The University Of Comics
I learnt everything I know from comics. Seriously.
The regimented and soul destroying confines of school were not for me, and in spite of the efforts of a few genuinely good teachers, the malaise of disinterest engendered by the majority threatened to forever suck the joy of discovery from me.
Because that’s what education really is: discovery.
Wonder. Mystery. Adventure.
That’s what comic books were to me. That’s what they still are.
A guide to bigger ideas.
From chasing up all things Arthurian at my local library after reading Matt Wagner’s, The Demon mini series, to rabidly hunting for obscure copies of A Princess From Mars after reading Moore and O’Neill’s, League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, comics have made me an expeditionary of further education.
Hate, by Peter Bagge was a revelation of alternative music glory, but its letters page expanded my musical boundaries beyond anything I could have hoped for. It excited me with suggestions, demands of what I should be listening to and helped me build the world I wanted to live in, to build around me the person I knew I already was but did not have the tools to construct.
The first time I used the internet was to search up the independent artist, Henriette Valium after seeing a link in the back of Zero Zero #16 by Fantagraphics. His art blew my mind and in the dark, medieval days of the information super highway, was like seeing beyond the veil and peeking at something gloriously forbidden.
Neil Gaiman led me, not only to his own considerable works of fiction, but stoked my passion for literature, in the beauty of worlds and forbidden landscapes; of hidden dreams and nightmarish glories. He made me believe in the singular wonder of another’s vision and the importance sewn within.
The Hernandez Brothers blew all concepts of sex for my burgeoning teenage mind in the most confronting, glorious and uninhibited way through Gilbert Hernandez, Birdland comic. Never have I seen such glory, such exploration and glee in communicating the power and breadth of sex as that comic did, nor have I ever seen such a thing since. Pornographic? Most likely. Liberating and empowering to anyone who should come into contact with it, male, female or otherwise? Most definitely.
Claremont’s X-Men highlighted the dynamics of relationships; Judge Dredd introduced me to the complexities of politics and bureaucracy. Grant Morrison continues to force me to further study my science books and Moore will forever push me on to be smarter and to apply that intelligence better.
For education is the playground of the curious.
It is only for those who want to learn outside the auspices of teachers or set curriculum, it is a path laid out for those who want to grow within themselves, better their world and, in turn, the world around them.
Comics are so often maligned as trash; disposable junk with no real inherent value.
Yet those of us who have deciphered them know better.
We know the wealth of gifts within, the truly expansive joy of discovery, which is guaranteed for the conscientious explorer.
Comics broaden worlds. They de-construct story to its true essence, its purest self and lay it out for you, panel by panel. It makes the impossible palatable and stokes the fires of your imagination.
All you have to do is read.