One Fan's Opinion: Issue #55

Fri, September 15th, 2006 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Erik Larsen, Columnist

You ever tried to get a non-comic book reader to read comic books?

It's not easy.

There are some that just don't get it - they don't grasp which panel comes next or understand which balloon comes next and they don't like chasing them down all over the page - and then there are those that simply can't get into them.

I've tried.

But to the layman, superheroes are stupid (yeah, "Watchmen" and "Dark Knight" included) and the rest is just childish (even though few children actually read them - these days anyway).

I thought Kyle Baker's "You Are Here" was my salvation. It's a book I Love - the art is great, the characters are compelling, the dialogue is witty and clever. It's a good book.

Didn't work.

The woman I gave it to thought it was "for guys" because there was some strip club scenes and foul language. She didn't get anything that I got out of it.

She's a tough egg.

I couldn't get her to read my book. It's too much of a superhero - even even if he was a cop. I thought that she might get some insight into what makes a nitwit like me tick, but that wasn't much of an incentive.

It's hard to know. I mean, I like "Gdland" and "Scott Pilgrim" and "Street Angel" and "Dark Knight" and "Watchmen" and Lee & Kirby's "Fantastic Four" and "Gasoline Alley" and "Cerebus" and "Peanuts" and "Calvin & Hobbes" and "Little Lulu" and "The Walking Dead" and "Sin City" and "Elektra: Assassin" and runs on "Daredevil," "Swamp Thing," "The Incredible Hulk," "Thor," "Amazing Spider-Man," "Batman," "Superman" and "Uncanny X-Men" and hundreds of other books, but finding that one book, that perfect comic book that can break a non-comic book reader of their non-comic book reading is taxing.

She didn't want a kid's comic book - or a superhero comic book - so my tried and true "Captain Marvel Adventures" wasn't about to fly. I wasn't up for another, "See, this is why girls don't read comics" lectures because the book I handed her was loaded with sex and violence. "American Flagg" wasn't an option (and it's awesome--!).

I thought with all the superhero movies that superheroes might be a viable option, but no dice. I thought maybe "The Killing Joke" - it's not too long - it wouldn't be like dropping "Watchmen" or "V For Vendetta" on her lap - but then I remembered all the Barbara Gordon stuff and I thought maybe not...

I was talking to a friend in the field about "The Killing Joke." He said that he hated it. He felt it was completely out of character for the Joker to execute such a crude, humorless crime and that Batgirl was wasted in the story and that she shouldn't have been so easily handled. I liked it pretty well, but I could see his point. I liked how Alan Moore acknowledged the Red Hood and yet found a way to make it so that the Joker did not have a previous long-standing career as a costumed criminal mastermind. I thought the idea of trying to crack Commissioner Gordon was a sound one even if the methods he used were a bit out of line.

But I digress...

She thumbed through "Cerebus" at one point. She thought he looked cute, but found the stories to be too long-winded and boring. I told her she shouldn't have started in the middle with a randomly chosen issue!

But I'm not sure she'd get all the "Conan" reverences in the earlier issues of Cerebus if she did start at the start and God help me if she read "Reads" - that might put an end to the whole relationship!

Better not to go there.

Jordan Crane's wonderful book "The Clouds Above" might fly, but it's kind of a kid's book. It sure is gorgeous though.

She read "Little Dot" and "Hot Stuff" as a kid (although she refers to them as "Dotty Dot" and "Little Devil") so it's not as though she's never read comics - she just fell out of the habit - she grew up even if I didn't.

Her reaction to "You Are Here" really threw me for a loop. I thought that one would do the trick.

Maybe "Why I Hate Saturn."

I dunno what to suggest, really...

I mean, she wants to give it a try - if just to try and please me and show that she's willing to try something new - but figuring out just what to lay on her is wracking my brain.

Would she go for the wacky madness that is "The Amazing Joy Buzzards?" I'd hope so, but I can't help but think that it would be too much for her.

It's maddening.

I mean, I want to share. I really do. Comics have been such a delight to me over the years. They've kept me entertained and enthralled. They've lifted my spirits and broken my heart and touched my soul. I've laughed, I've cried and all the rest. You know, you've read them. A good comic book is better than damned near anything but things are subjective, I realize. While I might get a charge out of "Devil Dinosaur" or "Jimmy Olsen" or the "Dingbats of Danger Street," I realize that those books aren't universally cherished.

Hell, some people don't even acknowledge "Kamandi the Last Boy on Earth" as being an unqualified masterpiece, much less Kirby's greatest achievement at DC Comics in the 1970s.

And that's just weird.

Maybe "Bone."

I mean - is there anybody that didn't like "Bone?"

Okay, okay - the ending might not have been as big as it was built up to be and the tag at the end didn't quite give it that big emotional send off that I thought was coming, but there were so many great bits and great characters that you could overlook those minor quibbles, right?

I've got that big fat Bible-sized collection right here - it's even signed by Jeff Smith (I wonder if I could convince her that he's the same Jeff Smith that wrote those Frugal Gourmet books that she's read...) - it might be worth a shot. I dunno that she's ready to launch into a comic book that's over a thousand pages long though - I was hoping to try and ease into this, not drop some backbreaking tome in her lap that will cut off the circulation in her legs and render them useless if she chose to read it all in one sitting...

I dunno...

I mean, looking around the house, I've got comics by the carload. I've got dozens upon dozens of long boxes stuffed to the rafters. You'd think there might be something in there that a guy can give to a gal that used to read "Dotty Dot" and "Little Devil."

There's just gotta be.

Any bright ideas...?

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