Comics Are Awesome

posted in Books on May 14, 2008

As you may or may not know, I like to read a lot of books. Until recently, I’ve only read books. I have never really touched too many of their drawn counterparts. As a kid I hated both books and comics, so I never developed that adoration for stories drawn to page. And that is an unfortunate circumstance, because as an adult, I’ve grown to really like the few that I’ve read.

Again, until about last November, I had not really been interested in comic books at all. My hatred for reading regular books came in a couple years prior, but it still took another two years to get into comics as a viable means to get a good story across. I don’t know what it was, but for some reason, I was predisposed to think that all comics follow the pattern where you buy a thin, twenty page leaflet with a short, un-ending story inside, forcing you to buy the next edition to further things along. That model never appealed to me. I really like my stories to have a beginning, middle, and end. And, of course, I’ve read books that didn’t “end,” but those usually are only divided into two or three novels to complete the story. So it was to my great surprise to find comics that fit this aesthetic. And since reading my first one, I’m somewhat hooked to this visual story medium.

My first comic to come my way was Bone, a 1,300 page epic comic. That was the jump starter. It was darn good and I recommend it to everyone. Next was a very well put together Batman comic called Batman: The Long Halloween, about one of the first years of Batman’s status as Batman. It’s very dark, and well written. From what I understand, some of the imagery help inspire Batman Begins, or something of that nature, which is definitely cool. I’m not going to speak too much about these two, as I’ve covered them both on two episodes of the show. What I will talk about, though, is one comic that I finished last week that is considered to be one of the best.

What I DO want to focus on is a great piece of work entitled Watchmen. Basically what we have here is a very long and in depth presentation of how superheroes may actually exist within a real world. Not in the sense that they really exist in the real world, but more like a scenario of what it might be like; as in, how would these super-people act. What happens in this story – which reminds me a little of The Incredibles, but only because I saw that first – is that there is a mandate by the government that any “vigilantes” (the name given to people who dawn costumes and fight crime) are to not continue to pursue this hobby, so to speak, unless they really want to be prosecuted for it. This causes all of the masked heroes to remove their cloaks and return to “normalcy.” This has differing effects on all of the superhero characters in the story. Some are able to return to going to work everyday, while others go underground with their crime fighting, but the meat of the story comes with what is happening away from the heroes.

The story is very interesting because instead of focusing on powers and things of that nature, it’s really about what is happening in the world. There’s a large focus on what is happening politically and globally, and these things push the characters to react. There is less “oh no we need to save the damsel in distress” and more “Holy crap the Russians just tanked into Afghanistan, and we may end up with WWIII!” This angle provides the reader with more than just superhero fluff, and allows you to really get involved with the story. And that is the long and short of it for Watchmen. It should looked into if one wants a very comprehensive story that is largely about a world that just happens to have superheroes in it, rather than isolated superhero stories.

Outside of Watchmen and back on to general comics as a whole, I still do not like the episodical nature of some comics, and since many authors and drawers have associated themselves with certain characters, many stores have multiple retellings of the same events, making it difficult for the reader (especially since many of the characters have been around for so long). That aside, though, comics – the ones I’ve read so far – are very fun to read and have been providing an excellent diversion to regular novels. While I have a vivid imagination, sometimes it’s just fun to see the story as well as read it.