Sunday, January 04, 2004

As my friends well know, I am a fan of modern comics. In earlier years, I read the occasional X-Men, but I tended more towards the various Venom miniseries and the little-known Darkhawk. For a few years, my interest in comics waned. Then I was introduced to Jhonen Vasquez's I Feel Sick. At first glance, I was appalled. The profinity and violence was hardly what I had come to expect from comics, having seen only Marvel works beforehand.

Eventually, I realized that there was a plot in the twisted little volume I held, and quite an interesting plot. Not to mention characters worth... mentioning. Hmm. Yes. Soon after, I read Vasquez's Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, and was hooked.

I have since discovered - through two trips to the San Diego Comic Convention, as well as a browse or three through Carolyn's exceptional stash - discovered several other titles well worth reading. Here's a current list, from left to right, of what's on my shelf:

    Creature Tech by Doug Tennapel : A fantastic graphic novel from an immensely talented writer and artist. Tennapel somehow succeeds in combining fantasy, science-fiction, and Christian inspiration with good comedy and an engaging plot. I still have to lend this one to Cody, so wait your turn. Actually, I think I've loaned it out to everyone who doesn't own a copy.

    The Red Star Collected Edition by Christian Gossett, et al. : As described on my Links page. I can't wait until the next trade paperback comes out. May just be time to re-read this one.

    Lenore: Wedgies by Roman Dirge : This is the second collection of Lenore comics published by Slave Labor Graphics, which also produces Jhonen Vasquez's works. Lenore is an undead ten-year-old girl whose roommate is a vampire trapped in the body of a doll. The book reads, for the most part, like a demented fairytale. I really like demented fairytales. More on that in a second. The almost childish, yet well-drawn art style takes some getting used to, but compliments the story and characters perfectly.

    Squee's Wonderful Big Giant Book of Unspeakable Horrors by Jhonen Vasquez : Appropriately placed next to Lenore, Squee! is the manic tale of young Todd Casil, neighbor to one Johnny C, the aforementioned Homicidal Maniac. At times, it seems like knife-toting madman across the street is the least of Todd's worries. Heck, at least the psycho killer likes him. The rest of the world may be quite another matter.

    I Feel Sick 1 & 2 by Jhonen Vasquez : The technical third of the three series in the JTHM world, this comic follows Devi, a gothy artist chick whose most promising date in years had been with none other than Johnny. Devi's focus and creative drive are seemingly siphoned away as she works either on commissioned paintings for a major corporate publisher, or a single painting that takes much of her attention. Do pay attention when the painting starts talking. This short story is every bit as engaging as Johnny and Squee! and is not to be missed by fans of the artist.

    Y: The Last Man - Unmanned by Brian Vaughan et al. : The premise is quite simple. I wouldn't have thought to do it, and probably wouldn't have done it as well, given the chance. Yourick Brown is the literally the last man alive after every other male on the planet dies suddenly, violently, and without explanation. The comic examines the possbile repercussions of such a strange catastrophe, and is unexpectedly wonderful to read. Unmanned is the first trade paperback.

    Fables by Bill Willingham et al. : Take all of Grimm's Fairy Tales. Throw in every nursery rhyme you were ever taught. Now, take all the characters who look human and put them in an underground community in New York City. Take the rest, and put them in upstate New York on a compound called The Farm. Bada bing. Fables. The first volume, Legends in Exile, is a murder mystery; the second, Animal Farm, involves a potential political revolution at The Farm. I really love demented fairytales.

    100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Rizzo : My absolute favorite series. The X-Files meets The Godfather with delicious, snappy film-noir staging and dialogue. A conspiracy story that leaves you feeling accomplished and rewarded with every twist. Currently spanning six trade paperbacks, 100 Bullets is set for a 100-issue run. I intend to own every one.

    Semantic Lace by Sherard Jackson : Also, as described on my Links page. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson has not updated his website for some time, though I belive that his most recent work, Assembly is out. Gotta check.

    Hellsing by Kohta Hirano : Loved the anime (animated form), and am just as pleased with the manga (comic form). It is in this series that my friends found an anime character that resembles me in appearance, if not exactly in mannerisms: Paladin Alexander Anderson, the lunatic Catholic vampire slayer. In certain panels in the comic, the resemblance is eerie. Beth did a really good job on the costume.

    Everything Can Be Beaten by Crab Scrambly and Chancre Scolex : The two authors of this bizarre little pamphlet are, respectively, Brad Canby and Jhonen Vasquez. The story’s philosophical content is easily missed by the fact that the main character spends all his time whacking things into a liquid state with a large mallet. Each page is a Canby painting with Vasquez’s prose along the bottom in paragraph form. It’s small, cheap, odd, and hey, it’s Vasquez. That’s my excuse.

There are several other series I intend to check out, including just about everything from Vertigo Comics (100 Bullets, Fables, Y: The Last Man, Sandman, etc.). They have a tendency to handle "mature content" with something quite rare these days... maturity.

Know what... contest time. Answer me this: In which Jhonen Vasquez comic, and which scene, does Brad Canby appear? Whoever posts the answer in my guestbook first wins a taco!

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