Tag Archives: comics

To Infinity And Beyond: Expanding My Reading Past Manga

Sharing my overcrowded space with my beloved classic literature and fictional books are an ever expanding shojo manga collection. The days when I don’t feel like reading a regular book and prefer the company of beautiful artwork to captivate the eyes and get swept up in romance, humor, and adventure I tend to pick up a manga volume.

I have an appreciation for art and beauty in general and it’s no surprise I became a huge fan of the Japanese style of drawing. When shojo manga became popular in the American market, I gravitated to the pretty art style and the wide focus on romance in most shojo manga. As much as I enjoy the shojo manga genre, it’s only in the last few years have I developed more of an interest in expanding my reading to also include American comic books.

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Full Force: Fandom and the Fan Experience

Full Force is GFN’s in-depth look at some of the biggest news in geekdom, from video games to anime to movies and everything in between. We also welcome your comments below, if you want to join the conversation. This week, our panelists take a look at the fandom in general and what it means today.

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To you, what does it mean to be a “fan”?

LadyCroft3: To me, being a fan is simply liking something enough to go beyond just watching/playing/reading something, to have a passion for the thing you are a fan of. It’s hard to explain really since every fan handles the thing they are a fan of differently and there are varying degrees of being a fan. Some fans may just watch every new episode of a show while others dedicate all their free time to being an active part of message boards or getting deep into character backstories, etc. I guess to put it plain and simple it’s liking something a whole lot more than just “Oh yeah, that’s a cool game” or “I read that book, it wasn’t bad”.

Cary: LadyCroft3 really hit the nail on the head. Fandom can take many forms, from the people who live their geeky loves to those who enjoy them a little less flamboyantly.But one thing that separates the fans from the rest of the general populace is the “must” factor. Being a fan means you “must” accomplish things for the sake of your fandom. I must have this book for my collection. I must watch the latest episode of my favorite show. I must attend the latest convention. And just as our interests evolve over time, those “musts” change too, and can become stronger or lighter depending on one’s life goals at any given moment.

Ashley: I totally agree. We all have different levels of “intensity” with the things we like, but I think being a fan means you really feel passionate about it. You want to talk about it. When you meet somebody else who likes the same thing, you feel an instant connection with that person. Being a fan can be kind of an emotional experience!

Chris: Yeah, intensity is one of the words that comes to mind for me as well. I don’t think you have to be a crazy ultra super supporter to be a fan, although there are a handful of franchises that I certainly get that excited about. Do you enjoy something to the point where you go back for more? Then you’re a fan in my book.

simpleek: I agree with what everyone has said about how they define what it is to be a fan. From my personal experience, there are things I “like” and then there are other things I “love” to the point I’m seeking any and all information about it. I’m also more likely to want to buy or collect merchandise on the fandom I’m really passionate about.

Grumbl3dook: You people are all crazy. Being a fan involves steady rotation at a set pace around a central axis while suspended from a ceiling…

The internet age has made fandom easier than ever, with forums, websites, message boards and Twitter accounts to give information on your favorite media. Does this access cheapen the experience, or simply make it more accessible for everyone?

LadyCroft3: I think social media makes everything more accessible. There are things that I am a fan of now that I never would have even known about if it hadn’t been for the internet. Plus, with message boards, fan pages and the like we can communicate with other fans and discuss ideas for the next game/book/episode/whatever or talk about our favorite characters and why we like them while seeing other people’s opinions too. I think it’s a good thing, but in moderation. As is the case with most things internet related.

Chip: This can be a tough spot for so many people, since being a fan of something normally means that is a part of your identity.  Some people can embrace the community of like-minded folks and use the various outlets of the internet to learn more about their favorite media and share in joy with other people.  But there are many people who feel threatened by the thing they love so much belonging to a bigger community. It can cause feelings of lost identity or begrudging others who aren’t necessarily just like you for enjoying the same piece of media.  Speaking personally, I have felt both sides of this coin with several of my favorites.

Cary: I’m very bad at wearing fandom on my sleeve…or social network, so I tend to keep my distance in that regard. Short of the things I write about online, I don’t usually take to the Internet to repeatedly proclaim my love of this or that. But while I may not be an initiator, I will gladly jump into existing conversations in order to become part of a fan community. So the Internet has, for me, made fandom a little more accessible. (That still doesn’t mean I’m ready to take to the proverbial mountaintops or anything.)

