Getting Into, Out of, and Back into Comics

My friend Katie Morrissey recently tagged me in that Twitter game where you post the covers of four books that hooked you on comics. It was a lot of fun trying to think of the comics that got me excited when I was a kid and teenager just learning about the medium.

I remember the goofy appeal of that Superman cover with the giant chimpanzee and practising drawing the S-shield in the margins of the bulletin during church on Sundays. I remember the weird frustration and thrill of being dropped in the middle of a random issue of a comic like Legion of Super-Heroes for the first time and trying to figure out who everyone was. And I look back in awe at the serendipity of finding that copy of Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics in the stacks at the library – where would my life have gone if I had picked up Understanding Nuclear Physics instead!?

On the other hand, it was kind of weird to capture these particular moments in my reading history in amber like this. Even as Understanding Comics was opening my eyes to new kinds of comics and new cartoonists – many of whom I wouldn’t be able to track down with my own eyes for years to come – this grid of comics that got me into comics gives the impression of a hardcore DC superheroes fan. A list of comics that kept me in comics or that got me back into comics would look different yet again.

Our reading biographies are deeply intertwined with who we are at different stages in our lives. And they don’t necessarily go in a straight line. The RoCCET Lab’s new project, Comic Book Memories, wants to explore these phenomena, examining how comic book reading and comic book fandom change as we change.

We’re seeking current and former readers of comic books and graphic novels, aged 18 years and up, to participate in the study. There’s a short intake questionnaire available now. Selected respondents will be contacted for an interview in the new year where – sort of like this game – we’ll talk about the comics that have been important to you over time and how reading comics has fit into your life at different stages. More information is available on the project page.

Photo by Kip Teague