Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Tom Spurgeon almost died this summer. That’s why we all had to learn to live without his nigh indispensable comics news and criticism site, The Comics Reporter, during its lengthy hiatus in July. And that’s why he wrote “All of These Things That Have Made Us,” a powerful reflection on a life lived in comics on the occasion of nearly losing it that is now available to read, and re-read and re-read, at his site.
In a juxtapositional fashion true to the art form, Tom jumps back and forth from an account of his medical ordeal,one that carried with it “a Shooter-era Marvel market share sized mortality rate” and briefly left him in a coma, to musings on comics — the industry, the art form, the community, and his place in all of the above. This technique makes for a very funny essay at times: Only Tom would spend time on what could well have been his deathbed trying to figure out what the heck is up with the Green Lantern movie and “The New 52,” or note as his life flashes before his eyes that all the people in comics complaining about how hard they work should basically STFU because based on his own experience it’s the easiest damn job in the world.
But it’s also a deeply moving piece, as Tom thinks about the safety and comfort the welcoming, forgiving (to a fault) comics community has given him. “Comics is the place where I’m the least scared,” he says. Later he grapples with the fact that despite years of immersion, the strange, sprawling, small, young art form still remains a mystery to him in many ways: “I’m not even sure I know how to read comics yet.”
Tom says that his road back to health will literally be lifelong, so while a speedy recovery is not in the cards, please join me in wishing him a thorough and life-affirming one. Not to be greedy or anything, but we can’t afford to lose the chance to read more pieces like this. It’s funny and sad, full of legit insight into how comics work today (including that terrific section on DC) and harrowing glimpses of what it’s like to go to the hospital believing you won’t be coming out. It’s incredible, maybe the best piece of writing on comics I’ve ever read. Go read it yourself.