Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Comic Books

I was in the comic book store the other day, my first time in probably twelve years, to order Femme Noir by Christopher Mills. While there I checked out some of the other offerings and bought a few. I was never a big comic book fan. As a teenager I read some, but probably never had more than 100 or so, and these were mostly Fantastic Four, Spiderman, and one or two war comics like Sgt. Rock and Ghost Tank. I also had a horror western one called Jonah Hex.

Later, when I first joined the Robert E. Howard group, REHupa, I bought a number of the Howard related comics like Conan and Kull. That was in the early 90s but that phase didn’t last long. Having been weaned on books, I always found reading comics rather irritating, frankly. You’d settle down for a read, and be done almost instantly. Five minutes tops for most comics. I quickly found the only way to enjoy them was to collect 5 to 10 issues and then read them all at one sitting.

This time I bought a few of the new Dark Horse Conan comics, and read them back to back, and a couple of “graphic novels,” which are essentially longer comics that give you a bit more of a satisfying read. For one of the very few times in my life I bought something primarily for its cover. It seems that there are a variety of Frank Frazetta comics coming out and I’ve always enjoyed Frazetta’s art work, particularly the stuff he did for the Karl Edward Wagner Kane paperbacks and the Death Dealer paperbacks. I picked up a comic with one of his “Kane” covers called Dark Kingdom, part 1. The story did not involve Kane, however, but a character named Red Morden. The tale itself was very typical but the art was nice.

I did, however, find a nice surprise in the store, a Jonah Hex: Origins graphic novel. This really took me back and I enjoyed it quite a bit since there was a meaty story to the work. How about you? Any comic book dinks out there? Have comics been at all an influence on your writing? I would generally say that they haven’t influenced my own work at all, most likely because of my limited exposure to them during my formative years.


Shauna Roberts said...

Comic books haven't influenced my writing at all.

I used to buy them in college, when they could be found in places one went frequently, such as drugstores. My favorite was Werewolf By Night. My roommate found the comic books lying around the apartment embarrassing and would cover them up with copies of Newsweek when she had a guy coming over.

Once comic books became something one had to make a special trip to a specialized comic book or magazine store for, I stopped reading them.

Erik Donald France said...

I bought some as a "youngster." I remember chuckling at the over-the-topness of Sgt. Rock, who "used his fists" when the ammo ran out.

This did help me tend to go for the underdog, the "villain" when heavy handedly emphasized. Which is one of the reasons I don't like Spielberg -- way too obvious in trying to jerk his audience to his PoV while demonizing "the other."

Lisa said...

OK, I never read comic books that people think are cool, but when I was a kid, I used to walk to "the square" up the street from my grandparents house and go to the "paper store" and buy The Archies comic books. I'm not sure how long that lasted, but they were the only ones I remember reading for probably a whole summer or more. Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica ... ha!

the walking man said...

We read and read and read as kids at home. Newspapers, books, comics (they were like .15 to .25 and like Shauna said easy to get.

The parental units actually encouraged us to read comic books as well as everything else. I don't know if this was to stop us from the Three Stooges affect (yes we would act out Larry, Moe and. Curly scenes)or if it was simply another way to encourage vocabulary and fantasy into the mind.

I suppose the totality of everything read in some way affects what we produce today but not necessarily on a conscious level.

long answer short; I suppose comics have in some way influenced everything I write, just as everything else I ever read does.



Mary Witzl said...

Comic books haven't influenced my writing either, but frankly if they had I'd lie about it. I agree with you: as soon as you've started one, you've finished it, and what's the point?

But when I was first learning to read Japanese, I don't know what I'd have done without comics. I found a whole bookshelf stuffed with detective comics one summer when I was working as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant, and I read about twelve of this, poring over them with a dictionary. They diverted me no end and really helped my vocabulary. For second language learners they are a godsend.

