My husband had his first mention in The Hollywood Reporter yesterday. This isn’t exactly Steven Spielberg Hollywood we’re talking about– more like “Hitler Zombie IV” Hollywood, but still, Hollywood! This was a long time coming: he’s been working in comic books since he was twelve years old– we have pictures of him at scifi conventions in Manhattan, surrounded by talent many times his age, all looking down on him (he was short) with great deference. He would rent tables at these conventions and hire talent to sign books and sketches, taking a cut from each sale. How he got these guys to work for a twelve year old is a little puzzling, and why the artists didn’t just band together and rent their own tables is even more puzzling, but in sixteen years of eavesdropping on his work conversations, I don’t get the impression artists are the most organized bunch.
He’s explained to me that back in the day (late 1970s to early 1980s), scifi conventions were not the star studded events they are today. It was just a bunch of nerds wandering around fold up tables in shabby rented rooms. Church basements were a common venue.
Fast forward to today and you have events like the ongoing San Diego Comic Con, or the NYC Comic Con at the Javits Center, which draw throngs of stormtroopers, celebrities, nerds and scantily dressed women into rooms so packed there’s barely room to breathe. Comic books weren’t cool back when my husband first started, and I’d argue they aren’t cool today and are still considered nerd fodder. But their intellectual properties are beloved the world over, having yielded box office phenoms like Spiderman, Iron Man, X-men, and so on.
My husband speaks eloquently on this issue. He explains comic books– or rather, their characters and stories– are the mythos of our age, much like the Odyssey was the cultural pulse of ancient Greece, or the Jesus story the saga of Roman occupied Palestine. He likens Superman to Jesus, though I think Moses might be a better comparison. I believe the bad guy in “Unbreakable” soliloquizes on this topic, comparing comic books to Egyptian hieroglyphics, though my husband’s take is that storytelling is one of the deepest aspects of our humanity. After all, animals don’t tell stories, though they do communicate. But unlike prose, comic books maintain the ancient art of storytelling through pictures, which would go back much further than ancient Egypt, back 25,000 years or more to the swirling cave paintings of Chauvet and forward in time to the great European Cathedrals depicting Bible stories in reliefs and stained glass.
So in that respect, comic books have always struck me as more “raw” than a novel or film, because they promulgate the timeworn genre of static visual storytelling. And judging from the massive response the world has had to comic book movies, the archetypes they depict are something ingrained in us all, or, if I can borrow a phrase from scripture, something written on our hearts.