Who's Who In the SBCU Update 2003

In his dreams Alan Donald is a multi-award winning writer of comic books, animation, theme park shows and rides, children’s books, novels, television, internet animation and more.

In real life Alan writes this column, which has been described as more than a lifestyle than a weekly column. He used to write SBC's All The Rage.

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Why Should People Read Comics?

By Dawn Donald
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Ho!, ho!, ho!, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all. The Panel gathers movers and shakers from across the industry together to answer your questions!

Don’t miss out on your chance ask the big guns a question or two, send them in now to: [email protected]micbooks.com. Don’t forget to get your questions in for our 25th anniversary column. Will you have the honor of asking the anniversary question?

Most of the Panellists should be known to you but if not, don’t panic I’ve got a few details on them at the end of the column.

This week’s question was inspired by an encounter I had with a young lady when I was at Dredd Con (2000AD's annual convention). The question is:

“Joe Bloggs is standing next to you in a store and says, 'Why should people read comics?' What do you say to him?”


Bill Rosemann: “My response: "Do you like cheering heroes, hating villains, gasping at surprises, laughing at jokes, gaping at amazing visuals, and wiping tears out of your eyes when a good drama pulls on your heartstrings? Yes? Then that's why you should read comic books."


Alan Grant: "There are many reasons, Joe. Comics are usually entertaining. They're often educational. Sometimes they make you think. Sometimes you realise you're in the presence of genius. Sometimes they make you so mad you want to hunt down the writer (or artist) and torture them.

"From a more cerebral point of view, comics is the only medium which forces the right and left hemispheres of the brain to work together, as they strive to make a coherent whole of the words and pictures. Television and movies appeal to the pattern-seeking right brain, imposing their message without the need for rational analysis of that message. With their linear layouts, newspapers and magazines appeal primarily to the more rational, logical left brain. Only comics meld the two together.

"It's a little-known fact that those who start reading comics when young go on to become more intelligent, more mature, and more able to cope with the vagaries of the modern world than non-comic readers. The only downside is you might find yourself wanting to dress up as Batman...and even that can be turned to your advantage, because girls (of a certain kind, anyway) really like it."


Terry Moore: “Because that is where the best illustrators and short story writers in America are working. Today's comics are on the whole better than ever, but many of the new talents in comics are simply outstanding, far beyond anything we could have hoped for. The editors at DC and Marvel are doing a great job of opening the doors and bringing in new talent that represents a higher standard. I'm so glad this business is not an old boy's club, where we're stuck with the same burned out creators until they die, ala newspaper strips. Comics are alive, ever changing and remaking themselves into a medium that distinguishes itself as unique in the arts. It's scary to work in comics because you have to work harder on each subsequent project and there's always the neurotic fear that the industry will suddenly be filled with Rembrandts and the rest of us will have to sack fries for a living, but as a devotee I am thrilled to be discovering new names, new images and stories that excite me after 40 years of reading formula books.”


Alonzo Washington: “I would say comic books develop strong reading skills in it's readers. I would tell them that comic books expands one's imagination. I would go on to say that shape popular culture. I would say comics are fun & cool. Then I would go on to say buy Omega Man & Omega7 comic books. Happy Kwanzaa!”


Lee Dawson: “I'd say he should read comics because comics are a great artistic medium. They offer the same artistic satisfaction as books, film, or any of the visual arts. Comics, like film or television, show the power of words and images combined in an extremely effective manner. It's also arguably one of the oldest storytelling mediums going back to cave drawings and the like. But really, bottom line, there are just so many great stories and storytellers in the comics world... why deny oneself?”


Vince Moore: “People should read comics to experience the kinds of stories that many books don't do and most movies can't do. To explore places, both beyond reality and within our daily lives. To experience an American art form, much like jazz or rock. To share mind space with a creator or creative team for a few minutes or hours, enjoy a fusion of words and pictures seeking to create a synthesis between their and your imaginations.”


