web stats

CSBG Archive

31 Days of Comics – A Comic That Totally Blew Your Mind

Our pal Seth Hahne, of GoodOKBad fame, came up with this 31 Days of Comics challenge, one of those things where each day of the month you’re given a different category that you then make a choice of a comic to fill that category. I figured it would be a fun bit to do, so here we are! Click here to see each of the categories so far!

We continue with Day 9, which is A Comic That Totally Blew Your Mind

Read on for my pick and then you can share yours!

I think that the only way that I can ever really get my mind blown by a comic is if I went into the reading with absolutely NO expectations. Books that surprised me like New Frontier and Scalped #4 (I was not a huge fan of the first three issues of Scalped but then #4 came out and I Loved it from that point on) still gave me a solid idea of what to expect before I started reading them.

So I am choosing a great comic that I knew nothing about before reading…

Blammo #5 was a full-color issue of Noah Van Sciver’s Blammo series. Each issue of Blammo consists of a series of short stories on a variety of topics. With such an eclectic mix of stories, it is extremely impressive to note just how many of the stories Van Sciver completely nails. This is a great collection of offbeat tales and the production values on the book are top notch (which is a real testament to Kilgore Comics, the Denver comic book store – check them out here – that produced the comic for Van Sciver).

Here’s the cover for the issue, which was the first one that I read (you can click to enlarge it – it’s a BIG image)…

blam5cov

The book opens with a letters page with some heady praise for Van Sciver from some big name folks like Gary Groth, Chris Staros and Peter Bagge.

These are the chicken-like characters that Van Sciver has been drawing for years now. They are pretty weird, but I like them – their little tale is completely surreal, but in a good way. They’re accosted by a police officer, so to get away, they turn into pieces of abstract art, leaving the officer to state, “Hey, I don’t understand…is this…is this art? I could’ve sworn that I was talking to two gentlemen…Damn. Well, I guess I’ll go home. I’ve gotta stop drinking. It’s hard to stop when you’re constantly losing in life…I’ve still gotta sign those divorce papers.”

That out-of-nowhere dark humor is a hallmark of Blammo, and I really enjoyed it.

That darkness is very notable in a story about a man who runs into an old high school crush and, well, that would be giving things away, now wouldn’t it?

There is another very clever story about a haunted mansion in Colorado. The mansion really does exist (look up Croke/Patterson/Campbell Haunted Mansion on Google), and Van Sciver initially delivers a well-written historical accounting of the history of the mansion (with strong depictions of both the mansion itself as well as the spooky events, which included two guard dogs throwing themselves out of a third story window late at night) and then he goes off on a less-than-historical tangent.

But Van Sciver isn’t only concerned with the fantastical – he also delivers an impressive look at the surreal nature of riding a bus across the country, especially in the more desolate areas. If you ever wondered what it was like going on a long bus ride through rural New Mexico, Van Sciver will show you what’s what, and he’ll let you know why it’s not the most pleasant experience in the world.

pg-16

pg-17

pg-18

Awesome.

All said and done, I suppose “surreal” would be the best word to describe the stories in Blammo, whether it be “Steve, the World’s Fastest Balding Man,” or a tale of what kind of trouble you can get into with a time machine but the stories are also well-written and drawn well.

I didn’t know what to expect when I first read Blammo and the end result was a really great comic from a cartoonist who I now read whenever I can (his book about Abraham Lincoln early battles with depression, The Hypo, was one of my Top Ten Comics of 2012).

Check out Noah’s website here.

Oh, and his older brother is famed comic book artist Ethan Van Sciver. Maybe that blew your mind a little bit?

53 Comments

Kinda lame that I’m writing about the same series two days in a row, but…

After a long hiatus from checking out the comic shop, I decided to pop in and see if there was anything interesting happening. My eye was immediately drawn to the striking graphics on a comic called “The Smartest Kid on Earth”. It was a beguiling salad of olde tyme lettering, slick, streamlined drawings, and the whole thing was surrounded by a wallpaper-like border of flowers. I had never seen anything like it, and neither had anyone else.

