A confession: Before I seriously got into anime, I was a comic book fan. We had this serialized magazine back in the day called Funny Komiks, and I liked the action/sci-fi ones like Istarkid, Jonax, and Combatron, which had awesomely-named characters like Death Metal, Megadeath, and Armorgeddon.
At some point, a local company licensed Spider-Man during the days of the Clone Saga and sold them in cheaper glossy paper. I gobbled the issues up, growing up with Ben Reilly Spider-Man despite not knowing that he was the clone, which broke my heart later on. (He died, and hasn’t come back since.)
There’s a big overlap between comic books and anime/manga–both are niche franchises, despite the best efforts of their proponents, and both are so diverse that general fans of said media are few and far between. But the biggest common denominator for me is that both can inspire the best and worst conversations between passionate fans. There’s so much to, well, sperg about. Last week, I enumerated to my friends the different characters who are named Captain Marvel. There’s a whole lot of them and it’s very confusing.)
The big advantage of comics over manga is, well, the bulk of them are already in English. I mean, even some professional manga translations aren’t good! The other one is color–most comics are fully-colored, and it could lend to really striking art. It’s also true that some colorists screw up the lineart, though.
Anyway, during my Nanowrimo stint, I discovered Comixology, which is kind of like Steam for comics, and the comics forum in Something Awful, which pointed me to a lot of good stuff. This works as a recommendations post, because the best way to get more people reading comics is to talk about them!
(I’m mostly a Marvel guy, because DC is kinda dope right now–I don’t like their New 52 revamp at all.)
Saga is about two star-crossed lovers Alana and Marko (and their newborn child, who serves as the narrator of the story) fleeing from the backdrop of an intergalactic war between their races. Both sides don’t like how they shacked up (it’s bad for the image of the war), and send various interesting characters after them. My favorite is a robot with a TV for a head (which plays what’s on his mind).
He looks like this:
Saga is a science fantasy. There isn’t any sci-fi technobabble, the characters speak in modern English, yet there are trees that zip in space, cats that can tell if you’re lying, and magic that’s cast by revealing a secret you’ve never told anyone about. It’s also quite vulgar–there’s sex and swearing and occasional violence that thankfully isn’t gratuitous.
My favorite thing about Saga is that you get to care about everybody, from the runaway couple to the people who are trying to kill them. They all have their distinct motivations and reasons to do what they have to do, and there’s no real “bad guy”. Prince Robot IV just wants to finish the job and go back to his pregnant wife. The Will may be a bounty hunter, but he has a heart of gold! Alana and Marko, they just want to live in peace, universe be damned.
It’s an Image publication, which means it’s creator-owned, without annoying stuff like editor fiat getting in the way. That just means that it’s closer to manga than superhero comics, which tend to tell writers what they can or can’t do (they’re not allowed to change a character’s status quo because he’s going to play an important role in another comic, etc). It also won a Hugo award!
If you like Star Wars and fun, you should read this.
Remember the Avengers movie last year? Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s Marvel Studios’ biggest film with an all-star cast of characters. One of them is Clint Barton (alias Hawkeye), a dude with a bow and arrow. No, he’s different from that other archer guy with a popular TV series of his own, which I’m not watching (anime, remember?).
Hawkeye by writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja is a comic about Hawkeye. Specifically, it’s about what Hawkeye does in his spare time when he’s not Avenger-ing. It has a funny bent in it, since Clint Barton has bad luck and always gets into trouble. He’s only in costume for like, only a couple of pages! It’s gotten quite a number of fans, because while not everyone will enjoy cape comics that are always about saving the world and stuff, Hawkeye is heartfelt and relatable.
It’s about taking some time for yourself.
…or making your own stuff work out.
…or needing money to eat.
It has a great supporting cast, mainly Kate Bishop (pictured above, also a Hawkeye), whom Clint has a mentor-student relationship with, and Lucky, a one-eyed dog who loves pizza. The latter has an entire issue about it told in its POV, and it is amazing. There really isn’t anything like it. There are also cameos from other heroes (there’s an issue where Clint’s three ex-girlfriends harass him). Even the antagonists are fun: Hawkeye mostly tangles with a Russian gang who keep on saying bro.
So, Hawkeye. Redefining superhero comics for you!
Back in the 90s, during the Clone Saga of Spider-Man, which I learned years later was a black mark in the web-slinger’s illustrious history, Ben Reilly took to the streets in a new costume and alias, the Scarlet Spider. I actually like it; I adore the torn shirt and exposed web-shooter look.
This comic isn’t about that character. Ben died, remember? This is about Kaine, another one of Peter Parker’s clones, who used to be a bad guy. Well, he isn’t quite a good guy yet, as he’s on the run from various people who want to kill him. By some twist of fate, he moves to Houston and stays there, donning one of Peter’s spare costumes and being called the Scarlet Spider by the media.
The comic’s tagline, “All of the power, none of the responsibility”, is a fake-out. Kaine does develop a sense of responsibility, even if he’s always grumbling about how it’s getting him into trouble. The comic doesn’t stray too far the angsty route, and it’s fun read about a supposed anti-hero who’s becoming a hero, ostensibly against his will. I-It’s not like I wanted to save you or anything!
Why am I reading this instead of the mainline Spider-Man comic, titled The Superior Spider-Man? Well, people say that one isn’t as good–it’s one of those status quo-shaking things again, with Doctor Octopus inhabiting Peter Parker’s body (and seemingly killing him as he rewrote Peter’s brainwaves to assume control or whatever because comics!). The latter reads more like the 90s comic that Scarlet Spider is supposed to be, in a bad way.
Sadly, Scarlet Spider just ended at issue #25. The upside is that you could go read all of it now!
The Superior Foes of Spider-Man
This is a team comic about Spider-Man’s D-list villains. The actual Spider-Man doesn’t even show up except in flashbacks! I didn’t even know about Boomerang until reading this comic, but issue #1 does a good job of introducing the asshat:
It’s a funny series about bad guys being dicks to each other, and heists that never seem to turn out well. Boomerang reforms the Sinister Six with his crew, except that there are only five of them (which is good, because it means splitting the money only five ways!).
It’s another sleeper hit with a unique premise. I could post pages of the comic here all day long, or you could just read it for yourself.
X-Men: Legacy (volume 2)
As part of the Marvel NOW! initiative, X-Men: Legacy was relaunched from a team book to a solo book, about David Haller (alias Legion, but don’t let him hear you called him that), the estranged son of Professor X. David has a bad case of MPD, wherein each of his personalities gives him a separate power. At the best of times, he’s very strong with his, ehem, legion of powers to command, but his instability keeps him from maintaining a grip on his powers for long. He’s a volatile character to use–in one story arc, he traveled back in time to kill his own father by mistake, and in another, he became a main character.
I got into the comic because of Simon Spurrier, who had previously written a few Warhammer 40k novels, and was not disappointed at all. X-Men: Legacy is about David coming to grips with his father’s recent death at the hands of Cyclops, and striving to make a difference in the world in his own way, preemptively handling threats before they fully materialize. The problem is that doing this kind of makes him look like the villain. The stories often have fake-outs in them, with David seemingly being mad and trying to do this bad thing, but it turns out to be Just As Planned. And it’s written well.
It’s a redemptive story at heart, with David trying to make things better while fighting his neuroses, while the X-Men keep trying to rein him in before he screws up and gets somebody hurt. I love flawed hero stories like these (and Scarlet Spider above). They’re broken people, trying to hold it together, while minding everyone else.
There’s also this tragic, heart-wrenching romance between David and Blindfold, the only member of the X-Men who quite understands our troll-haired guy:
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Whew! That’s quite a lot of words to write in an anime blog. So, do you read comics, too? Tell me about them!