Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about…
Comic books! Great! And what will we ask? We’re gonna think about how comics are perceived, what they’re thought of in general among people.
What we read as far as books go. If we read comics, whether or not we like them. Whether or not we think they’re useful or educational for people. So let’s find out more about that! Ian?
I have a question for you. Welcome, by the way!
Oh thank you, I appreciate that!
Really good. It’s always been a dream of mine to be on the show, so thank you for inviting me.
Yeah, I know. We’re famous, right?
I wanna ask you – how respected do you think comic books are by parents and librarians?
Well, when I was growing up, our teachers would tell us ‘You have to pick up a book to read over the summer, and you have to read that much of the book and write this about the book’. And then, at the end, they’d always say ‘But it can’t be a comic book!’
And I’d think ‘Oooh why not?’ Actually growing up I used to love reading comics, and I still kind of do, but you know, now that I’m an adult and I have less time than when I was a child, I don’t read them so often.
Cause it’s slightly different.
Of course. You’re always right. You’re always right.
Yeah, exactly. That’s the rule. As far as my experience with comics, I also read quite a bit of comics growing up. And maybe we’ll talk about this later, but as an adult I’ve also got some comics from a library and I felt.
not that I felt embarrassed about it, but I felt that when I took that the librarian was like ‘Oh right, he’s a, you know, 20-30-year-old child’. Right?
He’s a grown man reading a child book.
I think there is some kind of general feeling that they’re not legitimate or something.
I have to share that I would have to share that the sentiment actually. I kinda get the same vibe, especially when you talk about comic books and other things, like, I’m an adult but I like animation a lot. And I get the same thing from people.
You know, what should we watch? And I say ‘there’s this really good animation movie that came out’, and they say ‘how old are you? Animation?’ I kinda get this vibe from them. So I can relate.
So let’s talk abut this more, cause we’re gonna talk about what we feel, what books and what comics we read a little bit later. But as far as what you generally read, as far as genres of books and we’re talking about just ordinary books now.
Ordinary. Got it. Ordinary. Sounds good.
I like to read stuff that’s historical, autobiographical and mysteries. Mysteries I think are my favorites.
Okay. And what’s your favorite book if you have one favorite that you can think of?
‘Total recall’ by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Yeah. Honestly, his book is amazing. And of course I’m sure he had…
He wrote it and he had an editor that helped him to make it more natural. That’s my favorite book actually.
Yeah, it’s an autobiography. He made a movie called ‘Total Recall’ and then now that he’s older, the book is called ‘Total Recall’, cause he’s recalling his life.
It’s probably one of his most.. Cause first when you said total recall, I thought ‘oh, it’s a book based on the film’.
It’s his autobiography. It’s really good. I like reading that sort of autobiographical stuff about people who are great, who have done great things. I like reading about history.
Inspirational people, I guess you could say that, you know. I feel like we’re all looking for inspiration in things and I’m no exception. I like to read about inspirational people who have done inspirational things, so, yeah.
Cool. I also love to read a little bit of history. I have read some autobiographies or biographies, but actually more a bit of history, and also science fiction. My favorite… In actual fact I love science fiction, but my favorite all-time book is probably ‘Stalingrad’.
by Antony Beevor. It’s based on the World was II in the city of Stalingrad, now called Volgograd I wanna say. I think something like that. But the name’s changed now, but it was Stalingrad, and it was… As far as the book led me to believe it was like a turning point in the World war II.
Where a lot of people died, it was a very tragic time, but the detail in the book was… So much detail, so much personal… He used a lot of personal diaries to explain. And it’s amazing, it reads like a novel. It has, of course, lots of historical facts, but…
But it’s his experiences, almost like a diary, a novel thing?
He’s English or American or something, so he wasn’t there, he just purely wrote it based on historical information. And it reads like a novel, amazing. He must’ve worked so hard to create it. It’s a big big book, so I couldn’t recommend it more to someone who’s interested in… Especially interested in history in Russia.
And it’s called Stalingrad?
Okay. Will you ask me something?
I suppose so, yeah. Do you like reading comics? I know we were talking about comics a second ago. If you like reading them, which ones do you like? Why?
So we kind of established – maybe we go ahead of ourselves that we love comics, right?
So maybe we’re a little bit biased.
