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Comic books encourage creativity, artistry: Dave Gibbons named first comic laureate to join elite ranks

February 13, 2015

Last October, Great Britain announced a new position, equal to the poet laureate and the children’s laureate: a comic laureate.

They quickly decided on Dave Gibbons as their preferred choice for the position. The creator of graphic novels such as “Watchmen” and a writer of “Doctor Who,” Dave Gibbons’ contributions have helped make the comics industry more edgy and serious.

This thought came to my mind on Wednesday when, in one of my classes, we began discussing literature that has often been seen as less serious, or has been trivialized by people who analyze popular culture.

Oddly enough, some of the pieces of literature that we discussed having been deemed lesser (or at least taken less seriously than some of his other works) were a few of the comedies written by William Shakespeare. It is hard to imagine that Shakespeare, who is often labelled one of the greatest writers of all time, was ever trivialized. But, as my class discussed, even now some of Shakespeare’s comedies are studied significantly less than the tragedies, as tragedies are allegedly more serious and a higher form of art.

To me, this constitutes a failure to appreciate all forms of literature as note-worthy and serious. There are many comic books and graphic novels that present nuanced and unique interpretations of life and politics. One can only look at “V for Vendetta” and “Maus” to understand that comic books and graphic novels can put forth critical commentaries about important and prevalent issues still plaguing us as a society today.

The idea that having humor, or having fun with the form of the literature, somehow lessens the messages within that literature is inherently wrong.

Dave Gibbons, in defending the position of comic laureate, was quoted in the “Guardian” as saying, “There were scares in the 50s about trashy American horror comics, and there has been this notion that comics are very low culture … I’ve never believed that at all. The idea of telling stories or imparting information with a combination of words and pictures is a fairly universal thing, geographically and historically. I loved comics from the age of three or four. I learned to read before I went to school so I could see what was going on and they inculcated in me a lifelong love of reading.”

Gibbons has hit it on the head here. There is value in comic books, as well as other works in non-traditional literature. The value in Shakespeare is obvious, and it shocks me that people might prefer the tragedies over the comedies because they’re “more serious” as literature.

Comic books have the ability to teach children in a new and unique way. They are an outlet for a valid form of art. They present messages in a colorful and eye-catching format. They eschew traditional forms of story-telling, and instead go their own way. And, again, they are able to provide new commentaries on serious issues.

In the end, it seems apparent comic books, graphic novels, and other forms of storytelling should be encouraged, not deemed inferior.

I look forward to seeing what Dave Gibbons puts forth as comic laureate.

Aimee Miller
Courier Copy Editor

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