This summer we’ve resurrected one of our favorite features, I ♥ Comics, and each Wednesday through Labor Day comics bloggers and creators will discuss the things they love about the medium.
Here’s a confession: Comics are not the storytelling medium I love best. That place in my heart belongs to prose. I have degrees in English literature and creative writing, and when I tell stories, prose is the medium that comes most naturally to me. I adore words, and even as a kid didn’t balk from reading books without pictures in them.
However, as much as I would like to believe that words can express everything, I know that sometimes they can’t, and that sometimes they need to step aside and let images do the talking. Page 9 of Shenzhen by Guy Delisle brought that to light for me.
Like Delisle, I recently took a trip to China, and while my stay was far less extended than his, I encountered many of the same difficulties and experiences. Drawing to communicate with locals is one of them — Delisle covers that on page 20 — but the experience depicted on page 9 is one more intimate and far more difficult to describe. I know that it is because I tried when I returned to the U.S., and no one seemed to quite “get” what I was trying to show them through my words.
You see, every hotel room I stayed in while China — every one (I stayed in four cities) — had a console table between the beds, and the table had buttons on it from which you could turn the lights in the room on and off. The problem was, they were often unreliably labeled, so one would often have to cycle through the buttons in a state of exhaustion (China seems to produce that state more than any other) until you finally got all your lights turned out for the night. It was pretty funny.
At this point, I say, “I guess you had to see it.”
And that’s why I was so excited about page 9 of Shenzhen — because Delisle shows that experience. Now people can see what I’m talking about, and those visuals are matched with his charming description of his hotel room as his “own little universe.”
That’s what I love about comics — they blend mediums to convey more than perhaps words or pictures can convey alone. Inspired, I tried my hand at using the comic book medium to relate an experience I had in China. Unfortunately, I can’t draw, but my husband Brian Belew filled in for me there. I’m sharing it as part of my I Heart Comics feature because it is a story I want to share, and I chose to tell it as a comic. I love comics because they tell stories, and more than any particular medium, stories are what I love the best.