Manster’s Journey Into the World of Comics (Part 3)

July 5, 2018 Author: Lloyd Green

Guess who’s back…

Back again…

Manster’s back…

Tell a friend…

I’ve already told you how to get better at fantasy football (try harder!), so it must be time to get back to that which I’ve neglected far too long and bore you once more with this “Manster’s Journey” thing…

Let’s bring you up to date again:

 

…Is one book really a pull list ? I think not. So now what ?  This is something every new comic reader has to figure out.  After that one book you like what else is there? You have yet to determine your favorite creators and maybe you don’t care about Superman or Iron Man or whomever. So what’s going to pull you by the nose and say, “Read This!” ? Well, the cover of course.  Plain and simple, does the cover draw your attention ? What’s that you say ?  You’ve been told not to judge a book by it’s cover. Well, for now just start with the cover, the rest comes later. Here’s a few covers that drew me in…

Interesting, right ? Makes you want to know what’s going on between those comic covers.  Reading a few issues should be enough to know whether you want to continue reading a title. Another option you have is to actually talk to people in the shop. You’re all there for the same thing, so give it a try.  Most small comic shops have a skeleton crew and a few customers that show up the same time as you on a weekly basis, so being a loyal customer and getting to know people may yield you some benefits. The employees (or owner if it’s a small shop) get to know your buying habits and may make suggestions you can trust. What I’ve discovered since my first venture to the comic shop is that becoming part of the comic book community means building relationships. More on this later.

In the early days I started buying everything that caught my eye. Initially, the extra books in my pull list were just there to fill the gap left in the weeks while waiting for the new Walking Dead. Most of these were published by Image but I also read Dark Horse, Avatar  and Vertigo books (with one or two Marvel and DC sprinkled in). An early list of books on my pull list would include such titles as Walking Dead, Saga, Deadly Class, Black Science, East of West, Lazarus, X, The Massive, Uber, Absolution, Batman, Fantastic Four, and the great Matt Fraction run on Hawkeye.  Shortly after that first visit I had about 17 books on my pull list. Spread out over a month that’s a pretty manageable budget. It wasn’t long after that my list got away from me and I had trouble reining it in.

Below is the digest-size book I got in 7th grade at the school book fair on May 22 1979 (the stamp inside says so). Memories of reading this is why I added Fantastic Four to my list. It’s in amazingly good condition.

As their numbers grew, I was also keeping books on my pull list long after I had lost interest.  (Kind of like that girlfriend or boyfriend you just can’t break up with). And even if I did take a book off my pull list I would go back the next month and buy the next issue (like going back to that old girlfriend for another shag). On top of that, I was finding out I had favorite writers and artists and so now I would add almost anything they were associated with, and also search out their former works.  For instance, I’d hear, “You like Remender? You really should read Fear Agent” And of course they’d be absolutely right.  I really should read Fear Agent. It’s really good. Really.  Which brings me to the third reason my list was getting out of control……..Next time on Manster’s Journey…..

Nah, I’ll just get to it right here and now, because we all know it’s going to be a couple months before I get around to part four.  I was getting more curious about Marvel and DC books.  I absolutely loved Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye so I figured at least there’s a chance that something else would catch my interest without my having to know decades of character history.  Well, there was one thing, but first there was the indomitable “Crossover-Event-With-Tie-Ins.”  I fell into the Age of Ultron trap and since I am a completionist at heart I had to buy all the tie-ins. This was my first experience with this event type thing. I actually did enjoy reading this as it was my first exposure to Ultron and many of the other characters.  What I didn’t like was how it led into another event called Infinity which I felt obligated to read (it had Thanos – another relatively new character to me). Which led into Inhumans, etc, etc, etc. A couple years later and I’m reading Secret Wars 2015 and all the Battleworld crap and that’s when I just dropped all Marvel titles completely.  But before I leave Marvel I want to give a shout out to the short run of Moon Knight by Warren Ellis, Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire. It was my first introduction to MK and Ellis’ team presented six wonderful issues of a troubled, flawed and quirky character I’m glad I got to know. No former knowledge of MK was required and each issue stood alone while maintaining an overall common thread. The mushroom issue is a stand out.

Leaving behind Marvel for a while, let’s tip toe right on over to DC.  By the time I became interested in reading some DC books “The New 52” line was already a toddler.  I’m well aware now of how the new 52 was received by long time fans, but at the time it was all new to me.  So I picked up some Batman and Swamp Thing books (both characters I already liked…Batman because he’s Batman, and Swamp Thing because of the classic 1982 Wes Craven film.  Although that might have more to do with Adrienne Barbeau’s enormous…talents).  After reading a couple issues, it was an easy decision to go back and read them both from the start.  Luckily for me I had the earlier Swamp Things in my digital library (yes, the questionably obtained ones) and for Batman I bought the trades.  I guess this is probably the genesis of liking Scott Snyder as a writer since he wrote both books .  And if you’re wondering, I have since purchased the hardcover of the Swamp Thing books I downloaded.  I believe these are the first issues that first pulled me in, although Charles Soule was writing Swampy by then…

At this point I was fairly well engrossed in the comic book culture but I was still lacking one thing – community.  To my knowledge, none of my friends was into reading comics and my wife certainly wasn’t.  It’s a funny thing to be a grown-ass family man who started reading in his 40’s. There’s a bit of a shadow of negative associations cast over you. How do you explain to a non-comic reader that a comic book can tell just as powerful a story as a novel. After all, how many movies and TV shows are based on a comic book?  How many comic writers also write for TV and film? A lot. That’s how many.  Just go ahead and read Black Science by Rick Remender and tell me there’s any better story about a brilliant narcissistic scientist who hurts everyone he loves because he keeps making the same bad choices over and over, trying to fix what he’s broken since he’s human and that’s what humans do. Losing his superior intellect finally leads him on the path to redemption where he will either save the universe or destroy everything.  Seriously, read it.  But I digress.

 

Let me just take one more moment to speak of community. It takes a little effort but it pays off – at least it did for me. Besides talking with the comic store owner and developing a Wednesday friendship, I was listening to a Walking Dead TV podcast which was spinning off a new WD comic book podcast called Under The Comic Covers, hosted by two fine people, Mr. Blahg and Gracie Lou, who also entered the world of comic books later in life.  Their podcast featured a weekly discussion of several indie comics (mostly Image stuff) followed up by reading listener emails.  I was a listener and weekly email writer from day one so if you’ve ever listened to that podcast then you’ve probably heard Mr. Blahg and Grace read my emails. This podcast gave me my first sense of belonging in the comic book community.  Sadly, they gave up the podcast earlier this year due to the same reasons most podcasts call it quits.  I still keep in touch with them through emails and facebook. They possess a special place in my personal comic book community.  And I guess it’s sort of funny that I’ve become more deeply involved with another comic-related podcast with a couple of great hosts on the heels of UTCC.

Well, let’s hope that’s the most sappy Manster you’ll ever have to endure.  So what’s the next phase in this comic book journey of mine? Tune in next week (er…..month….winter?) to find out. Until then, keep reading good comic books and make sure you drink enough water in this oppresive heat wave.

Stay Gold,

-The Manster-

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