So, today I’d like to talk to you about theme. Yeah – theme, that annoying thing your high school English teacher made you extract from whatever “coming-of-age” Victorian novel he/she was making you read at the time. Having a theme – some sort of lofty message the author is trying to impart on his or her readers – is a hallmark of art, according to so-called experts, because it has meaning that transcends the surface of the medium…blah, blah blah. In short, my opinion on theme is that, if you look hard enough, any fiction or image could have a meaning, even one that the creator did not intend. That is why when I am working on this project, I am trying not to read to deeply into every comic ever published, and instead have decided to focus on those where the author wrote it with the expressed purpose of beating his audience over the head with his message.
Three “schools” dominate the world of comic books. The most familiar to us at William and Mary would be the American school – comics emphasizing the exploits and adventures of superheroes – and Japanese manga, a form which has just recently exploded in popularity in the US. I won’t be studying the later, alas, mostly because I cannot read Japanese, but also because I can’t find a way to link a semi-immortal Irish priest hunting vampires with literally thousands of bayonets (he gets them from another dimension) to an easily dissected message like immigration. Or something.
Quick – what is the first thing that pops to mind when you hear the word “comic book”? If you were born or spent a lot of your life in the United States, you probably think of Superman, Batman, Spiderman…point is, The Superhero. Some man (or women, or alien, or…thing) that puts on tight fitting spandex and fights crime with the aid of powers or his bank accounts. Of course, not all comic books are like this – think of Maus, the award winning graphic novel about how the author’s father survived the Holocaust. Nonetheless, in America, the comic book is inexorably linked with The Superhero. There are a few reasons for this:
So, those of you who have read my abstract might be wondering – how does one study comic books? Good question – I barely know myself. In fact, judging by what is out there, very few people know, but this is what this is what this project is all about – a chance to explore something I love, despite the fact that I know nothing of it and most certainly handle it somewhat clumsily. And you, anonymous, perhaps nonexistent reader, will be along with me for this journey! Yey!