“To me the novel is much more than that. It actually paints a more realistic picture of people who dress up as super heroes and fight crime—namely, they’d a bit weird or even have some psychological problems.”
Well, at the risk of insulting any police officers or their family members, Hill Street Blues did the same thing minus the costumes 25 years ago and cop shows have been following suit ever since. In fact, Moore himself created a book called Top Ten a few years ago that is directly influenced by the cop show genre. Watchmen’s insights only seem fresh, in my opinion, because most people aren’t used to any insight in the comic book medium, especially in the pervasive superhero genre.
Most people seem to expect a lot less from a graphic novel than a real novel or a film because, despite the media hype, it’s still surprising for a newbie to find Watchmen-level complexity in a funnybook. Strangely, for a very long time I seemed to have expected far more from comics than I did from film. Only recently have I demanded as much emotional and character-driven depth from the film medium as I’ve always sought in comics. I implore you, and anyone else starting to explore the medium, ignore the Entertainment Weeklys and Rolling Stone/Spin type reviews that will tell you that some Hulk graphic novel is “brilliant.” Comics companies are almost as important, on a lesser scale due to the infancy of truly ambitious work, as labels in classical music. Companies that put out good product include:
Drawn & Quarterly
Every other company should be approached with caution. i don’t mean to imply that everything the ones mentioned above is great or that other companies such as Top Shelf (Eddie Campbells publishers) don’t release some awesome work, but you must be careful. Companies to avoid:
Dark Horse (with exceptions)
Image (though they’re getting better)
Vertigo (I realize they are considered the HBO of comics but most of their stuff is poorly drawn and written by Alan Moore imitators. Even when it is well drawn it is soulless. Most of the great comics are not collaborations between a writer and artist or an assembly line of penciller, inker, colorist, etc., but rather the work of a single artist doing all the work alone.
As far as critics go, there are very few worth reading. Gary Groth, the publisher of the Comics Journal magazine and founder of Fantagraphics Books, was very good in his day but he doesn’t write much any more. Bart Beatty is an authority on European comics, which have always been way ahead of American comics. Bill Randall is a good source for his expertise on Japanese comics. My favorite comics critics writes very infrequently. His name is Domingos Isabelinho and he’s a semi-retired Portuguese critic who never gets nostalgic over Jack Kirby and expects comics to be as focused on the important issues as any other works of art. His blog is here
Let me know what you think of Campbells work.
My local library doesn’t have the Campbell work you cited. They do have one about a detective agency and an autobiography of the author. Are those worth reading?
“Well, at the risk of insulting any police officers or their family members, Hill Street Blues did the same thing minus the costumes 25 years ago and cop shows have been following suit ever since.”
(spoilers for Watchmen—sorry, I didn’t include this warning in the post above)
I respectfully disagree with this statement. Hill Street and other TV cop programs aren’t doing the same thing. For one thing, they’re not dealing with super heroes, which a big difference. Generally, comic book readers (I was a pretty avid reader growing up) think super heroes are cool. Certainly, they don’t see them as deviants or disturbed individuals. What the Watchmen does is imagine “super-heroes” in a more realistic light. If anyone today dressed up in a colorful costume and “fought crime” they would most likely be a highly disturbed individuals with serious psychological problems. This is largely what the characters are like—at least the two main protagonists. (I’ve also read some Top Ten issues, and they’re really different from Watchmen, imo; Top Ten is more of a sit-com comic.)
Moreover, Hill Street and other cop programs don’t have characters like Dr. Manhattan and the Comedian—not even one of the best cop/TV shows of all-time, The Wire. They’re totally different animals, imo.
Well, clearly the title “Watchmen” is meant to metaphorically refer to almost anyone who puts themselves in a position to watch over others. Whether it’s superheroes or cops the danger is that they may decide their righteous mission gives them the right to use any means necessary to “protect” the people. I agree this was new for the superhero genre in 1986 but for me it dates really quickly. Kids used to play cops and robbers and think both were “cool.” When you get older you realize that not everyone who claims to protect you really has your best interests at heart. Again, this was novel in the eighties but even when Moore was wowing teens creators like Art Speigelman (Maus) and Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez (Love and Rockets series and various individual masterworks) were producing work with truly adult themes in a more mature vein wherein the the hero/villain dichotomy was beside the point, as it should be.
“What the Watchmen does is imagine “super-heroes” in a more realistic light. If anyone today dressed up in a colorful costume and “fought crime” they would most likely be a highly disturbed individuals with serious psychological problems. "
One of the reasons this genre is so ridiculous is because unlike every other non-supernatural trope in fiction, including Sci-Fi, the plots in superhero comics are based on nothing. The reason no one has ever dressed up in a costume and “fought crime” is because even crazy people know that such as thing is stupid. This is part of the reason why I think it’s an utter waste of time, and in Moore’s case talent, to bother with deconstructing such a fantasy.
