Adventures in Comic Book Land

Once upon a time, I was a major book snob. When I was in junior high and high school, I had this ‘tude about reading any book that wasn’t over 100 years old or at the top of a list of the greatest books of all time or that didn’t come in an edition with “classics” in the title. I looked down my nose at people who picked up books with cutesy girly covers or anyone who looked like Fabio, or resided in any section of the bookstore not marked “Literature.” Yep. BOOK SNOB.

And then I read Harry Potter. I don’t even remember the circumstances of how I ended up picking up a Harry Potter book anymore (I think it was a gift from someone who did not understand my book snobbery and simply knew that it was a popular book), but suffice to say, it changed my reading life. Not the first time I read the book though. I read the first two or three and didn’t think about them again until a friend asked me to see the first movie with her. At dinner after the movie, she told me all about how magical these books were and I decided to give them another shot. And I fell in love. So in love that I took a course in college devoted to analyzing children’s fantasy literature and Harry Potter. And that made me fall even more in love. There was this whole other world of books out there that I’d suddenly discovered once I dialed back my inner book snob, and it was freaking awesome.

Jump forward a few years and my reading tastes had broadened to whatever interesting-sounding books I came across while wandering the local bookstore. (See, this is why physical bookstores matter!) But then I discovered Twitter and Goodreads, and that there were other people in the world that were as ridiculously obsessed with reading as I was. And that I could talk to those people about books! Needless to say, that was also a life-changer. The book-ternet has introduced me to corners of the book world that I might never have found on my own, and broadened my reading horizons to an extent that I never imagined. I read widely now, not with my nose in the air, and love it. I’ve discovered that science fiction is actually one of my favorite genres (never saw that one coming), that I love unreliable narrators of all stripes, and that I (still) don’t tend to like books with happy endings.

Something else I’ve discovered recently? A love of comic books.

Before recently, I’d only been to the comic book store a few times as a kid, tagging along with my brother. I was not into the whole superhero thing, unless the characters were dark and twisted and seriously messed up, a la Christian Bale’s Batman or Heath Ledger’s Joker. And even then, I’d see the movie but you’d never see me holding a comic book. The first graphic novel I picked up on my own was V for Vendetta, and only after I had seen and loved the movie. I’d occasionally branch out and grab a graphic novel or graphic memoir from the library, but only when I felt like law school had taken over my brain so much that I was hardly reading otherwise. I read Maus and Persepolis, because those were “serious” graphic novels about important historical events and that made them okay.

And then, the book-ternet changed my mind. I started seeing articles about Marvel and diversity in my Twitter feed, about how new comic books were crossing race and gender lines with characters in interesting ways and that piqued my interest. Book Riot, one of my favorite online book sites, runs a series of videos and other pieces about being a comic book newbie, and started doing other comics-related posts. (Book Riot now has a new sister site called Panels, which is all about comics and is seriously awesome.) People I follow online whose book recommendations I trust started posting about the comics they were reading too. So my curiosity got the better of me. I checked out the first volumes of Sandman and Locke & Key — both comic books written by people who wrote books too (Neil Gaiman and Joe Hill, respectively). I picked up Alan Moore’s Watchmen on recommendation from my boyfriend’s co-worker (who is a comic book collector and was very excited to share LOTS of recommendations and comic book history with me). I also picked up Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud, which does a great job of explaining comic book history and exploring comic books as a medium and language.

And WOAH. I found out what I had been missing out on! There were superhero comics that were awesomely dark and twisty, but also superhero comics that were hysterically funny. There were also non-superhero comics that were telling amazing stories through beautiful art with deeply developed characters. (I defy you to read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, and not fall in love with comic books. It only took me one volume.) I’ve binged through entire series in trade paperback form. I’ve started buying single issues of comic books regularly, keeping up with series that I love. I made my first (and several more) trips to the comic book store. I have a pull list. I’m addicted.

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I’m going to attempt to share some of that love here on the blog. In the same way that we have Staff Picks posts about books we love, I’m going to start posting Pull List posts about comic books I’m loving or planning to check out. And I’d love to hear if there are comic books that you love, and think I should try.

So come on into Comic Book Land with me, and stay awhile — the reading’s fine!

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3 thoughts on “Adventures in Comic Book Land

  1. I’ve had a couple of graphic novels suggested to me by a comic book guy and I have to say, you’ve got me thinking about picking up some single issues just to give comic books a try again (a few years ago someone gave me a huge file of Green Lantern comics that I just couldn’t get through to save my life).

  2. There are some really great ones out there right now! Ms Marvel is a favorite in the superhero realm. I’m also a huge fan of pretty much anything that Image Comics puts out — lots of noir comics, interesting sci-fi and fantasy and other kinds of comics, and just really unique stories all around. I do read a few DC and Marvel comics regularly, but a lot of what I’m reading now comes from Image. I’ll be posting soon about some of the comics that I’ve been reading!

  3. I’ll add here that I just finished She-Hulk which was FANTASTIC. You definitely have to check it out! It was my first legit foray into comic books (I read some when I was really little), and I am loving it!

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