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In Defense Of Comic Books

In Defense Of Comic Books

They were the bane of teachers’ existence, and many parents frowned on them too. I’m talking about comic books, “back in the day”—specifically, back in my childhood.

The genre known as “manga” didn’t exist then. There were two types of comic books only: funny and adventure. There was Archie, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Little Lulu, Henry, Casper, the Friendly Ghost, and such, and there was Superman, Batman, and others I can’t call to mind because I didn’t read them; I read only the funny ones.

Since I was a voracious reader of “real” books, my mother was not perturbed that I enjoyed comic books. She objected only to the cost. Once I’d read a comic book, I tended not to keep it, as opposed to real books, which I hung on to even when I’d outgrown them. My mother tried to dissuade me from spending too much of my allowance on comic books but she didn’t object to my reading them on principle. My-cousin-the-teacher supplied me with a limited number of books that were aimed at kids older than I was. When I was in third grade, she gifted me with a sixth-grade reader. I zipped through it. My mother wasn’t worried about my reading habits.

But if my mother wasn’t worried, my teachers were. Not so much about me—they just  were down on comic books in general. Mrs. Hewlett was probably the staunchest opponent of comic books, but the other teachers were all of the same accord.

I saw things differently even at that tender age. If the kids—boys, mostly—who were “slow readers” were amenable to reading comics, well, at least they were reading. Why couldn’t the teachers see that? They weren’t watching TV or playing games or starting fights. They were READING.

I feel the same today. There will always be reluctant readers. They won’t pick up a book voluntarily. I’d rather see them reading a comic book than playing a videogame or watching TV. Maybe it’s even possible—dare I hope?—that reading comic books will help improve their reading skills and spur them on to reading REAL books. In any case, they’re not replacing real books with comic books. If they weren’t reading comic books, they’d be playing video games or watching TV—not reading.

Let’s hear it for comic books!

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