Well, you know, I don’t exactly like American comic books, or, you know, the English comic books. Not really a fan of those actually.
So maybe we can give, we can definitely give our two cents into it anyway.
Do you like reading classic American comics?
I do, but I also grew up reading British comics for younger boys. I mean these were based a lot on school children who were a little bit badly-behaved, a little bit naughty at school.
And for me it was just fun to read those as well growing up. Have you ever heard of… what’s his name… oh was it Denice the menace?
Of course. That’s a British one?
As far as I know, yes. But it was definitely popular in Britain. And there’s another one – Desperate Dan, and Beano and all of these I grew up on.
Quite simple comics, not very intricate, but enjoyable to read. And for a young boy they had kind of topics like, you know, rebel, being a little bit rebellious and stuff. Kinda liked the topic, they were fun. But I probably wouldn’t read them so much now, maybe a little bit, but as an adult I haven’t read any of them.
But I do like Batman comics particularly. I love Batman as a character, the whole idea of Batman. And I like to read some comic, especially the classic ones. There are some really good classic ones, like ‘The Dark Knight returns’ I think it’s called.
But it’s Frank Miller and I think it’s ‘The Dark Knight returns’. And there are now three parts to it, but I particularly like the first two parts. And it’s… He fights Superman.
They made a movie about it, right?
Yeah, and the book is better. As usual. So the comic book came first, much earlier than the film. And it’s more realistic, there’s more drama to it than in the film. And it’s not just Martha Martha, you know, like the name Martha. I’ve read ‘Planet Hulk’, which is a really really good Hulk comic.
He goes into space, yes. He ends up on another planet. And it gives him a chance to really show off his powers, because he’s fighting aliens and he tears them apart of stuff.
You know, I gotta stop you. I’m interested in this. Why is the Hulk in space?
Well, the reason is because he’s so dangerous, his friends were just like ‘Okay, let’s get rid of him’.
Oh my god, that’s terrible!
Yeah. And actually the film kinda did that when he did go to another planet in the ‘Thor’ film, last Thor film.
I don’t think I saw it. That was a Ragnarok, right?
Ragnarok. He ended up on another planet, and that’s also based on Planet Hulk. But again, although I like, I really kinda like that Thor film, but I think the Planet Hulk for me, when I first read it was even better. Fantastic, really good.
So he fights aliens? Or no? Is this planet that he’s on, is inhabited by people too, right?
There are humanoids. But not people. There’s government and stuff, and also weird creatures.
So there’s a society with weird creatures in it?
I mean, you could allow the Hulk go and be wild and be much more free and much more like the Hulk, smashing, tearing…
Pretty much, pretty much. Okay. Maybe we should talk about violence too. But anyway. Let’s think… Another comic I like and I like it a lot it’s… recently I read a series about The Sandman. And they started in 1989.
And they are fantastic, and it’s a series of comics, lots and lots of comics, but they were written in short stories like all kind of short stories, but fantastically written, really really good.
And the pictures are really good too. I didn’t love the initial one, but actually once I read the initial one, they became really really good.
I think that’s how most things go. You know, most comic books, even most TV shows, you know. Very few TV shows or comic books captivate you from a very first episode.
Most of the time you have to like invest a little bit of time until the story really gets good, you know, the characters are introduced, the plot is more well filled out. And then you can start to enjoy this sort of drama or action or whatever it is you’re enjoying.
I agree. But I should ask you, what comics do you like?
Well, like I said before, I’ve never really liked American comic books. I was really into Spiderman actually growing up. I loved Spiderman, and I did have a few of his comic books. But really I like to play his videogames, the Spiderman videogames were so fun for me, so.
I guess he’s a comic book character that I’ve always really liked, and he even today… Even today I like Spiderman, but they’ve kinda taken Spiderman in a weird direction these days. So. They just keep remaking it over and over again, and each one is gonna get worse.
There are a lot of films now. So many films now.
I mean, I like Spiderman but I think for me it’s too much.
It’s kinda hard to keep up with all these films. If it were Batman I probably wouldn’t complain. But I’m just not as big a fan as Spiderman.
You see, Batman is a franchise that’s treated with very much care and tact, and you know, whenever a Batman film is released, everybody kinda goes ‘Oh! The new Batman is out!’ But whenever I hear about a new Spiderman film, I’m like ‘Another?’ Again? And then I hear the plot, and it’s almost the exact same thing as the Toby McGuire movies.
