THE VERDICT: In re Comic Book Stores


(Said like the intro to “Law and Order”):

In the Cambridge review system, HLS students are represented by one arrogant and all-important panel: a pretentious Chief Justice who has written too many books and two associate justices who are vying for her job. These are their stories.

Justice DICK announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion of the Court in which Chief Justice PETTINATO joined with respect to Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VIII.

I. “Literature is art; theater is art; art is art; but comic ‘books’ are not art,” the distinguished Chief Justice noted in her book, “What is Art?” (2002, pg. 1259).

II. The facts of this case are not in dispute. New England Comics is located in Harvard Square. On a Saturday in September this Court found itself in front of New England Comics after following Justice TORRES’s supposed shortcut back to the Law School. In order to settle contrary opinions that arose on the value of such stores, the Court granted a review of NewEngland Comics. A separate review was planned for another comic book store Million Year Picnic, so the two cases were consolodated.

III. The question before this Court is whether New England Comics and Million Year Picnic, stores that openly sell comic “books,” are worth going to.

IV. The question presupposes an intrinsic value that is not readily apparent and must be addressed firstly. Today the Court refuses to sign on to the so-called comic “book” agenda, by which we mean the agenda promoted by some socially-awkward and sexually-inexperienced activists directed at eliminating the artistic irrelevance that has traditionally attached to reading and promoting comic “books.”

V. We investigated for ourselves one of the stores currently under review and found it completely lacking in aesthetic worth. When I think of art I think of Thomas Kinkaid and John Grisham, artists you are proud to display and who have, arguably, contributed the most to the artistic revival of popular color displays and novels of the last half century. Where could you display a so-called “book” that has a “man-bat” on the front? Certainly not on a shelf next to one of the dozen Tom Clancy novels that promote social and political unity through the example of the patriotic, ass-kicking Jack Ryan, who has not only ruined the careers of at least two “weak” U.S. Presidents, but also defeated the Reds, the Chinese, a Middle East nation, the Japanese, Columbian drug cartels, and at least three terrorist organizations. But I digress.

VI. These “comic book” stores (and others like them) are a blemish to Harvard Square and the other stores that have set up shop next to them. We reject the notion put forth by comic “book” counsel that someone who does not enjoy hanging out at a comic “book” store or does not want to view these large blemishes may simply avert her eyes. The freedom to have good taste means the freedom not to see someone else’s bad taste.

VII. We should note here that our dislike of comic “books” has nothing to do with personal prejudices. We don’t hate comic “book” readers, we only hate comic “books.”

VIII. The Court finds that New England Comics is not worthy of a student’s limited time and money.

It is so ordered.

Chief Justice PETTINATO, concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Whereas I agree with the judgment reached by the majority, I cannot agree with the majority’s reasoning in Part VII. I do not see how one can separate comic “books” from those who read such colorful trash, and consequently I hate the readers as well.

Justice TORRES, dissenting.

I. The newspaper is not the arbiter of what is art. My distinguished colleagues fail to recognize that art is a subjective determination, one that should not be subject to the dictates of this Court. Even by the examples of so-called “art” that my colleagues list, comic books and graphic novels still stand out as remarkable accomplishments of human creativity.

II. Graphic novels and comic books have made great inroads into general acceptance by our society. No longer relegated to the end of the toy section in supermarkets, graphic novels now line the shelves of major book chains and mega-stores such as Wal-Mart. A recent New York Times article details that graphic novels now account for $100 million in retail sales, a figure which cannot be readily dismissed and which does not include sales of individual comic books (graphic novels are book-length comic books).

III. The recent release of “The Sandman: Endless Nights” by best-selling writer Neil Gaiman is representative of this progress. Weaving mythology, literature and art, it encapsulates fully what the medium of sequential art has to offer. Other books also offer up stories that should not be dismissed as “for children.” The comic book form is one that lends itself well to conveying feelings and emotion that the written word alone must often struggle to communicate. No longer are comics relegated to focusing on tales of superheroes. For example, the comic “True Story, Swear to God” is the true account of how the creator of the book met his wife, and details the excitement and sweetness of their courtship across long distances (the artist is from California, his wife from Puerto Rico). Even superhero comics have matured, no longer relegated to sophomoric tales full of cliché and melodrama. The series “Stormwatch: Team Achilles” is a political tale of a United Nations strike force comprised of humans who respond to superhuman terrorist threats. “The Ultimates,” a series that revamps the Avengers, takes familiar faces such as Captain America, Thor and Iron Man, and imagines what kind of superheroes they would be like if they really existed, putting forth the idea of a government-run team of superheroes who are more celebrities than actual crime fighters.

IV. It is an irrational decision my colleagues express today, a decision founded on unjustifiable prejudices and a fear that graphic novels and comic books may share the same vaunted position as their other so-called works of “art.” Comics, like any other art form, deserve the equal respect and patronage of the citizenry as other forms of art.

V. The two stores mentioned today are fine places to shop at. New England Comics in particular is one of the best comic book stores I have had the pleasure of visiting, and I highly recommend that those willing to explore new mediums of art and entertainment pay it a visit and pick up one of the titles mentioned above.

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