It was my sophomore year of college when I first delved into the world of comics. I had always been a fan of Batman since I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons of Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League, but I had never before read a comic book. What made me decide to take a trip to a comic book shop was actually an English class called Detective Fiction. For this class, we had to pick a show or movie with a detective and show how they most relate to the two forms of detective fiction. Some people chose shows such as Bones, NCIS, and Castle as their choices, but when it came time for me to decide I knew I wanted to do it on Batman.
The next day I spent some time looking up local comic book shops with which I could conduct my research on Batman. It took almost no time at all to find a shop called Collector’s Corner off Harford Road. I looked up the address and programmed it into my phone’s map, ready to go on a mini adventure the next day to check it out. I don’t remember what I was expecting when I first walked into the store that day, but I don’t think I ever would have imagined it would entice me as much as it did.
When I walked in, I was nervous because I had no idea what I was looking for in the way of Batman comics; I knew comics had a long history so I was a little overwhelmed with where to start. Luckily, an employee came up to me and asked if I needed any help. I told him my situation and he gladly gave me two different graphic novels to start with, which he thought were good introductions to the character. I bought both and that night I spent some time pouring over the glossy pages. Needless to say, it was not what I expected.
I went in thinking that comics today were just as campy and lame as what I knew Adam West’s Batman to be: cheesy one-liners and brightly clad heroes with their underwear on the outside. Instead what I got was a dark, gritty, and even gory rendition of the hero that I grew up watching. No longer did I see Batman as just the hero who caught the bad guy and sent him off to jail wrapped up in a nice little bow. Now Batman was harsher, there was more at stake for him; you were left with ambiguity as to if he won or if there was more to come. There was tension on each page of whether Batman would make it out of a deadly situation; there were problems within his day-to-day life as Bruce Wayne: politics, secrets, and family issues.
When I read those graphic novels I realized that comics are more than just a flashy form of entertainment. No longer does the story go from point A to B in a straight line, rather, there are twists and turns and failures of the hero along the way. Comics shouldn’t be seen as something that is nerdy or even childish, rather, it should be seen as something that with time could be considered as literary fiction. Batman, in a lot of ways, deals with the same things any character in a literary piece could deal with: the loss of a loved one, coping with trauma, or even not succeeding in a relationship. The only difference between Batman and any other character is that he is a super hero and his problems are more heightened and dramatized than a regular person’s. But who’s to say that his stories still can’t be literary? When I read a literary short story there are things that I look for: a connection or feelings for the main character, and relatability or understanding to their situation, which are things that I also look for when reading comics now. When it comes down to it, Batman/Bruce Wayne is just a man who is living his life dealing with social, political, and personal problems that we too could experience in our own lives—hopefully without any arch enemies plotting our demise.
Grub Street Fiction Team Member
Image source: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.pinterest.com/amp/pin/450922981410804451/
The image above is "Flight" by Gillian Collins.