Thursday, February 22, 2007

So You Want Her To Read Comics ?

I was reading Comics Worth Reading and saw the mention of the meme of 'Comics Your Girlfriend Might Like' or 'Comics To Get Your Girlfriend To Like Comics' and I found myself snorting at the complaint against the mention of Fables. Fables is a damn good comic.

But then I read further and discovered that Fables is part of a list, in fact the same list that gets trotted out like some prize mare who needs her teeth examined before stud - over and over and over again.

To those of you making those lists - Why do you want your girlfriends or sisters or mothers to read comics? Is it because you want to share an art form? Share a good story? Commiserate on childhoods spent reading Dick Tracy and The Phantom while Dad read the sports pages?

Or do you want to somehow validate your hobby by getting that woman in your life hooked on it too? Are you pimping because you think they'd enjoy it? Or is it all a lot of loud noise because it'd be cool to have a woman in your life who's been spoon-fed all the opinions you have?

What? You don't want her to have your opinions? You're recommending things a girl would like? That's what you say?

Well I call Bullshit. Cause the list that goes around has nothing to do with trying to appeal to a certain kind of girl. Instead it looks like a dime bag of romance crack that men hope will get women so hooked they'll happily fork over three bucks a pop for the superhero books their boyfriends/brothers themselves like. It's a starter kit instead of an introductory guide.

And it's BULLSHIT.

I live with a girl who doesn't like comics. She doesn't like pictures. She's oriented towards words. So as far as she's concerned she graduated from picture books years ago, why should she look back.

She has, however, read books because I was excited about them. We're roommates. We like to share positive experiences with each other. And when I share, I appeal to what would interest her. It's either the plot or the story-telling or a compelling look at gender or sexuality or fairy tales. In other words I share by intriguing her on points she's already interested in. I don't mention who the artist or colourist is and I sure as heck don't pimp something that needs a lot of back history to understand. Or at least I try not to. When I slip up, she lets me know very loudly that it's too complicated for her.

But in mentioning the list and talking with her about what does get her interested in picking up a book filled with pictures, I discovered that there's a whole bunch of books that either I introduced her to or she found on her own that aren't being mentioned in these so called expert lists.

So here's a quick proto-column beginning on a couple of books that might get the non-comic readers in your life (male and female) piqued and interested in the art-form. Because remember, it's all about what they already like and not about what you want to push on them.

Comic Strips
Why aren't they ever recommended? A single comic strip is art, story and punchline in a very small package. Plus it's familiar. It's the Funnies. And quite a few of them have books out.

There's Calvin and Hobbes. The Boondocks. Dykes to Watch Out For. The Far Side (not a personal favourite but it's art and a point, usually funny). My roommate has pointed out that The Far Side is also one shots, which makes the commitment level very low. You can read a book of one shots, or enjoy a monthly or daily calender without feeling there's a history you need to be catching up on.

Web comics have the same advantage as newspaper comic strips, but with an added twist. If they're current then they only come out once or twice a week. That can get someone into the habit of waiting for a new strip and dealing with, maybe even enjoying, the anticipation. Wait two days and then there's something on a topic he or she might like. It's a baby step. What better way could there be to getting someone to understand why you, the comic reader, happily wait a week or a month or longer (depending on delays) for 22 pages to come out.

And Web Comics are Legion (he he X-men joke). There's a comic out there for everyone. From John & John's quiet raunchiness to Ozy and Millie's eccentric but imaginative exploration of their world. There's something that'll pique interest. And there are so many different ways to keep current. Feeds on Firefox. Darkgate.Net's Comic Slurper. where you can get news and email updates sent to you to remind you to check in.

It's not just boys kissing, girls wanting romance, gang war and big fight scenes. If the person in your life doesn't understand running around in brightly colored spandex trying to save the world, maybe they would understand trying to survive high school. Or college. Maybe they could understand a girl growing up to be just like her mother. Maybe the person in your life likes dark genius anti-heroes or mystery series or really diggs Harry Potter (while not minding a little fan service and blushing 10 yr olds). Or maybe they like Buffy-style supernatural antics.

There's Manga or Manhwa for any and everyone!

And if you're the artsy type who wants that special person to fall in love with art styles, the diversity in the simple and clean black and white lines will at least get them thinking about what they like to see and what they don't.

Books or Trade Paperbacks
The big ticket. The familiar. The Holy Grail. Or not.

Before you go picking up Ultimate Spiderman and shoving it in someone's arms, confident that there are so many trades out already that they won't feel stuck waiting for story - think about if they'll like it.

I can't stress this enough. At this stage of the game, it isn't about introductions anymore. It's about fostering a love. Which means you liking it isn't the problem or the point.

The ones you want to like comics? Their liking the subject is important. And maybe they have to build up to Super Hero Comics. Or maybe they just don't like Super Heroes. But no one's ever suggested anything other than Super Hero comics to them or that more than Super Hero comics exist. So they decided they don't like comics and there's a whole world out there that you could show them.

Comics are an art form! It comes in many flavours. Use that to your advantage.

For example:
1) Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Maybe an epic quest isn't the scenario that would appeal to them. Does the particular woman in your life like fairytales? She does? Then why not give her a modern and interesting take on the land of those fables. Without automatically directing her towards Fables. Fables is a quest, no matter how you slice it. It's epic. And as such it requires a huge investment of time.

Someone who's just starting out in comics isn't going to want to commit the next how many ever months to first catching up on the story and then waiting for new issues to come out. Castle Waiting doesn't have that problem, because it's mostly self-contained. You can want a sequel, but the story is done.

2) Y: The Last Man
How can you not suggest this? It's a book where all the men but one is dead. Men. Are. Dead. It's easy. It's a gimme. If that doesn't intrigue them enough to peruse, then I don't know what will. Now, some of them may complain about the fact that while all the men are dead, the focal point character is the last man. But it's an environment showing women persevering and keeping the world running. If all they've seen and heard of comics is back breaking breasts and impossible positions, pouty lips and no real power - this might be a good introduction. Ordinary Guy. Ordinary Women. Extraordinary Circumstances. True Character.

3) Runaways - Brian K Vaughan.
If she liked his writing in Y: The Last Man, she'll like this. But more-over, that non Superhero comics person in your life? They'll also like Runaways. Because it's about a group of kids and what they might do in bizarre circumstances. It's full of disbelief and wonder and frustration.

And it's new. You don't have to go into Runaways knowing much of anything. It's isolated enough that someone can pick it up as an entry into the Marvelverse. The rest of the Marvelverse characters are as far off and foreign to the kids in Runaways as they are to the person you're trying to get to read the book.

There's no spandex. No radioactive spiders. No arch-villains with plans for super robots to help them take over the world.


If this little essay feels like a teaser. I can be bribed into making it regular. Especially if people submit their choices for 'Comics A Girl Might Like' to me. (Strips, WebComics, Books, TPB's) I could review them and add them to the proper category.

Though I wonder.... GirlWonder.Org? Do I have a column? Or y'know, people could just subscribe to this blog with the tag 'so you want her to read comics?' and get an rss feed whenever I do something new. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

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