I think one of the most interesting pieces about comics are their general readability across all ages. While children may not be able to understand the full message or meaning behind the comic book in their hands, they are still able to enjoy the work presented there before them. At the same time, an adult reading the same comic may be able to pick up on references, connections, and hidden messages the child missed, just purely from being older and experiencing more. I know this was the case for me, especially dealing with some of the earlier comics like Popeye. I had read them growing up and enjoyed watching the cartoons, but never understood some of the political or popular culture commentary written between the panels. For example, the first ever appearance of Popeye in Thimble Theater, Popeye references cowboys and points out that he is not one. The cowboy and more generally ‘Old Western’ genre was extremely popular during the time of Thimble Theater in the 1930s and 1940s. This is something I have learned throughout my study of the United States and was not something I knew when I originally read Popeye, but I enjoyed the comics at both times.
Comics also provide a type of entertainment unlike one would receive while reading a novel, or just viewing pictures. The juxtaposition of text on picture, while opposite in nature, bring a sense of wholeness to the medium. The text provides a voice for the picture, and the picture gives the reader a visual, one that the author has specifically chosen for his or her audience. By utilizing both throughout a story, a sense of a ‘movie’ is generated, yet in book form. Since there is no voice to the pages, the reader then must choose what the characters sound like, based upon the layout of the pages, style of the text, and expressions in the image. No two people reading a comic will give a character the same voice, yet they are both viewing the same person, which is something unique to only comics themselves. Actors in movies will sound the same to each person watching them, but when the text has to be read over an image, the voice then becomes altered. I think these two ideas, general readability and unique voices are what make comics such an interesting genre to study. While this may be true, I think one of the major hinderances of comics is the general perception of the genre and who reads the comics. It has been thought that only young kids should read comics, or those geeky, socially awkward high schoolers. Now this may just be the perception in movies, but I get the feeling this perception has extended beyond the screen. Now I do not think this is the case or should be so, but that may be what keeps comics, at least in the past and at the moment, from being looked at as a viable genre for learning and pleasure for everyone.