I began to thumb through the issue. The art seemed to change from page to page, from panel to panel. Even the paper itself changed–the centerfold was done on newsprint. Half the story seemed to be about a weird-looking little kid, while the other half was either about an old man, a robot, or both. I had never seen a comic assembled with so much care and skill. The design work made me a bit giddy.

When I realized the back cover was a papercraft model of that strange robot, complete with turn of the century directions for assembly, I picked another one off the shelf because now I was going to buy TWO of these suckers–one to read and one to lend. I had never done that before, but I felt like I needed to share this fantastic find with the world outside the comic shop. And I hadn’t even read the thing yet!

While I became a great fan of Acme Novelty Library from then on, never missing a single issue, none had the same mind-blowing effect of that first one. I felt like a member of an audience hearing Louis Armstrong’s debut, or someone in 1939 seeing The Wizard of Oz — the world of comics would never be the same again. It changed everything.

Generally, when I think of mind-blowing, I think of concept comics. I know some people, especially college-aged and younger, probably jump to the idea of, for lack of a better term, the mindfuck cross-genre. Stuff like Donnie Darko or The 13th Floor or The Matrix or Fight Club or Sixth Sense or Inception. Stuff designed to twist around the audience’s ability to understand reality. I used to have my mind blown by that sort of thing as well. That and solid, diabolical plot twists—example: Se7en left me completely exhausted. In 1995.

But nowadays, it’s the concept books and movies that blow my mind. Nowadays the twists and the pushing me to distrust reality stuff are neat but nothing special. I’ve seen it too much. But a good idea? Something wild, crazy, or thoroughly inventive? That is the stuff that drops my jaw.

I fully expected to pick something along those lines. Something high-concept like Day Tripper (Wait, the protagonist dies at the end of every chapter?) or Duncan the Wonder Dog (Wait, the world is exactly like ours except animals are self-aware and able to communicate their thoughts in human language? That’s… that’s ingenious.). That’s what I expected but instead I’m going to pick The Nao of Brown.

The Nao of Brown isn’t super high concept. It’s got a lot of things that have actually been done before. Lead character suffering from something tricky in their head. A parallel fable trickling throughout that helps inform the main story. Dramatic use of colour to add subtext. Fine story elements, sure, but not new or fresh or inventive. But you know what? Who cares because this right here is (to my eye) one of the best best best comics ever put together. The art is gorgeous. Just fantastic. The storytelling is beautifully planned, intricate, and smart. The thematic choices were enough to push me to put together a study guide just to help people understand the whole thing. The Nao of Brown was entirely mind-blowing to me because I never ever expected anything so marvelous. Glyn Dillon takes a common story involving common tropes and through the sheer wizardry of massive talent, he turns this thing into a wholly unique experience.
________

So yeah. That or most anything Matt Kindt decides to put together.

A comic that blew my mind is Spider-Woman #18. It deals with the disco era / looking for Mr Goodbar motif and just goes to dark places. It addresses issues that weren’t brought up before or since!!! It tells the time old tale of “Girl meets boy. Boy can’t control himself. Girl ends up covered in goo!” As a kid reading this, it felt like “what the hell?!?” Upon future reads, its some dark sexual twisted stuff. This link can describe it better than I can: http://www.spiderfan.org/comics/reviews/spiderwoman/018.html

Bill Sienkiewicz’s first issue of New Mutants totally blew my mind when it came out years ago. I ‘d never seen anything like it before and my 13 year old self just didn’t know what to make of it! (now I realise how awesome it is, of course!)

Morrison’s Animal Man. “I CAN SEE YOU!”

Read it as was coming out, when I was my early teens. Had never read anything other than conventional punch-‘em-up superhero books prior to this. Introduced me to the whole concept of meta-fiction, which in turn taught me the value of questioning convention in everyday life.

JLA/Avengers #4 – I had high expectations but Busiek and Perez still managed to astound me. Having your mind blown when you were expecting the blowing? That’s mind blowing.

Stranger Danger

January 10, 2014 at 2:03 am

G.I. JOE #21!!!!! Mind blowing to the max with a creative silent storytelling and fine sequential art. The twist at the end also lays down a legacy of stories of the Arashikage clan. Truly astounding from Larry Hama!

I had been reading comics for a short time and devouring The Avengers. I was picking up back issues left and right. I read everything from the 160s up to the ten present 230s.

