Only idiots think comics are for children

The Telegraph called them ‘too dumb for any thinking adult’


This weekend, The Telegraph uttered its verdict. “No self-respecting adult should buy comics or watch superhero movies.

Sweeping statements about comics are nothing new. Comics are dumb, we’re constantly told. They have no intellectual merit. If you’re seen in public reading a comic, people will look at you like you’ve brought a colouring book and crayons on the train. But it’s the people who dismiss comics who are the real morons here.

The Telegraph’s Rhymer Rigby is disdainful about superhero films. And sure, he has a point about Batman v Superman (spoiler: it isn’t great), but to disregard the entire comic book film canon based on a couple of films is like giving up football because you weren’t impressed with Liverpool’s 2008/09 season. After all, for every bad Batman v Superman there’s a brilliant Batman Begins.

Batman v Superman has been panned by critics

Batman v Superman has been panned by critics

Lumping comic book films together is a generalisation which is made time and time again, despite it making no sense at all. Guardians of the Galaxy is closer to a Star Wars movie than it is a Superman one, but as soon as most people see a Marvel logo at the start they’ll say “it’s a superhero film”. Universal Pictures were responsible for Jaws, but you don’t see anybody dismissing their films because they think they’re all about giant sharks.

Arguing that Narcos and Deutschland 83 have proven there’s a “market for drama that doesn’t involve men in capes” would be all well and good if Narcos and Deutschland 83 were great – but they’re not. Sure, they’re not awful, but they’re clumsy and cliched compared to Netflix’s Daredevil or Jessica Jones – both of which are based on (you guessed it) comic books.

daredevil

A still from Netflix’s critically-acclaimed Daredevil

The author even admits that he enjoyed Tim Burton’s Batman, which sort of hampers his argument unless he thought that film was about a different non-comic Batman, or perhaps a southeastern town in Turkey. This clearly isn’t about superhero films – it isn’t even about comic books. This is about people who don’t understand comics, and who sneer and make fun of the people who do.

To lump all comics together is unbearably naive. Yes, Superman is a man who can fly with lasers in his eyes – so what? Most literature requires some suspension of disbelief. Frankenstein’s monster is made of electrified body parts, Beowulf is a dragon-slayer and Kafka literally turned a man into a giant fly. Homer’s Odyssey? The less said about that, the better.

Rigby laments: “You can say this intellectual snobbery if you like, but you only have to go a little way down this road before you find yourself arguing that V for Vendetta is the equal of Lolita“, and he has a point. V for Vendetta isn’t the equal of Lolita. It’s better.

v for

Alan Moore’s  V for Vendetta

Argue all you want, but not since 1984 has there been a more startling vision of a dystopian future – and it’s hard to think of a book which has tackled a generation’s political worries so accurately that its central image became their badge of pride. I’m not saying books like Lolita aren’t good (well, obviously); I’m just saying there’s nothing essential that elevates them above works like Sandman or From Hell.

It isn’t a gap in intellect that stops Alan Moore from taking his place alongside Nabokov in the literary hall of fame – it’s the fact that Moore’s books have pictures. But what about Art Spiegelman’s Maus, the heartbreaking story of his father’s experiences as a Polish jew during the Holocaust? It is a tragic masterpiece.

maus

A scene in Art Spiegelman’s Maus

Comics suffer as an artform because of the misconceptions people have about them, but to say they’re just for pre-teens isn’t just “intellectual snobbery” – it’s plain stupid. So people can snort at us comic readers all they want, and I’m sure the laughter won’t die down any time soon – but I know I’d choose an intellectual conversation about Watchmen over War and Peace any day.