Posted by cbishop (8683 posts) - - Show Bio
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1808/14/10Answering SumoSlamMan: Non-Capes Writers That Interest Me(Blog) (Forum) (List)Gen. Discussion(Back) (Next)

In the comment to my blog, "Seven Comic Writers That Inspire Me," SumoSlamMan commented: "All these guys have a lot of great super hero stuff floating around, I dig on Kirkman and Mark Waid a ton, and there's nothing wrong with the capes crowd, but do you dig on any non-super hero comic book writers? Just curious."

Well, typical me, the answer got really long, so I decided to make it another blog entry.

Hey, Sumo', thanks for the question. Hm... Well, my absolute favorite is Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy. That's technically a newspaper strip though, not a comic book, but Gould blew my mind as a kid. I mean: Mumbles, one of his villains, falls off a building and gets impaled on a flag pole. Too cool. Plus, Gould was known for the mock graveyard at his residence - he added a "tombstone" for every character he killed off. That's not really writing related, but I've always thought it was kooky-interesting.

Other than that, I always get into non-capes stuff late, so it's hard to say. I love Willingham's Fables. Preacher was interesting, but generally, if it's really over-the-top gore, violence and language, I can only take it in doses. I mean, I read the entire Preacher in trades, but then I laid off that kind of thing for a long while. I tend to check out Vertigo stuff once it's several trades in. No real reason for that - it's just the way it happens. Y: The Last Man was excellent! Losers was okay, Invisibles I have yet to finish. DMZ and 100 Bullets are sitting on my shelf unread, but they look good. I recently enjoyed a Stray Bullets spinoff, Amy Racecar - what a fun romp. I love the whole concept of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - it made me want to read the classics they were based on (still looking for the first Allan Quatermain novel) - but maybe that classifies as capes?

So, let's see, LEG is Alan Moore of course, but who wrote the others? Ennis wrote Preacher, and I like his stuff (The Boys is great) but again, in doses. I have to peel my brain out of his stories when I'm done, like you'd peel gum from the crevices in your track shoes. Takes awhile before I'm ready to do that again. I tend to read his stuff in trades - a five or six issue dose at a time, and don't come back to it for six months. I hesitate to say this, but I guess I find him gratuitous at times. You could arguably say he's more realistic about the amount of death and destruction that would be involved with powers or guns, but I guess I do want my comics mildly sanitized. Say what you will, I just can't be that cynical and grim all the time.

Speaking of cynical and grim, Grant Morrison is another one I read in doses. Yep, I usually like his stuff, but again, it's usually in trades. I usually find his stuff an interesting read, but if it goes too long, he gets a little bizarre. Still good, but bizarre.

Back to Alan Moore for a moment - you may want to pick up your stones now - I overdosed on Moore when ABC came out, and decided I don't think he's a great writer of original material. He is the absolute king of the revamp, or retcon, or that character that's similar to your beloved childhood hero. His original stuff usually leaves me a little cold though. I guess the best way to explain it is that I usually come away from his material going, "How can that be so good, and yet show so much disdain for the comic industry at the same time?" The man is practically universally loved in the comics field, most of his original material has been made into blockbuster movies, and yet he is so danged bitter about comics. Why isn't he happier? ...(Deep sigh) There's probably a million answers for that, and it's really none of my business, but as much as I love a good Alan Moore tale, I always seem to feel weary when I'm done reading one of his trade paperbacks - just tired, and almost like I've been beat about the head and shoulders as I read. Still, despite my complaints, I must say again that he is the KING of the revamp. LEG did that, Albion did that, Terra Obscura did that, and of course, Watchmen did that. I've often thought that Terra Obscura is more along the lines of what he meant Watchmen to be. Three of my all-time Moore favorites though are Supreme: Story of the Year, Supreme: The Return, and Judgment Day - two of the best "Superman" stories I've ever read, and a time travelling epic that should be required reading to any literature student.

The other titles mentioned, I don't really know the authors well enough to give an opinion. I liked the works mentioned - that's about the best I can say.

Here's a couple of other things though. Greg Rucka's Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt were amazing. They sat on my shelf for years, and I finally broke 'em out the night before he made an appearance at an LCS to promote the Batwoman run in Detective. Everyone else was there to get their Batwoman issue signed - I was handing him my Whiteout books (in retrospect, that may have p.o.'d the artist with him). Murder mysteries in the frozen waste of Antartica. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I imagine the books are better.

