I recall a conversation that I had with my mother. I just returned from Barnes & Nobles with the final The Walking Dead compendium under my arm, and he asked me how I, an individual she considers quite well read in the classics of literature, can read something intended for children. While that may be a paraphrase of how exactly that interaction occurred, the implication of her inability to understand the value of a comic struck me.
It didn’t take me long to realize why my mother thought this way. She was born in the 60’s, the height of Betty and Veronica, the time when the only place you saw comics were on the magazine rack in a drug store, not amongst the works of great novelists in a bookstore. It was the time of Adam West’s Batman and, as she grew older, Lou Ferrigno’s The Incredible Hulk. In short, comics and comic characters were seen as nothing short of mindless children’s entertainment with nothing substantial to provide a grown adult with. They weren’t taken seriously.
Yet are they taken seriously now? Most definitely. You only have to look at Marvel Studios and see how influential their movies have been to modern pop culture. People openly wept when Tony Stark sacrificed himself at the end of Endgame. People furiously petitioned to shut down Rotten Tomatoes because they gave a negative review to Batman v. Superman. People even started using the “Wakanda Forever” salute from Black Panther as a symbol to celebrate black excellence, influencing the future of an entire political movement. I think it’s safe to say that people take the comic world very, very seriously.
But what about the books? Do those hold the same substance as the movies? Does Marvel Comics have the capacity to elicit the same emotions from their readers as Marvel Studies does with their audience? I believe firmly that the answer is yes. In Hulk: The End, Bruce Banner (and, by extension, the Hulk) is the last survivor of a nuclear holocaust. An old man now, and with only a floating camera left by an alien race to document the demise of the human species to talk to, Bruce aimlessly wanders what’s left of the world. Not only does Hulk: The End provide the reader with a beautiful character study of Bruce Banner, Hulk and the relationship the two have, but it also evokes the legend of Prometheus at the end (I won’t tell you why, though, so you go find the comic online for yourself!)
Yet are comics books taken as seriously as the movies? While, over the years, the comic book industry has been booming (In 2015, the comic book industry in North America was worth over one billion dollars), there’s still a stigma attached to the medium, especially for the older generations. Despite this, comic books still hold just as much substance as novels, and are, most definitely, literature.