Comic genius.

As a children’s librarian I was often dismayed when parents asked “they only read comics, how can we stop them?”
WHAT?? Why would you want to? Comics are amazing!

As I kid I loved comics. I mean I really loved them. I read hundreds of books, but those were mainly from the library and so they were not my possessions. They were read, loved, and returned – but I owned comics. Actually, that’s only partially true – I hoarded them, bought them from jumble sales, swapped stuff for them, ran to the sweet shop for the next one. I had piles of them, huge and ever growing mounds of comics of all types. Oh how I looked forward to the Summer Special with its glossy cover and extra thick bumper set of stories.

Comics expanded my descriptive vocabulary massively – who knew I’d need words like scrunge, boink, splurge and spackle?! (Oh, but not in an Urban Dictionary sense, they are hell-bent on ruining some of my favourite comic-based words)
Why anyone would want to stop their child reading comics is beyond me. It’s all about words in context, and comics and all visual story-forms are a superb way to get people reading. They are especially good for people who might not feel that traditional books are for them. They are incredibly useful for anyone trying to learn another language, and I’ve seen teachers of EAL pupils have genuine “by George, he’s got it!” moments whilst using comics.

But enough with the educational reasons, I could prattle (another classic comic word there) for ages about the linguistic and literary importance of the comic construct… but the simple fact is that they are wonderful.

In a comic we are taken by the hand to a visual world that allows our imagination to expand way beyond its usual capabilities. We see things that we might not have conjured up without a bit of visual assistance, and yet there is still room for our own wild imaginations to add to the mix. That’s something that does not happen with a movie or a game, they’ve done all the thinking for us. Comics provide the reader with a jumping off point, and then we can tumble into the story at our own velocity.

I grew up on a steady diet of Buster (I was such a fan I even named my cat after this comic) The Beano and Whizzer and Chips
Then I wanted something a little more grown up and moved on to slavish devotion to the superb writing and illustrating in 2000AD. This lead to the inevitable move to graphic novels and then on to discovery of the genius of people like Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller.
I won’t lie to you – comics are a gateway drug. If you allow your kids to read comics it will lead to something stronger and they will get addicted. It’s just that simple.

I suggest you start them on something superbly written, deeply entertaining and rewarding – and I’m pitching for The Phoenix
If you haven’t heard of it yet, you are missing out. It really is the most wonderful creation by some of the best names in the business. It’s smart, funny and with genuine crossover appeal (if you are not nicking it to read before your kids I’ll eat my hat.) Both the website and the app are brilliant too as they add to the enjoyment between issues.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some Monster Fun ahead of me.

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14 thoughts on “Comic genius.

  1. How I love comics! One of the plusses of spending my mornings writing in the local library is the huge collection of graphic novels … procrastination, I know but quality procrastination. As a young person I spent hours copying and studying drawing styles in comic books. It still bewilders me when perfectly sane people do not rate them.

    • Dawn Finch says:

      Absolutely! How people can doubt the merits and worth of comics is beyond me. Some people are really missing out just because they have some kind of snobbery about visual forms. What fools!

  2. Nick Cross says:

    Hooray for comics! My wife still doesn’t believe they’re as good as “proper books”, but for once she’s actually wrong about something!

  3. George Kirk says:

    Fantastic! Our children are both great readers for their age and we’ve always made the point of reading both novels and comics with them. Very often it is the comic that they are able to read independently for themselves at first, but this gives them such a confidence boost that they are able to go onto to read anything.

    Also it’s important bonding time, their father enjoys the super hero graphics as much as they do, so they are really sharing something special.

    Comics are just so cool.

    • Dawn Finch says:

      You are so right with that. I love that you raise the all important issue of dad time. Dads are so important to reading enjoyment, and who wouldn’t want as much quality time as possible?!

  4. I was very lucky to have had parents who not only encouraged me and my brothers to read comics but also read them themselves. Only downside was that there were a lot of people trying to get their paws onto any comics that came into the house. I’m going to link to this from my blog – you put it all so much better than I could and it is brilliant that it is coming from a librarian and writer.

    • Dawn Finch says:

      Thank you! Comics were (and still are) such an important part of my life. It’s all about reading for pleasure, that’s what sets it as part of your life forever – enjoyment. It shouldn’t be hard work, there are so many routes to enjoying reading and comics are an essential part of the journey.

  5. Lovely post. Comics were my gateway drug to ‘proper’ novels!

  6. I must admit I had a dim view of comics, my husband still reads them! But you’ve made some really good points here and I’d like nothing more than to spark the little one’s imagination through art as well as improve their literacy.

  7. Nancy Carter says:

    I always loved and my girls currently love comics, but we find them soooo expensive at around £3.99 a pop its £8 for the pair of them, so they are currently a very rare treat.

    • Dawn Finch says:

      It can seem expensive, but subscriptions help to spread the cost. A comic never has one read, try having some follow-up fun activities based on the comic so that it will last longer. The Phoenix is great because it’s longer than traditional comics and has a fantastic website and app to keep it going between issues.

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