In Defense of the Medium: Leave Comic Sans Alone
In Defense of the Medium is a regular column published on Primary Ignition, in which Chris Kromphardt takes on the critics of the comic book/graphic novel industry.
Who knew that Comic Sans was the redheaded step-child of the typological world?
Not me. But I found that out really quickly late Thursday night/early Friday morning, as the news of LeBron James’ going to play for the Miami Heat—yawn, excuse me—predominated the online world. But, at least judging by Twitter, that announcement wasn’t the biggest news of the night.
That credit inexplicably went to Dan Gilbert, majority share owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, James’ now former home, who took to the interwebs with his passionate dissing of the 25-year-old. Gilbert tore into James, “who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening” after embarking upon “a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his ‘decision’ unlike anything ever ‘witnessed’ in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment.”
Harsh words. And yet, many of the news reports referencing Gilbert’s letter make light of his tirade because, get this, it was written in Comic Sans.
Apparently to some people this is a huge deal.
My reaction is, why the hate? Yeah, maybe Comic Sans looks kind of goofy, but isn’t judging a message by the font it’s written in just an extreme form of judging a book by its cover? Who cares?
Well, my fellow comics fans, this hate may find its genesis in that age-old belief that comics—and all things related to them—are for children, and that adults who enjoy them are not to be taken seriously. Hear me out.
According to Microsoft’s web site devoted to Comic Sans—props to CNN for directing me to this gem—Comic Sans was developed from “an idea to make a lettering script similar to the lettering used by the major comic books.” However,BanComicSans.com, a website that should be admired for its forthrightness, has this to say about the font: “Since (Comic Sans’ inception) the typeface has been used in countless contexts from restaurant signage to college exams to medical information. These widespread abuses of printed type threaten to erode the very foundations upon which centuries of typographic history are built.” And that’s pretty much it, no greater explanation for the hate. Yay for hyperbole.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for criticism; but it should be legitimate, at least somewhat objective, and defensible. And there’s some of this out there. However, it seems that by-and-large Comic Sans has been a drive-by victim of a vicious subsect of Internet culture, one with enough expendable time and vitriol to lash into what it sees as an easy target. Because I sincerely doubt that CollegeHumor.com has a specialist in typography working for it.