Thursday, August 25, 2005

Getting the Object of Your Affections to Appreciate Comic Books. ÜberCarnival Discussion.

She laughs at my dreams, but I dream about her laughter.

Okay, I admit it, I am a huge The O.C. fan. It happened rather suddenly. I had gone two years without watching a single episode, happily oblivious and perfectly willing to mock the ridiculous OC commercials. But then I went on two long trips out of town. No, I didn't watch the OC while I was on the road, but my wife did watch them as she longed for my return from distant lands. She expressed her enjoyment, so I added Season 1 to our Netflix queue and within three weeks have purchased both Seasons 1 and 2 from a local Wherehouse. Let's just say this is a GenX geek's dream. I eagerly await season 3.

One of main characters, Seth Cohen (played by Adam Brody), is a huge comic book fan. Seth has had an enormous crush on a character named Summer (played by Rachel Bilson) and slightly after mid-season attempts to introduce her to comic books by handing her some of the "classics". The dialogue goes something like this:


Okay, so here is The Dark Knight Returns, The Watchmen, and Sandman.

SANDY (Seth's Father)

Don't you think those are a little dark son? Isn't life depressing enough. Comic books are supposed to be fun.

ANNA (Seth's "Girlfriend")


Yeah, maybe you should start with some Archie.


Oh, yeah, and Newport Beach is so dark.

Putting aside my own observations about Watchmen and its Post-Modern heroic deconstruction of classic Charlton characters, many created by Steve Ditko, I think I agree with Sandy here. Sure, his response is a little simplistic, but I think he is on to something. Frank Miller once discussed the importance of understanding the "constructed" hero before you could fully understand the "deconstructed" hero.

Oh, and before you think this is another "anti-sophisticated comic" screed. It isn't. I like Watchmen, The Dark Knight, and love Sandman. What I don't like is that these are the only books "acceptable" to "popular" society.

Now back to the discussion...

Given the Post-Modern nature of these three titles, I don't think they are the best way to INTRODUCE someone to comic books. If you love Fantasy/SciFi, you don't say to someone who isn't familiar with the genres, "Hey why don't you read Behold the Man and Lord Foul's Bane." The grim, cynical, deconstructed protagonists in these titles might make someone never want to read the genres again. Besides, Behold the Man is best if you have both read the Bible and are familiar with Golden Age SciFi morality fiction. So you start with Heinlein, Asimov, and Vance. Lord Foul's Bane with its anti-hero makes more sense if you have read, and appreciated, The Lord of the Rings and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. So with Fantasy you start with Tolkien, Lewish, Dunsany, Harry Potter, and classic mythology. These are the things that "pull the new reader in," especially when that new reader is an outsider.

I think the same goes for comic books. Introduce people to the "iconic" books instead of the "important" books.

Below, I will provide a list of 5 comic book trade paperbacks or issues that I think everyone should have and use to introduce people to comic books. I would appreciate it if everyone out there, especially those at the Truth Laid Bear ÜberCarnival would do the same. I only have one rule...try to be fun and not important.

  • Comic Books for Your Significant Other

  • Justice League: A New Beginning This book shows that comic books can be well drawn and funny.

  • Ultimate Spiderman: Power and Responsibility is a wonderful take on the Spiderman story.

  • Starman: Sins of the Father shows that a comic book can be cutting edge without making the hero dark.

  • JLA/JSA: Virtue and Vice is partially written by the Director of Batman Begins which is a good selling point.

  • Whatever Happened to the Man of Tommorrow? is Alan Moore, of Watchmen fame, writing a moving tale where he in no way needed to deconstruct the ideal. In my opinion, this is the best of his work.

  • The above list is by no means comprehensive, or even a full beginning, so I look forward to your offerings.

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