By BumpyBoo 23 Comments
Firstly, thanks toand for inspiring this blog. It's my first one ever, so be gentle! ;)
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's this: more people should read comics. This sentiment is expressed time and time again, on the forums, in blogs, in comments. But what is it that keeps so many people away? Why don't they see that comics can be for all ages, that they can contain art as good - sometimes better - as anything you would find in a gallery; that their best writers surpass anything you'd find on TV; that they offer us a world in which anything is possible?
Unfortunately, a lot of people still have the same outdated misconception that comics are just superheroes and Garfield. Not that I have anything against comics of either type - I don't want to live in a world without Batman, Iron Man, Catwoman, and the world's most famous lasagna-addicted cat - but there is just so much more to comic books. So much more.
One thing I've learned since I joined the Vine is that we are all, in part, a little responsible for this. Yes, there are die-hard Vertigo fans here, horror experts, people who collect nothing BUT alternative and fringe comics. But if we really want the image of comics to change, if we really want other people to take our interest in comics seriously and share the work of these gifted artists with everyone...maybe it's time for something a little different. Maybe we all need to branch out, to show people that in our world, there is something for everyone.
The following list will be old news to some, but for others, maybe - just maybe - you'll find something here.
The following titles, while sometimes humourous - in particular, Kill Your Boyfriend is infused with dark comedy - do, at their core, have something serious to say. From the art of Peter Kuper to the poetic musings of Alan Moore, these titles offer something more, digging a little deeper than your average comic book title.
- Bottomless Belly Button (Fantagraphics) - Bottomless Belly Button is a very subtle book, considering it's subject matter. It tells the story of a marriage breaking down after over forty years, and the effect it has not only on the couple themselves, but on their grown-up children. Rather than pour on the melodrama, the story unfolds naturally, and at times beautifully. The pace may be a little slow for some, but I would strongly recommend this title.
- A Disease Of Language (Knockabout) - Alan Moore may be an established name in comics, but that doesn't mean that each of his titles is equally well-read. Certainly, there are a lot more column inches dedicated to Watchmen and From Hell than more challenging or commercially inaccessible works like Lost Girls or this, A Disease Of Language. Collecting Snakes & Ladders and The Birth Caul, Language is a stunning volume, Moore's writing at it's most lyrical and profound, while the art of Eddie Campbell complements this perfectly. Both thought provoking and fascinating, this is Moore at his best.
- Kill Your Boyfriend (Vertigo) - A funny, dark and at times poignant rampage through the English suburbs, Kill Your Boyfriend is a tale of rebellion and extremity told through the eyes of a jaded schoolgirl searching for something more in life. Think Bonnie and Clyde, or Mickey and Mallory, with a wry British twist.
- My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Pantheon) - David Heatley's autobiographical graphic novel is funny, moving, and unsettlingly honest. The author takes an unflinching look at his own life, sharing some of his most intimate - and often uncomfortable - moments. Forget the 'real' edge of urban dystopia or limit-pushing gore - THIS is real, possibly one of the most honest pieces of work in comics, period.
- The System (Vertigo) - The fact that Peter Kuper can not only tell a story but convey a powerful message to the reader, without the use of dialogue or a written linear narrative, is testament to the clarity and power of his vision as an artist. The volume opens with a William Blake quote: "I must create a system or be enslaved by another man's". What unfolds is a hauntingly beautiful take on social and economical politics, with such subtlety and grace that the artist does not preach his message - you can take from it as much or as little as you like.
A Different Kind Of Hero
The comics in this category don't entirely fall outside of the realm of standard superhero fare. Some have powers - even costumes, in some cases - but that is where the comparison ends. There is a darker humour, and a different feel in general to these books, than you will find in a lot of the more mainstream titles.
- Ectokid (Razorline) - Dexter Mungo - AKA Ectokid - is no ordinary teenager. His mother is a psychic, and his father is a ghost. As a result, he can only see the real world through one eye. Through his other eye he sees into the realm of the dead, a place known as the Ectosphere. Created by Clive Barker (as were all of the Razorline heroes), Ectokid is a great title for anyone looking for that hero-with-a-twist sort of comic book.
- Mercy (Vertigo) - This beautifully illustrated story is certainly about a different kind of hero: Mercy. As her name might suggest, Mercy is the personification of compassion, an enigmatic being who appears to people in their darkest and most traumatic moments. A stunning and at times haunting tale, Mercy is not to be missed.
- Saint Sinner (Razorline) - Another great (and short-lived) Razorline book, Saint Sinner tells the story of Philip Fetter, a young man who is possessed by both an angel and a demon. He also has arguably one of the strangest powers: the power of to evolve or devolve any life form, with mixed - and often unpredictable - results. Whether it's the chaotic artwork, the unique premise, or the moral fable of sin and redemption, Saint Sinner is a great read.
- Scare Tactics (DC) - A bunch of escaped test subjects form a rock band to provide cover while on the run. The twist? They are a gang of teenaged monsters: a werewolf, a vampire, a lizard boy and a Hulk/Thing-style sludge monster. Led by the cynical, paranoid Arnold Burnsteel, the gang travel the country in an attempt to avoid capture. Humourous, entertaining and occasionally quite profound, the team provide a refreshing take on the world of comic book monsters.
It goes without saying that comics are, first and foremost, intended to entertain. The following comics are certainly worth picking up if you enjoy a good giggle!
- Book Of Bunny Suicides (Hodder & Stoughton) - British cartoonist Andy Riley took British book charts by storm with this darkly humourous collection. The premise of the book is simple: a group of disenfranchised rabbits, taking their own lives in the most creative ways imaginable. The book includes parodies of Star Wars, Star Trek and The Wicker Man, among others. If you've ever read 101 Uses For A Dead Cat, expect more of the same!
- Great Lies To Tell Small Kids (Hodder & Stoughton) - Another collection from Andy Riley, this time taking a look at the more comedic side of parenting. You don't have to have kids of your own, though, to appreciate the wit and outright craftiness displayed in this volume. I cannot recommend it strongly enough. You can find a review here.
- Nemi (Egmont) - Nemi Montoya is not your typical girl, or your typical goth - there is nothing typical about this girl at all. Smart and funny, cynical without being cold and sentimental without getting all mushy, Nemi is a strong minded, excitable and perceptive young woman. Although published primarily in Scandinavian countries, there is a lot of translated material out there, just begging to be checked out. If it's wit and originality you're looking for, then search no more.
- The Tick (New England) - A send-up of all things super, The Tick is a classic title. Though a parody of the comic book world, at the heart of the Tick comics is a strong fondness for the subject matter, not so much a criticism as a strong, back-handed compliment. If you have never read the adventures of The Tick and Arthur, his long-suffering sidekick, definitely get your hands on a copy. You won't regret it.
So there you have it, a quick look at some of the different and downright wonderful comics just off the beaten track. There are so many more out there, but any one of these titles is a great place to start.
Wishing you great reading,