Ask me: guilty reading pleasures

>> Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Michelle also wants to know about:

Guilty reading pleasure (No, zombie books don't count, we expect that of you.)


This one seems easier than music, for some reason. But first, let me say that, strangely enough, I may have written more zombie stories than I've read (shades of Garth Marhengi!), comic books and graphic novels and such excluded. I'm probably forgetting some short stories somewhere, but it doesn't seem like there are that many novels that looked worth reading. A few years ago somebody wrote a faintly terrible one set in Great Britain and gave it away on the Internet for free--I think I finished it, but I'm not sure (that's how bad it was) and I don't want to try to find the name of it to warn you just because I don't want to malign an innocent book if I get the author or title wrong. (Please don't try to guess--I'd hate to say, "Oo--that's the one!" only to be way off.)

I bought a few Star Wars "New Jedi Order" novels from eReader.com, and will probably get back to the series eventually. The first one, by D&D novel scribe R.A. Salvatore was pretty awful and can't count as a "pleasure," guilty or otherwise (though parts made me laugh), but other entries were enjoyable, brisk, fluffy reads. When I was younger, actually, there were a number of franchise books that were pleasures, and I suppose even then were guilty ones--Star Trek, Star Wars, a couple of the V novels by A.C. Crispin.

Something that shouldn't be a guilty pleasure these days but sometimes feels at least guilty would be comics. I don't pick up individual comic books too often, usually waiting for compilations or graphic novels, and rarely grab superhero titles at all, and have missed out on some good stuff. I think at some point in my youth these things were stigmatized in an imagined deference to "real" books. True, there was a shortage of good superhero stuff until Frank Miller and others rose to ascendancy in the late '80s, but I also missed out on a lot of stuff by Lynda Barry, Art Spiegelman, Charles Burns and others who were doing undeniably smart and arty stuff even in the early '80s or late '70s (that counterculture legends like R. Crumb and Harvey Pekar were well outside of my ken in the '70s, when I was in the single-digits agewise, is, I think, excusable). Ironically, one of my best friends through my junior high and high school years was a comics obsessive--I didn't lose a connection, thanks to him, but whatever I read up through the early '90s was read while hanging out at his place (but for him, I probably would've missed The Dark Knight entirely).

So I didn't start reading comics again until this last decade, actually, and have spent much of it catching up on stuff like Alan Moore and Mike Mignola that I had no good excuse for missing in the first place. Not to mention the legends like Pekar or people who kept the flame burning like, no pun intended, Burns (I finally read Black Hole last year--maybe it was the year before--because Chris Ware chose an excerpt for The Best American Comics 2007; speaking of which, Chris Ware rocks, too). And even though comics have achieved a certain respectability, I have to admit I still sometimes feel funny buying them in a store, like I'm purchasing porn or something. This past weekend, after seeing The Wolfman (ugh!), I stopped in the Borders near the theatre to see if they had a copy of the new Don DeLillo (Point Omega) and while I was there picked up some compilations of Hellboy volumes I should've read nearly twenty years ago, and felt strangely embarrassed as I made my way through the store with my selections--like I'd have to use the latest novel by somebody widely regarded as America's most literary author as some kind of excuse for also purchasing books with pictures in them (however beautifully pencilled and cleverly plotted by Mr. Mignola, whose work, I confess, I really discovered through SciFi's animated pilot for The Amazing Screw-On Head--and rarely has a show lived up to its name so exactly: amazing, yes; screw-on head, yep). Further irony being that if I had to explain something to the clerk it would probably be the Don DeLillo.

Hardly a purchase that needs justification, which is sometimes how a "guilty pleasure" is defined; everybody should dig Mike Mignola and reading an iss of Hellboy, now the hero in two well-reviewed and reasonably-successful (commercially speaking) features directed by a visionary director and critics' darling. Usually, I think, a "guilty pleasure" is something you really have to defend, and not just something you have an irrational hang-up over after years of being too grown-up to really owe anybody justifications for much of anything. But there it is--I was in the bookstore, feeling vaguely guilty; guilty for being an adult buying a comic book and, for that matter, feeling guilty for being a nerd who was finally catching up on Hellboy decades after it was the hip new thing between the geeknoscenti.

