhero comic. It's not terribly complex. Villain escapes from jail, superhero fights him, villain is sent back to jail. But I always like to see a kid writing something.

Mainly it just makes me sad that this is the only real example of a superhero comic that comes up in a story about a child obsessed with superheroes. Combined with Lester's abandonment of his mask and cape at the end of the story, it serves to imply that superhero stories are only for children, and that once you grow up you can't really think they're cool anymore. I mean, Jeff Lemire obviously started off liking superheroes, given that he drew that minicomic too, but in his interview this week on the podcast Indie Spinner Rack, he seemed almost ashamed to admit that he still does.

And that's sad. Superheroes are really pretty awesome, and can themselves be vehicles for wonderful, serious stories--witness The Dark Knight Returns, for example, or anything by Alan Moore with superheroes in it (like Supreme: The Story of the Year or the Top 10 books).

Caped crusaders and men of mystery are not just for children. I mean, I may act childish sometimes, but most of the really enjoyable serious literature discussions I've had with people were about comics. Superhero comics. Just as I've had other cool analytical discussions with friends about, say, books I read for the first time when I was eight.

Just because it gets marketed to kids doesn't mean it's for them.

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