It is worth remembering that one of the major answers to why should I read comic books is that a large number of major movies are based on comic books. If you are, like many people, someone who tends to say I liked the book better or they really couldn’t fit all of it into a 2 hour movie, then you might want to catch up on some of these comic book series before their big screen adaptations in 2014. It’s a great way to feel superior when talking to someone about the movie they saw, when you can explain how you new more about it, were better educated on the content, etc.
That said, this is a good opportunity to examine both what is good about comic books and what is wrong with them. It’s a double-edge sword. On one edge, you have well-conceived universes with rich histories and characters. On the other, you have so much stuff that it can be completely inaccessible for anything less than a hardcore fan.
1. Superheroes and Sequels
One may argue that superhero movies have begun to saturate the market. It’s hard to come up with a better argument for this than X-Men: Day of Future Past, which appears to be both a prequel and sequel to six previous X-Men movies, and involves time travel, JFK, alien bad guys, and at least a dozen mutant superheroes.
(That said, it does look pretty good.)
Other examples of this include a new Captain America and a new Spiderman (the second film in the second trilogy).
2. Superheroes on the Television
We currently have two major television series that are set in the superhero worlds of the two biggest comic book universes: Agents of SHIELD for the Marvel Fans, and Arrow for the DC folk. While I have not seen either of them, Agents of SHIELD suffers from the same troubles as the new X-Men film, in the sense that it’s a TV spin-off of six preceding films. Arrow is somewhat simpler and more accessible, and apparently addresses some actually interesting and poignant ideas.
3. Superheroes Movies of Superheroes You Have Never Heard Of
Are you excited for Guardians of the Galaxy? If you are, then you probably aren’t the key demographic I am trying to reach with this blog. It’s yet another superhero movie, this one starring Andy from Parks and Rec, Benicio del Toro, a few monster things, and a talking raccoon.
It looks like it might be pretty funny, or at least fun, but it also does not quite answer the question of why does this exist.
It is also notable that all three of these categories fall into the category of the “Shared Universe,” a concept that is emerging through the various comic book superhero movies out there.
4. Non-Superheroes on the Television
The Walking Dead, of course. That’s all I will say about that, as there is no need to whip a zombified horse. We are now at 3 major television series adapted from popular comic books, each with a different enough audience that it appears this will only expand further. There are more comic books out there we have yet to see on the small screen, the longer stories that are less adaptable to blockbuster adaptation, those with a focus on characters and their journeys. (Scalped being one example.)
5. Non-Superheroes in the Movies
Sin City: A Dame to Kill For is one of the best (and only) examples of this, with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot being sort of another one (unless you consider them superheroes, I suppose, which I don’t exactly).
My prediction and expectation is that we still have more of these to see in the future, as superhero films begin to burn themselves out and more movies arise based on the independent or non-superhero or more unusual comic books out there.
Is this is your first time at this blog? Check out the first post at here.
Perhaps you have heard of Marvel and DC. At the very least, you have seen the DC logo ripple across the screen before one of the Christian Bale Batman movies, or you remember hearing that Disney bought Marvel. Maybe you have even witnessed conversations about the complexities and nuances of the Marvel Universe, and why it is clearly superior to DC, or vice versa. Or, perhaps, none of what I just said makes any sense to you. If so, you have come to the right place.
Marvel and DC are the Republicans and Democrats of the comic book world, although perhaps not in that order. They are Apple and IBM, or Apple and Google, or Facebook and Twitter, or America and Canada. One of them is better. Everyone knows that one of them is better. Everyone who has ever read one comic book knows that one of them is better, but not everyone agrees about which one.
Marvel has Spiderman, Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Nick Fury, Thor, an assortment of other Avengers, and the X-Men (which includes Wolverine, Cyclops, Beast, Professor X, Magneto, and about three dozen other mutants.) When you think of any recent comic book movie, you are probably thinking of a Marvel title.
The Avengers is one of the recent films to feature a large cast of Marvel superheroes.
DC has Batman and Superman. Those are their main two, with many other heroes, anti-heroes, and villains spinning out from them, a list which includes Wonder Woman, The Flash, Nightwing, Aquaman, the Green Lantern, the Green Arrow, as well as the Watchmen.
It is not the purpose of this blog to tell you which one is better. That is something you have to decide for yourself.
It is also worth noting that both have much more than superheroes. DC has Vertigo, which includes Sandman, Swamp Thing, 100 Bullets, Fables, Scalped, and many other adult-oriented titles, many of which do not include anything supernatural or superhero. Marvel publishes adaptations of novels by Stephen King and Jane Austen, and their more adult-oriented titles include The Punisher, who is far more anti-hero than superhero.
This blog intends to stay non-partisan and, beyond what you have been given about, I will try to avoid the editorializing and arguing that typically accompanies an explanation of Marvel vs. DC. And, of course, there are the rising third parties. There are far too many to list in here.
I suggest that, as you make your way through the comic book world, you explore titles from every publisher as you find what you like.
