It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written about what fills my monthly file at Books Galore, my local comic shop. So I figured it was a good time to revisit the topic! Given this is a blog about comic books, I like taking a moment every now and then to discuss what titles I feel I need to read each month. This short little post outlines what I read regularly and explores the rationale that shapes my choices. What’s making the cut as we near the end of October 2017? Well read on to find out!
I’ve realized I’m coming up on the two year anniversary of my return to comic collecting. Yay! When I think about it now, I have no idea what used to fill the time I devote to reading comic books again and writing for this blog. I guess I read a lot more novels (which I’m happily getting back to! (that’s another reason my posting rate has slowed, more time for non-blog oriented pleasure reading)) and I got to the movies more often. But I have no regrets! As I’ve recounted before, Jeff was the one who urged me to start the new Star Wars comics Marvel was adding to the then-brand-new Disney Canon. I tried to stay with just Star Wars titles…but that only lasted a few months. Come Christmas, Kalie had gotten me trade collections for Ms. Marvel and Deadpool while my family had given me collections of Captain Marvel and Thor (once Jane had taken over). It felt gooooood to be back :). Now that I’m back in the thick of things, with countless titles from dozens of publishers to choose from, how do I decide what makes the cut?
I have four main criteria to determine if a title’s worthy of inclusion in my file. First, it has to be fun. We live in a world with so much darkness, I want fun, excitement, joy, and hope in the titles I read. I’m not saying there’s no room for serious topics. Art can (and should!) give us many avenues to examine the very real struggles in our world. I appreciate when my art can do that. I want it to do that too, as you’ll see below. But I want to enjoy what I’m reading too. I want it to lift me up, empower me, make me smile, and fill me with the beauty of life and the power of hope.
Second, it has to be relevant. Between DC’s Rebirth (which is doing it with a bit more success) and Marvel’s Legacy (which has me worried), there is a disturbing push to redo the past. I have no interest in that. I find it boring and uninspired. I have hundreds of back issues from the 80’s and 90’s in the old comic boxes that fill my closets. I don’t want to see the same characters living the same basic storyline again and again and again (and again). There is a REASON I needed to come back to superhero comics when I did. That reason was the arrival of characters like Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, Jane Foster as Thor, and Sam Wilson as Captain America; the rise in prominence of characters like Squirrel Girl, Mockingbird, and Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat; and the continued growth of characters like Miles Morales as Spider-Man and Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel. These are characters and stories that speak to the times. There weren’t really any characters doing or representing what these characters do now when I was a kid either. And that’s what I want! As Marvel Legacy begins rolling back the clock creatively on so many titles, I foresee more and more Marvel comics dropping from my file while IDW and/or DC titles rise to take their places. I hope I’m wrong though…
Third, it has to be socially aware and justice-oriented. Not every single issue of every single title I read needs to advocate social justice issues. There’s certainly a place for fun and goofiness. Still, the message is important. I’m not going to give my time or my money to titles that don’t help move our world forward. As a result, my money will go towards messages I believe in and comics that offer me the chance to reflect on what I feel will raise me up and help enlighten me. That’s why the casual or direct glorification of violence for violence’s sake, the objectification of women, or demonizing of the other will never make the cut. I’m seeking justice, diversity, and inclusion not anger and ignorance.
Lastly, I want more comics written by women and minority voices. We’ve seen a brilliant growth in diversity in our costumed heroes over the last few years but, sadly (especially at Marvel and DC), there’s still a real struggle to add diversity to the creative staff. It’s happpening! it’s getting better! But it has a long way to go before we see the equality we should have. It’s a simple fact of life that your lived experience affects how and what you can write. Having Captain Marvel being written by Kellie Sue DeConnick, then Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, and now Margaret Stohl matters. Having the new Falcon title being written by Rodney Barnes matters. It adds a dimension to the story that you just can’t have when it’s being written by a white man. I’m not saying white men can’t write female or minority characters. Brian Michael Bendis, for example, made both Jessica Jones and Miles Morals into iconic characters in their own right. But diversity on the creative side is every bit as important to me as diversity in the characters in the story itself so I look to support that whenever I can.
