Friday, September 12, 2008

A Longwinded Comics Diatribe, Continued

Today’s post is a continuation (of sorts) from yesterday’s rant about the state of comics, and my feelings on typical fan reaction to books. I’d like to pick up now with my own feelings on the independent press, then segue back to the overall point (yes, these things do have a point!) I was trying to make yesterday. (The Cliffs Notes version of that point being, “comics are good if you read good comics.”)

Anyway, on to the Indie press. These days, I’m reading just as many Independent comics as I do books from the larger publishers. Here are three of my favorites:

Eric Powell’s The Goon is my all-time, absolute, pull no punches favorite comic book ever published.

Period. The End. See you later.

If you’re a fan of horror, or comedy, or drama, or noir, then Goon is the comic for you. Eric Powell writes and beautifully draws one of the most unique books out there today. And, since I don’t feel like simply repeating what I’ve already written about this great book (and, because, let’s face it folks, I’m a shill) you can check out a review of The Goon I wrote a while back for Comics Bulletin, right here.

Go ahead, check it out. I’ll wait.

Oh, and for you hardcore Indie fans, I know Goon is published by Dark Horse Comics these days, but it started out as a self-published, non-superhero book in a market where those two things typically scream failure. And now, it’s just been announced that Goon will be a CGI feature film! Woo-Hoo!

Second on my list is Richard Moore’s incredibly funny and heartfelt series, Boneyard. This little gem is published by NBM Publishing. Check this book out, folks. It’s that little black and white comic that could. The writing is top notch and the dialogue is witty and laugh-out-loud funny. Oh, and the art is great, too. (Note: While there's no harsh language, the art tends to be a bit risqué, so the book is for a teenage and up crowd.)

And, my third pick is John Kovalic’s wonderfully humorous Dork Tower. This comic strip (that’s right, strip) skewers everything readers (and, obviously, writers) of this blog know and love! An avid gamer himself, Kovalic has created a comic strip for gamers and fanpeople about gamers and fanpeople.

[Nathaniel's note: You might recognize John Kovalic's artwork from games including Apples to Apples and Munchkin. Ah, how much smaller the world just became!]

Other Indie favorites include Silent Devil’s Dracula vs. King Arthur and Terry Moore’s Echo and Dave Sim’s Cerebus and Jason Henderson’s Sword of Dracula and Peter David’s Fallen Angel, and on and on and on it goes.

By checking out some of the Indies, I found creators like Los Bros Hernandez and their magnificent Love and Rockets, and Mike Mignola’s (now) universally popular Hellboy. I also happened upon a little book called Sandman, by Neil Gaiman, published by Vertigo, which is an imprint of DC Comics.

Now, when I got into comics, Sandman was one of those must-read titles that most people suggested I check out immediately. So, I bought the first trade (a collection of single-issue comics, also referred to as trade paperbacks, or TPBs) and I have to say...

It was OK.

I wasn’t immediately hooked, and since I’m fickle, I didn’t bother with any of the subsequent trades. Flash forward to last year. Now, by that point, I had read everything that Neil Gaiman had ever written (my favorite writing of his is the excellent short story collection entitled Angels and Visitations, and later reprinted in paperback as Smoke and Mirrors). In any case, I decided that it was high time to revisit Sandman.

And, wow, am I glad I did. After those first couple of issues, this series...became.

Neil Gaiman The Storyteller hit his stride and took over the series, finding his voice and creating something magical.

If you’re new to the comics medium, and looking for a place to start, look no further than this series. Sandman elevated the medium to a literary form, and it is something to which all comics creators should aspire. If you take anything away from this little blog, please let it be that you check out Sandman if you haven’t already.

It will improve your opinion of graphic novels and comic books, regardless of how you already feel about them.

Anyway, all this talk of independent titles brings me to another comics-typical insanity that really annoys me—the “war” between the Mainstream Super Hero Fanboys and the Indie Intelligentsia.

The Wizard Subscribers and the Comics Journal Crowd.

What a stupid, stupid waste of time.

I’m sorry, but comics are comics. It’s all the same medium. Sure, Watchmen is on a different planet than, say, Heroes Reborn, but Watchmen is on a different planet than 99% of everything else that’s ever been written, drawn, and made into a comic.

And if you’re into Peter Bagge or Alex Robinson and you hate Brian Michael Bendis, well, good for you because Peter Bagge and Alex Robinson rock, but Bendis is still a terrific writer.

Bendis was one of the first guys that I read when I got into comics, actually. It was his utilization of "real life" dialogue in his books that got me to realize that comics are something completely different and better than I could have ever imagined. (More on Bendis some other time, by the way—I am an unabashed Bendis fanatic, and will at some point write a lengthy post about his body of work.)

So, to wrap this, um, well...hmm, what’d I call it before? Oh, yeah! To wrap up this longwinded, ranting fanboy diatribe, I’ll say this. I’m a comics fan. And that means more than simply being a Marvel Zombie or a member of the DC Nation or a lonely survivor out on Indies Island.

Being a comics fan means being a fan of the medium, and being PROUD of the medium. And for me, that usually means reading the latest Liberty Meadows right before I dive into Secret Invasion. For you, I’m sure it’s different.

And that’s a good thing.

Ours is a hobby that’s been met with much scorn and derision, but the few of us in the club, well...we get it. Unfortunately, the angry (and sweaty!) ranting fanboy is the image that 99% of “civilians” have of us. Even when crowds at the San Diego ComiCon are very clearly NOT all fanboy, it will always be the 300 pound guy dressed up as Wonder Woman (because it’s ironic!) that will make the local news.

So, here’s to us. The Fanboys and Fangirls, whatever you may read.

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