Saturday, January 2, 2010

Why Don't You Read Comic Books? - Ask Your Wife Edition

When Kirk and the gang at the Weekly Crisis put the call out for guest posts a few weeks back, I wasn't sure what I wanted to write about, but I knew I wanted to throw my hat into the ring.  Kirk suggested to me that I should try handing out comics to non-comic reading friends and family and reporting back on what they though.  It sounded good, so I took him up on the offer.

For this little experiment, I decided to ask my wife why she doesn't read comics before giving her four of my personal favourite trades - Marvel 1602, Atomic Robo Vol 1, Superman for All Seasons and Silver Surfer: Requiem - to read and asking her what she thought about each. So, what happens when you hand a bunch of comics to somebody who rarely, if ever, delves into that four-colour medium? Turns out, you can get some pretty interesting perspective on this crazy world we all know and love. She graded them on story, accessibility, and artwork.  Hit the jump to find out what she had to say about each!

For today's guest post, Brandon Whaley pressgangs his wife into reading several trades and commenting on them. Brandon is a long time comic reader who blogs about comics and life in general at his blog, Prime Example. He also writes for Prent and  Finally, don't forget to follow his random musings on Twitter @primewax.

What's My Wife Been Reading?

First off, I asked my wife why she doesn't read comics as a rule. For reference, my wife is an avid reader, but mostly reads mystery novels and rarely crosses over into illustrated mediums. Her answer made sense. She told me, "That's a good question. I don't know why I don't. If you suggest something that's good, I will read it, but comics just aren't literature that I seek out."

Makes sense.  If you don't see anything in the medium that catches your eye and have no reason to go searching for comic related material, why would you read it? Armed with why she doesn't read comics, I gave her these trades to show her that comics, even super hero comics, aren't necessarily men in tights punching each other. Let's get to the trades, shall we?

Marvel 1602
Written by Neil Gaiman
Art by Andy Kubert

I got my wife hooked on Neil Gaiman's work some time back with American Gods. She loved the dark and humorous tones. I talked her into Marvel 1602 based on three things: 1) it was written by Neil Gaiman, 2) it has actual historical figures in it (my wife is a history nut), and 3) it featured Peter Parker in it. The last item is what won her over, as my wife grew up watching the Spider-Man animated series. Overall, her reaction was pretty positive. Here's some of the things she had to say about it:

"Marvel 1602 was an undertaking. It was the first comic I had read in several years. I love Neil Gaiman, and I'm a huge fan of Peter Parker. I enjoyed reading it because it merged reality and fantasy. I love history, and I liked having the real historical characters sprinkled in with these fantastic, unrealistic characters. Some parts were so fantastic and ridiculous that they were boring, but my biggest downfall is that I'm a realist. I really liked the art, because to me, that's what a classic comic book looks like. Lot's of detail and dimension. I really want to read the next one, but I'm sad that Neil Gaiman didn't write it."

Atomic Robo and the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne
Written by Brian Clevinger
Art by Scott Wegener

I decided to throw my wife for a loop with my second choice. As many of you know, Atomic Robo is one of the best books on the shelf and definitely the best independent currently being published, at least in my book. I wanted to show her the "sci-fi serial" side of comics. I knew the humor would eventually draw her in, even if the story didn't. Turns out I was right...mostly. Here's what she had to say:

"I loved the character of Atomic Robo, he's very quick witted and the comic itself was very humorous and sharp, and I liked that. The stories were entertaining, and they were funny, but some of them made me feel like I was left hanging. The comic was very ADD in the way that it jumped around. 

All in all, I enjoyed it, but I would probably have to read it more than once just because there were so many things going on. I enjoyed how they humanized the character of Robo, even though he was a robot. The short stories in the back were weird and they got on my nerves. I like the art style, and I like Robo's design. He looks like the Rocketeer. It kind of reminds me of a Saturday morning cartoon."

Superman For All Seasons
Written by Jeph Loeb
Art by Tim Sale

Alright, alright, I know what you're thinking. "Why the heck is there a Jeph Loeb book on here?" Truth is, this book is what made me like Superman again. Sure, Loeb seems to taint any franchise he comes into contact with these days, but Superman for All Seasons wasn't bad at all. I gave this to my wife for the fact that she hates Superman as a character, and I thought this may turn her around the way it did for me. Let's see what she thought of this one:

"I loved Superman for All Seasons. I loved the art style, it was very unique for a comic. I liked that it was classic Superman. It was an easy read, I was able to sit down and enjoy it, because everybody knows the story of Superman. I liked that it was narrated by different characters throughout. I thought they made Superman a little bit too bulky."

Silver Surfer: Requiem
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Esad Ribic

OK, I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for anything sporting the Silver Surfer. However, for some odd reason, this is the only trade I have for him. Sure, I have lots of back issues and both Essential volumes, but I didn't want to put my wife through that just to show my love for Norrin Radd. So I decided, against my better judgement, to start her out here. Without spoiling anything (it's on the back cover and in all descriptions of the book), Silver Surfer: Requiem is the story where the Surfer dies. Could my wife be interested in a character who is basically on his deathbed throughout the entire trade? Here is what she thought:

"I'm not familiar with Silver Surfer, I don't know anything about his backstory. With that in mind, I can definitely say I liked it. The Surfer was a very noble character, and he was very sympathatic. You felt bad for him. I wish this was not the first Silver Surfer book I had read, since he dies. I liked that it had Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson in it because those are my two favourite Marvel characters. I wasn't very wild about this art style. I know it was meant to look like a moving painting. The Surfer looked good, you could tell he was moving, but the other characters looked kind of flat."


