July 7, 2009

It's Not A Comic Book. It's A Graphic Novel

I loved comics books when I was a kid. I couldn't afford them, like so much merchandise marketed towards children, but I still loved them. Cue the violin. I still got to read the odd copy thanks to friends who would bring them to school. It wasn't as much of an obsession among us as, say, Transformers and He-Man action figures, or hockey, but comic books had their place in the universe of boys where I grew up.

In my entire life I have purchased two—count 'em, two—comic books. When I was eleven or twelve, I bought a Spider-Man comic. It was the issue after Peter Parker proposed to Mary-Jane. I'm pretty sure that one never ranked high with collector's, and even if it did it wouldn't matter since I lost it during my teen years. There were a few other comic books Dad would bring to me from work, throwaway stuff his buddies would give him when their kids didn't want them. But, they were always the horrible superheroes no one had ever heard of—just who in the blue hell is The Bedazzler, anyway?

The other comic book I bought with my one money was a Catwoman issue, which I bought in my early twenties while on a mini-spree with friends. While browsing a book store, we raided the comic book stands. The others were after Magic: The Gathering cards and Dragonlance novels. I was merely tagging along. I wasn't back on the reading bandwagon yet, so I was just looking for something to catch my eye. A sexy cover of Selena Kyle caught my eye, that's for damned sure, and with the other guys buying comics I thought I'd at least fit in and buy one too. The next day, buyer's remorse set in. The artwork was great, the story was shit. I gave it away a few days later.

I want to be an aficionado of comic books to this day, but with the endless torrent of issues hitting shelves each month, I just don't have the time or money. Who does, I often wonder. The idea of the superhero has always appealed to me, and the artwork can sometimes be stellar in quality. But if there's no meat to the story, I'll lose interest quick. I think that's why I loathed the movie, Elecktra (sp), so much. Then again, who didn't?

This past week, I noticed my library has graphic novels in stock. While doing a search for Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, one of the query hits was his Marvel universe graphic novel, 1602. I remembered hearing about this from a back issue of Wizard magazine—like The Soup saves me from watching reality shows, Wizard saved me from reading comic books. I have that novel on hold and should receive it soon. In the meantime, I borrowed one that was on the local shelf.

Batman: Hong Kong is my latest foray into the world of comic books. I liked the cover, with Batman is a stare down with a Chinese "superhero" called Night Dragon. Tony Chow did the artwork, Doug Moench wrote the story. Now, I'm essentially a casual fan of superheroes, and a greenhorn when it comes to comic books, so my opinion of this novel has to be taken with a grain salt. Having said that, I was not impressed at all. Dialogue, terrible. Artwork, sketchy with tinges of pseudo-anime. Plot, ludicrous. DC seems to have a stranglehold on their properties, wanting quality over everything else it seems. I must be wrong, because I can't imagine this graphic novel being anything other than filler.

I'm not done with the medium of graphic novels yet, though. I have my fingers crossed for 1602, and if I like it I hope there's other stuff available of similar caliber. I doubt the library has The Watchmen in stock, but maybe they have 30 Days of Night or something of equal notoriety.

What would you suggest as essential reading material among comic book fans?


  1. I'm not sure if its essential reading, but I really enjoyed the Discworld graphic novels (The Colour of Magic and the Light Fantastic) and the Dark Tower graphic novels, and also the new Doctor Who comics. :)

  2. I had no idea there were "Discworld" graphic novels. I can only imagine the artwork with those.

    I can't say I was ever a fan of "Dr. Who." I watched a couple of episodes a year or two ago, and they just didn't resonate with me.