In Celebration of Will Eisner Week: My Adopted Love of Graphic Novels

After reading on Tumblr that this week is Will Eisner Week in celebration of the man and all novels graphic, I decided it would be a great excuse to write about my adopted love of comics. I say adopted because, like any good kid of the ’80s-’90s I had always loved superhero cartoons (Batman: The Animated Series, X-men, and The Amazing Spiderman) but I was mostly unaware of any comic that wasn’t printed serially in The Morehead News. It wasn’t until I took a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing elective while in Upward Bound that I ventured into Neil Gaiman’s Sandman #19 A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was impressed that it had won major awards in categories traditionally restricted to prose formats. I was intrigued by the enhanced storytelling garnered from the combination of art and word and ink, and panel.

In college, a friend lent me my first superhero graphic novel, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. While it wasn’t the Batman I knew and loved from the Animated Series, I did appreciate the medium as a potential for exploration of grim dark futures and What-ifs. In the early post 9-11 years, grim dark wasn’t difficult to accept in entertainment. The two distinct Batmans, initially quite opposed in my mind, forced me to connect the plausible dots between continuity and conjecture. I realized for the first time that flawed heroes are more interesting than the perfect action figures from childhood. I didn’t learn these storytelling motifs from English class, I picked it up in a graphic novel.

I can’t remember if it was before or after Brad and I began dating that he introduced me to Marvel’s 1602, pretty much my favorite what- if of all time. How can super humans and super science in the Renaissance not win me over? The only timeline point I’m really certain of is that he probably started taking me seriously as a dating prospect when I asked him about Batman– I’m not sure what specifically, but it definitely changed things– conversations stretched on into hours and group superhero cartoon-viewing plans were made that eventually would involve only the two of us. Half a year of mutual pining could have probably been avoided if I’d been as interested in Dr. Doom as I was in Batman, but hey, we still both agreed to include the local White Crow Comics in the itinerary for our first date.

Despite taking the occasional advice of a co-worker and reading classics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, I didn’t really start reading individual comic issues until DC’s Identity Crisis came out. I met the Question and Renee Montoya by following 52 and as a result began exploring Gotham’s other characters which led me to one of my current favorites Batwoman. The art style, intense color and ingenious use of alternative panel layouts makes for incredibly dynamic storytelling. I love that Batman deals with the themed human villains and Batwoman patrols the mythical/magical beat. The most recent story arc, World’s Finest was a team up with Wonder Woman to defeat Medusa and the Mother of all Monsters. I’m kind of wondering if the next story arc will have an Egyptian bent given the final spoiler in the last issue. Then maybe a return of Isis? Only time will tell, but I feel pretty confident I’m only reading too much into a single panel.

These days I also follow Captain Marvel and Kelly Sue Deconnick’s run on Avengers Assemble as well as most of the Adventure Time titles. My husband is the major collector but he keeps me in mind when planning his folder. I have had (male) friends tell me I only read the girl titles, and while they do speak to me first, I also like to support the need for the comic industry to at least think about female readers and creative teams. The only real miss I’ve had has been Sword of Sorcery. I love the world building of Gemworld but I think the story is just better suited for younger readers.

Obviously, comics and graphic novels are a major component of Brad and my entertainment diet and hopefully always will be. This week I’ll do a few more posts about recent comic news and next weekend will be the local Lexington Comic Con, of which there should be lots of Errant Easel coverage. I hope you’ll chime in with your thoughts as well. Looking forward to celebrating Will Eisner Week the Errant Easel way!