I don’t think I’ll ever be a comic book expert. To me, there’s this vast image of expertise of ancient tomes of printed colorful images and dialogue that goes along with such a title that just doesn’t seem like something I’ll even attain. Not because I don’t read enough comics, I probably read more comics than anyone out there. Especially in recent times. There’s just no way for me to identify with that image.
Maybe it’s the lack of specialization. I’ve never really stuck to just one type of comic books.
As a young kid, I grew up with a lot of European comics. Suske en Wiske, a Belgian series of comics about a young boy and girl, their aunt, her love interest, and a modern-day caveman, was the most prominent comic growing up. I’ve never heard anyone outside of the Netherlands or Belgium talk about it, so there aren’t many moments to bring it up. Despite that, there were more than a hundred of stories of them that I read as a kid. It’s still an ongoing franchise, but after so many modernizations of it, I lost interest.
Another major comic book series as I was growing up was Asterix. This one most likely rings a bell internationally. And it should, it’s a fantastic series of comics. I loved reading and rereading the exploits of the Gaulish village and their fight against the Roman invasion. To this day, I still reread the old stories. They’ve aged really well.
Besides that, there were a lot more European comics I grew up with. Spirou, Tintin, all the various spin-offs based on them. Mort & Phil. Lucky Luke.
Sometimes I’d pick up an American comic that came along my way. I’d read some Spider-Man, X-Men, a few loose issues of Shadowcat, Cable, Spawn, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
I didn’t get to read that many American comics though. Super heroes aren’t anywhere near as big here as they are over in America.
There was a teacher in middle school who brought a stack of comics to class during exams. If you’d finish the exam early, you could read them. This is how I read the first 10 or 20 or so issues of Spawn. I also got to read the entirety of the Death and Return of Superman this way. It was an eye opener for me. Before that, I had no clue that superhero stories could be that impactful.
Despite that, my mind went to manga immediately after. My path crossed Rurouni Kenshin, another name to change how I’d look at comics of any sort. I was familiar with the comedic side of historical comics thank to a whole bunch of European comics, but the Japanese ones showed me how much you could learn of both history and foreign culture in comic book form.
Then came stuff like Naruto, Hikaru no Go, Fullmetal Alchemist, One Piece, Berserk, Dragonball, Death Note. So many manga, all stuffed over a couple of years. Friends loved reading them too, so I shared them all around.
One friend in particular let me borrow a book of his after he’d read Death Note through me. Not a comic book, a regular book. A Discworld book. This act would later rekindle my love for reading regular books again after years of simply forgetting how much I enjoyed that.
Terry Pratchett brought me to Neil Gaiman, which in turn would lead me to the Sandman graphic novels. Those are still amongst some of the best comics I have read.
While reading those, the first trailers for the Watchmen movie came out. After mentioning I was interested in reading it while in a chatroom, someone sent me a .pdf file of the comic. I read about two pages before I found myself in a bookstore paying for a physical copy of it.
Shortly after reading The Watchmen, I decided I’d also need to read V for Vendetta, which I’d end up preferring of the two.
Then I didn’t really read comics all that much for years. Except Maus. I couldn’t have read Maus at a worst time, depressed and in a bad spot as I was. Not the best time to go read World War 2 stories from the point of view of a Jewish survivor. Although I am glad that I have read it, as it’s an amazing piece of art.
Now I’m reading more comics than I ever did in my life. Even more than I did as a kid growing up. For the first time in my life, I’m keeping up with a few recent releases. All New X-Men, Uncanny Avengers, Dial H, Superior Spider-Man are all titles I’m looking forward to new issues coming out of so I have more to read.
In the meantime, I’m also reading a ton of graphic novels from ages ago to better understand the world of comic books and just simply get exposed to more interesting ideas.
It’s amazing how much things that are that I was barely conscious of two months ago that I have now read. All-Star Superman. The Walking Dead. Chew. Days of Future Past. Hush. Batman: Year One and Two. The Dark Knight Returns and Strikes Again. The Killing Joke. Red Son. The Death of Captain America. Emerald Dawn.
There’s still so much to read though. It’s almost overwhelming. The world of comic books is starting to give me the same feeling that the world of literature has been giving me for years already. A sense of awe, as well as a taste for more. The more I read, the more I want to read.