Our kids are manga and graphic novel freaks and buy new ones all the time. (Fortunately, they read real books too.) The only comics I read on a regular basis now are Calvin and Hobbes, which I adore. And I have to fight the kids AND my husband for my share of the books. (We've got the entire collection.)

Sidney said...

I like Jonah Hex. I'll have to look for that. Hope you've checked of Wowio. There is a comic there called Sundown that is in the Jonah Hex vein, a guy from back East joins his brother the marshal in Arizona in investigating a series of killings of men of the cloth.

I used to try to patronize my local comics shop and in the mid 2000s bought $10 or $12 a week worth of stuff and the owner was never much more than a jerk to me.

I e-mailed once to get them to hold an issue of "Planetary" I didn't want to miss and I got in to hear him spill off all his rules about what it would take him to hold on to a comic for you.

That and the demise of Gotham Central ended my visits to his shop.

Anonymous said...

I used to read them here and there when I was a kid but was never really "into" them.

Josephine Damian said...

Well, I was really into Lucy and Veronica as a kid.... but no, comics never influenced my writing.

I did note that my #1 dream agent now handles comic books! My reaction? WTF! But the "graphic" type comics sure are popular with grown men, and there seems to be a growing market for it.

Not my bag as a reader or a writer.

Bernita said...

I liked comics when I was 12 or so, especially the anthology book types.Selection at the drug store was largely limited to Superman and Archie though.
Perhaps the only way they influenced my writing is that I have no hesitation about using sounds in my writing - like BAM! CRASH! - if I feel it's warranted.

Randy Johnson said...

Back in the days when comics were reasonable, I left work every Monday and drove to the local drugstore and picked up all the Marvels they had arrived that day. My favorite war comic was Sgt Fury and His Howling Commandoes. As Shauna said, when I started to have to find a comics store to buy them, they became a thing of the past. I miss those spinner racks for both comics and paperbacks of my youth.

Heff said...

My favs consisted of mostly The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, and Spiderman. Frank Frazetta's stuff really does kick ass.

moonrat said...

Hi Charles,

This is totally off-topic. I just wanted to say that I KNOW you read my blog and comment frequently, and I'm sorry I don't comment more often on yours! I subscribe and read, but it often seems that when I happen to log on there is a post that is specifically about something that I don't have a comment on!! Anyway. I wanted to make sure you knew I was a Fan.


WH said...

I was never into comics either, Charles. Even now, graphic novels don't really appeal to me, but hell, I'll try anything if it's well done. The one exception was that I loved Batman comics years ago.

Miladysa said...

When I was a child I used to have a comic delivered weekly but it was always something girlie like Twinkle.

My cousins who were boys used to have the Dandy and Beano and I used to love reading them whenever I visited their house.

Not exactly action heroes but enjoyable non the less.

Charles Gramlich said...

Shauna, There was no book store at all in my home town in those days. I got my comics at the drugstore too.

Erik, yeah, SGT Rock was a battling sort for sure. You know I may have played a bit of Sgt. Rock as a kid so maybe there was some influence there.

Lisa, I have read an Archies or two, but probably no more than two.

Mark, when I was pretty young my sister worked at the library and would bring books home for me, which is how I got most of my reading material. If comics had been more available I would have read more I'm sure.

Mary Witzl, I can see where comic books would be good exposure to a new language. I do have some Calvin and Hobbes collections too and much adore them. I used to really like the Bloom County ones as well, with Opus.

Sidney, wow, being a jerk to your customers is not exactly a way to endear them to you. When I was new in New Orleans I went to a comic store and the owner spent the entire time spewing filthy and disgusting sayings to someone he was talking to and I never went back. I'll have to look for Sundown.

Wil, I enjoyed them OK when I read them but never had a big urge to keep up with them at all.

Josephine, yes the graphic novels, which are incredibly varied in my experience, have become big business, partly since Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, which I've never read.

Bernita, I forgot that another comic I did kind of like was Turok, about this Native American who gets sucked through some portal into the land of dinosaurs. I'd nearly forgotten about him.