Ashley: I think social media makes things more accessible. For me, it’s a fun outlet to be a “fan,” since I’m pretty shy in real life and try not to ramble on too much about, say, Dragon Age if the person I’m talking to doesn’t know anything about it. Online, you can find more people to connect to who have the same interests. That being said, it can feel like overkill a little bit to scroll through pages and pages of Sherlock gifs on Tumblr. Some weeks, I love it; other weeks, I feel like I need a break. But it’s awesome that it’s out there, for sure!

Chris: Though it’s a fault of my own and not anyone else, I tend to rebel against things that become extremely popular. I think that’s part of the reason why I’ve never picked up a Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings book (or seen any of the movies) — by the time I had the chance to jump in myself, I had heard sooooo much about both of them that I didn’t want anything to do with it. The internet has been responsible for a large part of that problem. Still, objectively, I think it’s a massive improvement for fandom. You can find other people who love what you love and discuss the subject matter to death, even if no one in your area happens to like the same thing.

simpleek: The internet has been great with giving people access to the fandom they love. You have the option to either read other people’s discussions on the very topic you’ve been thinking of or participating in the discussion to get your own opinion out there. I used to participate in public forums back when Sailor Moon was huge and I’ve had a positive experience of just talking back and forth with people about a character or plot in the series. There’s a nice sense of community and inclusion when I used to frequent forums. These days, I don’t participate in forums all that much anymore, but I do read other people’s opinions about other fandoms I’m into when I feel like getting someone else’s perspective. Another great thing about the accessibility aspect is if you aren’t initially a fan of a particular video game, book, film, etc. but are interested in seeing if you want to give it a shot, it’s much easier to find the opinions of fans who have been into the very thing you’re looking into for a while online. It’s how I ended up deciding to buy certain video games or books. I discovered something new to love I probably wouldn’t have if there wasn’t much information and discussion about them.

“Fan” comes from the word fanatic, which usually has a negative connotation. The word “fanboy” (or girl) seems to be heading in the same direction. What can communities do to stay positive and welcoming while keeping a unique identity?

LadyCroft3: First, I think people should stop using fanboy or fangirl as a way to demean other people. I know that’s hard to do, but for example I don’t mind saying things like “I’m a huge Dean Winchester fangirl” because I am. I don’t see it as a bad thing, even though that word typically means you are over the top or blinded to everything else. To me it just means I really, really love Dean Winchester and consider myself a huge fan of his character. Aside from that, it’s always important to be as welcoming to new fans as possible. Being inclusive and not exclusive is really important and draws in larger crowds, making the community as a whole more diverse and open rather than snobby and uptight, which turns people away from liking cool things sometimes.

Ashley: I always associate “fangirl” with being a fan of a male character or group, but mostly for shallow reasons. Like how, when I was 12 years old, I was an N’Sync fangirl. (OKAY?! I loved them more than the Backstreet Boys.) That’s not a bad thing, but I always shy away from the term because it seems frivolous the way I think of it. However, I am totally a Garrus fangirl for a whole lot of reasons. And if these terms just means “fan,” I think they’re great. I also agree with what LadyCrof3 said, that it’s important to be welcoming as a fandom. The worst thing about fandom, for me, is that it feels like you have to pass some test to prove that you know everything about the subject at hand. But honestly, I have not had time in my life to watch every single episode of every single season of every single series of Star Trek. That does not mean I can’t be a true fan. I think the more we accept people at all levels of knowledge, the more positive the fandom experience will be for everyone. It should be a fun and inviting thing based on feeling connected to something, not necessarily knowing every single detail about it.

Chris: I’m a firm believer that words are only as important as the meaning we give them. So “fanboy” and “fangirl,” on the surface, are completely fine in my book. The problem is that like so many other things, these terms can be used in a derogatory fashion. I know that for many people, being a fan is a deeply personal experience, and some people feel threatened when others try to jump in as bandwagoners. But to me, if you really do love something, shouldn’t you want as many other people to take part in it as possible? If that’s the case, folks should stop deriding others who like similar things — and likewise, if you DON’T understand why somebody loves a series so much, don’t pass them off as a crazy fanboy/girl and demean the whole experience.

simpleek: I don’t mind calling myself a “fangirl” of let’s say Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Sailor Moon or whatever because it’s true. I get really excited about these fandoms because I love them to death. That doesn’t mean I’m a crazy person who can’t function in “normal” society either. Being a fan should, as everyone has already mentioned, be an inclusive experience. I love when you find other people who like the same things you do and you’re united in your passion and devotion to that fandom. When people start getting hostile against “fanboys” or “fangirls” because people either don’t get the hype or that person may not know everything there is to know about a series, then it sucks the fun out of loving a fandom. It’s a terrible feeling when you feel like you’re either a freak or not a “true fan.” It really comes down to respecting the other person for liking what they like and always being open to newer fans who are just discovering a fandom for the very first time. Connecting with other like minded people may actually give you a new friend you never would have met otherwise if it wasn’t for your shared interests.

