The Comic List, Vol. 1
Look ma, no superheroes!
In the first half-decade of the 2000s, I was a primary school student in Kolkata. Mom used to pick me up from school, and on most days, we would walk till the nearest metro station, a walk of about 1 and a half km. One thing that almost always used to happen was her taking the grocery and household items (there was a big market, on the route, but a bit off it as well) in between, and me getting bored. So, she used to make me stand near a newspaper stall, the owner being someone who knew us courtesy our daily passing by. While she went, I would stand and pore over the comics in his collection. There was Superman, there was Batman, there was Spiderman. For the 30 minutes or so, I would read a comic and then keep gazing at the covers of the others; I was too scared to ask again, especially because the actual purchasing happened once a month or even less. Then mom used to appear, and the session ended. Then I started growing up, and slowly, lost touch with that world. Other people and other alternatives emerged. The years rolled by, one after the other.
Then a day before one of those infinite engineering exams, I felt like reading one.
A movie requires you to be all there; no energy to do that. A novel is ultimately lots and lots of words; sure, they paint a world, but what if I want someone else to do the painting for me?
I found a Star Wars comic on the net. I liked the story; kept reading, found the next issue. Finished the whole story; way too good to stop at one. And when I did, I decided to ask the Net about the other stars in this field. Am still going through them, and it doesn’t even look close to finished.
Thus, I fell for comics all over again.
What’s your story?
You know him. You know almost everything about him. So, what’s new now? Everything. Mark Waid recently rebooted the story; 13 issues in, and the situation is already complicated. Don’t worry; Veronica is still filthy rich, Reggie is still a jerk, and Archie is….well, Archie! But it’s the small details added to each character that make the story so much more. Everyone is relatable to, and when they cry, and when they smile, you can understand why. The artwork is also great, though it is already on its fourth artist. For the sake of good ol’ Archie, do have a look at this.
Creators: Mark Waid
Comics are for kids? Sure, this one fits the bill. Heck, it’s even published by Scholastic, one of the most regular labels I saw in childhood. Now, try picking this up, and then putting it down. Bone just draws you inl; once you’re in this adventure, you wouldn’t ever want it to stop. Even the monsters here are adorable! 3 misfits, approaching evil, unspoken secrets and lots of history. And look! Dragons!
Creators: Jeff Smith
Brian K. Vaughan never has a dearth of fascinating stories. What if all the men die, and the one man left is a 22-something guy in America who has just proposed to his fiancé, currently in Australia? What if a superhero puts up his cape, and becomes the mayor of New York? So, when a man like this starts writing an epic, you put everything aside and see where this one goes. And when Fiona Staples is the one doing the art, there’s no excuse for missing on it. In the words of one of their readers ‘we all can’t shut up about Fiona’s art. Every page has been gorgeous! And Brian has been writing with such realism that we can’t help finding likeable or relatable qualities in even the most loathsome characters.’
The Wicked + The Divine
‘Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead.’ So reads the blurb. Starring characters based more or less on the denizens of the music industry (Prince, Daft Punk, David Bowie et al.), superficially, this can tell you about all the different types of Gods in all the pantheons. And if you look closely? There is the sense of how people react when their time is running out. And about fame on a stage, and how much stays hidden of the person behind the arclights.
I started reading this when I thought of making this list. The Odyssey is one of the most well known epics in modern literature. So, naturally, the comic switches the gender of almost all the characters, and sets the story in the future. But no, that’s not all. The art, the way the colors appear on the page, the sheer imagination …if you even dream about making art like that, ogle at it. Mad. MAAAAAD.
Ages ago, I met this book in a bookstore, back when I still hadn’t relapsed into comics. I opened onto a part where the protagonist, just settling in Europe after a teary farewell to her parents back in Iran, stumbles upon her roomie having sex with her boyfriend. The way the author (who is the protagonist herself) describes and depicts that for-her-very-novel scene had me reeled in, hook, line and sinker. The story itself is of how the author, Marjane Satrapi, came of age, while the Islamic Revolution took over her homeland. It’s part of her life which you will see on these pages.
Creators: Marjane Satrapi
All your fairy tale characters are alive in New York. And they have been there since quite a while. Finishing off with 150 issues, this is a look at all our bedtime stories, and the characters in them. Just think of what would happen if all those characters had to live together, for all these years, to survive; the Big Bad Wolf is a more decent guy than Prince Charming; Pinocchio is bitter that he has not yet attained puberty, while Beauty and the Beast have their own marital problems (they have been married since centuries; cut them some slack). Some fall in love, some go to war, some become heroes. This is one complete fairy tale in itself.
Creators: Bill Willingham
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Sex Criminals deals with sex in a very, very open way (you might call it porn, but if you look carefully, there are messages in-between the lines); East of West is another epic narrated by the master himself, Jonathan Hickman (more on him in the next part); Plutona packed a punch in just 5 issues; Maus is a highly acclaimed narration of an Holocaust survivor and his life; Sin City is another which keeps on popping on the best of lists; Essex County, Transmetropolitan, V for Vendetta…Or you could just sit back, and go through the lists of best non-superhero comics. You can even meet the creators, too!
This list doesn’t end. For now, let’s go meet the superheroes.
Curious about how the scene in India? Look here.