Last time I discussed the Marvel comics that started how I became a comic book consumer as an adult. I also made mention of Brian K. Vaughn, writer of a comic called Runaways. Like Warren Ellis, Craig Kyle, Masashi Kishimoto,Phil Foglio & Kaja Foglio, and Shirow Masamune, Brian K. Vaughn led me into other comics that would soon have a permanent position on my book shelves.
It was through Brian and a few friends of mine that I discovered Y: The Last Man and it quickly became one of my favorite comics next to Elfquest, Girl Genius, and Transmetropolitan. It focused on, literally, the last man on earth and the subsequent apocalypse society. It sounds like a cheesy b-movie plot or perhaps the start of a really bad porno but it instead molds itself into an epic story of survival. If you need proof, Y: The Last Man was nominated for a Hugo award and won an Eisner award.
In the comic we follow the story of Yorick who manages to survive a mysterious event that simultaneously kills off every other mammal possessing the Y chromosome on the planet, save for him Capuchin monkey, named Ampersand. We follow him and his friends and enemies, as people come to gripes with such a staggering event. Lasting sixty issues, the ending is something I wish I could get everyone to read.
Brian K. Vaughn then led me to Ex Machina, a currently on going story by him focusing on a retired superhero known as The Great Machine who wins the election to become the mayor of New York City in the wake of 9/11. The story explores his term in office as well as gives flashbacks to his life as a super hero and how the two bleed together, creating yet another compelling, and rather adult, drama.
By this point I was very much into reading comics again. I used the names of writers and artists I had collected through the years and began making lists of comics, using Wikipedia and Amazon to piece together what graphic novels I needed to complete story arches. Now, at least, I could read comics without worrying about missing issues! as long as I was willing to spend the money and/or hunt through good used book stores.
This actually catches us up to more or less modern days. I’m still reading comics, obviously. Here are some examples.
I still collect Masashi Kisimoto’s Naruto and a regular subscription to the American version of Shonen Jump keeps my interest in various other mangas such as One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Bleach. Shirow Masamune has made sure that I am always on the look out for some kind of Ghost in the Shell product, comics preferred but anime and books, I’ll gobble up. One of the current manga series I would like to read is called Bakuman, focusing on one teenager’s attempt to become a manga writer, and another is Hikaru no go, focusing on another teenager’s slow mastery of the Japanese game Go.
Craig Kyle and the Marvel Messiah Complex/Second Coming story-lines have kept me collecting X-Men graphic novels as they came out and introduced me to the re-start of X-Factor (Vol.3 ), which has quickly become my favorite X-Men title with its awesome writing of the character Jamie Madrox/Multiple Man and the introduction of the character Layla Miller (she knows stuff, be careful). There is also an ongoing X-23 series being published that I’m eagerly waiting to be collected into graphic novels.
I, of course, never stopped reading web comics. They’re the cheapest and most accessible of all the comics I love to read, plus I can easily share them among my friends and readers. Here is a small list of some of the best comics you can find online in no particular order.
Girl Genius, Scholock Mercenary, Gunnerkrigg Court, Templar, Arizona, Goblins, Guilded Age, Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, Weregeek, Scenes From A Multiverse, Order of the Stick, Erfworld, Dominic Deegan, Something Positive, Evil Diva, Powerpuff Girls Doujinshi, Darwin Carmichael is Going to Hell, El Goonish Shive, Demonology 101, The Adventures of Superhero Girl, Freakangles, Bob and George: The Comic Strip, 8-Bit Theater, and many more.
So looking over it all, I guess you could say I’ve always been a comic book consumer. My initial entry into comics was due to overlaps between the comic industry and other media, and while I’ve taken hiatus, the adoption of collecting comics into graphic novels proved to be exactly what I needed to sustain a comic habit. Combine that with excellent writing, varying genres, and stories for all age groups, and I will likely be a comic reader for the rest of my life.
The future of comics, like almost all forms of entertainment, will be undergoing changes in the digital age. Right now it seems to be trying to re-invent the old model, renting individual comics for prices only slightly less of their print versions for different reading platforms. One or two have adapted a subscription model. Both still DRM their content to make it inaccessible by means other than approved, and usually constrictive, methods. And there are still online comics, the particularly popular ones effectively earning their creators a living through donations, merchandising, and advertising. It’ll be interesting to see where this heads but unlike the music or movie industry, I suspect comics will fare better overall.
So I hope you enjoyed this article and found something in it you liked. Keep subscribed to this feed or keeping checking back now and again, as more articles of this type will appear, sooner or later.
So last time I talked about one of the most influential comics of my childhood, Elfquest, and the type of comic which led me to create this blog, online comics.
Transmetropolitan was an eye opener for me in that it took what Marvel tried to do and succeeded. It translated printed comics into something other than a super hero genre. Elfquest did that, most certainly, but at the time I considered it still a child’s story. How wrong I was but I wouldn’t re-read Elfquest as an adult for several years yet. Transmetropolitan made comics something that the adult in me could enjoy, which was not a hurdle I was looking to jump, as I still enjoyed good children’s content but knowing that there were comics that tackled complex themes was inspiring.
Transmetropolitan is a comic set in the future. But unlike Star Trek or Star Wars, this future is actually rather familiar even when it is bizarrely different. It is a tale about a man named Spider Jerusalem, a journalist of the traditional kind, and the stories he tells about a corrupt and thriving American culture in the not too distant future. Though Spider’s… unique personality, we see how powerful words can be to effect change in society.
