Who Cares About the Comics?

Comics expert and university professor M. Thomas Inge has written an introductory essay praising the art form called Who Cares About the Comics? for the local free weekly paper’s website.

Although few have recognized the cultural and aesthetic values of the comic strip, and its partner the comic book, the time has come to acknowledge that these are no ephemeral forms of entertainment, although printed on cheap paper and designed to be thrown away. Rather they are a significant part of our heritage to be cherished for their enduring artistic and social importance.

The 21st century is a time in which most of the information we need is conveyed to us visually, by way of the television, film, ipod, or computer screen. The comics, then, and its latest development the graphic novel, are admirably suited to engage the interest of people with a cultural experience that is both emotionally and intellectually satisfying. With the comics in hand, we will remain verbally and visually literate and hopefully a little more cheerful and humane.

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4 Responses to “Who Cares About the Comics?”

  1. Sebastian Says:

    Nice essay, but apart from the one remark “and its partner the comic book” he focuses exclusively on newspaper comic strips. So he’s not exactly praising the “art form” comic, but a (today, progressively) narrow subset of it, it seems to me (although that, of course, was historically the root of everything else, IIRC).

    BTW, out of personal interest: is there a difference in meaning between saying “comics” and “the comics”? Stuff like that doesn’t really show up in dictionaries.

  2. Johanna Says:

    It’s also still the form that most people are more likely to stumble across, I think. But yes, point taken… I think his studies focus mostly on strips.

    As for the other question, I think “the comics” sounds a bit old-fashioned, but that may be just me.

  3. Brigid Says:

    I think most people experience graphic art in the form of comic strips because they are part of our daily existence. You don’t have to seek them out; they arrive every day in the newspaper.

    Just last night, at a Christmas party, I had a long, intense conversation with a woman I barely know about whether Liz and Anthony should be getting together on For Better or For Worse. Clearly, she and I were reading completely different sets of values into it, and she was surprised when I told her that most of the internet seems to be dead set against it. This woman doesn’t read any other comics, but she has been following FBFW for 15 years and feels personally invested in the characters, to the point where she was discussing minor plot points that happened years ago. Besides being readily available, most newspaper strips deal with the minutiae of daily life, I think invites comparisons to our own lives that may not occur to readers of Swamp Thing or Fruits Basket.

  4. Johanna Says:

    Very insightful observation. The things comic strips are often criticized for — over-familiarity, lack of graphic innovation, and so on — are what make them comfortable to their readers.

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