Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

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Thad
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Thu Oct 16, 2014 4:05 pm

So yesterday Dark Horse put out Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 1. It is 600 pages. MSRP is $25; you can get it on Amazon for $18.62 if you want to send me some pennies through an affiliate link, but as always I recommend you spend the extra money and support your local comic shop if at all possible.

Usagi Yojimbo is...well, okay. For starters, how many creator-owned American comics do you know that have lasted 30 years? I can think of two others off the top of my head: Love and Rockets and Groo.

This is a book that's had incredible staying power, and I think that boils down to the simple fact that Stan Sakai is a really good brass-tacks storyteller. He brought some manga influence in back when that was still a novel thing in American comics, and Japan definitely permeates the book inasmuch as its name is Japanese and it is set in Japan. But it's not flashy or decompressed in the way that we came to understand "manga influence" to mean in American comics; his stories are tight and focused and workmanlike. And I say "workmanlike" in the way I'd use it for giants like Barks.

At its core, it's wandering-warrior stuff; it's self-contained episodes that slowly build a cast and a world. It's alternately funny and sad; it depicts violence as ever-present but not graphic. (Death is signified by a little skull appearing above a character's body. There are a lot of little skulls.)

This particular set doesn't have the earliest UY comics in it; it's got the entirety of vol 2 (originally published by Mirage) and the first 6 issues of vol 3 (the still-ongoing Dark Horse series), from the early 1990's when Sakai had hit his stride.

I'll be honest: I haven't read these specific comics; I just thumbed through the book at the comic shop yesterday, drooled over it a bit, and decided that I have enough goddamn comics and I've been dealing with some back pain lately and probably do not want to be carrying around a 600-page book on top of all the other shit in my backpack. But I'm pretty confident that it's great stuff, a great place to start if you've never read Usagi before (like I said, it's episodic and you don't need to read the early stuff to get the later stuff), and a hell of a deal for 600 pages.

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MarsDragon
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby MarsDragon » Fri Oct 17, 2014 10:33 am

Oh shit, that looks really good. I love Usagi, grew up reading the comics (my mom's been collecting them in paperback and by issue for as long as I can remember), and I'll definitely be looking into getting these. I haven't really been keeping up lately because of cost/space issues, but I could spring for some collected editions.

Looks like the next volume will have the Grasscutter story. If you read any Usagi, you should totally read that, it's amazing. It's longer than most Usagi stories, but it is absolutely worth it.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Fri Oct 17, 2014 12:56 pm

I don't usually pick up single issues but his current series is called Senso. It's a ten-years-later time jump/crossover with War of the Worlds. (What if the Tripods landed in feudal Japan instead of Victorian England?)

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby MarsDragon » Fri Oct 17, 2014 1:25 pm

Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat

I need to ask my mom if she knows about this. That sounds great.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:57 am

The bad news is Ryan North is leaving the Adventure Time comic.

The good news is, his replacement is Chris Hastings. The Dr. McNinja guy.

The other good news is Ryan North going to be writing a Squirrel Girl series at Marvel.

Have I mentioned lately that the Adventure Time comic is really, really good, you guys?

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:35 pm

My wife asked if I could pick up some comics for our nephew. I'd heard good things about Scooby-Doo Team-Up, so I grabbed a couple of those. (The one where he meets Batman and Robin was recently reprinted as a Halloween freebie; my LCS still has copies and maybe yours does too.)

Here is a sample of the dialogue:

Daphne: Long time no see, Batman -- ever since our run-in with the Joker and the Penguin!
Fred: Yeah, we kept running into all sorts of people back then. Singers, basketball players...it felt like we were teaming up with someone different every week!
Batman: I know the feeling.


This comic is PRETTY GREAT, you guys. It's got the same vibe as Mystery Inc and TB&TB: self-referential jokes for the grownups, wrapped in a story that's still straightforward and fun for the kids.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Dec 16, 2014 1:25 am

Bitch Planet, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, is pretty great. It's a '70's exploitation pastiche set on a prison planet where women are sent when they don't comply with a '50's-style patriarchy.

Tim O'Shea of Robot 6 has more. At any rate, this thing is great and I think I'll stick around for the ride; it's one more great new book Image is putting out. Man, somebody is doing something right over there.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:22 pm

If "Squirrel Girl series by the team that's spent the past 3 years doing Adventure Time" sounds like something you want to read, you're right. And if that DOESN'T sound like something you want to read, I question your taste.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Mothra » Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:28 pm

IIIII would totally buy that.

Bought the full run of Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever comic run for my dad, for Christmas. I haven't made it past issue two, but it's actually really cool so far. Like Thad pointed out, it's still really, really weird having like a drug dealer on the Enterprise kick off the whole thing, but everything else is really nicely re-imagined.

The Guardian, for example, is actually a host of guardian statues in an actual ancient shimmering city. Pretty cool. Art style attempts to go full realism, and succeeds pretty well, I'd say.

I also bought Jed Whedon's Firefly run for my brother. Haven't read that one either, but what saw when I flipped through looked really promising.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Fri Jan 09, 2015 1:51 pm

Mothra wrote:IIIII would totally buy that.


