Comics 101: An Intro to Comics by Nathan Waddell

My friend Nathan Waddell - whom I know best as Homie Bear from the days when we were roommates and lived in the Woodsy Crypt together - is a wonderful writer and comic aficionado.  (Meet him properly here.)  This is the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con (#SDCC) and to give us a crash course in the world of comics and so those of us who can't physically be there can enter into the spirit of the festivities from afar, he has written this guest post.  If you've always been curious about comics, if you once loved them and have been away for awhile, or if you are just a person with a solid imagination, this post is especially for you. 
But enough blather from me!  Let's get to Nathan and the comics.

San Diego Comic-Con is going on right now, and though I am not attending I was there three years ago and am still recovering. My wallet is, anyways. Especially since that trip was essentially the catalyst for me to dive back into the world of comics. More of a cannonball full-body immersion, really. I grew up with them, got really into them, went away from them, remembered how much I missed them, cheated on them and then finally came crawling back after SDCC. For good this time, I swear!

It took me two of the intervening three years to feel like I was "caught up" on what I missed. And then I figured out it didn't really matter that much. If you want to jump back into General Hospital do you track down the DVDs of all the previous seasons before you start watching the new ones? Discover a cool blog you like, do you read the entire archives before you start reading the current posts? Of course not. You could, but you certainly don't have to. Same with comics. In fact it turns out that right now is a really great time to start reading comics, even if you've never opened one before in your life. The quality and diversity of what's out there means there truly is something for everyone, even if you hate superheroes. Not that very many people hate superheroes. Other than supervillains, I suppose.

The VampireNomad has asked me to share some of my favourite comics with her and her readers over the course of a few guest posts. My first draft was short and simple: Dear VampireNomad and all Her Readers, both Quick and Undead: Read all the comics, they are awesome. Love, Nathan.

I quickly realized that wasn't very helpful. So I thought I would highlight three books to start, and maybe another three in a couple weeks and so forth. I'll link to each comic using its Comixology page, since Comixology is the biggest and best digital comics store going. Of course you can always go into your local comic shop and they will be happy to help you. If you're local to Edmonton, I can't recommend Happy Harbor Comics enough. Love those guys.

The first title I will recommend is one that everyone in the comics world is buzzing on. Even the New York Times is gushing over it. Saga, written by Brian K Vaughan and illustrated by the amazing Albertan artist, Fiona Staples. It's beautiful, it's weird, it's heart-breaking, it's creepy. It's not for kids! But it's about a kid, or a baby rather, and her star-crossed parents. She has wings. He has horns. They're on the run from robot royalty and their bounty hunters, including a super-creepy, kind-of-sexy one named The Stalk. I like The Stalk so much I asked Fiona Staples for a sketch of her at the Calgary comic convention a few months ago. See?

 The Stalk - art by Fiona Staples, commissioned by Nathan Waddell

The Stalk - art by Fiona Staples, commissioned by Nathan Waddell

Saga is currently up to issue 11, which had a minor controversy when it seemed Apple wasn't originally going to allow it to be sold on the Comixology app due to a couple of stamp-sized images of gay group sex. Long story and it was sorted out fairly quickly. Again, not really a comic for children. But I love it and if you're reading VampireNomad's blog then I think it's safe to say you will too. It can be found digitally at the link above, at your comic shop though the individual issues might be hard to come by, it sells out pretty consistently. You can also get them in Trade Paperback, comicspeak for 5-6 issues collected together into one book. Volumes 1 and 2 are both out now.

(see also Brian K Vaughan's Y The Last Man

What's up with Spider-Man these days? I'm sure this question is constantly on your mind. Well, he's currently dead but his body has been possessed by the consciousness of Doctor Octopus, as seen in the pages of Superior Spider-Man. It's a great series, but honestly? If you are new to comics, which is the premise of this entire post, maybe don't start there. Peter Parker will be back and all this will be a strange footnote in the convoluted history of Spidey. However, one brand new comic which is so good I am heartily endorsing it after just one issue is Superior Foes of Spider-Man, written by Nick Spencer who has done excellent work for Marvel. When it was first announced I thought it would be an easy pass, just another heartless, corporate cashgrab on the coattails of the hype over Superior Spidey. It's not. It's a hilarious street-level look at the lives of the Sinister Six, five (yes, five) C-list supervillains who have been punching bags for Spider-Man for years and they're tired of it. It's a great time to check it out, as the second issue should be out fairly soon. In style it's definitely taken a nod from my final pick this time out, which is. . . 



 Hawkeye! Or Hawkguy as Twitter has taken to calling him. Written by Matt Fraction and primarily drawn by one of the best in the business, David Aja, its premise is basically to follow the life of Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, when he's not out Avengering. It has a sort of 70s cop show vibe to it, yet there's way more to it. One issue has a car chase, which is usually death in comics, but Fraction and Aja make it work. Two creators at the top of their games collaborating so fluidly and perfectly is beautiful to behold. Seriously.

Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye, and Pizza Dog, aka Lucky, aka Arrow, are also integral characters. Issue 11 even features Pizza Dog in a solo adventure in a story that should be a gimmick but isn't at all. It's a brilliant and ground-breaking story that can't really be described in any way that really does it justice. You just need to read it. It's up to issue 12 now and two trade paperbacks have been released, so it's easy to get caught up with.

There you go! Hopefully that will get you started. And if you want more, trust me, there's more. So much more. Next time out I will bring more awesome. Because comics are awesome!

- Nathan Waddell