When I was doing uni at night, and working full time, I didn’t have the time or energy to read books. There was my required reading list, but that was it. But I missed it, the stories, so terribly, so I started reading comics, because they were quick and easy and not overly dense in the text department, which was a real consideration as I’d be so fried I couldn’t bear to look at black text on white, it hurt too much. So, comics.
I started off with what they had in the newsagent across the road from the station: Flash, JLA, Green Arrow. Then I branched out in Marvel angst, mainly X-Men and Daredevil. Then I hit the hard stuff: Sandman, Hellblazer. The Invisibles, Preacher.
These stories introduced me to some of my favourite writers, like Neil Gaiman, who I followed back into books, once I’d finished my hell years/decades of two degrees by night.
I loved those comics, I really did, having been a mythology geek since childhood, so Wonder woman, Thor, Swamp Thing, etc, it was like coming home.
But I was always made ashamed of my flimsy four-colour reading habits, so I put them away, and, once finished with uni, began to read the texts I was always taught I should. Though they kept harking me back to the comics, like the Odyssey, Dracula, Frankenstein…I couldn’t help myself.
So I figured I was just doing the required reading I needed to get the references in the funny books.
The really funny thing, though, is, all those text books I had to read for uni? All outdated and/or discredited. And the comic books? Well, have you gone through a day lately without seeing a reference to one of my paper heroes?
In other words, I did the required reading. And I’m laughing.
Which isn’t to say I’m clever (lawks, after the last few weeks, not even remotely), but at least I get some of the in-jokes, and feel, in some small way, to be getting my own back on all those actually educated folks who went to posh schools who taught Latin and the like, who are always including big quotes of something and expecting me to know it. I mean, I gave up on one big old book because I grew tired of trying to google something every other page on a crowded bus with an old phone that only works when it feels like it, and then this stupid-as potboiler I picked up instead started doing the same (inspired, I suspect, by the very same old tome that had defeated me), and, well, very irksome, throws me right out of the story.
I mean, I don’t mind looking up stuff, used to love it, but juggling phone and book on the bus these days, just too much – and I never have time to go back, or remember what arcane bit on what page I’m supposed to be looking up.
I’d be nice if commute time wasn’t the only time I carved out for reading, because I really can’t do anything else on an overcrowded bumpity bus jolting from one pothole to another. Maybe I should go back to ready one or two comics a night. They (and cheap classic imprints) at least tend to be annotated.