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M. Leary

Graphic Novels 101

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I love the comic book/graphic novel/sequential art medium, but I must confess other than a few works here and there (like the aforementioned FROM HELL), I've never been that impressed. Even some of the works folks rave about, like BLANKETS or PERSEPOLIS, strike me as merely "nice" rather than astonishingly brilliant. As a result, I've more or less given up on the medium, despite being extremely passionate about it at one point in time.

I have to say that it didn't help that I grew tired of superheroes. While they have certainly had their fine outings (SUPERMAN: FOR ALL SEASONS stands a beautiful example of how great a superhero story can be), they are often given to sloppy, immature, and genuinely dull storytelling.

One that hasn't been mentioned thus far is David Mazzucchelli's 'Asterios Polyp' - a beautifully executed tale of the dissolution of a narcissistic architect's marriage, and the man's efforts to start anew.

Sounds fascinating. I'll have to take a look. It will be the first graphic novel I've purchased in quite some time.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I have often had the same experience, Ryan, but Warren Ellis (not the one with the violin) keeps pulling me back in.

Edited by M. Leary

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I have often had the same experience, Ryan, but Warren Ellis (not the one that is one of my favorite live musicians) keeps pulling me back in.

What are your favorite Ellis works? I've only read his HELLBLAZER stuff, and all that inspired in me was apathy.

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I have read some of the Planetary and Ignition City volumes, Dark Blue, Ocean, some of the Transmetropolitan. I just finished Orbiter, and really enjoyed it.

But he really appeals to my longstanding Bradbury/Heinlein/Dick/Gibson/Harrison/Noon/etc... fandom. But I am a graphic novel neophyte, so I wouldn't be the best index. I am thrilled that this thread has offered so many directions to turn though. Thanks all.

Edited by M. Leary

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Global Frequency and Fell are Ellis books also well worth checking out. Both of them were experiments with more self-contained storytelling within a comic single, and so they aren't much as "graphic novels", but they both work really well as collections of short stories. I also get a strong Bradbury vibe from Ellis. He's angrier than Bradbury was of course, but he has a lot of the same sense of wonder at the amazing things in this world (especially apparent in Planetary and Orbiter).

Edited by Cunningham

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I have read some of the Planetary and Ignition City volumes, Dark Blue, Ocean, some of the Transmetropolitan. I just finished Orbiter, and really enjoyed it.

I've heard good things about OCEAN. If I was picking up only one of the Ellis works you mention, which one would you suggest I go for?

But he really appeals to my longstanding Bradbury/Heinlein/Dick/Gibson/Harrison/Noon/etc... fandom.

I love Bradbury and Dick. I'm a big sci-fi guy. Not familiar with Heinlein, Gibson, Harrison, or Noon, though I recognize their names.

Edited by Ryan H.

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He's angrier than Bradbury was of course, but he has a lot of the same sense of wonder at the amazing things in this world (especially apparent in Planetary and Orbiter).

I can't quote this exactly, but Gaiman says in the intro to The Last Temptation that he wanted to create a little "light reading for a trip to what Ray Bradbury called the October Country."

You had me at hello.

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On an impulse buy, I picked up the first volume of the SANDMAN spin-off, LUCIFER. Given that Gaiman's Lucifer, who abandons his duties as Prince of Hell and goes into retirement, was one of his most fascinating characters, how he would fair with solo treatment, particularly when handled by another writer (Miker Carey). But so far, LUCIFER is stellar, and reviews indicate that it only gets more interesting from here.

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I've been reading Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World in preparation for the movie coming out this summer, and it is awesome. i just finished volume 5 today and it ends on such an emotional cliffhanger. And I just found out that volume 6 isn't due out for another few months! Curses! I've been hearing about this forever, so when I started reading it I had assumed that it was all published.

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OMG OMG Jen Wang has a graphic novel coming out in September, Koko Be Good. The way she draws her characters, loose and elongated as they are, is utterly beguiling, reminiscent of what I love about Trina Schart Hyman's work, but taken farther. I don't know how she'll fare at long-form writing, but her shorts can be quite elegant. Plus, she likes Terence Malick and Wim Wenders, so I'm sure she'll get a good reception on this board.

Also, Karl Kerschl's meandering but often brilliant lives-of-the-animals story The Abominable Charles Christopher is getting its first proper print release. Kerschl's done some excellent, bright pencils for DC on series like Teen Titans: Year One, and the Wednesday Comics' Flash strips, but Charles Christopher is him at his best.