So, with these qualifiers, what ends up making the cut?
These four titles are, without question, the best I read. I can’t imagine ever not reading them, unless a major creative team overhaul changes the feel/focus/point/purpose of the comics. The comics that are truly irreplaceable to me every month are Ryan North’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, G. Willow Willson’s Ms. Marvel, Eric Burnham’s Ghostbusters, and Tom Waltz and Kevin Eastman’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Month after month these titles are beyond brilliant. They always manage to be unique, fun, funny, poignant, thoughtful, and they always feel important in message and mission. Their stories challenge me, move me, and make life brighter. Even if I was to give up reading comics all together, I’d still need Ryan North and Erica Henderson’s The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl in my life! I’m hard pressed to imagine not reading the other three as well.
Here I have Ta-Nehisi Coates The Black Panther, Mark Waid’s Champions, Brian Michael Bendis’ Spider-Man, Margaret Stohl’s Captain Marvel, David Walker’s Luke Cage, and Rodney Barnes’ Falcon. Each of these titles feels fresh and exciting. I love the myriad of stories I get from each. I love how these writers present their characters. Each of these titles create worlds I want to spend as much time in as I possibly can. Lastly in this group, there’s Captain America. I was worried what the future would hold for Cap, post Secret Empire. I think Nick Spencer’s run was one of the most important stories (in terms of both Sam Wilson as well as Steve Rogers) in the history of both the title itself and the genre as a whole. However, Spencer’s handing Cap off first to Mark Waid and then to Ta-Nehisi Coates. I’m eager to see what Waid has in store (loving his work on Champions) but am BEYOND EXCITED to see what Captain America can become with Ta-Nehisi Coates taking the reins of the title. Woo!
ON THE BUBBLE
These are titles that I’ve been enjoying…but I’m unsure what effects Marvel Legacy will have on their future in my pull list. My biggest fear is Dan Slott’s The Amazing Spider-Man. I’d written not too long ago that I was FINALLY reading Peter Parker’s adventures regularly again for the first time in over twenty years. And it felt so good! I came back to find a Peter Parker who had become a socially-aware CEO, trying to run a truly just corporation, keeping his salary capped a reasonable level, and doing charitable work around the globe. As a result Spidey was fighting crime the world over too, leaving Miles Morales to protect New York City. It was (dare I say??) AMAZING. However, we’re out of Secret Empire and Peter’s broke again, the whole world hates him, and I’d bet money he’ll be writing (not taking pictures…see the minor tweak to make it feel “fresh”?) for the Daily Bugle again inside of three issues. Ugh. I don’t want this. It’s a lazy and unoriginal throw back. Literally the ONLY thing that has kept me from cancelling this now is Mockingbird. Bobbi Morse losing her title was a travesty but her relationship with Peter is great. So I’ll give this one a little more time. I worry about my interest in The Mighty Thor too. I’ve been very clear here that Jane Foster has become my all-time favorite incarnation of the Thunder God. When the Odinson invariably picks up Mjölnir once again after the cancer tragically claims Jane (which looks to be happening sooner rather than later)…will I still care enough to keep reading it? I don’t know. I struggle to see it remaining worthy (no pun intended!) of a $3.99 a month commitment. Maybe it will become a glance-at-the-trade thing? I don’t know. I’ve flat out cut The Invincible Iron Man as “The Search for Tony Stark” will most likely return Stark to his role as Iron Man. I love me some Tony Stark…but he’s just not as interesting to me as Riri Williams. I’ve been there, done that. If Riri gets to star in her own title or becomes the star of Invincible again, I’ll happily jump back on board!
So there you have it folks! That’s what makes the cut and why they’re there. I spend a lot of time thinking about my pull list and obsessing over what should be in there. I also make poor Kalie listen to me go on and on (and on) about what I’m cutting or including too. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little behind the scenes look at my decision making. If nothing else, your reading this has spared Kalie listening to at least a few rounds of my working this all out :). So thank you!