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31 Days of Comics – A Guilty Pleasure Comic

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 26, which is A Guilty Pleasure Comic

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

I have always been good at separating what I enjoy with what I would posit is a “good” comic book, so I really don’t have any comics that I feel “guilty” about enjoying, so I guess I should instead go with a book that was particularly unnotable but I still enjoyed it.

So I am going to go with pre-Warren Ellis Stormwatch.

Pre-Ellis Stormwatch was a fascinating comic book in that it was just SO straightforward. I found its lack of ambition sort of charming, really. It was about a group of international superheroes and the book came ready with an easily understandable backdrop. There was a previous squad of heroes on the team and these now-retired heroes acted as trainers to the current squad. In addition, the leader of the team, Battalion, had a secret – his father, once a hero, was now a powerful villain.

They went on adventures and fought your typical 1990s villains and then an interesting event happened. There was a line-wide event called “Images of Tomorrow,” where books would leap into the “future” and show the events of a future issue of the book. Steve Seagle wrote Stormwatch #25, which showed a lot of major changes, including Battalion and his second-in-command Diva both dead and Spartan of the WildC.A.T.S now on the team.

stormwatch25

Ron Marz took over writing the book with the following issue, #10, and it was Marz’s responsibility to get the book to the point where #25 would make sense.

Marz had a good run on the title. He was writing Stormwatch at the same time that James Robinson was writing WildC.A.T.S and the two worked their respective books together a bit.

Then a fill-in writer was brought in for #26…

and then Jeff Mariotte took over for #27…

Honestly, considering three different writers told the story that was originally plotted years earlier by a fourth writer, the four-parter that worked in #25 was actually pretty darn good. Some strong twists.

Again, the book was a nice, straightforward superhero adventure comic. Mariotte introduced some new characters…

One of those characters, Swift, would become a major player in the book under Warren Ellis.

Ellis took over with #37 with artist Tom Raney and gutted the book and re-made it into an even better title, but I imagine that I was one of the few people who was actually familiar with and already a fan of the Stormwatch characters PRE-Ellis.

48 Comments

Like you, I feel no guilt whatsoever for the stuff I enjoy. That said, I certainly wouldn’t claim that Marvel’s ALF series is a seminal moment in comics history, but I love it dearly anyway. Part of that is because it was my first comic, but another part of it is, I genuinely enjoy the corny, ridiculous humor in it. (Although maybe that comic is the reason I enjoy that stuff…)

There seems to be a running debate on-line as to whether a “guilty pleasure” is something that you actually feel guilty about liking, or just something where you know you are supposed to.

“Guilty pleasure” the way it’s typically understood is kind of a pre-postmodern idea. It seems fashionable now to wear the trashy TV shows, novels, comic books, etc that you love as a badge, tweet about them or whatever. I would say maybe a more current and interesting way of understanding “guilty pleasure” would be for example stuff you love that’s racist or sexist, or the creator’s known to be a horrible human being.

That being said, I’m blanking on examples that meet that criteria for me personally right now. I’m sure they exist, I’m just a bit fuzzy at the moment.

Same here on the whole “guilty” pleasure thing; the closest thing to that to me is Liefeld New Mutants/X-Force. I know it has it’s detractors, but I still like rereading those comics, especially since they play a huge part in setting up my favorite X-Men crossover, X-Cutioner’s Song (another “guilty” pleasure of mine, although one with much less internet stigma than the Liefeld comics).

Like most of us so far, I’m not a big fan on the idea of guilty pleasures. I like the things I like for very specific and, I would argue, very legitimate reasons. I don’t like crap merely because it titillates me or fulfills some hidden fantasy. I like the things I do because they line up with my sense of what is good and worthwhile. So let’s not call Negima a guilty pleasure. Because it is a Good Book, in the honest sense of that.

