Friday, August 10, 2007

Amy Reads the Year (on August 10th, 2007)

(Or, Yes, Friends, Women Read Comics)

Gentle Reader, I write to you tonight from the home of the Parents Reads, which, as some of My (More) Constant Readers may recall, is in New Orleans, now nearly two years Post-Katrina. And while I would like to tell you all that everything is Shiny in the Big Easy, I cannot do any such thing. This is not a city in the sterile cleanup of afterbirth, but rather a city stuck in messy birth, or perhaps even in resuscitation, pumping life into something that so many consider dead.

But this city is, first and foremost, My Hometown, and one cannot return Home without remembering how one came to be in the first place, no?

That is to say, sitting in the very room in which This Humble Author first stayed up past bedtime to finish a book, in the very room in which This Humble Author first read a comic book, first pretended to be The Amazon Princess, makes one consider the first question I posed in the first post of my month-long blogiversary:

Do Women Read Comics?

The answer is rather simple, Friends.

Yes, they do.

. . .


But of course, the answer *isn’t* that simple, is it? Women Read Comics, but they don’t read superhero comics. And Women Read Comics, but they only read superhero comics. And Women Read Comics, but really, they read graphic novels. And of course Women Read Comics, but only Manga, and only Manga from Japan, and etc. etc. ad nauseam infinitum.

So I wonder, Gentle Reader, what that question could mean in The Larger Scheme Of Things. Is the Question—and I do acknowledge it as A Proper Noun Question as I have heard it repeated over and over again with a Certain Tone that implies credulity, i.e. “*Do* women read comics??”—relegated solely to Cape Titles, or is there a larger wonderment over whether Women, whomever They Might Be, enjoy the marriage of Art and Text?

Ekphrasis is a term with which only recently have I become familiar. And while my understanding of the marriage of art-and-text is more William Blake than Grant Morrison, more LEL than Gail Simone, there is something to be said for the perfect harmony of art-and-text. One is not merely a complement of the other, but rather, they are two parts of a whole.

In comic books, we see even more than the marriage of art-and-text, no? In fact, what we see is art-as-text and text-as-art and both as Text, that is, Story. So to ask a question as loaded as “Do Women Read Comics?” is to suggest that women are not artistic, or not interested in text, or in Texts, which we all know is Rather Ridiculous, when we spread it thin in such a way.

But, and there is a “but,” Gentle Reader, there is a Very Real Dichotomy in the perception of male and female comic book readership. Certainly, as we are all Well Aware, there are more male than female writers, artists, editors, and executives in the Comic Book Industry, but does a gender majority automatically mean gender exclusion, gender neglect, gender bias? That is to say, does a large male readership and authorship automatically mean a *lack* of female readership and authorship?

The logical fallacy rears its ugly head the moment the idea is presented, and we all trip and fall, flat on our faces. Here, Friends, I will be the first to trip and break the mold:

I am a Woman, and I Read Comics.

There I break the mold and with this one negation, or rather, this one affirmation of Female Readership, we can no longer ask: “Do Women Read Comics?” Now, we must ask why so many insist that Women Do Not Read Comics, or, if they do, they Read Them Wrong, and if they discuss them, they Are Too Loud (and wrong).

Gentle Reader, a confession: I love, absolutely *love* superhero comics. Again and again on this blog, I have shouted To The Rooftops my love for superhero titles. Hearing my Brother and Sister Bloggers rave about Manga, I have dipped my toes into those waters, as well. I adore Graphic Novels, too, and find the idea of art-and-text to be truly visionary.

I cannot answer for every Man or Woman Reading Comics, but I can answer for myself, and my answer is this: I read comics because I am terrible at art, and seeing a story unfold visually and textually astounds me.

Or, my answer is this: I read comics because I am a good storyteller, and seeing a story unfold over generations astounds me.

Or this: I read comics because I enjoy science fiction, and fantasy, and historical fiction, and realism, and modernism, and Victorianism, and postmodernism, and fashion, and cultural critique, and subtext.

