I once watched an interview with Kevin James (Silent Bob) discussing comic books for a History Channel program about the history of comics. In the interview he described the comic book store as being a den, isolated and apart from society in which "nerds" could revel in their passions privately. This, I believe, makes a lot of sense and affords an opportunity to think of the omnipresent Comic Book Guy image. Isolation and alienation seems to be fundamental in the modern graphic novel tradition. This is sort of a mixed bag as readers and characters alike can and often seem to suffer from alienation and disconnection with the mainstream flow of modernity. Sometimes this isolation can be liberating as Kevin Smith suggests, or terrifying and tragic. This aspect of comics and isolation and alienation is what I intend to discuss in my paper.
One of the issues I intend to examine is the source of this alienation. This will require my research to examine the cultural and economic development of the modern comic book as an art form and commodity. The taboo origin of comics reinforces trends of isolation in terms of the interaction of the reader and text. I also intend to explore this concept of alienation as it relates to Marxist notions of alienation and its origins in capitalist modern culture. Marx suggests living in a commodity culture creates decay of human interaction as everything turns into some sort of capital. The feeling of depression in modern existence yielded by something like Jimmy Corrigan's life is, I believe, what Marx was getting at.
Beyond origins of alienation and isolation I intend to look at some of the ways these feelings manifest themselves in characters. The most significant, or at least cogent at this time, is concealment. That is either, hiding via body language (Jimmy Corrigan) or masks (Rorschach) or even the very concept of superhero costumes in general which enable the often social recluse "mild mannered" real person to act in public while remaining hidden. This effort to conceal yet also interact in public speaks to the anxiety of the comic book's historical target market of the nerdy teenager.
Overall the idea here is that the alienation evidenced in comics we've read, Jimmy Corrigan, The Watchmen, Concreteand doubtless further to come is an expression of the interaction between reality and art. Comic book readers and characters are often isolated from general society. That's part of what makes this a special sort of literature even as it becomes more socially recognized.