Out of your comfort zone

Seth

One of the unique aspects of the comic book medium is that it is completely dominated by a single genre. I cannot think of any other artistic media where this is true, for if we saw movies or music dominated in the way the superhero comics reign supreme it would seem ludicrous. Going into your local comic shop and seeing row after now of capes and stretchy pants is the equivalent of going into a music store where ninety percent of the CDs are ska music.

This domination has occurred for various historical reasons that are better described elsewhere, but things are changing and the consumer now has more choice than they ever did. However, just because there is more choice doesn’t mean that people are willing to exercise this new-found expansion of opportunities. In reality we generally stick within our comfort zone and don’t like to stray from the beaten path, so when we purchase our comics each month they probably are mostly superhero books (mostly Marvel or DC) with a smattering of Whedonverse or manga here and there depending on our individual tastes.

But there is so much more out there. Horror, crime noir, romance, biographies, historical fiction, ancient myths, and comedies to name but a few choices. Don’t get me wrong, I love superhero books, but some of my favourite works have been found outside of, and far from, that particular genre. It took working in a comic store to really broaden my tastes. I knew that if I was going to be knowledgeable about the product I would need to have read more than the latest issue of Amazing Spider-Man. Everything else just looked so weird though. It all seemed to be ugly compared to superhero books. And the subject matter was so strange. Some of the books just looked like people talking to each other. Boring.

A friend suggested that I read Seth’s It’s A Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. I found the author’s autobiographical tale of his search for the illusive artist Kalo to be so unique, so different that I wondered if I hadn’t misjudged Indy comics. Previously I had thought them to be poorly drawn stories about penises and women with large bums, and some are, but in all honesty I hadn’t really given then a chance. What drew me in was Seth’s design and layout of the book. His choice of colour and panel breakdown was different from anything I had seen in Superman. And ultimately I wasn’t too upset that the story contained no superpowers or fierce battles with monsters. It was just a good story.


Isle of 1000 Graves

Today I try to read a variety of works. And not only because I write for this website. I like to read and I like to watch movies and try more than one genre from those media, so why wouldn’t I try more than one genre of comic book? I have been pretty interested in crime noir over the last year though (Cooke and Brubaker), and I also have enjoyed Scott Chantler’s Two Generals (historical), Craig Thompson’s Habibi (love story), Jason’s Isle of 100,000 Graves (adventure, black comedy), and good old Uncle Scrooge.

So broaden your reading tastes. Talk to your local comic book shop, read reviews online, or chat with your hipster friends (Scottie say: read the CBD reviews of books you don’t recognize). I would suggest to you that whatever type of genre movie or novel you enjoy can also be found in comic books, and beyond that try something that you don’t typically enjoy. Allow yourself to get past the look or subject matter of non-superhero fare and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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Anthony Falcone
Anthony Falcone is a freelance writer living in Toronto and he is the Ayatollah of Rocknrolla. You should definitely follow him on Twitter.
Articles: 216

6 Comments

  1. I read Craig Thompson’s blankets… It was okay, but as a love story, a bit too corny for my tastes.

    Anything by Seth has my vote. When I first read It’s a Good Life… I was blown away by it’s subtle humour. I picked up this second copy while browsing in a used book store. I think Scott might appreciate this personalized original sketch that I discovered:

    http://www.eltoro505.com/_comics/Seth.jpg

    I also liked Fun Home, a graphic autobiography by Alison Bechdel. I love the way she ended it… with subtle melancholy… These types of book are great because they are so personal. As such, they can be quirky and off beat and after you’ve read it, there’s much to reflect on.

  2. Ska music? Well, come on now…the super-hero genre might be more like rock or hip-hop; something with a very, very large “following”. But your point is valid that it’d still be odd if 90% of all CD’s were rock music.

    That old movie Comic Book Confidential has a pretty good overview of different genres…at least up to ’87 or ’88. Since it tries to chronicle the comic industry itself, however, it still winds up being fairly spandex-heavy. Harvey Pekar’s narration of his mundane troubles at the record store is very entertaining…although I have to admit, even after first seeing that movie nearly 25 years ago I never did pick up many independent comics.

    Of course, I don’t pick up any hip-hop or ska CD’s either.

  3. I just picked up Comic Book Confidential on Blu-Ray. I forgot how great a movie that was. I guess we take it for granted now in our instant access Twitter filled universe, that back in the old days the creators of our favourite comics weren’t celebrities. We knew their names, but they didn’t really have a voice. Now we can see lots of interviews with Stan Lee, or follow him on Twitter. But that movie really opened a lot of people’s eyes to how comics were created. The Wm. Gaines interview was my favourite in that movie.

    Now back to the thread… broadening your horizons and reading new material is good, but I prefer my super hero comics. I have read others, but I always go back to what I like. It’s like chips. There’s lots of different flavours, but you just can’t beat Sour Cream and Onion.

  4. Why lock oneself into one genre, one type of comic? I love all kinds of movies, why wouldn’t I want to read all kinds of comics? Isle of 100,000 Graves remains my favourite comic of 2011, hands down.

  5. It got me to try his other works like the Last Musketeer, I Killed Adolf Hitler and the Werewolves of Montpellier, and Low Moon. I’m now a big fan of his work, picked up Athos in America when it came out last year and I’m eagerly awaiting his latest, which is due in the summer. Isle is a lot more kid friendly than his other books though.

    I gave my copy of Isle to Joe (my manager) to read a few weeks ago, and he loved it.

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