Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Rebirth of a Comic Nerd (Prologue)

There was a time, not too long ago, when the term 'nerd' was derogatory. While they might have been secretly running the world, nerds didn't receive a lot of respect or attention. Then, somewhere in the last decade or so, being a nerd became something to be proud of. Nerds began to not only embrace their hobbies, but to freely share and celebrate these hobbies. Throughout the course of this blog, I'll reveal more about the array of nerdy interests that I have. Today, I'm going to focus on the newest of my nerdy obsessions: comic books. Also known as 'graphic novels', as some nerds will defensively tell you. Whatever you label them as, they're picture books. But in the hands of the right writer and illustrator, comics can be insightful, entertaining, unique, and just damn cool.

As a kid, I used to borrow superhero comics out of my older brother's collection. I enjoyed reading Superman, Spiderman, and Batman the most. In those days, it was all about the art and I never paid much attention to the words. Being a young child, it never really occurred to me that there were other people out there who would criticize me for liking something. I simply liked whatever I liked, without paying much thought to outside opinions. Later, as puberty brought along self-consciousness, I admittedly let the social stigma of being a 'comic book nerd' get to me, and I allow my brother's comic books to collect dust in the attic.

Cut to now, where being a nerd is something to embrace, I've allowed myself to re-connect with one of the most under-rated art forms in our culture. Inspired by the amazing Walking Dead TV show and the recommendation of my good friend Wayne Mugsby, I began to read the Walking Dead comic series (written by Robert Kirkman, currently illustrated by Charlie Adlard). I soon found that the popularity and hype of these graphic novels were for a good reason. Not only is the use of black, white, and grey tones the best that I've ever seen, the depth of the characterization and the suspense of survival horror are masterfully executed. Yes, it's a story about the zombie apocalypse. Not an original concept these days. But the ability of the comic creators to attach you to the characters, surprise you, disgust you, and make you feel everything that these characters are feeling makes this a must-read. As it turns out, other living humans are much, much more dangerous than the dead ones.

After catching up to the current issue of the Walking Dead series, I moved on to the colourful and wacky graphic novel Chew (written by John Layman, illustrated by Rob Guillory). I heard a bit of buzz about this series and was intrigued by it for a while before beginning to read it. Here's the basic concept: Set in a world where an avian flu has killed millions and chicken is outlawed, Tony Chu works for the FDA, which has become to most influential crime-fighting organization in the world. Here's the twist, Tony gains psychic impressions from anything that he eats (except beets). If it's an apple, he gets a feeling for where it grew and the kind of pesticides used. If it's a human, he gets flashes of their memories and lifestyle. As the series goes on, Chu is forced to eat anyone and anything, and more food-related psychic powers are being revealed. With some of the coolest and weirdest animation I've ever seen, and unique and surprising storylines, Chew is perfect for someone who is tired of everything they're currently reading and watching, because you've never seen anything like this. Plus, it's hilarious, with a lot of hidden 'easter eggs' as a reward for really studying each panel.

Now, I'm currently working my way through the important Batman arcs, reliving a bit of my childhood while also gaining a newfound appreciation for the underlying themes behind the plotlines. In the future, I plan on reading the Scott Pilgrim, Sin City, and Kick-Ass series. I'll likely write more in-depth reviews of all the series I've mentioned in this post, but today, it's all about the Batman series masterpiece The Killing Joke. I'll conclude by encouraging you to take a break from television, film, and novels, and try out the graphic novel format. You'll see some amazing illustrations and read some very engaging stories. Don't be thrown off by the flashy gimmicks, like superheros and zombies, the theme of all these stories is usually good old humanity.

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