I’m a big fan of Terry Moore’s work and I count myself lucky in that I have been able to meet with him face to face more than a few times. He’s one of the most affable and instantly likable professionals I’ve ever met and he’s a joy to talk to. I think Strangers in Paradise is a comic classic and Echo is vastly underrated. With his latest work, Rachel Rising I wasn’t as immediately blown away as I was with some of his previous work. This isn’t a book that hits the ground running at breakneck pace. It’s a definite slow burn. By comparison, Echo moved at a mile a minute. Rachel Rising is a textured piece that requires you to be patient while layers of the narrative unfold. The structure and the nature of the story dictate that you may find yourself confused, as I admit I was with my initial reading.
The fact that you want to fight through the confusion to savor the answers is what makes the book a success. Mr. Moore has a talent for unraveling the interwoven threads of the narrative and making something intriguing. Couple that with the fact that he is one of the most distinct and well rounded artists of his generation and you get a stunning final product. Moore seems to relish the way he plots the action, in such a manner that the build and deconstruction of the mystery intertwine and strengthen each other. This is definitely a story that Mr. Moore has been eager to tell and it shows on the page. There is an excitement to the construction of Rachel Rising that is missing from a lot of graphic literature.
I can’t say that this book is for everyone. It’s certainly a great companion piece for something like The Walking Dead. People that prefer long-term, slow-build storytelling will enjoy it a great deal. Those who prefer something a bit more slapdash and breakneck may find it tiresome. I think it boils down to perspective. But if you’re looking for something different than 90% of what is on the racks this is an excellent place to start.
Yesterday while working in the shop, a discussion formulated about this blog and my attitudes toward certain writers or characters. The conversation inevitably led to the question, if I were writing for DC or Marvel, what character would I most like to write and who says I could do any better than the people writing that title at this very moment.
The real truth is that while I absolutely adore the characters of DC and Marvel, I don’t have any true aspiration outside of perhaps a childhood fantasy wish fulfillment scenario to write those characters. I don’t think I’m particularly well suited to writing in that particular field. Not because I dislike serialization or don’t think that I have stories that fit the characters, because I do, but moreso because I would rather self-publish a book entirely of my own design in the mold of fellow Houston writer/artist Terry Moore, or have an original creation published through Image or some other publisher.
I am in fact working on the script for such a series, though I don’t know how I plan to publish it. Either through the same company that I used to print my first novel or to shop it around to publishers like Image. I suppose I need to get an artist on board first, as that would be a major part of getting the thing published in the first place.
But back to that original question, if tomorrow I got a call from the people at Marvel or DC and they said they wanted me to pitch them a story for a character of my choosing, who would I choose to write? Everyone here should know how much I absolutely love Batman. I mean, the first film I can remember seeing was the 1989 Batman movie with Jack Nicholson and Michael Keaton. I’m currently wearing my “lucky” bat-symbol boxers as I type this. But I don’t think that I would be able to take the reins of Batman either in his main book or even in an ancilliary mini-series due to the fact that there’s too much hovering over my head in terms of expectations, and I fear that immediately following my run some big name writer would erase my work with the stroke of a pen and all my writing would have been for naught. And were I to do a mini-series it would likely be regarded as insignificant and passed over.
The same goes for characters like Captain America or Spider-Man over at Marvel. I’d be so intimidated by the legacy of those characters that putting my name on the book would render me into a quivering neurological mess.
So who would I like to write?
Over at DC, there’s only one choice:
That’s right damnit, Power Girl.
Why? Because I love fun characters, and PG is one of the most fun DC has to offer. I feel like she has been written extremely well by some really talented people, especially the current creative team, whom I will be sad to see depart with this week’s issue # 12. That having been said, there is plenty of room for expansion on the character. I think that there are many writers who are two quick to see what’s been done with her and reduce the book to a one note joke or they don’t know what to do with the character at all.
I would like to take hold of Power Girl and expand on the great work that Jimmy and Justin have done, and bring her to prominence in a way that makes it hard for her to be ingnored in the grander scheme of the DCU. Essentially do for her what Marvel has done for Ms. Marvel lately. Her book may not have been a mega-seller but it did raise her level of recognition and ingrain her into the rest of the shared universe, making her a central character. PG may be a member of the JSA but she’s not popping up in other books simply because she’s such a public figure in the whole of the DC universe.
In the grand scheme of things I suppose most of the characters I would most enjoy to write would be the ones who have been written well in the past but aren’t really very prominent when you look at the progression of the shared universe as a whole. Over at Marvel I’d love to write She-Hulk, Wonder Man, and I’d really like to try my hand at The Runaways even though I know that the internet would condemn my writing before a page ever hit the stands.
Will any of this ever come to fruition? Probably not. I think my teeth gnashing towards Geoff Johns has essentially black-listed me there at DC, and I’ve been fairly vocal about my displeasure with Marvel from time to time. I’ll have to publish my own horse-crap from here until the end of time.
Such is life.