Oh, another “critic” I recommend, if you can find his stuff online somewhere, is the writer Harvey Pekar. He wrote some cutting articles for the Comics Journal back in the day where he raked both Spiegelman and the Hernandez Bros over the coals for what he saw as limitations in their work. I tend to agree with some of his ideas, especially with Maus. One of my favorite Pekar pieces begins with him quoting Charles Schultz saying something about how no matter how talented a cartoonist may be the medium is inherently limited and will never rival great literature in artistic achievement. Pekar basically says “speak for yourself.” He lambasts Schultz for limiting himself by only dealing with overly articulate child-cyphers and avoiding growth or adult ideas and insights. Comics fans tend to praise Peanuts as the pinnacle of the comic strip but Pekar reminds us that the medium and most of it’s fans need to grow up a bit before they can properly canonize anything. Pekar’s comics work is also excellent, except when he’s taking on David Letterman.
“…even crazy people know that such as thing is stupid.”
Takes off cape, mask, slowly backs out of the room.
I just realized I didn’t answer your main question from above. The detective agency thing is basically lesser Campbell, The art is still gorgeous but it’s nothing to get excited about. What was the title of the autobiographical one? Most of his early work was autobiographical.
I think the title was The Fate of an Artist. Bummer about the detective agency not being that great.
“Whether it’s superheroes or cops the danger is that they may decide their righteous mission gives them the right to use any means necessary to “protect” the people. "
See, I didn’t think the novel critiqued the above specifically. If anything, I think it gets to the underlying motivations of comic-book readers and a more realistic psychological depiction of people who become “super-heroes.”
Moreover, I think the novel asserts that violence/blood shed is often a requirement for human beings to maintain a sense of well-being or “happiness.” It also suggests that this is partly what governments do. (This sort of thinking is not unlinke Doestoevksy’s Grand Inquistor.)
“The reason no one has ever dressed up in a costume and “fought crime” is because even crazy people know that such as thing is stupid. This is part of the reason why I think it’s an utter waste of time, and in Moore’s case talent, to bother with deconstructing such a fantasy.”
Here’s why I don’ t think subverting the genre is a waste of time: the fantasy appeals to many people (generally males). The book exposes the darker elements of this fantasy, maybe helping people to see the notion of super-heroes in a different light.
I grew up reading comics, so I appreciated that—although, at first, it was a bit weird reading the novel. It looked like a comic book, but there was definitely something very different about it.
I like alot of graphic novels and I really love Ghost World (which I think is better than the comic) and American Splendor. Besides The Dark Knight the rest of the comic book movies I could care less for.
Here’s My Top 5 Comics of All Time
1. Acme Novelty No. 1 (Chris Ware)
2. Blankets (Craig Thompson)
3. The Preacher Series (Garth Ennis)
4. Summer Blonde (Adrian Tomine)
5. Black Hole (Charles Burns)
Does anyone have any pointers to articles that offer adverse criticism of Spiegelman’s In the Shadow of No Towers? Of the kind, “how dare some comics artist tackle 9/11 with mere drawings”, and other such nonsense?
I just read Daytripper by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon and it’s really good.
Generally no, we like graphic novels as much as we like it up the ass, which is on occasion.
I have only gotten into graphic novels so I’m not much of an expert on the subject, but I quite like Gaiman and I adore Spiegelman’s Maus.
Any other recommendations? (:
I haven’t read graphic novels in a couple years really. Stuff I remember loving includes Watchmen, Blankets, V For Vendetta and The Long Halloween.
Also, I adore Bone and have just started rereading it.
The last graphic novel I read was X’Ed Out, by Charles Burns. Superb!
But, I would recommend reading Black Hole (also from Burns) first. One of the greatest graphic novels ever.
I don’t know if this has been said here before, but this was on Wikipedia:
“In November 2005, the message board of the Comics Journal reported that Black Hole will be adapted to film by the French director Alexandre Aja (Haute Tension). In March 2006, comics news site Newsarama reported that Neil Gaiman and Pulp Fiction co-writer Roger Avary would be adapting the screenplay, and in May 2006 Gaiman confirmed this in a Time magazine interview.
In February 2008, Variety reported that the film will be produced by Paramount Pictures and directed by Academy Award-nominee David Fincher (Se7en, Fight Club, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).
Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary officially left the production of the film, with reports that their script will not be used. It is unknown who will be taking over the writing process.
In August 2010, David Fincher also removed his name from production of the film in order to focus more attention on directing The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.
Director Rupert Sanders released an abbreviated live-action adaptation of Charles Burns’s STD-as-metaphor comic book series Black Hole on Sanders’ website. It features actors Chris Marquette, Whitney Able, Diane Gaeta, Noel Fisher, and Nate Mooney. but has been removed from //youtube.com/ due to explicit violence and nudity."
I don’t really read graphic novels, but I read a lot of heavily serialized web comic strips. Most of the ones I read started out as strictly comedies then sort of mutated into serial scifi with comedy elements.
Freakangels is pure graphic novel, except that it updates on a comic strip schedule.
