Saturday, June 11, 2005

This List of Favorite Non-Superhero Comics Goes to 11.

Why am I posting it? Because lists are easy. That, and Brian K. Vaughan's doing it, and I try to copy him in ways that don't involve shaving my head. Of course, he's offering to buy you comics if you pay attention to his list, and me, all I can offer is free Brian Cronin posts. I'm no match for Vaughan, leaving out the fact that I didn't create Runaways. My list is larger than his by one entry, though, so it is inherently better.

So, here are my favorite non-tights garbed comics. Sure, this list excludes a good deal of the comics I've read, including Swan, but I think my dabbles in expanding beyond my usual superhero comics fare have netted me a good list worth of material.

1. Locas: A Love & Rockets Book
by Jaime Hernandez: Over the course of 780 pages, this book collects the entirety of Hernandez's stories focusing on the lives and friendship of main characters Maggie and Hopie from Love and Rockets volume 1. The stories start out as rip roarin' adventure comics with sci-fi trappings, and had future stories stayed in that vein, they'd still rank among my favorite comics ever. Hernandez choose a more naturalistic approach as the series went on, however, and a lack of dinosaurs aside, the stories are the better for it, as the stories gain an emotional depth that surpasses anything I've ever read in comics. That's all the more impressive given the size of the cast, which while focusing on main characters Maggie and Hopie, expands and contracts over time.
Fellow blogger Chad once said he thinks this and Jaime's brother's Gilbert's work (which I have yet to read much of yet) should be taught in schools. I wholeheartedly agree.

2. From Hell: Some people only have one magnum opus. This is Alan Moore's second or third, give or take. Moore and Eddie Campbell provide an exhaustive and exhausting historical fiction that is far more than a story about a hypothetical Jack the Ripper. Being a Moore written comic, even the appendix alone is compelling reading.

3.Goodbye, Chunky Rice This is what I assume a lot of people refer to as "the Graphic Novel Craig Thompson did before Blankets." I like this one slightly better, probably because it's considerably shorter, and thus the emtoional impact is more concentrated. It also has a lot of whimsy to it, which helps pull it ahead of Thompson's massive second GN, even if you can't really hold a lack in that department against Blankets.

4. Maus Because it's Maus. Like I could leave off comics first great shining hope for artistic respectability.

5. Essential Howard the Duck. Sure, Spider-Man shows up, but I wouldn't call Howard a superhero comic. Gerber uses Howard as a point of view character to saterize everything from Master of Kung-Fu to the Presidential Elections, and while it's obviously dated, I think the humor and strength of Howard as a character overcome guest appearences by the Son of Satan and
Kiss to make this essential (har har) reading. Art by Gene Colan for a good chunk of the book doesn't hurt, either. Really, everyone should own this one just to see how Gerber and a group of artists avoided a reprint issue.

6. Creature Tech Imagine a sci-fi idea heavy graphic novel written a la Grant Morrison, but drawn by the creator of Earthworm Jim and more tongue in cheak, with a bit of a Christian symbolism at the end, and you have an idea of what Doug Tennapel's debut GN Creature Tech is like. But only slightly. Giant killer cats, kung-fu red neck preying mantises (manti?), and even a bit of a love story are thrown in a blender and energetically rendered by Tennapel. If you like Morrison or Mignola, then you should at least give this one a try. If you don't, I hate you. At least a little.

7. Blue Monday: the Kids Are Alright While I hate the fact that Chynna Clugston-Major uses that spelling of the word all right instead of the one that drilled in to my head in senior year newspaper, I love everything else about this comic. Sure, it's a teenage gross out story a la 1,000 movies from Porky's on but with female protagonists. But it has heart, it's frequently hilarious, it looks beautiful, in Clugston-Major's manga influenced but not manga aping style, and it makes me smile just thinking about it. Any comic that can do that in this day and age has my full support.

8. Switchblade Honey Warren Ellis's balls to the wall, punchy piss take on Star Trek is aided beautifully by Brandon McKinney's clean artwork. If you find Ellis's current monthly work to drag but like his writing, this should be a welcome alternative.

9. Scott Pilgrim Volume 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (Scott Pilgrim Volume 1) Let it be known, for posterity, before House of M breaks the internet in half, that a lot of bloggers loved this comic, the first in a series of graphic novels by Brian Lee O'Malley. Let it also be know that I was among them, because this is the kind of comic that mixes a real human story that makes me believe that comics can be just as valid a form of personal expression as any other medium with elemnts of the fantastic and absurd that you don't see in other mediums to create a giddy rush of pop culture thirlls, too. Also, it has a musical interlude and refrences Super Mario Bros. as a plot point. I defy you to beat that.

10. Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth Because Chris Ware's masterpiece rhymes with gimmie, and if you don't know why that's all I need to write here, then you obviously need to own this. (Unless you're a jerk like Justin Davis.)

11. Ghost World Doesn't rhyme with gimmie, but is one too. Significantly different from the movie, but unlike From Hell similar enough that you don't want to distance the two from each other completely, this coming of age story starts out as a funny group of vignettes and ends as a touching story of friends drifting apart.

Link to these in your wishlist and you won't get them for free from me, because I'm cheap. Stop looking for handouts! I don't write Ultimate X-Men! But buy them yourself and you'll have some great comics. That's the most important thing, isn't it?

*Okay, I haven't read Swan

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Blogger David Welsh said...

You should really read O'Malley's Lost At Sea. It's just as good as Scott Pilgrim but in an entirely different way. He's really, really impressive.

6/12/2005 04:47:00 AM  
Blogger Brian Cronin said...

I think people should fill pinatas with my posts.

6/12/2005 02:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Brad Curran said...

I've been planning on Lost at Sea, David. I actually became interested in it because of the two page preview/excerpt that was in the last Oni Color Special. Wow, I feel like I actually have indie cred.

"I think people should fill pinatas with my posts."

I can just imagine a bunch of kids dogpiling each other, fighting over a look at cover homages. That frightens me.

6/12/2005 10:48:00 PM  
Blogger MarkAndrew said...

Quick comments on the one's I've read:

1. Haven't bought "Locas" yet. Jaime's work has never quite whupped me about the head with a bucket full of WHOOOO! the way Gilbert's stuff did. 'Fact, I always found the Jaime Love and Rockets trades hard t' follow. Hopefully Locas'll make the story clearer.

Still! Dinosaurs! If all comics had pirates and dinosaurs in 'em I'd be a happy man.

(But Gilbert's better anyway. And anyone who says different is a poo.)

2. From Hell: Did this ever stop being really, really, boring? I made it to page 100 or so an' gave up.

3. Goodbye: I 'gree with you that the angst in this 'un was more hard hitting than the angst in Blankets.
(Though I thought the art got way better in the interim.)

This is probably the best depressing funny animal book I've ever read that's not by Jason... and there's been a lot of them lately. (Three Fingers was way good, too. Read that.)

4. Maus: Yeah. Mebbe the greatest thing ever did in comics. It should so be legal to murder people who say things like "Maus is over-rated."

5. Howard: Best thing outta Marvel, ever. No, YOU shut up.

7. Blue Monday: Crap. Which one was this? The third issue of the second series is damn near my favorite comic, ever. But I didn't dig the first series as much 'tall.

11. Ghost World: I'm pretty much ready to call Clowes th' best writer in comic, ever. And I think this and the Charicturist short are his best work. I liked it so much I STILL can't figure out if I liked the movie, just 'cause it was all different, and I'm so head-over-heels emotionally involved with the material.

(And really, really good use of blue-scale.)

6/16/2005 09:50:00 PM  

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