Rediscovering Graphic Tales

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Panel from The Living and the Dead

The other day I wrote about Royden Lepp’s new graphic novel Rust.  I mentioned learning about Lepp’s book when it was announced Joe Cornish would be adapting it into a feature film.  What I didn’t discuss was how graphic novels and comics ended up back on my radar.

When I was growing up, comics were a big part of my life.  I didn’t but them with a collector’s eye, I bought them in packs of four and five at my local grocery store.  On the occasions I did get to a comic book store I poured over books that die-hards probably wouldn’t give a second glance.  I was so focused on browsing boxes and shelves of comics that never got past 495 My parents saw no problem leaving me alone in the basement comic stores in the middle of Harvard Square or Newbury Street while they shopped in completely different buildings, knowing when they came back two hours later they’d find me right there.

But as I got older I fell victim to the sense comics were for children, not adults.  I eventually read Watchmen and Frank Miller‘s work, but I considered these as a wholly new artform, rather than an extension of the same superhero books I read well past midnight every night I could remember.

Now my son has started getting into comics.  My wife actually opened this door initially, reading the old Uncle Scrooge and Tintin comics with him.  From there we picked through the meager remnants of my own childhood collection.  (We had them when my parents were clearing out their house and brought them to us, in case I wanted to try and see what they were worth.  Of course they weren’t worth a cent, as I’d read them so often many had no covers.  I never put them in bags, like I said, I wasn’t a collector).  We didn’t spend a lot of time on my old ones, as half the heroes I read haven’t exactly been on the front burner for DC or Marvel.

From there we’ve started going to a local comics dealer.  Thankfully, we don’t need to drive as far, so we can go more often.  I’m much more wary than my parents were, and so I stay in the store with him while he picks through the shelves.  I tend to drift a little ahead of his browsing, distracting him from Walking Dead covers and making sure to tell him the titles on the higher shelves he can’t reach without climbing.  Since we started making these trips, I’ve discovered artists and titles that appeal to me both as a reminder of why I liked comics in the first place and what I love about storytelling as an adult.  A good example of this is Royden Lepp’s Rust, or the works of Norwegian cartoonist Jason.  Jason’s The Living and the Dead, from his collection Almost Silent, ranks as one of the best zombie stories I’ve ever read, all told in black and white with almost no dialogue.  I’m starting to work my way through Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: the Last Man now, and kicking myself with each issue I didn’t devour this when it originally came out.

Looking at titles with and in parallel to my son, and talking about what I read and what he wants to read, has made that itch flare up all over again, and I’m looking forward to scratching it.  For the graphic novel fans out there, aside from the heavy hitters that have mainstream attention (Alan Moore’s books, for example, or Brian K. Vaughn’s Saga), what should I seek out?

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