I’ve been asked to blog to help support the Graphic Novel Group I partake in (as a consumer  rather than a Librarian) on a four weekly basis at Bolton Central Public Library, and specifically the inter-activity of the group that they want to re-produce. There’s no real criteria on what I blog on (especially considering I’m hosting it here J) as long as it is somewhat Graphic Novel/Nerd related so I have a wide remit. However for the first one I thought I would discuss how I fell in love with Graphic Novels in the past year.

Entering 2010 I had no real interest in Graphic Novels, a brief unmemorable dalliance with 2000AD in my early teens aside. Now in 2011, I have read a fair amount of GN’s, though I do not have the knowledge of those who have grown up loving them, I know what I like from my lay perspective, and my taste has grown. I have not discovered everything, so am still uncovering ‘new’ gems. The credit for getting me into the genre was Michael Stead ( @MichaelStead ), who when he worked at Bolton Central Library (and be a member of the Graphic Novel group) used to pay us a visit in NHS Bolton Library for a quick 5 minutes chat (or 45 minutes if the library assistant was around) and we chatted about all things nerd: library, films, gaming and eventually comics or graphic novels. The first graphic novels (circa March 2010) I read were some Green Lantern ones: Reborn and Blackest Night. Although I did not fully understand all character relationships (and still would not know today) – I loved them, read them in a sitting and then re-read them almost immediately. Since then the vast majority of books I have read have been graphic novels. The vast majority have been from my public libraries (#savelibraries) .

In August I attended my first Graphic Novel reading group at Bolton Central Public Library. There has been a wide range of topics discussed (groups never staying full on topic for the entire session) as well as an outing to a comic-con which sadly I could not attend. Although not as well attended as they had been (and hopefully will be in the future), I enjoy them greatly. I am the newbie in the group, and have realised the more I read, the less I know (in a good way) – the other group members have different spheres of knowledge and can impart different views and opinions. Many of them have had this passion for graphic novels since childhood so I see it as sitting under the learning tree, though I am slowly contributing more and more each group – all of us enthusiastic amateurs.

I’m not going to go through every comic book I have read, because I believe the number will reach almost triple figures! I am going to look at those books which have stayed with me and why. Along with Green Lantern, I started with other traditional names like Superman, Batman and Judge Dredd all of which offered different stories especially as history, realities and characters differed from writer to writer. I was also recommended ‘The Boy’s by Garth Ennis as a one of the new era of comics.

 The Boys series really epitomised my year in comics, upon the first read I was engrossed, it looked so different – vibrant, violent and a new type of story. Having borrowed volumes 1 and 2 from Bolton Public Library, I bought 3-6 straight away and really enjoyed them. However I came to re-read them 6 months later – and having 6 more months on reading graphic novels – I found them less enjoyable. Although the concept was still very, very good, the reliance on sexualisation began to grate. In some parts it was actually part of the story (Annie & work harassment, the gay friendly superhero who was homophobic when mask-less) but in many, other areas it was just there to be there. Although I don’t think it misogynistic or homophobic, I would understand why people thought it was. To me it was just over-sexed, most probably to appeal to those in the audience that are under-sexed. I would now say I prefer Preacher over The Boys, and have Crossed sat upon shelf waiting to be read

Another series I read quite early on in was Strangehaven by Gary Spencer Millidge. It was completely different to anything I have read up unto that point – being of a stranger arriving in odd circumstances to an English village and things seeming to good to be true… There was sex and violence in this book as well – but they were used to drive the narrative on. Unfortunately the story was never completed and the last volume was published in 2005 and it seemingly never will.

An area where I have got inspiration from is adaptations, often reading the novels of books of the film I have already seen! There has been instances where I haven’t enjoyed the novel as much of the film, or as in Watchmen, where I have enjoyed the graphic novel much more than the film. However I have read Losers V1 &V2 and on the back of the novel, not bothered with the film.  Other notables include The Walking Dead (good on both accounts ,Kick-Ass, an Aliens spin-off which was not good at all.

Going back to Super-hero theme another series I have enjoyed (again having discovered it in my local library) is The Ultimates by Mark Millar. It is a re-imagining of The Avengers and features the immortal line “Does the A stand for France!” genius. I am a  fan of the ‘new’ Captain America as it moves away from the wholesome standard of the classic, but keeps some of the naivety and ‘pureness’ – also shown in Civil War The original Captain America is almost unreadable in comparison. I’ve not had chance to read as much Green Lantern as I have wanted to, just the occasionaly book here and there. I’m hoping for a collection of sorts (Darkest Night-Brightest Day possibly) to tie in with the film.

 

The first Batman I had chance to read were the Frank Miller ‘imaginings’ and I enjoyed them as I have enjoyed his other works that I have gotten chance to read such as Give Me Liberty’. However the Batman I have most enjoyed (and there are a few variations) has been Grant Morrison’s vision of Batman. Although he is not the ‘Detective Batman’ I know some enjoy he is the vision of Batman I enjoy the most from ‘Arkham Aslyum’ through to Batman RIP and the entire ‘Black Glove’ series. I would really recommend checking them out.

I was aware of Neil Gaiman the author, having read some of his works, but had not realised he had come from (and still does) graphic novels. I enjoyed his Sandman work, Batman stuff and Marvel 1602 but Neverwhere was absolutely brilliant. I read it in one sitting, waxed-lyrical about it on Twitter, and then read it again. It is a modern fairy-tale and should be treated as such. I have the DVD, but have never watched it. Maybe I don’t want to spoil the magic.

This newly found passion has come about solely through public libraries – be it an enthusiastic librarian getting me to try them in my advanced years (@michaelstead), the library having the stock in for me to start my reading or the reading group to help cultivate my enjoyment and broaden my horizons on what is out there. And there is still plenty to be understood. Graphic Novels rock and so do Public Libraries. I’m off to read Neverwhere again.

Other notables comics that I’ve read and enjoyed (off the top of my head!)

  • Absolute Power
  • Red Son
  • Preacher
  • The Walking Dead
  • Ex – Machina – the first 100 days
  • Y – The Last Man on Earth (the first volume anyway. I felt it lost some of its spark after that)
  • The Death of Captain America
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentleman
  • Any Grant Morrison/Batman

I hope you enjoyed reading this look into my introduction to the world of graphic novels.  If you have any comments or would recommend any to me let me know!

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