Or: I read comics because I read comics.

The idea that one would have to ask if Women Read Comics seems almost silly, and it is a question I have heard less and less over the past few years. And Gentle Reader, let me do say that it is a question that is less spoken and more implied. It is a question implied every time I reveal that I am a Reader of Comics, and the implication usually goes Something Like This:

“Really? *You* read comics?”

Yes, I do, and whether that shock is because I am a Woman, an Academic, Middle-Aged, none or all of the above, it is still there, and it means something that it is. Why is there incredulity over the Reading of Comics? Why must one express utter disbelief over something that should be commonplace? Everyday? A Shared Experience among Men and Women alike?

We need to reconsider *why* We, All Of Us, Men and Women Alike, Read Comics. Then, we need to *remember* why We, All Of Us, Men and Women Alike, Read Comics.

My answer is this: I read comics because I love them.

. . .

One final outcome of my time spent at my childhood home, the Reads Parsonage, if you will: I am, at this very moment, Doing “Homework” in the Very Room in which I did Every Scrap Of Homework I ever had pre-college. As I am Rather Egalitarian about my memories, both good and bad, I offer you, Gentlest of Readers, some Homework Of Your Own.

I am a Woman who Reads Comics, and also, a Woman who enjoys Finding New Comics, so please, Friends, take a glance at the sidebar to your right. There you will find This Humble Author’s Current Pull List, both Cape and Manga. Are there Comics that this Woman should be Read(ing)? If so, what are they, and why?

Until then, Friends, Good Night, and Good Reading.

6 comments:

Shelly said...

Amy, you must try Criminal and Lone Ranger. Both are brilliantly written and have amazing art that complements the words.

Matthew E said...

I don't know if I can recommend anything you don't already know about... I have a standing recommendation of all Legion comics for all comers, of course, and I have the notion that you've tried All-New Atom... how about Blue Beetle? Have you given that a shot yet? Because as far as I can tell, superhero comics aren't being done any better anywhere.

Lea said...

Peter David's X-Factor, volume three. It is literally (almost) the only comic on my pull list that isn't on yours. I can see you like PAD's work because you read Fallen Angel, and that you like good X-titles done right because you read Astonishing.

X-Factor has great characterization and a plot filled with twists. It's dark, humorous, scary, inventive, riveting, appalling and sympathetic. Jamie Madrox is my favorite mutant in the Marvelverse because of this and the Madrox mini. The supporting cast isn't too shabby, either: Rictor, Syrin, Monet, Wolfsbane, Strong Guy and Layla Miller, with Quicksilver playing the primary antagonist.

Amy Reads said...

Hi Shelly,
Amy, you must try Criminal and Lone Ranger. Both are brilliantly written and have amazing art that complements the words.

Mr. Reads threw Criminal at me a few months ago, and I wasn't crazy about the first issue, but on your recommendation, I will try it again. Lone Ranger I've never encountered, but I Will Now!
Thanks!
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Matt,
I don't know if I can recommend anything you don't already know about... I have a standing recommendation of all Legion comics for all comers, of course, and I have the notion that you've tried All-New Atom... how about Blue Beetle? Have you given that a shot yet? Because as far as I can tell, superhero comics aren't being done any better anywhere.

I read the first issue of Atom but not Blue Beetle. When I tried Atom, I tried it only because of Gail Simone. I wasn't very interested in the character. However, both are two titles I keep hearing Great Things About, and I think it's time to try them. Thanks, as always, for the rec!
Ciao,
Amy

Amy Reads said...

Hi Lea,
Peter David's X-Factor, volume three. It is literally (almost) the only comic on my pull list that isn't on yours. I can see you like PAD's work because you read Fallen Angel, and that you like good X-titles done right because you read Astonishing.

I will check it out, thanks! I'm always open to good X-Men titles. Currently, I'm working through New X-Men, and I've dipped my toes in a few other Mutant Pools as well. But not this one, and I shall. Thanks for the rec!
Ciao,
Amy