Top 10 Comics Related Items We're Thankful ForA column article, Top Ten by: Jason Sacks
Thanksgiving is this week, and in honor of the holiday, Comics Bulletin's writers were asked what comic-related items they're the most thankful for. We actually had 11 writers who asked to be part of this top 10 list, which only goes to show just how much we all enjoyed this topic. So sit back, cut yourself a piece of turkey, and have fun with our latest top 10 list!
Trying to figure out what I am most thankful for in comics is like a loving mother trying to decide which of her kids she should leave behind. It ain't easy, so I've decided to make a "list within a list", and give you a quick run-down of some of the many things in this crazy medium of graphic storytelling we have come to know and love as comics, that I am truly most thankful for:
- Superman. He was the first of the "Super Hero". This strange being from another world who wore colorful tights and a cape and who could bend steel with his bare hands, catch bullets with his teeth and leap tall building with a single bound, really captured our sense of wonder. He is beloved all over the world and without him there would be no superhero comics on the stands today. Think about that for a second. No X-Men. No Batman. No Watchmen. No Spider-Man. Kinda scary, ain't it? Without him we'd all be reading romance and western comics. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
- Stan Lee. The man is a living legend and was the supreme architect of the Marvel Universe back in the '60s, laying the ground work for everything that has come since. Sure, let's not forget the countless artistic talent such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr., who helped Stan pave the way with their dazzling visual storytelling and incredible character designs. But everything that is great in this world starts with a concept, an idea... a moment of brilliance. The Marvel Universe is a wondrous place and we have Stan to thank for that.
- EC Comics. The publisher of some of the best horror comics EVER. Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Haunt of Fear were so ahead of their time back in the 1950's with stories that pushed the limits of what the medium could offer in terms of sophisticated writing and art that was unmatched by any other comics publisher at the time. Maybe I should be equally as thankful that these stories have been reprinted over the years, so that myself and many others can sit down in a comfortable chair on a dark and stormy night, crack open a Tales From the Crypt comic and spend some quality time with the Crypt Keeper and his pals and enjoy a good, fun scare.
- Artists. As a writer and self publisher of my creator owned books, Hired Gun and Dead Horizon, I am truly thankful for all the artistic talent I have gotten to work with over the years that have brought my stories to life with their brilliant work. I would name them all, but I fear I might forget someone, but they know who they are and soon you will to.
- All Star Comics and Games. Yes, my local comic shop here in El Paso, Texas. The shop has a crazy amount of new comics, trade paperbacks and the most impressive Silver Age collection I've ever seen in town. More importantly, owner Brad Wilson has become a very good friend, who is also the most awesome comic shop retailer any fanboy could ever want. He knows the business, he knows customer service and he knows what makes for an amazing comic book shopping experience.
I could go on and on with a list like this, but I think this will do until next year. Happy Birthday you Turkeys!
Samuel Salama Cohén
Just FYI, CB readers: The piece you are about to read is as candid and honest as it can be. Because, when I started thinking about this bonus article for this wonderful top ten, I thought, hey, the only way to do it right is to give it all I've got, to pour myself into these sentences.
And, with that out of the way, let's start, shall we?
As most of us do, when it comes to giving thanks, for what I have, for who I am and for everything and everyone that touched my life in some way or another, I find myself going back to basics:
- I give thanks to my family; especially to my cousin Sammy.
- I give thanks to my girl, my beautiful Natalia.
- I give thanks to music, especially to B.B.King and the Blues Brothers.
And last, but rest assured, not least:
- I give thanks to comics, and that's no joke!
Family, love, good friends, that unforgettable intimate moment, that song...those are things we can all relate to. Of course the names, situations and other specifics will change, but deep inside we all are grateful for those really important things. The ones that have made us who we are today.
The underrated 9th art, comics, have always played a key role in making me the person I am today. They were there constantly, helping me be a passionate and creative kid, the kind who loves to write crime novels at age 8, and to draw his own comics, heavily influenced by those early readings (Captain America,Conan the Barbarian, Amazing Spider-Man and, of course, the Avengers).
Reading about Cap fighting an aging Red Skull, the Avengers fighting the Absorbing Man at the NY Docks or poor old Spidey having his life turned around by the Hobgoblin's identity revelation...those are priceless childhood memories that I will always be thankful for.
You see, today comics have become a product for the masses, and that brings violence, politics, corruption and other adult stuff to the table, in a big way.