It's four bucks, like most Marvel books are now, so waiting for the trade might be better on your wallet. But individual issue sales are pretty important for determining whether a book keeps going or not, so I think I'm probably going to keep picking it up monthly, budget allowing.

Mothra wrote:Bought the full run of Ellison's City on the Edge of Forever comic run for my dad, for Christmas. I haven't made it past issue two, but it's actually really cool so far. Like Thad pointed out, it's still really, really weird having like a drug dealer on the Enterprise kick off the whole thing, but everything else is really nicely re-imagined.

The Guardian, for example, is actually a host of guardian statues in an actual ancient shimmering city. Pretty cool. Art style attempts to go full realism, and succeeds pretty well, I'd say.


It was pretty great. Each version has its strengths and its weaknesses but I'm glad I got to see this version.

The final issue was meant to have an essay by Ellison to close it out, but then he had his stroke, so it didn't happen. From what I understand he's made a full recovery, and should be able to contribute an essay to the collected version.

Mothra wrote:I also bought Jed Whedon's Firefly run for my brother. Haven't read that one either, but what saw when I flipped through looked really promising.


Pretty sure you mean Zack Whedon, not Jed; I don't know of any Serenity comics written by Jed.

Anyhow, assuming you're referring to Leaves on the Wind, IMO it's the first Serenity miniseries to really get it right. (There have been some good one-shots, and I hear good things about The Shepherd's Tale, but the two previous miniseries didn't grab me enough to keep reading past the first issue or two.) It DOES suffer from the usual licensed comic problem of having to bring everything back to the status quo by the end; Zoe has a baby but aside from that the ending rearranges everything back to exactly where it was at the end of the movie.

Nonetheless, I still thought it was pretty great; I talked about it in more detail over in the Firefly thread nobody else posts in.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby TA » Fri Jan 09, 2015 3:48 pm

Thad wrote:If "Squirrel Girl series by the team that's spent the past 3 years doing Adventure Time" sounds like something you want to read, you're right. And if that DOESN'T sound like something you want to read, I question your taste.


It kind of makes your eyes melt and ooze out of your head to look at though?
のほも is such a good word?? the concept is kind of hard to fully get across in translation, but basically it means a feeling of pure, deep, platonic affection, and i think thats beautiful

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Fri Jan 09, 2015 5:58 pm

I like Henderson's art just fine. It's expressive and it's kinetic, which are the two things you need most in a superhero comedy book.

I think it's the right style for the series. Even if you crop out the bottom half of the cover and completely fuck up the composition and context.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Fri Jan 16, 2015 12:37 am

Minimum Wage is one of those slice-of-life comics. It's a genre that lives or dies on authenticity, and authenticity comes down to the little details.

There's a bit where Rob is at home watching TV.

And I do a sort of double-take, because that is definitely Tom and Crow on the screen.

And then I do ANOTHER double-take, because they are talking about zucchini pillows. And I know what episode it is! I just watched it in the Turkey Day Marathon!

Rob refers to it, in narration, as a "Mystie morning". And that is a Sci-Fi-era episode. It totally would have been one of the Sunday morning reruns in 2000, when the story takes place.

Shit like that makes a story real. (There's an American Splendor book called Ego and Hubris, and the bit I remember most is when Michael Malice talks about how he always dug Hordak when he was a kid. That's another one of those details that you read it and you know it's real, this is somebody about my age really talking to Pekar here. Because if it were made up, they would definitely have said Skeletor, not Hordak.)

And then the bit where Rob tries online dating? The sequence where his date invites him back to her place for the first time? Okay, the details are different, of course, but it feels exactly like the first time my wife ever invited me over to her place. There's that excitement, that awkwardness, all that stuff you feel in that situation, that first time with somebody new. It's authentic. It takes me right back.

It's no mean feat.

The first Image volume of Minimum Wage (which isn't the original series, but it's not like there's a lot of continuity to catch up on -- all you really need to know is right there in the first few pages) is in the current Humble Bundle. I've already expounded at some length on why you should pay the $18 to get Saga and The Walking Dead, or at least pay the middle tier to get Manhattan Projects, Sex Criminals, and The Wicked + The Divine. But if you don't want to do either of those for whatever reason, well, you can have Minimum Wage for a minimum donation of a penny.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Mon Jan 26, 2015 12:39 pm

Groo's back!

And the first issue is an homage to The Producers. But with a sea voyage instead of a musical.

Groo is fun. For those of you who haven't read Groo, it's a parody of the sword-and-sandals genre by Sergio Aragones (the guy who does the little drawings in the margins in Mad Magazine), with dialogue by Mark Evanier (the showrunner of both Garfield and Friends and The Garfield Show). It is pretty consistently great.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Mongrel » Mon Jan 26, 2015 12:49 pm

This might sound sacrilegious but I've found that the Groo stuff from the past decade or so, well, I didn't like them half as much. They sort of became a bit preachy or awkward, which really comes down to Mark, not Sergio. Well, maybe both of them.

