Tuesday, December 2, 2014

On comics.

I'm not done with King Stakh's Wild Hunt yet - turns out travelling for work purposes leaves you with a lot less random reading time than travelling for leisure.

So I'm just gonna seize this opportunity to talk about comics. For starters, here's a few of the graphic novel series which I finished in the earlier half of this year:

Mind you, I wasn't introduced to these comics recently. I got into comics all the way back in the nineties, with Neil Gaiman's Sandman and The Books of Magic. Then Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen got published, and what with me being such a literature nerd, I followed it religiously (I'm still thoroughly digging his Captain Nemo series now) and began scouring New York comic shops for his other works - From Hell, Top Ten, V For Vendetta, Promethea, Supreme - plus other lauded graphic novels like Lenore, Zero GirlSnake 'n' Bacon's Cartoon Cabaret...

(You'll notice, strangely enough, that I wasn't hooked in by conventional superhero comics, but by literary ones. Does that make me more of a nerd, or less of one?)

Along the way I started reading the above titles: Warren Ellis's Transmetropolitan and Planetary; Garth Ennis's Preacher. But I never got to the end of them, 'cos they were multi-volume, epic stories which would've cost megabucks to buy and ship all the way to Singapore, and the National Library never managed to stock all of them either. (Methinks the high levels of violence may have turned them off. Kudos to them for having a graphic novel section at all, though.)

It was only when I was at UEA that I got round to stopping by the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library (which I first investigated because I wanted to borrow textbooks instead of buying them for classes). Turned out they had a wealth of graphic novels, ready on display on the first floor, which was the only bit of the library that was open on Sundays.

So I started finishing the epics. Fantastic stuff. Didn't pick up any new series while I was there, sadly. Old dogs, new tricks?

One reason I'm bringing this up is that I'm frankly a little ashamed of the fact that I'm not including graphic novels and comics on this reading journey. I'm not sure how it happened. Perhaps it's because comics as we know them aren't really a universal art form - though I did grow up with Old Master Q / 老夫子 comics in my mum's hair salons, and my childhood and adulthood love of Lat's Kampung Boy is so profound that I listed it as THE Malaysian text to read in my Read the World Proportionally list.

I suppose my limitation is because there's no nation (not even Malaysia) that regards a comic as its greatest literary achievement, and most comics are fairly easy to digest anyway. There isn't the same kind of intellectual heft in reading Maison Ikkoku as there is in reading War and Peace (which I'll be getting to,  soon).

I do try to keep up with the non-Western graphic novel form, though, at least with regards to how it's developing in my neck of the woods. I've bought every one of the Liquid City anthologies of Southeast Asian comic artists, for instance:

And I freaking love Troy Chin's The Resident Tourist:

Otherwise, alas, I'm mostly following nerdy American webcomics. But if there's other international graphic novelists you wanna point me towards, I'm all ears. :)

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