“Patronizing Headline About How Comics Aren’t For One Sub-Group of People Anymore!”

I created this site in an attempt to get tell people about the comics that I love, and engage them in discussions about said comics.

Some folks are reading it, though based on search terms a number of you are here because I’ve typed the words “Sex,” “boobs” and “boobs sex comics” one time or another (And apparently stuck around and read some stuff? Good on you, ‘boobs sex comics’ searcher! Excelsior!).

Anyway. One thing I always have trouble getting across is that comic books are a medium for storytelling, they’re not just Super Heroes or Sci-Fi or Fantasy. There are comics about cops, musicians, and people who work at dead end jobs. And then there are, believe it or not, good “genre” comics in which writers and artists explore things like themes about politics, religion or…GENDER!

I think I’ve mentioned before that this was an early exposure to mature comics for me:

Screen Shot 2012-09-09 at 3.46.42 PMTeenaged me thought that was AWESOME. Teenaged me took that comic book into the bathroom and really studied that panel. Really studied it. Hard.

Teenaged me, and comics like Witchblade are probably how most people not reading comic books view the average comic book reader and how the average female comic book character is portrayed. There are people and portrayals like this. Yes. Otherwise it wouldn’t exist in your brain, comic book stereotyper! But there are a number of creators, both modern and throughout comic book history, that have created comic books that have not only attempted to appeal to both genders, but to explore them.

So as someone who is constantly trying to get more people (and many of them female members of my family) reading comic books, I’m really excited to start taking a course taught by Christina Blanch entitled “Gender Through Comic Books.”

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 10.14.43 PMThe course is entirely online. It’s totally free, you just have to buy the comic books. And Comixology is selling the entire syllabus at 35% off. Click here to sign up for the course and to buy the comics: http://www.comixology.com/mooc

It’s pretty fantastic. Not only are these some great comics, but there are a number of creators on board to discuss these comics, including Read This Comic Book! favorite Brian K Vaughan (BKV!) and new Read This Comic Book! favorite Kelly Sue DeConnick (She’s currently writing Captain Marvel, which I just read the first seven issues of and highly recommend).

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 10.17.03 PMI’m excited to be tasked with thinking critically about something again. My brain needs a little bit of that structure to work better. I’m also pumped to be discussing something I’m passionate about with people who share that passion. If you’ve been reading this blog and said, “well, this sounds kind of interesting, but I need something that’s less about Paul’s hangups,” then you should sign up for this class, and learn more about how ladies and dudes are portrayed in the funny books.

 

 

 

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Things I Loved About Comics This Year Part One

Because I either won’t be able to limit myself to a Top 10 or have enough content to make it to Top 10! Also, why be like everyone else, when I can be a quirky variation on everyone else instead? Ha-HA! Merry Christmas you old building and loan!

Hawkeye

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I think I’ve stressed how much I love this comic. IF you’re not a jerk, I will make sure it finds its way into your stocking this year (However, I have very low levels of consideration for jerkdom, so you likely ARE a jerk and will get nothing. Buy your own comics, cheapskate!) Anyway, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido are jamming a metric shit-ton into each and every issue of this series about the “Avenger that’s just a dude.” They’re joined by Matt Hollingsworth on color and Chris Eliopoulos rocking some sick fonts as letterer.

This is like a really advanced “How-to” comic book. In action scenes the characters MOVE, the colors POP (“Pop-pop!” – Magnitude), and other great stuff happens that I would put in CAPITAL LETTERS. The conversation scenes are also a welcome change from the “copy and paste the same head while borrowing the pacing from a Mamet film” scenes that have invaded comics in the past ten years under the guise of “inventive” and “mature.”

Screen Shot 2012-09-08 at 1.29.16 PM

 

Fraction’s take also quickly expands beyond the “Avenger who’s just a dude” logline into “Avenger who’s just a dude and wants to make up for the crappy things he’s done but might still do more crappy things. Oh, and he has a female sidekick who he probably shouldn’t be a role model for, but it totally works and their relationship is screwed up and sweet, but you can’t help but kind of want them to kiss. Once. Even though she’s barely 18 (can’t wait to see what search results that gets me) and he’s 30 something. Oh, and ARROWS and PURPLE!” Ahem. I believe I got a bit carried away, but I’ve been a big fan of Hawkeye for years, mostly based on his look and a “Captain America can’t tell me what to do!” attitude that had carried over the years since Stan Lee was writing him. So it’s nice to have a GREAT Hawkeye book to back up my love of a character who can often be written pretty crappily (see the past 10 years of comics – Smilin’ Stan).

