I’m a big fan of comics – and although I am a fan of Spiderman, Superman, and my personal favourite, 2000AD – what I’m really talking about is the newspaper comics featuring stars like Garfield, Dilbert, and Calvin and Hobbes.
Unfortunately being in the UK, before the internet existed in it’s current form, finding these comics, particularly from the US was difficult. We don’t have many US comics in UK newspapers, and to be honest, very few papers in the UK have a good variety of any comic. That made feeding the habit difficult, as I would trawl, literally, around bookstores in the humour section to find the books I needed.
Garfield was my first foray into the market, and I bought one of the first books not long after it came out. Then, as I started looking around a little more I came across others, like Luann, For Better or For Worse, before finding the absolute joy that was Calvin and Hobbes before ultimately getting hold of Foxtrot, Sherman’s Lagoon and many many more.
Of course, the Internet has made these hugely accessible, and indeed not only do I read many comics every day, but I very deliberately subscribe (and by that, I mean pay money) to both Comics Kingdom (43 daily comics in my subscription) and GoComics.com (72 daily comics) I also continue to the buy the books. Why?
Because at the end of the today looking at screens and taxing the brain, what I really want to do is chill and read some still intelligent, but not mentally taxing, content, and that means reading my comic books. They give me a break and giggle and I find that a nice way to go to sleep.
The more important reason, though, is because I enjoy these comics and believe these people should be rewarded for their efforts. Honestly, these guys work their laughter muscles harder than most people I know, creating new jokes, every day, that make me laugh. They don’t just do this regularly, or even frequently. They do it *every day*.
As a writer I know how hard it is to create new content every day, and keep it interesting. I cannot imagine how hard it is to keep doing it, and making it funny and enjoyable for people to read.
Over the years, I’ve also bought a variety of interesting things, including the massive Dilbert, Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side collectibles. I own complete collections of all the books for my favourite authors, and I’ve even contacted the authors directly when I haven’t been able to get them from the mighty Amazon. To people like Hilary B Price (Rhymes with Orange), Tony Carillo (F-Minus), Scott Hilburn (The Argyle Sweater), Leigh Rubin (Rubes) and Dave Blazek (Loose Parts) I thank you for your help in feeding my addiction. To Mark Leiknes (the now defunct Cow & Boy), I thank you for the drawings from your drawing board and notebook, and I’m Sorry it didn’t work out.
But to Dave Kellett & Fred Schroeder I owe a debt of special gratitude. Of course Dave Kellett writes the excellent Sheldon, and not only do I have the full set, Dave signed them first. I’ve also got one of the limited editions Arthur’s…
But together, they produced the wonderful Stripped! which I funded through Kickstarter along with so many others (you can even see my name in the credits!). If you have any interest in how comics are drawn, where the ideas come from, and how difficult the whole process is, you should watch it. Even more, you should watch it if you want to know what these people look like.
Comic artists are people who for some people we don’t even know their name, but for some we might know, but probably very few who we ever get to see what they look like. Yet these people are superstars. Really. Think about it, they write the screenplay, direct it, produce it, provide all the special effects, act all the parts, and do all the voices. And despite wearing all of these different hats, every day, they can still be funny, and, like all good comedy, thought provoking.
For me there is one poignant moment in the film too. Understanding how, in a world where newspapers and comic syndication is dwindling fast, how these people expect to make a living. The Internet is a great way for comic artists to get exposure to an ever growing army of fans, but I think there’s going to be an interesting crossover period for those comics that started out in the papers.
The film itself is great. Not only do you get to see these comic artist gods, but you get to understand their passion and interest, and why they do what they do. That goes a long way to helping you empathise with them and their passion in line with you and your passion – reading them.
If you like comics, find a way of giving some money back to these people, whether it’s a subscription, buying their books or buying merchandise.