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On quitting superhero comics
June 17, 2014 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Like…I don’t eat pork. I quit swine in ‘99. I could tear up some porkchops and bacon as a kid, but it wasn’t a struggle to quit pork. I don’t think back like “man, remember how good that porkchop was back in ‘97, second week a May?” But I do that with Spider-Man—the Return of the Goblin arc, his first meeting with Luke Cage, that time Betty Brant said something nice about him and he was like “Dang, i never noticed her before, but she’s cute AND she’s on my side” like a doggone teenaged idiot, Mary Jane going Sibyl to get a soap opera job and dodging stalkers…I can recite it chapter and verse. So cold turkey wasn’t really an option, or rather, I wasn’t in a position where cold turkey was feasible.
On his Tumblr, David Brothers talks how hard and easy it was to give up reading Marvel and DC comics (edited version from his blog)
posted by MartinWisse (70 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
What does Mary Jane going "Sibyl" mean?
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 9:47 AM on June 17


This is who David Brothers is, for those who might be wondering (short answer: Writes for Comics Alliance)
posted by dinty_moore at 9:49 AM on June 17


I am lost as to what I am supposed to draw from this...?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:49 AM on June 17 [8 favorites]


One of the nicities of living in a cultural backwater was that I never really got into comics. The local 7/11 might have a 3 month old superman, if anything, and the only other exposure were cheesy versions designed to get people to brush their teeth.

Now, I missed some really good comics, but at the same time, when DC decides to do something stupid or sexist (looks at watch, mmm, about time it this week), I don't have to care. I can read comics like I can read books or the news, checking the authors I like, without reguard to the publisher behind them. Because even the best super hero comic will have a different artist and author, especially if either of them are good at their craft.

And with the Internet, there are way too many people making good comics, for free, for me to waste both time and money on crappy ones. I don't have time for mediocrity, much less terribleness.

So I'm glad to have dodged this bullet, because if the central cultural hallmarks of my childhood still existed in (sexist) zombie form, I could see how that would be annoying.
posted by zabuni at 9:50 AM on June 17


Our Ship Of The Imagination!: "What does Mary Jane going "Sibyl" mean?"

I assume it's a reference to dissociative identity disorder (formerly known as multiple personality disorder), which came into public awareness via the book Sybil in 1973.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:05 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


A conversation about why he finds reading non big two comics might be a little more enlightening.

IDK, comics can be hard to quit. It's like a long running TV series - it's gone bad, but you loved it once, and the story is still going. Nostalgia has a lot of pull - when did you stop watching The Simpsons? Marvel and DC do their best to not give you a good stopping point.*

And especially if you're making your living talking about comics - when would you stop? Then there's the social pull to keep informed. It's a hobby that's dependent of consuming things other people make, but otherwise - it's a hobby. It fulfills the social and emotional wellbeing functions that my other hobbies also fulfill.

I read comics because I like collaborative projects and good art and playing around with issues of identity - my monthly take in is probably half Marvel, half everyone else (not counting webcomics). But increasingly over the last couple of year or two, comics has been what I talk about online, and that makes me enjoy it more, think about specific panels more. I'm reading more superhero comics than I have in the past because I'm finally able to find more superhero comics that I feel like I can love. Cutting that out would actually be a pretty big change in my headspace, a slight shift to my identity.

My first reaction is to shrug, say that he's missing out on some good stuff. But I can understand why someone would draw a line in the sand, and why it would be difficult to give up something that you've formed at least part of your identity around, even if it's not something you really enjoy anymore.

*Unless you're really into second-tier female characters, in which you live in constant fear of them killing off EVERYONE YOU LOVE.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:07 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]


And an utterly unremarkable one at that.

Well, it's obviously a big deal to his particular community, and presumably his reasons stand out to those people - just like quitting being an election judge, or buying white flour, or leaving the IWW.

Actually, I wish he'd explained why he gave up superhero comics. Clearly, this is obvious to people who follow him or are a part of a particular aesthetic community - I could write a similar letter about giving up, let's say, second wave feminist science fiction - but it would be interesting to know.
posted by Frowner at 10:07 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


This is who David Brothers is, for those who might be wondering (short answer: Writes for Comics Alliance)

Wrote for (MeFi favorite) Comics Alliance, currently works at Image Comics. Has consistently been a strong voice on the social/racial issues that plague the medium in America.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:17 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]


The 20-year transformation of Image from the home of the absolutely shittiest Grimdark shit that ever plagued comics to the current pinnacle of the form (at least among mid-to-large publishers) is something that just leaves me utterly gobsmacked from time to time.

I appreciate Brothers' stance, but it's never been easier to quit the Big Two. There's too much being produced to reasonably read right now from the other publishers. An enterprising blogger might even produce a "like this? read that!" kind of guide for people seeking to diversify but not knowing where to start.
posted by Shepherd at 10:46 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Not sure why staying away from comics shops and sites has been so necessary for him to stay away from the big two. Most of the interesting stuff is indie these days anyway. Marvel's got a couple of titles that are compelling, but most of the truly great stuff is coming out of Image and Boom and IDW and the like. And DC, with the exception of a very few titles, is kind of a mess and has been for a long time.

