The Middle Ground #17: I Don’t Give A Damn About My Bad Reputation
Is it just me, or do some “classic” comics scare other people off by their reputation alone? I remember, for the longest time as a kid, being convinced that Maus or Watchmen would be not for me because I wasn’t smart enough, or mature enough, to handle such “heavy” reading (As it turned out, Watchmen ended up disappointing me because I lost interest the first time around – I look forward to your letters, as Craig Ferguson would say – and Maus bowled me over entirely, when I finally got over myself), and only read some other classics because I managed to stumble into them before I had discovered how highly regarded they were.
More recently, there was Love and Rockets. It’s more than a little embarrassing to admit, but up until a couple of years ago, I’d pretty much successfully gone out of my way to avoid reading anything by the Hernandez Bros., and it was almost entirely because of the reputation of their work. Surely, I thought, nothing could stand up to the probably-hyperbolic praise thrown in their direction! Not only that, but it seemed impenetrable in a way that superhero comics never did, for some strange reason: A longrunning series true to urban cultures so alien to someone from Scotland with no immediately obvious “in” to start reading with? How am I supposed to start that?
(There were, admittedly, somewhat additional extenuating circumstances: For one, I had had a relatively unsuccessful prior attempt at the series, when Deadline started serializing some of Jaime’s work in the latter days of that magazine – I think it was “The Death of Speedy,” but can’t be sure – and it didn’t work for me because the episodes were too short and too far apart to seem like anything other than disjointed curios with nice art. For another, I had been warned off the series as being overrated and not worth the effort by a friend whose opinions I trusted fairly implicitly, and who rarely talked things down. His signpost to beware seemed like a fair warning, at the time.)
My point, or as much of a point as I have, is this: I was an idiot every single time I got scared of a book because of its reputation. For one thing, it’s comics – You read it and it clicks or it doesn’t, and that’s the end of it; it’s not like you’ll be judged by anyone other than your peers and the internet for admitting that you don’t like something. The books themselves aren’t going to turn on you and try and eat your hands if they sense your displeasure through some weird chemical reaction or whatever (Although, that would be awesome). But, maybe even more importantly, some things need protected from their own reputations a bit. Love and Rockets is spectacular, and amazingly approachable (What brought me over to the dark side of actually reading it was free time and finding Locas in my local library; never underestimate the power of the library system, friends), and the kind of thing that I feel embarrassed to have been reticent to read in the first place, which explains why I admit to it in public like this. Let my stupidity be a warning to you, dear readers: Read whatever you want, and ignore what everyone else thinks, especially if they’re telling you that you’ll like it.
…Unless it’s Watchmen. You can pretty much watch the movie and skip that one.