Last, I have to mention Frank Miller's Sin City. As I said at the beginning, my absolute favorite is Dick Tracy, and I used to call SC "Dick Tracy for the Nineties." They have some of the same qualities of gratuitous display as Ennis or Morrison, but I feel that Miller does it with more class - maybe it's just the art. While I find the art beautiful, it's definitely the writing that does it for me with SC. The first story arc makes Marv invincible forever after, and it's a joy to know that no matter how bad the situation is after the first arc, Marv has to get out of it - the fun is watching him get out of it. Also, the first three story arcs are happening at the same time, and I thought it was amazing how he pulled that off. Sin City is really the only Miller work I can speak to though, as far as non-capes. I have 300, but prefer to sit and watch the movie. Martha Washington and it's similar predecessor, Ronin, are very cool sci-fi stories, but to me, they're almost capes, so I won't go into those. I think they're very well written though. Miller himself strikes me a little bit similar to Moore, in that he seems to be very bitter about some things in the industry. I could be wrong on that of course. I should probably add Miller to the list of guys who inspire me, because it was definitely Sin City and Dick Tracy that inspired me to create my own gangland characters, but mine have evolved into something different (as it should be).

The rest of these guys... I draw inspiration from everything I read - as any aspiring writer will - even if it inspires me on how not to do something. Their books are great, but either I haven't read enough of them to feel I can legitimately claim them as an inspiration, or in one way or another, they almost make me feel bad for liking comics. Not because "comics are for kids," but because they have a way of using a story to throw light on the cruddy practices in the industry, or make you feel ridiculous for having enjoyed only-in-comics plausibilities. That doesn't sit well with me. I want to enjoy a guy who gets powers under a different colored sun, or a guy who moves at super speed but doesn't metabolize his body to nothing for the calories. I like epic continuity reboots (to an extent) and Batman, even though he couldn't possibly be perfect at as many things as he is. Guys like Siegel and Shuster got hosed by normal business practices of the day, and a billion dollar corporation ought to have no problem making that right today, but I shouldn't have to feel guilty for enjoying the characters they created, just because they got hosed. That's the stuff that seems to come up in some of these guys' works, and I can only take that in doses, because that's not what I read comics for. I'm ecstatic that things have changed so there is creator-ownership in comics now, but I like the corporate stuff too. I think it's a little weird and two-faced to say, "Buy my comic, but you're a frickin' moron for enjoying the comics that made mine possible." So while I do enjoy some of these guys works, I don't really claim them as inspirations. Willingham's Fables inspires me for another reason, but it's the subject for another blog.

Hope I answered your question, SumoSlamMan. Sorry it got so long, but you literally asked for it. When you get me on the right subject, I can talk the ears off a cornfield. Thanks much. ;) -cb

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#1 Posted by aztek_the_lost (28224 posts) - - Show Bio

Amy Racecar is a spin-off of Stray Bullets not 100 Bullets, otherwise good blog

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#2 Posted by cbishop (8683 posts) - - Show Bio
@aztek the lost said:
"Amy Racecar is a spin-off of Stray Bullets not 100 Bullets, otherwise good blog "

Gah!  Thanks for the catch, aztek'!  It is now edited.  Much appreciated.
#3 Posted by aztek_the_lost (28224 posts) - - Show Bio
@cbishop said:
" @aztek the lost said:
"Amy Racecar is a spin-off of Stray Bullets not 100 Bullets, otherwise good blog "
Gah!  Thanks for the catch, aztek'!  It is now edited.  Much appreciated. "
I caught it because I loved 100 Bullets and had never heard of Amy Racecar so I had to look it up :P
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#4 Posted by cbishop (8683 posts) - - Show Bio

Well, y'know how it is: when you got that many bullets around, you don't really stop to see what kind they are. ;)

#5 Posted by SumoSlamMan (69 posts) - - Show Bio
@cbishop: WOW!  I was wondering if you had ever gotten back to me and I guess my inbox missed the reply and I just remembered my question today, a week later.  While I'm still relatively new to Comic Vine, I have to say that I've enjoyed all of your blog posts, and this one doesn't disappoint.  It's funny though, when I asked about non capes stuff, I think I meant non mainstream.  I've recently lost my unadulterated fervor for super hero books, and a lot of mainstream stuff in general.  I intend to hopefully shove all these feelings into a blog for you guys to read but yeah, back to what I was saying, wait... I don't even know where to start!  One thing that I can certainly overlook is the fact that Dick Tracy is a comic strip.  Just recently I purchased Frank O. King's "Gasoline Alley" published by Drawn and Quarterly.  I can't even explain how wonderful this collection is, and it's just simple slice of life strips.  Contains easily some of the most touching things I've ever seen in comics. 
 
