Sunday, September 17, 2006

In Your Head

Advertisements in comics have always aimed young. Genre movies, videogames and junk food have been staples, but in recent years, another category of advertisement has become more and more ubiquitous: the anti-drug message.

Even the Just Say No generation didn’t have to slog through the anti-drug ads that clog many of the comics from the major publishers. The message has shifted to show that drugs aren’t cool and that you’ll never achieve anything if you use them. Aside from the occasional use of a computer-generated grotesque, there is nothing really wrong with these ads, they are, after all, placed there with the best of intentions.

And yet, comics books are probably one of the worst places to put ads like that, because when it comes to reading material when you’re wasted, nuthin’ beats comics.

Smoke a joint, knock back a few wines, do what you will, but if you don’t have anybody to share it with or anyplace special to go, a comic book can be your best friend.

Much of it is a result of the actual stories, but the format itself also plays a big part. When the brain is swimming in its own juices, reading a big block of text can be nearly impossible. But when you add a page full of pictures, things become a lot easier.

With a comic, you can pause in the middle of a page and let the mind wander where it wants to and when it comes back, you can pick up the flow again with the greatest of ease. You can focus on an idea or phrase, or simply stare at a particularly eye-catching picture. You might be on Cloud Nine, but the comic page isn’t going anywhere.

And then there is the material itself. Although superhero fiction remains the dominant genre, there is an incredible amount of variety to wrap your head around.

Ironically, the more mindbending the comic, the less enjoyable it can actually be with a few chemicals sloshing around in the skull. The more simple the tale and art, the easier it can be processed. Something like Bone or a Donald Duck comic are not only easier to follow, they can hold prove much better at the opening the emotional floodgates.

The inevitable exception to this is, of course, Grant Morrison. Indeed, it is often asserted that for much of his work drugs are an absolute prerequisite, although this mostly comes from the sad belief that the only possible way to follow anything with hints of free association is to be fucked out of your skull.

But still, with short, snappy bits of dialogue and ideas rarely seen in any other form of mainstream media, Morrison’s comics also contain strong narrative threads to keep the attention. Even if those threads are hard to spot on a first reading, a buzzing brain can pick and choose its own themes, whether they exist or not.

Of course, taking drugs or drinking booze and curling up with a comic book is not recommended for everybody. A lot of comic readers are quite capable of reading their books without any chemical enhancement and get just as much out of them. This is to be commended.

But as somebody who has been moved beyond words while reading Love and Rockets through dope-hazed eyes on a sunny Saturday afternoon and saw the shape of the universe in an issue of The Invisibles after drinking four bottles of red wine, only to forget it 10 minutes later when I passed out on the stairs leading to my apartment, I can honestly say it’s always worked out all right for me.

It’s great when you’re straight, but sometimes it can be fucking awesome when you’re wasted.

4 Love Letters:

Blogger David Campbell said...

That is so true.

3:44 PM

Blogger Smith said...

The best part is, the more fucked up you get, the more true it is.

11:37 PM

Blogger obsolete said...

Everything is more true-er when wasted.

4:37 PM

Blogger Smith said...

Yeah. It reminds me of a story I heard once. I think it was about Tim Leary, or one of those other drug gurus.

Anyway, somebody asked him if 2001 was a better movie if you were stoned and he said of course it was, but EVERYTHING is better when you're wasted.

I see what he was saying, but I do think it's better to have something to compliment your brain. (Like 2001, the bestest movie ever made.) I mean, you could spend all day watching a Happy Days marathon on TV while wasted and really, REALLY enjoy it, but it's kinda a waste.

On the other hand I sat outside in the sun yesterday drinking a few beers and reading Luther Arkwright and it felt like I had actually made my brain bigger. Lovely.

1:57 AM


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