I think maybe it’s connected with a license thing and the politics around it too?
Maybe. I think when Stan Lee recently died, so maybe that might be part of it, I don’t know.
Okay. So what’s the last comic you’ve ever read? I mean last comic you’ve read?
The last comic I read. Do the Japanese ones count?
Case closed? Are you finishing it?
No. It’s called ‘Case Closed’.
So tell us about, what’s it like?
It’s a mystery manga, it’s not a comic I guess. It is a comic, it’s a Japanese comic. It’s about this boy, he’s a small child, maybe like 8 or 9 years old. And he’s been like 8 or 9 since the late 70s when this franchise started.
But he’s a genius, an extreme genius and he solves cases and he always, you know, says some stuff like Sherlock. ‘Well I noticed that the knife was on the right side of the table, and Mister Jones is left-handed! So someone else must have been in this apartment’.
You know, he does stuff like this all the time, so for me it’s interesting, you know. But I had to take a break from that every once in a while, because like I said, it’s been going on since like the early 80s, late 70s, something like this. So after a while, you gotta run out of ideas. It started to be a little be repetitive.
That was the last one I read though.
It sounds good though, it sounds good.
Although I’ve talked a little bit about Batman and Hulk and stuff, I like to read some other different comics too. There’s, for example, ‘Maus’, it’s called Maus in German, and it’s about Holocaust survivor’s son wrote it and it’s all about his life story and stuff, so…
Now, did the Holocaust survivor’s son live in the concentration camp with his father?
Well, now you’re testing me. As far as I remember, cause it’s been a while, he wrote about his dad’s life.
Ah, I see, so it wasn’t his experiences with his father.
No. As far as I can remember, he sat down with his dad and talked, took a little bit of time and they’d never been in a perfect relationship, but they worked out how to , you know, to record his story.
And in the end he chose to write the Jewish people as mice and draw it as a comic book, with Jewish people was mice and I think the Germans were cats. And there were other different animals too for different nationalities, but you can see the reference.
If the Americans were pigs, I’m gonna laugh, really.
I don’t think, I don’t know, but I doubt it, I doubt it, cause, I mean, the guy lives in America or lived in America, but don’t call me, I’m not an expert. I need to read it again actually, I didn’t finish it.
I got like 3/4 through it and I didn’t get time to finish it, but I want to finish it. And it’s, I mean, it’s strange, cause he could’ve chosen to write it purely as a book, and it would’ve been great, interesting, but he chose to have it a comic book format.
Why do you think he chose it?
Well it wasn’t necessary, but I think it was a great of choice. Maybe to appeal to more young people?
Maybe to make it more accessible, more easy to read. But this is a burning question, Ian. Are you ready for this?
Why do you think comics are not taken seriously as literature?
Well, I suppose that a part of it is the fact that people believe that if you have a picture with the words, then you must not be smart enough to envision it yourself. I think there’s a sort of stigma to comic books for like a dumb, loser people, but that’s not true at all actually.
I think that comic books are literature in my opinion. Because whenever you’re reading, you see that visualization, and for me, and especially for the people listening to that podcast who might not be the native English speakers, that could really help you understand a lot of the things that’s going on. And it can add another element of, like, depth of that drama or that action that’s going on.
Do for me, I like it because, you know, you take a great comic like Death note or Spiderman, and the illustrations add to what’s happening. So for me they are literature. It’s telling a story, just in a different way.
For me violence is never a problem, you know. People always….
I need to kinda back away from you.
Don’t worry Sam, you’re safe, you’re safe.
I’m safe. You heard it from Ian.
For me, violence has never been a problem in media. I’m not a maniac, I promise!
Do you think that some people feel that if a kid, a young person is subjected to violence in media, they’re automatically gonna become violent? Is this a problem?
Well, you know, this used to be a belief. I can’t speak for the UK, but in the United States that used to be a very prevalent belief that, you know, these kids are playing grand theft auto and they’re beating prostitutes and they’re selling drugs and now they’re gonna start to do that in real life!
And that’s… I think that’s totally not the case, and there’s no studies that have come out that can prove this. And actually the guy who invented Pacman, you know, the guy who invented this game….
Yeah, you know, wakawaka…
I don’t know wakawaka, but I know Pacman.