So there you are.



7 comments:

Random Michelle K Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 2:36:00 PM EST  

I'm supposed to feel guilty for looking Hellboy?

Damn.

Also, I have a lot of the BPRD series, but most of them I found kinda Meh--at least of the ones not written by Mike Mignola.

You've read Fables, right? RIGHT?!

mattw Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 5:06:00 PM EST  

I can totally understand how you might feel like a schmuck buying a compliation/graphic novel in a book store. The nerdy kids that hang around that section and sit on the floor to read all day with their sample-size cups of coffee and various levels of b.o. don't help at all. I believe Jim has a rant on his site somewhere about that. What I can't stand is how Manga has pretty much taken over the graphic novel area in some book stores. I'm not a Manga fan; I've tried a few different titles, but nothing's really stuck. I have friends that like it, but I don't get it.

I've been shying away from mainstream superhero comics as of late. But there are some golden nuggets out there. Joss Wheadon's run on X-Men was pretty good. I enjoyed Planet Hulk and World War Hulk. The problem I have with mainstream comics that do these big dramatic storylines that should be world changing are generally not. At the end, everything's usually at status quo or close enough to it. I really think that some of those long-term beloved characters need to be killed off for good. Captain America's dead? Good, leave him that way.

I've tried Fables a couple times, based on Michelle's recommendation, and it was good, but not enough to get me to read all of it.

Michelle had also recommended Ex Machina to me once upon a time, and I really enjoyed that.

Everyone should read Preacher. It is fucked up beyond belief and amazing. It's also the only comic book I've ever gotten Brandi to read.

Alan Moore = meh.

I read the first volume of Invincible and thought that was pretty good.

Marvel has one that's called Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. that was hysterical.

I've been finding some online/indie comics that I really enjoy.

North-World was published online and then the guy got a book deal with Oni. I've bought two of the three books that are available so far and have bought or been gifted some of his original artwork.

Phineas: Magician for Hire is another one that I've looked at from time to time. I've been meaning to buy one of his books, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I like the art style, reminds me of classic Ninja Turtles.

Maxwell Strangewell (Dark Horse) was another one I've just stumbled across recently and got into.

I just picked up one from the library called The Return of King Doug, that's published by Oni, but I haven't gotten a chance to do anything but flip through it yet.

That's one of the nice things about libraries, that they're starting to recognize the demand for graphic novels and then they get all sorts of stuff that I've never heard of before that I can try out.

I could go on and on I'm sure, but I probably shouldn't.

Eric Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 5:20:00 PM EST  

Really briefly, before I go home to have soup and feel miserable: I tried reading Fables and was underwhelmed. Sorry, Michelle.

But I hear good things about Preacher.

And I think you all know I think Alan Moore is brilliant even when he's not up-to-par.

And now I'm homeward bound. May not make it back this evening--try not to wreck up the place too much, eh?

Random Michelle K Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 6:36:00 PM EST  

Well phooey. Jeri liked Fables at least.

I haven't not been thrilled by much done by Alan Moore, and I read the first volume of Preacher, and just didn't care to read the next. Same for Hellblazer. And Lucifer. I SHOULD like those stories, but...

Now I do like Mike Carey's Felix Castor novels, even if I couldn't get into the Lucifer series.

I've also started reading House of Mystery, and although I think that Runaways has lost something since Brian K Vaughan stopped writing it, I'm still following along.

mattw Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 7:00:00 PM EST  

I've read Runaways through volume 8, and I agree that the earlier stuff was better

mattw Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 7:09:00 PM EST  

Usagi Yojimbo is also very good, but having been around for 25 years, there's a lot to read if you want to get through it all. It's pretty amazing that all the writing, drawing, lettering, etc. has been done by Stan Sakai all these years.

Konstantin B. Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 8:17:00 PM EST  

I used to buy Star Wars books, used to have a whole lot of them. Stopped when the series about a new alien race came out. That was too much of lets-find-another-problem-for-the-new-republic-to-deal-with.

photisu = a photoshoot with a manga girl supermodel

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