Thoughtful Thursday: Comics, anyone?

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Comics were a huge part of my childhood because they introduced me to the amazing world of reading. When I was a kid, my best buddies and I, with our weekly allowances of 50¢ jingling in our pockets, would make the mile-long walk to the one grocery store in town every Tuesday. That’s when the new comics were stacked on the grocery store’s spinner rack. Those comic books waited for us like personal invitations to worlds of heroes, adventures, and wonder.

Though I’ve moved on to more substantial literature, I never outgrew comics. My passion has recently been re-“Kindled” since I’ve found digital comics on my e-reader.

graphic novel reviews Phil and Kaja Foglio Girl Genius omnibus 1. Agatha AwakensSo, tomorrow I’m launching a new occasional column called Fanboy Friday where we’ll review comics and graphic novels. To get everyone in the mood, FanLit wants to know:

Do you read comic books and graphic novels?
If so, what do you like about them? If not, why not?

One random commenter will win a copy of the newly-released hardback graphic novel omnibus GIRL GENIUS: Agatha Awakens which Kat loved and Bill didn’t (proving my point that not everyone likes this format!). I look forward to reading your responses!

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GREG HERSOM’S addiction began with his first Superboy comic at age four. He moved on to the hard-stuff in his early teens after acquiring all of Burroughs’s Tarzan books and the controversial L. Sprague de Camp & Carter edited Conan series. His favorite all time author is Robert E. Howard. Greg also admits that he’s a sucker for a well-illustrated cover — the likes of a Frazetta or a Royo. Greg live with his wife, son, and daughter in a small house owned by a dog and two cats in a Charlotte, NC suburb. He retired from FanLit in Septermber 2012 after 4.5 years of faithful service but he still sends us a review every once in a while.

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  1. Melanie Goldmund /

    I don’t read comic books or graphic novels. Well, okay, I have glanced through one or two TinTin books, but I can’t say I really go for them. I just prefer text, that’s all.

  2. Is it more of a guy thing, you think?
    Back in the day it was, -even though they did make a lot of Romance comics-, but I think there’s a lot of girls that dig comics now-a-days.

  3. Sarah /

    I used to love comic books as a kid. Then I got into the Asterix the Gaul and TinTin ones and those were great. I have hardback editions of all the TinTin ones and am considering collecting Asterix now. Then I got away from reading them and never really got into the Manga craze that has swept the nation. I’ve seen Girl Genius on-line, and the announcement that it is in print now has it jumping into my shopping cart on Amazon.

  4. Sarah- If you have a Tablet, I highly recommend the Comixology digital comics app and the Comixology site.

    I had pretty much given up comics a few years ago -I would just start following too many different series and got overwhelmed. But when I got my Kindle Fire, I started using that digital comic reader. It’s just awesome that if you start a series that has been out for a while, you can still get issue #1 and the rest. Plus they have awesome sales; Mon & Friday is Marvel $0.99 days and Wed features $0.99 comics from other publishers.

    I’ve never followed Manga comics but Amazon seems to have a pretty good selection of those.

  5. Brad Hawley /

    I came at comics in an unusual way. As an English Professor, I teach both the traditional literature that is considered high art (Jane Austen and Shakespeare) along with works often seen as inferior and labeled as “popular art” (movies like A Room with A View and Garden State, music lyrics like those by Dylan and Tom Waits, and Crime Fiction authors like Chandler and Hammett). Not having grown up reading comics but realizing that the pulp tradition I teach intersects in fascinating ways with comics, I decided to stick my toe in the great ocean that is comics. That was only three years ago and now I am lost at sea. I started with neo-noir writers like Ed Brubaker and Bendis (and Brubaker is still one of my favorite writers across all genres and time periods of literature), but I soon moved on to learning as much as I could about the Marvel and DC universes and the history of comics. I’ve started teaching them in classes and for the first time this semester, I am teaching an independent study with four students with comics as our only texts. For me, when they are at their best, comics combine some of the techniques of movies and some of the techniques of narrative fiction and combine some qualities unique to comics and create a type of art I can’t believe I didn’t start reading until I was in my 40s. How could I have missed out on all this great stuff for so long?

    As Greg knows, I love the reading experience Comixology offers. Reading comics books on the kindle fire with books purchased from amazon is inferior to reading an actual comic book. BUT, reading comics purchased from Comixology on the kindle fire is in some ways a superior experience to reading a real comic. Most importantly, the technology forces me to slow down and pay attention to the art. When reading a physical comic book, I have a tendency to focus on the words and start flipping the pages too quickly. Comixology allows me to really focus on each panel and appreciate what the artist is doing–the app prevents my eyes from wandering when they shouldn’t. Anyway, for those of you who have never read comics and think you don’t like them, you just haven’t found the ones you like yet. So, give it a chance. I’m more than willing to recommend good books to start with if I know someone’s taste in novels . . .