So anyway, he came out and he said ‘If video games inspire children and how they behave, then they’d be running around trying to eat ghosts, but they’re not’. It’s dumb. For me it’s kinda silly.
How I look at it is – majority of children are smart enough to know the difference between comic book, video game, a film, and reality.
And I think that’s maybe… Maybe that’s just the idea that comes from people who just aren’t comfortable with it themselves. It’s not their thing, and I think sometimes people when it’s not their thing, they’re kind of painting it more black than they should. I don’t know.
Well, I don’t know about that, but all I know is that people do tend to fear things that they don’t understand. And if they don’t understand the appeal of why people wanna play games like grand theft auto or read comic books like planet Hulk,
where he’s like ripping apart aliens and drinking their blood, if they don’t understand the appeal of it, then one could be led to believe that if you like this, you must approve of this behavior. You must approve of ripping people in half. But no one said that.
Maybe there’s a lack of understanding.
Do you think that we can use comics to learn? You and I, to learn?? Or for other people to learn through comics? Whether it’s another language or whether it’s your native language. What do you think?
Well, and you’re talking about in terms of learning another language in particular?
Well let’s start with that. Can we use comics to learn another language, a second language, or a third language?
I think that if you have an elementary or maybe like a pre-intermediate level of understanding, yeah, you could absolutely use comic books to help you. And like I said earlier, having that visual aid can really assist you in understanding what’s going on, so you can make better inferences about what the words mean without even looking them up.
and that’s how we learn as native speakers. First we infer, and then we confirm what it means in a dictionary, or like in our lives asking our parents maybe. So, I think they’re a great way to learn another language. And when I was studying Japanese you better believe I was reading Japanese comic books.
Well why not? It’s fantastic.
Absolutely, It’s entertaining, it’s edutainment – education and entertainment together.
I never heard of that before.
Is that a new one? Is that an ianism?
Unfortunately I can’t take credit for that one. It I cool.
Yeah, education and entertainment. Bam! Edutainment!
Well, so here’s what – I would agree with you. I think if you can learn, and not everyone understands it, but if you can learn and enjoy yourself at the same time, you have succeeded in learning, in teaching yourself or learning.
Because if you can have fun and learn at the same time, then it’s not hard. It’s something you can do again and again. So that’s absolutely. Okay. And tell me, what, if any, comics would you recommend? For learning?
For learning English? That’s a difficult one, cause I’ve never read comics to Learn English.
So let me say. I recommend some of the, maybe, older Batman comics.
Well, I like some of the classic ones, there’s mad love for example, which is quite straightforward story, there’s nothing very unusual about it. But it’s classic, it’s classic. Or maybe, let me see… I like Batman RIP, it’s one of my favorite comics.
It’s about Batman who was a little bit… He’s losing his mind a little bit. And, well, if you like a specific character, I think you should read about him, I mean, for me it’s Batman, and I’ll recommend about Batman.
Planet Hulk I would recommend that too. Because it’s such a really good story. But I like other characters like Wolverine…
Wolverine’s great. I’ve even read Dracula comics.
There’s a Dracula comic. I’ve read it in Russian.
So you use it to study Russian?
So I have practiced what I preach I guess. I use comics, not always, but sometimes I read comics in Russian, and it helps me develop my Russian a little bit.
I gotta say I’m impressed! I’m very impressed!
I have to say though, there can be a downside to using comics to learn another language. And that’s because, like for example, when I was learning Japanese, people would tell me ‘Don’t use comic books! Don’t use anime!
Don’t use any of this to learn, because they teach you things like I’m powering up to destroy the world!’ You know, when will you use that? Or ‘this is my blood’…
You don’t say that every day?
Not every day, just every other day, but yeah. Whatever you’re learning, just be sure to wade through all the things that might just be irrelevant to everyday life, or just aren’t even words in general, that are just kind of made up for the fictional universe.
But Ian, couldn’t you say that about an ordinary book as well though? You know, if you’re reading a history book or maybe a science fiction book, aren’t there other words too? That you’re not gonna use every day?
You make a very good point. That’s true. I guess that if you’re reading something that’s very out of this world, you know, like science fiction, or even like historical fiction, you know, some people like to write books about what would happen if Hitler was never defeated?
