You hope as each year passes you grow as an individual. While growth and knowledge don’t always trend upwards, there is a bit of a bell curve to our life after all, just because you’re 30, 40, 50 or more doesn’t mean you can’t pick up new things. With comic books, as a reader, you’ll experience some growth as you age. Normally “graduating” to more adult books. However, for most of us, even if we do end up reading more adult-oriented material, we still clutch to the superheroes of our childhood. That’s why I was so pleasantly surprised when earlier this year I agreed to help our Multiversity staff by reviewing a monthly original graphic novel. While doing this a curious thing happened, I read my first European comic book.
Now, the term European comic book probably carries an asterisk. Given the global integration of the medium, it is as probable to have a Brazilian artist on a Marvel comic as it is to have an American Writer on a Japanese Manga. Thus, what I mean by European comic book is something that was produced primarily for the European market, and more often than not in a language other than English. As comic fans, we know that there is a wide world of genres and trends that permeate the world outside of the United States. However, given how deeply indoctrinated we are as children here in America to consume and hold dear our Superheroes, it is difficult to venture outside of that comfort zone.
All that being said, no one should take this piece as a jab at American Superhero comic books. I love Marvel, DC, Image, Valiant and the rest of the lot. I grew up with The Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man as my daily companions. To this day there is an extra level of appreciation for a great story involving these timeless characters. But, part of life is expanding on your surroundings. The same way we expand our consciousness by introducing new experiences, we must expand our comic book pallet by trying new flavors.
While most fans know that it is in their benefit to try new offerings, it is not an easy proposition. With the never-ending volume of new comics, it is almost a sacrifice to put one of your favorites to the side and try something new. I knew I had to review an original graphic novel every month, and with only so many available, at some point, you pick one up randomly and you hope for the best. More often than not this luck of the draw is rewarded. For myself, I was handsomely rewarded with reading some of the best comics I had read in a very long time. Both “Kabul Disco” and “Twists of Fate” are amazing pieces of literary work. Not only were they incredibly pleasing to read, but they also provided me with knowledge and context to real-world circumstances. One of which hit relatively close to home. These novels were written by European creators for a predominantly European fan base. Thus, they offered something more than a new story, they offered a different perspective and storytelling style.
So what can we take from all of this? We should all definitely broaden our horizons. I, personally, should look into reading the best non-American comics I’ve never picked up. Placing works such as “The Incal,” “Moomin,” “Corto Maltese,” “Persepolis” or “Tintin in Tibet” in my reading queue will only make me a better fan, and a better connoisseur of the comic medium.