Is it ok for adults to read comics?

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One of the things to come out of the increasingly depressing aftermath of the ‘last Alan Moore interview’ is a discussion of who exactly comics are for which is the subject of an article by Jonathon Jones in The Guardian titled Is it really OK for adults to superhero-worship Alan Moore’s comics? Now the article is a load of nonsense from someone who is an ‘expert’ in the arts but knows next to nothing about the art form he’s talking about, but is it ok for adults to read comics?

Yes, of course it is. A book like Maus can only work as a comic and is every bit an adult book. Same goes for Persepolis, Lost Girls, Black Hole, Alice in Sunderland and dozens upon dozens of examples of comics that are adult, or at least, not juvenile in nature. Jones argument also hinges upon comics being a naturally childish genre that adults have only recently been reading, but that’s not true in the UK , and it’s certainly not been true in much of Europe and Japan where comics are an accepted artform and have been for decades.

Jones argument works only if you accept that the likes of Marvel and DC’s superhero lines are the mainstream and they’re not. Well, at least they’ve not been for at least a decade, and when things like Robert Crumb’s Book of Genesis becomes a bestseller then you have to wonder just where the mainstream lies.

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Comics are everywhere in the mainstream from Bitstrips to webcomics to just everywhere you turn and most people probably don’t think they’re reading comics but they are. They might not realise what they’re reading is a supposed childish artform but they are. Comics can do anything and by ‘anything’ I don’t mean big sweeping superhero battles but they can tell the sort of little stories you won’t see in film or TV, or in the media generally, and with the internet they can be distributed to a vast number of people in a way that’s never happened before.

So yes, it’s perfectly fine for adults to read comics because the chance is they’ve been doing it for years and they’re doing it today & there’s bugger all wrong with that. The question really should be is whether there’s enough good comics out there for adults, or people of all ages to be reading and that’s a different question, not to mention one that needs to touch upon some uncomfortable truths about comics but that’s a blog for another time…

4 thoughts on “Is it ok for adults to read comics?

  1. Of course it’s ok for adults to read comics, something I’ve been saying for most of my adult life to fans, friends, and the general public when I had to address them at talks or meetings. Where I find slight cause for questioning your response to the article is in the use of solely “posh”, “serious” comics. While realising there isn’t enough time in the world to list every quality, or entertaining or educational comic story or strip, (and if one were to, personal taste and opinion would quickly come into it) I would add that many stories in cheap American comics, monthly French and Italian magazines, or the range of British weekly comics which have been published for over 80 years – newspaper strips for longer – are worthy of consideration also for their qualities of artwork, storytelling and as a record of societal changes. And many of those stories were consumed by kids. But also by adults. And if it seems incongruous to adults nowadays to see another grown up reading a comic, whether it be a D.C. or a Broons book, it’s not, as that has been the case for decades.
    So, for anyone who might chance upon this article and my reply, search out Will Eisner’s Spirit; most stories featuring artwork by Alex Toth; Corto Maltese by Hugo Pratt; the works of Jacques Tardi (and not just Adele Blanc Sec); Most humour strips by Dudley D Watkins as a laugh can be a great tonic especially when so beautifully crafted; Jeff Hawke by Sidney Jordan for S.F. fans who don’t want huge space battles but prefer well crafted moral dilemmas and tales; Modesty Blaise by a number of creators for adult action and thrills professionally told. And right in the heart of American comics in the 1940’s, the graceful figures in a Lou fine drawn story; the humour and daftness in a Jack Cole Plastic Man story, or the craft in a western story drawn by Everett Raymond Kinstler.
    There is so much more out there amongst, admittedly, some real dross, that it would be a shame if we kept to examples from Waterstones G.N. shelves or reviews from journalists who could be doing it to appear “with it”

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  2. I mostly agree Steve, and I think that Guardian article is a great jumping off point for a wider discussion thanks to the usual ignorance Jones shows in whatever subject he’s talking about that week.

    I picked examples of books you’re likely to find in most good bookshops to show the paucity of the argument that adults don’t read comics as they clearly do otherwise Waterstones wouldn’t stock these books.

    Would you be interested in doing a discussion on this for publication here Steve?

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  3. Sorry to take so long replying. Yes, that sounds interesting. Why not send an email and have a chat about directions etc.

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