There are five volumes of Hellboy comics resting on a shelf in the NS library; according to the stamps in the back, none of them have been checked out in almost ten years. These are Mike Mignola comics from Hellboy’s original run. Their artwork and storylines are considered top notch by enthusiasts, but they are left unappreciated.
While particularly evident in the rather small comics section, this is sadly the case for many of the great books at the NS library.
While standard young adult fantasy authors like John Flanagan and Brandon Sanderson have their books checked out at least once month, the school’s only copy of “The Chosen”—a book every teenager should read—hasn’t had its inside back cover stamped since November of 2007. “A Wrinkle in Time,” similarly, hasn’t been checked out since 2006, and there are many other examples.
True, these books could have been ignored because the average teenager may see them as boring or drab. If that is the case, what explains Frank Miller’s timeless classic “The Dark Knight Returns,” staying on the self for so long when its cover features a silhouette of Batman leaping down from the sky with a massive lightning bolt behind him?
Comics, a medium of storytelling designed to captivate the teenage reader, remain relatively ignored or at least undiscovered at NS.
Out of the five English teachers at NS, only one of them has integrated comic books of any kind into their curriculum. This could be because they are considered more of an exercise in visual art than literature, but comics are really a beautiful combination of both.
Comics, with their popping colors and serialized storylines, can be the perfect thing to draw teens and young adults into reading. Not every reader of The Sandman or Hellboy graduates to Dickens or Shakespeare, but that’s not the point. If they’re reading, they’re reading, and there are some true literary masterpieces in the world of comics—the NS library being home to a few.
Even if not everyone is familiar with comic books, they are likely familiar with comic book movies and TV shows. The entertainment world has been flooded with origin stories, sequels, crossover episodes and various adaptations of the comic book medium onto the screen.
This makes sense, because comics are cinematic literature. They are, in a sense, a storyboard and a script bound together as a book. This makes them incredibly valuable to a society that devours Netflix content and to teenagers who might otherwise only read when forced to for a class.
Of course, not all comics are created equal.
The whole medium is often dismissed by outsiders based on a history of cheap, pulpy and pointless entertainment. Digging through boxes of comics in a used bookstore can feel like searching for pearls in a puddle of mud, but the pearls are certainly there.
Regardless, comics are worth looking into, and the volumes of Hellboy found in the NS library are a great place to start.