Then I discovered Avengers Annual 10. At the time, realizing that my heroes had let down one of their own! They could fail?!

It totally blew my 13 year old mind!

Earth X, hands down. The whole series was amazing to me, but that issue when all the revelations about the true nature of super-humanity was revealed just made my head to explode. Some people had “Watchmen,” but this was the comic that blew my mind. 17 year old me went nuts. Such a genius move.

For me, you could pick almost any book from Frank Miller or Alan Moore from the 1980s, particularly Born Again and Watchmen. But for a few less obvious choices, how about:

Alpha Flight 12 – I bought this off the stand in the era before Internet reviews and blogs and I had no idea what was coming. That was as big a curve ball as I’ve ever been throw in comics. I wonder if anyone has read this book recently and had the same reaction, or if the surprise has been ruined forever.

Swamp Thing 50 – The culmination of a extremely creepy run-up that leads to a titanic cosmic battle. One sequence, in particular, comes to mind, when a massive black monolith dragging across the horizon is revealed to be the finger of something much, much bigger (I’m going by memory here so I may have that slightly wrong). Mind = blown.

Thor 362 – The death of Skurge has been discussed here before, but it was devastating to read at the time.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m more jaded, but a few things I’ve read lately stuck with me:

Daredevil Decalogue – Bendis/Maleev reach their peak of their Daredevil run with some incredibly well-told stories, particularly the AA-type meeting issue.

Neonomicon – Still not sure how I feel about this Alan Moore Lovecraft story, but it’s one of the very few comics that got in my head, and not in a good way.

All-Star Superman 5: Maybe not mind blowing in the sense of the comics above, but I was stunned by the cleverness of the concept and execution. A masterclass in comic book story telling.

Ultimates (first series) #6. I hadn’t been previously aware of the whole “Hank Pym, wife-beater” thing from The Avengers, so I was completely unprepared for the Ultimates version. I was at university at the time (in Brisbane, Australia) and going home from class involved nearly an hour on a train. I’d picked up the issue from my regular comic store and as I rode home, I started to read. This was the first (and only) time I had ever read an issue of any book and got to the end of it wanting to hurl it across the train in disgust. In hind sight, I guess my mind was blown more by this visceral reaction than from the actual story itself.

Close runners up would be Animal Man #5: The Coyote Gospel, Flex Mentallo and I Kill Giants, but I’m going to repeat one of my earlier choices and go with The Dark Knight Returns.

I read that at 15 years old and was absolutely blown away. I’ve never read anything like it before or since.

Or maybe that Swamp Thing issue where he’s raped by an alien

I doubt I’d have thought of it without Brian’s picking Blammo!, but my mind was defintely blown on two separate occasions from random purcahses of funny comix – an issue of Evan Dorkin’s Dork – I did not know comics could be that anarchic and that clever; and Ivan Brunetti’s Schizo – I still can’t believe just how amazingly profane and rage-filled and yet also brilliantly witty it is (issue 3 in particular).

And in the spirit of confession, as a 13 year-old my mind was blown by Alan Grant and Kevin Walkers’ ‘Judge Anderson: Childhood’s End’ story from the Judge Dredd megainze. It was the first time I had come across the Scci Fi staple concept – ‘what if human beings were the result of genetic manipulation from superior alien beings’. Such a corny idea now (and no doubt at the time!), but the build-up and reveal in the weekly episodes really caught me by surprise back in 1992.

@DC Sheehan- I totally agree with you on JLA/Avengers #4. (Spoilers…sort of) I about pooped myself when Krona supposedly killed Flash and Hawkeye.

If I had to go with a comic that blew my mind would probably be Amazing Spider-Man #700. I knew that Otto was going to win and become Spider-Man, but I had a small inkling of hope that he would lose, but when the issue came to a close I was moved by Otto accepting with great power comes great responsibility.

I’d have to say that Jim Starlin’s Warlock did a pretty good mind blow back in the day, especially the Magus storyline.

I know this is totally a case of recent-itis, but the first issue of Chew where Layman really went wild with the special powers that exist in his universe. Not only are there cibopaths, but wait, there’s more! It’s not just a funny book, but I think Layman and possibly Guillory put some semi-serious thought into what a food based power might look like. Mind MGMT has had similar moments with their different agents.

