Thursday 23 June 2011

Coming Back to Comic Books | An Introduction

I used to read a lot of comics. I mean, a lot. The local comic book store guy would pull a precarious stack of singles from the racks for me every week, and every Thursday, without fail, I'd find myself practically penniless till the gods of pocket money - remember them? - next heard my prayers.

Then I grew up.

I hate to say it - I really, truly do - but I did. I got older; I got busier. I went to Uni; got a job; met the woman I aim to spend the rest of my life with, if she'll have me - not necessarily in that order. There are hundreds of things I could point to by way of explanation for my decision to leave behind a medium I'd held very dear. How I wish there was a single one that I could point to and say, "Of course! That's why I stopped reading comic books!"

But there's not. It just... kinda... happened.

I didn't go cold turkey, not quite. I read Lucifer and Y The Last Man through to the bitter end. I kept up with Fables for a while longer than anything else, and when everyone started exploding over The Walking Dead, I invested in the first few trades. There have been other odds and sods since, but not many, and less of them with every passing year.

But I never fell out of love with the medium completely. Though before this it'd been much too long since I devoured an issue of this or that ongoing, in all that time I'd have gladly mounted an argument in favour of comic books as an art form, and an equally viable means of mature storytelling as any novel or splodge of colour on a canvas - if someone had only asked.

Anyway, to make a long story less long, a little while ago I got myself a tablet, and quickly discovered the wonders of reading gloriously backlit graphic novels on my eee Pad Transformer. Marvel were (and still are) offering a free month's subscription to their Unlimited digital comics service, and though Marvel comics were never my particular poison, it was enough, in short, to get me to give a shit again. Since then, I've heaved the dusty longboxes out of storage... reread a few former favourites... I've even been back to the comic store! My old haunts are all gone, alas, but in their place others have risen - others, and the internet.

With which, the scene was set. I couldn't not blog about my experiences, now could I?

Coming Back to Comic Books is going to be a chronicle of my return journey into a medium much overlooked, and by me these past few years as much as anyone else. Going forward I mean to treat those comics I read with every inch of the respect I'd pay a given book, or movie.

Not to immediately contradict which statement, I have to admit that I don't know that there's enough meat in many single issues to justify individual reviews, but going forward, expect quick hits on anything and everything I read on a semi-regular basis, either grouped a couple at a time or covered 1:1 when the occasion calls for special treatment.

We're going to go in gently - as much for my own benefit as anyone else's - but already I've a backlog of comic books to talk about, and I'm rearing to get this show on the road before it gets as scary as my tower of regular books to be read.

Man oh man, what a lot of catching up I've got to do...

That is to say, man oh man, what a lot of catching up I've got to do! :D

Just to whet your appetite, over the next couple of weeks we're going to be talking about The Walking Dead - but of course we are! - as well as Batman: Hush, which I only just now read, and a couple of comics featuring scripts by writers we should all be familiar with, namely Strange Adventures, wherein Zoo City author Lauren Beukes makes her mark on a new medium, and Peter V. Brett's much ballyhooed-about Red Sonja: Blue, which I might as well tell you now would be better known as The Book of Breasts.

Exciting, right? And no, I don't just mean that last.


  1. I never really got into comic books. I wanted to. Lots of my friends liked them. But on the few that had art that I could stand, it seemed that the art was used solely to create women with boobs so large and waists so tiny that I was amazed they didn't just snap in half. I just gave up on wanting to read them, because I just figured that there was nothing out there that I actually wanted to read.

    Then I found manga. And now, more and more western graphic novels are coming out that have art that doesn't make me cringe AND seem interesting enough to make me really want to read them! I can finally live my dream, albeit almost a decade late.

  2. I'm in the unfortunate position of getting into comics just over a year ago for the first time. DC, unfortunately, has come to really appeal to me, which means that not only has my bank balance rather suffered, but I also basically have to spend time researching them to figure out which ones I should read.

    I've read the first couple of vol. of Y the Last Man, is it worth continuing? I hear it is, and what I've read of it so far has certainly not been bad, but neither have I bee particularly impressed.

  3. I'm glad to hear you are gonna be featuring some comics on your blog.

    I hear you about comics putting a dent in your bank account balance. I need to take a good hard look at my pull list and make some tough decisions.

    I'll be looking forward to your comic-themed posts.

  4. @Ryan - Yep. This should be entertaining. Least, I hope so!

    Actually, in point of fact, your comic quickies over on Battle Hymns have been a big help to me, mate, in terms of finding new books now that my enthusiasm for the form's back up to scratch. I totally owe you one for directing me towards the first Strange Adventures, for instance.

    Also how about the thought of new Opeth? And not a moment too soon - can't effing wait. :)

    Everyone else, be sure to check out Ryan's super duper blog at, presuming you aren't reading already.

  5. @Ty-Real - Oh, dude, I don't envy you the DCU!

    That is to say, though most of the comics I've been buying of late are from DC - not to mention nine tenths of all the books in the longboxes - with Flashpoint going on, and Darkest Night / Brightest Day, this has to be a terrible time to buy into the universe. Mind you, I don't know that the situation's any better over on Marvel Avenue...

