Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Does anyone else get comics guilt? You know, that feeling you have when everyone’s talking about a particular comic or creator and they’re all excited about them and you know that either (a) you’ve never read what they’re talking about, (b) you have read what they’re talking about and didn’t get it/like it, or (c) you literally have no idea what they’re talking about and want to ask if they’re making it up but they’re all acting like you know exactly what it is and it’d be embarrassing and you should really know and doesn’t this make you a bad comic fan and oh, God.
Me, I get comics guilt all the time. A lot of that falls to my seemingly-inherent desire to find a reason to feel guilty in the most unlikely of places, of course – I was asked by someone, earlier today, whether I had read “all the comics” because I knew so much about a particular comic book, and my instinctive reaction was to think to myself “I’ve not! I’ve not read all the comics! I have failed!” and gnash my metaphorical teeth together in shame, which should give you an idea about how bad of a problem this is for me – but I’m also placing the blame on the weird “common wisdom” that invades pop culture in general and comic culture in particular. Somehow, certain books end up with “buzz” and become must-read tomes accepted as such by the masses, and it’s never quite clear how that’s happened. It’s not always sales, and it’s no always quality, and sometimes, it’s neither (I could point to specific titles here, but that seems particularly cruel), but these books end up with a particular cache that, by the time you actually read them, your expectations are so high that the reality can only disappoint, and the only question is how much it does.
In a sop to these forces that I don’t quite understand, I found myself reading the first years of a couple of horrendously buzzed about indie books for the first time this weekend; I’d found collections at the library and figured that, what the hell? Even if I hated them, all I really would’ve spent was the time it’d taken to read them, and at least this way I would have a better idea of what everyone was talking about when they raved about these two particular books. (And, no, of course I’m not going to name them; what, you think I want to open myself to even more ridicule than I already do?) The problem was, I’d heard friends and fandom in general sing the praises of these two series for so long that, even trying to internally downgrade my expectations failed; I found the two series continually fall short of what I’d wanted from them, at almost every turn.
It’s my own fault, really; I forgot that there’s a reason why following your particular comic bliss is a good idea, especially when compared to trying to keep up with things that seem so outside your interest/comfort zone just because everyone else is doing it. That’s never going to get rid of comics guilt; at best, it’s just a way of exchanging one form for another. Obviously, there’s only one thing to do, one singular way to end this cycle. Clearly, it’s time to stop reading all comics.