The Sixth Gun

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The Sixth Gun is a western-action-horror (with a smidge of comedy) comic book written by Cullen Bunn with art by Brian Hurtt. Like Hawkeye, its creators know how to do great action, while creating memorable characters that you’ll care about. Drake Sinclair starts out as the typical “man with no name” but quickly becomes “guy with a name and checkered past chock full of self-loathing that maybe has a heart of gold,” and Becky, while starting in the “damsel” role has been slowly growing into her own as well. The first six issues are EPIC and jam packed. Like you’ll feel like the bartender did a couple rounds of buyback. Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, ladies and gents: the generous bartenders of COMICS! Tip them well!

It also has monks with guns, ghouls with guns, creepy hooded guys with guns…AND THE GUNS ARE MAGIC (well, 6 of them).

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Some of you might read this rambling premise summary and say “That sounds like a great movie.”

Jonah-hex-posterNo. Shut up. That would NOT be a great movie. It’s already a great comic book, it doesn’t NEED to be translated to the big screen. None of them do. Didn’t I say shut up already? Shut up.

Saga

Screen Shot 2012-09-12 at 9.21.46 PM Screen Shot 2012-09-12 at 9.20.01 PMBabies giggling! Arms getting cut off! Saga has it all!

No, but seriously, Saga does have it all (most importantly, action und comedy). Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples have BROUGHT the noise and that noise is a Girl Talk-style jam of Action, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, and Comedy. THEN that jam is backing a classic boy meets girl, boy knocks girl up, girl has (girl) baby,  and they all go on the run (in a spaceship) story. It’s a fairytale. It’s a worthy successor to Star Wars (yeah, I said it Star Wars nerds). It’s a damned good comic that’s executed incredibly well.

So that’s part one of this “not a top ten” list! You know where you can buy all of these things, and if you DON’T, then I’ve given you sufficient information for a quick Googling. Part Two to come tomorrow, maybe with some comics I haven’t already written about in the past 6 months.

 

 

Stuff I Bought, Week of 9/15/12 (SUPER VALUE EDITION!)

First off, I bought the latest issue of Saga, which was not really a new comic, but the price dropped on Comixology, so I purchased it! And then wrote about it, along with the previous two issues, here! But on it’s own, issue six is a nice bridge from the world building that’s been going on into UNIVERSE building. Here’s a shot of Hazel, Saga’s narrator, and a character I completely forgot to mention in this week’s review. She’s still a baby as far as the story goes, her future self jumping in with some poignant narration from time to time.

I also purchased Revival #2.

Damn, that’s creepy. Seeley and Norton are bringin’ it. I’m upping my recommendation from READ THIS COMIC to…READ THIS COMIC HOLY CRAP GO DO IT! I might say that I’m more suggestible towards a horror comic at this point due to the Fall season, but really, I will read and/or watch horror at any time of the year. I’ll just get to drink a pumpkin beer while reading these initial issues. This also recently dropped to $1.99 on Comixology. Allegedly the physical issues are selling out and hard to find so collectors are upping the price on eBay. F that noise…either wait for the trade paperback or buy the digital version. It’s a great story, but there’s no reason to overpay for it.

Finally (maybe), I purchased The Sixth Gun Volume Two, which is on sale on Comixology this weekend (so I might also buy Volume 3 and the rest of the issues available). If my first post on this subject didn’t convince you to buy it, well then maybe these things (in addition to the fact that it’s .99 an issue right now) will:

1) The second volume keeps up the energetic pace of the first while still balancing the horror and western genres.

2) Western Genre Awesomeness example:

3) Horror Genre Awesomeness Example (There’s way more awesomeness in the book itself, but you’re not getting it unless you read it, however, IS THIS NOT AWESOME LOOKING AND CREEPY?)

Even without the sale on I would be chomping at the bit (look at that bit, it’s practically chomped to nothing!) to buy more of this comic. Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt are doing an amazing job with this book. Again seriously, drop everything and read this. Also, this volume contains Voodoo (the dark magic, not the crappy 90’s comic book character), as well as possibly werewolves. I say “possibly,” cause werewolves are mentioned, but then so are skin-changers. And the guys in this volume look a bit more like bearded skin-changers.