I’m sure there’s stuff further back, but those are the first two I thought of.

So many comics blew my mind at a critical moment where my thinking process was getting expanded (a.k.a. 17-18 years old). I could cite Watchmen and Hellboy as being impossibly awesome as they revealed the sheer potential of comics as a medium to someone who was an incurable skeptics at the time, but that would be too easy.

Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison is perhaps the run that blew my mind in too many ways. The characters, the message, the art, the ideas, close to everything made me love this book without any restraint.

Roulette, the Daredevil story by Frank Miller which shows Daredevil playing Russian Roulette with Bullseye on his hospital bed. It is an amazing exploration of the effects of violence and the potential side-effects of what a superhero can do in a negative way to a person and a community. It’s just great.

I read Understanding Comics when I was 13, and it pretty well blew my mind. All of a sudden, I had an awareness of comics as a medium, rather than as just those things I loved to read. And that awareness gradually spread to other art forms as well. So in terms of getting me to think about how art of all stripes works, it was pretty revolutionary.

I second the Warlock Magus storyline.

The first issue of Elektra Assassin just took story telling to a different level for me. And then Stray Toasters came out and it took me forever to wrap my head around that one.

Other people have mentioned it, but the first comic that blew my mind was Animal Man #5 (Morrison’s run), The Coyote Gospel.

Tales of the Beanworld #1.

My first reaction reading the heading was “Miracleman #15″. I’m not sure if it blew my mind so much as it capsized my soul. That was one where you just closed the book and stared at the ceiling for a while.

Quite a bit of 80s Moore (and more than a little Miller) falls in the mind-blowing category, but that Miracleman issue really kicked it up a notch.

I need to re-read Miracleman. I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting a lot of it since I last read it (gulp) 30 years ago. My understanding is there are no collected editions because of some sort of property rights pissing match?

The first one that blew my mind, and showed me what was possible in comics was Howard Chaykin’s American Flagg, starting right with #1.

My mental state when reading Stray Bullets #2: Virginia Applejack runs away and gets picked up by a creepy guy and oh God this won’t end well, nails bitten, heart breaking, then WHAM! the climax. Whoa! Ha! Whoa.

Kabuki: David Mack’s story of identity and its various twists, art, use of symbolism, and transformation of the comic books pages blew my mind several times.

Oh man that Stray Bullets episode was incredible. Issue 1 was cool and crazy and stuff. Issue 2 sold me on the series. I actually reference Issue 3 for a choice later in the 31 Days list.

Miracleman has to be it for me, especially the last two Moore/Totleben issues. It just went places that I had no idea comics ever could/would go. I’m excited for a wide audience to finally read it all and see how amazing it is.

Kellogg: There are three trades of Moore’s Miracleman run – I know that because I own them. They’ve been out of print forever, though, and of course the rights issues meant they never got reprinted. Apparently they’re more valuable than the single issues because they’re rarer. Not mine, though – I’ve read those suckers so many times they’re not in great shape. It will be nice for new trades to be in circulation now that Marvel has the rights!

V for Vendetta, in particular Evey’s ordeal in prison and who was behind it. I read it in Junior High and it was the first time that a comic book made me think about things like what true freedom is and the terrible things people have to go through to achieve it. I remember the whole thing about the “One Inch” and the story of the lesbian in the cell next to Evey’s staying with me a long time after reading it. It sticks with me to this day.

“I shall die here. Every last inch of me shall perish. Except one. An inch. It’s small and it’s fragile and it’s the only thing in the world worth having. we must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.”

Flex Mentallo.. and the art in We3, I was like “what am i looking at?” oh crap that’s amazing”

Pretty much anything by Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes.

As a kid (age 9-10 I would guess) I was reading Spectacular Spider-Man. I bought others, but that was the only one I collected. Then I got to the “Death of Jean DeWoff” storyline. Blew my mind because it just seemed more real than anything I had read before. I could always differentiate between real and make believe so none of the super villains ever disturbed me. But this was a bad guy who was just a dude with a shotgun blasting people down. (Add in I grew up in California and this was the time of the “Nightstalker” Richard Ramirez serial killings… it was not a fun loving time for me).

