New Comic Book Day

In certain circles, the Wednesday [sometimes Thursdays] of every week is a mini-holiday known as "New Comic Book Day." The day is known as such because this is when the major comic companies distribute their titles -- actually nearly all comic companies deliver their books on these days, and while it varies as to what comes out, if you're so inclined you can stop by your local shop every week on or around this day, and pick up the latest Spider-Man, Superman, or Batman. In high school, it was sort of like an event, or at the very least, an excuse, to get everyone together and go to the local shop to pick up whatever it is you can't wait to read that day.

Nowadays, this strikes me as a little extravagant -- something marked on the calendars of people with a plethora of time and disposable income. My new comic day comes far less often, every two-to-three months, and that's usually enough to hit me hard in the pocketbook and keep me entertained with comics for a day or two. But I know people, well into their twenties, thirties, forties, who show up every couple weeks on a Wednesday, without fail, to snatch up the new titles on their pull-list.

To each their own.

A lot of the reason for my infrequency of purchase is because of the low volume of titles I get. The big two, Marvel and DC, publish literally hundreds of books month-to-month, and honestly, a lot of them just suck. Maybe it's because of homogenization [there are more 'Avengers' comics than "Law and Order" spin offs] or the lack of original ideas [which is understandable 100 books in a month, 75 writers on staff, 99 of the books are boy's morality tales in spandex... do the math], but from my tolerance standpoint, and from the standpoint of having very little income, I've become selective with what I read.

And my local comic dealer is very understanding of this -- I pause now to plug that I go to Cheryl's Comics and Toys in Kanawha City, run by Cheryl Pauley [natch], and having her in charge of my pull list is one of the more pleasant experiences in my comic book fandom. She doesn't mind I stop by infrequently, or that I buy a lot less than a lot of her other customers, she's always understanding if I can't make it into the shop right away, and she often grabs things she knows will tie-in with something I'm reading or that I'd just be likely to enjoy. I got nearly all my comics from her even while going to school in Bennington, Vermont, save for a title or two snagged for me by my friend Heke, or Sam's mom.

What I'm reading now is really exceptional, and I thought I might talk a little about them here because I enjoyed them so much.

Top of my list is always Dynamite Comic's "The Boys," a take on the super-hero world if the men in capes were all like politicians -- i.e. dicks and whores, as written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Darick Robertson. Ennis is of "Preacher" and "Punisher" fame, and the book is full of gross-out humor like giant super-boners, circle jerks, and a Wolverine-parody with sledgehammers for fists and the simple catch phrase of "Gonna!" repeated now until infinity. It's not quite as epic in scope or clever as "Preacher" was, but it's also relatively early on in the book's life, and reading them as they come out feels important -- as if something just...good, is taking shape. As usual, it's not all sophomoric humor, and Ennis has found a balance I haven't seen in his other work; in Issue 26 he has a really sweet, honestly-drawn moment between his protagonist and the protagonist's girlfriend while they have sex in the park, only to follow it up with a really interesting commentary on the drunken revelry of St. Patrick's Day in Issue 27, ending in a splash page of a leprechaun hat filled with vomit. Some people might call it cynical -- I think that neglects a stronger aspect of the subject matter, but even in neglecting it, there's still plenty to enjoy and laugh about. Probably the best book being published today, if you can stomach it. And Robertson is the same level of superstar he was on "Transmetropoliton," with Issue 26 sporting a variant cover [which I have] of the G-Men [guess who they're parodies of?] facing off in 1970's Dave Cockrum-style and giving each other the finger.

Next up is Vertigo's [DC's adult line] "Ex Machina," a book about the first super-hero mayor of New York City. Written by Brian K. Vaughn [Y fame] and penciled by Tony Harris ["Starman" guy], the book skates exploitation sometimes, except for the fact that Vaughn loves New York so damn much, you really can't get upset about it. Issue 40 is my highlight from this pick-up -- hilariously, this one stars the books creators, Vaughn and Harris, interviewing for the chance to do their fictional mayor's comic book biography [in the comic -- meta, you know?], and even though it's the kind of gimmick that tends to suck [Marvel Comics' 1980's and 1990's shitty bullpen comics come to mind], Vaughn knows what he's doing, plays it honest and close to the chest and doesn't step over the line. There's a little bit of vanity, but it's damn charming and honest as hell. The ending is exceptionally funny, especially if you know comics, and I laughed so hard I had to stop reading from my stack and just enjoy it for a bit.

DC's "Green Arrow and Black Canary" was a wonderful addition to my pull list that's gone now. I liked the hippie super-hero, his family of arrow-slingers, his wife who, short of the fishnets, might be the greatest stab at feminism in comics today, all enjoyably written by Judd Winnick [that would be Real World and "Pedro and Me" Judd Winnick], and built on the relaunch of the character by Kevin Smith. He departed the from the book, and his replacement, Andrew Kreisberg, while a very capable and talented writer, is now writing a far more standard super-hero book, which isn't nearly as much fun for me as it was in Winnick's hands.

"Runaways" is currently the only Marvel title I get -- created by Brian K. Vaughn, few books, even as young as this one, can boast such an impressive pedigree of writers -- Vaughn, then JossWhedon [Buffy, Firefly], and now Terry Moore, who you've heard me talk about at length in this blog, using words like "admiration" and "inspiration." Can't say enough good things, but I don't want this blog to turn into that. "Runaways" is probably my favorite comic book, and now my favorite writer is helming it, so I'm in heaven with this title, especially now that it is coming out on time [something Whedon couldn't seem to manage -- and I don't really take issue with late books like I used to, it's just when they're late, I get less of them to read, and in the case of "Runaways" that makes me sad]. It is a shame that Marvel can't produce more books like "Runaways," as it strikes me not unlike something that might have rolled out of the golden age of Marvel -- unique, marketable characters with staying power and some actual literary depth. The failings of Marvel to follow up on similar new works in the genre [like "Marvel Boy" and "Gravity"], makes "Runaways" seem even more special, and being a fan of the book means something to me, not unlike the way being a Spider-Man fan meant something to me when I was ten.

