Comics… (Or “Nerdology…”)

Recently I had the opportunity to speak about graphic novels/comics as an art form (thanks again for the invite, Kent).  It was for a class at the college.  Lots of fun.  It’s always good to get to speak about your hobbies and loves in life.  What’s more, I’ve found that there are more than a couple who were in the class that have some genuine interest in the subject — including a couple of folks who have told me they wouldn’t have thought about comics as art before that presentation, which is awesome.

 

So, I’ve been in a comicy place lately.  I’m going to list a few I’ve recently read, just to entertain the fanboys out there.  🙂  For the non-geeks among us, I’ll limit it to five.  FYI – I tend to lean toward the true-life stuff as opposed to snapping up ever superhero book I can get my hands on.  Don’t get me wrong…I keep up.  I’m way into Batman.  I followed the Marvel Civil War.  I can dig on the X-Men until the cows come home…but the stuff that really speaks to me tends to be the stuff that’s someone’s true story.  I just dig the whole “this is my life” thing.  (But, yeah…I’ll always read a Batman.)

 

  • Blankets – I’ve blogged about this one extensively.  (If you’re interested, just type “Blankets” in the search field.)  It’s a story I identified with in big, big ways as I read it, and it just really grabbed onto me.  I can’t say enough about this book, and I recommend it to everyone.  Especially those who’ve ever been disenchanted with the church and/or torn about your faith.  I can’t say I recommend taking the route the guy in the book takes…but at least it’s nice to know you’re not alone in your struggle.
  • Maus – This book is without precedent.  Even the people who hand out the Pulitzer Prize recognize that.  (They awarded the book in 1992.  That doesn’t ever happen to a comic book.)  It’s the story of a guy and his relationship with his dad, who was a survivor of Auschwitz (and later Dachau).  The kicker is that all of the people are portrayed as animals.  The Nazis as cats (which kept striking me as funny because of www.catsthatlooklikehitler.com), the Jews as mice.  It’s intense.  Hadn’t read it until recently, but it’s one of the best comics I’ve ever read.
  • Local – This was an impulse buy because the comic shop I was in didn’t have stuff I was looking for, but I chatted with the dude behind the counter long enough that I felt I had to buy something.  It’s really good, though.  The cover described it as “the coolest short film never shown on the IFC or Sundance channel.”  That’s pretty accurate.  It’s 12 semi-related stories revolving around the same girl.  They’re all pulled together in the final story and it’s a pretty good payoff.  Kind of a coming-of-age, fish out of water thing.  Really good read.
  • Death of Captain America – Okay…I’ll throw in one of the stretchy-pants stories.  🙂  I dig the “Death of Cap” story.  I was very disappointed by the ending of the Civil War arc (as were many, many, many others).  But this pretty much makes up for it.  It’s gripping and really cool to investigate what the reaction of the world would be if a superhero died.  (The “Death of Superman” fiasco didn’t do a very good job with it in the 90s, IMO.)  I won’t say much else about it because I’m hoping one or two of you will go read it…but it’s really good.  I was kind of surprised by that.  I’m not a big Cap fan, usually, but this really grabbed me.
  • The Arrival – This one’s unique.  It’s the story of an immigrant arriving to a new country for the first time and trying to find his feet.  Nothing too remarkable about that story…except that this book’s done almost entirely wordlessly.  The only lettering in it is an invented alphabet, used to represent the lack of understanding an immigrant must feel in a land not his own (gibberish words, used sparingly).  I didn’t think I’d like it.  I’m not as into the art of the comics as some fanboys are.  I like a good story and I need panels with dialogue, usually…but this was really effective.  It told a story without having to say anything.  Pretty cool, and it reaffirmed my feeling that comics can do things that neither books nor movies can do — and in this case, it was done really well.

That’s it.  I have a few things on my list to read.  I’m going to get around to the “Dark Tower” series sooner or later (and I’ll read “The Stand” once it’s all bound into one issue).  “Sleepwalk and Other Stories” has been on my “to read” list for months, but I’ve just not picked it up yet.  I know all about the “Batman RIP” series, but I haven’t gotten there yet.  It’s soon to happen (actually, they haven’t released THAT part in novel form yet but the build-up to it is out, so I’m going to pick that up shortly).  And I hear Harvey Pekar’s got another new one slated.  His stuff’s usually a good read.  (Though I didn’t much care for his last one about the Students for a Democratic Society.  It was just a little too information-heavy for me.)  I hear the new one’s supposed to be about his life again, in true “Splendor” fashion, so I’m looking forward to that.

