Ed wrestles with the correct terminology for discussing these four-colour stories, and the death of a much-loved British strip.
I read “comics.” It’s a phrase I use proudly and without any embarrassment, despite the childish association many people have with it. The term “graphic novel” has become more widespread and common in high street book shops such as WH Smith or Waterstones when referring to comic books. It is the phrase armchair intellectuals throw around because they think the term comic book is below them. Yet it has also permeated businesses and areas that should know better, such as humble comic book shops. This horrible practice needs to end.
Having read them since the cradle with The Beano and The Dandy, whose loss I mourn, I have absolutely no intention of stopping now. The Dandy’s demise was a sad day for those aged three to eighty-three, and it will hopefully be remembered fondly throughout its lifespan, be it modern or classic. Obviously, its death has been blamed on children who don’t need to read comics when they have video games, television and the Internet at their fingertips. I was also a child who had video games, television and the Internet, but I still read comics ravenously. Hell, I still do! So why did The Dandy stop its print publication if it wasn’t due to “modern” technology?
Well rather than blame the kids, why not blame the adults who don’t buy their children something to read, and would rather sit them in front of the television or computer? It’s also those who have stopped much-needed ad revenue with the banning of adverts for junk food and the like. While I am aware that obesity is a major problem, it was the adverts for McDonalds and Quavers that I still remember reading in The Beano. They were innovative and actually interesting, based on the comics with continuous storylines of their own. And while overweight youngsters is a major concern, I can promise you that illiteracy is as big a problem, and the downfall of The Dandy isn’t going to help.
Of course, it isn’t quite dead… The Dandy is now available online as a digital comic instead. While this may mean an even more reduced audience, it also means reduced costs and an increased chance of innovation due to greater audience interaction. New characters and a reboot of the old might also do it some good.
“The 3 Bears” received an artistic rehash in the early 2000’s and they easily became my favourite story for a good while. It might seem like I’ve gone off my original point, but I haven’t, as The Beano and Dandy are generally qualified as comics. If Dandy is a comic, why is there a debate over titles such as Superman, Batman and Spider-Man? The single issues are comics, so surely there can be no doubt that the collected editions are comic books? I don’t understand the desire to use other terminology out of a need to seem adult and “with it.” There are obviously exceptions to the rule, with the most obvious being Alan Moore’s Watchmen, as it is almost certainly a novel aided by the use of graphics and images. But comic books are generally led by the images with the speech and “thought bubbles” adding extra details to the overall picture. If you put it like that, it isn’t too far removed from watching a foreign film with subtitles.
The phrase graphic novel also has a fair amount of exposure in other areas of the media, while those that are more likely to be called comics don’t have the potential audience to expand, as the stories are aimed squarely at children. Action Comics and Detective Comics were originally meant for all the family, although characters such as The Punisher certainly weren’t meant for minors. Yet they’re all comics, so the childish stereotype that the word represents to most has always frustrated me. It may be that businesses hope to stay away from such branding, yet all it does is further increase people’s misconception of how to classify these works of art.
Calling comics graphic novels is like calling a tomato a vegetable. Stop it.