It has been mentioned, on here, that Marvel and DC are to comic books what Republicans and Democrats are to American politics. They dominate things, and they like you to choose one side or the other. In the interest of walking the line and avoiding partisanship, it is time to consider a Marvel title, as last week we considered Scalped, a DC title.
Marvel 1602 is only one volume, consisting of eight issues. This what we we talk about when we talk about graphic novels. It’s a few hundred pages, with story arcs that are more-or-less resolved within the one book. This means that, yes, it’s less of a commitment to read this. You get your hands on it, and you can read the whole thing in two or three sittings.
Here is the part that could alienate you, and so I want to get it out in the open right away: Marvel 1602 is about a parallel universe. Specifically, it’s about a parallel universe where the year is 1602 and a bunch of Marvel superheroes exist in The New World and England. What superheroes, you ask? Well, it’s a few you have probably heard of, because they have been showing up in a lot of movies over the last ten years: Spiderman, Magneto, Professor X, Nick Fury, just to name a few. I won’t tell you all of them, but I will tell you that there are a few good surprises, and it’s worth reading just to see what they’re doing in this different universe (Nick Fury works for the Queen and Magneto works the Spanish Inquisition). Read more…
A recurring feature on this blog will be recommendations for comic series that you should read, with tips and analysis to help you determine whether or not you will enjoy them. Also, no spoilers. Let’s consider the series Scalped, (by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera), as both an excellent comic book series and a good example to understand comics themselves.
Scalped is a series consisting of sixty issues, which are available in ten volumes. A good way to look at this is that each issue is like an episode of a television show: they appear once a month, they take one sitting to enjoy, and they are typically self-contained while telling a larger story. They cost between $1 and $4 and are somewhere around 32 pages. They are then collected into volumes, which come as trade paperbacks and collect between five and twelve issues, with the ads removed.
That said, let’s talk about why Scalped is something worth reading, and, if you have not read a comic book before, it’s an excellent series to start with.
Without giving anything away, (all recommendations on this blog will be spoiler-free), Scalped is like a mash-up of The Sopranos and The Wire, set on a Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. It takes some of its inspiration from the story of Leonard Peltier, as well as tribal politics, tensions between Native Americans and whites, alcoholism and drug abuse, the corrupting influence of power and money, The American Indian Movement and the FBI, and the war in Kosovo. With the inclusion of Hmong characters in the Twin Cities, gay assassins, and Lakota spirituality, it’s safe to say that you have not read anything quite like this. The cast includes at least a dozen compelling characters, and the storyline frequently features brutal cliffhangers and shocking turns. Read more…
The most overwhelming aspect of starting to read comic books is knowing where to start. Not how to find a comic book (as I covered that in my second post), but what comic book to read.
While this blog will, in the future, provide you with recommended reading, for now I will offer you vague generalizations about how to find a comic book that you enjoy.
1. Choose a comic book that inspired something you enjoy.
This is easy. For example, do you like the television show The Walking Dead? If so, it is likely that you will enjoy the comic book The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, it is rarely this easy. In the case of The Walking Dead, there is only one series of comic books called The Walking Dead, with a clear canon and chronology. You can start with issue #1 and continue reading them in order. The same does not hold true to most superhero comics, which are probably the majority of the other comic-inspired television or movies that you know. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to walk into a comic book store and go to the Batman section without getting overwhelmed by three hundred different options.
If you have never read a comic book—or if you can barely remember the last time you read one, because you were a child or because it didn’t interest you—then I am writing this for you. That is the first thing to know.
We live in a world of comic books (whether we realize it or not), but very few of us have ever read them. Consider the most popular movies of this summer and last. Last summer, we had The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises. This summer, we had Iron Man 3, The Wolverine, and Man of Steel. Soon we will have Ben Affleck as Batman. But of course, we have had superhero movies for a while now. Batman Begins came out in 2005—causing many people to realize that a movie about a “superhero” could actually have something interesting to say—and it was back in 2001 and 2002 that Spiderman and X-Men and quite a few other superhero films began the resurgence of superheroes in the cinema.
But it’s far more than that. While superheroes are flooding the movie theater, the reach of comic books in popular culture extends beyond that. Perhaps there is nothing more indicative of this than The Walking Dead, a television series based on a comic book about zombies. The bizarre reality is that this zombie comic book now has a fan base overlapping with the same people who enjoy Mad Men and The Wire. Making it, if you will, a “crossover hit.”
I rarely use the word “graphic novel.” Why? Because I think that it has gone from having a specific meaning to being used whenever someone doesn’t want to admit that they’re reading comic books.
So what does it mean?
For an easy, definition, just go to Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graphic_novel
Did you read it? Well, I don’t completely agree with what Wikipedia is saying. They are arguing that “comic book” means the monthly, magazine-like, 32 pages or so comics that you buy once a month. And that graphic novels are collections of those. And maybe that is what it means.
Other people would argue that Graphic Novel: Comic Book :: Film: Movie. Read more…