The Perfect Time for Comfort Comics

Right now, we’re living the exact opposite of the LEGO Movie song: Everything’s awful.

Due to the Corona/COVID-19 virus, it’s a tough time for everyone. 

That’s not what this article is about.

David already did an amazing job covering what this all means for the comics industry and has been doing a great thing with the SKTCHD x Comics Artist Giveaway to help comics shops around the world.

This is about one way to cope with all of this. It’s about escapism.

That’s usually a dirty word, something we don’t want associated with the things 1 we love. We want it to be something highbrow, sophisticated and generally something that people will take seriously. Us comics fans still relish in Maus’ Pulitzer win, we’re proud that Watchmen is included on TIME Magazine’s 100 Best Novels list and still wince at the “Biff! Bang! Pow!” headlines. 2

But right now, it’s not Maus, Jimmy Corrigan, V For Vendetta, Fun Home or other similar titles that I’m reading.

After an exhausting day of keeping my 2-year-old daughter entertained, 3 following the news about the latest developments, trying to get some writing done and generally being cooped up at home, 4 I find myself instead turning to something that’s simply entertaining. Something to escape.

I’ve been reading 90s Image comics, series that are focused more on looking cool than telling compelling stories that speak to the human condition, instead simply revelling in action for the sake of action. It’s the comic book version of a Fast & Furious flick. There’s some deep, convoluted mythology behind it all that doesn’t quite make sense. There are characters that just show up out of nowhere and things that happen for no discernable reason. None of that matters, as long as it looks and feels cool. And you know what? I’m loving it.

It’s comfort comics.

I can read without having to think too much, simply turn my brain off and just relax, taking a break from the constant bombardment of information about what’s going on in the world.

I’ve been trying – and mostly failing – to decipher the convoluted mythology that’s connecting Witchblade, The Darkness, Magdalena, Angelus and many other Top Cow comics, before simply giving up and just enjoying how fun and cool the comics feel. Reading about a supernatural mob hitman killing thugs with an army of darklings, a New York cop fighting the forces of evil with a wristband that turns into a full body armor 5 or a direct descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene fighting demons with the Spear of Destiny is all ridiculous. 6

It, however, also provides a level of escapism that’s hard to beat. 

But comics aren’t only providing escapism. They’re also providing companionship, in a way.

This weekend, I bought everything I still needed to read of Giant Days, a series I had otherwise been slowly savoring. Three trades, six issues and two specials. Way more than I’d normally buy at once, but something inside me told me that this was exactly what I needed right now.

I didn’t realize it until afterwards, but a big part of why I did this is because while we can’t be with our real friends right now, it is possible to be with our fictional friends.

We all have these fictional characters that we almost know better than our real friends. We know how Spider-Man, Chandler or Aragorn would react in a situation, just like we know how our real friends would.

And then there are those rare stories that have characters where, as we experience the stories, it feels like we’re hanging out with our own gang of friends. The TV series Friends is the quintessential example of this, but there are also numerous comics that feel this way. 7

From the cover of Giant Days #23, art by Lissa Treiman

For me, no series embodies this like Giant Days. The characters feel real, I care about them and – most importantly – they’re fun to hang out with.Daisy, Esther, Susan, McGraw, Ed Gemmell and the rest of the cast always put a smile on my face. They make me relax, laugh and unwind, the way you do around good friends.

Reading about the gang’s fun parties, problems with relationships, joys of relationships, struggles with making ends meet, the absurd jobs that are somehow still extremely relatable and all the other stuff they get up to, is a way to experience those things ourselves. Or at least feel like it does when we’re talking with our friends about what they’ve been up to. 8

This is the power of entertainment, and especially comics. It allows us to go places and do things we can’t do ourselves. Normally that’d mean getting to see New York City as Spider-Man, swinging from skyscraper to skyscraper. Exploring a zombie wasteland with Rick Grimes or visiting strange new planets in the midst of a galactic war in Saga.

These days these fantastic worlds, completely unlike our own, also include just meeting our friends and hanging out.

Because yes, things are grim right now. But we’ll get through this. We all just have to follow the guidelines 9 and we’ll make it.

And comics can help us find some comfort, whether it’s escaping to a dumb, fun world filled with action and cool people or if it’s simply spending time with our fictional friends.

  1. And especially the comics medium.

  2. Though there are luckily far fewer of those these days.

  3. While everything’s closed and we can’t visit anyone

  4. I am well aware that in the grand scheme of things, I have it easy. There are many that have it far worse. Though considering how many articles about “How to kill time while quarantined”, there are also those that have it easier. Entertaining a toddler all day is not easy and I have even more respect for stay-at-home parents and anyone working with children.

  5. Well, as full body as can be expected from a 90s Image comic. It gets better as the series goes on, though!

  6. Especially when you throw in the romantic tensions between the various characters and the legacy aspect of every artifact as well.

  7. As David covered in his article about Hang Out comics.

  8. Or for older people like me, when we’re talking about our time at college.

  9. Wash your hands. If you sneeze or cough, do it into your elbow or a tissue. Don’t touch your face. Stay at home. If you have to go out, keep a distance of 6 ft/2 m.