Still, there are awkward things about it that, while being things that can be explained, are things that actually require explanation lest you look like a pervert. Which makes reading Negima in a cafe (my favourite choice for public reading) a dicey proposition. The books are filled with the sexual objectification of teenage girls. And see? That alone sounds just atrocious. And it is. But if I had fifteen minutes to explain it all out to you, you’d still be grossed out but then at least you’d have a starting point where you might be able to say, “Maybe there’s something good going on there too.” I talk quite a bit about it in my review of the book, which (at 3600 words or so) was long enough for Goodreads to truncate.

Yet at the same time, there’s a pretty grave conflict. For all the good within the book, it’s clear that Negima is still governed by market forces. Volumes of the series in Japan offered another evidence of the title’s general misogynistic atmosphere. I’m not certain if it was for every cover, but at least for a good number there were offered special edition variants that depicted the series’ heroines in more pointedly sexually objectified states. Here are four examples (the first is of the hundreds-year-old vampire trapped in a ten-year-old body).

Cover to vol 23. http://goodokbad.com/assets/images/books/negi_cover_01a.jpg
Cover to vol 25. http://goodokbad.com/assets/images/books/negi_cover_01a.jpg
Cover to vol 28. http://goodokbad.com/assets/images/books/negi_cover_01a.jpg
Cover to vol 35. http://goodokbad.com/assets/images/books/negi_cover_01a.jpg

That these are not available in the American edition does not alter Akamatsu’s or the publisher’s responsibility for bringing such things into the world.

Captain Haddock

January 27, 2014 at 9:05 am

I’m going to operate on the principle of “this is pretty universally reviled, but I like it.”

Guy Gardner: Warrior. There’s absolutely no reason I should like this book, but darn it, Beau Smith made the issues SO FUN. Even now, re-reading it, they’re just horrible books, but written with such glee I get caught up.

I refuse to feel guilt about what I enjoy. The closest for me is probably Sin City. Yes, it’s absurdly masculine hypernoir and Miller’s concept of strong female character is problematic at best but the art is gorgeous and the characters draw you in. Dwight McCarthy in particular is someone I feel a lot of affinity for.

“Guilty pleasure” basically means that you know full well that it’s objectively bad, but you enjoy it anyway.

For me the ultimate “guilty pleasure” in comics would probably be Marvel’s original 2099 line. I still get that I’m-10-and-this-is-awesome vibe from even the shittiest of the original 2099 books, excluding Ravage 2099 because that was pretty much just indefensible garbage. Keep in mind that when I say “original 2099 books” I am most definitely NOT including X-Nation 2099 or Fantastic Four 2099 or any of the stuff Marvel rolled out when they were cutting back/phasing out the line since those were not part of the original wave of 2099 books and were both completely different in tone and utter shit in quality. But for real, I seriously enjoy crap like Punisher 2099 and Ghost Rider 2099 and 2099 Unlimited. I guess X-Men 2099 was kind of boring, but that’s pretty much the only other exception. And both Doom 2099 and Spider-Man 2099 were legit well written series except for maybe their last few issues.

Some comics I could see being a “guilty pleasure” just based on how trashy they are. There are a number of legitimately well written and drawn T&A books like Dolly, Torchy, Sally Forth, Little Annie Fanny, or even full blown porn like Cherry Poptart. But as tasteless as those titles occasionally/usually/always are, they had great art and at times spectacular writing (Harvey Kurtzman writes the whole of Little Annie Fanny and Neil Gaiman even wrote for Cherry Poptart at one point). A better example of guilty garbage (not meant in a bad way mind you) would be something like the Spoof Comics line which is just the very definition of cheap schlock, but if you can get into the stupid send ups of 90s superhero books then they’re worth a laugh or two. Another one that comes to mind is AC Comics, publisher of cheaply made good-girl style retro books like Retro Comics, Jungle Girls, and (most famously) Femforce. All of which I have genuinely enjoyed and continue to do so to this day even though they arguably hover between “acquired taste” and “genuinely bad”. One particular piece of borderline smut that I can’t offer any objective defense of at all is Betty Page in Danger, which very well may be the single trashiest cheapest most tasteless sexploitation filth in the history of the medium, but do a Google Image search of the name of that book and tell me you don’t laugh at the sheer ludicrousness of it. (And speaking of trashy photo comics, Pete von Sholly’s work in the medium is in incredibly poor taste, but I’ve always found myself laughing at it in spite of myself, so I guess that could be a “guilty pleasure” as well).

