The Superpowered Significance of Comic Books

Jordan Vogel, Chief Reporter

Marvel’s highly anticipated blockbuster Avengers: Endgame released in theaters on April 26, 2019 to spectacular fanfare and outstanding success, eventually reaching number two on the list of all time highest grossing films.

A hugely significant amount of popular entertainment consumed by general audiences in recent years is adapted from the pages of comic books. Films, TV shows, and video games are so often based on the iconic characters of Marvel, DC, and other publishers, but it seems that source material falls by the wayside in many cases.

Many factors play into the general unpopularity of comic books and graphic novels, as several misconceptions and assumptions intimidate potential readers and discourage them from giving the medium a try, such as notions that they are contrived and redundant, or all about superheroes. Not only do comic books reach far beyond the superhero genre, but the ones that do fall under that umbrella are far more accessible than one might think.

“I think the thing that I like the most about [comic books] is that they’re an escape from the real world and they’re accessible to everyone,” said junior Aayan K.

A common excuse used by those who may be interested in reading superhero comics is that the stories are too complicated for them to become invested as a new reader. However, while the rich tapestries of legendary characters like Spider-Man seem daunting at first, there are so many unique stories that readers should feel free to pick and choose which ones they check out. As long as there’s a basic understanding in place of Peter Parker’s fateful encounter with a radioactive spider, and his oath to uphold the great responsibility that comes with his great power, there are very few graphic novels of The Amazing Spider-Man that can’t be picked up and enjoyed independently of what’s come before.

Many also complain that the formatting of a comic book, with its countless speech bubbles and text boxes spanning several panels per page is too challenging to follow, but in reality it’s a simple process. On any given page, text is meant to be read first from left to right, and then from top to bottom. In any case where the intended order is anything other than that, the letterer (one responsible for inserting text over the illustrations) will clearly telegraph it.

While superhero comic books are the most successful in graphic works, typically being what one first associates the medium with, their true reach is so much greater than that. War, horror, romance, and western are some examples of the genres that have excelled in comic book form, with some classics even being taught in schools.

“The first graphic novel I ever read was actually Persepolis, which I read because it was part of my curriculum. It, for me, who loves reading, opened up a new avenue to explore,” said English teacher Sarah Beth Vogt.

Even something as simple as a Sunday morning newspaper comic strip has the power to engage a reader with its appealing artstyle and snappy comedic timing.

“I don’t think that I read too many traditional comics growing up, at least not serial comics, but I did love Calvin and Hobbes,” said English teacher Mary Ellen Desmond. 

Comics also have the unique attribute of interpreting the sensibilities and concerns of the times that reflect the social climate of the era in which they were published palletably and understandably. From the famous image of Captain America socking Adolf Hitler in the jaw from the cover of 1941’s Captain America Comics #1 to Kamala Khan’s troubles of fitting in as a Muslim American teenager expressed in 2014’s Ms. Marvel: No Normal, comics have always been accurately representative of the constantly changing human experience.

It’s unfortunate how often comics and all their various forms are taken for granted. Their value is tremendous, they tell the stories of everyday humans of all backgrounds who inspire readers with their incredible feats of heroism, and the surrounding pop culture landscape owes much of its success to the iconic characters they created.🔳