November 23, 2009

The Mondays: This Week Gets a Little Graphic

It's kind of strange to see the things that come into popularity. It's been especially strange this decade to see the things normally relegated to geeks and nerds take center stage. Science-fiction is blowing up on television and in theaters with District 9 and Battlestar Galactica, though others might argue that the majority of popular sci-fi is dreck--Transformers, I'm looking in your direction.

The big winner of the basement dwellers, however, has to be comic book aficionados. The twenty-first century has become the stomping grounds of the superheroes. Sure, we got a few big screen outings from the likes of Batman and a couple other comic book characters during the '90s, but nothing close to the scale we're seeing these days.

When it comes to the movies, as soon as X-Men proved to be a hit at the box office, then everybody wanted in on the action. Now, as we end the decade, it feels like you can't go a couple of months without a movie coming out that's based on a comic book or graphic novel.

But for a guy like me who never really got into the reading and collecting of comic books as a child, the whole medium has been pretty foreign territory. Oh sure, I grew up on the Saturday morning cartoons that were based on Marvel and DC characters, but I rarely sat down to flip through the pages of any of their books. It came down to two reasons why I never hopped on that bandwagon: 1) Growing up poor, spending money every month on comics just wasn't an option; 2) there weren't that many places selling comics in my neck of the woods anyway.

I'm in my thirties now, and you'd think this would be a time in a man's life when you "put away childish things." Not so in this century. My generation just never stopped ... never stopped playing video-games, never stopped watching cartoons, and never stopped reading comics. We've basically taken the medium once monopolized with kiddy fare and turned it into a free-for-all. Granted, comic books and the graphic arts started out with a more mature slant, but once that McCarthy-style era of imposing moral boundaries on the medium went into effect, everything became Archie Digest and G-rated Captain America. And once that ridiculous era faded into the background, comic books and graphic novels became a whole lot more diverse and infinitely more interesting.

But, still, it's never occurred to me to immerse myself in the medium. I enjoy many of the movies and TV based on comics, but as far as going out and rifling through the shelves for the latest issue of Captain America or Swamp Thing, I still don't bother. I think it comes down to being a bit of a babe in the woods when trying to decide what to read. There is a glut of material to choose from and I'll be damned if I know where to start.

I did read a half-dozen graphic novels in 2009, however, as a way to acquaint myself. I guess it was the theatric release of Watchmen that put me over the edge. They hyped the bejesus out of that movie for almost a year. They called it the greatest graphic novel in history. And here I was, feeling like the one guy left on the planet who'd never read it. So I did, along with four others over the course of the year that I'll be reviewing on my blog this week.

Here's a look at the titles I'll be reviewing as part of my "Getting Graphic" week:

  • Monday - Fables: Legends in Exile - written by Bill Willingham, illustrated by Lan Medina

  • Tuesday - Batman: Hush - written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Jim Lee

  • Wednesday - Iron West - written and illustrated by Doug TenNapel

  • Thursday - Marvel 1602 - written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Andy Kubert

  • Friday - Watchmen - written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons

Those five comprise a drop in the bucket to what's out there available to be read, but I thought they made up a fair spectrum of what can be found from the more popular graphic novels. There's superheroes, fairy tales, mythical creatures, and cowboys. Not a bad way to get the ball rolling.

There are so many more out there that I hope to read sometime. I would especially like the chance to read History of Violence, 30 Days of Night, Ghost World, and American Splendor--all of which inspired movies that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Since I've been borrowing these from my local library, I'm limited to graphic novels. So, if there are any titles that you think I should have on my radar, feel free to leave a comment or send me an e-mail to let me know.


  1. This sounds like a great week. I used to love comics and I'm slowly getting into graphic novels. My favorite would have to be the Doctor Who comics.

  2. I don't think I've ever watched a whole episode of "Doctor Who." The few I've stumbled across on television looked too cheesy for my liking. I may check out a comic though if I see one.

  3. One of my favorite "superhero" comics is Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid & Alex Ross. For series, I would recommend James Robinson's Starman, and Garth Ennis' very adult Preacher series, both with their complete runs collected in trades. One of my favorites is also Sandman Mystery Theatre, but it is very rooted in the 1930s pulps, so it might not be to everyone's taste.

  4. Kingdome Come, I remember seeing a couple of covers for that one. Very nice artwork from Ross.

    I think I could get into the Preacher stuff as well. Plus there is Jonah Hex that sounds very interesting, but I'm not sure if those are in tpb yet.