Episode.30 – The Boss

Just like that, we’ve hit Incoductic’s dirty thirty. Joshua is back in proper form after a sudden outbreak of busy happened upon him and he had to step away from the mic and into the real world for a hot second. Joining him this week is his brother and fellow gamer, James B. Boss. Check out the sibling geek fest as they discuss Free Comic Book Day, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, gear up for the release of Godzilla, the upcoming Big Wow Comic Fest and cower and wince at how these two could not be mistaken for ANYTHING other than brothers. Also, feel free to marvel at James’ impression of Bane. Seriously, it’s pretty good.

The Comic Books I’ve Been Reading This Year…

I’m trying to be better about finishing things this year, guys. That’s why in addition to finishing a video game every month, I’m also making it a goal to read a new comic book each month.

I don’t know a lot about comics, so over the December holidays, I made a long (like, way too long) list of graphics novels and comics series that I would like to try. For instance, I’ve never read any X-Men comics. At the time, I had played the first episode of Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us but had never read Fables. Things like this, I needed to fix.

I’m happy to report that I’m actually ahead of schedule when it comes to reading my new comic books. Here’s what I’ve read so far this year:

V for Vendetta

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I’ve loved V for Vendetta‘s story for a long time. When I was 18, I went to the cinema by myself to watch James McTeigue’s V for Vendetta film. It had a big impact on me, and it’s still one of my favorite movies — but it took me all this time (what, almost 10 years?) to finally pick up the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd.

One of the biggest differences I noticed between the novel and the movie is that in the novel, the character Evey Hammond is 16 years old and about to turn to prostitution when V finds her. She seems like a blank page — sort of a bland character until V molds her into someone with principles and passion. Meanwhile, in the film, Evey (Natalie Portman) is in her early 20’s and working at the news station. She has much more agency from the beginning of the story, and her personality is much stronger. Although I really prefer Evey being older and more confident (as in the film), I still came to appreciate Evey’s depiction in the graphic novel as she matured.

The only thing that didn’t grow on me in the graphic novel is the artwork. Lloyd’s art is a miss for me, personally. I’m not a fan of the color palette, and the overall look is very dated. That being said, there are some creative layouts I enjoyed, such as this one with themes presented along with a musical score:

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And the story is as brilliant as ever. There are moments that make me cry, and it’s all because of how bittersweet and poignant and hopeful this story is. Moore’s writing is amazing.

Fables

Inspired by how much I enjoy Telltale Games’ The Wolf Among Us, I decided to give Bill Willingham’s Fables a try. And let me tell you, the comic books are way better than the games based on them. (I know, I’m the last one to the party on that.) I’ve enjoyed the stories, which are set in a world where fairy-tale characters live in a New York City community called Fabletown — or, for those who aren’t able to blend in as humans, a farm in upstate New York. The stories are fun reads with some interesting themes, and the art is lush if not always super crisp to me.

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I love that the comic books are starting to sprawl more than the games. There are obviously so many characters with so many stories to tell, and I know I won’t make it through all of them any time soon. However, I love seeing familiar characters in brand new stories.

I finished the first two trade paperback volumes, Legends in Exile and Animal Farm, and will continue reading the next few as I have time.

Captain America: Winter Soldier

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I read this one.

Captain America is one of my favorite superheroes ever, so I need to be reading his comic books all the time like I do with Thor and Batman comics. I picked up the Winter Soldier collection in the hopes that it ties in with the Winter Soldier movie coming out next month (which I cannot wait for!).

I won’t go into details about the plot, because that seems secondary in a lot of ways. What I love about this story is that writer Ed Brubaker makes Cap a relatable guy suffering from misplaced memories of his life during World War II and grief over losing his best friend Bucky. He’s tired. He worries that he’s going crazy. At one point, he’s so distracted by what’s going on inside his head that he can barely fight back when attacked. I love reading Steve Rogers when he’s like this.