On an impulse buy, I picked up the first volume of the SANDMAN spin-off, LUCIFER. Given that Gaiman's Lucifer, who abandons his duties as Prince of Hell and goes into retirement, was one of his most fascinating characters, how he would fair with solo treatment, particularly when handled by another writer (Miker Carey). But so far, LUCIFER is stellar, and reviews indicate that it only gets more interesting from here.

I actually haven't read Lucifer, but Mike Carey's a great writer, both on genre superhero books and his personal projects. I never quite got into Unwritten, which is his current series, but I recognize that as my failing, because it's good.

Edited by N.K. Carter

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I actually haven't read Lucifer, but Mike Carey's a great writer, both on genre superhero books and his personal projects. I never quite got into Unwritten, which is his current series, but I recognize that as my failing, because it's good.

LUCIFER is definitely worth a look. I just finished the series. I liked it better than SANDMAN.

Anyway, I just read through the first installment of Darwyn Cooke's graphic novel adaptations of Richard Stark's Parker novels, THE HUNTER. Really dug it. But I've always loved Cooke's art style.

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This struck me as something that *everyone* with the slightest interest in the comic medium would highly enjoy. Calvin and Hobbes become Lex Luthor and the Joker.

That's very, very cool. Love it!

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Just read two notables:

HABIBI by Craig Thompson. This is Thompson's most sprawling work. I walked away rather frustrated by it. It is, indeed, immense; there's a lot to digest here--the same spiritual inquiry Thompson demonstrated in BLANKETS carries through here, with constant references to narratives from the Bible and Koran--but unlike in BLANKETS, where its focus on adolescence made sexual awakening a natural part of the narrative, the core romance narrative serves as a poor vessel for all of Thompson's thematic concerns.

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY 1969 by Alan Moore. The LEAGUE series is Moore at his laziest, and I'm inclined to say that CENTURY 1969 is the laziest chapter of this ongoing series. Nothing much to see here, folks.

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THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN: CENTURY 1969 by Alan Moore. The LEAGUE series is Moore at his laziest, and I'm inclined to say that CENTURY 1969 is the laziest chapter of this ongoing series. Nothing much to see here, folks.

Yeah, while I genuinely enjoyed the first volume and sort of liked the second, I just tuned out during Black Dossier. I doubt I'll read any more in the series.

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Just read two notables:

HABIBI by Craig Thompson. This is Thompson's most sprawling work. I walked away rather frustrated by it. It is, indeed, immense; there's a lot to digest here--the same spiritual inquiry Thompson demonstrated in BLANKETS carries through here, with constant references to narratives from the Bible and Koran--but unlike in BLANKETS, where its focus on adolescence made sexual awakening a natural part of the narrative, the core romance narrative serves as a poor vessel for all of Thompson's thematic concerns.

Sigh...I had high hopes for this, as Blankets is an all-time favorite, and I've even returned to his lesser Carnet de Voyage numerous times. The review of his latest in the NYT Book Review (a pretty sympathetic venue for graphic novels) was quite unflattering.

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Yeah, while I genuinely enjoyed the first volume and sort of liked the second, I just tuned out during Black Dossier. I doubt I'll read any more in the series.

I really liked the first installment in CENTURY; the riffs of Brecht's THREEPENNY OPERA were amusing. But this second chapter is a total drag, and doesn't make me think that the story is going anywhere all that interesting (that said, the suggestion that, in the final installment, Harry Potter will be the antichrist, is enough to pique my interest).

Sigh...I had high hopes for this, as Blankets is an all-time favorite, and I've even returned to his lesser Carnet de Voyage numerous times. The review of his latest in the NYT Book Review (a pretty sympathetic venue for graphic novels) was quite unflattering.

I don't want to slight it too badly. It's not bad. I just don't think that it entirely comes together. If you are a big fan of Thompson, I do encourage you to give it a look; you may find more to admire in HABIBI than I did. (I like BLANKETS alright, but I don't love it.)

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Yeah, while I genuinely enjoyed the first volume and sort of liked the second, I just tuned out during Black Dossier. I doubt I'll read any more in the series.

I really liked the first installment in CENTURY; the riffs of Brecht's THREEPENNY OPERA were amusing. But this second chapter is a total drag, and doesn't make me think that the story is going anywhere all that interesting (that said, the suggestion that, in the final installment, Harry Potter will be the antichrist, is enough to pique my interest).

I actually have the most recent CENTURY sitting on my shelf. Haven't gotten around to it yet (something to do with babies and PhD comps).

