Booking Through Thursday

Last Saturday (May 2nd) is Free Comic Book Day! In celebration of comics and graphic novels, some suggestions:

– Do you read graphic novels/comics? Why do/don’t you enjoy them?
– How would you describe the difference between “graphic novel” and “comic”? Is there a difference at all?
– Say you have a friend who’s never encountered graphic novels. Recommend some titles you consider landmark/”canonical”.

1. I’ve been a proud comics reader for over thirty years.

1b. … Why do you like to read? Seriously, I’ve read comics all my life: started with Donald Duck, read Asterix, Tintin, then X-Men, Elfquest, then Sandman etc. Just like I get different things from different books, I get different things from different comics. Donald Duck is mostly a nostalgia trip these days although Don Rosa’s DDs are pretty good storywise. From most superhero comics I get (usually) a simpler world view which can be a relief in today’s world. (You might note that I really don’t much care for the darker, grittier superheros. I get dark and gritty from the news, thanks.) Some comics I read for laughs. I like fantasy and so I read fantasy comics. I like science fiction but there aren’t really that many sf comics out there. Granted, some superhero comics have cosmic story lines every now and then, and all of the major superhero universes do have non-human space empires (for example, Marvel has Kree, Skrull, and Shi’Ar Empires). So, anyway, my enjoyment depends on the comic. I also have favorite artists.

2. First off, I’m not a native English speaker so they might see things differently. Anyway, IMHO, the difference is snobbery. When you (general you) can’t admit that you still like reading comics, you change the name to “graphic novels” and presto! You’ve got something that you can talk about in public without feeling ashamed.

3. I’d need to know a lot more about that friend’s reading preferences. Anyway, a short recommendation list for different things:

Fantasy: 1, Elfquest, which is available for free at their website here. Start with the Original Quest # 1.
2, Bone by Jeff Smith. More of a humorous comic but with a complex storyline. Start with Out from Boneville.

Fairy tales set in the modern times: Fables, starting with vol. 1, Legends in Exile.

History, fantasy, mythologies all mixed together: 1, Sandman, starting with Preludes and Nocturnes. The first is, by the way, the worst of them. It gets better with every album but it’s an ongoing story so it would be confusing to start anywhere else.

2, I’d put in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen here, too, although it draws more from 1800c literature than mythologies. Main characters include Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, Allan Quartermain, Dr Jekyll, and the Invisible Man (from the book of the same name by H. G. Wells).

Humor: 1, Asterix which tells about a little Gallic town which is still fighting against the conquering Romans.

2, Donald Duck. The stories done by Don Rosa and Carl Barks are the best.

3, If you want superhero humor: “Formerly Known as the Justice League” and “I can’t believe it’s not the Justice League” are very, very good.

Westerns: Tex Willer is the obvious choice here. They’re not continuous stories so you can pick up almost any album.

Spy/adventure: Modesty Blaise is the obvious choice again. The movies are terrible, by the way. Again, the story lines aren’t continuous so any album will do.

Social commentary: V for Vendetta

TV and movie tie-ins: if you’re a fan of a scifi or fantasy show, there’s almost bound to be a comic about it. Buffy the vampire slayer and Angel are the most obvious choices here. Xena the Warrior Princess comics has been produced for a while (and are very hard to get hold of here), all the Star Trek incarnations have or have had their own comics, Dark Horse have been publishing Star Wars comics for ages, and there are, of course, Heroes comics based on the TV show.

Various games have also got comic adaptations from Final Fantasy to Halo.

By the way, if you want to try out some classic books made into comics, Marvel has adapted Pride and Prejudice in a comic form.