This blog is the personal view of Rob Moore, and does not reflect the views of ITV News
My love of comics started in the early 1990s, at school, reading the big superhero titles like X-Men, Fantastic Four and Spiderman. I was about 7 year old.
Now I'm 33, and I still read comics.
Is that a reflection of my lack of maturity? Well, maybe a little bit, but what I read these days is very different to what I read as a young whipper-snapper, the books of Garth Ennis, Alan Moore, and Brian K Vaughan. They and many others are writing stories distinctly for a grown-up audience. And many writers have broken away from entirely from the superhero genre for which comics are best known.
In putting together this week's features on the rise of comic book culture in Guernsey, one point was made by several interviewees - comic books are not a genre, they are a medium. Dismissing comic books out of hand, is like snubbing films, or novels. You may not be a cinema-geek, but there's bound to be some films you like. The same applies to comic books. Increasingly, the format is used to tell an ever-wider breadth of stories, in a huge range of styles, and I'd be amazed if there wasn't one out there for you. I won't deny comic books are still dominated by super-heroes and sci-fi, but there's a lot more to it.
James Roberts, the locally based professional comic book writer, recommended to me a series called 'Giant Days' by John Allison. It follows three girls at Sheffield University - and that's about it! No super-powers, no interdimensional crisis, no fight to save the world from total destruction, just going to lectures (or not going to them, as the case may be), meeting new people and being skint - and it's very witty and moving.
I'll give you a few more examples, 'March' is a recent graphic novel trilogy about John Lewis' memories of the civil rights movement in the American deep south. John Lewis was heavily involved in creating the series, told in black and white panels matching the style of '50s and '60s comics. And it's powerful stuff. John Lewis, for those of you who don't know, was one of the so-called 'Big Six' (along with Martin Luther King Jr) who led that movement, and these days he is a US Congressman, who has the occassional run-in with President Trump.
Another comic classic, but one that is well outside the world of superheroes, is Maus. Art Speiglemen's story about his parent's experience as Jews in Europe during the Second World War was the first graphic novel to win a Pulitzer. It details the horrors of the holocaust in a style that uses animals rather than people (the Jews are mice, the Nazis are cats, the Poles are pigs etc) but far from undermining the seriousness of the material, that approach manages to make it all the more poignant. And mixed into that story, is the story of Art himself, trying to get his father to open up about his wartime memories and working through a difficult father-son relationship. It's a real masterpiece.
Even within the more traditional genres of comic books are examples of brilliant story-telling and creativity. A name that now transcends his comic book roots is that of Neil Gaiman. The novelist and film-writer made his name writing a DC Vertigo comic book series called The Sandman. It's a seriously surreal, and pretty post-modern and I don't want to give too much away, but if you've read his novels and in particular American Gods (not a big budget TV series), some of the basic concepts used there found their beginnings in The Sandman.
It's incredible to me to have discovered one of the top comic book writers is actually based right here in Guernsey, our own James Roberts, writer of IDW Publishing's 'Transformers: Lost Light'. James is writing a top-selling ongoing series for audiences around the world, translated into lots of different languages, and finds himself invited to talks and conventions from Japan to the US. He may well be Guernsey's most successful writer of fiction, in any meduim and yet most people in the island, even some of those who know James, have no idea what he does. That's partly down to the low-profile he likes to keep, and partly down to the fact many people still (wrongly, in my opinion) overlook comic books as a form of 'proper' fiction writing.
The success of comic-book inspired films and television has given the comics industry another resurgence. Some are family-fun like The Avengers and the Guardians of the Galaxy, others are darker and grittier like Logan, Christopher Nolan's Batman films, and the Walking Dead. They help to show the strength of the story-telling that originated in comic books. But they still don't reflect the huge range of genres found in comic books. That range is there, and is well worth exploring.