If you said something about the phrase “Waiters Island,” the average person would assume you were talking about some unknown isle in some part of the world they’re unfamiliar with. “Is that in Micronesia?” this hypothetical person might ask, and no, it is not in Micronesia. That’s because Waiters Island isn’t a real place, but a hypothetical island in which basketball fans own fictional real estate and celebrate their fandom of the player with the greatest distance between his own belief in his ability and his actual ability: Dion Waiters.
Waiters himself is a combo guard that currently lacks a team in the NBA, a free agent with a limited path back, unless some squad becomes desperate for a pure, unfiltered shot of irrational confidence directly to its heart. But he’s not actually what we’re here to talk about. What we’re here to talk about are islands like Waiters Island, domains where writers and analysts and fans can stake their claim to lasting beliefs that they hold, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Waiters Island is a beautiful thing not because Dion Waiters himself, but because of how it reflects a belief in the greatness of something that not everyone agrees upon. Everyone knows certain players in the NBA are great, but saying you love Giannis or LeBron is boring. Saying you’re a Chris Duarte truther? 1 Now that’s where the fun begins.
That’s the same in comics. We all have our islands, 2 the corners we claim where we say, “This is a thing I love, even if not everyone agrees!” It’s a huge part of our love of comics, as underdogs are an essential appeal in an underdog medium like this one. I’m no different. While my fandom might not be quite as electric as others, it still contains passions both singular and not. And today, I’m going to write about those in The David Islands, a look at the characters and creators and stories in comics that I’m higher on than the consensus.
That last concept is important to this exercise, though. While Waiters Island was often a desolate, destitute domain of people like Zach Lowe and Bill Simmons saying things like, “Dion is just waiting for the right opportunity!” an emphasis of beliefs that were not widely shared amongst the hoi polloi of NBA fans, my comic islands are designed to focus on corners I reside in where my ardor is disproportionately higher than what we see elsewhere.
There will be notable names on this list, but I will say this: any comic or creator or whatever that has anything resembling a unified consensus of support across a broad readership will not be considered. I don’t have real estate on Born Again Island, because Born Again Island is called “the Planet Earth.” 3 You won’t find me saying I’m higher on Raina Telgemeier or Naoki Urasawa than others, because everyone is high on them for good reason. Some will perhaps be in the vicinity of that. But if that’s the case, I will need to make a good argument about why they belong in my personal archipelago. So I will do that.
Let’s get to that, and hey, let me know the island real estate you hold in the comments. I always love hearing about the random places fandoms gather, because again, that is such a big part of how we enjoy comics.
Let’s get the easy ones out of the way. If there are two fandoms I’m known for, it’s of Zander Cannon’s exemplary Oni series Kaijumax and Marvel’s much maligned (and endlessly ridiculous) stilt-based supervillain Stilt-Man. Kaijumax is not a hit comic by any means, to my knowledge it’s never been nominated for an Eisner Award, and it rarely generates any conversation on the broader comics internet. But it’s number one not just in my end of the year power rankings often, but in my heart of hearts, with gems like Electrogor and my son Daniel (aka The Creature from Devil’s Creek) connecting with me in a way few fictional beings ever have. Meanwhile, Stilt-Man is, and always will be, hilarious, and the fundamental premise of that character not being a single person but a series of people who decided, yes, wearing stilts and being a criminal is a good idea is, and I am not kidding when I say this, the most creatively interesting idea in the history of superhero comics to me. 4 This is the Hawai’i of my personal Hawaiian Islands, the biggest island of them all.
And I put them together for two reasons. One, they’re obvious so I wanted to just get them out of the way. Two, a question I considered as a unifying bond between the two: is Stilt-Man a kaiju? Think about it. Kaiju means “strange beast” in Japanese, and there are few beasts stranger than a person who takes giant hydraulic pieces of metal, attaches them to their legs, and then decides to use a vacuum cleaner to steal jewels from rich penthouse dwellers. 5 Kaiju are generally giant beings famous for attacking cities, which is Stilt-Man’s entire thing. There are even Mecha Kaiju, a specific type of creature that’s typically robotic or mechanical in nature, which Stilt-Man is in part. Also, Kaiju are destined to lose forever, basically, and if there’s one thing that big idiot I love is famous for, it’s losing.
That seals it: Stilt-Man is a kaiju! You heard it here first! Kaiju Island is unified!