The Ephemeral Nature of Comic Books

Sometimes you start reading a comic book and wonder if it was really worth the cover price. It happens occasionally, but instead of being a bad thing, it’s actually rather good and I’ll tell you why.

Part of the beauty of comics (at least when you read single issues) is that you don’t know what you’re going to get from issue to issue, from year to year. Of course prose books are a mystery, too, and you don’t know when you pick a book up if you’re about to read a new favorite or want to throw it across the room, but either way you can generally be sure that you’ll end the book having read a single author’s vision. With comics, that is not usually the case.

Limited series and “graphic novels” (I’ll explain why that’s in quotes another time) are usually written by a single person, and drawn by one as well, sometimes one person handling both jobs. But continuing series are known for having multiple authors, artists, inkers, etc. Sometimes a favorite artist will be paired with a writer you don’t like, sometimes the writing is great, but you have to suffer through some art that makes you question the publisher’s intelligence. And of course that’s all subjective, as any fan who has gotten into an argument over an artist or writer can tell you.

But that’s part of the adventure of reading this kind of storytelling, too. You never know what the next storyline is going to bring, and when you get your favorite artist and your favorite writer working together on your favorite character, it’s just magic. You ride that wave of reading magic for as long as that team’s run lasts, because it will end one day and then the search for your new favorite book begins again.

Sure, you could just read graphic novels or limited runs, but what’s the fun in that? Part of what makes comics unique are their ephemeral quality. They started out as cheaply printed children’s entertainment and, while they have evolved far beyond that, there will always be something about those monthly titles that will maintain a toehold in that foundation.

As creators, storylines, characters, even various publishing companies, rise and fall in popularity and quality, there is always an opportunity for new, amazing stories and art to rise to the surface. Indie publishers can become big enough to go mainstream. A side character can step into the hero’s shoes. Sometimes it means you’ll stop reading characters that were your favorites only a few short months ago, but all you have to do is wait a bit and the tide will shift. It’s one of the things I love about comics.

There are few other forms of storytelling that have stretched as many boundaries, have morphed and changed aa much as comics have and lived to tell the tale.