    Anyway, DC for me amounts to Batman and a bunch of Vertigo books. And I'm still years behind on the adventures of ol' Batsy. I hear he died just now, and came back, of course. Hmmm.

    As to Y the Last Man... well, it's solid. It's far from my favourite series of recent years, but I have leftover affection for Brian K. Vaughan from back when he wrote the last Swamp Thing relaunch, and at the very least Y was up to that standard. Bit of a slow burn reading month to month - even trade to trade - but with the series now complete, I'd certainly recommend you check it out, Ty, yeah.

    And I'll have a host more recommendations to match that up on the blog shortly. :)

  6. @Ria - What you said about boobs and butts? My feelings exactly. I ever spot that in a comic and it gets a yellow card right away; another, for whatever reason - be it paper-thin characterisation, an over-reliance on assumed knowledge, too many words per page or too few - and it's straight to the bench with it.

    (I'll say it before anyone else does: what an odd choice of metaphor for me...)

    On the other hand, traditional comic book art is what it is, and there's room for good writing, good storytelling, even in those series with waistlines fit to give matchstick men a run for their money. So I try not to judge too harshly.

    Is manga much different in that respect?

  7. So what are you dabbling in now? It sounds like you've already read Y: The Last Man and The Walking Dead. If you are looking for good books to start with I'd be happy to throw out some recommendations.

    New Stuff I Read
    -LOCKE & KEY - MUST READ. Simply amazing.
    -ATOMIC ROBO - MUST READ. Dr. Dinosaur.
    -FABLES - I don't know where you left off but you should go back. The story continues to evolve in unexpected ways.
    -THE UMBRELLA ACADEMY - Interesting art, cool story which blends a lot of genre tropes together
    -THE BOYS - Vulgarity and violence at it's best/worst. Not for everyone but it lampoons the hell out of superhero comics.

    New Stuff I've Heard Good Things About But Haven't Read Yet

    Old Stuff That If You Haven't Read You Should
    -PREACHER - There are some moments in this series that are fantastic. Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy form an amazing trio of characters
    -SANDMAN - Gaiman. Duh.
    -HELLBOY - Lovecraftian Superheroes. Yay.

    I also might be able to help you out with some books to read if money is an issue. I've got a couple stacks lying around collecting dust.

  8. Also, I've always loved the Batman Mythos (but can't stand DC continuity. I might give the rebooted series a shot.

  9. Looking forward to this feature, as - at the age where you apparently started to move away from comics - I'm just getting into them. By weird coincidence, Hush was one of my first, too. So far, in my very limited experience, Sandman's my clear favorite.

  10. My relationship with comics is very similar to yours. I still miss the walking dead series but haven't read a comic in 5 years.

    However, I think there was one point where I can point to and say my interest definitely waned. When Crossgen folded I was gutted. I loved that company and I think it was the void it left behind which back into reading fantasy.

    Funnily enough I started reading the complete series of Bone last week. Very good so far.

  11. Niall- First off, thanks for the kind words about Battle Hymns, much appreciated.

    I'm glad the Comic Quickies have been a help. I know a lot of people trade-wait these days, but I like getting the monthlies since I'm a lover of serialized story-telling...So I'm glad I've somewhat inspired you to check out some monthlies.

    Oh, and Opeth, yeah, I can't wait. They're coming through my city (Seattle) on tour too so I'm looking forward to seeing them again live.

  12. @Rob - Oh, Bone is tremendous. Real fond memories of following that series through the years. Might just be time for a reread, now you mention it, mate.

    Not so sure about what Jeff Smith's doing these days, though. What the hell is RASL? Ryan, any idea? Anyone?

    So that story about Crossgen leading to your interest in fantasy... that's got to be a post right there, Rob. I know I'd be keen to read it. :)

  13. @Patrick - Why, that's absolutely lovely of you!

    But no, I couldn't do that. Space is always at a premium around here, and I've dusty stacks of my own to rediscover, a massive drawer of graphic novels I'd all but forgotten about - and there's all this shiny new stuff to pick my way through too. Plenty to keep me busy!

    As to your recommendations, Patrick: most of the books you mention I'm familiar with - certainly I'm with you as re: the classics, and I've tried most of the newer series you recommend too. We seem to have exceedingly similar tastes, I see. So, I'll be adding The Umbrella Academy and Atomic Robo to my new and improved pull list, thank you very much. :)

    P,S. The Unwritten is indeed awesome. Love me my Mike Carey - closest thing comic books have to a Neil Gaiman now Neil's off to tend all pastures Palmer...

  14. I don't know too much about RASL, but I've heard good things about it around the comic shop. I believe the main character guy is an art thief, but there's also some sci-fi elements to the comic as well. Overall the tone is supposed to be much darker than Smith's other works.

    The individual issues come out pretty sporadically, with huge gaps between issues, so I've been told the best way to enjoy RASL is to get the oversized trades,(there are two), which do the artwork more justice than the floppy format. There is a digest sized TPB out that includes 7 issues, but the art is much smaller...but much more affordable.

    I haven't done more than flip through the trades, so all my information is from talking to folks at the shop who have read the comics.