What would happen if this or that, right? I guess yeah, if you’re reading something like that, you really could also run into the same sort of thing.
Do you think there is any advantage to choosing an ordinary book to read compared to a comic book? Say, you wanna improve your Russian and you choose a novel or a historical book in Russian. And instead of choosing a comic Russian. Is there any advantage to it?
You mean, of picking a novel over the comic?
For me I would say that, I guess, I would get more clout from reading the book, but for personal use and for bettering myself, maybe not actually. I have to say I never even tried reading a novel in Russian at this point. My Russian is like elementary, and it’s not high elementary. It’s pretty elementary.
It’s elementary-elementary, yeah.
Elementary my dear and that’s a British person talking the show.
Although he doesn’t normally have a Northern Irish accent.
Doesn’t matter, Sherlock is Sherlock.
Yeah. I actually think that comic books can be less intimidating.
And also I think that maybe, and this is jut an idea, if you have a word and a picture that you can maybe connect it to, to try to remember the word in the future, you know, maybe you’re learning a word and you get a picture or at least an idea from it.
I’m not saying you can’t do that with a novel, but maybe, they’re a little bit more accessible. I use that word earlier, right?
True. You know, I guess it all comes down to this – when you’re learning a language, try to use things that you don’t hate. Try to use, you know, textbooks that you actually don’t hate reading, or if you’re trying to practice during your leisure time, read like I said earlier, edutainment, the comic book or maybe play a quick game on the internet.
You know, you don’t have to sit down with a novel and a dictionary and translate every sentence, because that gets really boring really fast. And it almost… It doesn’t enable you to enjoy the content of what you’re reading at a certain point.
What I like to do actually when I try to practice listening or reading or whatever, I try to do just what I normally do in real life in English. What I enjoy in English. I try to translate that into some kind of Russian activity.
Which mightn’t be as fluent or good, but still I’m trying to make that. You know, I agree with you completely. Do we agree too much?
Maybe, maybe we’re too similar, I don’t know.
So, if you were given a chance, would you work on a comic book?
It’s too much work! It’s way too much work! I mean, these people – they put blood, sweat and tears into this kind of comic book industry, and you know, for me it’s not something I’m that passionate about.
You don’t start drawing comics for the money, I don’t think that very many comic book authors or illustrators are super rich. I think that they make a good living. But you know, it’s not something you do for the money, and I definitely don’t have the passion for it. So if somebody offered that to me, I would have to respectfully decline.
Takes a lot of dedication.
A lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, and you really have to be interested in this sphere, you know And that’s the sphere that I’m not really… I’m scratching the surface of it. It’s not something I’m deep within enough to actually write something compelling.
You need to be from your youth, just to be living and breathing I guess.
How about you though? Would you?
Maybe as a writer, but I think… Although I can draw a bit, no, I couldn’t draw all day and couldn’t draw to the standards those guys can draw. It’s amazing. But I recently read a comic, short Batman comic, and it was done for the 50th anniversary.
And the guy who wrote it hadn’t wrote a comic before. And he afterwards he came out and he said ‘listen! These guys work so hard I’ve no idea it was so tough just to write a comic!’ I mean, it is… I would argue that comics are craft.
You know, you’ve got all the detail, all the talent in lots of different ways to make a comic. It’s not just one writer and okay, you’ve got people supporting a writer, but editors and so on, but you’ve got so many working on a comic.
So it’s art in lots of different ways. So my advice and opinion, Ian, is that comics are a legitimate way to learn. I think, okay, you’re always gonna have someone who doesn’t agree with that, but absolutely. As a teacher I think, yeah, they’re a legitimate way to learn.
I happen to agree with your biased opinion. Maybe we do agree too much. But you know, I guess my opinion is also a little bit biased, because I’ve never been, you know ‘sit down in your seat! Learn this grammar!’ kind of teacher.
I’ve always thought of using practical methods and teaching is much better, you know, when you’re actually thinking outside of box. So for me – I agree. For all the people listening to this podcast, if you’re maybe high elementary or pre-intermediate, I think you should probably pick up a comic book you like. It’ll help you out!
Okay. Great. So thank you very much Ian. That was the craic about comic books. We gave you our opinion on what we think the kind of bias against comic books is. What we normally read, what genres we read. And what comic books we have or haven’t read. And why we think they are legitimately education.