There’s a special place in my heart for the medium that is the comic book. I fell in love with this when I was probably about 8 or 9 years old when my dad started buying me Amazing Spider Man books. It was right around this time, too, that DC Comics did their death of Superman with Doomsday and all that, and I couldn’t get enough. Then I went YEARS without reading comic books.
That was until college, when a really cool professor of mine (Dr. Ken Cooper) assigned our class The Watchmen by Alan Moore. I had never read anything like it, and by this point in my life, I had read a lot more than I had at 8 years old. The same professor assigned us The Ice Storm–although I cannot remember if it was the same class or not–and there were a bunch of Fantastic Four references in this book, and I slowly found my way back to reading comic books.
After college I discovered Neil Gaiman, right around the time his book Anansi Boys came out. I read it, loved it, and then read American Gods, which quickly became one of my favorite books ever. This, of course, prompted me to learn more about Neil Gaiman, and I discovered that he had been around for a long time as a comic book writer. The Sandman–a series he started in the 80s and that lasted for about 10 years–was, and probably still is, the most amazing long running comic series ever written.
Are there better books out there than The Sandman? Yes. Alan Moore’s V For Vendetta is perhaps the best socially aware comic book ever written, but it didn’t have the same reach that Sandman did. I read an interview with Gaiman a few weeks ago where he was commenting about how during the 10 year span of Sandman, most of the time he was more in tune to what his characters were doing than what was going on in real life. This blew my mind, to use a turn of phrase. I have been working on my sci-fi western novel off and on since 2007–a long time by any account–and it has only just recently reached the point where it has consumed my thoughts. It’s a good feeling, and it makes me realize that I’m doing something right, that my characters are starting to come alive. I think this is something that writers need to do if they’re going to be successful. Because if the characters have no spark with the writer, they sure aren’t going to resonate with the reader.