Randy, I do remember some Nick Fury comics. Was that the same guy as Sgt. Fury? I know that later when I started buying Conan comics there was such a HUGE amount of different types of comics out and I hardly had the energy to figure out what was what.

Heff, yeah, I'm a particular fan of his Death Dealer stuff. What incredible art.

Moonrat, thanks for letting me know. I wasn't upset or anything. I read yours because I enjoy and learn things.

Billy, I think I've got three graphic novels on my shelves and have given a couple of others to my son Josh. I'm definitely trained as a book reader, though, and don't typically find the graphic novel even that enjoyable. I've got one called "Sword of the Atom" that is very long and I've enjoyed that one the most.

Miladysa, there could be a whole post on the differences between British and American comics I'm sure. I don't recognize any of those names.

laughingwolf said...

yeah, i'm a dink :P lol

found 'heavy metal', '1984', and a few others more satisfying, though

always was into all kinds of creative stuff... drawing, painting, writing, music, animation, foley... you name it

thx for the link to christopher, will view more asap

laughingwolf said...

btw - get my 'rosamund' in email?

no matter, it's on my blog, too....

Randy Johnson said...

Yes, Charles, That's the same Fury. It's been so long, but if I remember, His life was extended by something called the Infinity Formula.

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, I got it just now. Will read it this afternoon. Thanks for sending it.

Randy, ah, I remember him but I only had a few of those comics I think. I remember they made a pretty lame movie about him starring David Hasselhoff.

laughingwolf said...

thank you for the kind comments :)

Miladysa said...


My G*d Charles you've never lived! Here is a link to another world...



Paul R. McNamee said...

I only got into comics very late - within the past ten years or so. Mostly I was looking for tie-ins or adaptations of prose (Lovecraft, Howard.) I acquired more comics consistently - predictably - when Dark Horse started up Conan again. Bruce Timm animation - particularly 'Justice League' - started me into the superhero vein, too.

I tried various stuff but eventually got too lazy to go to the store every two weeks and I have enough space issues with books as it is.

I tried some superhero novels and while they weren't bad to read, I find superheroes to be a visual thing. Prose novels just don't do them justice, for me.

When I was a kid, I had some random comics. Mostly Gold Key.. I did have one or two of their horror comics which I still have.

Hmm...maybe those horror comics were a bigger influence than I realized!

Travis Cody said...

I read comics as a kid, but it didn't stick much past age 10 or so. I liked Spider-Man. I read some war comics too, but I don't really remember which ones.

I work with a bunch of comic book and superhero geeks though.

Charles Gramlich said...

Laughingwolf, no prob.

Miladysa, ahh, this is something I need to read at leisure.

Paul, I think it might have been Gold Key comics that published Turok, which was a comic I liked quite a bit.

Travis, I don't work with any of them but there are quite a few in REHupa and they also set my head to spinning when they start spouting comicease.

laughingwolf said...


sorry, link does not work for me :(

Charles Gramlich said...

Hum, it doesn't work for me either.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

I've never been into comics but I enjoy manga from Japan and Korea. Does that count?

Britta Coleman said...

I've never been a comic book fan, but one of my favorite reads of last year was Fun Home: A Tragicomic Memoir by Alison Bechdel. It's a graphic novel that tells her story of growing up in a funeral home in a small town. It's both funny and sad, and I found the artwork beautiful--and completely necessary in building the narrative. Reading that book opened my eyes to the possibilities of comics, but I've yet to make a trip to a specialized store.

Charles Gramlich said...

Ello, I think it counts since they are graphic works.

Britta, I bet there are some stories that almost demand the visuals to tell them. I haven't heard of this one, though. Will have to check it out.

Steve Malley said...

Sad I missed this one. Then again, like all great and tortured love affairs, my relationship with comics is a sweet and painful wound that refuses to heal...