I mean, it's still Groo. It's still good and you could do way worse. But usually I just think I should get off my ass and finish collecting the trades of the Epic run instead of picking up anything new (of course, I need to get my Groo collection back from my folks' house in the first place).
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Jan 27, 2015 1:18 am

Nothing about the economy or the environment in the first issue of Friends and Foes. Or last year's Groo vs. Conan.

I know what you mean -- Hell on Earth was a pretty mixed bag. I liked Hogs of Hoarder just fine, though; I think it would make a great economics lesson for students of any age.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Mongrel » Tue Jan 27, 2015 2:48 am

Dammit, there was an older Groo story on that sort of theme and I can't remember what it was and now that's going to kill me trying to remember.
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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Brentai » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:13 pm

Wait, there's an actual Sonic x Megaman crossover comic?

How the hell long has THIS been going on?

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Tue Jan 27, 2015 6:41 pm

I told you about it a year and a half ago! You said, and I quote, "They stole our idea!"

Anyway. It's in the Humble Bundle if you want to check it out. I've liked what I've read of Flynn's Mega Man comics.

He's our age and was involved in Sonic fandom around the same time we were, though I didn't really know him. I've remarked before (probably including the last time we had this conversation) that if I'd been sending samples to Archie instead of applications to colleges, maybe my career trajectory could have been very different -- "freelancing for Archie" has never been on my list of career goals, but it would beat what I'm doing right now, which is nothin'.

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Re: Comics for People who Don't Read Comics

Postby Thad » Thu Feb 19, 2015 5:02 pm

Thad wrote:So yesterday Dark Horse put out Usagi Yojimbo Saga vol 1. It is 600 pages. MSRP is $25; you can get it on Amazon for [$19.97] if you want to send me some pennies through an affiliate link, but as always I recommend you spend the extra money and support your local comic shop if at all possible.


So I've been talking about how great this thing is since I first saw it in the store, but now that I've actually finished reading it? It's just as great as I said. You should buy this book. There's only one other comic collection I can think of that is in this same league in terms of the quality and quantity you get for a low price, and that's the complete Bone.

BUT, a couple caveats before I continue:

First: despite that "Volume 1" in the title, this is more accurately described as a collection Usagi Yojimbo books 8-10. Or, in their original single-issue numbering, Usagi Yojimbo vol 2 #1-#16 and vol 3 #1-#6.

The reason for the slightly screwy numbering is that Fantagraphics has the publishing rights to those first seven books, while Dark Horse has the publishing rights to the rest. And if you want to start from the beginning instead of starting here, you can do that -- all the earlier Fantagraphics UY books are currently in print except vol 2, and if you wait until September, there's also going to be an omnibus available of the complete Fantagraphics collection in two paperbacks.

THAT SAID: This is still an excellent jumping-on point. While Usagi DOES encounter characters from previous adventures, their backstory is explained quickly and organically; every story in this collection is self-contained.


Caveat the second: UY vol 2 was originally printed in color, but this collection is black-and-white (except the covers). A foreword explains that this is because the color separations have been lost (and presumably recoloring it, and printing the book in color, would drive up costs significantly).

This is not a deal-breaker; most of UY has been black-and-white anyway, and Sakai's black-and-white linework is excellent. HOWEVER, there are places in this book where you can tell they were drawn with color in mind, and would be a little bit clearer in color -- there's an early bit where Leonardo (yeah, the TMNT show up in the first arc of this book) gets slashed and it would be easier to tell how badly he was injured if the splash of blood were red instead of white, and one story ends with an image of a shining gold nugget that would work better if it were yellow instead of white with glow lines around it. I DO think that the shift to vol 3 is noticeable, and that it's clear these stories were intended for B&W while the earlier ones in the collection weren't.


BUT. With those points out of the way, this thing is still fucking exquisite. It's just damn good comics. It's smart storytelling; never flashy but occasionally experimental (like the short story "Jizo", 8 pages made up of 3 panels each, every panel from the same angle in the same spot). The characters are archetypical but memorable -- Usagi the quiet, honorable wandering warrior; Gen the lovable rogue; Kitsune the thief and trickster; Chizu the honorable leader of the rival ninja clan.

The stories are typical for the genre; wandering warrior stories have certain tropes attached to them whether they're set in feudal Japan, the Old West, the Hyborean Age, or wherever. But they're wonderfully, satisfyingly told, with enough twists and turns along the way to keep you interested. Not to mention the balance of suspense, action, and humor.

AND they're informative. The book's well-researched, and has endnotes where Sakai discusses his sources. One issue, in the middle of a story about Usagi's swords being stolen, opens with a sequence on swordmaking. Another takes place in a seaweed-farming village, and another during a festival. Usagi Yojimbo works because, talking animals or no, its world feels real. And it feels real because Sakai has put considerable effort in filling it with real-life details about feudal Japan. Frankly I think this book would be an excellent tool in a history class -- though Arizona's curriculum doesn't pay a hell of a lot of attention to Japanese history, maybe the Pacific states with larger Japanese-American populations do?

Point being, buy this freakin' book. It is fantastic.

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