As a young adult it was the reveal of Thunderbolts #1.

The last one was actually last night. I sat down and read “Red Handed” by Matt Kindt. Was just going to read a bit before bed, finished the whole thing. Compared it to seeing the end of “Usual Suspects” for the first time.

Re-reading some of the early Image stuff, it blows my mind that those books got popular. “Wait, why is the page sideways now? Are those the same people in this panel as the last one? They wouldn’t need so many words on the page if there were more than half a panel on a page!”

I suppose that’s more “A Comic that totally blew”.

Otherwise…hmm. Most comics I have a notion of what’s going on before I read them, so unfortunately I don’t get to get my mind blown too often. Maybe the first time seeing Ted McKeever’s work, or seeing the Cerebus story in the Fantagraphics best comics of the decade ’80-’90 book (A Night on the Town, where instead of words in the word balloons, there are pictures. Very amazing use of the medium.), or reading Flex Mentallo 1 (which may have been the first Morrison comic I read, but was definitely the first Quitely comic. Yowza!).

Perhaps we can go way back — the mini comics in the He-Man figures were probably the first comics I read that weren’t in the paper. Action 466’s amazing cover (http://www.comics.org/issue/30472/cover/4/) blew my 10 year old mind when I dug it out of the back issue bin. And I think the issue of Akira from Epic and the issue of Journey by William Messner-Loebs that I got in a blind grab bag of comics when I first started collecting showed me that you could do more with comics than just superheroes. (But superheroes are cool, too!)

Y: The Last Man: Safe Word (#18 – 20). I had no idea what was going on until the end, but it was just so good.

Maggots, by Brian Chippendale
Eightball #1, by Dan Clowes (specifically the scene with the dude with crustaceans in his eyeball sockets)
Acme Novelty Library #1, by Chris Ware
From Hell, by Alan Moore, Eddie Campbell and I forget the name of his assistant (specifically the psychogeography chapter, even though it’s a load of bunkum)
The issue of Jim with the illustrated story about Manhog slicing off his own leg, by Jim Woodring
My first Shintaro Kago comic (can’t remember which one it is)

Doom Patrol, when it introduced Danny the Street,

Morrison’s Doom Patrol. No other work of art has had such a lasting influence on me, except maybe Borges’ short stories. It was like being introduced to a whole other way of thinking. And to this day, quirks and oddities and impressions show up on my own writing.

Have to go Miller. Dark Knight Returns was a whole new usage of mainstream superheroes that was new and blew the mind of a kid who had only experienced more traditional fare. And Elektra: Assassin, because it was just a different form of storytelling on a comic page.

@Rob- I wouldn’t have thought of Thunderbolts if you hadn’t mentioned it. Was that pretty much the last time that anything could really surprise someone in comics? Now it’s all out on the internet months before the issue comes out, but that was The Sixth Sense of comic books at the time. Remember not having a clue that what I was seeing had all been a lie.

Oh man. I’m sick in bed for a week and now I’m so behind on these!

The first thing that came to mind was the end of “Sleeper”, but like dhole said of “Miracleman”, it didn’t so much blow my mind as rend my soul.

A great recent example was in the just-ended “Young Avengers” series by Gillen and McKelvie. This isn’t really a SPOILER, as it’s more a throwaway moment than a plot point, but skip this anyway if you want to be surprised by it…

The scene where Mother somehow kills and eats the narrator, the omniscient disembodied voice giving us exposition, blew my mind. Not only because it was so weird and meta-fictional (as much of that book is), but because it seems like it would be goofy and ridiculous, but actually managed to be surprising and kind of terrifying.

Perhaps we can go way back — the mini comics in the He-Man figures were probably the first comics I read that weren’t in the paper.

And Prince Adam and He-Man are the same guy?! And his green tiger is secretly He-Man’s green tiger?! Didn’t see that coming.

Yeah, those early He-Man comics with the figures were WAY cooler than the cartoon. No “secret identity,” more barbaric, no Orko….

Enki Bilal, Gods in Chaos.
Before that it had been mainly Disney, some Marvel like X-Men and Spider-Man, and classic Europeans like Asterix and Tintin, and then all of a sudden this…thing. Weird and ugly and what the hell am I reading but still compelling enough to keep me in. Expanding my idea of what actually was possible in comics…

Looking back at it, I don’t even particularly like it, but it was an important book to for me.