I still hit my local comic shop, and I still do bring home stuff like Ellis's Moon Knight and Fraction's Hawkeye, but mostly I'm grabbing stuff like Lumberjanes and Sex Criminals and Dead Letters and Shutter. I think the shop owner's a little flummoxed at the shift, actually. Fewer people give a damn about Green Lantern, but he orders a couple copies of Afterlife with Archie or Southern Bastards and they fly off the shelf in two hours.
posted by middleclasstool at 10:47 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


Short version: "I grew up"
posted by Renoroc at 10:48 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


It definitely is easier than ever to quit the big two, but from what I read he definitely left before the current glut of great comics.

I've found it really easy to quit and restart with little continuity because, and I realize how this sounds, I just can't stand comics with shitty writing. I know some people like to disparage the whole medium saying none of it's that good, but of course that's not true. But I just tried to jump into a Batman arc from a few years back (Cataclysm->No Man's Land) and man, the writing stunk on ice. Same for DMZ, which I saw getting some good press, I picked it up and couldn't even finish the first issue. So I quit various comics and some time or another in a sort of narrative/prose-elitist disgust.

I've tried quite a few comics in the Image stable but they all seem like... 3-star comics, if you will. They all seem to be almost there but not quite in terms of narrative potential, art, or writing. I'm chuffed to see so many new ideas being tried, though, that's for sure.

The best comics I've read in the last year or two are Japanese - Knights of Sidonia, Liar Game... truly innovative and challenging stuff. That and The Private Eye, which is just amazing. Anyway, good little read.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:07 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Most of the interesting stuff is indie these days anyway. Marvel's got a couple of titles that are compelling, but most of the truly great stuff is coming out of Image and Boom and IDW and the like.

I would agree, if we're only talking about monthly pamphlet comics.

However, nearly every amazing comic I've read in the past five (ten? fifteen?) years has been a webcomic, a graphic novel (as opposed to a collected volume of what were previously single issues) or a self-published minicomic. The self-published/small press scene is an embarrassment of riches right now. And many larger publishers have graphic novel imprints with growing catalogs of fantastic creator-owned books.

If you want cape comics specifically, I can understand having a hard time steering clear of Marvel and DC. But even then, aside from Image, there are books out there like Strong Female Protagonist and Superhero Girl and The Shadow Hero and probably a lot of other stuff I'm not aware of.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:12 AM on June 17 [2 favorites]


(Also yes, there is a hilariously gigantic number of amazing international comics out there as well, particularly from Japan and France.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 11:14 AM on June 17


I generally like folks non-cape comics more than their cape comics.
I've recently discovered that capes doing non-cape stuff is the best thing in superhero fiction.

Hawkeye is about Hawkeye on his days off, having to deal with all sorts of hassles from not getting his DVR to work to picking fights with and getting beat up by the local mafia.

Teen Titans Go! is basically Justice Friends but with actual DC characters, and just as hilarious.

Stever Rogers' American Captain is a fan-made webcomic that has Stever Rogers dealing with the PTSD of waking up 70 years in the future.

Seriously great stuff. I find the mainstream superhero fare that DC and Marvel put out incredibly tedious, but there are some diamonds in that rough.
posted by narain at 11:21 AM on June 17 [4 favorites]


Quitting superhero comics was actually pretty damn easy for myself as well. I prefer to reread my old graphic novels and favorite single issues.

Quitting the current crop of superhero movies?
For me, that would be MUCH more difficult. Love me some MCU.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 11:22 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Now, I missed some really good comics, but at the same time, when DC decides to do something stupid or sexist (looks at watch, mmm, about time it this week), I don't have to care.

It's not like having to battle cancer or a deranged killer, so it's not earth-shattering to give up the superheroes, but I gave up DC Comics a couple of years ago, which doesn't sound like a big deal except I have read DC continuously ever since I was 4 and stopped at about 38. It is a lifetime of loving one publisher more than any television program or novel series.

I dressed up as Wonder Woman for Halloween as a kid and I used Liquid Paper to whiten out offending dialogue and used a Bic Pen to put in my own re-writes instead. I swooned at the thought of Ted Kord and having a character (Charlton origins, plucked out of limbo by DC) whose word was his bond, despite all the blowback from keeping his word. I read the Haunted Tank, Jonah Hex as well as the mainstays of Green Lantern, Batman and Superman. I printed an iron-on transfer I made of Jimmy Olsen marrying a crabby gorilla and made my own denim jacket. I used to come out with bags from the comic book shop and looked liked I went grocery shopping. I had statues and action figures galore, and made the trip to comic cons to hunt down vintage books.

I loved my DC Comics.

Until the day I just had it with them.

I don't know if it was their obvious disdain for all the light-hearted characters, their constant do-overs, re-boots, and retcons, or their less than enlightened view of how women ought to be portrayed that seemed to get more barbaric over time -- but one day I quit them cold turkey.