Well there you have it. It was actually quite fun getting my wife's perspective on some of my favourite books. Apparently she had fun as well and she has even agreed to read all of Annihialtion & Annihilation: Conquest for a future interview. That's quite an undertaking and I can't wait to see what she thinks of each.

However, before ending this guest post, I want to ask you if you've ever asked your non-comic reading friends or family what they think of comics or even attempted to get them into the medium.  If so, what books did you give them to start with?  Any success stories?  Any trades you think make great introductions to comics for these potential new readers?

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Anonymous said...

A nice guest article.

If your wife loves mysteries, I'd like to see a novel reader's reaction to the mysteries in books like the first Fables trade, or Batman Long Halloween, or even Identity Crisis.

Primewax said...

I actually suggested Identity Crisis, but my wife has no knowledge of the DCU, so I didn't really want to put her through that. Not yet. We'll work up to it :)

Ryan K Lindsay said...

Brandon, great article, interesting choices, fascinating views from the missus, well done!

I got my wife to read the first trade of Y: The Last Man and she ended up spending a week reading all the trades after she finished work each day. She loved it, loved it. But it has been hard to get her into anything else, she recently read Pride of Baghdad and found it good, but sad. She usually reads over my shoulder a little in bed, she liked the deer scene in the first trade of Northlanders and said it might get her to read the whole thing, but that hasn't eventuated. I'm not sure she'll ever just pick up a comic if I don't suggest it first.

I also got a friend, complete non-comic guy, to read The Nightly News, he loved it.

I'd start anyone else on something that doesn't have a cape or spandex in it. Depending on the person, Vertigo and Image are the way to go, for sure.

Primewax said...

Well, it helps that Emily has always been a huge Spidey fan. She had already been initiated into the superhero fold, so to speak.

Ivan said...

Did you consider giving her All-Star Superman? I'm trying to get my brother into reading it, because he hates Superman and I think it could make him dislike the character a bit less.

Too bad my fiancee dislikes reading altogether. Books, novels, magazines, whatever, she hates them all.

Anonymous said...

ultimate spider-man, y: the last man

altonralston said...

have her try planetary vol 1. history, art, writing, not connected to any continuity ... totally awesome.

Matt Ampersand said...

What did your wife say about the ending of 1602?

It was such a WTF moment when I first read it. My wife read the book as well, and she told me she didn't like it very much.

Primewax said...

@Ivan-I haven't read All-Star Superman myself. I know I should rectify this...

@altonralston-Same issue with Planetary. Need to read that as well.

@Matt-Emily LOVES Peter Parker, so she really liked the end of 1602. It was indeed a WTF moment though. Why didn't your wife like 1602?

Anonymous said...

I think you should have your wife try Asterios Polp and Blankets. I'm pretty sure she would like those.

Other than that, i like to know her opinion of Watchmen but that'll be probably asking too much. Oh and one last thing; BONE!!!!!!! If anything, try to get the scholastic editions of it. Whoever they had to do the color did a outstanding job and the paper stock is quite awesome.

Anonymous said...

My g/f loved Whedon's Astonishing X-Men run. I also got her to read Local. Although she said she liked both, she has only ready a few issues of Chew since. To be fair, she does not often read novels or anything non-fiction.

I would like to suggest 'Unwritten' for your wife. Since she likes literature and history this may be a good match for her tastes.

Matt Ampersand said...

@Prime: She didn't like the ending, not the series as a whole.

The Dude said...

Interesting feedback from the wife.
And great idea for an article too. Good work, enjoyed it.

Actually I have tried to get people to read comics but its a gentle and slow process because people tend to have such strong notions about comics (specially where Im from) and getting some of them to try them is a challenge, specially if you want them to do so with an open mind.

Ive managed to get a couple of my closest friends and my sister to read certain titles ranging from Hellboy to Transmetropolitan to Batman - whatever I thought might appeal to that person in particular. Ive even given people that "In me own words" bigfoot autobiography. Its a great ice-breaker! :D

So far Ive been pretty successful in getting their interest piqued. Two of my friends have become avid comic fans - they dont follow ongoings but regularly want comics to read and occasionally get their own. I hope to get more people to see the possibilities in this medium and given that Im working on getting in the field myself hopefully that will give incentive to at least try it out to some others among my acquaintances.


Darediva said...

Good essay, and cheers to your wife for being up for the challenge. Not sure I could get my non-comic-reading husband to pick one up, even though they are right there, in nice hardcover form, in the bookcase in the living room.

I'd like to suggest she read "Wake Up", the third Daredevil trade from Volume 2. Beautiful, non-traditional comic book art by David Mack, and a great story by Brian Bendis.

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