I’m not the kind of English major who is going to lie to you and say that a Stephen King novel is not in one of my Top 10 Favorite books of all time. Hell, there might even be two in there. *cough* It and The Stand *cough*. I was raised on a steady diet of Dean Koontz and Stephen King in the 5th and 6th grades, and picking up one of King’s books now is like settling down to a heaping plate of mashed potatoes or curling up in a pile of clothes fresh from the dryer. Satisfaction.
When someone told me that Stephen King was writing a comic book about Vampires (with a capital V) I was insanely there. Actually, I’m not sure when or where I heard of it, but I picked up the first issues of American Vampire and N. and was immediately hooked. And then life happened and they were both made box regulars and several issues piled up and I lent them out to someone.
Last week they were magically returned to me, and we swung by our comic book store to empty our box, and yet more issues landed in our hands.
With a big old stack of comics to sift through, you might not be surprised to discover while I gravitated heavily towards the One Shots featuring Marvel women characters, it was American Vampire and N. that I read first.
Once a Stephen King fan girl, always a Stephen King fan girl.
There was a small part of me that secretly hoped, wished and prayed he would make an appearance at Comic Con to promote these books. Of course he wasn’t there. He’s an old man, and he doesn’t need the publicity. Who is foolish enough to think that Stephen King needs a promoter? But yes…would I be a true fangirl if I hadn’t daydreamed at least once?
So he wasn’t. And I read the books anyway.
STEPHEN KING’S N.
They are certainly Stephen King, but paired with some of the most amazing artists in the industry. Alex Maleev has crafted some of the most gorgeous artwork I’ve come across in my nearly two decades relationship with comic books. Outside of perhaps Alex Ross. He is one of the few artists who I will follow to any book for any reason.
So N. is immediately going to suck me in as a reader. Pair that with a truly creepy Stephen King tale, and who could NOT be sold? The writer doing the adapting is someone I was not familiar with before picking up the series, but I think a lot of what you really need to know about Marc Guggenheim comes across in the afterword in the first issue. Before I started this blog and dedicated a considerable chunk of my time to Comic Books, it never really occurred to me to read what writers and artists scribble in forewords and afterwords. But now, I think it’s very important.
And Guggenheim seems like the perfect person to adapt what originally appeared as only documents in the King version of the story. He gives them excellent textual and graphical context, and if it’s even possible with a Maleev piece, I found myself being quite drawn away from the images and transported instead into the visuals that the words inspired. It’s kind of a battle then, which I will say ended (for me at least) in a draw.
There are certainly haunting images here. Maleev paints such vivid pictures and emotions, it’s like looking at snapshots rather than lines and ink.
But the story – about Ackerman’s Field, the stone circle, and the obsessive need to count objects in order to keep evil at bay is what really drives the book and puts it all together. I’ve got all the floppies, but am dying to purchase this series as a trade and leaf through the collection again. It’s so haunting…the kind of story that sticks with you. I found myself telling it around the campfire this weekend as if it truly were a scary story, but also a real thing. And god, that final panel makes the hair on my arm stand up…thinking…what if it were?
Especially since 8 is my favorite number, and I feel a particular aversion to 7.
For a small sample of the story and the captivating art, you can check out Episodes 1-5 of the motion comic on this here YouTube video:
Bechdel Test: This miniseries does NOT pass the women test, does PASS the men test and DOES NOT PASS the race test.
She Has No Head! is a great column I’ve been reading for the last few months written about comic books from the female perspective. Kelly Thompson usually publishes once a week, and maintains a personal blog you can find in my blogroll under Kelly Thompson: 1979 Semifinalist.
We share a similar background in how we originally entered into the comic book world (that damn X-Men cartoon), except she’s ventured into the field more artistically with drawing and writing.
Anywho – she posted an insightful interview with Hope Larson, who writes YA graphic novels specifically catered towards young women. Larson somewhat informally surveyed 200 girls and women to find out how they’d gotten into comic books, what they read, where they get it, etc. so she can better market her material.
She shared the findings with Kelly Thompson in an interview format – mostly talking about some of the things women experience as barriers to the medium – social shunning of comic books, misogyny and sexism on the pages, not enough access, etc.