At a time where publishers are taking their properties to the big and small screen, it is not as if my protest would have registered anywhere; so it was never a "I'll show them!" vindictiveness. They wanted a different audience and I was not in that number.

But I have to say, DC was getting way too glum and morose for my liking. I like my diversions to be happy, upbeat, and kind-hearted. I like my Superman silly and my Bwah ha ha Justice League of the '80's where you basically had a bunch of eccentric transients saving the world from disaster.

When DC was not about the wallowing, it was appreciated. If they ever come back to their optimistic roots, I'd give it another whirl, but what is offered now is not for people like me.

In the end, it wasn't the capes and cowls I was after, but the message it used to carry -- and in an age of diverse voices, I have found my replacement diversions elsewhere...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:30 AM on June 17 [12 favorites]


I've quit comics twice in my life. Once when I moved to another country (that crimped that pastime) and the other when I stopped being able to afford weekly visits to the shop. When you don't got money to buy the books, it's pretty easy to walk away.

Which is why Batman could have lived a better life if he weren't Richy Rich!
posted by Atreides at 11:32 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The 20-year transformation of Image from the home of the absolutely shittiest Grimdark shit that ever plagued comics to the current pinnacle of the form (at least among mid-to-large publishers) is something that just leaves me utterly gobsmacked from time to time.

It helps that the founders have either gotten out of comics or are doing work elsewhere. Jim Lee is a big nabob at DC, Todd McFarlane still has his toy business, I guess (although I wouldn't be surprised if he eventually has to go back to drawing, since he's lost a number of big lawsuits), Rob Liefeld has people like Brandon Graham doing infinitely superior versions of his characters.

As for Brothers quitting the Big Two, I can empathize with how easy and hard it was to do. I broke my monthly habit more or less permanently in the late eighties; part of that had to do with sheer economic necessity, since I barely had any disposable income to speak of, but what comics money I did have went to some of the better black and white independents. A big part of that had to do with the work of Alan Moore and Frank Miller being put out at the time. Moore had just done Watchmen, was wrapping up his run on Swamp Thing, and following up reprints of his British series Miracleman (nee Marvelman) and V for Vendetta with new work finishing those series, and Miller had followed his Daredevil run and The Dark Knight Returns with Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again, both with David Mazzucchelli. They were excellent stories, and set the bar so high that few others at the Big Two could plausibly even attempt to clear it. (DC's Vertigo was a powerful exception to that rule, but in most aspects functioned as a separate company that happened to be owned by DC.) Once I had to drop the monthly pull list, and had to pick and choose the books that I could buy, I found it a lot easier to go for the quirky artists that were trying to do something new and different with the medium than to get sucked into some mega-crossover that would require me to buy titles that I wasn't following already, and that would result in some characters that weren't popular getting killed off, some other new characters that didn't seem that interesting being introduced, and one of the more popular characters getting a new costume.

There are still occasional books, and occasional runs by good creators on certain books, that will still grab me--I'm getting all of the books being written by Charles Soule that I can find, right now--but I haven't seen anything for quite some time now that would really induce me to revive my pull list. I still follow scans_daily both to find out about some decent titles (like Soule's runs on Thunderbolts and Red Lantern) and to reassure myself that I'm not really missing anything worth buying.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:41 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Grown ups are boring.
posted by poe at 11:48 AM on June 17 [3 favorites]


When DC was not about the wallowing, it was appreciated. If they ever come back to their optimistic roots, I'd give it another whirl, but what is offered now is not for people like me.

This is definitely not in line with the rest of DC and I doubt will bring about a sea change in terms of DC’s dark grimnesss of grimdark, but I did end up picking up Bloodspell a couple weeks ago and liking it. It’s Black Canary and Zatanna being friends and fighting evil spirits by Dini and Quinones. If you want a one-off nostalgia trip that reminds you why you ever liked these characters in the first place, it might be for you.
posted by dinty_moore at 11:49 AM on June 17 [1 favorite]


That American Captain that narain references upthread, that is so great, or at least, like, the first five or six of them are. It also looks (and kind of feels) like old Doonesbury crossed with old Peanuts. I have only the most nebulous idea who any of these people are (I mean, I know who Captain America is generally, and I read a satirical Iron Man fanfic once) so I am also enjoying guessing the backstory.
posted by Frowner at 11:54 AM on June 17


I killed my pull box when I moved, and didn't find a good store. It probably doesn't help that my news reading provides a reminder monthly about why I shouldn't go back.

Mostly I was getting repeatedly pissed off at the ethos that only A-list characters matter. It means that periodically, you have to put up with an A-lister invading your cozy little favorite space of the universe upstaging everyone and disrupting ongoing plots for THE BIG NARRATIVE. (Days of Future Past for Marvel Mutants, Batfamily Batangst in much of DC.) And, your favorite characters will be the redshirts of the periodic BIG EVENT.

So I'm much more comfortable reading superhero stories in tiny universes that don't have an A-list.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:59 AM on June 17


Oh gosh, American Captain is wonderful. So great that it made me a little mad, actually, because I don't really much care about Captain America or the MCU but I nevertheless super enjoyed a fake diary comics about all of the above.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:00 PM on June 17


I pick up comics from time to time, but I'm usually disappointed. I read the death of superman series and found it to be interesting until the whole thing was resolved by a boring punch fest.

