Saturday, 5 January 2013

Mainstream media still doesn't 'get' comics


The news that the wonderful Dotter of Her Father's Eyes by Mary and Bryan Talbot has won a Costa literature award for best biography has spread throughout the mainstream press, and with this news comes the depressing realisation that people still don't understand comics.

Above video: Channel 4 News report 

Channel 4 News ran the story, complete with a cheesy comic book skit that felt more awkward than all of Hugh Grant's acting roles combined. Bizarrely, they start going on about comic strips for some reason, which is like a story about a new production of Hamlet being compared to a Fast Show sketch - it's wrong and out of place. I love comic strips, but to compare something like The Far Side to Watchmen is ridiculous. They then go on to say that comic 'strips' have never been about literature in the past despite citing V For Vendetta as one of these past comics. The reporter asks Bryan, who is a legend in the comics industry, when comics stopped being just a thing for 'spotty teenagers', in which he deftly responds by talking about The Dark Knight Rises and Watchmen which took off in the mid-eighties. 

Don't get me wrong - it's good that the press is reporting on 'serious' comics but they still haven't shaken this image of comics being for kids. Go into any comic store now and leaf through the books sat on the rack. You will find very few comics that are actually marketed towards children. Sure, you have Marvel Superhero Squad and the wonderful The Phoenix, but most superhero comics aren't aimed at children. Their stories are usually complex, their themes mature and their nature is somewhat violent. 

As the Forbidden Planet blog points out, the press tends to look at comics as a bit of a dirty word, like something you're not sure you should be saying to your grandmother. The Guardian used all sorts of weird variations in their report, like 'graphic work', 'graphic medium', and 'comic genre', without realising that it's okay to think that comic books can be read by fully grown adults with mortgages and marital problems just like any other book. 

So, mainstream media - please stop talking about comics like they are all for pre-pubescent kids and geeks. Serious comics dealing with heavy issues have been around for a long time now and it does the creative people that work on them as a living a disservice to paint them with one brush. However, do talk about comics. The more you do it, the more 'normal' it becomes and the more people will start appreciating how fantastic they are.