My last article touched on the changes in the way I enjoy comic books, and it is something I’ve often discussed here. It always elicits interesting responses, particularly those of solidarity, which left me wondering about how your reading habits are evolving.
There is a massive disparity between the way I consumed comic books as a child, and the way that I do now, in terms of buying methods, changes in disposable income, free time to read, and what kind of subject matter I choose, as well as my own changing perception of comic books themselves and how that has affected my own enjoyment of them.
Now it is time to reach out and gather information about your changing reading habits and so I’ve compiled a short survey of only 10 very basic questions. From this I’ll be able to design an infographic (something I frequently do for clients, but I’ve never been able to do so for us, so this will be a first!) and next week we can look at the results together and ask some follow up questions for the next infographic…
Please pass this on to as many people as you can this week, I’d love to get a nice, big selection of answers from all sorts of people. Thank you!
(Note: All of the results and information gathered from you in this survey will be entirely anonymous.)
Here’s the link to the survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/CJ5DT25
Out of all of the interests and occupations of my life, comic books were always very privately mine. While nearly ever other aspect of my life is guided by (or experienced with) friends and family, I fell in love with comic books on my own and for most of my life I never discussed what to read with anyone. It is a habit I still have a difficult time breaking, I still don’t read reviews, but I’m slowly beginning to benefit from sharing the comic book love and learning about books I wouldn’t otherwise discover, (I suppose writing about them for 5 years will do that to a person).
They always used to say that women can relate better to men than men can to women, which is why so many of those coming-of-age films used to focused on boys’ lives. I have no idea if it’s true or not, but I never paid much attention to the gender of the people I liked in comic books and films, often gravitating towards the brusque and embittered even though most of those hard-bitten loners were usually men. It never occurred to me that I was hungry for a comic book about someone like me, until I heard about Death Sentence by Monty Nero and Mike Dowling, published by Titan Comics.
Last weekend, a friend who works on music for television and film took me to a concert commemorating the 35th anniversary of a publisher of film scores. She warned me that it would be kind of industry-heavy evening for her, lots of people for her to talk to who I wouldn’t know, basically something like a comic book launch party but with a different kind of nerd (though as it turns out, music nerds aren’t that different from comic nerds, they just wear cocktail dresses and button down shirts instead of pink hair dye and Adventure Time T-shirts). The concert comprised of a massive orchestra (she did tell me that they weren’t quite a “full orchestra” but they looked huge to me) who played a wide range of scores, as well as guest starring some of the composers to play or conduct their music.
It is miserable disappointment for me to have to admit that a person who hates sports but loves superhero movies thoroughly enjoyed the superhuman heroism of 42, and was disinterested in the sound and fury of Iron Man 3… But this is probably all my own fault; if I hadn’t seen 42 in the same week as Iron Man 3, maybe it wouldn’t have seemed like such a featherweight.
20 minutes ago I walked out of Iron Man 3, a film about some really great looking middle-aged people and some roboty suit things (and yes, I do know who and what Iron Man is. I read the comic books and I like the character, but that is what I took away from the film). A couple of my favorite actors where in the movie, as well as one of my favorite stunt-women. The explosions were terrific and there were effects. People were yawning a lot when they left, much like Bruce Banner at the end of the film, no one seemed particularly interested or excited. I guess they thought that was all they could expect from a comic book movie. As Aldrich Killian aptly said in the film; “Ever since the guy with the hammer fell out of the sky, subtlety kind of went out the window.”
In our current social climate, the one high impact event that it is acceptable to use as children’s entertainment, is violence. The most extreme outcome of violence is death, therefore when it came to creating some high-impact events in Ultimate Spider-Man; first his uncle was killed off, then his father was put in a coma, and now his mother has been killed off. In less than 22 issues poor Miles Morales is finding out that the price of being a young superhero published by a mainstream company is death all around him.
This week I picked up the trade paperback of Marvel Boy, (originally published in 6 issues between 2000 - 2001) by Grant Morrison and Jeff G. Jones. The main character of Kree diplomat, Noh-Varr, lone survivor of an accidental shipwreck, is a charming, irreverent, unpredictable one. His love interest / sparring partner, Oubliette, daughter of our hero’s one true enemy (in true star-crossed lovers fashion) is a fantastic series of contradictions. The issues and ideas which are the playground of this book are deceptively entertaining, giving us plenty to digest and think about once the book is finished. It gives credence to the concept put forth within the book, that ideas have a life of their own, not as a metaphor, but as a concrete reality.