The comment section kind of exploded after that. There is clearly a lot of frustrated men out there who want to hold onto the outdated and faded concept that “comic books are for boys.” I spent at least two hours reading through the comments and formulating a response. I’ll re-post it here:
The prevailing concept of “comic books are for boys” is like an addiction. The idea needs to hit rock bottom before the people who harbor such notions can truly accept the change this medium needs. Anything else is just lip service and they’ll end up in rehab six months down the road claiming that “girls don’t like comic books.”
It’s hard because so many men responding here want to see change. They get frustrated (as do we) when they have to read about someone feeling excluded from a mode of entertainment they enjoy. They wouldn’t read the articles if they didn’t care. They wouldn’t be upset if they didn’t recognize the truth. Some are upset because to change the system would unbalance something that is clearly in their favor. It’s hard to give up privilege because…it’s so damned privileged. And yes, you are privileged to believe you have an entire medium devoted to your gender (even if it’s not truly the case). Women don’t usually get such a luxury – we have genres (romance, fantasy, YA Fiction). Not entire mediums.
Honestly it makes me feel warm and fuzzy that so many dudes read your posts and care enough to respond. To those who apparently have the buying power (as the dollars I spend mean little to nothing to mainstream comic book writers, creators, editors and artists)…what are you doing to make fundamental changes so the books you love can represent women and minorities equitably?
And if you don’t care…why are you here – reading a blog that is clearly approaching comic books from a feminine perspective? I’ve read a couple different times now a plea for the author to review good books sans female interpretation. Why does she have to neutralize her gender?
Because male is the default gender of our society. And the female perspective is not an applicable lens with which to view the world. It’s not the voice of academia or authority.
Most men fail to realize how much of gender informs what they deem good or worthy of reading. And when they take the time to review, rarely mention gender at all.
It is no accident that women routinely reflect on gender when reviewing things. We experience gender as a very real barrier to many things we would otherwise be fully able to love and enjoy about our lives. And nine times out of ten, when we share that experience with men – they either deny it, or play down the importance of our experience.
I think most of the men in this forum do care. I would say most people desire stories with well represented characters from both genders. We probably love and have close relationships with both men and women. You know, cuz we’re not robots. Well, most of us. It’s very heartening to see men here willing to approach comic books from a perspective that is not their own and have reasonable discussion.
It means a lot to me to have dudes on the side of women when it comes to making a change in the industry. I’ve mentioned this before…but I find myself less and less attracted to superhero books because of the blatant sexist depiction of women. Yes – Rogue’s new costume – half-unzipped and boobs hanging out is the reason I’m not buying the X-Men Legacy title right now. Even if she is the central character and the writing is fantastic. Sorry, there are some things I’m absolutely unwilling to compromise on.
There’s a lot of compelling discussion happening in the comment section of this article and if you are a person who wants to see the medium revitalize and superhero books regain the admiration of women, I think this is a great place to start.
I’m really heartened that many of the guys who read this blog and Thompson’s column seem to recognize that as a woman, it’s important for us to reflect on gender and discover where it is represented in the male-dominated comic book medium. The feminine perspective is one of the primary lenses with which I have to view the world, and it’s important to do so…because (as I mentioned in my comment) – the male perspective is the default view of academia and authority. Well, it’s just the damn default view in general.
As is the white lens. I haven’t brought up much discussion of race on this particular blog in relation to comic books. I’ve often felt inadequate at doing so. But the She Has No Head! article really made me stop and think about privilege.
So – going to add a race component to the Bechdel Test, using some of the suggestions from this Racialicious article.
Using pretty much the same rule:
Hoping to submit my first Bechdel entry tomorrow.
In the interim, here are some interesting articles about the Bechdel Test and race – happy to report that some of my favorite shows pass (BSG and True Blood):
Yesterday I spent another three hours in the chair of London Bellman, and I have to admit I am crazy impressed with the work he’s done. Who knew that actually looking at portfolios and picking someone based on the style of their artwork would yield such amazing results?