Really, all three of the books I bought this week are exciting examples of what can be done with the comic book medium, and all three are owned by their creators. So buy them, read some good comics, and support some talented artists.

 

 

 

 

 

Saga Issues 4-6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples…For Reals This Time!

So, I got sidetracked last time, by some well drawn, and some might say hilariously drawn, female anatomy. And my own immaturity. But, I’ll make the claim that I was actually stalling for the 6th issue of Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples to come out! These three issues continue to build a fantastic universe, as well as some three dimensional, well-rounded characters. There’s no bounty hunters or Sith lords that look cool only to say nothing and get taken out like punks. (Oooh, sweet burn, Star Wars!)

That’s The Will. He’s a bounty hunter, or in the slang of this universe, a “Freelancer.” So far we’ve seen him defeat giant monsters, and argue over the phone with his spider-lady ex, The Stalk. He turned down an opportunity to hunt our heroes and their baby because he wouldn’t get an exclusive contract. The Will gets results, chief!

Except when you threaten Lying Cat. Then The Will’s results are lessened. Lying Cat is the breakout character of this series. At least on the internet. Cause Internet = Cat Love. And this is a giant cat that can tell when people are lying. It is a giant cat that can tell when people are lying, and it SAYS, “Lyyyyinggg.” I don’t actually recall if they draw it out like that, but that is how a talking cat would sound. They would not have the cool Bill Murray-ish voice of Lorenzo Music.

Anyway, we get to see more of Marco and Alana in battle. Specifically, Marco, he does THIS to a dude’s arm…

…and then THIS to a sword! Take that sword! And then they all take off in a spaceship!

Take that, spaceship! Oh, the spaceship’s supposed to do that? Then…carry on, spaceship! (Did I mention they made it to the Rocketship Forrest which was an ACTUAL ROCKETSHIP FORREST?)

Anyway, I don’t really want to go into plot details. That doesn’t get you to read this comic. But like I said, Vaughan and Staples are still creating. They haven’t just set us off on an adventure with a couple of stock characters, they’re continuing to reveal more about Alana and Marco, while also exploring characters like The Will, Prince Robot IV, Isabel, and even giving a little depth to the planet full of hookers. Not the actual planet mind you, but to the hookers living on it. What I’m getting at, is that there’s no throwaways in Saga. Nothing is done for the sake of being “cool,” or selling an action figure, though I’d definitely buy up all these action figures. This series is looking like it could very well live up to the definition of it’s title, Saga, which means “epic work of fiction.” I’m in it for the long run, and hope you’ll continue to read it along with me. Feel free to consider the comments section a spoiler and story discussion area…let’s talk about this comic!

Saga: Issues 4-5…Oh, wait…no, a distraction

I was all set to tell y’all about Saga issues 4-5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, but then, a few pages into issue 4…

Double page sex planet spread! (Haha…sex planet…spread…)

Then I was ready to buck up. To be mature. To be an adult.

Then I honed in on this panel.

 

Boobs pressed up against glass, a manic, almost daring “You won’t F me” look…it’s just…

 

Ah…ha…haha….

Hahahahahahahaha. Ok, seriously, I’m ready to review these comics. Right, Lying Cat?

Ok, yeah. I’m lying. I’m totally not ready to talk about the latest issues of Saga that I’ve checked out, but I’m curious, any of my readers checking this out? If so, drop some thoughts below, and I’ll talk about them when I ACTUALLY talk about these two issues.

 

 

(Insert reference to teen rebellion song), Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona

Being a teenager sucks. SUCKS. You’re always getting punched in the face…it’s rough. Plus girls suck, or if you’re a girl, guys suck, or if you’re a gay guy, guys suck, or if you’re a lesbian, girls suck. Stuff sucks in general. Plus no one understands you and you’re a unique snowflake and all that.

Imagine, if on top of all of that, you found out that your parents were super villains.

Did you picture it?

I know, a real punch in the face. Your world is shattered.

That’s the premise of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s Runaways, a Marvel Comic book involving people with super powers and such, but not so much with the super hero-ing.

Runaways plays with your expectations a bit. It takes place in the Marvel Universe, but in a corner that’s away from the interference and watchful eyes of The Avengers, Spider-Man, or any other do-gooder. Mostly because they’re all either based in New York, Space, or The Great Lakes, while this story takes place in California.

