Monday, March 07, 2005

top 10 reasons i love comics

And here they are, in reverse order:

10. Adrian Tomine - In his books like Sleepwalk, we are treated to slice of life vignettes that, like life, do not necessarily offer closure, explanations or rationality. If we measure the success of the comic book form by the truths about the human condition that, like good literature, it can show us, then Tomine is one of the best creators around.

9. Matt Wagner's Grendel - From Hunter Rose to the nameless Grendels of the future, Wagner creates a sprawling story that is both epic and personal, tackling various issues along the way and always with a certain flair. The different art styles allow a different experience each time a new story cycle begins. Grendel is simply compelling in terms of characterization and design.

8. Gary Larson's The Far Side - In one panel, Larson is able to flip us over to the side of hilarity, showing us how things work behind the scenes or precisely what animals talk about when we are out of earshot. His ability to expose our foibles makes his work timeless.

7. JSA - The Justice Society of America is a group of World War II heroes whose exploits amazed and enthralled me in my youth. Nowadays, under the guidance of writer Geoff Johns, the JSA has been retooled to be relevant to today's sensibilities without giving up its Old World charm.

6. Alan Moore's Miracleman - When I first read Marvelman (the original British name of the same character, based on Captain Marvel) in Warrior magazine, my brains were shocked by the obvious intelligence invested by the writer in his work. Miracleman's story arc brought wonder and horror and set the standard. Moore later went on to write Swamp Thing and a host of other (mostly) good stuff - but he has never been as good as this. Not even Watchmen.

5. Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol - Morrison's run on Doom Patrol was ahead of its time, with his mad and infectious ideas that demanded reading and rereading. His core cast included Crazy Jane, a woman with a multiple personality disorder, with each personality manifesting unique abilities; and Robotman, the straight man in all the strangeness; and a host of throwaway characters that one could imagine springing fully formed from his balding head. Morrison also wrote the excellent Animal Man and We3 (but is also sadly responsible for the crap that is The Filth, JLA and several duds).

4. Mike Mignola's Hellboy - Mignola's writing and artwork on his creation is moody and textured with shadows. His series of stories about an average-type Joe who just happens to be a kickass hellspawn is the basis for the recent mediocre film. But if you read the source material, you will find a world of folklore and monsters rubbing elbows with disembodied Nazi heads that long for world domination.

3. The Legion of Superheroes - I really love superhero team books and nothing boasts a cast larger than the Legion. From the innocence of the Silver Age to the grittiness of the Giffen era, the Legion series will always have stories to tell, from multiple perspectives. Sometimes shiny, sometimes dark, there will always be a place for the Legion in this fanboy's heart.

2. Neil Gaiman's Sandman - Beautiful and strange, Gaiman shows us wonder in a handful of dust. Everything else is obvious. I started Sandman with issue one and lasted until the sad end, and every month I wished I could write like Gaiman. When I met him in Seattle, the series was over, but I told him how it affected me. From him, I learned that fantasy can be as complex, dense and as sophisticated as realist fiction, for as long as there is an emotional core.

1. James Robinson's Starman - My #1 comic book is the story of a reluctant hero who comes to terms with the burden of the legacy he needs to uphold. Good and solid storytelling from an author whose love for the past is achingly poignant and made manifest in his obvious respect for the heroes of the Golden Age.


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