Sunday, March 3, 2013

My name's Nate and I'm a comic book fan

I have a confession to make. At age 33, I'm an unabashed fan of comic books. It's not something I talk about openly unless I'm in the company of people I know won't judge me, which surprisingly (considering the epic success of Iron Man, the Avengers, Batman, the Walking Dead and others) is still the clear majority of those in my social circle.

Over the last few years Ali and I started this amazing family tradition of driving down Charlotte Pike on Saturday mornings so she can shop at thrift stores and I can sift through the comic shelves at Great Escape.

Ali uses the opportunity to find designer fashions she can re-sell through Lucy and Lloyd and I use the opportunity to live out an obsession that escaped me for a variety of reasons as a kid.

I'd always been intrigued with comics but I was more into sports and music, and my family was on a fairly strict budget, so there wasn't spare money for something at the bottom of my pass-time totem pole. Sure I would read comics from time to time in the book store or at a friend's house, but I would rather spend my occasional allowance money on baseball cards or CDs than comic books.

I don't know if my perspective is different as an adult, but it seems like the overall quality of comics has improved dramatically over the last few decades. Comics have inspired some of the most successful movies and television shows in the last 10 years, and the quality of the writing frequently dwarfs that of best-selling young adult offerings that also seem to appeal to older adults (like Twilight, Harry Potter and Hunger Games).

Probably the main graphic novel that sparked my adulthood interest in comics as Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughn. The story is about a young man and his monkey who are the only male species to survive a cataclysmic event. I know so many people who watched Lost in these marathon sessions on DVD, because each episode had a sense of mystery and a cliffhanger at the end that just pulled you along to the next one.

Y was kinda like that. It was just as intense, just as full of sci-fi intrigue. Vaughn actually parlayed his success on Y to a writing job on Lost. Over the last few years, no comic has come close to touching this epic novel.

More recently, I've started reading Vaughn's new indie book Saga, a sort mix between Star Wars' intergalactic adventure vibe and a young adult drama about relationships and new parenthood. This book was practically geared toward nerdy new dads like me, and of all the books I have read regularly, this is probably the best-drawn.

One book that I would definitely recommend to my friends who are skeptical of whether they'd like comics in their early 30s, but trust my judgment for books and TV shows would be Mind Mgmt by Matt Kindt. The book is about a flight of people who arrive to their destination to find all of them have lost their memory, except for one passenger. It's up to a young true crime novelist to untangle the mystery, and if this book doesn't become a movie or series like Walking Dead, I'll eat my face.

My favorite mainstream comic is definitely Daredevil, pictured above, which I also think would work really well as a TV series. The most recent version, which won the 2012 Eisner Award, the comic version of the Oscar, has Daredevil's alter-ego trying to revive his troubled career as an attorney by stepping away from the courtroom and instead teaching clients how to represent their own cases. The action sequences is pure action-movie goodness as Daredevil's comicbook success has completely squashed the epic failure of the movie. In fact I wonder if any comic has a better stable of writers in its archives than Daredevil - Lee, Miller, Brubaker, Waid.

And most recently, I've started reading new Swamp Thing, which is a mix of horror, superhero, and sci fi comics all rolled into one somewhat confusing, but ultimately deliciously trippy package.

Finally, the book I am collecting most religiously lately is the Goon, which is written and drawn by Nashville artist Eric Powel. The Goon feels like 1920s noir with a side of zombie horror, only it is genuinely hilarious. The art is impeccable, but the thing that separates the Goon, which has also won several Eisner Awards, is it is genuinely creative and unique. A kickstarter effort to turn the book into a film was successful last year and Hollywood heavyweights like David Fincher and Paul Giamatti are on board to help the project. Here's hoping it gets off the ground.

So if you are like me and were always curious about comic books (or graphic novels as those who are embarrassed to say they read comic books call them), there are a few suggestions to check out. And if you happen by Great Escape on Saturday mornings, come say hey and lemme know what you're reading these days....