The last two are DC titles -- one is Gen13 in DC's Wildstorm brand [kept alive only for nostalgia purposes, near as I can tell], an unfortunate relaunch of the uber-popular, beautifully drawn by J. Scott Campbell, and horribly-written by the same man 1990's series. I say "unfortunate" not because the book is bad, rather, it just seems unlucky. It was relaunched by editorial edict, and put in the hands of Gail Simone, who did more with the characters' development in four issues than their creator ever managed to do. Simone's workload eventually caught up to her, or maybe just her interest waned, and Scott Beatty [the guy who did the 90's encyclopedias of super-heroes for DC] was made the writer, and just as he was growing into the book, another editorial edict was handed down to "End the Wildstorm Universe," essentially turning every book in the WS line into a post-apocalyptic tale. Beatty has surprisingly rolled with this well, and coupled with the fact that Campbell's character designs still ring as relevant and iconic, something a lot of 90's books can't claim, means the title can be downright charming. It's a lot of fun, if not a little fly-by-seat-of-Beatty's pants [which you can't blame him, as a writer for the series, he's been jerked around like no body's business], and Mike Huddleston, who is relatively new to comics, has amazing pencil work that really fits the feel of this type of book. Occasionally, a more indie-style artist like Dan Hipp will take over for an issue, which is a real treat, and makes a book that feels a little forgotten about sometimes interesting and fun. Gen13 isn't for everyone, but I like it's quirkiness, and even though I'm waiting for it to get cancelled, I really hope it doesn't.

The other is DC's "Green Lantern Corps," which I think is the most mainstream title I get without fail now. I originally started the book because I read "Green Lantern" heavily in the 90's, which featured the character of Kyle Rayner, a somewhat controversial replacement for the Silver Age Green Lantern of Hal Jordan, and the character of Kyle is heavily featured in this book. I am a big enough fan of the Green Lantern that "GL" was a nickname the girls had for me in college [particularly Sam], but honestly even I'm amazed sometimes that I read this book. It's not my usual comic book snobbery or cheapness, just some basic prejudices I have against the material -- I don't like space stories with heavy science fiction, aliens don't interest me, I think having more than one Green Lantern waters the character down really badly, and the writer, Peter J. Tomasi, never really impressed me with any of his other work. But "Green Lantern Corps" is an amazing book, and giving the reasons as to why is difficult if you don't know the material. Kyle Rayner, of course, is the main draw for me, but the reemergence of Guy Gardner, Mongul fighting Arkillo in Issue 33-34, the outright creepiness of the cradle-robbing character Kryb, the combination super-hero/surgeon/sexy red chick Natu, the Star Sapphire Corps [think Green Lanterns meet Sailor Moon, and shut up, it's awesome], and the talks-to-dead GL Saarek hit all the right notes with me. It's high concept, but not obscene, the action sequences are violent, but don't feel celebratory about it, and Tomasi threads a subplot like no one's business. In a book this sprawling, there are certainly things that pop up that I just don't care about, but it's a minor problem at best. It's building so well, I'm actually going to start picking up the regular "Green Lantern" book in anticipation of their upcoming "Blackest Night" crossover. Right now, Patrick Gleason is penciling, and his work is good enough I hope he stays. The coloring of the book is inconsistent, not bad, just not done with a strong eye towards continuity, which isn't odd for comics, but stands out in GLC to me for some reason.

Most impressive thing about GLC is how a book with such a large cast so rarely feels like it's full of cannon fodder. Characters die, of course, and so far no one who's died under this creative regime has been brought back [comic book death], but Tomasi does a really good job of making most of those who pass matter to the reader, particularly impressive when sometimes they only get a few panels per issue. GLC winds up feeling like four super-hero comics meets Star Trek [in a good way, if there is a good way]meets a war movie.

I read other comics, of course, lots of trades, "Walking Dead," "Preacher," "DMZ," "Invincible," and a few others ["Fishtown" is up next... an IDW indie book I know nothing about, and I love those], and my dad gets "Superman" and "Punisher" in the mail, but as month to month goes, those listed above are the biggies. I look forward to all of them, though, which I don't know my friends with a larger pull-list can say, and that makes me feel good, along with just feeling more justified that the higher standards I have to put on my comic consumption means I won't be throwing too many of my comics down in disgust. And there are things I wish I could get, if I had the money to entertain less "sure-things" -- as Spider-Man is a book I just enjoy getting, and Deadpool is one of those things I've always wanted to get started on, but usually fail to. Both Marvel books. Hah. Few others, including a couple of recommendations from friends, but right now, I don't feel like I'm missing much.

This has went longer than I intended. Sorry, I don't get to talk about comics very often.


2 comments :: New Comic Book Day

  1. Screw you! Tomasi's Black Adam miniseries was awesome! Loud noises!

  2. It was o.k. Nothing so staggering as to make me a fan.

    Tomasi's always been a pickup guy -- Geoff Johns doesn't have time to write this book, Tomasi will get it, Waid and Morrison can't follow up on Adam after 52, Tomasi will get it, no one to write Nightwing, Tomasi will get it. I think my first exposure to him was when he was doing fill in issues for Steel and Green Lantern for Simonson and Wolfman respectively. Those are tough acts to follow, and it wasn't until GLC that he ever managed to endear himself to me.