Devin Grayson: "To keep them from striking up random conversations with strangers while waiting in cashier lines. Here, you want one of mine? ... No, that's not the Hulk, sir, that's The Thing. ... Uh...well, chiefly, I guess it's that the Hulk was transformed by GAMMA rays while The Thing was transformed by a, uh, bombardment of COSMIC rays or something like ... No, that would be Spider-Man, and he was radioactive, it went right into his blood stream -- Right, like in the movie, yeah... No, he *doesn't* know Batman, they're from different univ -- What? Oh, I don't know! The Hulk, I guess, if he were mad enough. Though Ben's got a team, actually, so if it was the *whole* Fantastic Four against just the Hulk, then I suppose maybe...no, you know what? They're all heroes, they wouldn't be fighting each other, okay? ... Yeah, well, that was a special event. I'm not saying they've NEVER fought each other, I'm just saying they shouldn't --You do? ... Number six? ... Yeah, that might be worth something if it's in good shape ... Really? But then your mother threw them all away? That's fascinating, I've never heard anything like that. Boy, you were this close to being rich, huh? What a shame ... No, Batman and Robin are NOT gay, why does everyone -- That's a different Robin, actually, the current one doesn't wear -- Three. Well, four if you count Dark Knight, but currently, three ... No, only the second one died ... right, the first one grew up and turned into Chris O'Donnell, very good. See, you know more than you think you do ... The current one? Tim ... No, he's -- look, why don't you just take these ... Hm? ... Oh, uh, that's Oracle, she used to be Batgirl ... Yeah, that's the current Batgirl ... No, she shot by the Jok -- wait, here, you should get this one, too, this one's a classic ... Well, that character's been around for over sixty years now, so some of the stories have gotten pretty complex and intricate ... I know, look at this one page, isn't that amazing? ... No, no, slow down, when there aren't any words you've got to read the art ... Well, there's a penciler and an inker and a colorist, actually, and sometimes a sepera -- About a month, generally, for a standard twenty-two page issue ... Yeah, no kidding, right? You want something Picasso spent a month on, you're gonna pay a lot more than $2.25! ... Well, see, that part's kind of up to you ... Yeah, it's not exactly like reading, 'cause you don't have to bring the entire world to life in your imagination, but it's not as passive as watching a movie, either. You're participating actively in this story, but you've got this amazing team along with you in terms of the writer and the artist and what they're giving you to work with .... I can't really think of anything that compares, can you? ... Well, it's been around for a long time, actually, in one form or another -- oh, wait, take this one, too! -- but it's still considered pretty fringe or "alt culture" in this country, so sometimes you get wildly creative talents showing up and just blasting the whole thing wide open-- ooh, like this guy, here, you have to read this, this is seminal ... Oh, and look at this art! Have you ever seen anything like that? ... See how before this guy the lines were much more flat? ... No, that's new, the next one won't be out until next month ... Yeah, you'll be able to get it right here, but careful! It can get addictive! ... For just that character? Boy, four separate titles that I can think of off the top of my head that are ongoing right now, and then if you really want to get into it, he debuted in 1938 ... Yeah, they have Archives, hold on, here you go ... Oh, that's a Trade Paperback, that's several stories collected into one volume ... Right, exactly, and then you can either keep reading the ongoing book or ... Oooh! That one's AMAZING, you've gotta read that! ... Only ten? ... Hm, okay -- lemme see, what've you got here? -- get that one, that one, those, that one, this... you know what? It really doesn't matter. Get which ever one's you want, I guarantee you'll be back for more...!"


Alan Donald:>”Because if you don't I'll kill you!”

or (more sensibly and without the end of term madness)

“Because comic books represent one of the most diverse, enriching and underrated art forms ever to exist. You have everything from children’s entertainment to highbrow literary works that are impossible to achieve in any other medium. When done well comicbooks present an incredible juxtaposition of words and pictures in such a way that the reader becomes an active part of the story and not a passive receiver. There is no budget in comics and there are no artistic restraints. You can have mindless action, simple dumb entertainment or you can be made to really work your mind in a way you never have before. Comic books are cool, comicbooks are incredible and if you don't pick up this issue of Daredevil and this copy of 2000AD I'll stove your skull in... all right?!Um... it has been a long and hard term at school, the kids are insane and...well...I'm sorry.”

Dawn Donald “My reply went something like this… Comics are the most diverse art and literature medium in the world. They have evolved almost beyond recognition in the last 20 years. They tell intelligent stories like Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore that appeal to both sexes. There is the Watchmen, which is used, in some American universities as an Eng Literature text. There is candyfloss like Nodwick. They can be exciting escapism, taking you to new places where you can forget about your life and get involved in the the lives of superheroes and villains like Batman, Supes, Elektra, The Runaways, Mystic, Joker, Dogwitch and Judge Death. Then there is the art work which can cover the whole spectrum, there is the the photorealism of Alex Ross to Jim Lee’s incredible detail to Mark Buckingham’s sense of comic timing to David Mack’s poetry in pictures and Mike Collins sense of story telling. Then you get some of the top writers in the world like Neil Gaiman bringing fantasy worlds to life, Andy Diggle writing an action movie in comic form, to the shear genius of Alan Moore. Then when these folks get together the synergy is mind blowing. Also where else can you meet the people that have entertained you and shake their hands, talk to them without a bodyguard muscling in, get an autograph or a piece of original art.

That’s the abbreviated conversation!”


This Week’s Panel: Alonzo Washington is the creator of Omega Man and noted black campaigner. Alan Grant has had his hands in many pies including Batman and Judge Anderson. Vince Moore’s work for Platinum Studios can be checked out via the link on his name above. Terry Moore is the creator of Strangers in Paradise and has written for DC’s Birds of Prey and has done artwork for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Devin Grayson is currently writing Nightwing and has had stints on Gotham Knights and Batman. Lee Dawson edits those wonderful Dark Horse books. Bill Rosemann is CrossGen’s head of publishing.


Next Week’s Question: "Do comics cost too much?"



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