Bill Maher Needs to Read Comics

Brace yourselves, this is something I’m realllllllly passionate about, so here comes another one of my blog posts that is pounded out in an uncontrollable flurry.

Bill Maher knows how to kick up a firestorm online- his recent blog post disses the recently deceased legendary Smilin’ Stan Lee and challenges the legitimacy of comics as a format. It closes by laughably implying that the people who view comic books as important are the ones who voted for Trump. Sure, Bill… yeah no.

Firstly, on dissing Stan Lee- even if you don’t appreciate comics, Bill, there’s no need for that low blow (other than shoehorning it into an intro for a controversial blog post that will get you lots of views, I guess?). It’s undeniable that Mr. Lee’s creative genius has touched the lives of many people, and suggesting that art, literature, and entertainment are not vital to life paints a false picture. Bill writes:

“Someone on Reddit posted, “I’m so incredibly grateful I lived in a world that included Stan Lee.” Personally, I’m grateful I lived in a world that included oxygen and trees, but to each his own”

What exactly is your point here? I don’t know about you Mr. Maher, but I don’t want to live my life fulfilling only the lower rungs of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

Ok, on to comics. Here’s what he has to say on that topic:

“Twenty years or so ago, something happened – adults decided they didn’t have to give up kid stuff. And so they pretended comic books were actually sophisticated literature.”

As an educator and an MLIS student, you really awaken the fire in me with this one, Bill. Who is to say what constitutes “sophisticated literature”? Is it a word count? Is it a certain vocabulary? Is it one of those “i’ll know it when I see it” things? I call bullshit.

Comics are a format, not a genre. I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know comics in my 10+ years working in bookstores and at my public library. At my library they call me the Comic Queen because i’m so passionate about spreading the word about the versatility of comics (and graphic novels, and webcomics, and manga, which are all forms of sequential art)

So, again, what makes something “sophisticated literature”, exactly? Does the use of sequential art immediately reduce something to junk reading for kids?

Hell no!

Comics are just a format, Bill. They can be used to address any kind of information, and can be tailored to suit the needs of readers of any age. They are increasingly diverse and inclusive as more artists, authors and publishers jump on board. Comics are especially wonderful because they are approachable and lots of readers, even reluctant readers, may be enticed to read a comic because of the pictures.

Yet, unfortunately, Bill, you have joined the masses of people who mistakenly believe that the comics format = kid stuff, as if the format somehow dictates what kinds of content can be delivered in a comic.

There are comics that:

These are just some examples, but comics can be about ANYTHING. More and more comics are coming out every day on all kinds of different topics.

And yes, comics also include superheroes sometimes- what’s wrong with that, Mr. Maher? The world of superhero and fantasy comics is gigantic and diverse in its own right, and has been and continues to be entertaining, inspirational, and motivational for many people all across the world.

At the risk of triggering Bill Maher, i’d like to finish here with one last sentiment:

Rest in Peace, Mr. Smilin’ Stan Lee.

File:Stan Lee (5774464408).jpg





Author: HideNGoShauna

Canadian 🍁 B.Ed, Future librarian 📚

10 thoughts on “Bill Maher Needs to Read Comics”

    1. I’d argue against that Michael. Lee, along with Ditko and Kirby, began developing characters and comics that dealt with more realistic and multifaceted people and more serious themes of humanity than the bulk of comics in the past. They changed comics, making them more interesting to a wider audience, and were a big part of the push that brought comics to where they are today.

      Furthermore, when people try to categorize books toward an intended age range, there are so many arbitrary decisions- if you steer clear of a book simply because it is marketed toward “youths” you risk missing out on lots of excellent content.


      1. While it is true that Lee’s work with his contemporaries did evolve the format, they still were written for children. I disagree with Maher saying that comics cannot be for adults, however Maher is correct in that the works which made Lee famous are meant for young people.


      2. Well, if that’s true then his works clearly reached a much broader audience than was intended or expected. And, Maher is still trying to lump all comics in with “kid stuff”, which

        1. implies that what our kids read isn’t important and that their content is all the same
        2. implies that those who create books for kids aren’t important either
        3. ignores the vast world of comics that are created for people of all ages on all sorts of topics


  1. This is a good post and something that came up when I was at University. One of the classes I took was about 21st entury literature, and one of the items on the curriculum was the graphic novel “Alice in Sunderland”. For reasons that are overly convoluted I actually was in this particular class twice. It should also be noted that I was the oldest male in the (first) class, however there were a number of females a couple of years older than me. The older women rejected the idea that graphic novels were literature, so did some of the younger female students. However, the majority of the class male and female were with me when I argued that graphic novels is a further evolution in literature. (I even had a whole philosophical argument about what words and pictures were ready to argue the point, however the majority ruled and it was unnecessary). The second time I took the class, no persuasion was needed. Everyone agreed, Graphic Novels are literature. I also tried to convince my tutor that games were literature. Anyway, good post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks John! Yeah video games are often overlooked too, but some of my favorite games are very story driven- ‘visual novel’ games are an obvious example, but so many fantastic games (not all) are undoubtedly art and literature- again it seems like those that scoff at them are those who are unfamiliar with the broad and diverse games that are available today.


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