Adolescent Male Fantasy

Let me be upfront about this. I think comic books are sexist, racist, violent and expensive. Then I think about how many of them I own and I immediately think of something else. Whatever new topic I move onto gets the same scrutiny and I come to the conclusion almost everything is sexist, racists, violent and expensive if thats what I want it to be.

I could get into all of this theory about reader response theory and yadda, yadda, yadda, but I really just want to talk about comics. When I sit down to read a comic there is a lot of shit that I bring to that book with me. But what I am really looking for is a time when I was willing to accept the contrived conditions of any story. Comics are not simple stories, at least not the way I see them. When I first encountered the comic book I was a young boy seeking escapism and fantasy. What I found was a complex weaving of self-referential myths and plot devices. Once that kind of internal comic-book logic grabs you, you’re in. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Comic Books are contrived to put it mildly. But once they get you to accept the initial fantastical farce the rest is endlessly mutable. If you believe that this guy who got bit by a radioactive spider is a relatable character, then what else will you believe. Well he makes a living by getting his worse enemy to pay him to take pictures of himself. Sure. He’s married to a supermodel. OK. He made a deal with the devil that erased his marriage. I don’t know about that one.

Superheroes are whacky. We all get that. But there is something about comics that really opens you up. It might be the aforementioned adolescent male fantasy but thats just putting a name on it. What is it about the medium of comic books that makes 3 little white blobs relatable characters? We can somehow grant personhood onto these little guys from a place called “Boneville”. They become engaging. Not engaging for a three panel gag, BUT engaging for an epic run of a comic.

Serialized fiction helps to make these things more believable. There is a girl named Katchoo who lives with a girl named Francine. Katchoo loves Francine but Francine only loves men who are bad for her. Then David comes along and he falls in love with Katchoo. I don’t even know if that story would fly on Will and Grace. But in comics it works. It worked for nearly 14 years.

I think its because the people who create comic books are not limited by anything but their imagination. You don’t have a budget when you sit down to make a comic book. Its not like a movie or a TV show. Anything you can write or draw, you can do. As comic readers we have been trained to stall our expectations. We never know what we are going to find when we open the pages of a comic book. We know that if we believe in the rich millionaire playboy who dresses up like a Bat we will believe the heartbroken hipster who slings a cat at his foes.

Share on Facebook

Cartoonist and writer living in NYC.

Leave a Reply