Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Comics: Are You WEIRD too?

I suppose I could have chosen any number of comic strips I actually like for this post, but that's not the kinda guy I am. No, I'm the type of guy who stumbles onto some random piece of junk and then can't get it out of his mind. I mean, just look at it (click on the image to the left to enlarge it). WEIRD? Well, are ya? Ya know, we're all a little wacky. We're all really original. Just like snow flakes, finger prints and the shoes we wear. Here's an idea: let's chalk up relatively minor variation to some deep and powerful uniqueness...that we all share.

"There are people who cry when they hear folk music, no matter what."
"There are people who talk to themselves and learn a lot from the conversation."
"There are people who enjoy peanut butter banana bacon sandwiches and always will."
There are people who like to be strangled while dressed in zebra costumes. There are people who get off from the smell of farts. There are people who think they're dogs. Weird? You could be weirder. Get to it!

*pause for laughter*

Aside from the little foray above, my experience with comics lately has been a very positive, reassuring one. There is just so much good shit out there -- I try to sample a bit of everything. Since reading my first graphic novel in late 2008, I have only read a bit over fifty of 'em, but things have started to pick up lately. I published "A Trio of Graphic Novel Reviews" last month and it looks like I could use another in the same vein very soon.

Most eye-opening has been the experience of reading the Best American Comics series -- specifically the installments for 2007, 2008, and (working on) 2009. An excerpt from my review of a similar collection, Flight, sums up this series admirably: "No doubt these authors are... the up-and-coming stars of "underground comics" (that are not especially underground), mixed in with some chaff for good measure." You know the drill: wade through a few comics about the author's cat or that wacky girl he just met; wade through the half-baked stuff that passes for art, next to the half-baked stuff that passes for writing. You will find some gems.

Case in point: Kaz's Underworld. The strip follows characters like "Creep Rat" and "Sam Snuff" and appears regularly in alternative weeklies about the US -- it's the kind of strip that has a "hate mail" section on its website. And it beats the pants off of Derf's The City (though Derf wins in the pseudonym department). I hesitate to place a sampling here on account of imposing legalese, but you can see a few dozen strips in the site's "archive section". It has quickly found itself a place in my heart next to xkcd and Calvin and Hobbes.

Also....I have long understood the magic of both piracy and comics. But, boy, imagine what happens when you put them together! The '00s have seen the emergence of legitimate online comics, from the small-time webcomic operations of the hopeful dreamers, to the larger undertakings of the big boys in the comics world. And with the rise of the legitimate...

Today --right now-- you can find just about any comic you're looking for, online. Now, I'm not the one to rampantly steal; I live by the maxim that stealing sparingly is okay. If want to read The Walking Dead -- the break-out zombie series with a soul -- and no issues have crossed my path; if the library is all out of copies of Ghost World; heck, if I have a sudden urge to read Conan or something similar, the Internet welcomes me with open arms. I'd love to take a closer look at the books on lists like the CBR's top 100 of 2009, or else more general lists like the A.V. Club's best of the '00s. Then...well, I suppose I can investigate some legitimate, public domain stuff from sites like Golden Age Comics.

Also...I must relate the story of Erik Martin, a 13-year-old kid with liver cancer who "always wanted to be a super hero." Well, since he's dying and all, the Make a Wish foundation decided to make it happen. So, they hired a bunch of surely under-worked actors to pose as 1) Spider-Man 2) "Dr. Dark" 3) "Blackout Boy". Turns out the Seattle Sounders, the local soccer team, got themselves locked in their locker room. It was all up to "Electron Boy" to drive to the stadium -- in a Dolorean! -- wave his hands and make it all right... The Seattle Times covered the event, and there's also a short clip from CNN on Youtube. Watch the clip. Honestly, watching a bewildered, speechless, spandex-clad kid get dragged around by over-enthusiastic adults is a wee bit depressing. But-- his genuinely enthusiastic response at the very end of the clip made the whole thing seem worthwhile.

(Before I go I have to mention "Child Bankrupts Make-A-Wish Foundation With Wish". I thought it was genuine for longer than I care to admit -- then I found it hilarious.)

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