Monday, March 21, 2005

The League presents: Suggestions for Further Reading

For all the comics-related broo-ha-ha which goes on here at The League, all too infrequently do I feel I really point potential readers to comics which they may enjoy.

Now, keep in mind, literally hundreds of comics are published every month, so this is not some exhaustive, definitive list of worthwhile comics. This list is meant to be a sort of suggestion box for folks who might pop their head into the local comic shop and find the sensory overload a bit frightening.

This being the first column on this topic, I want to cover a few things in case you are new to comics and you want to take a look inside your local comic shop. Next time we'll move on to actual comics The League would suggest for further reading.

Tips for the new comics consumer:

1) Tell the guy behind the counter that you don't know anything about comics, but you're curious. Come prepared to tell him what TV shows and movies you like. This is helpful as many, many comics are not about superheroes. Some are funny, some are soap operas. Some are historical fiction.

2) Do not feel obligated to buy a comic just because the counter guy put it in your hand. If it appears to be too violent or too sexy or whatever, it probably is. You CAN try telling them "that's a bit more (violent, sexy, etc...) than what I had in mind."

If the comic shop guy can't adjust his/her mindset to point you toward something you're more comfortable with, s/he's a bum and should go out of business. Go ahead, browse for a minute and then leave.

3) Manga is not a genre. Manga just suggests a comic came from Asia and will have a few cultural shorthand things in common (big eyes on some characters, an alarming number of girls dressed as nurses and school girls). There are all kinds of Manga, so don't go in expecting all ninjas or G-Force or giant robots. There is also something called hentai. Do not touch.

4) If you are a girl, do not make eye-contact with the boys shopping in the store. The comic nerds are already afraid of you and may do something rash if they feel threatened.

If a comic nerd not affiliated with the store attempts to talk to you, answer him politely and avoid eye-contact. Actually addressing him will lead him to believe he has found his soulmate, and you just got yourself a stalker.

5) For the love of Mike, if you find something you decide is so goofy you want to make a scene, don't. Do not make a big show out of making fun of the goofy item. a) you may be completely misunderstanding some insidery comic-book joke, or b) you may have just broken the heart of the comic nerd who was standing behind you waiting for you to move so he could grab his copy of "Underage Radioactive Samurai Salamanders". This guy may have devoted his entire life to collecting "Underage Radioactive Samurai Salamanders", and you've just ruined the one thing which was making this guy's life bearable. He's 55 and lives with his mother. For God's sake, be kind.

6) Yes, they all wear tights and have huge pectoral muscles.

7) Yes, the girls are all drawn in very little clothing. The unrealistic proportions are not meant to make you feel bad about yourself.

If you must, you can feel secure in the knowledge that the artist's closest contact with real women is the checkout girl at Blockbuster.

8) No, you cannot actually do that in real life. We already know that it is unlikely that Batman could actually, physically, ever take that pose or survive jumping off of roofs.

9) Yes, the crappy looking black and white comics are drawn by pale, pimply looking guys who have girlfriends who look just like them. It is exactly as you suspect.

10) Yes, there are really THAT MANY Batman books on the shelf. And, yes, surprisingly, that many Archie comics. I don't know who reads them, either.

11) Prepare yourself for bizarre debates which may sound as if they are taking place in the psycho ward at county hospital. There may be some boring conversation about writers and artists, but be prepared for lengthy discussions on Batman's ears, the identity of the BEST Green Lantern, and who is stronger, Thor or (insert super-strong super hero here). These conversations will go on for far too long. And get really weird. And Superman is stronger than Thor. End of story.

12) The comic shop will also carry lots of extras, such as toys, posters and role-playing game materials. There are also trading card games and a game called "Hero Clix." Do not, under any circumstances, allow anyone to engage you in a discussion on "Hero Clix", "Vs." or "Magic: The Gathering."

If this occurs, feign ignorance of the english language.

13) If you are looking for comics for small kids, make sure you immediately tell the shop keep that you are looking for a children's comics. Tell him/her how old the child is, and await further instructions. Do not assume because something looks cute, it is innocent. Sometime I will have Jamie discuss "Fancy Froglin and the Sexy Forest".

14) It is, in fact, true that Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns are the greatest superhero comics ever written. If anyone disagrees with this statement in the comic shop, you can punch them in the gut, because they're a filthy liar. No, Deadpool is not better than either of them. The guy who just told you that is an idiot.

15) If you're artsy, go in to the store, request Craig Thompson's "Blankets" or something by Daniel Clowes. You'll be happier and feel really arty.

16) If you hate your own life, request the work of Chris Ware. You'll get a really interesting comic and you will have your worst fears confirmed.

17) Comics are not like books. It may take a short while to adapt to the visual language of comics, especially as you jump from artist to artist and genre to genre.

So that's it. That's my tips for going to the comic shop. Next time I'll actually come back and suggest some comics for further reading.

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