This was a beast of a Mailbag, but it’s now complete. Let’s dive into April’s Mailbag Q&A, which you all excelled at, so thanks to each of you for the questions. It was a delight, as per usual.
If someone approaches you and says they want to try reading comics, haven’t read a comic book or graphic novel before, and have no interest in superheroes, fantasy, sci-fi, or horror, what three books do you recommend to them? – Chris Burton
My first answer is Bone. That’s technically fantasy, in reality, but I don’t care. It’s the comic I’ve recommended the most and it continues to take the top spot.
Craig Thompson’s Blankets used to be my go-to second recommendation, but now that I’m in my 30s, it feels a little melodramatic. Instead, I’m going to go with something that’s easy and funny and coming from more of a universal perspective, so I’m either going to pick Adrian Tomine’s The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist or Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant. Those both are amazing and are easy for newcomers to jump into as they’re handled almost as or completely as comic strips, and they’re both funny as heck. Kousuke Oono’s The Way of the Househusband fits here too, but because the Netflix series dropped, I’m passing on it.
My last pick if I was going the obvious route would be Scott Pilgrim. I think Bryan Lee O’Malley’s creation is one of the easiest comics to hand someone to help them get the medium, if not the easiest. It’s fun, it has great characters, the art is a treasure, and people have name recognition with it. With the comics being much better than the movie – it’s true! – it’s a great pick. It isn’t my pick, though. I’m going to go with Jillian and Mariko Tamaki’s This One Summer. This is an easy handoff to people to understand that comics are capable of more, it feels super real, and it gives me a nice counter-balance to my previous picks that were more on the broad or comedic side of things. It’s a treasure of a graphic novel, and one that’s one and done with universal themes to it, without being perceived as for super young people.
So, for those scoring at home, my final three are: Bone, Hark! A Vagrant, and This One Summer. But obviously there are plenty of other options to pick from.
A genie shows up. They will grant you your own comic shop, fully stocked, if you edit a comic for a year (or twelve issues or one 200-ish-page graphic novel) first. If you fuck it up, you will have mad fans to deal with, so you could go for an easier comic, but if you go for a more challenging comic, you get a nicer comic shop. What’s the comic you pick to edit and how do you see this playing out? – Mark Tweedale
I’m going to go for editing the entire X-Men line as it currently stands. There are a number of reasons for that. First, huge degree of difficulty, as it’s the X-Men and X-Men fans have high standards, plus it’s a sprawling line. So that’s a great path to a beautiful shop. Second, I know a lot about the X-Men and I feel like I get the current vibe, so there’s a bit of that playing in. Third, they have a long-term plan set already, so I sort of feel like it’d be made easier by that. Lastly, with Hickman as the Head of X and the writers room being so strong, perhaps my needs will be lessened by that?
Please note this isn’t me downplaying Jordan D. White’s contributions by any means – I’m sure he’s doing Herculean work – it’s just if I have to choose between something with established infrastructure and something that doesn’t have that, I’m choosing the former every time.
So give me my nice shop. I might mess it up – prepare for the tarring and feathering! – but it’s a means to an end. I would just delete all of my social media and dive right in.
Marvel is launching a current team book and the leader is none other than Stilt Man! What Marvel characters does Stilt Man surround himself with? Any other bits that the comic MUST HAVE? My two cents, I think every issue comes poly-bagged with the card piece that will later build the 3D Stilt Man… buy ALL issues kids :D – Brett A. Schmidt
I mean, my pitch has always been the Stilt-Man idea isn’t Stilt-Man, it’s Stilt-Men, examining the character as a legacy one. So I guess my argument would be Stilt-Man surrounds himself with other Stilt-Men. This comic would actually have a pop up cover, in which each character would be able to stand up to enormous height when opened.
That said, Stilt-Man is built for a Superior Foes of Spider-Man style book, plain and simple. A writer who came on Off Panel shared an idea they had for the character that was so incredibly good I want to share it – it involved The Bar with No Name – but I don’t recall whether or not they said it on the official recording, so I cannot share it. But surrounding him with similar Mort of the Month-types and highlighting the life of the run of the mill, depressingly small-time villains feels like the sweet spot for my guy Stilty.
The bonus for this comic would be each issue would end with a different Marvel Handbook-style entry breaking down who they are and what they do, except each entry would be written by Peter Parker (well, “Peter Parker”), who would spend the majority of each entry dunking on them. It would be glorious.
Zdarsky’s stretch of Spider-Man stories in Spectacular, Life Story, and the upcoming Spider’s Shadow had me thinking…are there any writers or artists who are considered seminal for a character without ever working on the character’s main title? – Cameron Chittock
Seminal is of course in the eye of the beholder, but I think I could make the argument for a few notable runs in recent memory as elite without being the people on the top books. I tend to think we’ll look back on Al Ewing’s work on every Avengers book but the main one as one of the most interesting stretches we’ve seen, especially from the 2010s. It’s been elevated by Jonathan Hickman’s love of it, but Mike Carey’s efforts on adjectiveless X-Men was a whirlwind of great ideas and excellent characterization. Rick Remender’s Dark Angel Saga is, in my opinion, one of the greatest X-Men stories ever told, and it happened in the sort of hilariously titled Uncanny X-Force.
I think DC’s particularly loaded in this regard, though, if only because so many of their best stories happened outside of their main books or even out of continuity. Batman: The Long Halloween. Superman: Secret Identity. The Dark Knight Returns. All-Star Superman. You name it. Those aren’t main books, but if you ask fans of those characters for their best stories, those would be on the tip of their tongue, I’d bet.
That said, Grant Morrison did write Action Comics, and Frank Miller did technically write Batman, albeit for exactly four issues to tell Year One. So those ones are sort of cheating. But my point still stands!
Who are your favorite frenemies in comics? – Andrew Tan
I don’t have a great answer for this one, if only because we love our black and white in comics rather than the gray. That said, I did love how Nick Spencer made Boomerang Peter Parker’s roommate, and their oil and vinegar combination was delightful for as long as I read Spencer’s Amazing Spider-Man run. Apparently not enough to keep reading it, but I wish there were more things like that in comics.
Actually, I know my answer. Wolverine and Cyclops. They’re probably the best frenemies in comics, as they’ve always rode the line between the two, as necessity requires partnership but Logan’s incessant desire to get with Scott’s wife was a real downer. They’re in a good place now, but you never know with those two.