I started reading a lot of old comics again lately.
I don’t know why but I just did. Instead of reading books (my back-log is enormous and I just recently bought new E-Books that I am interested in reading but I just don’t feel like it right now) I’ve just been reading a lot of comics. I found this site and started picking up some books and for some reason I found myself going back to the 80s and reading all these 80s superhero comic books. I started with Teen Titans and then moved on to Alpha Flight and found both to be very unsatisfying. I thought they were, the majority of the issues, were badly written. Alpha Flight was ruined by Bill Mantlo while Marv Wolfman’s writing for Teen Titans was just unbelievably bad. It was unenjoyable.
I wondered if it was characteristic of 80s comic book writing but I remembered really enjoying The Uncanny X-Men and I found all the issues of the The Uncanny X-Men for the past 40 years. I started reading from the first issues of the 80s and I’m now in the 90s and I find that Chris Claremont wrote rather well despite it being the 80s. So it wasn’t an 80s thing.
And it was such a strange feeling, re-reading all these old comics that I’ve read before when I was younger and reading all the stories that led to them, which I hadn’t read before, and some of the issues that came after, which I didn’t have either.
And it is so strange to encounter these stories again as an adult in 2016 and how differently they affected me when I was reading them as a kid. Going through all these comic books hit me with a strange feeling. It wasn’t just nostalgia because I was also reading them as a sort of study in writing. Marv Wolfman and Bill Mantlo were writing in the same time period and they weren’t reaching out to me but Chris Claremont’s did. So I was reading it as a way to revisit these stories that I’ve loved since I was a kid but I was also studying it for what made it so special and good. Thirdly, I was also looking at myself and trying to find out why I remembered something the way I remembered them while looking at these issues and seeing what they really have.
It’s a strange way to revisit your childhood. Realising that my first ever crush on a man was Paul Smith’s rendition of Peter Rasputin/Colossus as written by Chris Claremont. I think I was subconsciously really crushing on Peter growing up and then I really was very much attracted to Ororo Munroe/Storm, Kitty Pryde, and Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler as friends. And so when I grew up, I liked strong personalities and people who had opinions and strong convictions. And then I was always attracted to pretty guys who were uber-macho looking with good hearts.
Of course, I had a lot of hiccups along the way, based on my track record but as I grew older and more mature (in my late twenties), I can see the DNA strands of these learnings from reading ten years of The Uncanny X-Men and studying the memories that I have of these stories with my more mature eyes and understanding.
Nightcrawler was always my favourite X-Man and I’ve always respected the ideas of Storm and Kitty Pryde and I’ve always had a soft spot for Colossus (but now I really know why) and it’s quite amazing how it’s like to revisit these stories where, back in the day, I was reading them one issue every month (or twice a month) and now I’m reading them all one after the other.
It’s a learning, as well, about how things are experienced depending on the rate of consumption. Reading it all at once, on demand, like I’m doing now makes me see the whole totality of the X-Men very differently from reading it every month and eagerly awaiting what happens next. There’s a lot that goes into your head in a month that you play around with, that builds energy and the imagination, that when the next issue comes you are either proven right or wrong and it can surprise you or disappoint you and in ways you do not expect. Reading comics in one go, one after the other, it’s easier to look at the whole instead of the individual parts and so you’re experience of it is the totality of the series and not just the individual comic.
I don’t know yet how I can translate that into my current writing but there is a lot to learn from this — understanding the power of drama, comedy, breath, action, and all the other elements — and framing it over periods of time. Pacing. It’s all about pacing, really, and seeing as how things are being consumed today, at such a high rate, it makes me understand so many things.
What an interesting thing to learn.