I am not saying that I did not love the over-the-top violent 100 Bulletsseries, or the heavily-politicized Watchmen. Both of them have won deserved awards, being groundbreaking, daring and original. And someday, not far away, they will be looked at as longtime classics.
But the childhood memories are beautiful, and the beauty of them comes with their innocence, the fact that we were not still collectors, but discoverers of another world, full of wonders, to which we could escape whenever real life was not easy.
I give thanks to my aunt for buying me an Avengers Marvel Masterworksincluding Issues 11 to 20 in Boston, and to the lady at the LCS, who saw a 12-year old kid, anxious to get his hands on it, and gave my aunt a 20% discount...
I give thanks to Stan Lee, because he really is the man.
I give thanks to Jack Kirby. His craftsmanship was beyond his time.
I give thanks to John Romita Sr. and his talented son. Spider-Man fans everywhere do.
I give thanks to the master of them all, Big John Buscema, my favorite artist and one of the reasons I started caring for the Avengers so long ago, even when I did not know who the man penciling those astonishing and fantastic stories was.
I give thanks to Roy Thomas, Steve Englehart, Gerry Conway, Bill Mantlo, Archie Goodwin, Walt Simonson, Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Jim Starlin, Bob Harras, Marv Wolfman, Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Fabian Nicieza, Kurt Busiek, Peter David, Matt Fraction, Ed Brubaker...and many many more creators whose prolific minds have given me such great times.
It may happen that someday I stop collecting comic-books, who knows, but what I won't change is who I am. That spirit to create, to enjoy the fantasies, will always be there, because it is rooted deep inside me.
Because when that damned little bug called comics bites you, you know it won't let you go that easily. And, why should you?
So, yes, now that Thanksgiving is approaching, as fast as the Flash and as unstoppable as the Juggernaut, I have to give a huge "thank you, comics". I owe you.
As someone said:
"With great power comes great responsibility."
This was a tough column for me to write, because I am thankful for so many things about comics. Over the years comics has been many things to me; my pedagogy, my passion, my profession. When I got accepted into college it was on the strength of an essay I had written about Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. My large vocabulary, my love of good writing, my knowledge of history, science, art, literature...so many things that make up my life can be traced back to comics.
But the one thing that I finally decided on was sparked by an e-mail. A random person wrote to me telling me how much she enjoyed my reviews, and that she was a "closet fan" of comics. She kept it hidden from friends and co-workers.
I can understand the impulse. I get that a lot, actually. Co-workers come up to me from time-to-time in hushed whispers to admit that they like comics too, like some sort of confessional. One of the top managers of my company secretly shared that he was currently reading Justice League: New Frontier. But I wasn't to spread it around.
You would think that, with comic book movies being all over the place, that people wouldn't be so shy of their comics love nowadays. But somehow, watching a movie is more acceptable than reading the actual comic the film is based on. People at work talk comic movies, but always with the caveat of "Oh, but I don't actually read the comics!".
I didn't even have that luxury growing up. To paraphrase Kye Fleming and Dennis Morgan by way of Barbara Mandrell; "I was comics when comics wasn't cool." In the early 80s there was no mass-media comics exposure. No X-Men cartoon, and nobody knew who Wolverine was. In Junior High, I was at a prime age to be mocked by my peers for being into something that would normally tag me as a pariah, and cost me a seat at the cool kids table. Which I didn't want.
I was at a crossroads. I didn't want to join the geek squad and be a social outcast. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to date the pretty girls and get invited to the good parties. But I also didn't want to give up or hide something that I loved so much. Then I discovered the secret.
People can only mock you for something you yourself are ashamed of. If I was not at all embarrassed about comics, then I was invulnerable to the jabs. I could show up to the good parties wearing a Batman shirt, and so long as I wore it with confidence then I was golden. Some would try, of course, to knock you down, but they would give up when they saw their teasing had no effect. So I dated the pretty girls and went to the good parties. And still loved comics.
It's a lesson I have kept with me my whole life, and has served me well. Have confidence in who you are, and be unashamed of what you love.
"You can't put all this in an iPad." --Chris, Meltdown Comics employee, gesturing around him
Everyone remembers their first. Everyone remembers the best and, sadly, the worst, and if we're lucky, the one we frequent regularly is the former and not the latter. Even as more and more of our daily activities move online, the local comic book store stands alone, an almighty figure that could never really be replaced in our lives.
