Back in May, as many comic stores around the United States was were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Diamond was returning to distributing periodical comics after a nearly two-month shutdown, The Beat contributor Greg Silber wrote an essay about the longevity of comics as an art form beyond what we know as the ‘comics industry.’ Archie Comics CEO Nancy Silberkleit has been pondering that essay ever since, and sent us this open letter with her thoughts on the power of comics as a medium, where the doomsaying may becoming from, and Archie’s commitment to diverse readers and stories.
Dear Comics Beat and Your Readers,
Thank you for your rallying article, heralding that “Comics Will Never Die”, which you published in the Spring. “Will comics survive the current crisis?” This is a question I encounter periodically. It seems to be asked by an adult who merely associates comic books with their childhood. As you know, comics are not just enjoyed by kids. They’re universal. This question may be asked due to a lack of knowledge around the power comics have taken in the literacy arena, and as an effective tool for communicating messages, feelings, and hard-to-tackle subjects. As we all globally approach another school year, we keep in mind that this year has more stress attached. Comic books can be a fantastic tool in so many ways – particularly now.
Graphic novels and comics have carved out an important place in the literary world. They springboard kids into reading and are an early gateway for people learning English as a Second Language. The way comics express emotion, action, suspense, and humor through combined communication is what makes them so accessible. Are you a text-based learner? Check. Are you a visual-graphic learner? Check! In fact, there is so much connectivity between the pencilers, colorists, and readers, which brings the stories to life. The artists and writers develop the books, but the readers carry the story further in their imaginations!
Scientific studies revealed that comic books are one of the most complex literary experiences a person can have when reading. Comic books have attracted a broader audience through the years. The United States Common Core Standards recognize the enriching cognitive learning platform for reading skill development that comic books and graphic literacy provide.
As the Co-CEO of Archie Comics, I am proud to say Archie Comics firmly supports non-English speakers as well as reluctant readers. My trademark slogan is Comic Books + Children = Reading, Knowledge, and Creativity. That’s a heavy statement, but it’s also true. You are 100% correct to state that comic books are not going to become a lost art. Not only are comics recognized for their educational potential, they become collectors’ items! I was thrilled to see your example of hieroglyphics in your piece. As you can see by the attached slide images, extracted from presentations I give all over the world, I also help people make that connection, imagery is the foundation for communication.
In times of crisis, such as being in the midst of a global pandemic, people need down time. They need to get a little lost in fantasy and escape for a bit. Reading comics books are a great respite and help ease stress. Not to mention the added opportunity for parents, teachers, and kids to connect in the new classroom and home-learning paradigms that COVID-19 has introduced. School and public libraries dedicate sizable sections to comics and graphic novels. With distance learning taking center stage for a while, people may start building mini libraries of their own. Comics will undoubtedly have a place. Comic books are not like regular books. Open one and get whisked into the Marvel Universe, the DC World, or straight to Riverdale!
I hope after your fans read this letter, they will call a comic book store or place an online order and send some to their friends. We can survive this crisis together. This time, we can all be superheroes!
Smiles and love,