It was something of a mind-blowing book for me. I was introduced to several trans-human concepts I had never heard of before, although I didn’t know or really understand them at the time, on top of an amazingly written story and an asshole of a character that I came to love over the span of sixty issues. My friend who introduced me owned all of them, except for some of the initial ones in graphic novel form and I read them all each individually. When I discovered the entire series was being collected into graphic novels, I made a point of collecting those too. If you have some interest in the comic but you’re not sure you want to purchase a paper copy, half of the issues are available through DC’s online comic store here.
Transmetropolitan was also the first comic to help me get over my insistence upon certain art styles. As a child I very much preferred the artistic styles of the Marvel artists and Wendy Pini’s talented artwork. I did not like the style Darick Robertson, the artist for Transmetropolitan, initially. In fact it took three issues before I was hooked on Transmet and I put off reading those issues for a short while. I went through the same issue with reading Girl Genius and becoming familiar with Phil Foglio’s art style. Both share a love for detail in their backgrounds that help define their worlds and it’s a style I’ve come to love. Transmet helped teach me that I shouldn’t judge a comic by its artwork but by how the artwork and writing blend together.
Transmetropolitan was also the first comic that helped me call attention to a particular writer. I was aware of Wendy and Richard Pini (the creators of Elfquest) but I’d known that Elfquest was their only comic, at the time. Warren Ellis, on the other hand, had written multitudes of comics. This information would be filed away for later when I really got back into comics. At the time though, Transmet was a blip on the almost flat-lined electrocardiogram of my comic reading history. I was beating slowly along with online comics but Transmet created a very profound blip on the chart.
Last time I discussed Garfield, Heathcliff, and the X-Men. These were the childhood comics that TV led me to read but they were not the only comics. During this time I discovered a comic called Elfquest.
Please don’t think that because I am only now introducing Elfquest that it is, in any way, second to the comics mentioned in prior posts. I found Elfquest int he middle of my first Marvel reading arc but it was a chance meeting and, looking back, I know that my life would be poorer for had I not happened upon that one comic issue early in my childhood.
I was at a the fair. I believe the Texas State Fair. There were a lot of animals, and booths, and I remember bugging my parents for money to buy comic trading cards. In particular I was trying to buy a foil covered Archangel card I believe. At the same booth they happened to have, for free, a comic called Elfquest. It was free, I was a little kid bored at the fair, and so I took it.
I said above that I grew to appreciate deep characters. I don’t think that was because of the X-men or the other Marvel comics I read. I think it was because of Elfquest.
The comic I picked up was Elfquest #19. You can click here to read it, as all the Elfquest comics were uploaded and are now free to read by the creators Richard and Wendy Pini. You can find the links to all the collected volumes here and I highly suggest you find the time to read them, regardless of your age.
I think the cover was probably the most compelling cover of a comic I had ever seen, see here on the right. Reading of Redlance’s struggle to protect children despite his pacifist nature. Suntop’s alienation from the other children over his special ability and how it saves them all. The confusing ramblings of my favorite character, Two-Edge, and a climatic battle of armor clad elves versus burly trolls. It was a memorizing comic full of back story that I had never read. I still have it, sadly rather beaten up over the ears from re-reading it too much.
That one comic wasn’t enough to get me anywhere, however, as there was no internet and the ability to find information about it was highly limited. I went years thinking that it was just some small independent comic nobody had ever heard about. It was another chance wandering through a Walden Books store, looking for, I think, Garfield comics, when I saw a collected graphic novel of Elfquest. This time in color! (Yes the links above are in color, the original comic was not, however). Collecting these graphic novels required lots of wheeling and dealing with my parents, as they were big expensive ($20!) affairs. I received them for birthdays and as big treats. I obsessed over them. I do think there was a time where one could always see me with at least one of these books in hand everywhere but in the shower or at school (and sometimes even then)!
Elfquest was a comic that took the standard fantasy genre and turned it on its side. Elves were not tall beautiful creatures but short fierce beings who lived and loved passionately in a world with little magic and much hardship. It actually set a standard for me in fantasy literature that I found hard to meet with some of the genre’s classics.
I love comics. I love the medium. Comics, when you tap into even a fraction of their potential, can tell a story that neither the written word, a series of images, or an animation could ever achieve, but I am getting a head of myself. This love came about through a long road of discovering comics. Let me take you there.
I sought these two out because of their respective cartoons that aired in the eighties while I was a child. I loved Heathcliff’s cartoon but his actual comic did not inspired me much. Garfield, on the other hand, was very much a comic inspiration for me. Something about the lazy fat cat who hated Mondays, loved Lasagna, and had two goofy friends named John and Odie just clicked with me both as a kid and as an adult. As a kid I read a lot, after I got over my hatred of reading, which often meant that I begged my parents for trips to the bookstore and/or library so I could blow my not so hard-earned allowance on a new book of some kind. That is when I found the Garfield trade collections.
Looking at my shelf full of graphic novels and manga, I can easily see how Garfield made it so easy for me to get into comics. Either dollars for a year’s worth of Garfield comics which kept me reading for an hour or two a day (I re-read them constantly) and wanting a new one each week (which really was each month as I could definitely not afford eight bucks a week) was a gateway to other, if not better, comics.
I no longer have most of those trades. I donated them so that someone else could enjoy them as much as I did as a child.
Along came the X-Men.
Fans of ElfQuest, might find something amusing in the above comic.
If you’ve never read ElfQuest I don’t blame you. It’s a comic from the 70s and 80s that I stumbled upon in my childhood and spent almost all my allowance on every month to collect the graphic novels whenever I could find them. You, lucky readers, don’t even have to do that these days, as you can find the totality of the ElfQuest comics on the ElfQuest website for free to read! I highly suggest it.