Panorama Week: Part 4
Part 4: The Comics
As I’ve been reading through The Panorama this past week (see posts 1, 2, and 3) and recording my reading experience, I realized that most of my associations with newspapers date back to my childhood twenty or so years ago, and, more specifically, to my father. This realization came earlier this morning as I read through The Panorama’s comic seciton. I wonder: Are comics so infused with memories of childhood and the smell of toast for everyone?
I have come to notice as well—and, I think, in relation to the above—that I think about my father more than anyone else when I think about newspapers. My peers don’t typically read them—at least not in print form. I don’t hear much talk about them and I don’ t see them lying around people’s living rooms when I visit. I typically see many more open laptops than unfolded newspapers. This is not a new revelation, obviously, but, due to this little Panorama reading experiment I’ve paid much more attention to what I know about newspapers and how I know it, to how I originally became involved in newspapers, how I (like Dave Eggers and many other newspaper lovers) began to care about them, began to find it important to count on their arrival, and so on. And I realize that my introduction to newspapers was through comics.
Back to my father, childhood, comics, and The Panorama (though perhaps not in that order). As far back as I can remember my parents subscribed to The Oregonian, and every morning before I woke up my father would walk out to the mailbox and get the day’s copy. Most mornings, he would have even read everything in it he wanted to before I made it to the kitchen for breakfast. But sometime when I was a boy my father began to take the comics section out of newspaper and give it to me to look at. (It took me a while to realize that he handed me these sections only after he had read them himself. Not that this would have mattered to me then, as it did later, when my wife and I would argue over who got to read which portions of the Sunday NYTimes first.) I would read Blondie, Beetle Bailey, The Family Circus. All of them. Some even, like Prince Valiant and Cathy, I didn’t very much care for, but read nonetheless. Comics, and so the newspaper, became part of my life. Sometime later, I continued reading the rest of the newspaper and left the comics behind.
Though I often read comics in book form, it was nice to read some in the newspaper once again in The Panorama. As you can see, this brought back some things I had much forgotten. Also, this helped me understand why I began reading newspapers at all and how I began to think they were part of my world. Anyone can see simply by the names of their creators that the comics in The Panorama are great—really, really great: Chris Ware, Art Spiegleman, Adrian Tomine, Alison Bechdel, Ivan Brunetti, Chris Ware again. I’m not going to go into them in particular, suffice to say that they are rendered in excellent color and on thick paper. And they are even bigger, brighter than I remember the color Sunday comics being when I was young. What’s more, they are a thinking audience’s comics, and so they are perfect for 31 year old me. (I have read many works by the above listed authors.) And yet, though there is still much escapism to be had, I am unsure my nine-year-old daughter would really get into them. There is a lot more conemplation and irony here than she typically gets a kick out of. A lot less joking than she likes. They are more adult than childlike, in the end, though they are supposed to be “for all ages,” as the section announces. Of course, I may be wrong. When she gets home from school, I’ll set them in front of her and see what she thinks.
[A brief coda: My family and I visited my parents this past summer out in Oregon. One morning, my father passed me the comics section, pointing out one strip he found particularly funny (most likely this was Dilbert). I chuckled, though it probably wasn't that funny, or at least I probably didn't think it was. This is usually how it goes, how it has gone for years. Then I reach for the rest of the paper to see what was going on.]
TOMORROW: All the News
Read part 1 here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.