In fact, many comics and comic based movies (animated or not) just end up in punch fests. An interesting counterpoint was one of the animated Hulk movies where he traveled to a place where he was able to become more intelligent. A Hulk movie of all things actually had more depth than most such movies.

I used to read Spawn as a teen, but I quit around issue 40 or so because the awesomeness of the premise and the beauty of the art was undercut by lackluster writing.

There are some incredible exceptions though. The comics "V for Vendetta" and "Watchmen" are truly wonderful great literature. If comics were like that all the time, my house would be full of comics.

The "Dark Knight Returns" was good, but I can't say it came close to either of Alan Moore's masterpieces.

Why are the only comics I truly love written by a guy who seems to be certifiably insane? Could we get DC and Marvell to start recruiting from asylums?
posted by HappyEngineer at 12:12 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


My first exposure to comics was the DCAU. I'd rather watch reruns of Batman: The Animated Series or Justice League than read almost anything DC's putting out right now. I was never a Marvel girl (though I am currently reading Hawkeye and hoping to read She-Hulk soon), so that's just one less hurdle to deal with.

I read mostly webcomics, and there are so many great ones out there that it's easy for me to not pay attention to the Big Two in general.
posted by supermassive at 12:15 PM on June 17


The comics "V for Vendetta" and "Watchmen" are truly wonderful great literature. If comics were like that all the time, my house would be full of comics.

What kinds of comics are you looking for? What do you want to read?

There is so much out there. Hundreds of amazing books. I'm sure folks around here could point you at a few titles you'd be interested in.

My office is so full of comics that it's causing logistical problems, and I regularly get rid of old books that I don't care for anymore. There's just too much out there for my tiny apartment to hold.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:18 PM on June 17


My story is similar. I'd been a heavy comic reader from age five and a genuine collector fanboy from age ten, and of course it was virtually all capes. Dropping out came about due to the usual factors (financial constraints, my first child went and got herself born, increasing dissatisfaction with comics themselves, rising prices). What was weird was how hard it was. I'd been into them -- at times, deep into them -- for decades. I'd had them in my life for so very long that life without them felt almost...wrong.

Then, much faster than I ever expected, I lost that sensation. It's hard to say for how long the sheer momentum of the cape comics kept me reading them, but once the momentum stopped for even a few months, I didn't care about them anymore.

I do still pick up the occasional trade from non-Big-Two publishers of stuff that sounds fun. From what I've seen from the comic fan internet, it looks like even if I wanted to go back, there's not much I'd like from Marvel and DC anymore. Too much has changed. Ah, well. It's the Circle of Nerd. [Lifts small Starship Enterprise to the sky; Elton John music swells; cue credits]

My first child, now seven, loves the trade paperback I found for her of Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the Eighth Grade. Ah, the Circle of Nerd.
posted by Harvey Jerkwater at 12:18 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


How the heck did I manage to misspell "Steve Rogers" as "Stever Rogers" both times in that comment? I know his name is Steve.

Anyway, here's the best story arc from American Captain, collected in convenient chronological order. I first heard of the comic on Metafilter, so thanks, bettafish and MeFi!
posted by narain at 12:19 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]



This is definitely not in line with the rest of DC and I doubt will bring about a sea change in terms of DC’s dark grimnesss of grimdark, but I did end up picking up Bloodspell a couple weeks ago and liking it. It’s Black Canary and Zatanna being friends and fighting evil spirits by Dini and Quinones. If you want a one-off nostalgia trip that reminds you why you ever liked these characters in the first place, it might be for you.


Oh, I do not want nostalgia. I have my old comics for that and I don't read those as I know them chapter and verse. What I want is not what DC is offering right now or may ever offer again, and that's all right, too...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 12:25 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


When DC was not about the wallowing, it was appreciated. If they ever come back to their optimistic roots, I'd give it another whirl, but what is offered now is not for people like me.

Alexandra Kitty

Are...are you Grant Morrison?
posted by Sangermaine at 12:26 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


The comics "V for Vendetta" and "Watchmen" are truly wonderful great literature. If comics were like that all the time, my house would be full of comics.

What kinds of comics are you looking for? What do you want to read?

There is so much out there. Hundreds of amazing books. I'm sure folks around here could point you at a few titles you'd be interested in.


I like stories that aren't wrapped up in neat bows at the end. I want the good guys to have non-trivial flaws. The bad guys shouldn't be entirely evil. Stories shouldn't be predictable and should keep me guessing until the end. I don't want to read about banal teen crushes or any other sort of tiring cliche. If there's a love story it had better be a heart rending story rather than a happy (ooh they kissed!) story. Stories should build to a conclusion, not just invoke deus ex machina near the end. Under no circumstances should the story build up in an interesting way and then be resolved by one person punching REALLY hard, much harder than they ever punched before.
posted by HappyEngineer at 12:30 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Are...are you Grant Morrison?