That said, I think BLACK DOSSIER is pretty amazing actually. It took me two reads, and granted there's some infuriating stuff about it, but it's also key to understanding really what he's trying to do with the LEAGUE.

To say that the League books are "lazy," isn't in my mind quite right. They're haphazardly plotted at times, and the characters rarely transcend their limitations but it's the world building that intrigues me the most about them. And it would take anything but a lazy mind to produce this level of tapestry. Seriously, re-reading the books this past year made me appreciate them all the more, not less, if for nothing less than to appreciate the breadth of Moore's mind. Seriously, at one point he weaves references to THE BIG LEBOWSKI and THE FEMALE AMERICAN, OR THE ADVENTURES OF ELIZA UNCAS WINKFIELD in a single paragraph. Finds a way for Chthulu and Jehovah to inhabit a collective world. It may not be for everyone, but I love it.

Moore manages to avoid simple postmodern pastiche, because he is so grounded in the historical knowledge of his characters. If, as per Jameson, postmodernism is grounded in a kind of ahistoricity, a forgetting, then Moore avoids it by having his characters truly experience their world. To see the complete opposite, see the film "based on" this series.

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To say that the League books are "lazy," isn't in my mind quite right.

"Lazy" is perhaps poor word choice on my part. But certain aspects of the series are frustratingly sloppy. Moore has demonstrated incredible skill at weaving together disparate strands into coherent narrative structures, something that reached its apex in his monumental FROM HELL. Moore crams LEAGUE full of references, but it's so messy, so seemingly indifferent to story, that I'm beginning to lose my patience with it. The whimsical appeal of the increasingly impressive mash-ups in LEAGUE has run dry for me; I want it all to go somewhere, and I'm increasingly suspect that this series is heading toward a worthy destination.

So, as far as these kinds of mega-mash-up projects go, give me SANDMAN or LUCIFER over LEAGUE any day.

Edited by Ryan H.

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Yeah, while I genuinely enjoyed the first volume and sort of liked the second, I just tuned out during Black Dossier. I doubt I'll read any more in the series.

I really liked the first installment in CENTURY; the riffs of Brecht's THREEPENNY OPERA were amusing. But this second chapter is a total drag, and doesn't make me think that the story is going anywhere all that interesting (that said, the suggestion that, in the final installment, Harry Potter will be the antichrist, is enough to pique my interest).

Sigh...I had high hopes for this, as Blankets is an all-time favorite, and I've even returned to his lesser Carnet de Voyage numerous times. The review of his latest in the NYT Book Review (a pretty sympathetic venue for graphic novels) was quite unflattering.

I don't want to slight it too badly. It's not bad. I just don't think that it entirely comes together. If you are a big fan of Thompson, I do encourage you to give it a look; you may find more to admire in HABIBI than I did. (I like BLANKETS alright, but I don't love it.)

Yeah, I'll still check it out, but it's moved from 'must own' to 'plan to borrow from the library.'

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(Since it doesn't have its own thread, I'm posting this here.)

A couple weeks ago, I read The Dark Knight Returns for the second first time. See, TDKR was one of the two graphic novels I owned when I lived with my mother (the other was The Infinity Gauntlet), and since I hadn't read it since I was 7, I'd been wanting to look at it again for a couple years. However, I did hesitate for a long time out of fear that there would be a trigger somewhere, as has been the case when I reevaluated other things in my life pre-removal. (For example, I've never been able to finish The Neverending Story, which we were watching when I was removed.)
 

I'm glad I got over myself, for while I can't see it as a flawless masterpiece, TDKR was very powerful. Granted, I haven't yet seen 2/3rds of the Nolan trilogy, so these tropes may be old hat now, but...wow. Now that I have a better grasp of what Superman represents, for instance, and can empathize with cynical resentment of his ideals in the context of Reagan-era America, the battle between him and the Bat is much more moving, and it makes the most politically horrifying piece of Watchmen an opening for a flawed, but beautiful heroism. As I read Bruce's thoughts as he wrestled with Superman, I thought of that line from the The Rebel that everyone cuts the most important part of when they quote: "What is a rebel? A man who says no, but whose refusal does not imply a renunciation."

Also, in the second two books particularly, Bruce looks like Brando in Last Tango in Paris.

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I've just read the latest entry in Gaiman's Sandman series, The Sandman Overture. It's lovely.

As uneven as that series can be, it's hard for me to think of a work of fantasy fiction to come after The Lord of the Rings that is as essential as Sandman.

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