I love it when people pop out of the genie bottle on cue.
Kind of an overwhelming post there, RLS. You sure you don't want to know her favorite ice cream flavor and the weight of her spleen in grams as well?
Sadly, the defense of an interest in comics seems increasingly unnecessary in the mainstream if only because most people don't read much of anything. In more literate circles, Maus, Watchmen, Persepolis and a sad few others have given the medium some respectability.
I recall having this conversation with my philosophy chair in 1986. He was, in that magical year, unconvinced of the worth of the medium. I tried to tempt him with an issue of Moore's Swamp Thing. I do not know if he ever read it.
But here in 2010, my daughter at Berkeley is studying Maus for a history course this semester.
Still, an interest in comics is seen differently from reading a graphic novel. As I originally read Watchmen one monthly issue at a time, I still tend to refer to it not as a graphic novel but as a comic book. The experience of reading it and then waiting a month... reading it again while the month ticked slowly by... until the next issue came out... it was a wonderful experience. There had never been anything like it and almost everything else in the medium paled. It was altogether different from reading it as a collected edition.
But, still, I agree with RLS, that we need offer no apology for our interest or enjoyment or work in any medium. In the early days of Hollywood, "serious writers" viewed screenwriting as hackwork. Still, it is difficult to make the opposing argument even to one's self when standing at the local cineplex... or the local comics shop.
The overwhelming majority of work in cinema or comics is sub-par if not horrible. Until recently, the guardians of prose publication were more vigilant out of economic necessity. Even with genre fiction like romances and sci fi, reading a book is an investment of more time and money and I would assert that the casual moviegoer who keeps Michael Bay and his ilk in business and picks up a dime-thin monthly comic filled with lightboarded photoreferenced art once in a while... knows no parallel at the bookstore.