 

That’s it for now.  Sorry for geeking out on ya’.  🙂

 

Current Reading:

  • “The Book of Air and Shadows” by Michael Gruber.  Decent Read.  Story’s interesting enough, but every chapter (so far) ends with excerpts of a “letter” written in period-speak.  That olde-tyme English which wert verily difficult whereupon the discern-er to find his whereabouts, aye!  I kind of hate those parts.  I’m beginning to wonder if I can still get a good story out of it by skipping those parts.  I don’t know why authors insist upon doing that crap…I probably wouldn’t have even picked it up in the first place if I’d known that was coming…but now I’m into the story…so I guess I’ll finish it, unless it just totally drives me nuts.
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7 thoughts on “Comics… (Or “Nerdology…”)”

  1. I’m also a newb when it comes to comics, but I’m learning. There are two movies based on graphic novels I’ve never heard of coming out in the next few months; The Spirit and The Watchmen. I agree that comics are an art form unto themselves and can do unique things. I’d like to read your thoughts on comic books making the transition to film.

  2. Briefly (yeah right), if it’s done well, it’s awesome. The current run of Batman flicks are great. The X-Men stuff has been pretty good (despite some serious deviation from the comic stories). But “Superman Returns” kind of bored me and I thought “300” was a little silly, even though I SHOULD have enjoyed them both. I’m not as much a purist as some comic fans going into a movie. A movie either stands up as good or it doesn’t, and staying true to the comic, whereas it’s a nice treat for us fanboys, is not essential to making the movie “good” to me. However, in “Batman Begins” there were moments that I thought, “woah…that looks like frames pulled right out of the comics.” They’re probably doing the best job of apeasing the fanboys and still making a movie that holds up to non-nerds and stands on its own feet.

    I’m really excited about “Watchmen.” It’s kind of a legend among comic-fans, and it looks like they’re trying to stay VERY true to the look, feel, and plot — though, I hear there’s a “new” ending. As long as it makes sense and delivers emotionally, I’ll probably dig it (but I’m one of the apparently FEW who didn’t like how “Watchmen” ended in the first place).

    So, yeah…basically, I judge the movies on their own merit as their own format. But when they do stuff that either proves their own fandom or is specifically for us fans, it’s really cool and makes the movies feel a little better than the ones that deviate. There will always be stuff they have to leave out either because of difficulty or just not translating well into the movie format. There are Batman arcs that are WAY too complicated to ever see the screen…you’ve got to assume the audience doesn’t read comics, and that limits what you can do a little because they just don’t have the history. Like if you made a WWII movie, you can assume that people know some basic things like “Hitler bad, camps horrific, Nazis scary.” With the Fantastic Four (which I also enjoyed, but I’m in the minority there) you can’t just assume that everyone knows who Doctor Doom even IS, much less his origin or that he has robotic replicas of himself. You have to explain it. Lack of history is always limiting.

    “Spirit” looks like a cool movie (“Sin City” vibe to the shooting that I really dig). I haven’t read the book, though…so I’m going to wait to see it until I’m more familiar with where it came from, just to see if I enjoy it on that level.

    …crap…I may as well have done another post! 🙂

  3. Derek, thanks again for speaking in the class. I was kind of surprised at the interest from the students – I didn’t know so many of them were interested in comics, especially some of the ladies who were asking questions. One of the few times in education when something goes BETTER than you expect. 🙂

    I’m like you – I didn’t like the original ending to Watchmen that much. The whole giant squid thing was really dumb, I thought, so I’m glad they’ve changed the ending. (This is not a spoiler because anyone who hasn’t read the book will have no idea what I’m talking about.)

    I have idea what the Spirit is about but the movie trailer looks interesting.

  4. Yeah. Seems like with everything Alan Moore writes (that I’ve read, anyway) there’s a moment of “what? …uhh…okay…” that you just have to ACCEPT and move on. I even felt that way with his Batman treatment (“The Killing Joke”) that did the now canon Joker origin. I was digging “Watchmen” a lot right up until squid-time. (And I thought Ozy’s actions were not built up well enough in the story…like it was just a twist because he needed an ending.)

    Also, it’s weird to be wary of spoilers on something that’s like 20 years old, isn’t it? 🙂

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