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Author David Lipsky has a confession to make. It's for our series My Guilty Pleasure where authors talk about a book they're embarrassed, ashamed, even mortified to admit that they love.
Mr. DAVID LIPSKY (Author): My guilty pleasure is one the culture keeps telling me I can drop the guilt about: comics, specifically the comics of Brian K. Vaughan. More specifically, BKV's - his fan name - brilliant graphic novel -okay, all right - his comic book, "Runaways." It's going to be a movie soon, at which point I will feel slightly less guilty. I love a comic book.
Vaughan is a genius. He's what made seasons three through five of "Lost" so terrific. Vaughan left the final year - haunted by an aspirational ghost: It wasn't his own show - and the comedy got lost with him. This was in a way a superhero story: One man bringing lightness to millions. This is my pep talk, part of how I work through the guilt of thinking Brian K. Vaughan writes the most crackling dialogue in the pop world.
"Runaways" is full of real-life moments like that - stuff I turn to non-word-balloon genres for. And the plot - six kids discover their parents are a Legion of Doom-type supervillain squad controlling Los Angeles and so take off - is brilliant if you like comics or have any anxieties about Southern California.
Some of the best modern comics do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sideways glosses on main stories we already know: It is a thrillingly wised-up medium now. What would you do if you learned your dad was Lex Luthor or Dr. Doom?
But I bear the books a grudge. Marvel collected them - because their biggest fans, okay, were female teenagers - in tiny digests with girlish covers that were intensely embarrassing to read on the subway. I kept locking eyes with people I could swear had just shaken their heads. And, all right, I fell a little in love with one of the female leads: the great flying beauty Karolina Dean, who turned out to be gay. A hardship I'd steered clear of in real life, and there I was stumbling into it in a graphic novel. Okay, comic book.
"Runaways" - while a consistently brilliant reading experience - has been an embarrassment festival. Way beyond a guilty pleasure. It has been a fount of awkwardness, shame and grave personal doubts. Which is to say, it turned me teenaged again.
And yet, Volume 1 is the best superhero comic I've read since I was a kid. And "Runaways" won a Top Library Award, a Harvey Award, was the lone comic to make the Library Association's top-10 YA list. It won an Eisner award, which is the comic industry's Oscar.
I tell myself these things to feel better. It sort of works. And then I open the thing - sweatily, guiltily - and it's just so good. I forget the guilt, and it's just pleasure. The superhero lesson "Runaways" teaches is not with great power comes great responsibility. It is: Enthusiasm is the world's rarest quantity. Love generously and without guilt and with gratitude for loving anything.
GREENE: David Lipsky is the author of "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip With David Foster Wallace." His selection for our series My Guilty Pleasure is Brian K. Vaughan's "Runaways." If you want to feel like a teen again, you can find an excerpt from "Runaways" at our website, npr.org.
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