Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Try Not to Judge

Two years ago I promised never to mention Batman Year One on this blog again. That was back when I was teaching the book, and blogging about it every day, and I got sick of it. I believe a man's word is his bond, so if he promises to never mention a book again, he should stick to his word, no matter what. And yet I'm going to go back on that promise. Try not to judge me too harshly. 

I bring it up because we started Batman Year One on Monday. Tuesday we didn't have class, and today, Wednesday, we wrapped up the first chapter. 

Will Eisner
Remember how, a couple of weeks ago, we looked at the history of comic books? In class we talked about how people used to think comics were just for kids, until creators like Will Eisner and Harvey Kurtzman worked to advance the medium, and then the undergrounds came along, and eventually there was much more to comics than just super-heroes. And we read Understanding Comics, which teaches us that comics is a limitless medium and that no genres are out of bounds. So after all that it might seem counter-intuitive that, for our first graphic novel, we're reading a Batman story. 

What can I say? The students respond well to Batman, and it's a really good comic. And, as much as I support Eisner and Kurtzman and comics for grownups, I may not be the best ambassador for that cause.

David Mazzucchelli, artist of Batman Year One
Two years ago I was at SPACE, the Small Press and Alternative Comics Expo in Columbus, and I got into a conversation about my comics class. I told a small press and alternative comics creator that we were reading Batman Year One. He said, "I read part of that, but I never finished it." 

I think about that, from time to time, and puzzle over it. I originally read Batman Year One when my mom got me a copy from her book club. It was 1989, and Batman was big, so they had some crazy deals. If that had not happened, though, I know I would have read it eventually. I can't think of any way you could change the variables, or create an alternate set of circumstances, in which I would have read part of Batman Year One and not read the rest of it. You would have to fundamentally change who I am, possibly on a genetic level. I can read Will Eisner and Chris Ware and any number of cartoonists who write and draw stories about real life, and I can enjoy them, but I guess I can never be a pure alternative comics guy deep down in my heart. I just enjoy seeing Batman beat people up too much. 

Also, and I can't stress this enough, the drawings by David Mazzucchelli, and the colors by Richmond Lewis, are absolutely gorgeous.  

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