Thursday, May 19, 2005

War Cry

I love the hell out of comics. I love ‘em so much I started up a blog just to write about ‘em whenever I could. In the spirit of putting some gas back in the Zealot’s Lore tank – that is, juicing myself up for a second wind of more regular entries – tonight I’m gonna talk a little bit about why.

First of all, comics are unbelievably entertaining. They can take me anywhere, show me anything, any time I want. As I discussed in this entry, they strike a unique balance between providing the world of the story for me and demanding my participation in its creation; my mind is the motor and comics crank it up. All I have to do is let it run. Unlike film, I’m never irritated by the special effects being choppy here or too flashy there, and I’m not at the mercy of the artist to sit through anything – I can pick it up and put it down and move the whole story at the pace that best fits for me. And unlike straight prose, I’m not visualizing something by myself in the dark; I know I’m seeing what I was meant to see. And the potential there is unlimited. I’ve never found a medium that took me to so many different places with such smooth flexibility.

Comics make me feel like a kid. I read The Incredible Hulk and I feel the same sympathy for poor persecuted Bruce Banner I felt when I was eight; and I feel the same elation when he rises from within himself against the world that torments him to show he is the strongest one there is. I believe the Hulk is the strongest one there is, like other people believe in great football teams, and his every victory is my victory. Everyone’s got a super-hero that means something to them, who they’re always rooting for, and who’s silly spandex fights get their blood pumping. A lot of folks really identify with poor bad-luck Peter Parker. For some folks it's Batman or Wolverine. The Hulk is mine; and like any kid, I'll put my favorite up against your favorite any damn day of the week!

At the same time, comics make me feel uniquely grown-up. I’m in on something nobody else is in on. And it’s smart. They’d like to fool you by putting pictures in with the words, sure. But I’ve never read a prose book like Stray Bullets, or Sin City, or Planetary, that communicated in such a complex language, balancing the plain and the subtle in so exciting a way. I’ve never seen a movie as shockingly visceral as Preacher or The Ultimates or White Death – oh, film can physically shock me in a way impossible for comics, sure, but the flipside to that coin is that I know the limits of what’s happening in a movie; if the alien jumps out, I know just what it looks like and how scary it is. The Saint of Killers is limited only by my brain’s ability to imagine fright. The closing pages of White Death are as terrifying and hopeless as I’m able to conjure in my own mind. Most other adults don’t get the opportunity to realize that. And they never push their imagination beyond what the movie tells them.

I love comics because they’re pretty much the only medium that can get away with being totally ridiculous and still taking itself seriously. The Infinity Gauntlet was one of the best times I ever had in my life, and it’s totally absurd. I’ve laughed out loud reading Shaolin Cowboy, which has to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen – but it’s absolutely, unflinchingly itself, and it has nothing to apologize for.

I love comics because of the community that’s sprung up around them. I love talking about comics with my friends, enjoying everything about them that I’ve already said and more, and I love the truthfulness behind people’s passion for it – folks might get into movies to become famous, or into music to get laid, or into literature to get respect; folks get into comics because they love the shit out of ‘em.

Just like me.

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