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    the season of comics II / comics as knowledge-system

    The season of comics continues unabated, with three or four more graphic novels lying in wait to be read, including the gigantic Daredevil Omnibus, kindly loaned to me by my Film Club compatriot Skunkcabbage.

    Reconnecting with comics, with the Marvel Universe in particular, has been providing me with very real pleasure this winter, and I've been speculating as to why that is. There's probably a way in which the much-remarked-upon escapist or power-fantasy aspects of comics act as to temporarily stave off some of the depressing realities of adulthood (in the same way that they temporarily staved off some of the depressing realities of adolescence) but I don't really think that tells the whole story.

    Late last night, K. and I discussed the idea that comics form a "knowledge-system," a body of deeply specialized / obscure (yet knowable) information that is rewardingly vast and crannied (yet navigable, and ultimately finite). Similar knowledge-systems might be things like jazz, or World War II history, or contemporary poetry. There is a certain pleasure, if you're a geek, in diving into a system of that sort, and learning the way that information functions in it. Who are the key figures? How are they related? What are the central narratives? What's the chronology of key events? These questions are a very satisfying sort of mind-candy.

    With comics—particularly Marvel Universe comics—I have the advantage that the central roster of characters is pretty familiar to me, and has been since I first learned my way around the Marvel Universe knowledge-system in, oh, 1984 or whenever. Plunging back in mostly means learning where the stories are now—what's happened in the interval since I stopped reading. (Or filling in blind spots: hence my interest in the Daredevil Omnibus—Daredevil was never really a character I read when I was younger.) I've argued elsewhere that comics characters should age in more-or-less real time, but I'm learning that a stable roster of characters provides a certain orienting structure within the knoweldge-system, which is definitely making it easier for me to re-enter it.

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    Monday, March 10, 2008
    2:03 PM


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