Are you kidding? Morrison, for all his protestations about silver age fun, has been one of the main drivers of DC's GrimDark explosion in the past two decades.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:44 PM on June 17


Are you specifically looking for superhero/action comics, or would you be interested in other stories?

If you want difficult and uncomfortable comics with a literary sensibility, you could start by poking around the catalogues of Fantagraphics and Drawn and Quarterly. Not sure where you live, but both of those publishers tend to have booths at small press-centric comic shows like SPX and TCAF, which is a great way to explore their books and see what catches your attention.

Past winners of the Ignatz Awards might be of interest -- that particular award is more likely to have the sort of thing you're looking for. The Comics Journal would be a good place to start for reviews of books you may not have heard of.

If you live in or near a city, there is probably at least one good independent comics-friendly shop in your area. The staff would no doubt be happy to help you find books that might be interesting you.

Regardless, if what you want is difficult and ugly and dark, you definitely want to be looking at small press or independent books these days. That's where the good stuff is.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:45 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


When I was a kid I had a modest accumulation of comics. There were some Supermans and Batmans and Spidermans and X-Mans and whatnot but I was always picking up the weird corners of what was out there - the Ambush Bugs, the Atari Forces, the Firestorms, the Blue Devils, the Rocket Raccoons, the Zoo Crews, the Amethysts, the Groos. Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, all those amazing early comics. Really I could just never get too interested in the whole superhero thing.

And then the 80s B&W boom happened and there were so many SF comics. And so many furry comics. I pretty much stopped reading anything from the cape purveyors then. Gave 'em up without even thinking about it, and never looked back.

Nowadays? I'm surprised to find myself actually picking up all of two cape books. Hawkeye and Loki, Agent of Asgard. Neither of which is exactly the normal "superhero" thing. I've been bouncing around the Seattle library's great collection of manga. I've been digging into French comics, I'm poking at UK stuff... and of course some of the great SF/F stuff coming out from all the people of my generation who seem to have had a similar path through the comics of the 70s and 80s.

Marvel and DC's little "continuities" filled with dudes punching each other never really appealed to me, and now that I've seen broader horizons they just feel so limiting to me now.

I guess what I'm saying is fuck Wertham and the Comics Code for putting American comics into a straitjacket with a cape on it for so damn long.
posted by egypturnash at 12:46 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


If you want cape comics specifically, I can understand having a hard time steering clear of Marvel and DC.

For a lot of us, it's even more specific. I don't just like reading about "capes." I want to read stories about Batman. I like the character, the mythos, his allies and villains, etc. To a lesser extent, I feel the same way about Superman and Spider-Man and Iron Man. Other people feel it about Green Lantern and Reed Richards, which is crazy talk but whatev's. The point is, we like the characters.

And so for me, the interesting part of the "The Big 2 suck!" conversation is about intellectual property. By any objective standard, Batman and Superman are part of our culture. They belong to all of us. But legally they "belong" to DC, and so DC gets to exercise all kinds of control about what's done with these characters. The problem isn't that the Big 2 suck, but that their institutional suckitude is allowed to make the characters, our characters, suck.
posted by cribcage at 12:49 PM on June 17 [7 favorites]


Ugly and dark are probably good, but not required. However, "difficult" is an excellent word to summarize what I'm looking for. "Epic" would be another good word, although expecting every story to be epic is probably too much.
posted by HappyEngineer at 12:55 PM on June 17


HappyEngineer: Given everything you've said in this thread, I feel confident in recommending Saga.
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:12 PM on June 17 [9 favorites]


HappyEngineer: I'd say Love and Rockets is a masterpiece of the serial form in North America. I think both the Locas and Palomar stories are collected as separate editions. One of these days, I need to get into Eisner's novels and Bechdel's Fun Home. Sandman I'd consider worth a read for turning many of those cape ideas on its ears. (And World's End is a brilliant bit of recursive storytelling.) The Gaiman/McKean Black Orchid is a worthy short that sort of deconstructs the whole Superhero narrative. Alan Moore's Top Ten is wonderfully weird.

There are also some imports. Tezuka's Buddha has many of the features you describe, if you don't mind approaching a text that's equal parts religious and humanist. I liked Sfar and Satrapi as well.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 1:31 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


HappyEngineer: A few suggestions.

From Hell, by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Moore is generally acknowledged to be the best writer in comics, and in my view this is by far his best work. It uses the Jack The Ripper killings of 1888 to examine London's dark and convoluted past, investigating the same sort of territory as prose writers like Peter Ackroyd and Iain Sinclair. Eddie Campbell's understated artwork evokes Victorian London wonderfully well, and Moore's treatment of the subject matter is intelligent and meticulously-researched.

All-Star Superman, by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Another writer-artist team, this time a couple of Scots. Morrison's another of the brightest guys in comics right now, and his Superman stories have a real sense of innocent fun about them which you might enjoy. Quitely's art is exquisite, and the two collections of this title are self-contained enough to require no prior knowledge of Superman's continuity. I'd say this is the best flat-out superhero book published in the past ten years or more, and it does constitute one big story.

