50 minus 11: A lonely place of reading

Posted: 6 August 2014 in comics, writing
Tags: , ,

I wanted to check something earlier, and I knew Warren Ellis had referred to it in his superb collection of columns entitled Come In Alone. So I looked it up this afternoon, while waiting for someone to pick up some stuff from the house.

I found what I was looking for fairly quickly and then, as is my wont, started flicking through the collection and came to the conclusion that Warren Ellis is wrong.

But do me a favour, don’t tell him that he’s wrong, ok? (I value your and my own body – and their non-eviscerated state – too much for that.)

He’s not wrong about much, I’ve found over the years. But about this, yeah, I think he is. You see, he says that reading comics is a solitary hobby. That you may watch the telly with someone else, may go to a movie accompanied, but comics reading: that you only ever do on your own. Well, yeah, he’s not so wrong there.

Of course he’s not; I can’t ever recall a time when I gathered two or three friends together and waited for them to finish page seven of the latest issue of, say, Warren’s excellent current run on Moon Knight, before turning over to page eight to discover precisely how the title character has solved the crime.

OK, so where do I differ with Warren’s comments?

Well, from where I’m standing (or sitting at the moment anyway) where Warren was wrong was to imply that that the enjoyment one gets from comic books is limited to the immediate enjoyment one gets from them while you’re reading them. There’s no doubt that reading the comics forms, for me at least, a large part of my enjoyment… but there’s another part that I enjoy. The part that every fan of anything would recognise: talking with friends about the book. Analysing, guessing, and generally bitching about it…

(Now it may be that it’s me that’s wrong here. Maybe I’ve inferred too much from his comment, and if so, then I apologise, but Warren’s overseas at the moment and he’s far too busy to hunt me down. Besides, Warren’s a friend, and I know he’ll forgive me. Eventually. Once I’ve sacrificed a few dozen sheep and ohgodpleasedon’thurtmeagain…)

But back to the post-match analysis. By its very nature it is – has to be! – anything but a solitary activity. I mean, some people might enjoy only talking to themselves and never getting any disagreement, but I don’t think that Richard Dawkins is a comics reader anyway.

No, part of what makes the comics reading public – and given the readership of this blog, that probably includes you – a community, is that we talk to each other. Oh boy, do we talk to each other. Whether it be groups of people meeting for a drink, or chatting online, or conversing on message boards.

And who, for many years, ran several of the most successful and must-read message boards? Step forward, Mr Ellis.

There have been many definitions of ‘literature’, but the one I most like is’that which you would wish to read again’. If you accept that definition, than there’s no way you can exclude comic books from the category of literature. Developing that, if you do read some comic books again (and to be honest, one of the joys of comic books for me is that I can read them again) the odds are that you’re going to approach that rereading from a slightly different perspective each time. For a start, the second time you read the story, you’re coming to it already familiar with the story. That in itself surely must change your appreciation of the tale. You may not appreciate it more nor less, but it will be a different appreciation. How could it be otherwise?

And one of the glories of talking to other people about something you’ve enjoyed, and appreciated, is discovering how many (or how few) people share not only your initial appreciation, but also your new take on the story.

Comics? Something you do alone? Only in two aspects: creation and immediate consumption. Everything else is enhanced by company.


I’ve stated elsewhere that the idea for my daily braindump GOING CHEEP is a straight steal from Warren’s MORNING, COMPUTER. If you’re going to read only one daily braindump, you should read… mine!, but if you want excellent short morning reads, read Warren’s. It’s quickly become a daily essential read-absorb-thinkabout-thenthinkaboutsomemore for me.

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