Like a lot of adult comic book readers do at some point, I’ve been taking stock of my reading choices and the type of mainstream, ongoing, monthly comic books which I read. It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me, but I found that I was making a couple of assumptions which, upon closer examination, were wrong.
1. I’ve been assuming that I read predominantly two types of comic books; fantasy and superhero (apart from the odd foray into horror, bios, and science fiction.)
2. Without thought and with quite some negative judgement about it, I’ve been thinking of the fantasy genre comic books as “girl” comics, and the superhero ones as “boy” comics (e.g. some weeks are “girl heavy”).
These are depressingly reductive ways to look at the comic books I enjoy, and the more I thought about it, the more I saw how wrong I was.
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Fables #48, which was published by DC/Vertigo and is cover dated June 2006. Enjoy!
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“What of the success of the Expulsion?” Carranque asked. The driver was momentarily silenced.
“Success for the Catholics?” I ventured.
“Certainly not, Señora.” Now it was Carranque who laughed. “The Expulsion of the Jews was an unmitigated disaster for the Catholics. For a brief time, Their Catholic Majesties feasted on the properties and treasures left behind by the running Jews. But after a very short while they awoke to the truth that their best and their brightest had fled. Gone were their merchants, their statesmen, their doctors, their artisans and their artists, their poets, their musicians, their singers, and their leatherworkers. Without its Jews, Spain dried up into the shriveled olive it is today.”
“So the success?”
“Was the success of the Jews — the Jews who fled to Morocco, to Italy, to Greece, to Turkey, to the Netherlands. They spread their art and learning across the Mediterranean, through the Strait of Gibraltar and northward into Europe. They made a virtue of exile, found their greatest reward in exile, found their humanity, their lost identity, in exile.” (Jonathan Levi, from A Guide For The Perplexed)
We have done as much with the matter of birth and parenting, dividing ourselves into different teams – pro-Thisers or pro-Thaters – with no middle ground, as there seldom is in matters of life and death. The debate is controlled by the extremes, each side shouting answers and accusations over the heads of the people in between, who are kept from formulating questions by the din of the argument all around them. Each paints the other with a broader brush. Each has an arsenal of names and adjectives to deploy against the other side. No one listens. Everyone screams. (Thomas Lynch, from The Undertaking)
“How do you feel, Yossarian?”
“Fine. No, I’m very frightened.”
“That’s good,” said Major Danby. “It proves you’re still alive.” (Joseph Heller, from Catch-22)
For them it might stave off what he could not help but see with clarity: that the world was silent and cold and bare and that in this lay its terrible beauty. (David Guterson, from Snow Falling on Cedars)
“That’s one of the Devil’s main tricks, of course. Fill a man with faith. What evils, what absolute horrors the noble sword of faith sends pouring into the world!” (John Gardner, from Freddy’s Book)
And Savinkov remembered that Kaliayev had once said to him, “Everything is beautiful. The stars and clouds and flowers and people and — death is beautiful, too.” (Otto Friedrich, from The End of the World)
And so I stood perfectly still with folded arms, allowing my eyes to receive the tracery of apian flight, so like curling silver strings in the air. White butterflies, faint as powder on a mirror, yet imbued with the mysterious force of life, hovered and flitted, half-powered by their own efforts and half-carried by the breeze. That all these creatures, and all these plants and dirt and blossoms, from the earthworms to the dung beetles, to the rhododendrons, catnip, delphinium, clematis, lupine, campanula, and bearded iris should all come together here in this spot to create this wondrous place seemed a fact beyond all possibility of mere formality, betokening some kind of marvelous presence having the sense of an artist and the mechanical persistence of an inventor. (Steve Szilagyi, from Photographing Fairies)
“Usually girls dance together because the boys are too shy to ask. But this boy – I didn’t know him – he asked me to dance, and so we had the first dance and then the next, and by that time we were talking … And you know what it is when you like someone, you know it at once; well, I liked him such a lot. And we kept on talking and then there was a birthday cake. And he took a bit of marzipan and he just gently put it in my mouth – I remember trying to smile, and blushing, and feeling so foolish – and I fell in love with him just for that, for the gentle way he touched my lips with the marzipan.” (Philip Pullman, from The Amber Spyglass)
Outside of comic books themselves, there is very little advertising for comic books, online or on television. Targeting non-comic book readers could be effective, but are the corporations who own comic book publishers really trying to sell comic books?
“I’ve always believed, Josef, that we are more in love with desire than with the desired!” (Irvin D. Yalom, from When Nietzsche Wept)
Was the rise of the radical intelligentsia desirable, was their unchecked progress necessary in order that mankind might be led to the broad uplands of democratic freedom? Or was the very concept of democratic freedom a blind alley, developed to make the world safe for an intelligentsia which is only happy when playing at politics, at no matter what cost in suffering to the multitude? (Edward Crankshaw, from The Fall of the House of Habsburg)
Last week I was finally walking again and able to pick up three weeks of saved comic books! In the haze of ankle sprain and grouchy tiredness, it was incredibly blissful to lie in bed reading the ongoing stories of some comic books that I know I love. Just for fun, and because I’ve been reading a lot of older comic books lately, I thought I’d give you a quick one paragraph synopsis of each book I read. I have to say, it was a very good month. Maybe I’m good at picking out books I like, but I have to say, this was a very entertaining batch and had me rethinking my questions about the quality of the years books…
“Maybe I’m crazy. But there’s something in me that loves Death. I think of myself as Death, sometimes. In a scarlet shroud, floating through the night. I’m so beautiful, then. And sad. And hungry to make the whole world happy, by taking them out where I am, into the night, away from all trouble, all unhappiness … Walter, this is the awful part. I know this is terrible. I tell myself it’s terrible. But to me, it doesn’t seem terrible. It seems as though I’m doing something – that’s really best for him, if he only knew it. Do you understand me, Walter?”
“No.” (James M. Cain, from Double Indemnity)