The Comic Book Renaissance

By Beacon Staff

This is a weekend where I regret that Montana never hosts events like the Comic Con, the national comic book convention taking place in New York City for the next three days. It comes at a time when the medium of comic art is undergoing a boom, thrusting young artists into the national spotlight, and celebrating artists from the 1940s and 1950s, who for too long labored in obscurity.

The convention features a “Living Legends” panel, a kind of Justice League of comic book creators, with such grey-haired, elderly guests as Spiderman creator Stan Lee, Captain America creator Joe Simon, and The Flash creator and Batman savior, Carmine Infantino.

These guys are old. Simon, according to a recent New York Times profile, is 94. They have presided over the Golden and Silver ages of comic books in America, through multiple wars. With Jack Kirby, Simon’s first issue of Captain America had the superhero punching Hitler in the face on the cover.

Among other comic book artists of this era, Simon was one of the inspirations behind Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” To hear what these guys hadve to say at a time when their medium is finally enjoying the attention it has long deserved would be fascinating.

At the same time, another story in the Times describes the hip, young artists taking part in the explosion of graphic novels and other non-superhero-based comics circulating through New York. As someone who spent a lot of time as a kid poring over comic books, it’s nice to see that it’s, um, finally cool to be seen reading one – regardless of age.

And that, ultimately, is why it is so good to see comic books and graphic novels thriving. I’m not a particularly sophisticated person when it comes to the visual arts. On a recent trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I zipped through the modern art wing and lingered over the feudal Japanese weapons. What can I say, I read a lot of Lone Wolf and Cub.

But the beauty of comic books and graphic art is that you don’t have to be a sophisticate to enjoy a good story, and to linger over the drawing in a particular panel. The art is sophisticated, even if the reader may not be, though many readers are. And that’s what the thousands of costume-clad people attending the convention will be there for this weekend – for the good stories, and to see the artists who have been creating them for over 50 years.

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