Not too much story to tell – we arrived at the duly appointed time, took the seat and the pain started. He worked on more of the space around the elbow, and on the elbow bone itself. It’s good to get one of the more painful parts out of the way, especially since it’s going to be a few weeks before we can get another appointment scheduled.
He also started some pretty amazing shading and softened up the lines of the fire, which has made it look more like…ya know, fire.
I was worried about the size and spacing of the stars, but I think they’re perfect given the scope of the Phoenix herself – everything else must match up to that scale.
London also got rid of the dreaded hand. Check out the video here:
Probably not gonna be able to set another appointment until mid-April (or later), but I don’t mind waiting. It’s quality over speed and quantity.
I was not pleased to be pestered by my husband at 6:00pm on a Friday evening to go watch a Kid’s movie with my three nephews, and entire family in tow.
“But it’s Pixar!” he pleaded, not realizing my lack of caring.
I told him fine – if we could sneak into a double feature and I could see something else afterwards, so as not to waste my money on crap I didn’t really want to see. Continuing my obsession with Comic Books/Graphic Novels turned films – I decided our second showing for the night would be Wanted.
The next question should be – which one did you like better? If it’s not already obvious from my entry title – Wall-E was the winner of the evening.
It was charming, and I got over the creepy robot voice by the third or fourth utterance. Of course, what thrilled me most was that it was a post-apocalyptic jab at the current way we are treating our world. As a garbage heap, that we (and ya know, a shit ton of animals and whatnot) just happen to live on as well.
I loved the premise – the gentle, and not-so-gentle poking at the nature of humanity. Mostly I loved the love story (I’m turning into such a sap) and at times, I almost forgot I was watching an animated movie. Or rather, a computer generated movie.
Which is why I was initially turned off on the idea of watching it. I’m not a huge fan of robots, or computer animated films. I loved Finding Nemo and Shrek and all that rot – but so much of the time I felt like these movies were screaming, “look at me – I’m so awesomely computer generated!! I’m SOO COLORFUL AND LIFE-LIKE!!!”
Somehow – it was easier to stomach the computer generation when it wasn’t REALLY trying to simulate life. Does that even make sense?
This week I didn’t have a chance to read any graphic novels, because I was entrenched, and firmly dedicated to the reading of one book. And I finally completed all 639 pages yesterday, just before the power went out (but that’s a whole other story).
Yes – it is done. The winding story of two Jewish comic-book magnates growing up in New York City (well, one is a recent Russian immigrant who managed to escape Europe before Hitler seized the majority of it). It follows the two boys from the time period of 1939-1954, about fifteen or so years, the before, during and after of World War II.
I might mention that this seems to be everyone’s favorite war. Granted – it did change a lot for society (but then, society was just changing, in general). But it’s so damn popular and romantic…I guess I’ll never really understand it’s allure, having only been able to experience it second hand.
As a comic nerd – I was giddy over an insider’s view into the “Golden Age” of comics, having heard it referenced many times before with all the sad, romantic sighs with which World War II is referenced. It was like those few fleeting years of childhood enlightenment, right before you lose your innocence, gain puberty and start fooling around with the opposite (or not) sex.
This book was supposed to be made into a movie four years ago. But it’s been stalled and now, if you check IMDB, there is some hazy threat of a 2009 release date, with nothing in regards to casting, production members…anything that you might need to actually make a film.
I’ve formulated a theory about that – Pearl Harbor. That was the last major Hollywood romanticized film that bit it hard at the box office. Kavalier and Clay has this similar sweeping time-span, though the characters are far less wooden, and well – everything about it is better.
Through the awesome reminder of Savanna – I was able to secure tickets around 9:00am yesterday morning. Because I am cheap, and I didn’t figure on getting good seats anyways – we went with the $10.00 upper balcony seating.
My cellphone died around 10:00am, so Dan and I had to form a complicated series of emails to relay information about meeting locations, trading off lap-tops, and all sorts of tom foolery. It was quite exciting.
