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Just Looking at the Pictures

kawaiidaigakusei at 12:00AM, Oct. 2, 2023

Photo: “A Mutant Trying to Read”. The Uncanny X-Men by Marvel Comics. Animal Farm by George Orwell. Photographed by kawaiidaigakusei. (October 2023)

Rogue: I figured you read this one already. But the cover looked pretty good.

Beast: Thomas Wolfe. An old favorite. I thank you.

Gambit: Beastie is easy to shop for, no? Just buy the books with the most dust on them.

X-Men: The Animated Series
Season One | Episode Eleven
“Days of Future Past - Part One”
Original Air Date: March 12, 1993

A new comic book shop sprung up in town over the last six months and it is a welcome addition to this comic book desert. The previous attempt to engage a comic book reading community in the city came in the form of a coffee shop that sold comics books lined on bookshelves in addition to hot brews. Sadly, the coffee and comics combo had trouble catching onto the community—its survival was dependent on the comics selected to be sold and the skill level of the baristas. The latest comic book venture proved to be a worthwhile visit because it stocked used comic books from the early nineties in cardboard boxes for two dollars a piece.

The requirements for a comic book to be added to my collection are tight and narrow. First, it must be X-Men; Second, it must be Uncanny; Third, it must be in the range of the 200s to 300s; Fourth, they need to be at least thirty years old. The reason is simple: I enjoy the creative team behind the artwork during that time. I am reading them all for the first time in the present day because when they were first available, I was in first grade and could not, for the life of me, make sense of the dialogue in the text bubbles. There is a relatable episode of X-Men: The Animated Series where Dr. Hank McCoy a.k.a. “Beast” is accused by some prison guards of being unable to read Animal Farm by George Orwell and that he was “just looking at the pictures”. In truth, my first grade self could only look and understand the pictures unlike the learned and cultured Beast. The concepts and topics covered in the Uncanny X-Men, such as war and mutant inequality, make more sense to an adult than a first grader.

(Beast picks up a copy of Animal Farm by George Orwell off the ground of a jail cell.)

Prison Guard (Number One): Well, Get a load of that. A mutant trying to read.

Prison Guard (Number Two): Look at the title. “Animal Farm”. He’s just looking at the pictures. See any old relatives in there? Hairball?

(Both guards laugh in unison.)

X-Men: The Animated Series
Season One | Episode Three
“Enter Magneto”
Original Air Date: November 26, 1992

The early days of my own personal comic book fandom started with looking at a lot of pictures instead of text. Comics were where I first started to learn how to “read” images—a skill very useful on The Duck. I suppose that is the reason cartoons are so popular because they include visual images and audio with very little reading ability required. Comic books are mainly visual images and written text, making the writing and visual art appeal equally important.

These days, it takes me so much longer to get through a single comic book than a text-only book because there is a joyful appreciation when savoring every little drawn detail and inked line on a page and following the text bubbles in the order intended by the writers. Definitely looking at more than just the pictures.

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Ironscarf at 6:53AM, Oct. 3, 2023

I struggle with reading that run, popular as it is, but it doesn't matter because Glynis Oliver's colours are gorgeous. The palette of available colours had expanded slightly by adding 75% tones and by this time the paper quality was improving. As a result colours that previously looked like mud on the old newsprint could now be used. She really knew how to make the most of that.

Banes at 8:31PM, Oct. 2, 2023

p.s. Reading comics absolutely grew my vocabulary through my early and teen years!

plymayer at 5:18PM, Oct. 2, 2023

Comics are fantastic for early readers. Gets them interested and soon the readers want to know what is happening beyond the pictures. Next, they are reading comics. Then books. Then what ever suits their fancy.

PaulEberhardt at 12:07PM, Oct. 2, 2023

Yes, this is a great post! The fun thing is, as far as I can recollect, I became literate just the same way, just looking at the pictures in all kinds of comics and cartoons. They also helped keeping me bilingual, that is always keeping both English and German close to me at a very tender age. It didn't work that well with picture books for children that were made for that purpose - with the outstanding exception of Dr. Seuss, but those pretty much qualify as comics from my point of view. I guess it makes a huge difference if the pictures actually do some storytelling, instead of just supplementing a story.

Banes at 8:54AM, Oct. 2, 2023

Great post - and that's a wonderful run of X-Men books I'd say (though I haven't read nearly all of the run). I think most of that run has never been adapted by the movies. So much wonderful stuff. The animated show has tackled a lot of it I think; I haven't seen much of that show.

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