Locas, by Jamie Hernandez. Tales of young Hispanic street-life in the barrios of Los Angles. Hernandez is a hugely talented cartoonist, who draws in the old "Archie" style, but his stories are hip, credible, charming and (sometimes) heartbreaking. He not only draws the most lovable women in comics, but makes them utterly real as characters too. He's on the form of his life at the moment, as a more recent collection, The Love Bunglers, proves.

Minimum Wage by Bob Fingerman. Sleazy, low-life tales of life in minumum-wage New York, as Fingerman's alter-ego in the book tries to scrape a living cartooning for Screw magazine. Not for everyone, and sometimes quite sexually explicit, but it definitely has its merits. The first run is available in a single huge collection called Maximum Minimum Wage and in a new series is currently underway.

The Treasury of Victorian Murder, by Rick Geary. Geary writes and draws each of these carefully-researched volumes telling the story of a prominent murder from the 1800s. He's made this period something of a speciality, and depicts it with huge charm. The Lizzie Borden volume is a favourite of mine, but they're all very good.

Palestine, by Joe Sacco. This guy - who both writes and draws the book - has single-handedly invented the new form of comics journalism. He's visited several of the world's trouble spots, lived among the people there, and uses his books to describe how they survive the most terrible circumstances. Unlike a TV crew, Sacco can work with nothing more obtrusive than a notebook and a sketchpad. Unlike a print journalist, he can quickly convey the visual details of a scene by drawing it rather than having to rely on long passages of written description. The results are remarkably effective.

Day of Chaos by John Wagner and various artists. Wagner's most recent Judge Dredd epic, and among his best work yet. Dredd is a much more multi-dimensional character than he was in earlier stories, there's far less reliance on silly jokes and Mega-City One is emerging as a credible and convincing future city. Available as two graphic novel collections from Revolution, it's the best superhero/science fiction epic I've read in ages.

Fatale by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Now nearing its last issue, this 24-issue series is a hardboiled, plot-driven Lovecraftian supernatural crime story. Brubaker's writing would stand up against many of the best prose crime writers around, and Phillips' art is both low-key and very much grounded in the real world. Available as a series of TPB collections.

Southern Bastards, by Jason Aaron and Jason Latour. Only two issues old, but already set to replace Fatale as my favourite ongoing series. Imagine a Dukes of Hazard movie (mixed with a touch of Friday Night Lights), scripted and directed by Quentin Tarantino in one of his darker moods.

There's loads of other things I could mention - Moore's Swamp Thing, Morrison's The Invisbles, Dave Sim's Cerebus, but that should be enough to get you going.
posted by Paul Slade at 2:21 PM on June 17 [8 favorites]


Alexandra Kitty

Are...are you Grant Morrison?


Perhaps on Earth Two before the Crisis...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:37 PM on June 17 [3 favorites]


For those who were asking why Brothers quit supporting DC and Marvel, here is his essay from 2012 on Comics Alliance discussing DC and Marvel's longstanding and continuing mistreatment of their actual creators in general, and Alan Moore and Jack Kirby specifically: The Ethical Rot Behind ‘Before Watchmen’ & ‘The Avengers’
posted by branduno at 2:41 PM on June 17 [4 favorites]


I killed my pull box when I moved, and didn't find a good store. It probably doesn't help that my news reading provides a reminder monthly about why I shouldn't go back.

This was sort of what happened to me. The local comic shop where I had my pull went out of business, and I didn't immediately move my pull to one of the other shops. That wasn't very long before I moved and when the excitement of the move was over (and the expenses of moving and selling the house), I realized I didn't really miss my pull and I was far enough out of the loop that I had no idea what was happening.

And every time I think about re-upping, yeah.
posted by immlass at 3:11 PM on June 17


I used Liquid Paper to whiten out offending dialogue and used a Bic Pen to put in my own re-writes instead

Link please!!
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 3:29 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


I used Liquid Paper to whiten out offending dialogue and used a Bic Pen to put in my own re-writes instead

Link please!!


Oh, I wish I had still them. Batman calling the Joker "Boogerhair" has been lost in the mists of time as they were discovered by my mother who promptly threw them out because I was being "destructive" -- and this from the woman who used to let me draw on our walls with markers and crayons when I was a toddler! (Mind you, I did also pour orange juice into the television set and took apart her stereo, so she may have been a little short with me for a reason...)
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 3:38 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


HappyEngineer: Last time this topic came up, I posted an AskMe looking for comics recommendations, and got a lot of good responses.
posted by rifflesby at 4:28 PM on June 17


If you want cape comics specifically, I can understand having a hard time steering clear of Marvel and DC. But even then, aside from Image, there are books out there like Strong Female Protagonist and Superhero Girl and The Shadow Hero and probably a lot of other stuff I'm not aware of.

I haven't read the Shadow Hero, but the first two are as much more deconstructions or critiques of cape-comics than they are cape comics. Brilliant though.

My favorite these days is Onepunch-Man.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:40 PM on June 17


Quality within superhero comics rises and falls over time, just like with any ongoing entertainment.

Tastes change over time, too.

