17 Sept 2008

Thought Balloon: 50 Things I Love About Comics Part One

By Matt T

Due to my annoying habit of going a bit mad with these lists, I taken a slightly different tack to Rob and Matt. As a result I'm putting my 50 favourite's up in two chunks, here's the first...

Indie Publishers

Would Marvel ever publish a comic called Helen Killer? Or DC one about a constantly swearing demon inhabiting the body of a cat? I know both have their own versions of what could be called an ‘Indie’ arm, but after The Boys debacle of DC trying to tone down what made the book so readable and entertaining it falls to the lesser know publishers such as Arcana and DDP to bust out some head turners.

Comic Shops

It says something for the culture of comics that specialist shops can survive purely off of the income of us geeks. Although there are games shops and sports shops, the price of the items therein are, on average, far higher. Having a place to hover with like minded-types and ogle the latest £300 statues, as well as annoy the counter staff with queries about what comes out when, is something only we select few enjoy.


The ultimate in geekdom, or a damn good excuse to share a few beers with creators and fans alike? For me it would definitely be the latter. This year at Bristol I met, and had a few drinks with, Walt and Louise Simonson. Had I of been ‘too cool’ for conventions I would have missed a major highlight of my life to this point.


From the huge Galactus sat on my shelf to the Modok flanking him (I’ve organised my figures in a good vs evil stylee), there’s nothing like getting rewarded for picking up a whole set by being given a huge bonus figure. Granted I had to buy a few lesser-known, and wanted, ones before getting the payoff, but it was well worth it.


Love ‘em or hate ‘em, and that can often change dependent on who’s making it, the hype surrounding the next comic movie has become a staple in the Hollywood calendar. As much as I agree with a fair few creators, the legend that is Alan Moore included, in that movies shouldn’t be seen as an improvement on an already awesome medium, it does bring attention to lesser known properties and bring us superb results such as The Dark Knight.


Many a night has been spent looking up the backstory of a random character turning up in a major crossover, or a reference to some long forgotten issue, that Wikipedia has become like a second home. Granted the facts aren’t always spot on, but the human side makes it all the better of a read.

Famous geeks

Take your pick out of Kevin Smith, Nicholas Cage and Ed Norton, guys who command huge salaries and top billing on major movies yet harbour a comic collection and, in at least one instance, a comic tattoo. With guys such as this insuring adaptations are as close to faithful as possible geek power won’t just be confined to a few angry forum comments.

Graphic novels

The odd snobby friend or acquaintance will throw their nose to the air when a comic is mentioned as your preferred reading materials, where as a graphic novel is a different matter all together. The difference between them and the oft-confused collected editions are that graphic novels haven't appeared in any other format, being one complete story in a single sitting. The likes of The Killing Joke and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier have proved a decent story needn't be restricted to 25 pages.

Understanding Comics

For anyone even vaguely interested by comics in general, the Understanding Comics and Reinventing Comics books by Scott McCloud are highly recommended, if not essential, reading. Not only does it give the basics of making it through irregular panel formations and the very nature of our favourite four-colour funny books, but the entire series is represented in a comic-style.

Golden Age Villains

From the likes of Paste Pot Pete through to Plantman and Porcupine (and that's just the P's!) villains from the Golden Age make the older comics worth reading, creating some ludicrous traps, talking like no-one ever has or will and generally being bloody entertaining without even realising it.


Although there are times when the auction site has the potential to mess up the humble comic shop, eBay has it's uses for finding rare single issues without traipsing all over the country.

Alan Moore

The bearded part-time mage from Northampton can't half write comics. Like most UK writers his early work included 2000 AD, and afterward the sky was the limit. The likes of the Watchmen, V For Vendetta and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen have been watermarks in comic history, and there's been very little work of even average quality in his portfolio.

Variant covers

Okay, they can be annoyingly pointless and offer little on top of the original, but the odd Alex Ross or Todd MacFarlane offering can be worth the wait. For the completest they present the chance to smile smugly when the ask 'have you got issue....'

