Despite my digital background, I’m a big fan of paper these days. Namely, books: comic collections, graphic novels, and manga.
The tactile sensation of a comic is one of its most enjoyable features. In fact, this is probably why I didn’t think I liked comics for many, many years: I hated the western style of a 32-page, flimsy paper product. When I was a kid, I would pore over Far Side collections and trade paperbacks scrounged from yard sales, but completely avoid the outputs of Marvel and DC. It just didn’t feel right: the books were the wrong size in my hands, the paper was too thin, they were floppy and awful and easy to crease. Manga volumes were revolutionary for me once I moved to a big city and could finally start discovering them: they felt good to read. Even in black and white, the pages weren’t magazine-texture in my fingertips and the story pushed off of the page.
Paper was revolutionary: it meant I could read a genre that I adored, but could never find comfortable. After a while, I started collecting art books as well, and now my collection requires a bookshelf all to itself. I’ve purchased extra luggage just to get books home from Labyrinth Books in Toronto while on a business trip. I spend hours on Amazon and eBay and in bookstores looking for missing volumes. For me, my paper books are one of my favourite things I own, and I’m glad I can now include comics and art to such a big extent.
Fortunately, comics and their printing are getting a lot better. While the 32-page flimsy comic is still overwhelmingly prominent amongst comic shops and collectors, there are a lot of authors that take the product of the comic book just as seriously as the story and artwork itself. As well, trade paperbacks and collections are a must-make among most publishers these days.
A lot of comic publishers are pushing to the digital model, but that’s just not for me. As I’ve gotten older, I want to spend as little time as possible behind a screen. There are too many amazing things to see to constantly deal with pixels and download speeds. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right to read a comic on a screen, either: some webcomics nail it (and some great comic authors are writing specifically for the screen now), but I feel like many are less engaging and important when they lose the page flip in favour of a “next” button.
When I work now, I stick with manga template pages for my comics, and use bristol paper for the start of almost every piece. By putting myself in the same medium that I want to start and end with, there’s a lot more congruency than there was before.
I think I’ll stick with paper for a while longer. As much as I’m a digital person and I know paper is old-fashioned, there’s something to be said for the tactile sensation and the warmth it provides.