This week in class one of the things we're discussing is Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. And I've got some stuff I want to say about it, but I think that can wait a little bit, or at least until tomorrow. For now, here's something else.
So I've already put up one big long post about why I like comics, but I never really got into how it came up in the first place. I'm sure that if anyone's reading this who's not actually in the class, there are still a few skeptics out there, and I'm sure you're saying to yourselves, "How in the world could this girl--from all appearances reasonably intelligent and possessed of a sharp wit--get interested in something as childish as comic books?"
Well, here's how it goes. This is my comics-reading timeline.
When I was little, I read lots of Calvin & Hobbes, with occasionally wordless flips-through in...um, I think they were Howard the Duck singles, actually. Not really sure. So that got me interested in comics in a general way, because they were fun. Mostly newspaper strips. Then there was Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend, a book belonging to my parents. It's a collection of Winsor McCay strips about people having freaky dreams which they then blame on having eaten too much before bed. It was both interesting and, if you'll excuse the phrasing, fucking terrifying. I was seven! (Or maybe eight.) I was not prepared for that shit! So that sort of put me off non-newspaper-strip comics for a while.
Then for a while there was my whole terrifyingly huge manga obsession, which we will skip over in the interests of everyone's time and sanity. I think Japanese comics are very important, but they're also a whole different ballpark, with their own set of symbols and archetypes and cultural assumptions. Although I do still maintain that Petshop of Horrors may be one of the most awesome series on the planet. When I was big into manga, I didn't like American comics at all. I thought they were childish and had bad art. And they're all really basic superhero-saves-the-day stories, right? What besides Batman is cool about that?
The thing that got me off my manga-only kick and back into reading comics in general was Preludes and Nocturnes, the first volume of Neil Gaiman's comic Sandman. I was a fan of Neil Gaiman, which is why I was interested at all, and had already read Sandman: The Dream Hunters, which is cool, but not a comic--it's an illustrated novella.
I read Preludes and Nocturnes and it was really well-written, and strange, and intense and scary and involving in a way I hadn't encountered before. People who have read it may be able to guess why; "24 Hours" in particular is an extraordinary use of the comics form, and particularly an extraordinary use of the standard 24-page single-issue size. It took what would have been a creepy story anyway and made it into something terrifying and riveting, with a forced pace that made my chest hurt, I was so tense. So, bang, pow, and there it is: Miss Becca loves comics, because her favorite author wrote one that made her head explode, and now she wants to see if other people can do the same thing.
Then, of course, there was Watchmen. My dad got me a copy of Watchmen--actually, the same one I've got here at school with me now to use as one of my textbooks. And that also did things to my brain. But it deserves its own post. Several, actually. Which won't be until the end of the semester.