  6. CTGT /

    I read comics as a child(Archie, Donald Duck, etc.) but got out of it around the age of 10 when most of my friends were really into comics. I got back into “reading” in high school because I really loved drawing and enjoyed trying to copy the artwork. So in my late teens and early twenties I was heavy into comics. It fizzled after college and marriage(no correlation) and the books got thrown out or put away in storage. A few years ago my 12 year old son came across some issues of “Thor” and enjoyed them so much we started going to the comic shop together. Our interest is waning somewhat but I probably won’t stop completely due to the quality of adult stories being told in comics and graphic novels. It’s not just for kids anymore and its definitely not just capes and cowls ( Y the Last Man, Scalped, 100 Bullets, Criminal, Preacher, The Walking Dead-I like the comics more than the tv series) just to name a few. I know some folks still look down on comics as a lowbrow or kids form of entertainment, but I never did understand that position. I like great stories, no matter what the format.

  7. Greg /

    Brad- I wish I could take your comics class. Its kinda funny to me how far comics have come. I remember begging my teachers to let me use comics for my book reports, which of course I was denied.

    Things worked out in the opposite way for me. I went from reading comics to pulps. My first unillustrated books were Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan series. Then I read Howard’s Conan along with Westerns.

    BTW- Thanks for the recommendations. I love The Criminal and plan to check out the other books you suggested.

  8. Greg /

    CTGT – My son is grown now, but we had some good times at the comic shop too.
    Now, I’m working on my daughter. She was Wonder Woman last Halloween and was all into The Catwoman movie last week. :)

  9. Tizz /

    Used to read them as a child, though not US comics. Then had a mate who was comic mad, so I got to see some occasionally, including some visually very striking examples (Batman, I think).
    I recently tried to read a graphic novel (a continuation of a much-loved TV series, so I *was* motivated), but I found I couldn’t understand the narrative technique. To me, it seemed disjointed and incoherent. I might appreciate the striking imagery, but the word’s the thing for me! So I’m not sure I’ll be reading this new column, sorry!

  10. Derek /

    I’ve been reading and collecting comics for the last 36-37 years of my 41 year existence. It’s my “crack”, my “meth”. I cannot give them up. I have unfortunately sold off my collection, twice, when times were tough and there are issues I regret parting with (no, not anything like Action Comics #1).

    While comics are perceived as a geek hobby, it is a form of litertaure that I believe is ignored of its outstanding quality in writing and artistic skills. The mention of Brubaker as a writer is an excellent one and getting some graphic novels of his Captain America run would be highly recommended.

    For those wanting to test the waters of the comic medium for the first time or after being absent from it for years, I would recommend these titles to search out: Fables, The Goon, and Sandman. There are so many more great titles out there and it doesn’t have to be superhero-based (although people in tights is still my preference). The graphic novel format would be recommended instead of individual issues for more bang for your buck.

    Comic books are a warm happiness for me.

  11. I’m right there with ya, Derek. Comics are my addiction too. I’ve stopped from time to time, but then, when I start up reading them again, I go nuts.

    Thankfully, I’ve never had to part with my collection. My son wanted to get mine professionally appraised as a Father’s Day present. I thought that was very nice gesture, but I had to turn him down because I’m not ready to know what it’s worth.

  12. Sabrina /

    I actually just read my first comic in January and enjoyed it quite a bit! While I haven’t yet made comics part of my daily reading routine, they give me another option and another reading experience. The comics I have picked up have all been thanks to recommendations and reviews on sf/f blogs :)

  13. Sabrina- What are some of the comics you are reading?

    I had gotten back into comics as something I could read along with whatever SFF book I’m currently reading. (I’ve never been able to juggle reading more than one book at a time, but figured comics would give me a little refreash between chapters.) But I’ve found that I’m so hooked on comics, they are starting to hog-up my reading time.

  14. Comics have started to take over my reading material, too! They’ve given me a new understanding of the term page-turner.

  15. I just ordered a comic version of Jack Vance’s Moon Moth.

  16. Kat- I’ve read a few Elric comics. They’re pretty good.

  17. Hmmm…. I love Elric. I should try those.

  18. Sabrina /

    A few of the comics I’ve been enjoying are Valen the Outcast, The Mice Templars, The Unknown, Last Reign- Kings of War, and Monocyte (artwork is amazing, writing is meh). I love audiobooks and do a lot of reading that way so comics are great change of pace for me. So far though, they are an addition and haven’t taken away from my reading or audiobook listening time.

  19. I’ve had my eye on that Valen the Outcast.

  20. Sarah, if you live in the USA, you win GIRL GENIUS: Agatha Awakens (or a different book of your choice from our stacks). Please contact me (Tim) with your choice and a US address.

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