by BK Munn
Little Orphan Annie. The Love Bunglers. It’s a Good Life If You Don’t Weaken. Hey Wait. These are comics that have had an emotional effect on me, of the melancholic, lugubrious sort. It’s really hard to find a comic book that is moving and artistically satisfying, without it being cliche or maudlin in any way. While there are many comics, strips, and graphic novels I would call great works of art full of sublime feeling and depth of thought, very few have had such an emotional impact that I have been reduced to tears. Maybe if more comics included violins?
Sometimes the emotional effect of a comic story is amplified by the act of serialization (the “Is Little Nell dead?” syndrome). Living with fictional characters over a long period of time enhances our emotional links to them, I think. Add to that, as was the case with my first reading of Ed The Happy Clown, for instance, the sense that you are participating in something new or artistically daring, and the effect is magnified again. This effect is more pronounced in young readers and young artforms, perhaps.
There are sad comics. Comics that mimetically evoke sadness or actually elicit a real emotional response. There are also comics that disgust us or are sad in the sense that we feel sorry for the creator or the artform of comics.
The critics discuss sad comics:
“I think [Paying For It by Chester Brown is] a very sad comic, though. I don’t know that it succeeds in a way that Brown intended, to the extent that matters.” Abhay Khosla
“That, ladies in gentlemen, is the saddest comic I have ever read. God, I’m getting all verklempt just typing this.” Chris Mautner on the Sept 26, 1937 episode of the Popeye comic strip
“[The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba is] a weird, sad comic about superheroes, with sophisticated pacing that trusts in the intelligence of the reader rather than insisting on serving them nothing but what they’ve already seen.” Sean T. Collins
Then there are comics that are the saddest. How can there be more than one? It is a matter of taste, experience, and point-of-view. Dealing in extremes and superlatives can be dangerous, but also funny, and sometimes bittersweet:
“The saddest comic-book page of all time: inside front cover of Dennis the Menace #79 (July 1965).” Rodrigo Baeza
“I just read the saddest comic book I’ve ever read.” Egypt Urnash on the final volume of Jack Kirby’s Fourth World
“[Identity Crisis #5] is quite possibly the saddest comic book readers will ever have the chance to read, as the feelings it will evoke are gut-wrenching, especially to people that love those characters.” Sebastian Ferrer
“Dastmo I’m real happy for you and imma let you finish but Rorschach dying is the saddest comic book moment of all time! OF ALL TIME!” a world of warcraft player on Watchmen #12
“ACTION COMICS 583 (September ’86) had a cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson, from a cover design by Ed Hannigan –it remains the saddest comic book cover I’ve ever seen.” Jimmm Kelly