Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Why I buy certain comics.

Why I buy comics

By Andrenn

This is a response to Kirk Warren’s “Why do you buy certain comic books?”

Before I get into why I buy certain comic books, I think I should give a little back story as to why I buy comics in general.

Not to tell you my life story, but I think the start of it all begins with my father leaving my life at a young age. My estranged relationship with my father from then on lead to a gap between us, but one of the few ways we connected, even with me as a young child, was through comics. Often he’d send down big boxes full of old comics. Mostly Marvel, some DC of course, but for the most part it was Marvel. My first ever comic that I read was the first ever issue of Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-man. (Volume 1)

In a way, I connected with my father through Spider-man and Hulk, all characters he was a big fan of. It may sound odd, maybe even a little sad, but it was the only way we truly connected as I was growing up. He’d come down and we’d rent Batman or Superman movies and watch them all night.

So, with my father’s help, I grew up with several characters. Most notably, Spider-man, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and later on, Spawn. These characters where a form of entertainment, but also a way to remember my father. Since his passing, my enjoyment of comics has only increased tenfold.

Now that we have that out of the way, why do I buy certain comic books?

Well, characters are definitely one aspect to it. The best example of that is Spawn. I grew up reading lots of Spawn, and other Image comics, so I have a bond with reading these stories about the character and his stories. It’s been similar like that with Spider-man and the Hulk, even Ghost Rider. All characters that I look to for good stories, since I grew up reading great stories about them.

I guess the best way to put it is that the nostalgia factor is heavy. I love talking about old Spider-man comics with my friends, reminiscing of when I was 6 and in my garage reading how Spider-man has to take on the Tarantula. It takes me back to simpler times, seeing these characters. So characters and nostalgia go hand in hand on this part.

While characters have been important, the creators behind these stories have felt more important as I grew older. I began to appreciate John Romita Sr.’s art more, and enjoy reading anything that Frank Miller was writing. I grew different tastes, different likes and dislikes as far as story and art are concerned. No longer was it “Oh, a Spider-man comic! Awesome!” No, now it was “Hey, Spider-ma-oh wait…it’s written by that one guy whose writing I don’t like, and that artist who doesn’t appeal to me. Never mind”

Of course there are certain exceptions; Spawn for instance is the best exception. I was worried when David Hine, this guy I’ve never heard of, was taking over Spawn but I kept with it because I’m such a big Spawn fan. Then again, there’s only one Spawn comic, and a dozen Spider-man comics.

Writers definitely have a certain standard nowadays for me. No longer do I just want action and some brief dialogue. No, I appreciate when writers like Warren Ellis can blend great scenes of action, but give us great moments, dialogue or not, that just shine. While not every writer is good at that, most writers are able to write in great moments for specific characters.

One thing I’ve heard a lot is that Art isn’t as important as writing. I disagree. Comics are very much a visual medium. The whole point of a comic is to have this story that we don’t have to spend 20 pages reading to describe a 2 minute fight scene. Art brings the story and characters to life, it helps add the momentum to a fight, or how the visuals can add to the dialogue in a great moment. Art is a very important aspect to comics, because if there was no art, then comics would just be short stories, or novels.

When it comes to artists, I have a bit more varied taste and liking than with writers specifically. While I love artists who have very distinct styles like Jim Cheung and Clayton Crain, that doesn’t’ stop me from enjoying artists like Ed Benes, who’s art is a little more closer to the certain tone of DC comics. I can still enjoy a good artist no matter what the style, but if a style can really stand out on it’s own and I can pick out that artists art even if I’ve never seen that page/cover before, and identify it as that artist’s drawing, then that means the artist is bringing a new style into the medium.

The comics medium is always growing, there will always be new styles of art and storytelling, no one artist is exactly alike the other, no matter what. Every artist has at least some little thing that helps vary him from the crowd, the more they stand out, the better they are. That’s how I see it. Andy Kubert and Jim Lee may be great artists, but all too often are they copied nowadays. While the copies are never on the same level as them, it’s still frustrating that up and coming artists don’t try and vary themselves from the popular big name artists.

Then again there are artists like Greg Land. He’s changed his style…for the worse, it seems. Looking aside from the accusations of tracing other artwork, his current style is incredibly inferior to his previous style of art. For the sake of comparison, I saw an old image of how he drew Talia Al Ghul. She looked gorgeous, but that’s also how Talia should look. Now looking at how he draws Emma Frost, she looks…well, like every other woman he’s drawn with his new style. Most notably like Ultimate Sue Storm. His art just doesn’t’ appeal t me. But I loved his older stuff he did for DC, it really was great. It’s a sign that not all artists where bad, or great, in the beginning.