There’s a few other things that I like that don’t have the best reputations but that I wouldn’t call objectively bad though, like Cosmic Odyssey has always been a favorite ever since I was a kid. I think I could say the same about Marvel’s 90s cartoon spin-offs (e.g. X-Men Adventures, Spider-Man Adventures, and whatever the Fantastic Four one was called). If I’m being totally objective, none of them were really any better than average, but they weren’t really bad either and they were all at least somewhat entertaining adaptations of the cartoons they were based on so long as you could get into the Saturday morning cartoon style. I think I’ve also enjoyed the majority of the non-Image related crossovers that I’ve read, even though some of them are trashy as all get out (some of which are actually entertaining for this very reason [see: Barkley vs. Godzilla]).

And I can’t end this post without a mention of Dark Horse’s very brief (8 issues!) run on G.I. Joe in the 90s (the infamous “G.I. Joe Extreme” with the AWESOME Frank Miller cover on the first issue and completely new characters totally unrelated to any pre-existing toy line in the G.I. Joe franchise). I know that this series was pretty much 0/10 would-not-piss-on-if-it-were-on-fire SHIT, but I can’t bring myself to completely hate it. This is probably just blind nostalgia because I read it as a kid (though I even knew it sucked back then), but regardless…

@Dalarsco —

I’ve noticed that a lot of readers nowadays don’t seem to realize that Sin City is supposed to be tongue in cheek. It’s a satire of the clichés of crime noire. It just happens to double as a straight crime noir story itself.

All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder.

And no guilt – the comic is brilliant!

Saul Goode beat me to the Liefeld X-Force…I haven’t read it since it first came out but I enjoyed it then (liked Fabian Nicieza’s writing, the mystery of Cable/Stryfe, plus other variables like Tolliver, Gideon)…I can’t imagine I wouldn’t find something to enjoy rereading them.

I was surprised to read a lot of people look down on Byrne’s Alpha Flight run, which I loved. Pretty hard to feel guilty about that.

And people may roll their eyes at Secret Wars but I want to reread that soon. I’ll go one better and admit I want to read Secret Wars II again in the near-future. Mid-eighties, jeri-curled fun.

@dhole —

I’ve never heard anything bad about Byrne’s Alpha Flight. It’s pretty much the definitive work on the team.

Liefields New 52 Hawk and Dove. His artwork is just fun to me. I know he has his detractors but I enjoy that over the top look and impossible poses and weapons.

Seth, am I missing something or did you post four links to the same thing?

I’m with Captain Haddock. Guy Gardner: Warrior was a ridiculous book. And yet…one of my absolute favorites, because it was so much darned fun!

Most of the early 90’s X-books by Lobdell and Nicieza aren’t really good, but I can still look back on them fondly and largely enjoy most of the stuff. Same with the early-to-mid 90’s Wildstorm stuff. Not just Stormwatch, but also the pre-Robinson/Moore WildCATs and the early Gen 13 stuff. Much as I see the problems with it all, I really just loved the Wildstorm art style back then, so those comics still kinda look good to me.

@cool arrow — Check the hyperlinks on the left. For some reason he posted two rows with all the ones on the right side being the same.

Why so serious :)

A guilty pleasure is something you may be embarrassed for liking. Like Justin Timberlake, I don’t care what you say, the dudes talented. For a comic, I’m going to pick pick the Smurfs mini series form the eighties. It just reminds me of being a kid and being totally entertained with a simple little comic.

To twist around Alan Moore a bit:

This comic is a guilty pleasure…aren’t they all?

Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, Squee et. al.
Prison Pit and/or Funnies
And a new one: Bo Plushy Gangsta

@cool arrow – Yeah, what anonymous said. The descriptive text links properly, even if the urls to the right are all the same. Basically, it’s confusing because I have almost no attention to detail within my own writing and am constantly making lazy mistakes.

Gantz…and Batman. Those are my guilty pleasures.