The thing that I resent is the premise that if you lose interest in comics, it's because you've "grown out" of them and somehow become more mature. It's entirely possible to 1) both be mature AND still enjoy comics, and 2) to lose interest in comics because the comics themselves have declined in quality... but that quality may eventually come back.

I really felt like mainstream Marvel was on an upswing in the era leading up to Civil War. Then CW happened, and it all tanked, and it still hasn't really recovered in the broader sense... but stuff like Hawkeye and Captain Marvel are flat-out great comics, even in the context of a company that still wants to pretend things like CW were ever a good idea.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 5:53 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the suggestions everyone! To start with I'll check out "Saga", "Sandman" and "Black Orchid". After that I'll come back here and look at some more suggestions.
posted by HappyEngineer at 6:19 PM on June 17


Nowadays? I'm surprised to find myself actually picking up all of two cape books. Hawkeye and Loki, Agent of Asgard.

Hmm, I used to love Thor, and Tom Hiddleston IS my boyfriend, so...that Loki, Agent of Asgard sounds interesting. Might as well check it out.

*Googles*

*jaw drops*

LOKI SPEED DATING?!

Oh hell yes.
posted by misha at 6:59 PM on June 17 [2 favorites]


Sandman is a great choice but I suggest start with Volume 2 and come back to 1 later. It took it a few issues to find its legs.
posted by rifflesby at 6:59 PM on June 17


I have been on the verge of quitting the big two for some time. I love superhero stuff, but I don't need more comics about straight white men and I really don't need more comics that don't value having me as a reader.

My biggest recommendation for comics in print is Carla Speed McNeil's Finder.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:35 PM on June 17 [1 favorite]


Most superhero comics from the big two make you feel actively dumber and more sexist after reading them. You can't even get a warm fuzzy nostalgia glow due to the grimdark.

The comics from big publishers are now viewed as movie tie ins to lure dim teenage bros into the theatre.
posted by benzenedream at 9:09 PM on June 17


Sandman is a great choice but I suggest start with Volume 2 and come back to 1 later. It took it a few issues to find its legs.

Do people often just start reading in the middle of a series?
posted by HappyEngineer at 10:51 PM on June 17


When it's still coming out in monthly pamphlets, sure. You hear about a new series, and the local shop has issue 4 but no backstock. So you muddle through and find out what you missed when the trade paperback is released.

Or maybe a series has a particular really stand-out story arc, so you recommend people start there and try the other stuff if they like it. Like "Dangerous Habits" in the series Hellblazer, which is volume 5 in trade paperback.

In this particular case, it's just that I've known several people who started reading Sandman, and never got past volume 1. So you could start at 2 and go back to get the "backstory" after you've been properly snagged by the series, or you could start at 1 knowing that I promised you that it gets much better. :)
posted by rifflesby at 11:20 PM on June 17


For Sandman, I've always tried to make people start at Season of Mists (volume 4), then had them work their way back to 2, then 3, then 1. In a lot of ways, volume 4 is the start of the main arc of the rest of the series, and introduces the endless as a whole. A Doll's House would be my second choice.

But yeah - it's not that hard to jump in at the beginning of a trade paperback volume, especially since comics can be so wonky when it comes to continuity anyway. New readers have to start somewhere, and there's usually a good way to get 'in' every dozen issues or so, even in the most continuity-heavy books.

Most superhero comics from the big two make you feel actively dumber and more sexist after reading them. You can't even get a warm fuzzy nostalgia glow due to the grimdark.

I totally know where you're coming from, but last night I went through my entire pull list to figure out what the actual breakdown by publisher was. Turns out it was 40% Marvel, and all of my Marvel books had a female lead (the closest I get to not having a female lead is Hawkeye, and I think it's pretty safe to say that for the past year, Kate Bishop has been sharing the lead with Clint Barton). And I'm not picking out books just because they have a female lead - there's one notable book I'm blacklisting because of the author, and another that I'm just not that interested in. Not to mention a handful of other books that really don't seem to be sexist, but that I'm planning to read through unlimited instead.

Which is to say that if you wanted to still spend too much money on comics, give money to at least one of the big two, be picky about art and writing, and not have to deal with sexist crap, you totally can. Ask me how!
posted by dinty_moore at 4:59 AM on June 18


Do people often just start reading in the middle of a series?

Volume 1 has some significant issues, the biggest one is trying to link the title character into the main DC universe through a whirlwind tour of established, if minor characters. The essentials are summed up in a few panels in later issues: Dream was trapped for several decades by a ceremonial magician. The magician stole Dream's talismans, and as a result, Dream's world is in disarray. After most of this is resolved in Volume 1, the series tends to shuffle off to its own continuity with the exception of references to some really old characters who explain themselves because they've been dead or out of print for decades.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:30 AM on June 18


I stopped collecting comics years ago due to lack of space and money-and also the print comics seem to have been infected by a very dark, cynical attitude. Instead, I have webcomics: Hugo Award winning Digger, Blindsprings, Gunnerkrigg Court, Strong Female Protagonist and a hundred others give me plenty of comic reading without having to pay our use up limited storage space.

