Wednesday, January 10, 2018

New Comics Wednesday: Two Examples of Why I Read Comics

Today is Wednesday, and that means it's New Comic Book Day - the day all of this week's new comics hit the store shelves (both physically and digitally). Every comic I feature here on Daddy Rolled a 1 is one that I'll personally be picking up later this evening when I go to my local shop with my daughter after I pick her up from school.

Please note also that every Wednesday, I tweet out which issues I picked up that week, and then over the course of the week I send out individual tweets with 140-character reviews of each issue. You can follow me on Twitter 
here.

Lastly, if you're really interested in more comic reviews, I do "professional" reviews for the comic book site, 
ComicAttack where I post my reviews under the name "Martin." You can search my tag to see what I've reviewed lately.

As with all of my comic book overviews, I will attempt to explain what makes this comic interesting without giving away any spoilers. 

Today's post is a bit different - rather than talking about a comic I'll be picking up later tonight, I wanted to provide two examples of some recent comics to illustrate some of the things I love so much about comics. I know there are a lot of people out there who don't understand why an adult would want to invest time reading about "guys in tights who punch each other." I've met a ton of parents at my daughter's school who think this way and wouldn't stop to pick up a comic to check it out. 

However, as a counter to that thinking, I'll borrow an example from Joe Mulvey over at Multiversity Comics, who writes an occasional features called "What Do You Really Know About Comics?" I encourage you to read the entire series - each time he finds someone who has never read a comic, or expresses no interest, and he interviews them about what they like to watch on TV and movies, and what they like to read, and then he gives them a stack of comics that have similar themes, and after they have finished reading, he interviews them about their thoughts. One thing he always says in his interviews, when the first reaction of non-readers it that comic books are all about superheroes punching each other, is:

"If you put on a TV for the first time and saw Mickey Mouse, you wouldn’t just shut off the TV and say that it’s all cartoons so its meant just for kids, right?"

However, most people have this same reaction to comics. They were exposed to them as kids, maybe, in the form of superheroes, and they never bothered to shake that perception. Meanwhile, just like any other form of entertainment, there are dozens and dozens of different genres of comics - science fiction, fantasy, crime, horror, historical, novel adaptations, and more. 

On top of that, comics as an art form can tell a story differently than any other medium. Contrary to what some people believe, the art in the comic isn't a "crutch" - it's not there to replace what you can imagine. Rather, it's an integral part of the story-telling process in a graphic form that can relay information and emotion different than a prose book or even a movie. I hear a lot, "I guess I'd like comics but I just don't get the pictures. I'd like a regular story better." To me, that's kind of like saying, "I'd like musicals if it weren't for all the singing and dancing." You accept the singing and dancing as part of the formula for a musical and you recognize that it's a different type of medium than a straight-forward movie. The same is true for comics. And, I do understand that, to the novice comic reader, the unique combination of art and words on a page can be distracting or even confusing, but if you just settle in and give it a chance, I think you'll be quite surprised by the way the two work together to create a unique story-telling experience. 

Here are two examples of different things I'm reading in comics lately, to illustrate my two main points: the comics aren't all just about superheroes, and also that the images and words together are part of the overall story and that the words alone wouldn't necessarily create the same impact. 




Example 1
This is from a comic called "Lazarus," by author Greg Rucka, who is is a long-time comic writer and recently has been writing Wonder Woman for DC Comics, among others. Lazarus is a "creator-owned" title, meaning he owns the rights to the creators and concepts, and is published by an independent comics company called Image. It's been around since around 2012 or so, and has recently been licensed for a role-playing by the awesome folks at Green Ronin Publishing by +Chris Pramas. It's also been optioned for an Amazon series. 

The introduction to each issue reads roughly as follows:


"The world now lies divided not amongst political or geographical boundaries but amongst financial ones. Wealth is power, and that power rests with only a handful of families."

It's dystopian future that's is roughly 100 years in our future, and at the back of each issue, the writer will comment on real-world things like scientific discoveries, political unrest, or financial crises, that impacted that particular issue. Most recently, in issue #5 of Lazarus X+66, he discusses the issue of poverty (which is rampant in the world he has created for Lazarus), and he mentions the following:

"...Yes, hard work reaps its rewards, but that's predicated on the playing field being level for all, and a fidelity to a meritocracy that does not exist. The arrogance of those who argue that poverty is the result of not working hard enough seem to somehow ignore the fact that a man or woman working three jobs, all of them temporary because it's more cost-effective for the corporations in question to not have to pay for full-time employees, are not 'putting their backs into it.'
"Healthcare and poverty are intertwined, folks. Never mind the debilitating cost of medical care, the fact of financial insecurity leads to legitimate health problems. Instances of obesity in poor communities in the US aren't a result of sloth; they're the direct result of being unable to afford a healthy diet. When you're poor and your'e hungry, you'll seek the food that's most filling, not the most healthy. Pasta is cheap. It's also a crappy diet if it's all you can afford. Health food - fresh food, fresh veg, grains, lean proteins - are expensive. Poor diets lead to innumerable, and well-documented, complications, everything from heart disease to diabetes..." 

Probably not what you expected from a comic book, right? Yes, it's in the "back-matter" (in the back pages of the book, and not part of the actual story), but this kind of thinking informed the story that the writer wrote. And, whether you agree with his assessment or not isn't really the point. The point is that it makes you think and maybe question things a bit more, as all good forms of writing should do.

Example 2
The second example is going to illustrate a unique side-by-side panel layout to tell an emotional story of two characters who have known each other for a long, long time. Currently in the comics, they are depicted as usually being at-odds with when another and each other's methods when dealing with the world. However, they have a long history and can be counted on to help the other when push comes to shove.

One of the characters is married. The other just got engaged. Both of the characters' significant others are wondering why the two aren't talking to each other. Why isn't the one character telling the other that he's now engaged? Why does the other character, who knows already, not congratulating the first? A discussion happens wherein each of the two main characters tries to make an excuse - "He's too busy..." or "I'll get around to it..."

Then, this beautiful two-page sequence happens. It's easily one of my favorite pieces of comic writing and art in recent memory. I will point out that this is going to spoil a somewhat major thing that happened recently in DC Comics, but chances are if you've gotten this far, you've either already read it, or weren't planning on reading it.





That's a unique kind of story-telling device that can't be replicated in any other medium, and which still gets to me every time I read that sequence.

I hope I've helped explain a bit about why I read these things and why I am a big proponent of the medium. I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below, or on my Google + page, Facebook page, or Twitter (links are all to the right-hand side).




Hanging: Home office (on a brand new laptop!)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "The Very Thought of You" by J.J. Johnson

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