For a while now, I’ve been suggesting people listen to Jimmy Palmiotti’s podcasts from over at Where Monsters Dwell. The man is not only one of the best comic writers out there, but he’s both interesting and hilarious to listen to. Plus who doesn’t love listening to a guy with a Brooklyn accent ramble on for an hour at a time?
This week an interesting topic came up. The topic of people who read comics according to label. Those who buy only Marvel, or only DC.
The interesting thing, is I know quite a few people who cleave to one publisher. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up as a Marvel girl. I read X-Men and the Avengers and I loved them. I never went near DC and I didn’t want to. But when Image and Wildstorm came along? Hoboy, I was so on that bandwagon. Then later on when I discovered Vertigo? I was such a fan. But still, I veered away from DC comics for a long time. Now I don’t understand why. Three of my favourite titles are DC titles – Jonah Hex, Birds of Prey, and Secret Six.
There are aspects to the big two debate I understand. It can be hard to pick up a book with a long history. It can be very hard to break into a world that is well established. In fact, I find it’s something that is often a hurdle with new comic readers. Long, convoluted backstories that developed over decades can make it hard to simply pick something up and break into it.
I’ve been reading comics since I was eight years old. I started with Marvel and for years I was unaware there was a world outside of that. I read what my brother bought, and that was good enough for me! (See Also: me discovering his porn mags when I was 12, to my mother’s HORROR). Through the years I’ve taken breaks from comic reading. When I was broke, when I was jacked with whatever storyline was happening. I think the most significant change in my reading habits, however, happened in my early 20s.
On a break from college, I spent a lot of time around a cafe in downtown St Catharines (Ontario) called the Fine Grind. The owner loved comics. It was where I discovered Preacher, Transmetropolitan, Powers, that book with the Aardvark I cannot think of the name of to save my life and am too lazy to google, and Watchmen. I discovered that comics could be something other than superheroes and I loved it. I went on a mission to read everything that looked even remotely interesting. I spent hours reading and then talking about comics with the people at the cafe and my friends. By the way, if you’re ever in Southern Ontario, stop by. Rob’s a great guy and he has a great comic collection on display for anyone to read.
I didn’t start reading mainstream label stuff again until Joss Whedon wrote Astonishing X-Men. After that I picked up Jonah Hex by Palmiotti and Gray, inspired by the westerns I used to watch with my dad as a kid and have always loved. From there I moved onto Peter David’s X-Factor. Then I moved to Rucka’s Gotham Central, Vaughan’s Runaways, and Simone’s Birds of Prey.
All of these titles thrilled me. There were still other books I was picking up (Fables, Y the Last Man, Hack/Slash) but really, I had discovered mainstream publishers again and I loved it.
I think there’s an issue with reading superhero comics your whole life. Editorial control means the big few will only ever change so much. But the thing is this: Find the writers you like. Find the artists you love. Follow them. Screw this idea of DC over Marvel, and bend over backwards to support people you love writing mainstream books when they write not-so-mainstream books.
The thing is this. When you go to a movie (to use Jimmy’s example) do you say to yourself ‘oh, it’s a Fox Studios movie’? No. You say it has a certain person writing or acting in it. It’s of a certain genre. Those things should be so much more important in comics as well. Screw labels. If there are people out there who’s writing I love, then I’ll follow them wherever they go. I might not like it, but I’ll give it a chance. Recent evidence is my love of Random Acts of Violence or Welcome to Tranquility. I took chances and followed writers and I was not disappointed.
For the record, my list:
Writers: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, Gail Simone, Greg Rucka, Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Brian K Vaughan, Marjorie Liu, Paul Cornell
Artists: Amanda Conner, Nicola Scott, Darwyn Cooke, JH Williams
Here’s my final analysis: Limit yourself to a label and you limit yourself full stop. Be open to new things, like what you like and never apologise.