Thursday, February 14, 2008

A confession...

This is a blog about great stories, right? And great stories come in all kinds of formats, right?. So, with that in mind, I'm coming out of the closet to make a confession: I'm comic book fan.

Granted, it's only a select collection of titles feeding my obsession at this point in time, but it's an obsession nonetheless.

It's fair to say I'm probably not your typical comic fan (does such a thing still exist?). I doubt I'd like every comic I pick up, just as I don't like every book I read or every TV show I watch. But I've discovered comics are goldmine of great stories, and clever storytelling: a medium that offers something different again from film, television, books and theatre.

This new interest inadvertently came about as a result of my other closet obsession: stories written by Joss Whedon.

Whedon (for the uninitiated) is the creator of Buffy, Angel and Firefly, three of the best written, best character-driven and most misunderstood shows to air on television. So many reasons to love this guy's work: the use of metaphor, cleverly crafted story arcs, original mythologies, witty dialogue - but I digress…

When all three shows disappeared from screens in Australia within about 18 months of each other, I assumed my enjoyment of the Whedon-verse was over. Until I stumbled upon a reference to a pending new Buffy comic series titled Season Eight, written by Joss and picking up where the onscreen Season Seven finale finished. That was last year, and I'm a little sheepish to admit just how excited I was by this news. (Turns out Buffy comics have been around for a while, Whedon just wasn't involved with them).

Having not read a comic since my older brothers bought The Phantom in the 70s, I had no idea how to get my hands on one (and felt ridiculously conspicuous, at my age, going into a newsagent to ask about a Buffy comic). Anyway, good old Google delivered me the answer: Impact Comics in Canberra. Not only did Mal (owner and now my chief comic advisor), know about Buffy, Season Eight, he was taking pre-orders and could send me each new copy every month.

I was hooked on the new format instantly. What was there not to like, with outstanding continuity of characters and plot, stunning artwork, and the promise of a new issue each month (11 issues in, and it's fair to say the format suits Whedon's style even better than the small screen).

I then discovered Whedon had created a three-part comic series bridging the story between Firefly (which was cancelled before the season was finished) and Serenity (the feature film made to give fans some closure). So that was added to my next month's Buffy order

By this point Mal twigged I was a Whedon fan and suggested I might like to try Runaways, a sleeper hit from Marvel comics that Whedon was about to start writing for. Of course, I didn’t want to start in the middle of the story, and had to get the rest of the series, so I knew what was going on.

I loved the series pretty much by the end of Issue 1: a group of teenagers in LA discover their parents are really super villains, and set out to thwart their plans for world domination. In the process, they discover they have powers and skills of their own, and decide to try and do good to undo their parents' evil. With their hormones, hang-ups and guilt trips, they have as many failures as triumphs, and are at odds with pretty much every other superhero in the Marvel universe.

After seven trade paperbacks (collections of past series), I'm now finally up the latest series, written by Wheond and it hasn't disappointed.

And now there's Angel: After the Fall, again written by Whedon, and picking up where the TV series ended. It's much darker than the Buffy series (hard not to be when LA has now literally gone to hell), and the 'old school' style graphics have a completely different look and feel to Buffy and Runaways.

It took to the second issue to hit its stride, but is definitely taking the characters in interesting - and unexpected - directions.

Comics bring the added dimension of sensational artwork. The covers are usually stunning, and I'm fast becoming a manga art fan. And, of course, with the only restriction being imagination (as opposed to special effects budgets), storytellers can do so much more in this medium, making it perfect for fantasy narratives.

Now, I have to go because I think my next delivery is due from Impact Comics ...


the ink-stained toe-poker said...

It's strange.
I'm a big fan of Firefly, but I cannae do Buffy, and definitely not Angel. That guy's a bollix.

My brother was/is a bit of a comic collector. He's got every single punisher - worth a heap of cash now too. And a whole stack of others. 2000AD always had some awesome stories and characters. Joe Dredd was cool as until wee sylvester besmirched his name.

A lot of my brothers comics were awesome. dark too. Didnae do the run of the mill stuff, loved oddities, Superman comics were always pish.

I don't know if he'd do buffy, mind. He'd maybe think about Gellar, but I can't see him reading buffy comics. I don't care how clever Whedon is.

I've been told that the league of extraordinary gentlemen was very good. very funny too. And to a literary fancier like yourself probably very appealing.

I didn't realise there was a closet for comics, but it's nice to see you're brave enough to climb out of it. Even if it was for Buffy.

There are a number of good comic shops in brisbane ye know - there's one in annerley, you could actually make physical contact before you decide to purchase.

Bec said...

Heheeh, I always knew you liked watching Buffy and Angel, but who knew your obsession ran so deep!!!!! Not that I can talk when it comes to geekiness. Not into comics at all (I actually find illustrations off-putting when reading a story - ruins the fantasy of it for me) but boy do I love reading science fiction....and not just stories by the respected authors (Asimov, Clarke, Hamilton etc) but a WHOLE lot of unheard of trashy ones as well. Love 'em. Can't get enough of 'em.

But yeah, as the ink-stained toe-poker said, there are a few apparently good comic shops in Brisbane. I've been past the Annerley one many times, and there was always one in West End too...haven't been there for ages though so not sure if it's still around. I think there's also one in the city???

Anyway, we should catch up again soon! Cheers, Bec.

Paula Weston said...

Yes, now that I know a wee bit more about comics than I did a few months' back, I may even be brave enough to enter a real, physical store!

Poker - I should maybe try League of Extraordinary gentlemen - I just need to get over how crap the film version was.

Bec - love to catch up. Will call/email direct to arrange!

joanna said...

I'm completely obssessed with anything Joss Whedon too - the man't a genius. I didn't really like Serenity, but then I haven't seen Firefly yet so I hear that's why... But Buffy and Angel? The best shows on tv! So intelligent! Every time I watch them I see something new, a new reference or something. It's amazing. Nice to meet another fan! :-)