I guess I've been reading a lot of "alternative" comics but I hate the way that word is used.  As though super hero books are the norm, but these books are "alternative" so if you don't like the tights, check these out.  I've been collecting The Best American Comics collections (I have 2006, 2007, 2008 volumes edited by Harvey Pekar, Chris Ware, and Linda Barry respectively, all comics giants that I respect).  They're amazing and different and they make me feel awkward and uncomfortable at times and after I'm finished I find myself more introspective than when I started.  I love that feeling.  They push comics' boundaries in a way that very few of the guy's you've mentioned ever could, simply because a lot of their stuff is made for mass consumption.  Don't break out your stones, please!  I love my super hero books, but right now I'm finding them shallow, and a bit unfulfilling.
 
Vertigo has some of the most solid monthly titles of all the imprints/publishers.  Fables and Scalped are among my absolute favorites, and Jason Aaron knows how to write some nasty injuns.  The stuff is brilliant, and Willingham and Fables?  Pure gold.  I would have to agree with you on Alan Moore's stuff, though I haven't read all of it.  It's emotionally draining, but honestly, the catharsis scene in V had me more excited about comics than almost anything I've ever read.  I've read all of the LEG books (brilliant but Black Dossier really laid it on thick with all those obscure references, but one of the most beautifully composed/designed graphic novels I've ever read) and his run on Top 10.  V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Swamp Thing all rest on my book shelves.  One thing that I'm actually quite excited for is his latest Cthulu book by Avatar Press.  The last page of the first issue, honest to God, gave me goosebumps. 
 
Now I think I'm rambling, but once again, I've enjoyed your response, and happy that you gave such an honest and earnest reply.  I think I'll follow in your footsteps in the following weeks and try to come up with at least ten people that inspire me from the mainstream comic book world, and then shoot for ten that inspire me from "alternative" gosh I hate that word, comics.  Long days and pleasant nights. 
 
PEACE!
#6 Posted by cbishop (8683 posts) - - Show Bio
@SumoSlamMan: Hey again, Sumo'.  The superhero "events" have tired me out lately, but I've spent so much time reading superheroes, I really haven't touched too much of the alternative stuff, outside of Vertigo.  Honestly, I've only read so much of the Vertigo stuff, because it's available in trades, and I keep finding them used, for discounted prices.  However, there are a few indy books I can think of, that I have enjoyed.  Zenescope's Living Corpse is pretty cool, and Red 5's Atomic Robo, although that's technically more capes, I suppose.  Dabel Brothers published Dean Koontz' Frankenstein, which was a beautiful book, and pretty decently written (and a good example of Public Domain use). 
 
...<long pause to think> I think most of the alternative stuff I check out is still basically capes - I guess I've been obsessed.  I held off on Kirkman's Walking Dead and Battle Pope for a long time, because neither is the type of comic I usually read.  When I exhausted all other available Kirkman stuff (still looking for Tech Jacket and a couple of one shot titles) I picked up WD and was blown away.  I am a total fan of that book now.  I flatly refused to try Battle Pope, because the solicits just made it out to be too irreverent for my tastes.  A friend with similar reading tastes insisted I'd like it though, so I finally tried it.  It was irreverent, but I have to admit: it was also funny, and it also still had Kirkman's great writing. 
 
I think Image's Loaded Bible is absolutely awesome.  I think it's going to draw the ire of Christian groups all over, if it ever makes theaters, but that's a shame.  It has a very interesting premise, and just runs with it. 
 
I did read Cerebus, in the "phone book" trades, and I enjoyed it.  I will say this though: Dave Sim reached his goal of 300 issues of Cerebus, but he did not write 300 issues about Cerebus.  Two or three of the phone books were actually story arcs focusing on the supporting characters, and Cerebus barely appeared, if at all.  Chaka's Story, Rick's Story, and I think one other one, were great, but they weren't Cerebus.  I think he kind of cheated on his goal. 

... <another pause> I don't know of anything else, off the top of my head.  I pick up a lot of indy stuff after it's been cancelled, or I get the first one or two issues of an indy project, and then it's cancelled, so it's hard to really find one that I can say I liked.  Most times, they were cancelled with good reason.