Comic Culture: Gateways
The term “gateway” can be best defined as someone’s entrance into something. And, being that this is a comics column on a comics website, you might have already put two and two together. This week we are going to be talking about comic gateways, as well as touching on that one piece of geek nostalgia that got me into comics. Trust me. It’s a good one.
Clearly there are many different generations of readers out there. And because of this, their gateways into sequential art and storytelling are all going to be different. For example, it could be today’s age that is being brought up on Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. Or, it could be someone in the 90’s that was brought up on the animated X-Men cartoon. Conversely, maybe it would be someone who was literally brought up on comics as a kid because their parents were brought up that way as well. The possibilities are endless, and there is also no one gateway that is better than another.
Logically, though, if you start with X-Men cartoons you might then carry that over into comics and read Wolverine (if he’s your favorite character). Or, if you really dig Captain America in the movies, then you might try reading his book. These direct correlations usually seem to follow through for most people, but aren’t always constant because the world of comics is so vast. Once you get in, there are so many avenues to investigate that your initial reading intentions may be scrapped rather quickly. The one thing that does seem to remain constant though, is that whatever that one item is (character, series, etc.) that gets your foot through the door, is usually going to hold sentimental value and stick with you for most of your life. Don’t believe me? Then, let me give you an example.
Batman: The Animated Series was my own personal gateway into comics. Airing from 1992-1995 on the Fox Network, the show was designed and produced by the legendary Mr. Bruce Timm. In many people’s eyes, this is still the epitome of the depiction of Batman. Clearly taking some of its cues from the style and tone of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, the show managed to remain kid friendly while still appealing to (maybe even moreso) adult audiences. It was the first cartoon in years to depict physical violence towards adversaries, albeit nothing too graphic, as well as having an overall dark edge to it. The connection to Burton’s films was so strong that even the Danny Elfman theme was reused for the opening of the show.
Watching the show as a kid was always a personal highlight for me because I was just so enamored with this character and his world. The costumes were spot on. The voices were spot on. The stories, each and every week, really kept you guessing. Much like shows like The X-Files and Supernatural, there were your typical “monsters of the week” episodes, but also overarching stories that would carry through as well. The payoff was always there and you never left an episode feeling unfulfilled. It truly was a visual playground for a child’s imagination. It’s no wonder that Kevin Conroy’s Batman and Mark Hamill’s Joker are some of people’s favorites to this day because they both played off each other so well and really carved out a niche for themselves. As I watch the show today as an adult, it becomes more clear that what Timm and company were accomplishing was that of an “everlasting” image of the Batman mythos. It wasn’t all show; there was also substance. It’s just that some of it is overlooked by younger eyes. I find a new reason to love the show every time I watch it.
When the show began airing I was only 8 years old, and when it ended I was 11. These were the prime years of my childhood and they would shape my future to come in many ways. Ever since watching and cherishing this show I have been deeply rooted in comics, and more specifically the character of Batman. Today my love has transformed into a wealth of Batman memorabilia. I have Batman comics. I have Batman art. I have Batman shirts. I have Batman movies. If it’s Batman, then I probably have it. Starting with Batman I branched out into other DC books like Superman. From there I jumped to Marvel and read a lot of Daredevil. Fast forward to now and, even though I am not currently reading any Big Two books, I am still consuming their movies and shows at a frantic pace. I still love these characters and do what I can to support their continual fruition. The thing is, as you get older, your tastes begin to change and I am beginning to fall more and more in love with a new breed, indie comics. I really don’t foresee my love for Batman going away completely; maybe just not being as apparent, and there probably isn’t anything wrong with that.
So, now that you all know my own personal gateway I want you to do me a favor this week (if you’re up for it). Whatever your own personal gateway is/was, maybe take a few minutes this week and reflect on how it got you into comics and may have paved the way for you. Do you still cherish that one book? Do you still like that one show? Do you still own that one movie? It’s always a good thing to remember where we come from, and comics are no different. Because if it weren’t for that one item, then you might be into something weird like…I don’t know…You fill in the blank. Ok, I guess comics are a little weird, but I digress.