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December 15, 2008

Growing Up With Comics

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My mom never threw out my comic books, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Well, she was far too good natured (and practical) to actually throw them away, but she did do her best to prevent them from ever entering the house in the first place. In fact, the seven siblings who came before me were, I was told, never allowed to read them. But then I came along and broke the rules, much to her (and my dad’s) chagrin.

In high school, I remember feeling embarrassed about my then-secret reading habit. I kept it hidden from friends and teachers out of a misguided fear of being mocked for reading what was considered to be a kids' medium. Once, I heard comics described as “sub-literature.” It wasn’t a compliment. It solidified my view that I should keep my love for the form a secret. It wasn't easy.

Today, reading comics, manga, and graphic novels is no longer seen as something to be embarrassed about. Sure, the medium doesn't get all the respect it deserves, but that's changing, and things have evolved enough that it's not uncommon to see comics in everyday settings—even taught in classrooms.

It still feels slightly strange to me to wear my comics-reading habit like a badge of honor on my sleeve. The other day, as I sat on a subway train reading a graphic novel, along with dozens of others listening to their iPods and reading their books, I noticed I wasn't alone in my choice of reading material. Now that our culture's comic-reading habits are out in the open, I realize I probably never was alone.

It's a feeling I'm glad has passed, not just because it justifies my own reading choices, but also because it makes a site like this possible. It allows us to respect the wealth of diversity in what’s out there and to point new readers in the right direction. Better yet, we’ll get to introduce you to the amazing creators behind them, hear their viewpoints, learn from them, and find out what’s on their minds. That’s just a small taste, and if you’re like me, you know it’s long overdue.