Tuesday, February 28, 2006
(This was my article for 2BU's edition on comicbooks but it didn't make it on print. I'm rather proud of this piece as it gives an inside look into the mind of the comic book reader. Feel free to comment!)
Psychology of a Comic Book Reader
Nerds. That’s what they call us comic book readers. People attempt to differentiate us from the geeks and weirdoes but all they do is just label us and put us neatly in a box. It’s a natural human reaction to keep at arm’s length what they don’t understand. Because the truth is they are afraid of us. They are afraid of what we know, scared that we hold the key to some unknown universe. And they envy us. Because we have had a glimpse of the future and that is something they will never have.
We comic book readers live in a world of panels and speech balloons. Although life in a comic book may seem constricted, we know that it represents the absurdity of the real world. We live in amazement at what life is and what life can be. We become its audience as we see life through the writer’s eyes.
We are special. Print readers create a world uniquely their own with the writer’s world subjectively formed in their heads. But we comic book readers already know what the world should look like. With the expertise of the artist’s drawing, our Metropolis looks exactly like your Metropolis. Our Daily Bugle is the same Daily Bugle you read about.
Though print readers may argue that it takes the fun out of imagination and creativity, we comic book readers beg to differ. We also use our imagination. We use it to experience our character’s pain and triumph. We feel every punch, every blood-splattering scene on the glossy pages. Our stomachs turn with panels of tortures, entrails and decapitation. And our hearts melt with a beautiful sunset, a pretty girl and a child’s first steps.
We are art aficionados. Each sketch, each drawing is a priceless art for us. Just as art collectors thrive in search of the masterpiece so do we comic book readers. We appreciate good art: the perfectly drawn explosion site, the voluptuous super heroine and tasteful landscape. Even bad art is beautiful to us. Abstraction and distortion has a place in our world without prejudice.
We are code breakers. Have you seen the movie Unbreakable? Remember how Elijah Price’s mother dissects the anatomy of the villain through the artwork. “ See the villain’s eyes? Note how they are larger than the other characters. They insinuate a slightly skewed perspective on how they see the world. Just off normal,” says this formidable woman. This is what makes a comic book different from print. Sometimes what you need is a picture to convey what words can’t express.
We bring hope. Time and time again, comic books have proven their value in a teenager's life. Comic books give them an alternative world to let loose their real selves. By reading these books, we relate in the hero's struggles. This is what The X-Men and Spiderman give us. The X-men are outcats of society who chooses to defend those who persecute them. Spiderman is about a boy's discovery of power, his humanity and struggle with his uniqueness while trying to live a normal life. We reconcile the future with the present through the human condition. And though life may never have a happy ending, in our pages we can make the world a better place than it truly is.
And lastly, we are kids at heart. We know that once we reach the end of the page, we will hunt for the next issue like a kid hungers for his next candy. We are big kids who enjoy reading picture book with stories that reflect our own experiences. Maybe not exactly the same experiences but parallels.
Do not envy us. Do not fear us. We are from but one race. Instead, try to understand us. Think out of the box and sneak a peek at what the future might be like. View the world through the eyes of a comic book reader. It’s full of action, drama, horror, suspense and comedy combined to form a psychedelic hue. Our world is not so alien to you. After all, you’ve been there once, have seen our naked gypsies…all in the comfort of your dreams.