Pop Cult’s Ode to Comic Readers

StripTease is completing a year and that’s why this special article is a celebration of comic fans. It’s a small insight into our community with the hope of expanding the family. While a comic reader will surely relate, I hope I can answer the questions of the rest of the world. Don’t skip this one if you want to introduce a friend to our world or if you want to feel proud of your identity.

Only two kinds of people read comics; children and overgrown children.

The beauty of this medium is that it can appeal to all kinds of people. Some are hard core superhero fans with shelves filled with 30 page paperbacks. Those of more sophisticated taste carefully preserve their glossy Tintin volumes. Intellectuals and Philosophical people find Neil Gaiman as capable a writer as Paulo Coelho (maybe even more). Even workaholic fathers smirk at RK Laxman’s satires. And how can we forget the descendant of the breakfast comic reader; she never ignores a Cyanide & Happiness short on her news feed.
Comics are one of the rare things that are not bound by time and space.

There can’t be too many of you, comics are scarce in this country.

A fan can have her humble beginnings at a neighbourhood newsstand or at a Facebook newsfeed. Some fandom can be indirectly advocated to bad broadcasting schedules. Many people started reading Manga after the related Anime went off air. Similarly most of us in India had contact with animation before comics. Indians didn’t watch Bruce Timm’s Batman: The Animated Series because they had read The Killing Joke. The show came first and there’s no chicken and egg problem in the Indian context, barring multilingual comics like Asterix, they’ve been here before Shaktimaan aired.

But you guys read the same thing. There’s no novelty.

In spite of our tolerance to reinterpretations and alternate universes we also thrive on originality. A very small proportion of material has been spun off (DC & Marvel used to copy each other a lot). Fans are also less genre-bound. Image Comics’ titles like The Walking Dead and Sex Criminals drew out the superhero folk. It’s interesting to note that the even Indian comic book industry has remained original while their movie counterpart still rips off overseas scripts.
But where’s our requirement for originality when writers are leeching out Batman stories for 75 years? The truth is some characters have become cult icons. It’s not just comics; we still love Zorro, Sherlock, Bond and Rajnikanth.

It’s just that something is weird about you folk.

Gone are the days when comic book readers were treated as social outcasts. The ticket sales of comic-book based movies and the footfall at events like Comic-Con reflect how much mainstream acceptance it has garnered. A comic book reader is as normal as a television watcher. Most importantly we aren’t treated as intellectually stunted kids who can’t read “real books” like Fountainhead. We just prefer a particular narrative medium.

In some ways comic book readers are more progressive than a book reader. You will never hear them say, “The book is so much better than the movie.” They understand that mediums are limited by number of pages or running time. Unless something like Daredevil or Fantastic Four happens. Actually even Ghost Rider was terrible. Some things are just unforgivably bad.

There are just so many, I don’t know where to start.

Some comic series do have quite an overwhelming legacy. It’s scary if you start from issue #1. However you must know that the only thing common in every comic in the universe is that they are more of Anthologies and less of Serials. Comics have always been very modular and episodic in nature. They are written while considering new readers joining in.
You don’t need to know how the character started, you just need to know how the story you’re reading began. Then there are plenty of one-shots and graphic novels waiting to be picked up. In all probability your favourite story in some other medium has either spun off from a comic or has given birth to one. Or you could ask your “socially inept” friend for some good old references.
But truly nothing is more wonderful than beginning with a new series. The journey is less lonely when it’s a first for both of you.