Sean Maher's Quality Control

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Great Crapper Comics, Day Four: Longevity

We're winding up to the last day of the shittiest blogging week ever, and category four is ready to drop.

I've talked a lot about comfort. It's good to have nice, regular #2's, and a big part of that is reliability. I rely on my diet and my super-heroic bowels to keep me on a steady course, and I expect no less from my comics. That means some comics may be called on to help save the day many times, reliving the cycle over and over through many re-reads. Today's category is Longevity.

A lot of the books I've already nominated are gonna give strong performances in this category, so I'll try to hit mostly new notes.

It's also worth pointing out that a lot of great comics aren't gonna make it in today's category, or even give a lot of competition at all in this contest. I know it was good, but I just don't have any desire to read Jimmy Corrigan again, y'know? And as much as I love Queen And Country, it's just not a toilet book - I have to concentrate too much.

That said, on to today's nominees.

Beating me to the punch this week (as ever) was Jason Rodriguez, who mentioned the greatest crossover of all time, The Infinity Gauntlet. This came out when I was a wee little lad and I loved it then and I love it now. Jason pointed out the fourth issue in particular, when all the Marvel super-heroes take on Thanos at once and he completely knocks the shit out of all of 'em. Oh, it's a thing of glory. I was a big Silver Surfer fan in the years leading up to this, so it was a big personal payoff to see his greatest enemy the center of so much wicked over-crossing ass-kicking. This book's been released a bunch of times and has some crap covers and some good ones, but the insides are all super cool.

I mentioned it briefly on Attitude day, but Preacher is a long-standing go-to guy for my (at least once) daily plotz. I know the story front and back by now, but it still tickles me pink to read this book. And every trade has a distinctly different "mood" as it moves from arc to arc, so I can custom-choose which volume suits the day.

I also love Ennis' run on Hellblazer. Always cheeky, sarcastic, and stark. Plus, lots more gorgeous Steve Dillon artwork.

Another perennial classic is Frank Miller's Sin City. I've only got the first trade (now redubbed The Hard Goodbye), though I've read them all. They don't generally hold up terribly well unless you can get lost in the artwork, which isn't hard. This one holds up the best for me, though I'd really like to read That Yellow Bastard again. Marv's inner monologue throughout that book was a lot of fun, and I honestly think it's still fun. I also gotta mention Batman: Year One as one of those books I can read again and again, especially for the superlative characterization of James Gordon. That story made me want to hunt down all the Gordon stories I could find (and I nabbed quite a few, including Gordon of Gotham and Gordon's Law) but nobody's ever matched this great take. I wouldn't bring that fancy pants new hardcover edition to the john with me, but that humble ten-dollar paperback edition suits me perfectly. Best Batman story ever, that one. (Yeah, like I'm really going out on a limb there.)

I also find Jeff Smith's Bone to hold up really well under the test of time. Problem is, I bought the One Volume edition and can't really make it work as a turd accompaniment. Stupid, Stupid Rat Tails is a decent substitute, but this is one of those cases where spending a little more money on the earlier printed formats might've made me read the book more (see the huge Barnes & Noble collection of the first three Ultimate Spider-Man hardcovers for Exhibit B). Still, it's great stuff that you can still get in an outhouse-appropriate format, so it'd be a crime to leave it off the list.

Something of a newbie, I think The Walking Dead is gonna do just fine when it comes to multiple readings. Kirkman's doing the best zombie story I've ever seen here, and I actually liked the first trade a lot better on the second and third reads. This is one of the few books I get in both serial and trade format (under the silly pretense that Molly only likes to read the trades and I'm getting them "for her"), and I've been satisfied every time so far. One of my favorite books being published today, this. (I also think the consistency of their trade design is pretty neat.)

Y'know, this one is a bit of a surprise to me, but I just realized that I spent a full week before leaving my old job reading Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics on the company toilet. It was, I think, my third full read of the book (though I've referenced individual chapters here and there many more times), and not only did I still really enjoy its brilliant marriage of intelligence and enthusiasm, but it made for super-smooth bowel movements as well. I'd have guessed something like that would be too heady for crapper reading, but it came out just fine. Maybe it was McCloud's great decision to present the book in comics form - I certainly didn't have the same experience with Will Eisner's constantly self-congratulatory Comics and Sequential Art - but whatever it was, this is a surprisingly big contender for the throne. (And a book you should be embarassed about not having read, if that is sadly the case. Really. You have to do this now.)

I've still got plenty of New Comics Day gold to read (Small Gods, Lucifer, Ultimate Fantastic Four and the new Elk's Run all in the same week? Holy crap, what a great week!), so I'll leave you folks to your devices for today, but I'll be back tomorrow to judge the living and the dead and set forth a new Hall of Fame. Until then, avoid too much cheese if you're old and abuse the hell out of cheese if you're young.


  • At 5:42 PM, Blogger murm said…

    my main beef with comics and sequential art as light reading is that the quality of the big chunks of type can not hold their own against the great pretty of the art. even though i understand there is lots of valuable advice for me to steal, but i kept getting impatient & skipping to the comics.

    in the case of mccloud, it stays interesting because his arguments are more accessible, & his art, frankly, is not outstanding.

  • At 7:10 PM, Blogger Jason said…

    Infinity Gauntlet #4 was the best book a pre-teen male could read to get him hooked on comics - worked for me.

    And I also want to remind you that Year One is the second best Batman story of all time, Dark Knight Returns is #1.

    And, finally, I'd like to nominate Dan Clowes' "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron" for the longevity category for a different reason entirely: Everytime you read it, it feels like you're reading a new story. Such a weird book. I don't even like more than other trades I own but I read it constantly.

  • At 12:38 PM, Blogger Sean Maher said…

    Murm - Good point. By the time I got halfway through I didn't want to keep reading; I wanted to pick up a collection of The Spirit.

    Jason - You're wrong. Year One is better. There's only one sequence in DKR that competes with Year One for high dramatics and impact: the death of the Joker. Don't get me wrong, the rest of it is really good, but it's not put together with the same taut craftsmanship and focus, and the challenges in Year One are more powerful and real and dangerous. My opinion, of course.

    I've never read any Clowes. Seeing the movie Ghost World made me think I wouldn't like him, as awesome as Steve Buscemi was. One thing Jimmy Corrigan taught me was that the whole alienated cartoonist thing only has legs for a short time, at least with me. Still, you haven't steered me wrong yet, so I'll have to track down Velvet Glove...

  • At 1:10 PM, Blogger Edward Liu said…

    The Scholastic color editions of Bone are really, really purty and shrunk down into a nice bigger-than-manga-but-smaller-than-TPB size. Plus, glossy paper that makes it easier to mop up any accidental splashes without any ill effects if you're quick.

    From WASHING YOUR HANDS WHEN YOU'RE DONE!!! Jeez, you people...

    I do feel bad about encouraging Jeff Smith's inner George Lucas by picking up the Scholastic Bone reprints, though.

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  • At 1:18 PM, Blogger sandy said…

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