For a certain segment of the population, the trip to the comic book store it has become a tradition, a weekly escape from the ordinary, a chance to find like-minded individuals to shoot the breeze with. It is our version of Cheers. The comic book store influences what we do, where we go, who we spend our time with, what we read, and how much money we spend. We take long lunches on Wednesdays because of it. We read books we never thought we'd read because of it. And in an ever increasing digital world that cuts people off from one another, we socialize more because of it.
We can get our comics cheaper online and very soon we'll be able to get them (all of them) digitally and we'll no longer have to worry about storing all of them. They will be more convenient and less expensive. And yet these changes won't include perhaps the backbone of the comic book sub-culture: community. You can't find it in an e-reader and you can't get it in the mail. You find it in your local comic book store.
And for that, I am thankful.
Comic books over the years, especially those of the superhero variety, sure have given their fans a lot to be embarrassed about. Despite how far you think the medium has evolved since its early days or how well you might be able to defend the merits of your favorite series, there's no denying that the foundations of our much loved paneled art form are chock full of silliness and oddity.
After all, comics are essentially modified picture books, and as such their original target demographic wasn't made up of sophisticated adults. For the first thirty years or so, comics were produced almost exclusively for children, and the results were often decidedly lowbrow. Never was this more true than during DC Comics' Silver Age, where Superman was just as likely to fight for truth, justice, and the American Way as he was to officiate a wedding between Jimmy Olsen and a female King Kong.
Of course, this outright goofiness didn't last forever, finding itself ultimately presumed dead during the grim-and-gritty movement of the 1980s. A violent reaction against comics' juvenile origins, the first full-fledged era of grown-up comics produced more than its fair share of unqualified classics. At its heart, though, was an implicit arrogance, an unblinking contempt for the childish ancestry that was being eagerly swept under the rug.
It's also an approach that Grant Morrison, the most talented writer in the industry today, absolutely refutes. Whereas others in his shoes might seek to boost comics' mass appeal by jettisoning those things at which modern readers might scoff, Mr. Morrison chooses instead to embrace all aspects of his characters' publication histories, especially the crazy ones. In addition to being great stories in and of themselves, recent Morrison works like All Star Superman, Final Crisis, and the writer's extended run on Batman have been celebrations of all the ridiculous, harebrained ideas that someone once saw fit to print.
There's no doubt that reading Morrison's DC work these past five years has been a transformative experience. Once regretful that the annals of comics included so much blatant absurdity, I've had my eyes opened. The comics I love in my adult life would never have existed without those goofy ten cent magazines that once littered the stands. You can't have your Frank Miller without your Adam West, nor your Dark Knight without your Zur-En-Arrh.
So, on this week of giving thanks, I'd like to give mine for Grant Morrison and all he has done for the remembrance of comics past. When his pen hits the page, there are no such things as outdated ideas, but simply archives of untapped potential.
I was recently offered a chance to write an entry for a Top 10. The list being the 10 Things We're Thankful for in comics. I don't know about the other topics, but I decided to go a personal route. Something I am thankful for that doesn't really affect too many people directly outside of the Metro Phoenix, Arizona area.
In a year in which I lost my father, grandmother and one of my closest friends, I have very few things to be thankful.
Three weeks ago Dave, the own of my local comic shop, Stalking Moon, called me - and other customers - with an ominous message: "The economy has devastated me, I have to close the store." That was on a Saturday, he planned to close the store the next Saturday. Meaning that Wednesday would be the last at Stalking Moon.
Stalking Moon, and Dave, have a special place in my life. It is more then just a comic store to me. I have been going to the store since 1989, and have known Dave since that time. Back then he was just an employee, now he is the owner. Dave is more then the person I buy my comic books from, he is a friend, he's family.
When he said he was closing, and that Wednesday would be the last time, I was hurt. I wasn't the only one. During twenty years, I have made a lot of close friends at Stalking Moon, many who I have known for more then a decade. A lot of us were willing to help Dave in any way to help him keep the store open.
So, what am I thankful for? I am thankful that Stalking Moon is still open. That Dave, the owner of the strip mall he is in and other individuals involved were able to negotiate a deal that satisfied all parties and allowed Stalking Moon to stay open.
I'm not completely selfish here. I'm thankful that Stalking Moon has been able to remain open, and that my friend can still make a living dealing in what he wants: Comic Books.
