Adventures with Rat Queens and The Walking Dead
Comic books. There, I’ve said it. Are they valid literature or just throwaway trash? Are they art? Ever read one? Ever poked fun or joked about those who do?
Comic books have a very close association with a lot of the things I like be it music, movies or TV shows. They are featured at the events I go to where you will see the artists and writers doing sketches for people and discussing their work and many stalls selling old and new books. There are shows just purely dedicated to comic books too. Yet it’s an area of the fandom that I’ve never really connected with until recently and I’ve felt that I was missing something because of that.
I grew up reading, and reading a lot. Mostly novels, mainly science fiction, fantasy or adventure stories but there were also comics and I remember trying to find the first ever edition of 2000 A.D. when it came out (yes, I’m that old), trawling around the newsagents in Cardiff where we were living at the time to see if there were any left as it sold out almost straight away, eventually finding it in a small shop. May even still have that copy somewhere.
I don’t recall if it was the stories or the art or a combination of both but I do remember enjoying it and waiting with excitement for the next issue to come out.
What I don’t remember reading is the standard Superhero stuff like Superman, Spiderman or Batman etc. Of course I knew who these were, I watched Batman on TV on a Saturday morning, I remember being awed by Christopher Reeve as Superman but the written versions of these stories seemed to pass me by.
Over the years I’ve read the odd one or two. I knew an American at University who had a lot and I borrowed some. I think Green Arrow was one possibly, apologies if that’s wrong. I’ve picked up some X-Files ones over the years when the show was on TV and have a couple of graphic novels around, some I’m not even sure I’ve read. I even tried the Buffy comics after the TV show ended, a show I really liked, but thought they were pretty awful and couldn’t stick with it.
I’ve been in Comic Book stores, even Forbidden Planet in London which I do like visiting. I love the artwork, the myriad of ideas on show but I also find it confusing. How many different versions of Spiderman are there for example? I see people pouring over the latest releases or asking about the work of a particular artist or writer and I feel a fraud simply being there and it’s also a whole area I don’t feel able to really talk to my friends about.
So a while ago I felt like I should try again and having no idea where to start I discussed my interests with a friend. At one of the conventions we go to he helped me look for something and suggested a Marvel collection called The Ultimates Vol 1. I liked the look of it, there were characters I knew, the art looked good and there was even a foreword by Joss Whedon, (Yay!!) and it was at a good price.
That was about 18 months ago and I’ve barely got half way through it. It felt like an effort. I didn’t really connect with it, I found the story cumbersome, slow and it became a chore to read. I’m sure there will be many people complaining about that assessment but it’s an honest opinion. It just didn’t fire my imagination or make any kind of emotional link with me.
My friends who run the Visionary Trek site (see link to the right) also produce a podcast called The Holodeck which covers Star Trek related comic books and I love their enthusiasm for the genre and their knowledge of the artists and writers but it’s not something I feel able to join in with and I’d like to at least engage on some level.
But we all like different things and I just came to the conclusion that I would remain an outsider until I had a revelation of sorts and an unusual one at that.
As well as liking Star Trek one of my friends has been regularly mentioning a comic she particularly likes called Rat Queens from a company called Image, even more so since she found out the creators of it are coming to the UK in 2015 for a small event called Demon Con run by The Grinning Demon in Maidstone Kent. Yes, Rat Queens is an odd title but a hell of a lot better than the one they were originally considering which I won’t mention here but is easy to find out.
Obviously I’d never heard of this and at the recent Winter London Film and Comic Con I was following her round the comic stalls (in a completely non-stalker way I hasten to add), we were talking about some of the artists who were there etc and we saw some people dressed as characters from this comic who kindly let me take some photos.
Hearing them talk about it and the Demon Con event got me intrigued enough to see what it was about. So I managed to get hold of the first issue, read it, got the second issue, read it and so on. I was immediately hooked by the quirky but well defined characters, the fantasy D&D style setting, a seemingly straightforward story which gradually had more layers added and the irreverent humour and swearing. It made me laugh out loud unexpectedly at times like a good Terry Pratchett novel does.
And now I’ve bought the complete first volume, much to the surprise of my friend who’s wondering what she’s started now, and can’t wait to read more but Volume 2 doesn’t look like it’ll be available until January 2015 or thereabouts.
So I’ve found something that I have genuinely connected with. Ok it’s not the mass popular DC or Marvel stuff but does that matter? Is it any less legitimate? No, of course not. There’s so many creative writers and artists and worthwhile stories to read outside of the mainstream. And while those will always be popular it feels like they’re just saturating the market so in some ways it’s nice to enjoy something a bit different.
In a slightly more popular vein I’m also getting, on recommendation, The Walking Dead Vol 1. I’ve been watching the TV show and the same friend suggested I try the comic upon which it is based so I’m really looking forward to starting that too and see if I enjoy it and connect with it as much.
It’s a start. Will I try other things such as Star Trek or offshoots from TV shows I like such as Firefly/Serenity? Maybe, but I’m happy to feel it’s not all such a mystery anymore. In some small way I now “get it” and that makes me happy and gives me something more to talk about with my friends.