Monday, February 25, 2008

The Current Crop is Soooo Much More Important than that Which Came Before, Obviously...

One of my first reads of every day is Journalista, the news blog of The Comic Journal. I have sort of mixed feelings about The Comic Journal. It really is the best source of print journalism for the comics industry, but it seems to stay in the upper echelon of high brow comics. And while it certainly has its place, I feel it could do well with spending more time on more of the mainstream stuff as well. And I have to admit I used to think I was above most comics, back when I gave up 95% of superhero comics in the early 90s, and I felt The Comics Journal was essential reading and pretty much alienated all my comic reading friends by telling them off for not even giving it a go or for reading Quasar or other "silly little books." And as I try not to remember those times that much, my days with whipping others with high brow culture engines is pretty much over. But Journalista is far too good a read to pass up. And really if you have limited or no interests in comics there is no reason why you would ever care about the daily blog. Or maybe even this post.....

Now I sit here wondering if that introduction is even justified and/or useful, but I am going to keep it. But, back to the issue at hand: Today on Journalista there was a link to Pop Candy's 25 favorite comic series. So I clicked to it to see what was being offered up on the alter of "hip and hidden" pop culture gems. I have to say I expected to be far more disappointed, but that does not mean the bar was raised very high either. So let me take a few minutes to go over this list.

I have only read parts or all of at least 16 of the 25 listed. Not bad, and really there are two books on the list that in no way shape or form will I ever read. The winners are: Marvel Zombies and Buffy Season 8. Now my aversion to Buffy might be a bit on the nonsensical/irrational side, but it is what it is. I have never seen an episode of the show, nor do I have any plans to for one simple fact: an old roommate of mine would watch the show each week whilst donning plastic fangs. I kid you not: Plastic Fangs! It was enough to be scared for life from ever even considering having anything to do with the show (and I live alone now, read into this what you will...). And as for Marvel Zombies... My hatred for zombies is so vast that if I was a planet I could easily eclipse the sun's light for months if not years at a time. Seriously, the shit is so played out. Back when Romero first used zombies there was a political point to them. Now, they are as useless as pirates, vampires, or ninjas in that over use has killed any commentary or purpose they might offer. They went from relevant to kitsch to useless at something faster than light speed.

So those two are out. The other books I have not read: The Walking Dead, Death Note, Ex Machina, Finder, Scott Pilgrim, Umbrella Academy. Two of these books I have never even heard of: Death Note and Finder. Death Note is manga and I have never had much use for it. Yes, I know entirely dismissive - that hardly sounds like me at all.... As for Finder, well sign me up. It sounds quite interesting. So if this list had no other use it at least prompted my knowledge of this book. The Walking Dead is yet another zombie book, by the same writer of the other zombie book above. Is it any wonder that to my knowledge I have never read a thing by him. Scott Pilgrim is a book I have flipped through and it never spoke to me. I did not dig the art at all and it just seemed to focused on juvenile humor. The last two, Umbrella Academy and Ex Machina are books that I have planned to read. Both are still ongoing (I think). I read a preview of Umbrella Academy when the 1st issue came out a few months back and I am seriously looking forward to the trade of this book. And I was in love with Y - The Last Man so much that I did not want to read another Brian K. Vaughn book concurrently. So now that Y has sadly ended, Ex Machina is in my sights.

Of the 16 books I have read at least some of I am seriously puzzled at the inclusion of these books: The Goon, Criminal, Girls, and Hellboy way either. The goon does have beautiful art, I'll give it that. Eric Powell is beyond a fantastic artist, but his stories are like dreading the river bottom for bodies, and not in good noir way. Girls is the same way, great art (not nearly to Powell's level though), but the story put me to sleep. Hellboy is just infuriating to me. I have never seen anything redeeming about it. And yes, I know I am an outlier on this issue, but I have never even been remotely smitten with Mignola's art. I read the first arc of Criminal and while it was decent, it was nothing above that. That this book somehow supplanted Ed Brubaker's and Sean Phillips's utterly amazing, far, far superior Sleeper is quite honestly the single biggest flaw on this list. That was a series that had any and everything one could ever wish for in it, well except if you wanted it to keep going (which it easily could have and should have).

