I made what's likely to be my last trip for a long time to my favorite comic book store yesterday. It had been about six weeks since my last visit, so my haul ended up costing me more than any grownass man should spend on funny books.
I came to comic books late in life, and I'm still a novice compared to most fans with a serious habit. I gravitate toward DC and a few smaller publishers, like Image. For the most part, I'm not a Marvel guy. After several years of steady consumption, I recommend that every writer -- and serious reader -- study up.
When I read comics, I plow through the dialogue first before I take in the artwork. Often, dialogue is the only type of textual narrative device that you'll find on a page. The art handles conveying the exposition and description (we'll return to that). Comic books are an excellent case study of good and bad dialogue. The cringe-worthy stuff, in the words of my college writing mentor, hits you in the ear like a spitball. The good stuff unravels without effort -- like a conversation.
I have to force myself to stop and appreciate the artwork. The lack of pictures has always been the appeal of reading, to me. With the right words, I can conjure the images in my head. I like the notion that my image of Holden Caulfield is not your image of Holden Caulfied. With a comic book, you don't have that option. You're forced to appreciate the harmony (or discord) of words and art. When the two are in sync, you gain a finer appreciation of the vivid images your prose is supposed to create. It gives the writer something to strive for.
If Harold Bloom reads this (and I suspect he won't), I don't expect him to walk to his local comic book store and buy The Dark Knight Returns or Kingdom Come in trade paper (though he should). But there's still hope for you, isn't there?