Saturday, 10 May 2008

How To Talk To A.... Comics Book Fan (Part 3)

There are moments in life that are sent to try us. When you discover that a bird has done its business over your car, or find out that Katie Melua is currently in a relationship and thus unable to return your sexual explicit phonecalls. But how about when you start talking to someone, only to find out that they have an obscure fascination of some kind which completely passes you by? In our occasional series here at Illicitly Eating Flowers, we’ll try to help you bluff your way through such conversations, with your sanity still intact.

The Other Comics:

Marvel and DC aren’t the only comic people out there, and if you start hearing about companies such as “Image” or “Dark Horse”, it’s tempting to cry uncontrollably. Stay strong though, because you can still bluff your way through it. Apart from the two major companies there are three other publishers who almost as popular, being Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, and IDW. Despite not being anywhere near as big as Marvel or DC, these three companies still make some of the most recognised comics in history, and you’re going to need to know them if your comic book fan happens to be an independants guy.

Dark Horse Comics are the third biggest company of them all, and you’ll recognise several of their comics. They own the rights to Mike Mignola’s Hellboy series about a giant red demon who hunts Nazis, that was turned into a film (which is getting a sequel this summer, no less). On top of this they are the place to go for Frank Miller’s independent work, which includes Sin City and 300. You see where I’m going here – a lot of Dark Horse’s work is linked to cinema. And in fact, their biggest series at the moment are the continuation of Buffy the Vampire Slayer by Joss Whedon as a comic, and their Star Wars comics, which go into just another level of hardcore obsessiveness entirely. Recently they also published “Umbrella Academy” by My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, which has been highly acclaimed.

Image Comics are a fascinating story, actually. They were founded by seven high-profile writers as a means to create work which they could keep the rights to. Amongst the writers were Jim Lee, Mark Silvestri, and Todd McFarlane, who created one of the most successful comics, Spawn. Image Comics are interesting in that most of their stories seem to inolve the supernatural and demons and such, all sharing the same Universe (the comics cross over occasionally). One of the biggest successes for the company though has been the rise of writer Robert Kirkman, who writes the two most critically acclaimed comics on the imprint at the moment. Invincible tells the story of a young man as he grows into his role as a superhero, while The Walking Dead chronicles the story of a group of people trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. Both are worthy weapons in your comic-credibility arsenal.

IDW are the fifth biggest company, and generally work off licenses. At the moment their biggest selling book is the comic which spins off from Angel the TV series (Joss Whedon has done a fair bit for comics, you’ll realise by now) and tells the story of what happened after the show finished. IDW also has the rights to Dr Who, which is due to get a series later this year. Their biggest success though is arguably the series “30 Days of Night” which tells the story of a group of people again, this time trying to survive 30 days in an Alaskan town overrun by vampires. Because the sun isn’t going to rise during this time, the people are trapped, and… you see the idea.

There are certain people who are above and beyond any conventional publishers. People who tend to write and then sell their work to whoever wants it. These people can use their name, and are arguably as famous in some cases as the publishers they work with. These are the final weapon you have when talking to a comic book fan, because by saying you like their work you automatically win. Save these three people for when you’re really struggling, though – don’t waste them all at once.

Terry Moore – Terry Moore writes comics featuring strong female characters, such as his most recent work “Echo”, which features a young girl gaining some kind of superpower after a radiation accident (as ever). However, his most famous and popular work is called “Strangers In Paradise”, and completely avoids the superhero thing. It tells two stories at the same time, the dominant one being the relationship between four people which escalates into a complicated love quadrangle. Moore is also an artist, and is often called one of the best cover artists currently working in comics.

Mark Millar – He’s written a lot of things for Marvel, and still does, but his own company “Millarworld” have recently been making a big impact on comics with his works “Kick-Ass” and “Wanted”, which is going to be released as an Angelina Jolie film this year. Kick-Ass in particular is noteworthy as it takes the piss out of traditional superhero comics by featuring young characters who want to be superheroes and so dress up in costumes and attempt to fight crime, only to get beaten up and killed by the criminals. Turns out, Millar points out, that in real life the villains aren’t so willing to be defeated.

Alan Moore – Of course. Alan Moore could very well be the most famous comic book writer on the planet. His series include V For Vendetta, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen… some of the most well-known and admired comic book works ever written. His masterpiece, however, is “Watchmen”, which takes a completely amoral stance of the idea of superheroes and super-villains, and has been nominated as one of the 100 best books from 1923-present by Time Magazine. It’s a complex, challenging story, and needless to say is being released as a film this year. Read it before then though, and quote it as often as you can, to gain bonus credit before the thing is released theatrically.

Hopefully this guide has been interesting, but remember that it’s just a primer: to get full details, you can’t do better than to head to Wikipedia and type in whatever interests you most. While you’re at it, have a look for “Maus”, Art Spiegelman’s work that was the only graphic novel to ever win the Pulitzer (they changed the rules for entry the next day!)

And I know some of you were wondering, and yes, you’re right: I’m a comics fan myself. Marvel Comics, specifically the X-Men, make up my reading of choice. So now you know.

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