For a long time, comics lovers have been struggling to have comic books recognized as Real Literature. To be sure, some comics have achieved this distinction—Art Spiegelman’s Maus won a Pulitzer in 1992, but even then it was a “special award” because the board found the book “hard to classify.” Despite the wide range of subject matter, artistic style and target ages of comic books these days, the phrase “comic book” is still tossed around as an insult. Just think what it means if somebody says a novel or a movie or a TV show is “comic book-ish.” Generally, they’re not saying that it’s innovative or emotionally compelling or profound—though comic books can be all of these things. The use of the term “graphic novel” is a concession to the fact that “comic book” just sounds like lightweight fluff, and it’s used in many cases for books that really don’t qualify as “novels. “
Getting the world to acknowledge that comic books can be serious literature is an uphill battle. But there’s one group of people that makes it especially difficult, a group that has a significant influence on this issue. In my opinion, comics will never break the “low-culture” barrier until these particular people decide to treat comics as deserving of respect. Who are these people?
You guessed it: comic book writers.
Oh, that wasn’t your guess?
Here’s the thing: many comics I’ve read are full of errors—grammatical, spelling, punctuation and sometimes just plain using the wrong word. Honestly, I’m not sure if this is really the fault of the writer, or perhaps the letterer, but surely anything should be proofread before it gets published, right? As a bit of a grammar stickler myself, I cringe when I see misplaced apostrophes. Sure, a picture is worth a thousand words, but when your gorgeous illustrations are accompanied by the wrong “its/it’s” choice it feels like putting the Mona Lisa in a cheap $3 frame—or giving her an extra nose. How can you expect somebody to treat your comic book as Serious Literature when you don’t even know the difference between “their” and “there?”