What Women Like Part 1
(Counter Monkey Extraordinaire Nicky sent along this excellent essay... read on! I had to break it into two parts because it is so awesome. Part 2 will be up tomorrow. Enjoy! --Bill)
Before we start, I better make the disclaimer that I read comics like a boy. So none of you have to restrain yourselves from geeking out about Blackest Night or Nation-X in front of me. And yes, I am disappointed that the Rings are all going to be too big for my fingers, but I'm going to collect them anyway.
That said, I am in fact a girl. And one of the lamentations I hear a lot is guys wishing that their girlfriends, wives, gal-pals, daughters, sisters, moms, etc., could come to appreciate comic books as much as they do (if you're lucky enough to know a lady comic book fan, pop down to the comments and tell us what her favorite reads are! If you're even luckier and you are a lady who likes comics, then tell us yours!) but she just doesn't seem interested? Well you're in luck, because comic books aren't a genre, they're a medium. Any story can be told in comics...even "girly" stories. After all, if even Twilight can become a comic book...really, there's no limit, right?
So why not add a comic to your sweetie's holiday pile? You can even assure her that it's been recommended by an actual girl if you think it'll make her more inspired to read it -- go ahead, use my name, I'll vouch for you. ;)
Here's some of my favorites:
Sandman - Neil Gaiman's quintessential epic of life, death, love, dreams, and pretty much everything in between. Sandman was an exquisite series and if you haven't read it yet, you're missing out on one of the most amazing events in comic book history. It's a true epic, of gods and men and monsters and all things in between, and speaking just for myself it was the comic book that convinced me that there was more to the world of comics than superheroes and spandex. Lots more -- in fact, the list is practically Endless.
Stardust - While we're on the subject of Neil Gaiman, grab Stardust, too. You may have seen the movie recently; the graphic novel, which was illustrated by Charles Vess, is even more beautiful. This one might actually be the best book for an especially comics-leery individual; it's more like an illustrated novel, and has even been published in a strictly prose version (although why anyone would buy the copy that doesn't have Vess's beautiful paintings when there's a choice in the matter, I can't possibly imagine). It's a beautiful fairy tale, romantic without being sappy, told with Gaiman's customary eloquence.
Whiteout - This one isn't a movie yet, but it soon will be. By Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber, this comic (and its sequel, Melt) focuses on U.S. Marshall Carrie Stetko, one of the few faces of law and order in the sprawling white wilderness of Antarctica. There's a murder on the Ice, and Carrie has to solve it, along with her own frozen past, before everyone freezes to death. And never has so much white space looked so incredible as under the crazy ink stylings of Lieber. Most artists would have cheered and enjoyed the chance to cop-out and drop their character onto empty white space with the excuse of "but it's Antarctica, all there is is snow!" (or is that just me?) but Lieber gives texture enough to the deadly Ice that you can feel the chill. This story takes place on earth, but the Ice is an earth so alien, it might as well be another planet. And if you want stranger than that, how often do you get a Crime Buddy Story with two female leads?
Fables - This story starts with Bigby Wolf of "Three Little Pigs" fame investigating the murder of Snow White's sister in a small subsection of New York City called Fabletown, a neighborhood where all the fairy tale characters out of stories live side-by-side with an unsuspecting modern world. Fables has something for everyone; it has mystery stories, comedies, political intrigues, romances, heists, Tolkienien-level war epics, civil rights uprisings, and even just recently released its first prose novel, Peter and Max, a story about the Pied Piper. You'll find lots of familiar faces in this book, from the frog prince janitor to Cinderella the super-spy. (Hint: if there's trouble, look for Jack first. There's more to him than magic bean scams.)
Castle Waiting - If you like fairy tales, here's a great new take. Linda Medley writes and draws a beautiful story about the motley crew that took up residence in Sleeping Beauty's castle after she went off to live Happily Ever Whatever with her prince. Now the castle's a sanctuary for people coming from all over this great big fairytale world, be they Dwarves, Giants, Storks, Circusfolk, Nuns, or young women running away from a not-so-happily-ever. It's a story about people every bit as real and weird as those you could meet on the street today, although granted most of the people you're going to meet in the "real" world don't have green-skinned babies or dwarvish cousins. This is a story about being a hero in your own home -- or your own castle. It's beautiful and real and fantastical, and the perfect book to prove to someone that comics aren't all Biff! Bam! Pow! all the time.
Crossing Midnight - This is a fantasy/horror story by Mike Carey about two siblings in present day Japan who get caught up in the rich mythology of their homeland's history. It doesn't really go well for them, but that's what makes it a great read for us, right? One twin was born before midnight, the other after, and this gap leads them into a terrifying supernatural world that has very different destinies in mind for the brother and sister and a lot of it has to do with knives. I can't decide which is more fascinating, actually: the exquisitely-realized spiritual world, or the exactingly-researched one of modern day Japan. This book is so compelling you won't even realize you're learning things along the way!
Lucifer - While we're on Mike Carey, let's mention this spin-off series from Sandman -- every bit as grand as the original. The Devil was just a bit player in Dream's saga, but everyone knows he's really a star, and here he gets his chance to shine. The series starts when an angel on business from Above comes to Lucifer's new nightclub in LA with a job that Heaven wants their fallen adversary to do for them. Lucifer likes their price, and soon that one simple job has all of reality hanging in the balance and the only one who can save the day is -- the Devil? Oh, we're in trouble now... Carey crafts a mythology more satisfying than Milton's Paradise Lost in this epic tale of Heaven, Hell, and the one guy who no longer wants anything to do with either of them: Lucifer himself. (And no, you don't need to have read Sandman first to figure it out.) And my mother and best friend would both like to make sure that I point out that Lucifer is also "easy on the eyes." So, enjoy that.
Strangers in Paradise - Getting a little more down to earth, how about this series by Terry Moore? It's set in the real world with real people and has more drama packed into its pages than most television shows can hope to claim. Not only that, but its primary subject matter is...drumroll...romantic! Not being what one might call a fan of "romance" stories, the only reason I picked it up, skeptically, is because it was recommended by Neil Gaiman. And it was a long day, and I was bored. Well thank goodness I did, because it blew me away. (Who knew romance could actually be entertaining enough to carry a plot?) Throw in a sprinkling of the American Yakuza, a dash of high school angst, cheating husbands, the FBI, and rock star singers, wrap it all up in family drama and showcase it with some of the most delightful artwork I've ever had the pleasure to drool over, and you've got a recipe for greatness.
(To be continued tomorrow...)