The major flaw, that is far larger than the Sleeper slight, of this list is that it seems to forget anything before the 90s. Other than the impeccable Love and Rockets everything else is new. Please take this moment to review the title of this post again.....

Yep, you guessed it, this is just insane to me. I am pretty convinced that the writer of this blog is fairly new to comics, at least of the periodical, episodic kind, to leave out so many great series ( Frank Miller's Daredevil, Will Eisner's The Spirit, Jack Cole's Plastic Man, Dave Sim's Cerebus, Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, Howard Chaykin's American Flagg!, among many other worthy candidates). At least the same can not be said for her top 25 graphic novels where the medium is approached with a far larger scope and time frame. My guess is Ms Matheson enjoys the single serving graphic novel far more than episodic storytelling, to which she is clearly late to the table. And while there is no fault to that, it does lists like this the greatest of disservice.

Or maybe focusing on the old is just not in line with the blogs raison d'etre: "unwrapping pop culture's hip and hidden treasures". But it sure would seem like it. To help rekindle the love to a long forgotten (albeit collected) series would seem like a no-brainer for this blog. But no, I guess hip and hidden treasures have to have at least a bit of flavor of the month. Ugh, ugh, and triple ugh....

And now my fingers feel like they have carpal ranty syndrome. But letting this go without acknowledging Matheson's good to great choices would be a slight as great as hers, so without further adieu, the great choices:

All-Star Superman - While I have not read the whole run, the 1st trade was beyond amazing. This is Grant Morrison at his best. If one has ever had a passing fancy towards Superman this is the book for you. And seriously Frank Quitely's art is nothing less than magical.

DMZ - Brian Wood is a genius. This is just an amazingly visceral reading experience. An American Civil War breaks out and Manhattan is the major battle zone. It is far enough removed from reality that the commentary does not seem forced nor overbearing. I would say that this is the single book that could get more people into comics than anything else.

The Invisibles - Another Grant Morrison epic. It is not just coincidence that there is more than one of his books on this list. He is easily the most important writer going today. This comic does nothing less than pile drive shared reality. As Yosemite Sam would exclaim "there's gold in them thar hills!," well there is magic/magik in these thar pages. Leaving Morison's Doom Patrol off this list is a serious oversight as well.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - Alan Moore is comic royalty. His work easily pushed comics further than anyone before him. And as much great work we have gotten out of Moore, we have gotten work from far lessor mortals trying to cop his style that is truly embarrassing. And if you saw the movie of this, well now you know why Moore refuses any cash from film adaptations. But this story weaves together great characters of English literature and imagines them as amazing adventurers. Fabulous stuff, and amazingly not even remotely Moore's best work.

Love and Rockets - I hate to admit that I wondered why the guys from Bauhaus that went on to form Love and Rockets the band needed their own comic. When I first read a book of this series, I then understood why the band decided to name themselves after a comic. Great characters, great stories, great comic. Read it!

Planetary - I read a random issue of this way back when and completely failed to understand the hype on this book. Figured people were eating lead paint chips with their salsa and forged ahead without bothering to look back. Then I happened on the first TPB of this at the library and decided to check it out, or at least it made it home with me. Well to say I was hooked would be an understatement. The hidden history of comics/pop culture is real, just outside of your peripheral vision. Warren Ellis will have a hell of a time ever creating a book as good as this.

Queen and Country - Imagine James Bond without the gadgets, relationships, and female. In this book Greg Rucka explores just what putting Queen and Country ahead of everything will do to a Tara Chace, his Bondian analog.

Sin City - Frank Miller's crime story opus. I really enjoyed the first few books but felt like it started becoming a parody of itself. The simple use of color in a overtly black and white book is amazing to look at though. And like Moore, this is not Miller's best work.

The rest were books that while good, I would not elevate to a top 25 list at any time.

And seriously, why did this bother me so much that i just went on an overly long rant that likely few will even finish (and i was not just procrastinating, really...). I wish I could blame being overly caffeinated or some such thing, but I've got nothing. Without a historical context, this list was just void of meaning and leaves out so many great series from all ages, and this really irks me. The "what have you done for me lately" mentality is as annoying as NIMBYism. And picking a list like this without history is just offensive.

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