Ok, so my thought this time around is really not as deep as last time’s treatise. However, I think it’s just as important a realization.I was thinking, as we head toward the beginning of the new TV seasons, how much I love TV. That’s right, I am a TV-watching fiend. I love it. My life tends to be scheduled around my favorite TV (in college, I specifically studied around my favorite shows). In my own defense, I don’t freak out if I miss an episode — even if I didn’t tape it.

I’ve often thought of good (please note the qualifier) TV shows as being the closest things we have to epic novels in the moving picture format. We get deep character studies, characters and plots that evolve, complexity, we get story arcs, and we get a damn long thread of a story to cherish.

Bear with me here — this all does eventually come back to comics. I promise.

Now, if I take some of my favorite TV shows, I started to realize just how much we have. For example, Star Trek: The Next Generation was on for seven years. With the usual twenty two episodes per season, that gets us 154 episodes of Star Trek goodness.

The consistently popular Law and Order (come on, I know some of you get sucked into the marathons too) is moving into it’s twelfth year, giving us a whopping 242 episodes and counting.

So — that’s a lot of great TV, a lot of story telling, and a pretty good chunk of our lives.

Now, turn your attention to comics. They leave TV in the dust.

Spider-man, reivigorated of late, is actually forty years old — if we go by TV standards, that’s 880 “episodes” of web-slinging for all of us to enjoy. I realize comics don’t run by a strict 22 issue per year limit, but given the usual issues, the special issues, the mini-series, and the one shots, I’d bet they’re pretty close.

Batman, the cowled hero himself, has been around since 1939 — with over sixty years of history, that’s 1,386 “episodes” by our TV measuring stick.

Superman, golden boy that he is, harks from 1938 onward — going by TV standards, that’s an incredible 1,408 “episodes”, never mind that comics don’t run on a 22 episode schedule nor does that include the endless spin-offs into other comics, revisions, tv shows, films, and radio plays that the character spawned. That’s over nine times the seven-year Star Trek run. The reach of Superman is indeed mighty in our pop culture sphere.

Like our favorite TV shows that have gone off the air, however, many of these plot lines and stories have been lost over time for the everyday reader — now, it’d be pretty hard to find all the issues of Superman from, say, 1945, just to read.

So. Stand back and take a look at the sheer amount of storytelling that’s in comic art’s history. It’s a beautiful sight.
image credits: From Ultimate Spiderman: Learning Curve, by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, and Art Thibert, copyright Marvel Comics 2001

  • Robin B.

    | She/Her Teen Librarian, Public Library of Brookline

    Editor in Chief

    Robin E. Brenner is Teen Librarian at the Brookline Public Library in Massachusetts. She has chaired the American Library Association Great Graphic Novels for Teens Selection List Committee, the Margaret A. Edwards Award Committee, and served on the Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She is currently the President of the Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table for ALA. She was a judge for the 2007 Eisner awards, helped judge the Boston Globe Horn Book Awards in 2011, and contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. She regularly gives lectures and workshops on graphic novels, manga, and anime at comics conventions including New York and San Diego Comic-Con and at the American Library Association’s conferences. Her guide, Understanding Manga and Anime (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), was nominated for a 2008 Eisner Award.

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