Can i write two?
Ok, i’ll write two…both written by Warren Ellis (what is it with these British writers that i keep mentioning about?)

The first was Transmetropolitan # 1. The epic story of Spider Jerusalem started here and it was a great introduction into the main character as well as the setting. Darrick Robertson’s art certainly didn’t hurt either.

The second was Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E # 1. Probably the funniest superhero comic i’ve ever read (Sorry, Deadpool). With great, clean art by Stuart Immonen.

Are…are you making fun of 5 year old me, buttler? You…you…

I’m gonna go cry now.

Thanks for sharing such a pleasant opinion, post is nice, thats why i have read it entirely

I mentioned Abstraction before, which is a 16 page Japanese comic that is grotesque but amazing (you can find it online easily enough).

But actually, one that came to mind is a series I don’t care for that much. Actually I think it’s a series that really oscillates between great and bad: the manga called Berserk. For those who don’t know, it is a very long running series that is about a Conan-type warrior who is out to kill some demon gods, The things I don’t like about this series are the demon stuff and when it acts as a more conventional action adventure story (there are even cute witch girls and enchanted weapons like in a JRPG). What I love is when it acts as a bloody, brutal character drama (though some of the gore and rape stuff feels more unpleasantly indulgent). Anyway, it;s a series I have really mixed feelings on that I can love as much as I can hate it.

One thing that the series can do very well, when it wants to, is scale. I have two favourite stories in the series. One is really long and explains the history of the main character (and was the basis for the anime series. Since it was only 26 episodes, they only had time for the long origin story and almost no time for the demon hunting). This story had surprisingly few demons (though some) and was more about war, brothers-in-arms, politics and treachery. Real Game of Thrones stuff, but with less of a focus on the leaders and more on a band of mercenaries rising up the ranks in wartime. And what little it does show of demons is absolutely frightening (it ends in a huge horror show, which, again, I have mixed feelings about since it is horrifying but it is too grotesque for me at times and ends with a rape scene I could have done without),

But that’s not the mind blowing part. That comes MANY years later. While our hero is slashing his way through the story in a much less interesting adventure, the main villain finally unleashes his plan… bringing magic into the world. After defeating an epically huge other villain, Griffith (the main baddie) tricks the world into thinking that he’s not only good but a messiah… and considering what he does, it’s hard to blame people. He brings magic into the world. Imagine if the grim and gritty world of Conan got turned into the Land of Oz overnight. We see page after page of this brand new world, filled with wonders and horrors that we had yet to see in the series: heavenly halls, a Guernica-like hell, children seeing fairies, all done with some amazing art. It really knocked my socks off. Man, when that series wants to, it can still bring it!

Bill Sienkiewicz’s New Mutants were a complete artistic demolition to me in my earlier, but as I matured, I found out just how exceptional it really was……..and appreciate it for what it is now, beautiful storytelling.

Howard the Duck’s “Steve Gerber Introspective” issue made me look up at the end of the story and say, “UH, OK, then…… “

The first issue of Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix was absolutely amazing to me.Gene Ha’s art was perfect and even the paper was nicer than the average Marvel or DC at the time. I felt it took things to the next level.

Preacher was probably the first major non-superhero work I read, and it opened my mind to the possibilities of comic books the way Pulp Fiction did for me and movies back when I was a kid. Like, holy shit, its words and pages you can do ANYTHING YOU WANT. ANYTHING! This is awesome!

Dreadstar

From the Metamorphosis Odyssey to the end of the Instrumentality War, it was Starlin it was cosmic, it was awesome.

A lot of other people have said Doom Patrol and Nextwave… lemme think… Casanova, particularly the final issue of Gula where… I forget exactly what happened but somebody got shot and crows erupted from there body and this revealed that the protagonist was actually a man disguised as his sister and that was breaking something called the Multi-Quintessence and there was a woman with six arms and all of it was juxtaposed to a playlist recommended by the writer.

Someone mentioned Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix so I feel obliged to bring up Further Adventures of Cyclops and Phoenix. A classic gothic horror story…with the X-Men.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives