My summer stack of comics
Did you know that scientists recently calculated how much we actually read in our work and personal lives? It seems a typical person today consumes the equivalent of 174 full newspapers a day in information — nearly five times as much as 25 years ago. Between email, print material, internet browsing, and advertising, we are literally inundated with text from wake to sleep. Frankly, it’s a miracle that anyone can read for pleasure anymore. Who has the time?
Add to this little factoid the reality of being a comic book collector. One of the things I love most about comic books is that, barring some sort of natural disaster, they show up every Wednesday at your local shop. Every week there’s a new crop of books, and I can’t remember the last time I didn’t have at least one waiting for me. Keeping up isn’t always a chore, but it certainly can become one. God forbid you fall a week behind, because that story you haven’t found the time to read yet is about to get spoiled the second you turn on your computer. Twitter becomes a minefield more stressful than jumping around Gotham City wearing a yellow cape, bright red tunic and little green booties.
So with all this energy I’m putting into reading my weekly comic books, email, research for work, internet browsing, and being sold a new cable provider for the 95th time in a day (in order of obvious importance), what about everything else I want to read? Well, it’s quickly become a stack on my dresser, sitting patiently next to my keys and any number of adorable trinkets that don’t have a permanent home. Most of these books are in some state of consumption, half read and then put down — not because they aren’t amazing, but because life unfortunately gets in the way.
Well, life is just going to have to take a backseat for the next few months, because I now vow publicly to upend this stack by the time the first orange leaf hits the sidewalk this fall. Want a summer full of awesomeness, too? Read along!
Alpha by Greg Rucka
Described by the author as “Die Hard in Disneyland,” Alpha is the first book in a new series for Rucka, who not only wrote Gotham Central and Batwoman’s run in Detective Comics, but also my favorite novel series of all-time starring Atticus Kodiak (Keeper, Finder, Smoker, etc.). Undercover Delta Force operator, Master Sergeant Jad Bell has been assigned to the Wilsonville amusement park as an undercover security officer. The action begins with the detection of a hidden dirty bomb and escalates from there. No one writes an action hero’s inner monologue better than Rucka, so this one tops my list.
Avengers West Coast and Alpha Flight Classic by John Byrne
Each of these books are over 20 years old at this point, but still have ramifications for Marvel Comics to this day. Both volumes of Avengers West Coast that Byrne wrote and drew (Vision Quest and Darker Than Scarlet) focus heavily on the Scarlet Witch and her synthezoid husband The Vision. In fact, the former’s path to madness begins in these stories and carries through to this summer’s blockbuster comic crossover. Likewise, the first two volumes of Alpha Flight Classic introduce the first and best Canadian super-team in their own series, with the ever-acerbic Northstar front and center. Northstar is currently set to marry his longtime boyfriend in this month’s Astonishing X-Men, so it’s nice to see where it all began for this preeminent gay super-hero.
Firearm by James Robinson and Cully Hamner
This one came out of the way-back machine after I listened to an interview with the owners of now-defunct Malibu Comics — a thriving comic book publisher in the early 1990s who spun off their own super-hero universe, the Ultraverse. The series centers on private investigator Alec Swan, who gets dragged into cases involving the strange and ultra-human, much to his chagrin. Lasting only 18 issues, Firearm was one of James Robinson’s earliest ongoing series and if Starman and the recently released Earth 2 are any indication, I’m going to love this one too.
Chicks Dig Comics
A collection of essays about comics by and for the women who love them, Chicks Dig Comics features a litany of writers that I have grown fond of year after year – Gail Simone, Amanda Conner, Jill Pantozzi, Jen Van Meter, Jill Thompson, and many more. Published this spring by Mad Norwegian Press, this is the book to read if you know (or are) someone who thinks comics are just for the boys. The commentaries are simultaneously thought provoking, entertaining, and certainly a source of aspiration for my own writing on comics.
The Quality Companion
Published by TwoMorrows, one of the comic industry’s most prestigious sources for historical analysis, The Quality Companion is a look at the now largely forgotten comic company that debuted Plastic Man and the Spirit, among other 1940s luminaries. Quality was later purchased by DC Comics and had its characters absorbed — in one form or another — into the main DC Universe where I would encounter them years later. Some of these characters are once again being reintroduced in a big way with sexy good girl Phantom Lady striking out in her own mini-series this summer, co-starring the diminutive Doll Man. Everything from bios on the original creators to synopses of the heroes’ books themselves are well documented here both for posterity and your enjoyment.
Finn and Charlie are Hitched by Tony Breed
A weekly webcomic by writer/artist Tony Breed, Finn and Charlie is a cute little slice of life for two men who are married and approaching middle age. Although I can read it anytime at hitchedcomic.com, I do like to double dip and pick up the collections. The first two, Can We Skip to the Part of the Conversation Where I Get My Way? (a phrase I have thought in my head many times while talking to my husband) and I Love You, You Big Weirdo (which I say some form of every night before bed) are now joined by How Would I Know If You’re Dreaming? The new book also features a delightfully naked Finn on its cover with a well-placed penguin to maintain the character’s modesty. Drat!
Supergods by Grant Morrison
Last on my list is a book that’s one part history, one part autobiography, and about three parts diary of a big comic book geek (who just happens to be a little off his rocker). Grant Morrison has written some of my favorite titles over the years and the chance to peek into his brain is too good to pass up. Subtitled What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, and a Sun God from Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human, Supergods is a wild ride through the legacy of super-hero comics that makes it crystal clear these characters are truly our modern myths. Agree or disagree with his observations about Superman, Batman or the like, but you know this is going to be a fascinating read one way or the other.
Now, how much vacation time do I have saved up?
Matt Santori-Griffith owns one business suit, three pairs of shoes, and over 15,000 comic books. He works a day job as an art director for several non-profit organizations, but spends his dark nights and weekends fighting the good fight on Twitter.com in the guise of @FotoCub. He has not yet saved the world, but isn’t giving up quite yet.