Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Do You Read Comics? Why or Why Not? And a Comics History Course!

Today is New Comics Wednesday, so after I picked my daughter up from Summer Camp, we'll be heading over to my local shop once again to pick up my pull-list, chat with the folks we see there every week, and talk about current comic stories, TV shows, and movies. My daughter will also get to go through the kids comics and find all of the "new" comics that came out today based on signs all over the store.

I've written before about my on-again, off-again relationship with comics. But today, I really want to hear your stories. I'm curious about those of you out there who do read comics, but I'm also really interested in those of you who don't read comics. Here are a few questions to get your started. I'll post my own answers to these questions later.

  1. Have you ever read a comic book?
    1. If not, why not?
  2. Roughly how old were you when you read your first comic (if you've ever read one)?
  3. Do you currently read comics? 
    1. If not, why not? 
  4. If you're into (or were into) comics, list three of your favorite stories/arcs/etc. to share with my followers, and why you like them.
  5. What other things do you read (e.g., fiction, non-fiction, specific types of genres, etc.)?
  6. Do you like the Marvel Cinematic Universe? 
    1. If so, does it make you interested in wanting to read more stories about the characters?
  7. Do you like the DC Cinematic Universe? 
    1. Similarly to the above - would you be interested in reading more? 
  8. For you role-players out there, have you ever used a story, character, or other concept from a comic book in one of your games? 

On a related note, I recently participated in an online course developed by Stan Lee and Michael Uslan (producer of every Batman movie including the Burton, Schumacher, and Nolan versions, as well as the first person to ever teach a course of comics back in the 1970s) in conjunction with the Smithsonian Institution. The course was part of "EdX" which is an online learning platform developed by MIT and Harvard that features free courses.

Yes, this course was free! It was called "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture." It was "taught" through a series of videos, text, and images that covered all of the main periods of comics culture, from the Golden Age, the Silver Age, and up through the Modern Age. In each section, Michael Uslan (who is the main instructor) talks about what was happening in the world at that time (e.g., World War Two, the Civil Rights Movement, Viet Nam, etc.) and helps to put the events happening in the comics into context of how they reflected what was happening in society. He also interviews Stan Lee in each section in a series of videos where Stan provides his memories and recollections, which is very cool because he's one of the only people still around who was there all the way back near the beginning of the Golden Age and who is still active and involved in the community today.

As this is a free course, it's graded on a pass-fail basis only. You pass the course be completing some "homework" each week. The homework was based around designing a new superhero, ideally using your own culture's mythology as inspiration. I chose to look to my Scottish and Irish heritage and then designed a female superhero, her alter ego (civilian identity), her origin, and of course her main nemesis - a supervillain. The course lays all of this out so you do it little by little, and at each stage, you provide your reason for the choices that you made. There are also sections for providing illustrations of your character, but they understand that not every is an artist, so there are forums and social media sites for the course where you can partner with an artist to collaborate on your hero. They also give links to online sites such as HeroMachine where you can design your hero yourself with an online template (which is what I did).

I'll talk more about this in coming weeks, but even without the hero-designing aspect of the course, I found it very interesting and informative to learn about the various ages of the comics and how the creators of those time periods were trying to reflect what they saw happening in the world around them. If you're at all interested in comics, or history, or better yet, comics history, I encourage you to check out the course. You can learn more here. They are going to offer the course again based on the feedback they received from the inaugural course that wrapped up at the end of June.

Don't forget to drop your comments below to answer my questions about your experience with comics!

Hanging: home office (laptop)
Drinking: tap water
Listening: "How's Your Life - Alix Alvarez Mix" by Tortured Soul (link is for Spotify)

9 comments:

  1. 1. Yes.
    2. I don't remember, it was so long ago. The first comic I remember was a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man #226.
    3. Yes.
    4a. Walt Simonson's Thor is maybe the best thing Marvel has ever done. It does go a bit wobbly towards the end but on the whole it's a grand piece of work that feels like it's of the same sort of scale as the Norse myths that inspired it.
    4b. Amazing Spider-Man #491. I don't think the events of this issue happened in the new continuity created by the stupid "Brand New Day" story, but it's a wonderful single issue in which Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson-Parker get back together after a brief separation, while terrorists try to assassinate Doctor Doom, and Captain America pops in for a cameo. J. Michael Straczynski wasn't always the best Spider-Man writer but when he was on form, he wrote some of the best stories for the character.
    4c. The Ballad of Halo Jones is one of Alan Moore's earlier works, the biography of a young woman packing in her mundane life to have adventures in space. Incomplete as a result of -- what else? -- Moore falling out with the publisher, I think it's his best work and if I had one comics wish, it would be for him to return and finish the story.
    5. I read all sorts of stuff, although I haven't read a novel in a while.
    6. Yes, on the whole I'm pleased with Marvel's film output.
    6b. No, I'm not interested in reading the comics. As an Avengers fan of long standing, and a big fan of the new Avengers films, it feels strange that I'm not reading the comics. I have my suspicions about why I'm not reading but I need to give it more thought.
    7. Not much, no. I think the last DC film I enjoyed was Batman Returns. I have hopes that Preacher will be good, but that's not the DCCU.
    7b. I've never been much of a fan of DC's comics and even if I did the way they've been treating their writers and artists over the past few years doesn't make me want to support the company.
    8. I'm sure I must have, but I can't think of an example.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Kelvin.

