“Memory…is the diary that we all carry with us.”~Oscar Wilde, Irish Dramatist
Comic books count as books read.
When I was a kid, my school and Scholastic Books sponsored summer reading challenges. I walked door-to-door and asked people for donations. Neighbors and friends of my parents supported me by offering 25-cents per book read, $20 total, whatever. Some of the books I read are commonly refer to as chapter books. These books have a moderate-length story with supporting pictures or illustrations. I read The Black Stallion and its series. Charlotte’s Web was another. I don’t know if I was old enough to read A Wrinkle in Time yet. Age-appropriate? I read some sci-fi books that were deep for my age, but my mom loved them, therefore so did I.
Was it wrong to read, say, Frog and Toad are Friends? I chose some books like that because they were quick reads, and the more books I read, the more money I earned and the cooler prizes I could collect. When I returned to get my 50-books-read donations, some of those per-book pledges turned into a lump sum. Ticked me off; a pledge is a pledge.
Anyway, I never read any Batman or Richie Rich or Archie comics for such challenges. That would be cheating. Today, would manga count?
They should. These are serious books. Chain bookstores have sections dedicated to graphic novels. To used bookstores near me have a shelf or three, and comic book stores overflow with them. I read comic books, so manga had an appeal to me, yet also not. Staring at the rows and columns of lookalike books is like wandering a romance section: unless you know an artist or author, they’re all the same.
My friend Deb recommended the Pokémon series to me because of my current obsession with Pokémon GO. Her kids grew up with Pokémon, so she steered me to Pokémon Adventures as well as her son’s favorite, the Black & White series. I started with Pokémon Adventures Red & Blue series because it said “Vol. 1” on the spine and has a Bulbasaur on the cover. I like Bulbasaurs, and it’s a creature I recognize. The familiar seemed safe.
I started the book during the Fourth of July weekend and finished it last night. The coolest part was seeing Pokémon I know from the game come to life on pages that left my fingers inky. Some of the translation feels off, and the Boom! Bang! Ka-Pow! scenes were tough to get a sense for because V-V-IRRRRR! Shtoom! and GNSH! aren’t common in my traditional comic experience. The story itself follows the adventures of Red, a boy who wants to be the greatest Pokémon trainer ever. I’m not familiar with the original movies or trading card game, but in this book, there are quests, friendship, death, villains, thieves, mentors and lessons learned. Each chapter has a story arc involving Red and one or two Pokémon, the tension of unexpected struggles and the resolution from the actions. It’s a complete book that ends but is also continued.
I enjoyed it more than some contemporary books I’ve read. Heck, I plain and simple enjoyed it. That counts.