What’s all the fuss about re-reading? Tom Spurgeon wrote a nice appreciation of a few books he likes to go back to, in response to two articles in Newsweek and the New York Times about re-reading favorite books, both of which make like it’s something one generally feels kind of guilty about.
Whatever. When it comes to comics, I have never felt any guilt about re-reading old books. I can’t imagine feeling that way. My love of (re-) reading great comics is the reward of my love for the medium. I’m always picking up old stuff and opening it to the middle and reading a couple pages over and over.
I can make my way through a down period armed with a large stack of comics that feel and smell a certain way. At those times, the specific comic doesn’t matter as much as it being comics.
As I get older, however, I find I return to very specific comics to re-experience their inherent virtues, that I’m spending less time reading comics in general than I am trying to fully and effectively read and re-read the great comics or the comics that are important to me.
That’s basically what I’m doing when I re-read comics, too, especially the great ones, although it’s the same for any “just good” comic I pick back up from the shelf (I don’t think it has much to do with nostalgia or the smell of the paper for me, though).
Compared to prose, its much quicker, easier, and more visceral to see and FEEL what makes good comics and cartooning. Right now I’m reading GUS volumes 2 and 3 and I can’t get over how graceful is Christophe Blain’s figure drawing, alternating between very gestural cartoons and precise, moulded anatomy. I mean, how could I not read this over and over and over again?
David Gates in Newsweek says that, “In the books I reread over and over, I always come back for the people, and often simply for their voices.” For myself, it isn’t especially about the characters, but maybe characters in prose are where the text most comes to life, and where the pleasure is similar to reading comics.
Oh, uh and one more thing. While some guilty journalist re-readers are thinking, “I am a bad person because I’m not reading the latest thing,” I am thinking, “I wish I could afford the new books that just came out.” It’s kind of an expensive race to keep up with all the good stuff being published sometimes, so I feel kind of sad but not guilty. It’s also really expensive to ship them to Japan.
In conclusion, I think you are weird if you don’t like to re-read comics.