I think a little background would serve well to illustrate why I am writing this entry. I am an English major, in addition to a comic enthusiast/shop manager. I published a novel early last year, that can be found on Amazon though I don’t ask that you read it, as there are literally thousands of books that you could better spend your time delving into. If you still wish to purchase it, I certainly won’t stop you, but you have been warned.
Anyhow, I’ve spent a good deal of the last few years reading different works of literature from a varied selection of genres and time periods, and in the course of my readings only one comic book was entered into discussion, that of course being Alan Moore’s “Watchmen.”
I haven’t taken a course centered around comic books, though I’m told one is offered at the university. I would like to take it if time permits, but here and now I would like to offer up the selection I would offer if I were a professor teaching a class on the intricacies of graphic literature as a medium. This will be a recurring column, with new entries added every week in the hopes of compiling a sort of omnibus of books that just beg to be read and analyzed.
Up first is one of the greatest pieces of graphic literature in the history of the medium. One of the longest running and critically acclaimed indy series in the history of comics, “Strangers” has the sort of intricate plotting that wins countless awards for cable television shows, blending humor and pathos with vivid characterization and close attention to detail that is unparalleled in a medium known for continuity flubs and retroactive continuity fixes.
Writer Terry Moore poured his heart and soul into this book for over a decade, and the care he put into the characters shows with every panel. That alone earns it a spot as worthy of study and dissection on a scholarly level. Any work that has such a lengthy run by a single creator is worth a cursory glance, in this age of revolving door creative teams. Add to that Mr. Moore’s masterful storytelling and wonderful art, both of which are astonishing in their realistic portrayals of human emotion and anatomy, and you have a book that could be dissected a million times over.
I had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Moore at a gathering for the 2009 “Free Comic Book” day event where I was signing my own book. A highlight of the day being when he jokingly referred to me as “a real writer,” when flipping through my clumsy prose. Aside from being one of the more talented creators in the medium, he is also a gracious and hospitible man who I was able to discuss, at some length, topics ranging from the local music scene to the state of comics both indy and mainstream. He clearly has a great deal of love for his own creations, and yet he never came off as a man of inflated ego.
“Strangers” is definately the kind of book that deserves to be studied. To be honest, a single issue of this series could be dissected for hours on end. The whole series would likely require at least a whole semester, if not two.
Next up is Brian Michael Bendis’ first appearance on this list, and believe me he will show back up again later. “Powers” is the kind of book that defines a writer’s style and sensibilities so well that every reader who picks it up knows what to expect out of that writer down the line. That isn’t to say that all of Bendis’ work is identical to “Powers” but it definately establishes Bendis as a writer whose main talent lies in crafting character voice and fluid dialogue. The people that populate the world of “Powers” are a diverse and eclectic group, with every character’s arc taking them somewhere that the reader may not have expected.
Bendis’ work here will make you angry. You will experience emotion while reading this book. In that, he is special. There are few writers who can write a book filled with people you actually care about. How many major characters have the big two companies killed off where the reaction you experienced was akin to passing a car wreck on the side of the road where your only thoughs are centered on how horrible it really looks without giving a second thought to the emotional weight of the situation?
That is not what happens in “Powers.”
Bendis writes a comic book that utilizes everything the medium has to offer in the forms of storytelling technique and at the same time writes in a manner that nobody else can quite nail down without coming off as skewed and off balance. Bendis has critics that feel his style doesn’t work within the traditional confines of the comic book medium, arguing that he comes off as dense and needlessly wordy, whereas I would argue that he simply knows how to tell a story and those who don’t like his style are simply too familiar with the tried-and-true mainstream storytelling methods to truly appreciate his work.
While his style doesn’t truly fit other projects like the “Secret Invasion” mega-event, where people expected a Michael Bay-style thrill-a-thon and instead got seven issues of Bendis’ hyper-realistic character interaction, books like “Powers” prove exactly how talented Bendis is as a writer.
Jonathan Hickman is proof of evolution. Where Bendis, Kirkman, Johns, and a whole slew of others are the logical progression of what Alan Moore and Grant Morrison ushered in with “Watchmen” and “Doom Patrol,” Hickman is the evolution of the Image generation and the post-modern revivial of comics.
Where Bendis is all about the dialogue in the context of the medium, Hickman is all about manipulating the confines of the medium to fit the message and all of that can be seen on display in “The Nightly News” which is about as perfect a book as one can possibly fathom. It blends the sort of graphic design wizardry that has come about in the fast-paced media sphere we now occupy with the biting social commentary of the eighties boom.
This is a book that begs to be read and re-read in order to capture every detail. The truth of the matter is that the book is somewhat hard to read, because we as readers are not used to this sort of stylistic delivery of the narrative, but when you find the rythym that Hickman has created, the book cracks along at breakneck speed and weaves a tale that would not be done justice by any other creator.
Originality is the name of the game here, and I don’t doubt that others will shamelessly ape this approach in the years to come, because it really is quite effective.
That concludes the first installment of this series. Next week another selection will be added to the syllabus and if there are any suggestions that you’d like to see covered down the line, don’t hesitate to leave a note in the comments section, as I assure you I want to cover as many diverse titles as I possibly can.