In which a librarian delves into the literary world of graphic novels and comic books.
Graphic novels are becoming more and more popular in library collections for adults, teens, and kids. Adults, I’ve noticed, struggle with appreciating graphic novels. They have a tendency to hear the term “graphic novels” and picture 50 Shade of Gray. If you bring up “comic books” they assume it’s all Marvel or DC Comics caped crusaders spouting rehashed dialogue in runaway, over-complicated story lines. This assumption about comic books isn’t always mistaken, how much character development can you get out of an indestructible alien who is faster than a speeding bullet and can leap tall buildings with a single bound?
But there is a thrilling breed of graphic novel/comic out there, a literary one where story lines and characters are dynamic and powerful as well as entertaining. There are so many titles, writers, and artists that I can’t wait to explore in this new segment of Fine Print. The first author I’d like to highlight is an author whose career I have followed since the late 1990’s : Mike Carey. Now this post is definitely not meant to be an exhaustive over view of Carey’s work. We have a number of his comic books and novels in our collection. I’m just touching on some of the most accessible and most popular work he has published in an effort to get you, the reader, interested in comic books.
Carey’s latest work is a fantastic and unique zombie thriller, and a novel rather than comic book, called The Girl With All the Gifts. It is a great introduction to his writing style and story structure and a fantastic way to start reading a comic book author without reading a comic book. The Girl with All the Gifts is the Books and Brewskis’ book club pick for July and is being made into a movie starring Glenn Close which will be released to theaters September 23rd, 2016.
Carey’s literary focus doesn’t stop at writing gripping fiction. His original comic book series entitled Unwritten deals with Tom Taylor, misanthrope and son of a wildly successful missing youth fantasy writer. As Tom, a writer in his own right, begins to investigate what happened to his father, his identity becomes more and more malleable and tied to his fathers fictional protagonist; Tommy Taylor.
Mike Carey, in an interview with Nicholas Yanes from scifipulse.net, said that:
“The most important reference point is the autobiography of Christopher Milne – who is famous as the Christopher Robin of the Winnie the Pooh books. Milne grew up feeling that his father had stolen his childhood from him, turned a profit from it and then given it back to him in a form he couldn’t use. Our Tom is very much in that situation when we first meet him, although we take his identity crisis a fair bit further than that.”
Carey may be best known for his series Lucifer, a spin off of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series published through DC’s Vertigo comics. The premise is the Judaeo-Christian Devil has retired as King of Hell to run a cabaret in Los Angeles. In the Sandman story “Season of Mists”, Lucifer expels all demons and damned souls from Hell before locking Hell’s gates and handing over the key to Hell to Dream of the Endless, the title character of the Sandman series. Eventually, Hell is turned over by God to two Angels to run, Duma (the angel of silence) and Remiel (“set over those who rise”).
(Gaiman insisted that Lucifer be drawn to look like David Bowie, I think he nailed it)
But you do not need to be familiar with the Sandman series to enjoy Lucifer, you just need to know a little bit about western mythology. The gods, demons, and other divinities that exist in other faiths are vital to the story line. Lucifer, as an apostate of Heaven, is able to travel through different realms and work with and manipulate the powerful creatures of each realm, including his brothers in Heaven, to get to what he wants.
What does he want? He wants to show the Host the folly of worship and blind obedience. Lucifer’s personality is not “evil” as most would view evil, but rather he is driven by his own free will and desire for complete freedom. Lucifer makes it a point of always being honest, but in a way that is still manipulative in true devilish fashion. This personality quirk makes for some excellent twists and turns set to the backdrop of a very complex mythological universe. Mike Carey said this about the character;
“We play safe. Most of us do, most of the time… but Lucifer doesn’t know the meaning of safe, and he never bothers to look down at the tramlines. He goes wherever the hell he likes, picks his fights where he finds them and generally wins… following [his] own will and [his] own instincts to the very end of the line, no matter what the obstacles are.“