I have just finished “Daytripper” by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba and it is probably one of the best graphic novel’s I’ve ever read. I cannot possibly see a feature film adaptation, the story is bound to the episodic nature of comic books. I can see a possible TV mini-series adaptation though.
I’m interested in getting some recommendations. I’m looking for either a good superhero type of GN or detective type story (i.e. something mostly fun, instead of serious drama). Anyone?
Anybody read the one about Bertrand Russell? I have that one at home, but I want something lighter. Oh, I think the last one I read was about an architect (he had a Greek name). It was pretty good.
Oh, I think the last one I read was about an architect (he had a Greek name). It was pretty good.
Asterios Polyp? I’ve been meaning to read that at some point.
Been reading lots of Hernandez brothers recently. What a wacky involving world. Jazz you might want to try Stray Bullets. Also have read Charles Burns, Hicksville, The Crumb version of Genesis is great. Joe Sacco amazing historical stories about the events I didn’t know much about in much detail ( Palestine, Serbia, Jereselum) but also about nature of objectivity and is there any in reporting and historical narrative. Perespolis also good. Got a bit teary near the end of that one. Fantagraphics has some great titles alright. Anyone tried any of the earlier banned comics or kind of wierder collections they put out?
Hmm, I just realized I never properly responded to Jazz naming Campbell’s *The Fate of the Artist as the one his library had. That is an excellent work that I highly recommend along with the Hernandez bros, Sacco and a few others.
Can’t help you out with the search for anything lighter. Perhaps a balloon?:)
Asterios Polyp. Yeah, that’s the one.
The Fate of the Artist is good (but serious and heavy), huh?
Thanks, Junder. I’ll look for those titles.
Do you know what time period the Sacco books cover? (I almost finished with a book about the Middle East that covers WWI.)
Well, no, I wouldn’t put it that way. Campbell’s work, like the Hernandez bros in a way, isn’t heavy or serious in the sense that Alan Moore’s From Hell (which Campbell drew but didn’t really write, though he helped with historical research)or some other stuff is. His tone as well as his drawing style is light and loose (in some of his works you may think you’re just looking at scribbling but there is a real sense of anatomy and weight even then), but his subject is usually of an adult nature, in the best sense. There is a lot of humor in his work but it’s humor of the kind that used to be conjured by the word “comedy” a long time ago, not the slapstick variation that has come to unfortunately be defined as comedy.
Also, even though I can’t support this need to find light graphic novels I must warn you I think Junderhump was only actually recommending Stray Bullets for your search. The other stuff he mentioned isn’t really “fun” in the way I think you mean.
Have you read anything by Ed Brubaker, Jazz? He’s written Captain America and Uncanny X-Men, but he also has written some non-superhero stuff that’s pulp crime style and some things that are more espionage-based.
Thanks for the feedback, Mike.
The local library does not carry Stray Bullets, unfortnately. They did have two Burns’ titles (Black Hole and Xed) and I requested the former. I also requested Daytripper. I might pick up Fate of the Artist, and I’ll let you know what I think.
Btw, I’ve read From Hell. I can barely remember it now. I don’t think it worked so much for me. I’ve also read some other books by Moore.
I suspect you’ll like Asterios Polyp.
No, I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Brubaker. Can you recommend some titles? (When did he write for X-Men and CA?)
Btw, last fall, I read the first book in a series about a unmarked gun. A guy brings a suitcase (?) with an untraceable gun (or something like that) and some bullets to some person who now has the choice of using the gun or not. It wasn’t that great, but I needed some reading for an airplane ride.
He’s written _Captain America _ from January 2005-present.
He wrote Uncanny X-Men #475-503 (September 2006-July 2008)
Criminal is good:
Incognito, Sleeper, and Scene of the Crime or also good.
Reply to Jazz about Sacco:
His epic ‘Palestine’ covers a period in the 90’s when he was there I think but also uses a lot of stories from previously. Very vivid, great panels and storytelling. Footnotes in Gaza is a more recent work when he went back to interview subjects about two specific incidents from shortly after the Israeli occupation in 1948. Both books cover a lot of ground and although they are unapologetically from a Palestinian point of view, he does try where possible to present and Israeli voice. These books sound like they could be pretty dour but in fact they are very lively, often humorous and horrifying of course, as well as expert judges of human nature in general.
Of the titles you listed, my local library only has Incognito (and it’s missing from the shelf!). There is something called, Deadboy Detectives. Know that one? The library also has the Death of Captain America, which I haven’t read (as well as Daredevil, Catwoman and some Batman titles.)
Thanks for the feedback. The books sound interesting. I’ll consider checking them out.
I almost blind-bought Alec at the local Borders (going out of business sale). It’s not cheap thought, so I held back. If it see it when the sale goes up, I might consider picking it up.
No, Brubaker in the bunch. :(
Just finished reading, daytripper. Enjoyable—even good. Thanks, Ray!
I have Black Hole at home. (Hopefully, I’ll get to it soon.)