Sequential Sunday

Published on April 24th, 2009

“Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste…”

My name is John Mueller and, in all honesty, I actually don’t have a whole lot of wealth. However, I do feel I have a fair amount of taste when it comes to certain things and one of those things are comic books. Or, as I like to call the medium in certain social circles, while wearing a monocle and sipping from a brandy sifter, Sequential Art.

johnmuellerI find it amazing that within an artistic world as varied in content, style, format and intent as that of comic books that they are divided in most peoples eyes as one of two categories: mainstream and independent. In brief this means the book in question is either Marvel/DC or a very hazily defined “other.” What are these other comic books and how are they so different from the two big boy publishers anyway? I can think of one good place to start to get some better understanding of this.

In front of me is the April 2009 issue of Previews magazine, the Sears Christmas Catalog sized guide to just about everything to be released soon within the world of popular culture, primarily comics. It weighs in at over 550 pages, including the separate 120 page Marvel only supplement. I should mention here for those who may not know that this thing comes out every month and this particular one is by no means as big as it gets. If one adds the Marvel/DC content together it comes to about 194 pages. Other items such as posters, shirts, toys, etc… comprises around 119 pages.

So, what comprises the rest of this hefty tome? Independent publishers, a blanket term if there ever was one. Every genre and style of art & storytelling imaginable is found within this section: horror, underground, autobiographical, alternative, action, sci-fi, crime, humor, manga, movie adaptations & spin-offs, fantasy and (plenty) of spandex clad super-heroes. With all of these choices available it seems that many Marvel zombies and DC fanboys (which I do not mean to imply are derogatory terms) are extremely hesitant to pick up anything from other publishers, be it within their particular realm of interest or otherwise.

Part of this may be due to the fact that, well, some of the output from the indie publishers is just not very good. The sheer volume to wade through in the Previews mag alone can be overwhelming let alone being in a shop that has racks of indie books lining the walls. So what are the titles worth your time and money? An ongoing answer to this question is what to accomplish with my column.

No one needs me to tell our readers that Watchmen is one of the great accomplishments in the history of the medium. Or that Ed Brubaker is writing great Daredevil stories. Or that books like The New Frontier and Identity Crisis are amazing. There are many cool writers on this site who are far more knowledgeable of those universes than I who can tell you what’s incredible within those worlds and what isn’t. But what I can try to do is show how anyone with a genuine love for comic art and an appreciation for this special kind of visual storytelling that the space between, say, Chris Bachalo and Chris Ware isn’t quite so big after all. So stay tuned this Sunday as I try to guide you down the path of Horror,Sci-Fi and Indie comics and together we can learn a few things about the books with out capes.

John Mueller