First and foremost, I am far from an expert on comics. I don’t read any of the major DC stuff, save for the issue of Batman here and there, or something related to Batman. When it comes to Marvel, unless it’s a story about The Punisher, or something related to Stephen King, it’s a safe bet I won’t read it. I mainly read horror comics, and independent comics. And while I obviously seem like a pretentious douchebag right now, I assure you that I merely bring up my interests so you know what kind of perspective I’m coming from.
Safe to say I represent the fringe of comic fans, the ones who have no idea what The Avengers are up to, or who Superman has laser-eyed recently (Does he use the laser eyes still? I’ve only seen him on Justice League cartoons on Netflix recently.) Regardless, when I walk into my local comic shop, or get an email about a comic, the first thing I want to know is the plot. If it sounds like something I haven’t read a billion times yet, I usually give it a shot.
Most of the comics I’ve stuck with end up being because of an interesting plot, a cool way of laying out the plot, or a compelling character.
And actually, when it comes to comics I end up dropping, I imagine it’s for the same reason I’d stop reading a super hero story. Blood and guts and cool monsters, or, alternately, great action, and cool villains simply aren’t enough. And when I say it’s not enough, I don’t mean I won’t read those comics anyway. There are plenty of comics I’ve read for cool monsters and blood and guts, or rarely for great action and cool villains. No, what I mean is, the comics I end up going back to, the ones I recommend to non-comic fans or other comic fans, are the ones where there are compelling characters, and a well crafted story.
Alan Moore has an interesting book “Alan Moore’s Writing for Comics,” in which he discusses some of what he feels are issues with comics currently.
“Admittedly, it would be fairly easy for the industry to survive comfortably for a while by pandering to specialist-group nostalgia, or simple escapism, but the industry that concerns itself entirely with areas of this sort is in my view impotent and worthy of little more consideration or interest than the greeting card industry.”
One series I’ve really enjoyed in 2014 was been “Clive Barker’s The Next Testament.” Haemi Jang’s art, and the color by Vladimir Popov certainly helped, but primarily it was the story by Clive Barker and Mark Miller that moved me to keep reading this series. “Next Testament,” tells the story of what is essentially a hybrid of God and the Devil mixed into one rainbow colored being known as Wick , that is brought to our modern society after being unearthed by a rich man named Julian Demond. The story is haunting, grotesque. And while the human characters can often come across as very stock, Wick is fascinating. You can’t wait to hear what he has to say next, and his words are given weight by the fact he can also destroy a city in the blink of an eye. Yet, I’d love this character even without any powers. Wick just has this powerful gravitas to him you can’t help but be intrigued by.
There have been a few other comic adaptations, things like the adaptation of “Stephen King’s Dark Tower series,” and “Clive Barker’s Nightbreed,” or “John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China,” which I’ve enjoyed. I like all of these series, but I hesitate to recommend them in an article about what I’d like to see going forward in comics. And the reason is simple: what I would like to see more of in 2015 and beyond, are original stories, be they horror or otherwise. Original stories as in original characters not from a film, or book series.
Moore’s has a few good quotes pertaining to comics as a medium when related to film, and literature.
“Rather than seizing upon the superficial similarities between comics and films or comics and books in the hope that some of the respectability of those media will rub off upon us, wouldn’t it be more constructive to focus our attention upon those ideas where comics are special, and unique?”
I’ve found some of my favorite comics in 2014 were about, at least by comic standards, fairly simple and not mega-huge larger than life plots. Take “Southern Bastards,” an Image title about a corrupt southern town written by Jason Aaron, with art by Jason Latour . It’s one of my new favorite series, and I can’t wait to get my little wiry hands on each new issue. And straight up, “Southern Bastards,” is a simple story of corruption, and people searching for justice. Yet, the series is able to hit dramatic notes and hit me with the feels harder than anything else I’ve read this year. And it’s an original story, not based off any existing book or film, with a first arc primarily revolving around an old man and the town he grew up in!
“The Fade Out,” by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips was far from a diverse cast, as it takes place back in what I think is the fifties in Hollywood, but this falls under the category of a different type of story leading to originality. I liked it too, because I’m a sucker for period pieces on Hollywood, or really any kind of story on Hollywood.
One series in 2014 which really surprised me was “The Field,” with story by Ed Brisson, and art by Simon Roy. It’s only a four issue run, but it managed to pack enough mystery and shock, and most importantly memorable characters to make me plow right through it. A man with amnesia, and a world that has apparently gone bat-shit insane.
In the interest of time, I glossed over a lot of the unique stylistic reasons in the art and the writing of the series listed that made me enjoy them so much. Rest assured that they knock it out of the park.
In general, I’d like to see comics include different kinds of characters, from all walks of life. The series I enjoyed and listed certainly don’t contain any wildly unique characters. I’ve heard amazing things about the series Sex Criminals, but I haven’t read it yet, so can’t speak on it.
The most important thing in my mind comics can do is to stop trying to rigidly tell “comic stories.” I was talking with the owner of my local comic shop one time a year or so back. I’ll paraphrase, as I don’t have an eidetic memory. I was telling him something to the effect that I wasn’t into traditional comics, and expressed how I wanted to start trying to write comics. Told him how I wasn’t into superheroes, really, so wasn’t into traditional comic stories. He sort of gave me a look, and proceeded to say some things I’ve taken to heart when it comes to comics. He told me that comics are a medium, and not a story type. He asked me, if I’d say I wasn’t into traditional movie stories, or into movie stories. I responded something like, no, I’d say I’m not into this type of movie, this specific genre, or I’d say the name of the movie. He helped me put things in perspective. Told me, there is not specific type of comic or comic story. That any story can be told in a comic, in the same way you could tell a story in a movie, or in a book.
You can tell any story you want in a comic. You don’t have to write a comic in the hopes that it’ll become a movie, or get the respect of a novel. Comics are great because they are what they are; they can tell visual stories, but with the power of the written word. Comics occupy the sweet spot between visual art, and text based art such as short stories, or novels.