Comic Week: Neill Cameron on why they’re awesome
As part of our special comic week, Neill Cameron, comic creator for The Phoenix and author of How to Make Awesome Comics and Pirates of Pangaea, explains why comics are just awesome…
On Comics, Maturity, and Farting Robots
Comics are a serious art formfor respectable grown-ups. We know this because for the last 30 years, since the successes of creators like Alan Moore (Watchmen) and Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns), the press has documented the growth of comics for adults – given a veneer of respectability by cunningly rebranding as Graphic Novels – with a seemingly endless round of news stories excitedly informing us that, as the by this point extravagantly clichéd headline puts it: “Bam! Pow! Comics aren’t just for kids any more!”
What got lost a bit in this decades-long rush for Maturity and Seriousness was the fact that, you know what, actually, comics are for kids. You can tell, they have robots in and farting and everything.
I’ve loved comics ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I’m a bit too young to remember the heyday of weekly comics in this country, when every newsagent’s shelves bulged under the weight of a staggering line-up ofBattles and Actions and Valiantsvying for dominance with Jintys and Tammys and Mistysand you couldn’t swing a cat without igniting a fierce argument about whether the cat was a Whizz-Kid or a Chip-Ite. But there was still a lot of choice, and I grew up loving the Beano and Oink and Transformers and 2000AD and generally spending most of the week counting the days till Saturday morning.
There’s something very special about what comics can give to kids – mind-blowing artwork and thrilling stories that pull you joyfully into reading and make it something cool and fun and exciting – but also the sense that they give you a whole world. A private world, a world that gets to live on in your head in that deliciously agonising weeklong wait between issues. And a world that spills out onto paper when you try to fill that long week by picking up a pencil and drawing your own. The ease of imitability and sheer fun of comics naturally encourages kids to have a go themselves, developing their literacy skills and artistic abilities without it ever seeming like work, because they’re having too good a time drawing robots farting to notice. That’s what comics gave me in my childhood, and I’m incredibly happy that I get to pass that on and give it to the young people who read my comics today.
So, sure, comics aren’t just for kids any more. But, in a world increasingly full of Batman videogames you have to be 18 to play and ‘dark and edgy’ reimaginings of characters that once belonged to 9-year-olds, perhaps we ought to remember that they shouldn’t be just for grown-ups, either.
Neill Cameron is comic creator for The Phoenix and author of How to Make Awesome Comics and Pirates of Pangaea (David Fickling Books, £8.99). Follow him on Twitter: @neillcameron