I don’t know exactly when I started to read, or, more importantly, when I started to love reading.
I do have a theory.
As far back as the very beginning of when I can remember—when I was small and round with curly blonde hair and chubby legs and baby teeth—there were two things at the end of the driveway every morning: a gallon of milk in a chipped, paint-peeling wooden box, and The Gazette, the local Colorado Springs Newspaper (later on, the Wall Street Journal as well, but that’s not pertinent here). And somewhere, buried in the rustling gray paper, nestled away in grandiose meekness, the comics. Weekdays there was a single page, full on the front, and half on the back. We would race to get the paper, pull it open, find the comics, and read them as we slowly walked back up our gravel drive.
The comics were the most important part of the morning (besides, of course, breakfast). Some were stand-alone strips, others encapsulated a story that went on and on and on and on. And on Sunday, blessed Sunday, there were three pages of comics, in full, brilliant, dazzling color. They were practically luminescent—at least that was how they looked to us. The only appropriate way to read the Sunday comics was stretched out on the floor, elbows denting the carpet, carpet imprinting the elbows, all the glorious pictures and words stretching out flat on the ground.
Now, still curly blonde hair, but no baby teeth, I suspect it all began with the comics. The comics bred a love of story, a love of humor and wit, a fascination with the tangible emotions that can be crafted by the written word. Comics fed my imagination, showing me that words and pictures work together, and that small sentences do fit in the larger story. They showed me the pictures I should expect from words, and helped me create words to fit the pictures. The books that I read now aren’t picture books or comic books (except sometimes, for fun) but it’s okay, because I can still see the story in my mind.
People brush off the comics, like they’re not important, and certainly not literature. But they are. A smaller, more creative, less complex (and occasionally more) literature. The ability to craft a whole idea in three or four 2.5 x 2.5 inch squares is an exercise in articulation, in creativity, in both excellent wit and editing.
Now I’m an adult (or at least pretending to be one), and I love to read. The comics get partial credit.