Saturday, December 24, 2005

This is a rambling year-ender of a post

Hi all and Happy Holidays. I’m not sure if this post will be a long one or a short one as I start writing, so let’s read and see…

This has been an interesting year for me. It started out with me working month to month on 30 day contracts and finally getting hired full-time by the party I work for. There was constant threats of me losing my job after that and with a minority parliament a constant threat of a snap election. It’s finally happened and I’ve been working 12 – 16 hours a day since November. I’m exhausted and will be working today, Christmas Eve and Boxing Day for sure, Christmas Day is still a maybe. This is because our candidates haven’t bothered to all get registered and get on the ballot before the holidays like we’ve asked them to. So I get to spend my holidays, not in Halifax as was planned but with my in-laws at my new home with my girlfriend, and me working with people who don’t want to help themselves – but they do want to get elected to parliament. Very frustrating, but I really like my new flat.

2005 was also the year I got back into comics in a big way. It’s been 15-20 years since I read comics in any sort of volume. Having a guaranteed income helped, and a comic shoppe just a few doors down certainly helped out. Over the years I picked up a few Chris Ware and Paul Pope books, but I wasn’t exactly too interested in the whole comics thing. Then I took a computer animation course and was looking for some source material, and I picked up a few Tank Girl trades. The addiction flea bit me and wouldn’t let go. I bought a few random books and looked a few things up online. It was then that I discovered the Identity Crisis hoopla.

Now, say what you will about Identity Crisis as someone returning to comics after a long hiatus I really enjoyed it. I’m not so young anymore so I wasn’t looking for the stories I read as a kid. This did it for me. It brought me right back into comics. It was the right story at the right time for me. Yes there are problems with it, but that’s the point of story telling – there is never ever a perfect story – all stories are written to attain perfection and we read them to revel in the attempt. We’re here to see if the story resonates with us, and that it achieves what the story set out to do.

This year I did a few things simultaneously. I picked up some “essential” books that I’ve never read before alongside some more recent collections and current floppies. This year was the year I read Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns for instance. It opened my eyes to what comics could be if we let them. They don’t need to feel hollow because these books proved it. They were timely and current, and more importantly they are respected, loved and successful precisely because they were timely and current on top of telling timeless tales. Coming at these books as a mature reader made me feel a joy at the brilliance of these works as well as a sadness that this isn’t what the industry is striving for anymore. Would these books get published today? I just don’t know. I also know that not every book can strive to be like these works, but the spirit they exude is missing from a lot of current work.

I can’t blame anyone for this either and I hope it’s not seen in this way. These works have also been responsible for a lot of the current trends that people are upset about. The aping of the style has resulted in the darkening of the genre by copying the surface presentation, not the heart and soul that makes those works historically relevant as well as important today. Plus they are just fun reads.

I read the Y: The Last Man trades as well as The Walking Dead trades and a couple of Hellboy trades – all of which were new to me as well. The Walking Dead sucked me in like a zombie sucking on a neck bone. Same with Y: The Last Man – except for the Safeword trade. It just pulled me out of the larger story when she mentions the Marquis de Sade as a psychiatrist. Near the end through I started to understand the moment in Stand by Me when the fat kid asks about the point to the TV show Wagon Train. Where are they going? They’re always wagon training but never going anywhere. Hellboy is my one regret. I should be putting all my other reading on pause and just getting as much Hellboy reading done as I possibly can. I love the look of the series and how it’s both original yet completely aware of the fun and serious aspects the medium is capable of. It is just storytelling at it’s strongest – proving that you don’t need new stories or characters to tell good stories. I mean half the characters existed since man first started recording stories – Hecate, vampires, golems – these are some of the most ancient stories yet feel new here.

This was also the first time I read Crisis on Infinite Earths.

And finally I’ve tried to keep myself from being blindly loyal to any floppies. If I didn’t like a series I let it go. I’ve read bits of Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl, Green Arrow, X-men, New Avengers, Young Avengers, Ultimates 2, Ex Machina, various Batman titles, a few Superman books, a couple of Teen Titans, a whole slew of Infinite Crisis tie-ins as well as books like Fear Agent, Gødland, The Amazing Joy Buzzards, Queen and Country: Declassified, and an issue of Ferro City. Recently I’ve been enjoying the western revival found in Jonah Hex and Loveless.

My thoughts for floppies were that I’d buy whatever caught my fancy for whatever reason. Online buzz, recommendations in the comments section here or on any number of other blogs. If a series wasn’t holding my attention I’d simply move on. I’m doing my best to buy what I enjoy, not what I feel duped into buying. This is what I do for fun so it needs to hold my attention and entertain me – that’s it. I’ve received two English degrees, I’ve read my meal of literature so comics are my dessert. That’s all I want – comics that are successful in what they are trying to do. They don’t need to educate me or blow my mind, they simply need to entertain me. If a series doesn’t do that, I move on. There’s a lot to read out there so I’m trying to remain an omnivore on the comics shelf.

I ended up dropping books like Ex Machina, New Avengers, All-Star Batman and Robin because they just didn’t hold my interest anymore. I’m tempted to get them every now and again, but I feel I’ve been there and it’s time to try something new. I just recently picked up the first three issues of Fell, and I may pick up issue four and decide whether or not I’d go on from there. I love the art but I’m not necessarily in the right frame of mind to enjoy the stories. My life is depressing enough. Same with Powers. I dropped this because I felt it would simply be better as a trade.

I’ve also had a hard time getting my hands on a few books. I’ve missed all but the first issue of Ferro City. I liked it, but I wasn’t going to bust my ass to get the books and I don’t want to be tied to a subscription. Gødland has been hit or miss for me as well and I missed the last issue of the Amazing Joy Buzzards – which I would go out of my way to get.

I find it hard to come up with a best of 2005 list since I’ve read stuff from across the historic spectrum. I really enjoyed All Star Superman and I’m seriously enjoying Justice. I wasn’t too sure about Loveless at first but issue two pulled me into the story, as did issue two of Jonah Hex. I’m truly happy to see a series that looks to be single issue books. Please keep this up. I’m also really enjoying the Ultimates 2. I can’t put my finger on why, I just know that I look forward to reading it when I get it. I also think the current arc of Marvel Team-Up will continue to be fun, and I'm enjoying both JLA: Classified and JSA: Classified. And Solo will continue to be on my pull-list.

So I guess I’ll end on an odd note. Things I wish I didn’t miss out on. The Seven Soldiers series. I know I would love these but I just didn’t buy them from the beginning so I’m forcing myself to wait for the trades. I know this goes against what I just finished writing about not forcing myself to buy entire series, but this one I know I’d enjoy it more if I had it all so I’ll wait and see. I also wish I read more of the Justice League Unlimited series and the Spider-girl digests. I’m intrigued by Runaways and Invincible but haven’t gotten to either yet. Hell, I keep changing my list of back-issue trades I want to read. I am afraid to admit I have yet to read any Scott Pilgrim or New Frontier.

I did buy myself a few X-mas gifts this year. I got JSA: The Golden Age, the first Animal Man trade, and The Best of The Spirit. I’m looking forward to read all of them and be able to post on all the weeks I’ve missed out on. I do have a lot to say just not the time to say it.

Thanks for reading – enjoy your turkey if you have it. And I highly recommend Smax to anyone who thought Shrek was a great movie.

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