Secret Wars II. I know it’s pretty universally despised, but it’s the first crossover I ever read, and was my first exposure to several corners of the Marvel Universe. And it’s got plenty of memorable moments. Haven’t read it in a while, but I’ve probably read the whole series at least a dozen times.

For my guilty pleasure comic (and I’m not sure that its anything I really have to feel guilty about) I’ll go with the late eighties/early nineties Marvel crossover event Atlantis Attacks that ran through Marvel’s Annuals one summer. What’s not to love about a story that attempts to shoehorn in every book in Marvel’s line into one story that ends with the bad guys trying to wed the notable women of the Marvel Universe to a snake god (not sure what the subtext there was). I also thought the Evolutionary War crossover was fun as well.

Tarot: Witch Of The Black Rose, Al Rio’s Exposure comic series, Femforce…basically any comic that reads like a late night Cinemax b-movie is a guilty pleasure of mine…

@Anonymous: I’ve read in a few articles/reviews that didn’t think it was very good (the first one I came across was an old Wizard Magazine)…largely because they didn’t like the format of only focusing on a few team members at a time. I think most of them would agree Byrne did the definitive run for the team, they just thought that was faint praise given how bad subsequent stories were.

Actually, the last really negative opinion about it I read was by Byrne himself, on his website. So I guess that’s what stuck in my mind. Not that any of that matters, ’cause I thought it was great fun and still remember those issues very fondly.

I still kind of love Team America.

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@ Robert E: good call. A guilty pleasure for me, too.

The Human Fly – absolutely adore it. Steel the Indestructible Man. Geez, even the short-lived Man from Atlantis comic.

Do films starring Christopher Lambert count too?

Good call on Hawk and Dove.

I’ll also add in Alan Moore’s work on Spawn. Kind of terrible, but loads of fun.

This one is tough. I know there is something on here for sure, but I can’t think of it. One would probably be a Shounen series of some kind, since they are so formulaic, but the one’s that instantly come to mind are defensible, if not to everyone’s taste.

Air Gear comes close, but there are times when I am really into it and times when I can’t stand it. Oh Great is actually a really good artist, not just because he draws sexy girls, but the way he can change styles is really impressive to me.

Maybe the original Danger Girl? I remember liking it a lot at the time, before giving up on those long waits. It’s been so long though, that I’d have to reread it to be sure.

Oh, maybe it is a really dumb comedy comic. There’s probably a comedy with a really dumb sense of humour that still manages to be addictive read. Like something with puns.

Sorry, I can’t think of an actual title. This is probably going to come to me when it is too late.

I will read and buy any and all issues of What If…? regardless of quality. Yes, even the recent AvX 4 parter that was terrible.

Whilce Portacio’s art: there’s somethiong about his style I like, even as I recognize its glaring flaws.

LouReedRichards

January 28, 2014 at 8:28 am

Those Frenz/Defalco Thor issues.

At the time I was pissed at how regressive they seemed after Simonson’s epic run on the title.
I actually tore one up in front of my mother when I was a younger angrier Lou.
She said she didn’t think she’d ever see the day that I’d do that – I replied “Well it’s nothing but trash!”.

Now I really enjoy them, derivative as all hell, but also a lot of fun! Later day Sinnott really overpowers most people’s pencils, but in this case it just works.

Like most people here have said, I don’t believe in guilty pleasures, I like what I like.

One of my favorite guilty pleasure comics is SHANNA THE SHE-DEVIL from the 70s. Marvel tried to show they were into woman’s lib by…copying the most famous jungle girl of the 40s (Sheena, Queen of the Jungle)! They also try to get an environmental awareness approach by showing people go to the zoo for the sole purpose of throwing garbage at the animals. The stories are hap-hazard and loony at best. Shanna’s origin itself is just silly. As a young girl, her parents (note the plural) take her to Africa and it ends with her crying at her father, “I told you that wasn’t a tiger, and now mommy’s dead!!”
Later issues deal with fur poachers who want to bomb France with nuclear weapons!

