Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Dwindling Shelf...

I haven’t read a “new” comic in about two months now. Don’t think that means I’m not reading – oh contraire! I’m reading more than ever! Just not of the “recently published” variety. I have been doing a wonderful job of rationing the comics I brought with me from the states – namely, I’m so enjoying Blackest Night and all of its space battle-y epicness! I’ve got enough two page spreads to last the blog for a long while (coming in the near future). Though I currently can’t write about enjoying comics from the new release shelves, I can tell you all about what I have been reading, which is a lot of well established series that I should have read by now. Here’s a look at the trade paperbacks I’ve picked up, and a little bit about why you should check them out too, even if you have access to new books:

Sandman Volume 1
Publisher: Vertigo (DC)
Writer: Neil Gaiman
If you like… House of Mystery! Hellblazer! Gothic tales that can sometimes be disturbing, the darker side of DC, brooding gentleman that slightly resemble a young Alan Rickman (mmmm….)

The Sandman (left) and his big sister Death

I brought this with me from the States in anticipation of the comic book prohibition within Launceston, Tasmania. I’m picking up the additional volumes from the local library and hope to finish the series while in Australia. So far it has been a chilling introduction to the Sandman as he works towards first escaping imprisonment by cruel and careless mortals, then reclaiming his kingdom, the land of dreams. Along the way he encounters the House of Mystery, John Constantine (in his first appearance ever), and several random DC villains that are shown in a more diabolical light than they've ever been seen in a standard DC title. In regards to why you should pick it up – well you probably already have. I must be the only female comic book fan that hasn’t read this book. Expect a series review when I have completed it!

Hellblazer in all of his crusty lovable glory.

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 1
Publisher: America’s Best Comics (DC)
Writer: Alan Moore
Aritst: Kevin O’Neill
If you like… Mystery tales of the “who dunnit” variety, fanciful conspiracy theories, alternate realities of literary characters, an explanation for why Sean Connery was ever persuaded to star in that dreadful movie, and of course late 19th century English lit

It’s a real travesty that until now I had only seen the “film adaptation” (the only resemblance to the comic is the title). The book is both a visually and conceptually dense read. If your regular superhero books are like junk food (delicious pizza and candy I wouldn’t think twice about accepting), then LOEG is like eating at a gourmet French restaurant. Like most of the finer things in life, it does come with a price. To be blunt, reading this made me feel like a dullard. I’m really rusty on my 19th century English lit (thanks art school!) and though I’m familiar with them, I haven’t read many of the books whose characters grace the story (Allan Quatermain, Captain Nemo). It is rewarding when you do recognize famous literary characters that make cameos such as Dodger, leader of the orphan gang in Charles Dicken’s Oliver Twist. Alan Moore weaves a tale that can be enjoyed by any readers (of adult age - what’s with this guy and attempted rape?), but I could see how this would definitely give more kicks to fans with a thorough knowledge of the original books. It is a rich mystery / adventure tale that would surely make some of the characters’ original authors proud. Additionally, you could spend hours analyzing the art, in particular the highly detailed background scenes. I have no doubt it was intended by O'Neill, but I found myself looking at every background player and thinking, “What novel could they be from? Will they play a larger part later? Did those two characters in the background just break up in between panels?” It’s like a “Where’s Waldo?” of literary heavyweights. Even looking at the cover image of the book, I wonder who the girl in the mirror is; perhaps Alice Through the Looking Glass (see above image)? Another library loan, I’ll be reading LOEG Volume 2 as soon as my loan request is met.


Superman Chronicles Volume 5
Publisher: DC
Author(s): Jerry Siegel
Artist(s): Joe Shuster and the Superman Studio, Paul Cassidy, Fredy Rey, Jack Burnley, Wayne Boring
If you like… Classic superhero comics of a simplistic nature, Superman, general goofiness

This was a trip. I will admit I only read about half of it before I started skimming, but it was worth checking out. These series of reprints showcase every Superman book published, and in chronological order. This volume contains issues of Action Comics, Superman, and World’s Best Comics. Within the issues are short, self-contained action tales, and all of them contain wacky narration that gives it the tone of an old newsreel or radio show. It’s refreshing to see Superman tackle issues like gambling rackets and crooked carnies. But only a few short years after the character’s creation, and there’s already repetition within the plots. In this collection alone there were three separate scenes with Superman “burrowing” (apparently an overlooked talent today), and countless opportunities for Supes to both save and humiliate Lois Lane (Is she fearless or stupid? Neither, she’s just a woman!) The stories are simplistic, and at times the language is archaic, but you won’t fail to be gob smacked by the bizarre moments these issues offer.


