2008: The Year Everyone Everywhere Officially Got The Whole Comics-Are-More-Than-Just-Superheroes T

The cover of Liquid City

Liquid City: If we were making a list, which we aren't, this would be on it. Image Comics hide caption

toggle caption Image Comics

It's best-of-2008 time in comics land, with smart types of all stripes weighing in with their choices for the year's outstanding achievement in the field of funnybook-making.

I have no list for you, parumpapumpum, mostly because it's taken so long to work my way through all the lists that are already out there. (You can peruse the excellent choices of several professional comic book creators here.)

Anyway, I'd pretty much be copy-and-pasting the great list(s) of NPR's own smart type, Laurel Maury. (Go read; I'll wait.)

I really like her picks, with only a few quibbles (it's been a while since I've found much new or interesting in Warren Ellis' particular brand of brutal super-nihilism, but the guy knows how to tell a story. I'd also throw in some love for Image Comics' Liquid City, an out-there anthology of southeast Asian comics that is as bracing as it is baffling, and it's often pretty darn baffling.)

Maury cleaved her list in twain, Best Graphic Novels and Best Superhero Graphic Novels, which puzzled me at first — isn't a good book a good book, whether or not its characters happen to favor cerulean circus tights? What's up with this separate-but-equal jazz?

But I think what she's up to here — and I invite her to correct me if I'm wrong — is reaching out to you, the reader who still hears the phrase "comic books" and thinks "superheroes." (And, more to the point, promptly follows up that thought with, "Yeah, no thanks.")

Here's the thing, though: I'm not entirely convinced that you exist.

After the jump: Why I don't believe in you, and 2008 as comics culture tipping point.

Maybe I'm fooling myself, and you're a person who does indeed dismiss the vast and varied medium of comics as little more than garish wish-fulfillment fodder for arrested adolescents.

And you hold onto this belief, even now, today, after (comics fans: sing along with me) Maus and Persepolis and Jimmy Corrigan and Ghost World and Fun Home and Stuck Rubber Baby and God knows how many iterations of the POW! ZAP! COMICS AREN'T JUST FOR KIDS ANYMORE! feature article that's been cropping up in newspapers and magazines for decades now. (Dear Feature Editors: Comic book sound effects do not belong in headline copy. Like, ever. Please update your stylebooks accordingly. Signed, A Grateful Nation.)

But let's say you're out there still. And that when you think about comics at all, you're apt to blithely conflate the medium (comics) with its most prominent, and thus nigh-unavoidable genre (costumed do-gooders).

It's a mistake, albeit an understandable one. It's like thinking that all thrillers deal with global religious conspiracies. Or that all there is to television is dramatically lit crime scene investigators poking at dead bodies with High Tech Pokey Sticks. Or that all of French cinema features elfin, short-haired gamines in oversized sweaters gazing out windows at the rain for entirely too long while holding giant cups of cafe au lait in both hands, the palms of which they've covered in their sweater sleeves.

(...Okay, the French one's pretty much true. But still.)

But now, as 2008 comes to an end, I posit that the worm has finally turned, funnybook-wise. The unprecedented wealth of different styles and genres now available in comics form means just one thing: No longer will I or my fellow comics readers feel the need to justify the medium we love.

Know this: in 2009 we will no longer seek validation (the last "Comics aren't for just for kids" lede has been written, and you will not see its like again) or even mere tolerance; Instead, we will demand nothing less than fair representation of the medium as a medium — powerful, diverse, and impossible to dismiss.

Because, O Comics Naysayer, we're no longer the ones who need to justify our position.

You are.

... If you still exist, of course. If you do, enlighten me with words to that effect in the comments.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from