It would just be plain foolish if I didn't begin by saying I'm most thankful for my lovely wife and amazing daughter. Trying to shepherd a house with two women living in it didn't seem possible to me many years ago, but thanks to God we are trucking along with smiles on our faces.
This brings me to what I'm thankful for this year in comics: the unexpected.
Just the other day I was going through my stack of freebies from the NYCC and stumbled upon a few random issues that upon completing stirred me. I think we all know what that means. There are many avenues in which a comic can strike a chord with readers. The concept can be interesting, the art can be breath-taking, or the characterization can catch us off guard, and so on. When it happens, a familiar sound escapes our mouths.
Now, the sound could differ for you individually. Some might offer an, "Interesting." Others could be inspired to pronounce, "Cool!" The best moment we could all agree, by far, is when we breathlessly whisper, "Wow." Regardless of the reaction, it's what first got us hooked on the medium and continually drives us back to our local shops on a weekly basis.
Inspiration is sometimes hard to come by these days for me. The joy that comes with said women in my house also brings forth a sense of responsibility, involvement, and sometimes stress. In those moments, it's hard to escape the moment and focus on anything else other than the task at hand. In those tired moments, I have thoroughly enjoyed taking a break from life and picking up 22 pages and thinking to myself, "I wonder what my reaction is going to be." Sometimes my reaction isn't so great, but we remember the lows far less than the times we remember the highs.
In the current state of the status quo in the world, I think we could all use a case of the "highs" to remember. Happy Holiday reading everyone!
This feels like one of those silly essays you have to write in grade school. You're forced to write something personal, and you generally come up with a generic statement like "I'm thankful for my family," or "I'm thankful for video games." Well, actually, I'm very thankful for both of those, but we're here to talk about comics. Comics, in the past few years, have become a very big part of my life, and there are many things to be thankful for, like comic conventions, and all the great people I've met and worked with. However, one writer and one book stand out, and I am thankful for them from the bottom of my comic loving heart every single day. Over the course of thirteen years, Art Spiegelman pieced together his Pulitzer Prize winning masterwork, Maus: A Survivor's Tale, a biographical story about his father's life before, during, and after the Holocaust. It is the story of a real life and a real man. Vladek Spiegelman wasn't a made up character from a different dimension; he was as real as you and me, and his story was as harrowing as any mission taken on by the Justice League. What I am very grateful for is that Maus proves that comics aren't just funny books about people who wear spandex costumes and shoot laser beams from their eyes. Comics can be humbling tales about brave people who don't save the world, but survive and overcome whatever comes their way with quietly heroic strength. It's a book taught in schools side by side withHamlet and A Tale of Two Cities and The Diary of Anne Frank. I am thankful for the credibility that Maus gives to the comic world, for refuting everyone who says we're wasting our time with nonsense, and for bringing to light some of the best stories ever told.
Thank You, Risk-Takers
The comic book is a fantastic medium for trying big, wild ideas. Sure, you could probably make some of these stories as movies or TV shows, but film and even digital video are fairly costly production tools by the time you figure in everyone involved in producing, acting, and editing programs. Convincing studio executives to take big risks – especially during such a tough economy – is extremely difficult. You could try some of those ideas in prose format as novels or short stories, but you would be missing that key visual element which propels these stories.
Books like Sixth Gun, Morning Glories, Chew, American Vampire, Fables,Hellboy, and B.P.R.D. are the reason that I continue to come back to comics. Give me a brand new book with fresh characters and a wacky or audacious premise, and I am hooked. It's not just books from the smaller publishers. DC lured me in with T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and I'm anticipating the trade collection of Hickman's SHIELD at Marvel.
We've seen some smaller press comic book properties cross over in a big way this past year, and I am sure that everyone in involved in book production is excited by this trend. Movies and television shows popularize the characters and stories that we love, but they take far longer to produce than our (hopefully) monthly installments in comic book form.
Hellboy stories have been churning out for twenty years now. Even though Hellboy was fortunate enough to have two movies made, we had to wait a couple of years between the films. It is also likely that we won't see another movie for a while, if ever.
Beyond the investments time and finances required, the stories that I enjoy the most might be too controversial for mainstream TV or simply too quirky for a big studio film. Studios can possibly get behind an idea after it has proven that it can consistently sell. Can you imagine seeing Chew as a television seriesinstead of a comic? I wish the series all the best in licensing deals and in creating profits for the creators, but I can't see studio heads taking the risk on a story that had not shown big sales and continued viewers from another medium.
