Tag Archives: comic books

Three short books read in October

Last month I read a few quick reads. Here are some short comments on each. What are you reading these days? Let me know in the comments section. – AR

Comics_Sam CarbaughComics: Investigate the History and Technology of American Cartooning by Sam Carbaugh

This book covers the entire history of comics in 120 pages. From cave drawings and ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs all the way up to web comics, it covers everything (Sunday funnies, manga, superhero comics, graphic novels, indies, etc. etc.). It’s written for young readers (junior high?) and it’s beautifully illustrated in full color. This book also contains 25 different projects readers can do. Readers are encouraged to experiment with different types of comics and encouraged (multiple times) to self publish.

Even though I’m well outside the target audience for this book I truly enjoyed reading it. I learned a lot and the activities rekindled in me an old desire to write comics some day. This book is highly recommended for young readers who are interested in writing, storytelling, drawing, and anything related to comics.

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Book Review: “Batman: Joker’s Last Laugh”

Batman, scott beatty, DC ComicsBatman: Joker’s Lasts Laugh is a 6-issue miniseries that ran in 2001-2002, written by comic vets Chuck Dixon and Scott Beatty and drawn by a host of artists. The premise: The Joker, while incarcerated is told he has an inopperable brain tumor and that his time is short. Driven mad by the thought of dying against his will (can he really be driven any more mad?) the Joker easily breaks out prison, bringing with him a cadre of other baddies – and just for kicks – “jokerizes” them all with his patented drug that puts a smile on everybody’s face. The series included cross-over issues in “the bat books”.

The Pros:
Giving a character like the Joker a brain tumor is a brilliant twist to drive the story. I loved the idea. Beatty and Dixon created a plot in the muddled continuity of the Batman that was both original and believable.

This was not your average Batman vs. Joker story. Babs Gordon, Dick Grayson and the other Bat-protege’s were the central characters while Batman took the back seat. This story was as much about Babs Gordon dealing with her hatred for the Joker as it was about the Joker reconciling his mortality.

Also, the Joker in this story was a return to the Joker of the 70’s – laughing, colorful, funny, and still homicidal on a whim. The perfect vilian. Too many of the newer Joker stories relish in the darkness of his sadism. It was good to read a story that remembers he’s still a guy with bright green hair and purple pinstripes. The Joker Beatty and Dixon wrote is closer to the original character than many who are on the shelves today.

Lastly, Brian Bolland’s cover art for issue 1 and 6. His pencils are always just detailed enough to be creepy.

The Cons:
A common weakness of cross-over story lines is sloppiness. Art and plot typically become inconsistent – i.e. in Book A the character breaks his arm. The next piece of the story is in Book B where the character’s arm is fine and he’s also wearing the wrong costume. I thought that because this was a stand alone miniseries these problems might not occur, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Every issue had a different team of artists and by issue 3 of 6 we were already seeing jarring differences from the beginning of the story. Pete Woods’ bold lines and whimsical facial expressions were replaced by Walter McDaniel’s cramped, dirty style, filled with women that looked more grotesque than beautiful.

Another major inconsistency was the outfit of Babs Gordon. Almost every issue featured a dramatically different pair of glasses, hairstyle, and wheelchair. This may sound picky, but the character only has three identifying traits: bright red hair, glasses, and a wheel chair. If you can’t get those things right about her, then what does the character have?

The Wrap:
Batman: Joker’s Last Laugh is a unique story, weakened by poor quality art. The bat proteges and the Joker shine as characters, but the inconsistency in the visuals from issue to issue was too striking to be easily overlooked. Three out of five stars.

Why I Sold Half of my Comic Book Collection (Collecting vs. Hoarding pt. 2)

Recently I sold about half of my comic book collection to a local dealer. I’m in the market for a new instrument, and like too many other things, instruments are really expensive. I thought that by unloading a few boxes of comics I’d get ahead on the saving a little bit. This meant that I would need to sort through my collection and make tough choices: What comics should I keep? And what comics should I let go of? This process got me thinking about the difference between collecting and hoarding (which led to my first post on the topic).

To recap my first post, according to Webster to collect something is to “gather together” that thing. As in, “I’m going to start a baseball card collection,” or “The bank has called and they want to collect our late mortgage payment.” It also has another definition; “calm and controlled.” As in, “After the mugger took off with his wallet, Charlie tried to remain collected and walked briskly home.”

Also according to Webster: to hoard something is to “accumulate something and hide it away.” Or as a noun, “a supply stored up and hidden away.”

I’d like to add my own definitions to collect and hoard, however. To collect is to accumulate meaning. To hoard is to search for meaning and in the process accumulate. Here’s the story of how I got there:

Comic books for me are more than just some hobby of my youth. They aren’t even “of my youth,” actually. I began to seriously collect them when I was 17 (almost a man to most people) after I broke up with a high school sweetheart. Like most artistically bent 17-year-olds who have just suffered a break-up I dove deep into reading and music. I spent most of my family’s waking hours playing electric guitar, bass, or drums in my bedroom and garage, and then after they fell asleep I stayed up late reading in bed. I read more than just comic books at the time…but not much more. I fell in love with the rise and fall of the simple story arcs, got geeked by the weird powers and secret identities, and was entranced by the art. Comic books are a medium that requires more of you imagination than you might think. It’s not just reading a book with pictures. It’s reading a dialogue-heavy story filled with visual gaps that your mind has to fill in. The real magic in a comic book is the space between the panels.

But enough romanticism about the art-form. The point is, this comic book collection was filled with meaning for me. In part I draw a bit of my identity from it. I can pick up certain issues and tell you were I was when I bought it, who I was with, and what the story-line is about. Others in the collection were gifts from friends. Others were bought on trips, or were ‘buried treasure’ finds at a flea market or garage sale. This collection is filled with so much meaning that I’ve carted it to and from my college dorm rooms, to several apartments, to the home we live in now. Never, until recently, have I ever considered breaking up the collection.

spider-man, batman, superman

Two of my favorite comic book heroes are Spider-Man and The Flash.

So why the break it up now? Something else came along that has more meaning for me…