Friday, 3 April 2009

Great Works of Comic Genius which I've Never Read

It dawned on me the other day that I still haven't read Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Given that it's supposedly one of the great works of comics genius or summat, this is a bit pants really. Still, it's not the only important comic I've failed to read. Here's a list of some of the others.

V for Vendetta: I've got the trade sitting on my shelf, but I've never got around to reading this. I've picked it up a few times, but something about it just makes me sigh and think: "another day". Odd really, given that I've devoured EVERYTHING else Alan Moore has ever written. I'm not sure the comic can tell me anything about Thatcherism that I haven't already read elsewhere though. Despite what most people thought, I quite enjoyed the film. 

Preacher: Not 100% accurate to say I haven't read this, because I have worked my way through the first couple of trades. They seemed enjoyable enough, but I never quite got round to reading the rest. I don't know, I must admit to having problems with Garth Ennis. Don't get me wrong, he's good and all, but I occasionally get hacked off with the whole uber sex and violence thing. This is where it all started though, so I should pretend I'm living in the 90s or something and be genuinely shocked (instead of bored) by all the fucking, disembowelment and blaspheming.

Maus: Nazi cats?! Bah! I like cats. If the cats were jews and the Nazis dogs, I'd give it a look.

Sin City: Oh, this just doesn't appeal to me. I feel like I really liked Frank Miller in the 80s but don't need to be reading anything he's written since then. This is totally unfair I know, but it's like The Rolling Stones in a way - they were fantastic back in the 60s, but I wouldn't listen to anything they've recorded since 1980. God, that's a woeful attitude isn't it? I'll read Sin City then. Sorry.

Love and Rockets: I have dim memories of being 13 and feeling that I should be reading this. My good friend Mr Wheatley (who can often be found lurking in the comments section of this blog) always used to bang on about how great it was when we were kids, but I just saw lesbian mechanics and, unable to comprehend why anyone would write a comic about something like that, retreated sheepishly into a corner with my X-Men. I still can't be arsed. Terrible really.

Walt Simonson's Thor: Now, I did read the odd issue of this when I were a lad, but it was never really a favourite and the newsagent didn't always have it in stock so I reckon it can go on this list. Over the last few years I've put together a full run from the 50p boxes at various comic marts, so I will sit down and go through it to see if it's as good as everyone says (one of these days).

Starman: I've got an excuse for this one; when it came out I was busy doing studenty stuff and pretending that I preferred sex and drugs to super-powered men in leotards. Young fool! Picked up the first omnibus edition and LOVED it, so this will soon be ticked off the list.

Akira: Another one which I felt I should be reading when I was a teenager. I didn't like the look of the art though so left it alone. I still have problems with manga, but have been giving it a go lately so might get round to Akira. I can still only manage Japanese comics in small doses I'm afraid (pitiful Westerner!), so this would take a very long time for me to get through.


Mr A. P. Salmond, esq. said...

By way of response:

Sandman is good in fits and starts. It's worth reading, but the more conventional parts haven't aged all that well, and the more literate parts are just a bit dull. But there is some brilliant stuff in there. The single issue stories are often the best, though Dolls House has some great horror beats.

V For Vendetta: Very surprised by this. I can only assume the art puts you of a "not really in the mood" frame of mind, but for my money this is the second-best thing Moore has done. It's no From Hell, but I always thought it had more emotional kick than Watchmen. I love the latter, but give me real humanity over structural brilliance any day.

Preacher: Ennis used to always frustrate me for the shock factor. Any run he did would ping-pong from sensationalist juvenilia to wonderfully observed character piece to edge of the seat thriller. His Hellblazer frustrated me terribly for this reason and I actually passed on Preacher after the first issue (though it's notable for a great letter column where he rips the piss out of the likes of Grant Morrison and John Smith), but came back to it later. Glad I did, though it dragged on a little longer than it needed to. His newer stuff, I have to say, is great. Crossed and The Boys still indulge his tittery schoolboy humour, but to be honest he's good enough now that it doesn't really drag them down. For that Punisher Max run I'll forgive him damn near anything.

Maus: The trouble here is that we feel like we've seen all the Auschwitz stuff a million times before, however powerful it is. The anthropomorphism is probably the weakest aspect of it, an ethnic shorthand. But then, given the real meat of the story is the experience of the child of Holocaust survivors, it could be said that this has a deeper meaning than is first apparent. Or not. Anyway, it is very good.

Sin City: The first one was fun and quite impressive when it came out. The second one was so over the top with its hard boiled dialogue as to be good fun. The third was shit. The fourth was entertaining. The rest are shit. The short story collections being the worst.

Love & Rockets: Really worth persisting with. The Locas stuff is the more immediately accessible, though the Mechanics arc does throw people off. Keep with it though and it's all just a great soap opera. The Palomar/Luba material is the more rewarding I reckon. The other odds and sods range from entertaining to just plain weird. Oh, and anyone who tells you they prefer the Mario stuff to Jaime or Gilbert just did a lot of drugs in the Nineties.

Simonson's Thor: I haven't read this in years, but I used to love it. I fear the writing may have dated some, but Simonson is one of the artists of the 80's whose work I feel hasn't dated at all. Why aren't more people influenced by him?

Starman: Starts great but loses its way for a while, particularly around the two-thirds mark (often the case of these 70-odd issue runs), before a satisfying end. I did enjoy it, but I do think that as a whole it's overrated.

Akira: Just watch the movie. As messed as the ending is for that, it's no less satisfying than the end of the comic. Akira the manga starts out really well, but after a while devolves into a series of big explosions, losing the complexity promised by the earlier chapters. If you want to read a great manga that has the same kind of accessibility as Akira, read Eden, currently being serialised by Dark Horse. Fucking amazing.

mr wheatley said...

v for vendetta is turgid
preacher i found myself skipping the speeches. Never a massive fan. Dillon is great though.. Abslom Dak Dalek killer! woo
Maus is good, but havent read it since it came out.
Sin city 1 was ace, i liked the series less as it got looser. still like millers stuff though.
Love and Rockets is still great, got a giant reprint waiting to be read.
Walt simpsons robocop V terminator.. thats the one
Starman i remember reading at the time and i thought it was good
Akira is top. its still a treat reading that.

Dom Sutton said...

Mr Salmond: this ^^^ is why you are by far the wisest comic shop employee I have had the good fortune to meet. Thanks for setting me straight on everything, I'll go back and look at Preacher and V again AND give L & R a try.

Great of you to post such a detailed response, shouldn't you be writing your radio play though?

Mr W: I knew you'd read most of the stuff on the list! I'm quite surprised to to see you dissing V for Vendetta! Also to hear that you read Starman, which means you were reading comics when I'd gone dark on them.

By the way, now I think about it properly, I think I do dimly remember reading Maus when it came out. It clearly didn't have the same emotional impact on me as many folk though. Like Mr S says the whole anthropomorphising thing just doesn't work that well for me, although Jason's "I killed Adolf Hitler" was one of my favourite comics of last year (was it last year?), so you know, maybe I'm ready to give Maus another go.

mr wheatley said...

i read 9 issues of warrior, so caught v for vendetta early on. I remember liking it. But then a few years ago i bought the colourized dc version. It was hard to get through. The film is awfull! haha. Better than Watchmen Salmond? cant go with you there. Id say top ten, Promethia, Tom Strong, League Of E G and Skizz all rate higher

Anonymous said...

If nothing else read Sandman: Seasons of Mists. That said I still haven't read all of them. Tsk tsk.

I really want to get a copy of Nick Abadzis' Laika.

I've not read Preacher, Maus, Akira, or Love and Rockets either...