      I'm glad you shared your "top 3" - lots of good ideas. Regarding Walt Simonson's run on _Thor._ I've got collections of Stan Lee's and Kirby's early stuff, as well as more recent one by JMS, but I need to catch up on the classic Simonson run. And I've sadly never heard of _Halo Jones_ but I will be looking it up now.

      I can't wait to hear your thoughts on why you think you're not reading any current _Avengers_ stuff.

      Did you not like _Batman Begins_? I think it's kind of the over-looked part of Nolan's trilogy but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. But I do agree that I haven't really liked pretty much any other recent DC movies - _Green Lantern_ and _Man of Steel_ were just not for me. And didn't really like the third Nolan Batman film either.

      Thanks again!

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    2. I didn't dislike Batman Begins but I wasn't impressed either; I have never understood the acclaim that Nolan's Batman films have gathered.

      My thoughts on the Avengers comics are scattered and incoherent but I'll try to hammer them into shape and present them one day. In general, it started with a strong reaction against Brian Bendis' writing style then developed into a disenchantment with the publishing culture at Marvel and the sense that I can't just pick one Avengers comic and follow it without it either being tied into three or four other Avengers titles, or being part of a crossover, or both.

      I know I'm denying myself some good work -- I've heard excellent things about Jonathan Hickman's run -- but I have no stomach for it any more.

      Delete
  2. 1.Have you ever read a comic book?

    "Has the Pope read the Bible?"

    1a. If not, why not?

    "I said I have!"

    2. Roughly how old were you when you read your first comic (if you've ever read one)?

    "Six I think. My Dad's younger, female cousin collected comics. My Uncle worked for a Magazine distributor that carried Time Magazine, Mad Magazine, and DC Comics. There was a copy of a Teen Titan's comic in my Dentist's office. I grew up around comics."

    3. Do you currently read comics?

    "Sort of. I no longer buy individual comics on a regular basis. I read them online, the trades in bookstores, and libraries, or friends' copies. Largely, there is simply nothing I am liking enough to spend my money on."

    3a. If not, why not?

    "DC, my preferred company for many, many years, is producing absolute dreck. Marvel was doing well, I was liking, and following a few titles, then they went into their latest crossover event, and I lost interest. I could not follow the numerous titles, confusing plot, and, as it was a reboot of sorts, had no desire to read Marvel's version of DC's mistakes. I am stopping for a while until the Big Two can get their heads out of their butts."

    4. If you're into (or were into) comics, list three of your favorite stories/arcs/etc. to share with my followers, and why you like them.

    "Hmmm. I loved The Great Darkness Saga, from the Legion of Superheroes. Written by Paul Levitz, and illustrated by Keith Giffen, it was big, epic, expansive, and featured practically every character that ever featured in the Legion mythology. It was a great example of why the LSH is my favorite Superhero team. Numerous characters, deep mythology, a universe within a single title, and incredible art. Loved it.

    The Korvac Saga, from the Avengers, by Jim Shooter, George Perez, and others. I like my stories on a grand scale, with cosmic powers, and worlds in the balance. The Korvac Saga, with it's time and space travels, Elders of the Universe, and complex motivations was just mind blowing to me as a kid.

    Finally, the New Teen Titans - Judas Contract, by Marv Wolfman, and again George Perez. Wow. What can I say about this one. So personal to the characters, so small compared to the stuff I normally like, but so well done. Truly bad, bad guys without having to make them vulgar like nowadays. Great stuff."

    5. What other things do you read (e.g., fiction, non-fiction, specific types of genres, etc.)?

    "Science Fiction, Fantasy Fiction (although much less so), Science Books, and Articles, History Books, and Articles, Books on culture, mythology, folklore, and many more. I read a lot."

    6. Do you like the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

    "Yes. Love it. They get it. They understand that it's fantastic, and it's fun. Superheroes are the modern mythology. Take them seriously, but let them be funny. Acknowledge that they don't have to make complete sense."

    6a. If so, does it make you interested in wanting to read more stories about the characters?

    "The opposite is true. I want to see the movies because they are live-action films about comic book characters that I like."

    7. Do you like the DC Cinematic Universe?

    "No. Not at all. DC has completely lost what made them special. Terrible, depressing, dark without enough substance, and just no fun."

    7a. Similarly to the above - would you be interested in reading more?

    "Again, I used to love DC. I loved the original Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. I don't care enough about the current versions of the characters to watch movies about them, and I don't like the movie versions enough to make me want to follow their comics."

    8. For you role-players out there, have you ever used a story, character, or other concept from a comic book in one of your games?

    "Only always."

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    Replies
    1. Great stuff - thanks for sharing!

