Comic books do contain literary value

I said last article the discussion on whether comic books constituted proper literature was a topic for another article. Three guesses for what this article will be about. The problem is the art – the words alone do not a piece of literature make, as the argument goes. But literature is art, so therefore comic books are literature.

Somewhere a professor of logic is yelling at the paper. So sue me, politics are slow right now. Sure, I could write about the Senate position in Massachusetts, but I’ve done Democratic incompetence to death for now, so I’m moving on.

California State University teaches a class on comic books as literature – but it is in California, so take that as you will. But when searching the Internet, classes about the role of comic books as literature are noticeable, and there are even PhD’s on the subject. This is not necessarily proof, but it does show this topic is debated and not clear-cut.

Teachingcomics.org lists a course that aims to “(analyze)… the comic book in terms of its unique poetics (the complicated interplay of word and image)… Explores definitions of “literature,” how these definitions apply to comic books, and the tensions that arise from such applications.”

The argument against comic books as literature is, because of the perceived emphasis on the images rather than the words, comic books lack the nuance and depth of more mainstream literature. However, some comic books can be very wordy.

Spider-Man never shuts up; this is reflected in the large amounts of text in his comics, which has increased recently. Even Web comics can be deep and involved. Anyone who says “Order of the Stick” is just a jab at role-playing games has never thought about, or really read that comic.

Another aspect of the problem may be the idea that the writer of literature is some stuffy guy with a pipe, in a chair, in front of a typewriter. Some of them still use those, but a computer is more common. A comic book writer is just part of the larger company producing the comic book.

But the writer’s work is no less important and no less involved than it would be if it was just one guy at a desk. Sure, the artist draws the picture, and the writer of a book has to write the picture, but that means the comic-book writer has more room for plot and characterization.

It’s important this controversy not become an argument of which is better, because that’s going to get ugly, fast. Comic books are just as viable literature as books, but the two should not compete. Both have something to offer, and both are important contributions to literature. One might be more recent, but it’s just as literary as books. Both are done from an artist’s passion, and both should be appreciated for what they offer.

Now, could a political figure please anger me to incur my wrath and my keyboard?


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