The Seclusion and Community of Comics

You don’t need to be an obsessive collector to enjoy comic books. You don’t need to seal them in plastic bags and put them in specially made cardboard boxes. In fact, please don’t! Comics need casual readers. Comics need a variety of consumption at all levels to return comics to a level of pop culture entertainment. Just like many people buy the occasional movie ticket, DVD, CD or video game, or download them, so too should everyone feel the urge to check out a graphic novel here and there.

But if, after sampling and casually reading, you feel the pull to dive deeper, you’ll find an incredibly engrossing and enriching world. Or worlds, really.

The Comics Reporter Tom Spurgeon recently went through a harrowing health scare that he almost didn’t survive. In fact, he’s still recovering and will be for the foreseeable future. His reflection on that time, where he thinks back on his life and life in comics, is funny and also incredibly moving. It may be a bit long, but it’s worth it. He talks about working in comics, as well as the industry and community.

I don’t think you need to be neck-deep in comics culture to appreciate what he’s talking about because it’s universal. We all belong or want to belong to a culture or sub-culture that has given us such lasting friendships and memories. Serious health problems have a way of putting things in perspective.

It’s interesting to me that this is Tom’s first real medical experience. I know several lifelong comic readers who first discovered comics as children in a hospital. A hospital bed is a lonely and isolated place, and for them, comics offered an escape and a connection to the outside world in a brand new way. You may read alone, but real human hands drew those pictures and wrote those words. Unfortunately Tom didn’t have any comics, but they were still with him after a lifetime of reading, studying, and critiquing them, and working in the industry, where he’s met and befriended countless creators and industry professionals, those real human hands that created are a part of his life. Those human hands carried Tom through a nearly fatal summer, just as those human hands carried those kids.

That’s the power of comics and the power of art.

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