Friday, August 22, 2008

Nerd Hype II!: The Trail talks comics

While I'm currently on the outs with comics [well documented in numerous posts on this blog], I can't deny the important place they've held in my life over the years. I originally got roped in buying licensed Marvel comics of popular toy properties like He-Man or Transformers, then one day made the leap into superheroes. I remember the exact comic it was, Amazing Spider-Man #314, the one where Peter and Mary-Jane get kicked out of their fabulous Manhattan apartment and have to move back in with Aunt May.

Obviously, Todd McFarlane artwork enamors 12-year-old boys like few other artists can, so from there I was hooked. No real plan to what I was buying, just whatever I could get off the spinner rack. After starting to feel like a cash cow shortly after McFarlane and others formed Image comics, I jumped off the train the first time. I remember the exact moment, too: after X-Ecutioner's Song, the X-Men crossover, ended with absolutely no plot development for the characters. Hell, Scott and Jean weren't even sure Cable was Scott's kid by that point, it was only subtly alluded to. I was done.

It was almost a decade before I got into comics again. The industry had been hit hard once people figured out you couldn't use comics to finance your retirement, and in an attempt to regain some ground, Marvel handed the reigns to young buck Joe Quesada, who was willing to throw everything against a wall to see what stuck. I don't remember the first book to rope me in, but for the next four years I was spending hundreds on comics, cultivating a collection that presently sits between 2,000 - 3,000.

But the money always ruins it in the success brought renewed attention to the characters and pressure to make the comic and movie versions fall in line, as well as restarting the big crossover capital-Event tradition, which was always my most loathed comic book tendency. Before Civil War ended in 2006, I was moving to Kingston and had to cut expenses. Comics were the ones to go.

It'll be strange to go to the Con tomorrow and not spend my day hunting through longboxes. Similar to how record crate-diggers must feel, my love was always in the hunt: drafting my list, hitting shops far and wide looking for what I desperately needed that week. I partly wonder what I'll do all day while I'm there. Then I'll remember there will be Stormtroopers, and I'll get over it.

The Trail's Top Five Comic Loves

5. Solo

Solo was a weird little book that DC was putting out in 2006-2007. The idea was simple: One artist per book, per issue. Sometimes that meant one artist with a series of wriers, sometimes it meant the artist would do everything on the book. At the time of its publication, I only picked up artists I knew, and now regret that decision, since they only did a dozen. If I were still buying comics, these would have been snatched tomorrow, if only to finally own Darwyn Cooke's issue.

4. Grant Morrison
This entry was originally supposed to be just about his run on New X-Men, then I thought, 'what about Doom Patrol/Animal Man/JLA/Arkham Asylum/All-Star Superman'? I think it can be be argued that Morrison is the most important man still making [superhero] comics today. While I haven't kept up on him lately [I was not into his 70's, hairy-chested sex machine take on Batman], he's always been my top creator, so much so that he merits two entries.

3. Preacher
I've been sitting here for years waiting for the HBO series to get off the ground, just so this series will get the widespread recognition it deserves. Angels, cowboys, religious conspiracies, vampires and a guy named Arseface. How can that combination possibly fail?

2. Sandman
Only when you start getting into the 50 something issues do you start to see that either (a) Gaiman had a plan all along,for every character, no matter how minor, or (b) Gaiman's a genius who can tie together every narrative thread with grace and panache, all while creating some of the most beloved characters in the history of comics all the while planting them in the canon of the DCU [just look at his Dream story from the Endless Nights OGN]. If you need me to pick a favourite arc, probably Brief Lives.

1. We3
Three issues. Hardly any dialogue. And it will break your heart. The story of three household pets who are turned into killing machines by the government, then break out in an attempt to find 'home,' even though they have no idea what that might be. Written by the talented Mr. Morrison and reuniting him with artist Frank Quitely, there is nothing about this book that is not perfect, from the pacing to Quitely's genius covers, it is my favourite comic book of all time. And not a cape in sight.

These are the things that will keep me sane as I overhear fanboys arguing over which is more awesome: Final Crisis or Secret Invasion.

And to everyone with lives, I apologize for the previous two entries. Hopefully someone besides Aaron found this worthwhile. ^_^


Blogger Aaron F. said...


I read We3 before I had a chance to read Watchmen (I tell people I was thirteen when I first read Moore's opus, but really I was closer to sixteen... it's just much harder to justify) so We3 had the honor of being my favourite comic of all time for a while.

If you love it as much as you say, I'd suggest checking out Brian K. Vaughan's Pride of Baghdad (if you haven't already). Talking animals on the loose, trying to find their way to a "home" of which they don't have any grasp. It's... not as good.... but it's still Very Good.

And because you've got me started...

my 1. X-statix.

Mutants as celebrities... a theme that Grant used as inspiration for his New X-men series (and certainly acknowledged, there are constant X-statix homages throughout his run). The team had an atrophy rate of about one member per issue, and writer Milligan was never afraid to push the envelope:,,462618,00.html (that decision WAS eventually revoked by Marvel... but still).

It'll always have a special place in my heart.

Also: So far? Secret Invasion has its charm, but Final Crisis, hands down.

Enjoy the comicon... sigh...


6:02 AM

Blogger The Trail said...

I read Pride of Baghdad at work on breaks, and thoroughly enjoyed it, though I'm a bit of a Vaughan fanboy.

X-Statix would have definitely been on the list had this been a top 10. If I hadn't known about the Princess Diana stuff at the time, maybe the storyarc wouldn't have seemed such a bummer to me, but it was pretty apparent there had been some editorial meddling. Never seemed to regain its footing after that, and really, my heart never fully mended after U-Go Girl died.

Ahh, a Final Crisis man. You a fellow DC fanboy, perchance?

7:30 PM

Blogger Aaron F. said...

I am, but only to some extent. I like the tone of the Marvel universe a lot more, and buy about 5 times as many Marvel books as a result.

Probably my favourite writer for the Big Two at the moment is, and this should surprise no one, Grant Morrison, a DC writer. Batman, Final Crisis, and All Star Superman might just be my favourite titles at the moment. Beyond that, though, I don't really care for DC titles for the most part. Vertigo's a different story, obviously.

I understand that, now that the con is over, Paper Trails will be returning to its less fanboy themes. Obviously I'm sticking around, but if you ever want to comics, I have a comics blog at if you haven't already seen it.

6:20 AM


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