Whenever people get to know that I read comics, I’m more often than not asked with, “Marvel or DC?“. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I particularly hate Marvel or DC. In fact, when comics are brought up, it’s almost the first two things that can be associated with it. It’s almost a given fact that most of the time, when people say comics, it means superhero comics.
I like superhero comics, but I couldn’t say I’m all knowledgeable about them. I can hold up conversations when it comes to Marvel. X-Men is one of my favorites, as long as it follows the Decimation and Messiah Complex arcs up to AvX (not too much on that part). I earnestly collect Uncanny X-Men, Uncanny-X-Force (my favorite, btw), X-Factor, and New Mutants when Magik was still in it.
I know most Marvel heroes and villains, their back stories and their relationships with the other heroes–but ask me about specific character arcs, say, Ironman…and I could only say Extremis, and I don’t even know the specifics about it! Though, surprisingly, I love World War Hulk. Civil War is next, and I have a somewhat strange love affair with New Avengers because of Leinil Yu’s art style.
In DC, it’s much much worse. I mostly know only Batman and I only picked up his pre-not-really-dead arc and when Dick Grayson was Batman. I also read some of the oldies of Miller, and Moore–the major and popular character arcs only. Loved Batwoman, especially the art style, but it still part of the Bat-mythos…so yeah. I have no idea what Infinite Crisis is or Brightest Day, and sure as hell somewhat detest DC’s confusing multiple universes big events. I avoid DC discussions like the plague (except for Batman).
But, talk to me about Fables (best covers ever) or Sandman , and I swear I’ll be talking with more passion than when I talk about the X-Men or Batman. I suddenly start analyzing characters, sharing my thoughts about specific events and developments, or I’ll be just there telling people to read it and geek out with me. Whenever people ask if I’m a DC or Marvel fan, I say I’m a Vertigo fan (or more recently, an Image fan).
And they are not just missing out on Fables or Sandman, they are missing out on Y: The Last Man, The Invisibles, 100 Bullets, DMZ, and a whole loads of stories. I sometimes get sad when I don’t have anyone to talk to about American Vampires, my own personal favorite (despite being a vampire genre hater in recent times). Which gives something new to the vampire genre, something that doesn’t sparkle that is. It is coupled with great characters interwoven on different periods of time. It’s not sexed up like the numerous vampire stuff. It’s bloody, it’s brutal, and borderline psychotic. Everything a vampire story should be about.
There’s Northlanders, a vast collection of Viking epics from some standalone to long story arcs about various points in Viking history. It’s written by Brian Wood, my currently favorite author, and he also wrote DMZ and Demo! There’s just too much in Vertigo’s roster that is filled with insightful stories with depth, and characters that just can’t be offered by normal superhero comics. I like them because its stories that Marvel or DC can’t usually touch and explore. DMZ had more political impact than the whole Civil War arc of Marvel. I could say that Vertigo’s comics are really for those readers who want some serious stuff.
Heck, if you want superhero comics but not the usual stuff Marvel or DC does, then there is Icon’s Powers. Which takes a dark and mature superhero world mixed with crime drama. I like it also since it doesn’t really focus on the saving the world aspect, but rather in the character analysis of these superheroes and their personal lives.
But if you want something a tad little mainstream that has seen some movies without being a superhero, then there’s Hellboy. If Mike Mignola’s breathtaking artwork wouldn’t captivate you, then surely the world he built around the supernatural and mysterious, the Bureau for Paranomal Research and Defense, and the Lovecraftian mythos would. It has an overarching storyline with some mini-stories/fillers here and there, but it doesn’t remove the fact how it’s fun to see Hellboy’s adventures against/with the supernatural.
I haven’t even grazed the surface here. The recent titles of Image Comics are a great run for your money. There’s the space-opera, Saga, which is not for kids, by the way. It has great characters and fluid plot about race, politics, war, and family. Also, probably the best behind-the-scenes romance between The Will and The Stalk! Sorry MCs, I ship these two more than you guys.
Then there’s Fatale, another crime-drama/supernatural comic, or the Manhattan Project the sci-fi comic that brings a twist to the Manhattan Project of the same name. Or Morning Glories, a well-written story about the high-schoolers-must-survive-or-get-killed (another genre I’m tired of) but with a bit of sci-fi elements.
What I’m simply saying is that, when it comes to comics, one should not be limited to the superhero genre. There’s a lot of nice stuff out there. You could even start with some classics like Calvin and Hobbes or Peanuts. Then there’s Maus I & II, Persepolis, and Goodbye Chunk Rice–all three which I highly recommend.
Of course, I don’t hate superhero comics. I like them, but most of the time I get tired of all the superhero cliches. Like, death is cheap–well, of course they can’t kill characters that sell. The constant reviving with antics like cloning, time-travel, or parallel universes is tiring me out. Even the constant saving the world and the endless bickering with a certain villain that’s been happening since the dawn of time has become repetitive. There’s not much room in Marvel or DC, especially when they are more commercial than artistic nowadays–not saying they are not artistic, just saying they have focused more on the profit recently. The event fatigue has also gotten into me.
But with Vertigo, Image, Dark Horse, or even IDW (like Locke & Key), stories explore multiple and varied genres. Authors are given free reign to take the stories where they want to go and to give the characters personalities and behaviors like they want to. It’s more free, and creates more fun. Thus, it creates some wonderful stories. Too bad it doesn’t get known that much. I have only found a handful of people I could talk to about Vertigo or Image titles from already a handful of people that reads comics.
But, I don’t lose hope, I can still talk about Uncanny X-Force or how Magik is seriously hot. That’s worth it in may ways.