All right, I spent too much time talking about Greg Land…anyway; my point is that while I may enjoy most artists, there are artists I don’t like. While I’m thinking about this, I’ll just quickly list some “popular” artists that I don’t care much for.

John Cassidy: I don’t see the entire Messiah like praise to his art. It’s good, certainly, but it doesn’t stand out too much to me. I think he’s okay at best.

Brian Hitch: Again, I just don’t see the praise. I think he’s okay, and he definitely has his good moments, but for the most part I think he’s meh.

Steve McNiven: While he’s done some impressive moments, and I loved his Civil War stuff…his Amazing Spider-man art was horrendous. Proof that he’s not a perfect artist.

All right, sorry about that. I’m not trying to bash these artists, I’m just pointing out that I can’t see what’s with all the praise and love they get. Their fine artists, but I don’t see beyond that.

Anyway, now as for certain comics for characters nowadays. Despite my rather poor thoughts on Skaar #2, I’m still buying this series because I’ve been waiting for this since November 2007. It’s been my most anticipated comic of the year, and I’m not going to drop out when I’ve still got hopes that this will reach greatness. There is still potential under the rocky start, and since I was so looking forward to this series, I’ll stick around for now.

So there you have it. I have many factors into why I buy comics, from my past with my father, to huge anticipation for a new series. That along with the fact that I just love reading comics. I love going into my local comic shop, hearing the guys talk about the latest issue of this or that, and sometimes joining in on the conversation. I love the atmosphere of a comic shop, and I enjoy comic home, lying down and reading all the comics in the brown paper bag on my coffee table. Comics and me have a great history, and I have a feeling we’ll also have a great future. And that, Mr. Warren, and to all of you who may read this, is why I buy certain comics.


Dave said...

Saw your post on Kirk's The Weekly Crisis!

My first comic(s) came in a three pack from the magazine stand in the grocery store. It was the Amazing Spider-Man with the Tarantula on the cover. I didn't get the conclusion to the cliffhanger, so...I still don't know how Spider-Man got out of the chains and The Jackal wrapped him up in before tossing him off the bridge. Oh and a Gwen Stacy clone was in there, too.

The Incredible Hulk with Glorian on the cover and Captain America and The Falcon were the other two.

It was a start.

It was great reading about how you got started.

(I bailed on Spawn around issue #32. I guess the novelty of Image wore off after awhile; that and Todd McFarlane's constant tirades in the letters page...I did stick with Starman for the entire run, though...)

Great post!

Andrenn said...

Hey Dave, thanks for leaving the first comment here! I'm glad you liked the post, it was fun to look back on why I buy comics.

Spawn did kind of get a little muddy and boring up until around #50, I feel that issue really helped shoot the comic back up.

I read your post as well, very cool. The only comics I ever saw at my local stores where Sonic The Hedgehog comics. Though my local Fred Myers does have some old Spider-man and X-men comics now.

greg said...

Fantastic post! I loved reading this. This just gave me a good idea for 2 articles for my columns! But yes, very heart felt and I made me think about my first time reading comics and how it made me feel back then and now. I just love how comics can inspire us the way it does and my biggest dream is to become a comic writer more than I want to act, and believe me I LOVE to act.

About the art, I agree basically completely with all you've stated about just how important it is to the story and I completely agree with the artists section. As the months go by I find myself enjoying stiff from people like Bachalo and Ramos than Lee and Hitch. But to each their own. That's the magick of the comic world.

Andrenn said...

I'm glad you liked it so much, Greg. I had a great time writing it and thinking back to all my great memories with comics.

I too want to one day write comics, though it's going to take me some time and work to get them together.

Very true, about artists. Everyone's opinion is varied, and that's another great thing about comics. Not only is the art unique, but the fans tastes are as well. It's great that there is so much out there, everyone can find a certain art style to love.

Kirk Warren said...

I'm a little late replying to this post of yours Andrenn, but I just wanted to let you know this was a great post and I'm glad my guest posts inspired you to share your reasons for buying the books you do.

Also wanted to let you know I've picked a quote or two out of this and will be linking to it later tonight when I finish up my conclusion to that series of guest posts.