Thursday, October 02, 2014

Ten Comics

A while back, former TSR colleague Dale Donovan posted one of those challenge things on the Facebook, in this case "10 comics that made an impression on you". Since Facebook is an ephemeral media, I went with the mildly more permanent mode of a blog entry. So. Ten comics that made an impression on me. Most of these are pretty old, because you're never sure how they had an effect until years later.

Legion of Super Heroes (Well, actually Adventure Comics, featuring Superboy and the Legion of Super Heroes). Here's the story; I read comics as a kid - Sad Sack and Little Hot Stuff and the Superman and Batman books with the go-go checks. And eventually, as most people do, I stopped buying comics. But the LSH, then living in Adventure was the last one to go (Issue #378, written by Jim Shooter, and I never found out how Brainiac Five cured the Legion of that deadly disease, realizing too late he could use the Miracle Machine to heal everyone). Superboy was the headliner, but it was the rest of the cast (sort of Archies in the Future!) who were cool, including Bouncing Boy and Matter Eating Lad. No, especially Bouncing Boy.

Asterix the Gaul - I took French in high school, and there were collections of the French comic by Goscinny and Uderzo available in both French and English. I fear the text was impenetrable for my non-language specific mind, but the translations kept both the cheeky humor and the pun-filled nature of the original. And in the world that existed before D&D, it had druids with magical cauldrons, super-hero potions, and all sorts of potted history.

Star Wars - In college, this was one of the books that got me back into comics, along with Howard the Duck. These were the Marvel licenses and varied between cool and goofy (sometimes in the same comic - I loved Jaxxon the giant green bunny be even I groaned at the deluded would-be Jedi Knight Don-Won Kihotay). I would buy the comics, then mail them to the woman who would become the Lovely Bride so she could read them. Yeah, there's the start of a beautiful relationship.

Marvel Team-up/Two-in-One - I was re-introduced to the Marvel Universe in full by another guy in my dorm who was a comic reader (Hi, Joe!), and these books were my personal faves. They had an A-lister (Spider-Man or the Thing) who was teamed up some guy from the Marvel Universe you never heard of, but they needed to keep his trademark alive (Like Jack of Hearts, or Captain Britain, or Quasar). The books delved into a lot of forgotten/ignored parts of the Marvel Universe, and were great for filling in the gaps (Plus, the Thing had a regular poker game going).

Cerebus the Aardvark - One of the first books I started picking up in direct sales shops, starting with issue #8. It in black and white, and was a paean/pastiche of the old Conan tales, but with a drunken funny animal as its protagonist. The first hundred issues remain absolutely fantastic, but the creator slowly lost his mind, and I switched to buying the in collections (and getting very, very depressed as I read them). The thing is, while the creator is a proud, ranty, and self-admitted misogynist, he created female characters that were deeper and more interesting than most of his male figures.

Elfquest - The other direct sale book I picked up early, black and white in magazine format, this was a very different type of elf than what evolved over in D&D - savage tribal elves with strong contacts to their wolves. The opening bits, showing the introduction of these elves to the more advanced Sun Elves, were great, and the Cutter/Leah relationship was fantastic.

Baker Street - This one you probably never heard of, but it was a black and white Sherlock Holmes series by Gary Reed and Guy  Davis where Holmes was a gothpunk woman. At a time I was working through a lot of comics created by diverse hands, the idea of a personal, quirky book really appealed to me.

Xxxenophile - Yes, it is a porn comic, and not only did I read it, I still have copies somewhere in the 90 long boxes of comics in the downstairs room (hey kids, treasure hunt!). It was a collection of short strips by Phil Foglio which were light, humorous, and most of all sex-positive. I don't think any stone or sexual preference was left unturned in the book, but it was full of the kinky and the consensual, something that was missing from a bunch of other "adult comics" of the day.

Jonny Quest - Wow, I just loved this one, because it was pure nostalgia. I was a fan of the original cartoon, and the book (with covers by original cartoon artist Doug Wiley) was a lot of fun. In times where returns to classic characters were often grim and gritty, the book captured the excitement of the original.

Watchmen - This book represents the turning point in the comic book business, a time when the direct sales shop both freed US comics from the spinner rack at the local drugstore and with that, went to a more mature audience. Originally written for the Quality comic heroes, it was too caustic, and so was switched to a new team of heroes. It took a very dark view on the superhero tropes that, through its success, altered the way stories were told.

Honorable Mentions: Love and Rockets, Lt. Blueberry, Bean World, Dark Knight Returns, Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen (the Jack Kirby/ Action Olsen period), Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Sixth Gun,, Epicurus the Sage, The Clairmont/Byrne X-Men, the Roger Stern Doctor Strange. Ask me tomorrow and I'll give you a different ten.

More later,