Wesley Willis - I Whupped Batman's Ass
Live @ Club Soda, Kalamazoo MI. (2003)
Anyway, let's get real.
I've been a comic book reader/collector for the bulk of my life. I picked up the hobby around the age of 11 when my uncle gave me his collection of Batman, Green Arrow and Punisher comics. I also had another uncle who was a huge Spider-Man fanatic, and had two rooms in his house dedicated to comic books and toys. Having witnessed that "even adults read comics," I was destined to be a fan of the medium.
Green Arrow Vol. 2
Issues 1-80 by Mike Grell
Hey, even Scott Ian of Anthrax loves comics...
DC Comics - OUR WORLDS AT WAR (2001)
This is where I jumped in with weekly/monthly reading again.
Over the past 13 years I've seen my pull-list at the local comic shop grow and shrink. I've seen the careers of several in the industry rise and fall. I've born witness to countless event stories and even more reboots. With the industry only serving roughly 90,000 people in the U.S., comic book reading is definitely an insular hobby. You're either in or out. I understand those who feel they can't get into this stuff. To them I say "just jump in and enjoy the ride." It certainly worked for me.
However, the comic book industry is in sad, desperate times. The never-ending events and reboots have jaded many readers. Furthermore, many comics released by both DC and Marvel comics are a whopping $4 an issue. With the standard page-count for comics today being a measly 20 pages, one has to ask if this hobby is worth a gallon of gas per issue.
On the other side of the fence, you've got DC Comics being run by a bunch of dinosaurs left over from the 1990's. People who were partly responsible for the dreck that the 1990's produced are now in control of my favorite superhero publisher. Long-time DC writers have been having huge problems with editorial, Time-Warner interferes with the books now more than ever (they want some of that Marvel-Movie-Money after all), and many of their books lack any sort of flow or consistency.
Rob Liefeld, synonymous with "shitty '90's comics."
Still working in the industry as of 2012 (however, no longer for DC)
Judd Winick. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
However, his departure from DC shows how screwed up they are.
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction.
Currently the best book on the stands for $2.99 an issue.
How long until the inevitable price hike?
As it turns out...salvation is where it has ALWAYS been, and that's in the hands of the independent press.
Newsflash to those that don't believe me....The Walking Dead, arguably the most successful comic book of all time, is not only a popular TV show right now....but also an independently-produced comic book that has been successful since its first issue came out nearly 9 years ago. Walking Dead-creator Robert Kirkman first built a name for himself at Marvel before moving on 100% to his creator-owned work. Many other writers have also built names for themselves at one of the Big Two companies (DC and Marvel, respectfully), and then start making some real money from their creator-owned titles that are released from the independent press.
The Walking Dead
Proof that good (and profitable) independent comics DO exist for $3 an issue.
And here's the kicker....those creator-owned books are far superior to anything being published by DC or Marvel right now.
So here I sit, a jaded 32-year-old comic book reader who is feeling disillusioned with the industry. 2012 marks the year that I made a switch from print comics to digital (half of my current subscriptions are purchased digitally). I mainly wait for the creator-owned books to be released in a trade paperback, as I get more enjoyment out of those stories than I do reading them issue-by-issue.
While I do still find it hard to stop following certain books or characters, more and more I am checking out the creator-owned titles that are out there. Below is a Top 5 of current creator-owned books that put a smile on my face.
by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
This is one of the most praised books of 2012, and with good reason. Written by Brian K. Vaughn (of Y: The Last Man and TV's Lost fame), this book has equal parts sci-fi and fantasy with plenty of romantic tension and outworldly scenarios. The book masterfully takes references from our real world and mixes them with the sci-fi insanity of the Saga world. This is after all a book where robots with computer-heads and human bodies have sex. You're not going to see that in a Captain America comic, that's for sure!
by John Layman and Rob Guillory
Chew is just an all-out fun comic book that revels in everything ridiculous. Its full of oddball and dark humor, and has an overlying mystery that has yet to fully unfold. Set in a world where chicken has been outlawed and the F.D.A. is the most powerful enforcement agency on the planet, Chew is full of social commentary and just straight-up fun. Almost every issue will make you smile, if not chuckle a bit. John Layman has recently been hired to write Detective Comics for DC. Hopefully DC will help raise his profile so that more people will look towards Chew. There's 6 trades available for this story now. Jump in!
by Jeff Lemire
Jeff Lemire is one of my favorite creators right now. I'd also have to say he's been a big influence on my own comic book writing, as he's a master at developing character and dialogue. Sweet Tooth is just about to wrap up its 40-issue run, but all the trades are widely available. If you like post-apocalypse with a weird animal-human-hybrid twist, then this is a book to check out. I also highly recommend any of Jeff Lemire's other self-contained creator-owned books, Essex County and The Underwater Welder. If you like character-driven stories with a sense of mystery, then look no further than the works of Jeff Lemire.
THE MANHATTAN PROJECTS
by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra
Jonathan Hickman is one of Marvel's top writers right now, as he's handling the Avengers franchise at the moment, and just came off a highly-regarded run on Fantastic Four. However, The Manhattan Projects is where you really see Hickman shine. The set-up of the story is simple: The scientists behind the atomic bomb, a.k.a. The Manhattan Project, used the project as a front for even more dastardly experiments. Einstein is a locked-down loner, Oppenheimer is actually the sociopath/psychotic half-brother of the real Oppenheimer, and the government is into sci-fi elements so deep, that everything is secretly in chaos. Its a great book with a lot of mystery, look into it.
by Matt Kindt
Dark Horse Comics
Its hard not to notice some of the similarities between the works of Matt Kindt and Jeff Lemire. They have a similar art style, and have worked together on a few projects. Matt Kindt even supplied fill-in art on a few issues of Sweet Tooth when Jeff Lemire needed some extra time to finish The Underwater Welder. Anyway, what makes Mind Mgmt. so amazing is that its a well-crafted mystery with amazing twists and hooks in each issue. It also spits right in the face of the problems with the current comic book market.
True, each issue is $3.99 but this is the ONLY book in all of creation that deserves to be read despite the cover price. First off, each issue is 24 pages. There are mini-stories included on the front-inside and back-inside covers. There's 2-page back-ups that add to the world of the story being told. Even the back covers of the book feature fake advertisements, which when put together at the end of an arc adds more to the story at hand. Each page also has little blurbs added near the spine of the book in fine blue print that add another layer of texture. Furthermore, all of these bonus things won't appear in the trade paperback. Mind Mgmt. is truly a book worth the cover price, as it takes me a good 20 minutes or so to fully digest each and every issue.
Yes, dolphins are creepy as hell in real life & in Mind Mgmt.
They must be stopped.
Even though I enjoyed the Kick-Ass movie, I'm a bit pissed that writer Mark Millar uses the comic book medium to pitch movies to Hollywood.
Even as I say that, I know I'll never be able to leave corporate comics entirely. However, they make it easier and easier each and every month to start looking elsewhere to spend my entertainment dollars. If you're like me and have become jaded with the Big Two...check out those creator-owned books I listed above. They will make you love comics again. GUARANTEED.
I'll catch y'all on the flipside. Until then, happy reading!
And Scott Ian....go ahead and bow us out with your Judge Dredd song, ya bald bastard!
Anthrax - "I Am The Law" (1987)