The second monthly Comic Book Discussion Group at Seattle's Zanadu Comics saw new fans join the long table.
The gang regrouped to discuss Prophet #21 - our book of the month chosen at the previous gathering. Opinions from around the table included "no redeeming social value" to "didn't live up to expectations" to "cool concept but not a succesful execution." One of my favorite quotes was "it was like you're on a British safari."
The Prophet #21 opinions lead to a discussion about how in U.S. mainstream comics characters and action dominate panels. This issue was an excellent example of a creator giving the reader a sense of atmosphere, a sense of place. Fans offered the original Solaris film and Akira and European comics as examples of creative work that give you a sense of the world the characters are experiencing.
"Alright, Watchmen prequels, are we gonna go there?" Jason said to the group. Alan Moore's Watchmen is the holy grail to some comics readers. The 1980s series was groundbreaking and influential masterpiece to many fans and should not be touched. DC fired up fanboys on both sides by announcing a new series of prequels starring characters from the Watchmen.
I think the consensus was that DC's Before Watchmen was commercially driven but they have such great writers on the titles, it would be hard to resist trying a first issue. Darwyn Cooke and Brian Azzerello will get some of us to give the prequels a try. One fan said it best: "at least they didn't try to do a sequel."
Two big discoveries for me courtesy of Howard our host:
Young Romance by Fantagraphics. Joe Simon and Jack Kirby created Captain America but they literally created the romance comic genre. The pages were packed with dialogue and dramatic art as women fought for love.
Berlin by Jason Lutes. A former Seattle resident tells the story of life in Germany before the rise of the Nazi party. This graphic novel actually started in Seattle's alternative newspaper, The Stranger.
Our moderator and Zanadu staffer Casey picked some of this week's new releases to spur on more discussion.
Dicks by Garth Ennis is one of the most offensive and funny books you'll read according to Casey. My response after one particularly shocking panel, "oh, this is very dirty." It's shocking to think Ennis is about to release a children's book.
Conan the Barbarian #1 sparked excitement given this new series is based on a favorite Robert E. Howard tale featuring Conan as a pirate on the high seas.
Wolverine and the X-Men #5 I'm biased I love Kitty Pryde and I'm crazy for Jason Aaron's take on Wolverine as Headmaster of this new mutant school. Broo is a big hit and any book that has little Nightcrawlers stealing Logan's whisky has to be checked out.
Murky World by the legendary Richard Corben of Heavy Metal and Creepy fame. The black and white art was stark and beautiful. This is sci-fi fantasy horror with monsters, necromancers and a warrior on a quest.
Susan chose our book to read for next month. Rachel Rising by Terry Moore featuring a girl haunted by what she can't remember after waking up in a riverbed.
One last thing that I want to mention - Sidekicks that never get to grow up. As we discussed the latest version of Teen Titans, return of The Winter Soldier and Nightwing, a theme emerged: why is there never a succession in comic books?
DC Comics has done a better job having their sidekicks evolve and grow up to be new heroes. Dick Grayson graduated from Robin to Nightwing to even serving as Batman for a time.
The Captain America mantle had been succesfully passed to Bucky. Fans had embraced a new role for Steve Rogers and Bucky as Cap but the role went back to Steve for the sake of marketing with the new Captain America and Avengers movies.
And someone - I will protect his name for his own safety - said Dick Grayson under Grant Morrison was a better Batman than Bruce Wayne. That's a BOLD statement!
What I enjoy about our gatherings is diversity. Fans from very different backgrounds finding common ground in our love for comic books and learning from a fellow fan and from their comic book experience. The latest gathering proved that no matter how different we are, no matter how varied our tastes, fans can find a mutual connection in our love for comics. See you next month!