Monday, December 18, 2006

Trying New Indy Comics

Lately I've really wanted to read more indy comics. I'm getting Event fatigue from a lot of the Big Two books I'm reading, and I'm also just jonsing for something new. The things I need to work out are making room for new books, and identifying the new stuff I'll enjoy.

Making Room.
I'm really tired of comics readers making cracks about how their wallets hurt, or they love all the new books coming out, but their wallet hates them, or how Company X is making them go broke, etc. I've started rolling my eyes whenever I see comments like that. I'm not clear on why, but it's really bugging me. However, the reality is that I can't buy everything I might like, so in order to add new books to my list, I've got to drop some things I'm currently buying.
So, what can I drop? I've identified some books currently on my pull list that are "on the bubble" for me.

First up, Conan. I've been buying this book since #1, and enjoying it far more often than not, but the recent switch in writers has put it on my "might drop" list. Thinking about it, maybe I've just had enough Conan for a while. When the comic started, the original fiction stories were being reprinted in nice paperback editions. I had also started reading some Clark Ashton Smith, and a couple years earlier, H.P. Lovecraft, and so I was having my own little pulp fantasy revival. Maybe my interests are just shifting, and the change in writers on "Conan" is a convenient point of departure.

She Hulk - Without Civil War, this book probably wouldn't be on my "might drop" list. But I'm having a real problem with liking She Hulk since she's going along with the registration/federalizing of superheroes. I don't want to get into it too deeply, b/c it involves political convictions, and I don't want this blog to get bogged down with politics. Suffice to say, I'm very much against the idea that all superpowered beings must be agents of the government or go to prison. I'm so much against it that I can't admire, or even enjoy the adventures of, any character that goes along with it.

Aquaman - While I like the character, the comic just hasn't been that satisfying lately. I'd like to know how the old Aquaman became the Dweller in the Deep, I'm intrigued by the Seascape, and King Shark has become a very intersting character. However, the new Aquaman just doesn't do much for me. Drop him out and focus on the other characters, and I might like the book a lot more. Now a new creative team is coming on board. It might work out, but frankly, if it doesn't spark with me in the first couple of issues, I'll drop this.

Indentifying the Good Stuff
Perhaps one of the big reasons that most comic readers stick to super hero books from the Big Two, and only read the occassional non-superhero book is that the former is such a well know quantity, while the latter is often a big question mark.

I know more about superhero books that I've never read than I do about most indy books. I've never read a Deadpool comic, but were I to pick one up, I'm certain that my basic assumptions would not be wrong. I've read thousands of superhero stories, and I know how they work. Even "postmodern" or "deconstructionist" superhero stories are very familiar, since they use the same conventions, just in a different light.

An indy comic (that isn't about superheroes) can be anything. That's a big part of their appeal, of course, but at the same time it makes it harder to guess at which ones I'll like reading. Of course it helps if they work within an established genre, like crime noir or paranormal or space opera, etc. The thing that draws me most to indy comics is the tone or personality. This is hard to get a sense of from solicitations.

Here's a good example. The following is part of the description of the first volume of "Scott Pilgrim" by Bryan Lee O'Malley, from Oni Comic's website. I think it's the same as the solicitation copy.

Scott Pilgrim's life is totally sweet. He's 23 years old, in a rock band, "between jobs," AND dating a cute high school girl. Everything's fantastic until a seriously mind-blowing, dangerously fashionable, rollerblading delivery girl named Ramona Flowers starts cruising through his dreams and sailing by him at parties. Will Scott's awesome life get turned upside-down? Will he have to face Ramona's seven evil ex-boyfriends in battle?

Now, my reaction to that, when I read it in "Previews", was "Why do I want to read about this prick, with his 'perfect' and 'totally sweet' life? Why would I read a whole comic about how awesome this jerk is?" Now, that probably reveals more about my own "issues" than I might like, but that's how I really felt. Months and months later, somebody at my local comic shop convinced me to give the book a try, and I absolutely loved it. I read the next two volumes in rapid succession, and I eagerly await the fourth volume. I've pimped this book to lots of people since then. The point is, I had to actually try the book before I understood the "voice" behind that solicitation, and what it was really trying to convey. Describing the book to other people, I've found it hard to really get the essence of the book across. This may be an unavoidable problem, but it does complicate the process of figuring out which indy books to try.