A couple of months ago I stumbled across a very simple but very nifty little programme called CDisplay, which displays scanned sequences of artwork; perfect for comics. I also discovered people sharing their comics online (they come with .cbr file extensions) and delved into a few and found them perfect to read on my laptop.
So now I’m hooked and doing something I haven’t done since I discovered girls and bands and Jean Paul Sartre – reading most of my literature in pictures with speech bubbles.
I’d forgotten how much I used to read comics as a kid. Growing up with dyslexia I didn’t start reading novels in earnest until I was twelve. But I always read comics.
It started off with the usual: Beano, Dandy, Whizzer and Chips, Beezer. Then later came Bullet and Warlord and the stunning and radical Action. I had every issue, stored in Cornflakes boxes, but lost them to a house move after I’d discovered girls and bands and Jean Paul Sartre.
To my delight, and without the need for CDisplay, I discoverd a beautiful site devoted to Action comic. It’s a wonderful blood red rosey-glowed nostalgia trip for anyone weaned on the delights of the ‘sevenpenny nightmare’ (and probably explains why I grew up the disturbed individual I am now).
After the powers that be got Action banned, I sought refuge with the likes of the anarchic Krazy, Roy of the Rovers, Battle, Commando, 2000AD, Star Wars and the mature Hammer House of Horror magazine (their Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires strip remains one of my favourite comic experiences). I rarely bothered with American comics, although I remember briefly sampling a modern day US-set Dracula comic for a while.
I’d forgotten how many I used to buy. Listing them like this makes me realise I was a serious collector between the ages of 8 and 14, until I discovered bands and girls and Jean Paul Sartre.
Why I find it so interesting is that the way stories unfold in comics seems to me remarkably similar to good screenwriting. Yes, it’s a visual medium as well, but there’s also something about the brevity of the format and the need to reduce scenes to their essence.
Searching online for a way of explaining what I was experiencing, I stumbled across this piece by Kurt Busiek and noted how most of his advice is equally applicable to good screenwriting.
So I’m using comics every day now to get me in the mood for my own writing. They kick-start my creative coma quite effectively.
I’m keeping my underpants on the inside, though.