Comics as High Culture

For a lot of last year I was producing a weekly radio show all about the Arts Scene in Northern Ireland. It was a mixed bag, regularly featuring interviews, reviews, and exhibition notices. As part of it I spoke to poets, authors, painters, and singer/songwriters, not to mention a range of people involved at various levels in the organizing of Belfast’s many cultural events and festivals.

One group of people I didn’t initially seek out were the city’s many talented comic writers and graphic illustrators, however. A good friend kept insisting I do a feature on comics, but I dismissed the idea. Comic books are for kids, I kept thinking, they’re not particularly cultural. Needless to say, my friend challenged this thinking, and he was right to, because I was wrong. Let me break down why, for a second:

  1. Comics are not just for children (Watchmen, anyone?)
  2. Even if they were, that wouldn’t make them inherently less valuable to society
  3. Who even gets to decide what culture is? Everyone and no one. My friend’s definition was as valid as mine (except for the fact that mine was wrong).

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