Basically, all I seem to be giving up with print comics are stories done in a very cynical, bitter and dark perspective. And I definitely have outgrown that attitude.
posted by happyroach at 8:13 AM on June 18


Since there has been some great suggestions in this conversation, I was wondering if anyone can anyone recommend an ongoing or recent comic series that has a similar tone to the Brave & the Bold animated series? My young son and I have been watching those and they are a lot of fun. I really like the format of using second and tertiary characters in a lighter but internally consistent way (unlike say Marvel's Superhero Squad). Doesn't need be part of the Big 2.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:31 AM on June 18


I recently read the entire Bone saga to my five-year-old son, and now that we've had to move onto other, less inspired works (Pokemon comics, sigh), it makes me want to cry a little. Bone is one of the great works of comic art of the last 100 years, maybe of all time, with something literally for everyone - laughs, adventure, drama, heart. I was surprised to see it hasn't been mentioned in this thread yet, so I just thought I'd take a moment to make sure it wasn't missed.

In short, read Bone.
posted by gern at 12:41 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I haven’t watched Brave and the Bold so I don’t quite know if this what you’re looking for, but I’d probably consider Lil’ Gotham or Atomic Robo. Or yeah, Bone.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:43 PM on June 18


I also haven't watched BatB, but I enjoy the hell out of One Piece, which has great action, a ton of terrific characters, masterful comic timing, and moves effortlessly between funny bits and serious dramatic bits. Also there's a fucking ton of it -- 650 episodes and counting. Streams free on Crunchyroll -- is your son old enough to handle subtitles?

I haven't read the manga, but I imagine it's as good if not better.
posted by rifflesby at 1:18 PM on June 18


Glad to see Gunnerkrigg Court get some love….

As far as mostly kid-appropriate stuff:

One of the best series I've read in years is Atomic Robo -- it's snappy, light, lushly printed and illustrated, and truly funny. I may be broken, but a Tesla-created wisecracking robot with lightning guns just works for me. You'd want to pre-read it to be sure, but I think it'd be great for a kid.

Also, I had a hard time getting past this one's style of illustration, but Battling Boy was enjoyable, too, and my copy ended up being loaned out for a father/son reading.
posted by verschollen at 4:13 PM on June 18


I'll put in a plug and say one of the reasons that Image gets my comics-buying money now is their DRM-free download policy. Which has the benefit of having comics that I didn't care for stare at me from the send-to-charity pile saying, "you bought me, you fool."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:40 PM on June 18


Not having comics stare at me from the charity pile that is.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:16 PM on June 18


gern > I recently read the entire Bone saga to my five-year-old son...

He's probably too young for it now, but grab a copy of Rasl to put on a shelf where he'll be able to reach it in about five years. Jeff Smith has finished that, and is now working on Tuki, which may or may not be appropriate for a kid - I dunno where he plans on going with it.

(I recently got to play Cool Comics-Loving Aunt to a friend's teen boy who'd loved Bone; I gave him the collected Rasl, and the collected King City - that's a really good book to come from your slightly naughty aunt at around twelve rather than your parents. I was also considering giving him The Incal but that wasn't in the shop I visited the day before.)
posted by egypturnash at 6:02 PM on June 18 [2 favorites]


I picked up a copy of the first volume of Bone from a charity shop so that one is already on the pile but it is definitely a good choice. Battling Boy & Atomic Robo look fun. One Piece looks like something my son might like but my tolerance for that kind of anime is a little low (no offense - I appreciate the time you took to recommend something). Maybe when he can read on his own.
posted by Ashwagandha at 11:58 AM on June 19


Paul Pope's Battling Boy really is great as a father-son read. Innocent and adventurous enough for the kid, well-crafted and fun enough for the adult. Just a great Kirby-esque comic, done in a style today's young 'uns can easily identify with.

Also, Fantagraphics are doing a terrific series of hardbacks collecting Carl Barks' Disney duck stories. These have a big element of exotic adventure in them, plus enough intelligence and wit in the stories to make sure Dad doesn't get bored either. Huey, Dewey & Louie generally outwit their own adult supervisors with ease, and Uncle Scrooge is there to give the whole enterprise a bit of welcome grit. Details here.
posted by Paul Slade at 3:05 PM on June 19


The comics "V for Vendetta" and "Watchmen" are truly wonderful great literature. If comics were like that all the time, my house would be full of comics.

The "Dark Knight Returns" was good, but I can't say it came close to either of Alan Moore's masterpieces.


What If Batman Had Been In Watchmen?
posted by homunculus at 1:56 PM on June 20


What If Batman Had Been In Watchmen?

Wouldn't Batman be redundant, given that Nite Owl and Rorschach are a deconstruction of that type of character? Nifty gadgets on one end, obsessive vigilantism taken to a homicidal extreme on the other.

not to say I don't get it at all

The comics "V for Vendetta" and "Watchmen" are truly wonderful great literature. If comics were like that all the time, my house would be full of comics.

I'd recommend Alan Moore's Miracleman if you really liked Watchmen.
posted by supermassive at 11:37 AM on June 26 [1 favorite]


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