It is no accident that Superman, the original boy scout, the mildest-mannered, the most humane of all superheroes, always has a dog. Obviously, the concept of a super-powered dog is probably the silliest one yet to come from comic books, but whether it was with Krypto or a more mundane dog, I always picture Clark Kent growing up with animals. Unlike the humans in his life, he would never have to explain himself to them, or fear rejection if they saw his true nature. Animals are important in any kid’s life, but I can imagine that they would be essential to a superhero growing up with a secret like he had. Any hero as solid and grounded as he is would need to have animal companionship to grow up with and in many ways they could be as important to him as his human relationships, since we’re all alien life forms to him.
Growing up with the X-Men made me feel like I wasn’t alone. I guess I was lucky because whatever kind of freak I was, I wasn’t any kind of outcast and there were always friends around, but I never felt like part of anything or understood by anyone. I had an unconventional upbringing and that engendered hiding a lot of things from people, nothing really big but I didn’t feel particularly connected to the culture I was growing up in. And the other kids could tell that I wasn’t “normal”; I was small, thin, dark, I dressed all wrong, I ate the wrong food, and I liked all the wrong TV and music. I didn’t choose to be different, I just was.
As a tiny kid I was obsessed with cartoon books of any kind, I always preferred visual story telling whether it was Peanuts, MAD magazine, or the indecipherable cartoons in the New Yorker (undecipherable for an 8 year old, I can handle them fine now… mostly). Still, the first time I read the Uncanny X-Men I knew it was something completely different. I didn’t have to struggle to understand the adult relationships and strange rituals because they were young, a small group of misfit kids, and the first young, outsider group I’d ever encountered in fiction. I was immediately fascinated.
In a move which disappoints everyone, (but surprises no one), the first promo pic from the upcoming Vivid Entertainment Wonder Woman porn parody reveals that her costume is significantly closer to her comic book counterpart than any the hero has worn in other screen adaptations.
Buying a book before it is has been created is a bit of a gamble. A collaborative art project by comic book artists, painters, writers, and musicians has to be even more of an unquantifiable project, so TOME has been a particularly pleasant surprise.
At this point, I expect that a lot of people reading this have contributed to some sort of crowd-funded project, whether it be a major motion picture, a comic book convention, or a comic book. Whether you have or haven’t got involved directly, you are probably familiar with the concept and aware of all of the potential pitfalls inherent in such an endeavor. Essentially, we pay for a product which doesn’t exist yet, either to purchase said project or some form of physical incentive (i.e. these aren’t charitable donations that we’re making, we’re buying something based on trust).
Superhero comic books have saved me. I don’t mean that some real-life lunatic vigilante in a costume stopped a mugger or something, I’m talking about the actual comic books. There was a turning point in my life, when I had to stop waiting to be rescued by some larger-than-life hero, and figure out that I was (and am) my own superhero. It changed everything and I am so grateful that it did. Books like Elektra Assassin, The Uncanny X-Men’s Dark Phoenix Saga, Promethea, Arkham Asylum, Concrete, and Kingdom Come all told tales of people who got to their lowest ebb and then figured out how to rescue themselves. In this way the stories I loved became parables to guide me and I found strength, even when it was simply the strength to know how to ask for help.
As always, this year Seattle’s incredible Emerald City Comic Con presented an amazing line up of comic book creators and associated ephemera. The staff, guests, and attendees were consistently friendly, helpful, and entertaining. There was so much to see and enjoy that I only managed to fit a tenth of what I wanted into the three days I had there and by extension, I only managed to fit a tenth of that into this column, but I hope this rough countdown of incredible things gives you a taste of the best titbits of one of the best comic book conventions I’ve ever been to.
Like a lot of adult comic book readers do at some point, I’ve been taking stock of my reading choices and the type of mainstream, ongoing, monthly comic books which I read. It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me, but I found that I was making a couple of assumptions which, upon closer examination, were wrong.
1. I’ve been assuming that I read predominantly two types of comic books; fantasy and superhero (apart from the odd foray into horror, bios, and science fiction.)
2. Without thought and with quite some negative judgement about it, I’ve been thinking of the fantasy genre comic books as “girl” comics, and the superhero ones as “boy” comics (e.g. some weeks are “girl heavy”).
These are depressingly reductive ways to look at the comic books I enjoy, and the more I thought about it, the more I saw how wrong I was.