We met up around 6:30pm, when my Spanish class ended. Dan was fooling about in the Starbucks below the Broadway building, reading Fallen Angel #2 and #3 (we’ll talk more about that later!). He presented me with a free drink coupon (some crazy lady stole his drink), and we were off. To the nearest 7-11 to buy Tussin to alleviate the nasty cough that has sprung up in Dan the last few days, making sleep NEARLY impossible in the evenings (but only fair turn-about after my two week long head-cold hell).
We arrived at the Schnitzer, picked up our tickets from Will Call, and Dan hit up the bathroom. I took the opportunity to peruse the book table in the lobby, and pick up a copy of Persepolis 2 (which together with Persepolis, forms the entire story…). We trudged over to concessions, grabbed a soft pretzel and nuts, and then found seats in the Upper Balcony.
The house was nearly packed, so my hopes of spotting Savanna in the crowd dimmed until I was merely people watching. Hope springs eternal – BECAUSE I not only saw her, and chatted amiably about folks in the PSU Graduate language program, but I also saw my Aunt Lauren. The little girl with her didn’t look much like a Cousin of mine, but they were in the cheap seats with us as well, and I meant to wave or make convo – but totally forgot.
Satrapi was engrossing, witty and fiery. I loved every minute of her eloquent descriptions of what comics are, what attracted her to the art-form, and why she prefers it over “regular writing” and even “film.” I was pleased down to my toes when she ruefully condemned the term “graphic novel,” and insisted her work be called “comics.”
“That’s what I make. I make comics,” She explained. “I mix words and drawing, and there is something powerful in that. There is something universal, that I think everyone can connect to.”
Have been mixing in my crazed brain lately. So – just for fun, I decided to google the search terms “Nyquil Dreams” to see what I would come up with. Apparently, I am not alone in my weird dream adventures as of late.
Guest starring so far has been: Barack Obama, Trip Weisman, and Harry Potter. OK, the HP I can understand – I read like 7 books devoted to this kid. BUT – Barack Obama? Come on! Who dreams about freakin’ Presidential Candidates? And Trip – yeah, he’s a character I made up. He’s a character in the movie we’re filming. That’s REALLY weird.
But last night – last night was the clincher. It starred not one, not two, not EVEN three – but at least 5 comic book characters. List-worthy perhaps? Me-thinks so!
5. Jean Grey
And these characters – rather than being stand-alones, were actually interacting with one another. Hellboy and Colossus were not initially fighting each other – they were fighting some common enemy. Then something happened (as it often does in dreams) and these crazy heat-seeking missiles were being deployed by Colossus and at Hellboy. Maybe Colossus was being mind-controlled by the enemy? No matter – then they began fighting.
Hellboy’s pretty tough – and for some reason he was able to sustain the blast of these several small-ish missiles. Finally it came to a face-to-face show-down. Colossus slammed Hellboy up against a wall and freaking blasted him with hundreds of missiles.
And in dream logic – that seemed to do the trick. Colossus was freed – and reverted to his non-metal self. Hellboy can withstand fire-power (being a minion of hell) and it was a weird happy ending.
The next dream phase occurred with Wolverine starring (yet again) in his own comic – but this time, instead of leading or being a part of a team – he was the team himself. The psyches of both Cannonball and Jean Grey (along with their powers) – were loaded into Wolverine. He was being deployed to Iraq. I saw the cover issue very clearly – it was entitled “X-Men: Revisions.” For some reason – I was REALLY clamoring for this comic.
The writer – it turns out – was an Iraqi war veteran who had served three tours in Iraq, and wanted to tell the story of what was happening over there using comic books as some sort of allegory.
In the dream – this was destined to be a top-selling issue.
OK – I know where some of this is coming from – I recently started reading “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” and the last bit I was reading before drifting off to sleep – Joe Kavalier was sketching comic-books wherein the protagonist is fighting a one-man war against Hitler. Post Nyquil shot I was thinking – wow, wouldn’t it be nice if modern Wars could be so clean cut? I know this is an overly optimistic view of what World War II was – because it was actually a really devastating war for Europe and for the soldiers fighting in it. But compared to the last two or three wars America has led – WWII was like Mom and Apple Pie.