  1. First, let me say that I agree with you on the eye candy comment concerning every single panel of LOEG. It also gets better when you start reading volume II and goes to even further extremes if you read the Black Dossier which is lighter on the mystery aspect of it, but it comes with a little something extra if you buy the shrink wrapped version rather than check one out from the library.

    Second, Alan Moore is one of the most graphic writers, up there with Garth Ennis and Grant Morrison, and I understand if it does seem bothersome that his books have many instances of violence against women. However, when looking at some of the statistics for violence against women we have numbers such as one in every six women gets raped, and one in every four women is a victim of intimate partner violence. I think Alan Moore is just trying to show us through Wilemena and other women that the violence committed to them is brutal, unwarranted, and common.

    Also I could be reading in to this way more than I should and he could just have some weird domination fetish. He did write Lost Girls and those books are pretty fucked up.

  2. I have volume II waiting for me at the library right now! They don't have Black Dossier, but I'll be reading it when I get back to the states.

    As for Alan Moore, I can't really peg him as a pervert for writing his female characters into troubling situations, but even assuming good intentions on his behalf leads to questions. Showing sexual violence against women to raise awareness isn't really enough to justify having it in a story, let alone every story. It's the fact that he consistently brings it up and then doesn't have his characters really deal with it that I find most bothersome. He has the invisible man rape several girls only to have them accept it because it's "the Lord". He doesn't pay for his crimes, nor do the other characters seem disturbed by his actions, outside of saying they don't trust him.

    As for Wilhelmina nearly getting raped, how is that necessary to the story? Or her character? It's an opportunity to show Quertermain as a hero, but it could have been just as effective with her being physically attacked, minus the attempted rape. In any media, I feel having rape as a plot point really has to be justified, and properly addressed by the characters in the story to effectively raise awareness.

    I'm really sensitive to the subject though, as it seems like rape in comics has been used more and more as "plot point" than "shedding light on social issue". Did you ever read Wanted?

  3. I would like to first say that I agree with you on your point that when rape occurs in comics it is never dealt with by the characters in a manner that I feel is appropriate, but before you pass judgment on Alan Moore please finish the second book as you will be surprised.

    Also, when you bring up the women in the school that were raped by the Invisible Man and Wilhelmina's sexual assault you have to put it in the context of the time it was occurring and the reality of sexual assaults. Convictions of rapists are rare and when we see that Alan Moore has these awful things occur to the women and nothing happen to him, he might be trying to make us feel sick or infuriate us into looking up statistics of rape convictions only to make us see that he's right, nothing happens.

    Second the reaction that the characters have to Invisible Man is strange, but I can see what he is trying to do. I think he was trying to go for the Kitty Genovese effect in that the characters witness or hear of the Invisible Man committing the most awful crimes and they do nothing about it and you have to remember that its the 1800's. Again, maybe I am reading too much into the book, and he might just be one of a long list of writers that can not write a story without killing or raping women. Have you looked at the website Women in Refrigerators? http://www.unheardtaunts.com/wir/women.html

    As for Wanted I have not read it, but I have seen it at the comic shop a couple of times and thought about buying it, but I always tell myself that I can check it out from the library instead.

    I have a question, when was the first time you saw a character, main or supporting, killed in a comic book in a graphic manner. I remember my first experience with this was when I was 13 and in Mexico and I purchased my first graphic novel (in Spanish) that introduced the new Green Lantern, Kyle Ranar. It was at the end of the book when Major Force ends up killing and stuffing his girlfriend into a refrigerator. I remember how much that upset me that she was killed and that I was in another country so I couldn't just walk down to the comic shop and purchase some issues to find out what happens.

  4. I didn't even pick up a comic till I was 14, so I think at that point I was already desensitized. But probably the earliest death I read would have been an issue of Uncanny X-men where Wolverine stabs Jean Grey in the stomach. But it was a mercy killing (they were on a doomed space vessel) so it was kind of touching, in that "i'm hurting you because I love you" kind of way. Still a good example of the twisted logic exhibited in comics!

    Wanted is worth checking out, but I found some of the uber violence disturbing. There isn't a graphic rape scene, and most of the time when I mention rape being in this book people don't know what I'm talking about it. At one point the main character is listing off his accomplishments for the night, and "raping some starlette" is part of his bragging list. He's supposed to be working his way towards villainhood, following in his father's footsteps. Still. Mark Millar loves to write deplorable protagonists for some reason.

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