This year, I'm thankful for the risk-takers, whether in mainstream superhero books or the small publisher indie books. To all the writers, pencillers, inkers, colorists, letterers, and editors willing to work on these crazy ideas, you are the men and women who renewed my interest in comics and keep me hopelessly addicted.
When one sits back and thinks about all there is to be thankful for in our hobby many things spring to mind almost immediately. I instantly decided what was the single most thing I was thankful for and it exists is every corner of the comic book world. Regardless of the genre the one thing that ties them all together and hence my reason to be thankful is the escapism that comics provide.
I remember growing up and reading comics and finding that the ability to find a sort of release in the events of my favorite books. This is that awkward time in the lives of most young men when you are crossing that threshold from boy to man and trying to fit into the world around you. I found solace in the adventures of the X-Men and their family of titles. It helped me a great deal during stressful times to just crack open a book and become transfixed by the fantasy world of the mutants and let go from reality.
As I grew I found that the same escapism that comics offered me as a youth also worked wonders on me as an adult. It has provided me a therapeutic escape when the trials and tribulations of the world have brought me down. Stress at work, stress at home, financial concerns...these are all real things and I have found that by simply flipping open a book and seeing Iceman cruising on an ice slide or Cyclops blasting a dude allows me to escape from that tension momentarily. I know that the real world awaits me the second I put the book down but during that brief time while I am engulfed in the story I am transported back to a much simpler place where I can just let go for a short period of time. This escapism, for me, is the thing I am most thankful for in comics.
Ray C. Tate
For those of you not in the know, I have decided to boycott DC Comics forever. Which is the same amount of time Barbara Gordon will remain crippled. Although I'm back to reading Marvel, they still can't get me to return to Spider-Man until the Powers restore the marriage of Peter Parker and Mary Jane, and if they pull another stunt like Civil War....Dynamite's Lone Ranger became a chore rather than a pleasure. The Phantom's covered in berry juice. Kevin Smith is writing the Green Hornet. Bleah. Yes, there's Doctor Who, but that doesn't really count. No, the comic book character that makes me thankful I'm a comic book reader is without a doubt Hellboy.
I knew of Mike Mignola from The Cosmic Odyssey, and while I enjoyed his artwork, it was really the lure of a John Byrne script that first brought me to Hellboy. John Byrne however became less important after I saw the panels. Lots of artists use shadows to hide shoddy work or exploit them for the sake of simple laziness, but Mignola used shadows to enhance his narrative. He created an intangible atmosphere of menace, and when he focused on an object or a character, it meant something. I realized then and there that this comic book was going to be something special.
Mignola drew in Nazis, Rasputin the Mad Monk and Cthulhu-styled unspeakably horrible monsters to threaten the world. Standing against these was Hellboy, an amalgam of Hot Stuff and meat and potatoes heroes such as the Thing and Nick Fury. Not without intelligence, Hellboy still usually dealt with the creatures he faced by slamming his giant iron hand into their mugs, if they had them. Hellboy furthermore could take a lot of punishment, and as a result Mignola evolved comedy beneath the horror. He would draw something amazing, something that H.P. Lovecraft would have dreamed feverishly if still alive, but then Mignola would focus on Hellboy's face, and here he would balloon speech. He would type in the tiniest font "crap," and I would grin if not laugh out loud.
Mignola was not out to scare you entirely. He contrasted the creatures of terror against monsters and misfits that were entirely against the grain. Abe Sapien was an erudite gill-man who operated quite comfortably on land. Liz Sherman was a standoffish pyrokinetic. Mignola would christen a Homonculus Roger and give ectoplasm a German accent. This is the quirky world of Hellboy. When Mignola appeared to exhaust the grotesque, he searched the land of the faerie. He delved into Russian folktales, and now he entrenches Hellboy unexpectedly in Arthurian myth. There is no end to Mignola's researched imagination.
Of late, Mignola stopped consistently illustrating Hellboy, and you would think that this would lessen the quality of Hellboy, but no. For different reasons Richard Corben and Duncan Fegredo are Mignola's artistic brothers, and no matter what style, Mignola's original design, his choreography if you will, seeps through in every scene. There is no better comic book than Hellboy, and it alone will always give me a reason to buy comic books.