Plus, the art. I may not know a lot about what constitutes “good” comic book art, but Steve Epting’s work in these volumes just makes me hurt inside to see such beauty. That’s how dramatic I get about these pages. I just want to stare at them all day.

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I’m going to continue reading the rest of Brubaker’s work on Captain America for the next month. Although I have to admit that I have a very long list of comics to get through this year… =)

— Ashley

An Electric Tale

Since the release of a certain 3DS game last week, Pokémon Fever has reached pandemic levels once again.  It seems like every marketable surface is covered with the adorable faces of this latest batch of Pocket Monsters.  This overwhelming cross-media promotion is nothing new for Pokémon.  With each fresh entry of the beloved game series there comes a flood of toys, television shows, and comic books.  Most of these products are safe, cookie-cutter creations; all sharing the exact same art style and purpose of cashing in on the Pokémon frenzy.  But every so often, a piece of media will come along and portray the familiar characters and creatures in a different light.

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The Electric Tale of Pikachu was first published in the Japanese monthly magazine CoroCoro Comics in October 1997.  Artist Toshihiro Ono was asked by his editor to draw a manga to accompany the new anime series that was about to release.  Interested in themes surrounding a boy’s travels, Ono decided to approach the Pokémon manga from a more serious angle than the other media at the time.  For each issue, Ono would receive the script of an upcoming anime episode, and he would adapt the story for the printed page.  This led to many of the general plot points within the comic being similar to the anime, but the two are quite different in art style, tone, and details.

Pokemon2For starters, the various Pokémon drawings are not based on the official artwork of Ken Sugimori.  Many of the creatures take on a more realistic look when compared to their anime counterparts, particularly the fearsome Pokémon like Onix and Gyrados, who look quite feral and dangerous in the manga.  Most of the human characters have a more “shojo” look to their designs, with slender proportions and very emotive facial expressions.  The artwork on a whole is a nice blend of clean and simple backgrounds against highly detailed characters.  This design choice suits the stories well, since most of the action in Pokémon revolves around the trainers and their monsters as opposed to the locations they inhabit.

Pokemon3The main plot still concerns trainer Ash Ketchum and his Pikachu on their journey to compete in the Pokémon League.  Unlike the anime, where Ash travels with Brock and Misty on most of his journey, the manga features Ash traveling on his own for a significant amount of time.  Our hero falls into many of the same situations as in the anime (the Ponyta Races, the Eevee Trainer’s conundrum, and plenty of Team Rocket shenanigans), but there are standalone stories which are quite engaging.  My particular favorite revolves around Ash’s arrival in Saffron City.  After an unsuccessful battle against the psychic gym leader Sabrina, Ash learns of a massive ghost-type Pokémon that has been terrorizing the area for years.  With the help of Brock and the residents of Saffron City, Ash manages to defeat the monstrous Haunter and free the city from the soul-crushing grip of the gaseous giant.  It was so interesting to see a Pokémon like Haunter turned into something truly horrible as opposed to its sort of Three-Stooges-goofball portrayal in the anime.

An interesting side-effect of the Ono’s more serious design choices is plenty of censorship when the comic was published in America.  In the original release, many of the female characters are drawn in revealing clothing or swimwear, all of which was altered or covered up.  One scene in particular, in which Misty is bathing at a hot springs only to be spied on by Ash and Brock, was removed entirely from the Viz Media release, as it was deemed too controversial for American readers.  Other changes include some reframing of panels to hide other naughty bits, and the entire comic was flipped from the original format to be read from left-to-right instead.

Pokemon4Over the last few weeks, my wife and I have spent our evenings watching old episodes of the Pokémon anime through an app on the iPad.  We will view an episode each night, have a good laugh at the silliness of the show, and share in a nostalgic experience.  A strange bi-product of this nightly ritual has been frequent discussions of Pokémon biology and real-life applications (read: a lot of conversations beginning with, “Well if I had a Pikachu…”).  Both of us also realized that the anime is full of obvious marketing moments and plenty of plot-holes.  This makes the whole show seem like a half-hour commercial instead of stepping into a fantastic world quite unlike our own.  As I read through the Electric Tale of Pikachu once more, I longed for more serious representations of these interesting and adorable creatures.  I guess I will just have to hold out for the Pokémon Origins anime and hope for the best.