      I never really got into the _Legion of Superheroes_ but I'm definitely going to check out that arc you mention above.

      For DC, just curious what you aren't liking about their more recent stuff? Is it mainly just that you didn't like the shift over to the "New 52" (which they've actually recently just done away with, in favor of something they call "DC You" - basically they are given their creative teams the ability to tell whatever stories they want that aren't tied to a bigger continuity. So, there are current _Justice League_ and a _Justice League of America_ titles with the same team line-up but different creative teams and the stories have nothing to do with each other).

      Part of my interest in continuing to read monthly print versions of comics is the experience of going to the shop with my daughter each week - she likes going with me, the people who work there and the regular customers all know us and always treat her well, and that's something I would miss. For example, for her birthday a couple weeks ago, it fell on a Wednesday and when she told the guy running the store that it was her birthday, he let her pick three free comics. I had no idea he was going to do that, but it was so cool.

      I share your thoughts on the DC Cinematic Universe, which is just so sad because I much prefer DC's characters to Marvel's.

      Care to share a few ideas from comic plots that you've used in your RPGs?

      Cheers!

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  3. 1. Yes.
    2. Age 4.
    3. No. I find they way over-priced and boring.
    4. I like monster comics much more than super-hero comics. I don't know why. It's something visceral. Four (sorry it's not three) favorites would probably be Marvel's Man-Thing, Godzilla, Shogun Warriors, and Devil Dinosaur comics from the 1970s.
    5. primary texts, history, science, and pre-1950 weird fiction
    6. Some of the movies are fun, but I have no interest in reading comics based on them.
    7. The Dark Knight (2008) is my favorite comic book film. I have no interest in reading comic book based on DC movies.
    8. Yes, some stuff from Man-Thing and Devil Dinosaur made it into my Carcosa campaign.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much!

      The prices of comics have definitely risen quite a bit. Image is trying to combat this by pricing the first trade collections of a series (roughly the first 6 issues) at only $9.99 which is a pretty good deal - about $1 more than 3 regular issues would cost. It's a good way to jump into a new series. If you like "monster" stuff and less superhero things, they might have something up your alley.

      Great suggestions on favorite titles/arcs - I haven't really read much of those and I do like reading older stuff, especially from that time period in the 1970s so I'll be looking the up to see if they're available digitally.

      Very cool that you incorporated Man-Thing and Devil Dinosaur into your campaign - pretty much every time I post comic-related content on my blog I always try to mention how a lot of the characters, ideas, stories, etc. can be used in an RPG, even if you're playing a standard fantasy RPG and not a superhero game. But sometimes I feel that theme gets lost because people see the header of "comic books" and they skip those posts because they think there's nothing interesting in there for them.

      Thanks again!

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  4. Have you ever read a comic book? YES

    Roughly how old were you when you read your first comic (if you've ever read one)? IN FRANCE WHEN I WAS A KID - PROBABLY ASTERIX OR TINTIN

    Do you currently read comics? YES BUT MOSTLY FRENCH/EUROPEAN ONES.



    If you're into (or were into) comics, list three of your favorite stories/arcs/etc. to share with my followers, and why you like them.
    CURRENTLY I AM READING THE BLUEBERRY SERIES ABOUT A COWBOY IN THE AMERICAN WEST. IT IS KIND OF SPAGHETTI WESTERN AND JOHN FORD INSPIRED. OTHER SERIES WORTH LOOKING INTO ARE CORTO MALTESE - A MORE PHILOSOPHICAL ADVENTURES OF A ROMANTIC MALTESE SAILOR. AND ASTERIX IS ACTUALLY PRETTY HILARIOUS. IF YOU WAN TO READ SOMETHING INTERESTING IN ENGLISH TRY: THE PARKER SERIES IS PRETTY AWESOME AS WELL AS GUERILLAS ABOUT GORILLAS IN VIETNAM

    What other things do you read (e.g., fiction, non-fiction, specific types of genres, etc.)?
    I READ A LOT OF MILITARY HISTORY

    Do you like the Marvel Cinematic Universe? NOT AT ALL. EACH TIME I TRY I AM BORED TO DEATH - IT'S ALL EXPLOSIONS AND ACTIONS WITH LITTLE STORY
    Do you like the DC Cinematic Universe? NOT AT ALL. EACH TIME I TRY I AM BORED TO DEATH - IT'S ALL EXPLOSIONS AND ACTIONS WITH LITTLE STORY
    For you role-players out there, have you ever used a story, character, or other concept from a comic book in one of your games? NO BUT IT COULD BE INTERESTING.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Apologies for the delay in acknowledging your comment, but thank you so much for commenting!

      Time for me to fess-up - I've heard a lot about Asterix, but I've never actually read it. I think I'll need to remedy that soon. Any suggestions on what I should pick up first to jump in? I know that there's a long history so there's probably a lot of material available.

      And I'm very intrigued by the Blueberry series you mention, as I love that genre. Is it only available in French?

      Actually all of your suggestions sound great - Gorillas in Vietnam? That sounds very interesting!

      Thanks again for your comments.

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