Answering SumoSlamMan: Non-Capes Writers That Interest Me

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08/14/10Answering SumoSlamMan: Non-Capes Writers That Interest Me(Blog) (Forum) (List)Chester Gould(Back) (Next)

In the comment to my blog, "Seven Comic Writers That Inspire Me," SumoSlamMan commented:

"All these guys have a lot of great super hero stuff floating around, I dig on Kirkman and Mark Waid a ton, and there's nothing wrong with the capes crowd, but do you dig on any non-super hero comic book writers? Just curious."

Well, typical me, the answer got really long, so I decided to make it another blog entry.

Hey, Sumo', thanks for the question. Hm... Well, my absolute favorite is Chester Gould, the creator of Dick Tracy. That's technically a newspaper strip though, not a comic book, but Gould blew my mind as a kid. I mean: Mumbles, one of his villains, falls off a building and gets impaled on a flag pole. Too cool. Plus, Gould was known for the mock graveyard at his residence - he added a "tombstone" for every character he killed off. That's not really writing related, but I've always thought it was kooky-interesting.

Other than that, I always get into non-capes stuff late, so it's hard to say. I love Willingham's Fables. Preacher was interesting, but generally, if it's really over-the-top gore, violence and language, I can only take it in doses. I mean, I read the entire Preacher in trades, but then I laid off that kind of thing for a long while. I tend to check out Vertigo stuff once it's several trades in. No real reason for that - it's just the way it happens. Y: The Last Man was excellent! Losers was okay, Invisibles I have yet to finish. DMZ and 100 Bullets are sitting on my shelf unread, but they look good. I recently enjoyed a Stray Bullets spinoff, Amy Racecar - what a fun romp. I love the whole concept of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - it made me want to read the classics they were based on (still looking for the first Allan Quatermain novel) - but maybe that classifies as capes?

So, let's see, LEG is Alan Moore of course, but who wrote the others? Ennis wrote Preacher, and I like his stuff (The Boys is great) but again, in doses. I have to peel my brain out of his stories when I'm done, like you'd peel gum from the crevices in your track shoes. Takes awhile before I'm ready to do that again. I tend to read his stuff in trades - a five or six issue dose at a time, and don't come back to it for six months. I hesitate to say this, but I guess I find him gratuitous at times. You could arguably say he's more realistic about the amount of death and destruction that would be involved with powers or guns, but I guess I do want my comics mildly sanitized. Say what you will, I just can't be that cynical and grim all the time.

Speaking of cynical and grim, Grant Morrison is another one I read in doses. Yep, I usually like his stuff, but again, it's usually in trades. I usually find his stuff an interesting read, but if it goes too long, he gets a little bizarre. Still good, but bizarre.

Back to Alan Moore for a moment - you may want to pick up your stones now - I overdosed on Moore when ABC came out, and decided I don't think he's a great writer of original material. He is the absolute king of the revamp, or retcon, or that character that's similar to your beloved childhood hero. His original stuff usually leaves me a little cold though. I guess the best way to explain it is that I usually come away from his material going, "How can that be so good, and yet show so much disdain for the comic industry at the same time?" The man is practically universally loved in the comics field, most of his original material has been made into blockbuster movies, and yet he is so danged bitter about comics. Why isn't he happier? ...(Deep sigh) There's probably a million answers for that, and it's really none of my business, but as much as I love a good Alan Moore tale, I always seem to feel weary when I'm done reading one of his trade paperbacks - just tired, and almost like I've been beat about the head and shoulders as I read. Still, despite my complaints, I must say again that he is the KING of the revamp. LEG did that, Albion did that, Terra Obscura did that, and of course, Watchmen did that. I've often thought that Terra Obscura is more along the lines of what he meant Watchmen to be. Three of my all-time Moore favorites though are Supreme: Story of the Year, Supreme: The Return, and Judgment Day - two of the best "Superman" stories I've ever read, and a time travelling epic that should be required reading to any literature student.

The other titles mentioned, I don't really know the authors well enough to give an opinion. I liked the works mentioned - that's about the best I can say.

Here's a couple of other things though. Greg Rucka's Whiteout and Whiteout: Melt were amazing. They sat on my shelf for years, and I finally broke 'em out the night before he made an appearance at an LCS to promote the Batwoman run in Detective. Everyone else was there to get their Batwoman issue signed - I was handing him my Whiteout books (in retrospect, that may have p.o.'d the artist with him). Murder mysteries in the frozen waste of Antartica. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I imagine the books are better.

Last, I have to mention Frank Miller's Sin City. As I said at the beginning, my absolute favorite is Dick Tracy, and I used to call SC "Dick Tracy for the Nineties." They have some of the same qualities of gratuitous display as Ennis or Morrison, but I feel that Miller does it with more class - maybe it's just the art. While I find the art beautiful, it's definitely the writing that does it for me with SC. The first story arc makes Marv invincible forever after, and it's a joy to know that no matter how bad the situation is after the first arc, Marv has to get out of it - the fun is watching him get out of it. Also, the first three story arcs are happening at the same time, and I thought it was amazing how he pulled that off. Sin City is really the only Miller work I can speak to though, as far as non-capes. I have 300, but prefer to sit and watch the movie. Martha Washington and it's similar predecessor, Ronin, are very cool sci-fi stories, but to me, they're almost capes, so I won't go into those. I think they're very well written though. Miller himself strikes me a little bit similar to Moore, in that he seems to be very bitter about some things in the industry. I could be wrong on that of course. I should probably add Miller to the list of guys who inspire me, because it was definitely Sin City and Dick Tracy that inspired me to create my own gangland characters, but mine have evolved into something different (as it should be).

The rest of these guys... I draw inspiration from everything I read - as any aspiring writer will - even if it inspires me on how not to do something. Their books are great, but either I haven't read enough of them to feel I can legitimately claim them as an inspiration, or in one way or another, they almost make me feel bad for liking comics. Not because "comics are for kids," but because they have a way of using a story to throw light on the cruddy practices in the industry, or make you feel ridiculous for having enjoyed only-in-comics plausibilities. That doesn't sit well with me. I want to enjoy a guy who gets powers under a different colored sun, or a guy who moves at super speed but doesn't metabolize his body to nothing for the calories. I like epic continuity reboots (to an extent) and Batman, even though he couldn't possibly be perfect at as many things as he is. Guys like Siegel and Shuster got hosed by normal business practices of the day, and a billion dollar corporation ought to have no problem making that right today, but I shouldn't have to feel guilty for enjoying the characters they created, just because they got hosed. That's the stuff that seems to come up in some of these guys' works, and I can only take that in doses, because that's not what I read comics for. I'm ecstatic that things have changed so there is creator-ownership in comics now, but I like the corporate stuff too. I think it's a little weird and two-faced to say, "Buy my comic, but you're a frickin' moron for enjoying the comics that made mine possible." So while I do enjoy some of these guys works, I don't really claim them as inspirations. Willingham's Fables inspires me for another reason, but it's the subject for another blog.

Hope I answered your question, SumoSlamMan. Sorry it got so long, but you literally asked for it. When you get me on the right subject, I can talk the ears off a cornfield. Thanks much. ;) -cb

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