Comic books bring artistry, imagination and a tactile experience to a digital age | Los Angeles Times
|Photo: Jessica Peralta|
|The main room at the Comic Quest store in Lake Forest, where the inventory includes the most recent and popular comic books.|
Photo: Don Leach / Weeke
Glynnes Pruett was raised on comic books. When she was a child, her father would take her and her siblings to various trade shows, conventions and swap meets to sell the books as a hobby.
"I learned to read with comics," said the 29-year-old owner and founder of Comic Book Hideout in Fullerton. "I have grown up with them my whole life."
Pruett is not alone in her longtime passion for comic books. The medium has not only survived various economic downturns over nearly a century, but even appears to be surviving — some might argue thriving — in this age of gadgetry and all things digital, to become a billion-dollar industry in North America alone.
The picture in Orange County, seemingly a microcosm of the larger trend, reveals a healthy list of comic book shops — many also featuring games and other related hobbies — with a mix of devoted fans alongside new faces. The influx of blockbuster comic book films has often helped fuel the local industry, but there's also something else:
That very tactile experience of holding a freshly printed comic book that beckons with an artistry and imagination that many readers find truly unique.
"Comics are great at getting big ideas across in a relatively small amount of space and time," said Ed Zybul, 39, who has been a comic book patron at Comic Quest in Lake Forest for decades, even after his move out of Orange County a few years ago.
"Text and imagery can be combined to accomplish far more than the sum of their parts. If the cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words is true, someone making a comic can add a hundred words to an image and give the reader closer to a hundred thousand words worth of story than the one-thousand, one-hundred words that would seem to add up to.
"I like that a good comic can occupy many different aspects of my attention at once, and I can get a good story-reading experience in a fraction of the time a movie, novel or video game would take, though I enjoy all of those mediums as well."
The history of the genre
Comic books, which offer words and pictures in a sequential storyline, originated in the U.S. in the late 1800s, according to randomhistory.com, which calls them more than entertainment for kids but rather a "serious and sophisticated art form."
The Yellow Kid was introduced by Richard Felton Outcault in 1895 in "Hogan's Alley," considered one of the first Sunday supplement comic strips in an American newspaper.
Many notable characters followed, including Buster Brown, Krazy Kat, Katzenjammer Kids, Popeye, and Mutt and Jeff. Most all of the strips in the first decades of the 20th century were humorous, hence the term "comics" or "funnies," according to randomhistory.com.
The period from about 1930 to 1950 is commonly known as the Golden Age of comic books. The superhero archetype was created during this time, and readers were introduced to Superman, Batman, Captain America and others. Soon the comic book industry would be dominated by the two major publishers of superhero books — Marvel and Detective Comics (DC)...
Educational, communal benefits
Wednesdays are big days for comic book fans because it's the day new comic books are delivered to stores.
Jacobs describes it "almost like a local bar-type session" with regulars gathering to see the latest and share their thoughts.
"It's not like a convenience store when people just pick up their stuff and go," he said. "It's very much a sense of community."
Comic book stores further encourage that community feeling by hosting special events like free comic book giveaway days. Comic Quest recently held a "The Walking Dead" day, offering a free
"Walking Dead" issue No. 163 to guests, along with free "zombie food" and a sale on zombie items as the staff dressed like zombies.
According to Allen, his store's No. 1-selling comic is the "Saga" series, which he describes as "a space soap opera." He adds that 60% of his patrons wanting that comic are women.
"The Walking Dead" series is another popular comic that was a big seller even before the AMC TV hit show, he said.
Source: Los Angeles Times