Alex, Gert, Molly, Carolina, Chase, and Nico are all teens who see each other once a year because their parents are all friends. While they may have all had fun as children, they’re all awkward and full of hate, so hanging for these family get togethers has become a real chore. So of course, when Alex tells them all about a secret passage, they’re all up for it.

And they see their parents dressed like this:

And then their parents sacrifice a young woman who doesn’t look much older than them.

Yeah, kind of a punch in the face.

Across eighteen issues in this first series, Vaughan and Alphona tell a tale of heroes and villains, aliens, witches, time travelers, mutants, mad scientists and straight. up. gangsters. All while remaining grounded in what it feels like to be a teenager. Alphona’s art is a little rough in the first few issues, but becomes really polished. By the time you get to issue 18, you’ll be amazed at how he’s defined and evolved these characters.

You should read this comic if you liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Veronica Mars for sure, but also if you’ve ever been a teenager and suspected that your parents might be evil.

This series was mainly written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Adrian Alphona, but Takeshi Miyazawa does a few pick up issues on art here and there, offering a more manga-y take on the series while never making it feel like a different book. A couple of other creative teams took over after Vaughan and Alphona finished their run (including Buffy creator and Avengers director Joss Whedon) but none (for me, anyway) captured the same spark or energy that the creators of these characters did.

You can get the first issue for FREE on Comixology RIGHT NOW. Then buy all the rest at $1.99 a piece. Do it. I have bought this series in individual issues, in trade paperback, and in hardcover. It’s that good. You can buy it on Amazon or at your local book store or comic shop too, of course, but read the first issue. Again, it’s FREE. Then let me know what you thought.

 

 

Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

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Anatomy may not be 100% accurate.

Hopefully, you’ve all done your homework assignment and read the first issue of Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. If not, here’s some reasons why you should have.

1) You like shows like Lost, Fringe, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Really anything that qualifies as character driven, accessible sci-fi or fantasy.

2) You enjoy the works of Stephen King. (His books, not the films based on his books).

3) You enjoy, um. I can’t think of a filmic counterpart to this, but Vaughan inserts all kinds of pop culture references so if you’ve enjoyed a Kevin Smith or Quentin Tarantino film here or there, there’s something for you here.

So, I’ve gone through some broad reasons why you might like this. If enough folks are interested, perhaps we can do a book-clubby walkthrough of the trades,* but for now, I’m gonna go just a level beyond broad recommendation and give a basic outline of the plot, as well as the strengths of the writer and artist.**

First off, I should tell you that the series opens with a catastrophic event: all the men are killed at the same time via a mysterious plague. Do not go into this series looking for an answer to this. Much like in life, there are various people who offer explanations as to why things have happened, but all are to be taken with a grain of salt. Make it a grain of sea salt. The extra salt will help it go down a little easier for all you “everything needs to be explained types.”

What should you be looking to get out of this, if not answers to why the men died? An emotional roller coaster. Yeah, that’s right, I pulled out the generic movie poster critic quote. But if this series hits you the same way it hit me, then the following will occur: You’ll laugh. You’ll be invested in these characters. You may get an erection. You’ll cry. Goddamn, will you cry (Final Issue). You’ll presented with a world in which everything has changed yet remained the same.

Another thing to expect: Cliffhangers Like A Mother Fucker. Again, I’ll call back to LOST. There’s a reason they brought BKV (How I will be referring to Brian K. Vaughan from this point on) onto that show. He knows how to make you salivate for the next installment like nobody’s business.

AND, INTRODUCING: I Don’t Know How to Talk About Art Good: If we go through things in more detail, I’ll scan things, I’ll take photos, I will show you examples of how Pia Guerra is a great artist. But for now, know this: characterization. In the world of comics, we’re talking about consistency in the look of a character, staying on model, making a character look believable in all their actions. Pia Guerra accomplishes this. Also, she makes a monkey EMOTE. You will look upon that monkey and weep. WEEP. (And laugh).

So, while I haven’t really followed up my last post with some legitimate or well written reasons to read this series, I’ve hopefully made you a little bit more excited to read it. Look at my last post, or Google all your reading options, and I’ll dive in a bit more into the series soon.

* Trades, or trade paperbacks are collections of comic books. Often collected 6 at a time, most modern comic books are “paced for the trade,” i.e. written in 6-issue story arcs so they can be collected neatly. Recently, a trend has begun to rebel about this, returning to classic “done in one” stories, or smaller 2-3 issue arcs that plant seeds for larger stories.

