The Geek Icon

Watch out. Newly formed comic book geek, coming through. If you do not like comics your eyes may begin to glaze over.

Comics N00b: Playing with a Full Deck of Cards

So apart from antiquated hobbies where I turn dirty, lanolin-coated wool into some semblance of yarn and knit things out of it, I have fallen deep and deeper into the World of the Geek by becoming a comic book junkie.

I have always had an interest in the concept of a comic book. I like stories. I like pictures. It makes sense that stories + pictures = fun. But real, full-on comic book collecting had not been part of my world until recently because:

  1. I did not have a great deal of disposable income to apply toward comics.
  2. I did not have a good idea of what comics I'd find interesting or where to start.
  3. I did not have a fellow comics newbie to act as an enabler and companion traveller on this strange and wonderous journey of discovering comics.
  4. I (erroneously, it seems) assumed I would not be all that interested in superhero comics and had limited knowledge of other types of comics (even manga; even though I like anime).
  5. That old gender stereotype— girls don't like comic books. Not that I really bought into it, but it was kind of intimidating to want to get into yet another arena where boys dominated. (Is it any wonder why I finally succumbed to taking up a hobby that's so predominantly associated with femininity?)

Each of those items seemed to have dissipated in the past six months to a year. It started, innocently enough, with roleplaying and the fact that our usual GM wanted to run a superheroes game set in the Wold Newton universe. In preparation for the game, he had us do "homework" by reading from his extensive DC and Marvel collection.

This is the perfect situation for any potential comic fancier: a chance to get a wide range of introduction to the two big comic book publishers, without any initial investment and very little risk (as long as you did not bend or dog ear the precious comics; in that case you were screwed). I discovered that there was a wide range of tone and content even within the superhero universes: from space operas like Adam Warlock or Green Lantern, the high intellectual weirdness of Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol and Animal Man or Alan Moore's Swamp Thing, to the abject goofiness of the Giffen-era Justice League, the teen soap opera angst of the X-Men, alongside the more conventional as really-strong-man/woman/team-with-astonishing-powers-and-good-will-saves-the-world type superhero stories.

This was during a time when both DC and Marvel were setting up a big "reboot" of their respective universes— where characters from all their various comic book lines would interact in a cataclysmic event with storylines that would affect them all. It was an interesting time to start reading supers comics, since both publishers were trying to drum up readership and make things interesting. As new readers, we didn't have the emotional investment in the characters and what should or shouldn't happen to them, nor did we have expectations as to how they should react or behave.

One of the outcomes of the upheaval of the DC universe is a new series called 52; there will be one issue each week for a year (fifty-two weeks in a year). The series is, in a way, sort of a flashback on the fictional year between the crossover event Infinite Crisis— in which the fundamental rules and fictional continuity of the DCU were tweaked in order to make way for new ideas, fresh characters, and unexplored stories— and the "current" timeline of rebooted titles that have all been set to take place one year after the big crisis.

Instead of focusing on the "big three", Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, 52 follows several as yet unconnected stories involving less famous characters. Each story has a mystery in it that slowly begins to unfold from week to week. We're on week 13 now— a quarter of the way through the year— but I am just now taking some time to think on and review the series as it has played out so far.

In my current favourite storyline, we follow the misadventures of Booster Gold, a character who used to be in the Justice League of America. A football star from the future, Booster travelled into the past to escape the troubles he had created for himself there and get rich in the past as a sort of corporate superhero. The ultimate advertising whore, Booster's outfit is plastered with corporate sponsorship logos, and he is seen everywhere on billboards and TV ads. Booster uses his robotic personal assistant Skeets to give him details on disasters that were recorded in 25th century history books. Of course he inserts himself into the right time & place, saves the day, and reaps the copious benefits from advertising contracts.

Booster's costume is a shiny gold, and his toothpaste-perfect smile is blinding, but his brain's not nearly as sharp as his image. Most of the other superheros can't stand him, and when his "future predictions" start turning up incorrect, they take him even less seriously. Worst of all, one of Booster's fights with a "villain" turns out to be completely staged by an actor Booster hired to play the part of a baddy, and then failed to pay well enough.

With such bawdy venality, corporate pandering, and blatant ignorance, Booster makes for great satire, and in 52 the humour strikes the perfect chord for me. In one of my favourite scenes out of issue 1, Booster grins at the crowd that has assembled after he has just taken down villain Mammoth. "Ixnay on the grin, Boost," Skeet subtly tells him. "My history files show the city's still in shock over Superboy." (Superboy had been killed at the end of Infinite Crisis.)

Booster's face falls and he raises his hand to his face as if to wipe something from his cheek. "Better?" he whispers to Skeets. "Way," is the robot's reply. Cameras flash and reporters ask for a reaction about Superboy's death.

"I... I'm sorry..." he says, faking a tear, "There must be something in my eye."

"Sir, that's poetry!" says Skeets, hovering near.

Indeed, Skeets. Indeed.

More to come on 52 when and if I get off my lazy bum and start blogging regularly again. However, next week I shall be enjoying the delicious Pacific breezes blowing off the sea over Hawaiian beaches. I love vacations. Until then, aloha.

At 09-08-2006 06:48AM Shelley shelleyp@burningbird.net commented:

Love comic books, jealous of vacation.

About the Geek Icon

This is the weblog of a computer geek with a thousand interests, documenting the ins and outs, ups and downs of her daily life. A dual citizen of the US and Australia who has settled (for the time being) in Sydney. Read more about her on the bio page.

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