Welcome to the second edition of the column that tells you the proper way to think. In light of the “Best of 2008″ lists that are coming out right now, I thought I’d ask the question, why do these lists of “graphic novels” (don’t call them comic books, those are for kids!) have to be full of obscure art-house style books? Is that really the only thing that’s any good?
First off is the aforementioned graphic novel vs. comic book distinction. Some of these are GNs, and that’s cool. Some are collections of comics, cool as well. Some are “serialized GNs,” or set stories that were released in a monthly nature first but are still self-contained and not part of another ongoing story. Why does it hurt these writers so much to make these distinctions? Can we not make note of what “type” a particular book falls under, if only to let readers know their options for how they can read this medium.
In addition, any variation of 60s Batman TV show sound effects (Pow! Bam! Boom!) should result in the writer being hit over the head until you hear at least the same sound effects, if not some new ones. Also, as the comic industry has been catering to adults for decades, with the last several years having adults as the primary audience. Again, any variation of “Comics aren’t just for kids anymore” should automatically mean the list can never see print.
I digress, though those two possible introductions are in fact great indicators that you’re reading a pretentious list, I wanted to talk more about the lists themselves. I am not arguing at all that popularity equals quality. The problem is when things are seemingly shunned because of their popularity. It’s the same thing that largely happens with movies and awards. The tendency is to go strictly to ultra-serious, ultra-dramatic, and often obscure options that few have seen/heard of/read, just to show the nominator or organization’s amazing breadth of knowledge and experience. I am very glad that comics and graphic novels can be used and do get used for so many different kinds of stories. The fact remains that the majority of comics are superhero books, and some of them are very, very good.
I love the idea of celebrating the diversity that has beenbrought to comics, with much of that diversity coming in the last few years thanks to publishers like Top Shelf, Oni, AiT, and many others. I beg future best of, top ten, etc. list makers to contemplate that part of diversity is those “mainstream” or superhero books out there, as well. I assure you, you’ll find some great reads, and even some of the best reads of the year.
That’s my opinion, and it’s right.