** While there are fill-in artists here and there during the series, for the most part I will be referring to Pia Guerra as the singular artist of this series. She co-created the characters with Brian K. Vaughan, and when there are fill-ins, they match her style. FYI, a fill-in artist is what it sounds like. It’s an artist who will take over for a single issue, or even multiple issues when the regular artist is unavailable.

An Argument, A Theory, and Finally A Recommendation

It’s a testament to my current lack of clear goals and low self esteem that I consider today my all-time writing achievement:

Getting retweeted by 4 people I don’t know, and becoming involved in an internet argument.

Anyway, I jumped into an argument between comic book journalists Tom Spurgeon and Heidi MacDonald. He writes for The Comics Reporter and she writes for The Beat. Google them. I don’t want them to see the trackback link to this and think I simply jumped in for the sake of boosting my ego.

No, I jumped in, because Mr. Spurgeon was calling out Ms. MacDonald about an issue he has with comic book news sites regurgitating PR from the “Big Two.” The “Big Two” are Marvel and DC Comics and are owned by Disney and Time Warner respectively. Often, comic book sites, especially Newsarama and Comic Book Resources will be primarily populated with copied and pasted news supplied by Marvel and DC. Anyway, he’s written more about it at length, and on his website, so go on, you can open up a new tab and hop over.

Now, where I jumped in, was when they were arguing about the validity of discussing The View mentioning that Marvel will be featuring a gay marriage in an upcoming issue of Astonishing X-Men. Aside from a “Batman’s gay” joke, it’s my understanding that the ladies on The View didn’t really break into any discussion on the subject. So, a show on ABC, owned by Disney, mentioned a news item about a Marvel Comic, also owned by Disney. And a portion of the comic book blogosphere patted themselves on the back for comic books getting mainstream coverage.

But comic books didn’t get mainstream coverage. Marvel did, and in a broader sense, the superhero comic book genre did, but really it was about Marvel saying “we love the gays!” Which is of course, awesome, and in addition to my family, I feel that my open minded worldview is heavily influenced by reading the X-Men growing up.

However, the thing that comic book news sites seem to love more than putting out Marvel and DC PR is pointing out when the mainstream media picks up such things. This somehow serves as a validation of the medium.

It is not, and its not what most of them want.

That’s right, Internets, I’m telling you what you want.

Boom, I just beat the internet with a superkick.

What you want is validation of superheroes. You want it to be cool, to be okay in the same way that your cousin being a sports fan is.

Well, I hate to be the one to tell this to you, but it’s already happened. The Avengers has broken a billion dollars. The Dark Knight did so as well a couple of years ago. My mom knows who Hawkeye is. There were government certified douchebags in the theater, excited to see a movie about superheroes at a midnight showing of Avengers that I went to. They will probably be at The Dark Knight Rises and help that to over a billion dollars as well. Superheroes? They’re alright with everyone.

The real hurdle is comic books are not just superheroes. Comic books are an art form and a storytelling medium just like television, film, and literature. There are horror comics, mysteries, romance, sci-fi, fantasy, crime, hard sci-fi, every day life (is that a genre?) and so on and so forth. I think Anthony Bourdain’s even working on a spy/cooking mashup. So yeah, pretty diverse.

But no one pays that fact any mind. It’s an industry that is caught up in the conventions and the comfort offered by one genre and by doing so is keeping people out. It’s not mainstream media coverage that’s going to get people into comics. It’s people who love comics telling people about comics that will get people into comics. (Did I say “People” and “Comics” enough? I DO NOT OWN A THESAURUS. BUY ME ONE).

So, to finally give some purpose to this blog now that I’ve given some further context to my mission statement:

READ THIS COMIC BOOK: Y: The Last Man: by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra. Yorick Brown is the last man on earth. Further discussion of the concept and this comic, next post!

Low-risk investment: Y: The Last Man #1, FREE on Comixology. For those with iPads, Kindle Fires, other tablets, or even a laptop, you can read the first issue for free here, by signing up for a Comixology account.

Slightly higher-risk investment: Y: The Last Man Volume One: Unmanned, $9.77 on Amazon. You’re buying the first six issues collected. You can also get the first volume digitally on Amazon for $9.28 if you have a Kindle Fire.

We’ll discuss this next time. Consider yourselves bookclubbed.