Saturday, June 25, 2011


batman-golden-age-61 We went in to town after dinner last evening to spend some time at Barnes & Noble.

We gave up on our table in the cafe because of the annoying chatter from the next table where an associate was helping an obviously technologically impaired older woman come to grips with the Nook she had just bought.

dragonball Settling into one of the four easy chairs in the reading area, I grabbed a book abandoned by the young boy who had been sitting there earlier. It was one of the Drazonball Z manga graphic novels. I’ve been peripherally aware of manga and other graphic novels for years, but never spent any time looking at one.

I found it graphically interesting but the story line was utterly baffling.

Then I noticed the page numbering and realized it was organized in the back-to-front Japanese reading style. Starting at the back and working my way to the front, I could make a little sense of the plot sequence, but quickly realized I’d come in in the middle of the story with no knowledge of characters or motivation. It was all just random action – kinda like an episode of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers on TV.

As literature, it’s junk, but its real value is that it gets kids to read.

My parents’ generation thought the comic books of the 1950s were junk – sometimes harmful junk at that – but I owe much of my literacy to comic books.

thehorror_p173_bottomright They only cost 10 cents when I was a kid. (The Dragonball Z book costs close to $18.)

I’m old enough to remember the lurid pre-Comics Code Authority horror comics of the early 1950s. After the CCA was created in September, 1954, comics got a bit tamer, so the pre-code books were much sought-after by my pals and me.

CCA My friend Jack Klepinger, who lived a block north of my house in Delphi, Ind., had a huge stash of old comic books, many of which he inherited from his older brother. The Klepinger house had a breezeway with crank-out jalousie windows between the house and the garage and I spent many a summer hour sprawled on the big breezeway couch poring over everything from Donald Duck to Batman to Green Arrow to Superman.

I learned to read at Monroe Street Elementary School, but I honed my reading skills with comic books.

1 comment:

Doug said...

My early reading was comic books as well (and I kept reading them all the way through my college years). Sure, there's a lot of junk, but if one surveys other narrative formats (movies, TV, books, etc.) there's no shortage of junk there as well.