Complete, unadulterated camp!
I think Steve Gerber got his start on this book.

I was just rereading those DeFalco Thor issues a couple weeks ago, actually. At the time they seemed like a great step backward after Simonson, because how could they not? But they were solid, fun mainstream 1980s superhero stories. In fact, I was so struck by how much I enjoyed them that I was telling my wife (who doesn’t read comics but gamely tolerates me rattling on about them) how a comic like that is really like comfort food for me.

As soon as I saw this topic, I thought “Wow, there’s gonna be a lot of ’90s comics in this one”, and you all did not disappoint.

And yeah, I echo the sentiments of a lot of you. Late ’80s to mid-’90s Marvel and Image will always hold a place in my heart, because that’s when I became a comics fan. I know a lot of them are stupid, the outfits are (aside from some standouts that still hold up) ridiculous looking, and some trends took hold that creatively hobbled the industry for some time, but I still occasionally bust out my Jim Lee “X-Men”, or early “WildCATS” or “Gen13″ and just bliss out on nostalgia for a few hours.

@Mike Loughlin

Re: What If

Yeah, me too. I buy any I see without question. They are pretty compelling, and done-in-one, but…

I enjoyed the DeFalco/Frenz run on Thor, but I think my ultimate guilty pleasure is the Avengers by Bob Harras and Steve Epting. No, it’s not one of the critically acclaimed runs on the title, but I enjoyed it and still enjoy re-reading it. It was good to see an Avengers team that didn’t feature the ‘Big Three’ at once: Black Widow, Hercules, Black Knight, Sersi, Crystal, Vision, and (later) Captain America, Hank Pym, and Thunderstrike.

Guilty Pleasure Cited (LOL)

I dont know why I like it, its not a good comic, but I really enjoy Ultimate Adventures. All it really is a Batman parody, but it’s really fun.

Gotta be the final 20 issues of “Justice League America” before the new re-boot with Howard Porter. Cannot have a year go by without reading them. From the rag tag team to the blue,flying, talking dinosaur, underlying gay/lesbian storyline (Ice and Fire? Obsidian and Nuklon?) but the final issue, #124 was absolutely magnificent……Shame to see that phase of the team end.

Wait it was #114, my bad!

Sleepwalker. A book that never really lived up to what I felt was huge potential (I was 12 at the time), but that I still bought and enjoyed. Infinity Watch was the same type of thing.

That’s easy. Batman: Hush. The point where Jeph Loeb really stopped writing stories and just wrote a series of guest-appearances for his artists to draw pin-ups for. But man it is beautiful and even though the story is shit there are a ton of great scenes in it. The fight between Superman and Batman is pure fan service and could have been cut out easily, but Loeb took that idea and executed it with really good tension. And, of course, Jim Lee at his best – pretty images, tons of energy poured into creating them, and wonderful bright colors. Guilty as charged.

I’d probably go with Avengers vs. X-Men. I didn’t pick it up in single issues, I bought it in trade, but I found that it was surprisingly inoffensive. It wasn’t the greatest event ever, but it was miles above crap like Fear Itself and Secret Invasion.

I’m not sure what the general consensus on the original New Warriors series is, but I find it pretty fun and well-written. Bagley on art certainly doesn’t hurt either.

I’m a little tempted to say Torment, but I really only like it for the art.

I remember really digging on Malibu’s Ex-Mutants reboot back in the 90s…I really liked the plot and that it had a little humor thrown in to an otherwise bleak premise…and then halfway through it had a major status quo change that brought it more in line with the other Malibu books at the time. Also the first thing I remember from Paul Pelletier. I was seriously bummed when it ended after just 18 issues…now I want to dig it out and read it again.

I’m not going to count stuff that’s become cool to rag on, but is actually good, then and now, like Secret Wars. And something like Marvel’s Godzilla…no one thinks that’s bad, do they?

So I’ll go with something we knew was trashy at the time – Marvel’s Swimsuit issues. Usually some nice art, and I was always a sucker for the behind the scenes comics or ones where the characters were telling you about themselves. It was like the Punisher Armory issues, just with different big guns.

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