In 2008 – sending a superhero off to fight the current war this country is embroiled in – what would that comic look like? What would the hero DO?
On another random whim – I googled “Wolverine fighting Nazis” just to see if that had been done before. And it has. But apparently in better taste than I would think…
Oh and Cap fought the Germans too…
I might type more on this later, but comics pretty much have their root in war propaganda – allowing kids and whomever else to get a taste of the action that was happening over seas, if they themselves couldn’t play an active role in it. Superman, Wonder Woman – some of the biggies saw their rise to fame propelled by battling the evil Germans and communists.
I’ve known this for awhile…but am just starting to make the connections to present day ideas. It would be hard to argue that Civil War had anything to do with relating Superheroes to the war we are currently fighting. That had more to do with the atmosphere of fear pervasive around the country.
Civil War also had/has LOADS to do with the freedom of information, and secret congressional meetings, and transparency in government (more on that later).
If anyone CAN point me in the direction of Superheroes and comics that are dealing with the Iraq war – I would be interested in checking them out. If only to satisfy my own curiousity, piqued, oddly enough – by a Nyquil Dream.
Much Love, Mindy C
Or a close proximity thereof. I promised references to comics and graphic novels, and I aim to fulfill that promise here today.
A week ago – I had the pleasure of scrounging through my local MCL branch – Rockwood’s graphic novel section. It was larger than I thought it would be (back in the day, cb’s and gn’s took up a shelf, if that). The Trade Paperbacks were mostly out of order, so I tried to go for the one-shots and the Graphic Novels were sparse, but pleasantly surprising.
I scooped up two biographical novels, and one Wonder Woman TPB.
#1. The first I read was: Ego and Hubris by Harvey Pekar.
I enjoy the writings and musings of Mr. Pekar – I own a few of his collected volumes – have read more than that – have met an Editor who worked with him – did a report on him in my Graphic Novel as Lit class – own and have watched “American Splendor” the docu-drama-comedy multiple times…but this was probably my least favorite thing Pekar has done. And that has everything to do with the subject.
Michael Malice is a total jerk-off. I hate self-proclaimed “geniuses” who spend their life treating other people like shit. The worst part – is how little accolade or credit he gives to anyone else for shaping the person he is today. Most especially his parents and grandparents get spat upon.
Autobiographies tend to be whiney, parent-bashing things…and this was no better. It was worse actually, because the main character was SO unlikeable. And becayse the character was terrible, I was hoping to get to the end of find some measure of humanity or emotional depth.
No such thing emerged. I love Pekar’s ability to humanize and deepen the most trivial of human interactions. Unfortunately, this dude Michael Malice – seems to be comprised of nary a human bone in his body. Therefore – his ticks and personality quirks were grating, and not ingratiating. He is the kind of person you want to spend your life trying to avoid if at all possible.
I would not suggest this book as a first foray into the Pekar or Graphic Novel world.
#2. The next graphic novel I read was “Fun Home” by Allison Bechdel.
A strange “tragicomic” in the vein of “Persepolis” – written and drawn by a lesbian woman from Pennsylvania. At times, a little whiney and melodramatic. I read this hot off the heels of “Ego and Hubris”…so I think I was feeling less forgiving with people whining about parents. I mean – seriously – at a certain age, I think you need to realize that your parents were people too, not simply vessels there to serve your every need.
The drawing was fairly *meh* – nothing special or specifically stylized – pretty basic Sunday comic strips kinda deal…but the images and facial expressions did perfectly capture the narration, and I enjoyed the bits of actual documents – letters, diary samples, photos – that Bechdel included.
Upon further rumination, I think I can appreciate within the story, a sort of cyclical tightening of examination regarding the relationship of Allison and her father.
Their separate journeys, their separate homosexualities, have a compare/contrast quality that is important. What I don’t think is important – is when autobiographical pieces paint parents in poor light. Which is what 2/3rds of this novel is. Only near the end do we sense Allison endearing any affection towards her father…and then it is mostly self-centered affection, having nothing to do with the man individually, but more to do with his plight as a gay man.
It was definitely worth reading – if you can overlook some of the “woe is me” aspect of the story-line.