Good beating evil

Let's get depressing for a minute. Turn on the news, and you'll see plenty of what most people would call bad, evil stuff going on without some dude in his pants coming in to do some vanquishing. Thank god for comics, where there's more kicking of evil ass than even George W could manage, and you're left with a warm feeling inside after a nefarious plot is foiled.

Long journeys

I'm not talking about jumping in a car with some mates and heading cross country to 'find yourselves' this is all about jumping on board at an early issue of a comic's run and getting that payoff upwards of 20 issue's later. The recent Brubaker Captain America, Y: The Last Man and 100 Bullets all reward the long term reader with gradual, weaving plot points that culminate in a satisfying conclusion.


Granted, when your favourite comic is made into a movie it's somewhat gratifying, but cartoons are about the closest to the original source matter in moving form. The likes of the X-Men, Batman and Spider-Man have all had incarnations in a cartoon form that you wouldn't feel embarrassed getting up early on a Saturday morning for.


People dressing up as characters to parade around a convention (or the internet, depending on which sites you subscribe to) may seem weird on the surface, but they don't half brighten things up. The fact that the costumes are getting all the more intricate and plenty of work is going into them makes them all the more impressive, especially when the results are a figure-hugging Black Cat getup.

Finding a gem

You're stood in front of a 50p box. There's nothing but moth-eaten crap in there. Wait a minute.....is that....Amazing Fantasy #15???? Result!!

Stories from the 50's

Back in the early days of comics, the average story had to fill only a few pages. They still managed to get a similar amount of action, spills and thrills in a much shorter space, telling an entire arc at breakneck speed with a ludicrously convenient ending. It's refreshing that, in these days of six issue arcs, there was a time when everything was wrapped up in less than 6 pages.

Frank Miller

Something of a right-wing mentalist he might be, but when writing and/or drawing comics there's few who can touch his nihilistic views and black comedy. Take a look at Dark Knight Returns to see him at his best, or Sin City, or 300.....

'My first comic was...'

Not matter how shite it was, you always remember you're first comic with fondness. Mine was an Amazing Spider-Man in which Nova and Spidey fought the Tri-Sentinel. Not exactly a classic, but I still found myself buying the rest of the run 20-odd years later to find out how everything wound up.

Genre comics

The outsider might view comics in general as nothing but spandex and flying about, but those of us in the know are aware that the likes of horror, sci-fi and human drama are all available, amongst others, to satisfy the majority of tastes. As a bit of horror nut I'm always on the lookout for something beyond the watered down Hollywood efforts, so the likes of Hack/Slash and the recent Halloween spinoff keep me happy between slasher sequels.


Taking a step up from figures, this often ludicrously priced (not at Paradox of course!) beautifully painted representations of your favourite characters can't ever be dismissed as 'toys'. Granted, I don''t have too many, but it often convinces me to splash out on that £12 figure I've been eyeing up, safe in the knowledge that the static version would have set me back ten times more.

Splash pages

Could Thor yelling 'By mighty Mjolnir villain, thou shalt be vanquished!' whilst smacking Loki in the face be restricted to one paltry panel? Hell no. That's what splash pages are for. Big action or stunning cities are often perfect fodder, letting the artist go mental over a couple of pages can really show off talent, as well as presenting an 'ow shit!' moment worth the cover price.

Marvel vs DC

Ever since I can remember, I've been Marvel. There's been nothing particularly wrong with DC, but the availability of Spider-Man comics in Exeter train station always swayed me. What has struck me most over the years, regardless of any fanboy bickering, is how open both companies are to a crossover. JLA/Avengers was a cracking read, and the Amalglam books are often fun. As the two biggest rivals in comic publishing they seem to get on alright, with the odd bit of witty banter and piss taking to keep the fans happy.

1 comment:

Matt Clark said...

Great stuff, other Matt - blown my word count out of the water and you're only halfway!

Would disagree with the last sentance in your Marvel vs DC bit though - there may be a lot of love bewteen various creators across the Big Two, but go higher up the food chain and there's plenty of animosity between key players which has thwarted any crossovers since JLA/Avenegers and will probably continue while Quesada is running Marvel.

The whole thing came to light a few years back when Bendis was talking up an idea he had for a Daredevil/Batman book. Look to Google for more info.

A bit shit really. Some guys should just get over themselves!