They’re not your father’s Comics

I was talking a couple of days ago with a young gentleman who used to own a comic store. He inspired me to write a little bit about comics for those who haven’t kept up.

Sometime when you weren’t looking, comics got good. If you were looking, good for you, but I wasn’t and a few years ago I was astonished to discover just how good they really were. Over the years I’d acquired some books of old strips (especially Pogo, of course) but I hadn’t really kept up with the new ones. Then I found a book by Scott McCloud called Understanding Comics. I bought it because it looked like an interesting discussion of communication, and I might be able to use that when building computer interfaces. It was that, but it was more, and I got interested again in what was happening with comics today. Sometimes they call them “graphic novels”, but I think that’s just the publishers’ trying to sound elevated.

The first really good modern comic I found was The Sandman. With text by Neil Gaiman and illustration by some of the best comic artists working. It’s a series of stories, with themes and characters from classical mythology, many folktales, history (including Shakespeare), and a seriously original imagination, tied together in a long plot. Some of the images are disturbing. There’s still an element of “gross out the old folks” in the art, but the disturbing images really are part of the story. I recommend it highly.

There are lots more that I can recommend, but rather than talk on, I’ll let you check them out.

Here’s a short list:

The Life Eaters
By David Brin, a well known physicist, science fiction writer, and all-around interesting guy. What if the WW II was even madder than we think it was?
Reinventing Comics
Another Scott McCloud book, talks in more detail about all the modern changes
24 Hour Comics
A collection of comics done very quickly. All of them are different. Some of them are excellent.
The Preacher
Violent, often offensive, always fascinating. In the spirit of a Quenton Tarrantino movie. If you couldn’t stand Kill Bill you won’t be able to stand this either.

That’s enough, there are lots more, but you can find them yourself. There are still lots of super-hero stories out there. There have been super-hero stories as long as there have been stories (think Homer, or Gilgamesh) and will be super-hero stories as long as we have young men around. Most of them are less than wonderful, but they are still deeper than the ones we saw in the 50′s.

And I haven’t even said anything about Anime…….

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1 comment to They’re not your father’s Comics

  • Ben Harleman

    Well stated. Some others that might be enjoyable are Maus (I won’t even try to explain it right now), and anything from Alan Moore. I couldn’t remember if we discussed Watchmen, but that is one of his best, along with the “League of Extraordinary Gentelmen”; much different from the movie.

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