Opposing ReViewpoints: Memoir Comics

In our Opposing ReViewpoints series, we at NFNT will be duking it out (verbally, only occasionally physically) over titles, creators, and other comics issues.  Our staff will take sides: hate or love, offense or defense.  Since it’s comics, everyone, no matter how open-minded, has that one thing that just irks them (flames, flames on the side of my face!), we hope this will be an entertaining forum for critiquing the format and acknowledging just how subjective reading and reviewing can be.

In our second installment, we’re airing opinions that erupted when brainstorming potential topics for the feature.  In the world of graphic novels, there is one type that always seems to be highly praised and win many an award: memoirs.  As soon as one contributor expressed their dislike of memoir comics, a number of folks chimed in to agree while a number of others wondered just where all this bile was coming from.

So, we got into it, and now, so can you in the comments.  What do you think of memoir comics?  Yay or nay?

Jennifer W: I pretty much hate every memoir out there, so there’s lot to choose from.

Thomas: If we ever have a sharp divide over a graphic memoir, I would like to be on Jennifer’s team, please.

Caitlin: What’s so hateful about memoir? Do you guys mean anything autobiographical, or a specific type of thing? Just comics, or all memoirs? I’ve heard this kind of blanket hatred of memoir elsewhere, and I realized I really don’t know what exactly people are reacting to. There are a lot of wildly different comics that could be considered memoirs – what elements trigger the hate?

Jennifer W.: My hate has many parts

  1. Personal – It’s not a genre I personally enjoy. My feeling is that if I want to hear about someone’s depressing/weird/crazy/self-destructive life, I am not going to waste my precious reading hours on it.
  2. Collection Development – I get really frustrated with all these memoirs marketed to teens and getting accolades when teens (at least in my library) could care less. I see little to no interest from teens in authors writing about their childhood. It CAN be done in a way that’s both attractive to readers of this age group but also of artistic merit – Raina Telgemeier’s Smile and Mark Siegel’s To Dance – both of these circulate pretty well. It comes across to me as self-indulgent – a good example of this is Marzi (which wasn’t particularly well-reviewed anywhere, but was nominated for a Cybils) and my feelings on memoir can be summed up here.
  3. Even memoirs I personally liked, Little Fish and Little White Duck, have limited appeal to kids or teens, in my opinion. There has to be, for me, a really powerful reason to make your memoir a graphic novel and I just don’t see it in a lot of these books. I’m not a fan of talking heads illustration – why not just write a book? Which would then be marketed to the adults, i.e. shelved upstairs where I won’t have to deal with it.

Robin: For me, it’s a bit what Jennifer said — what I object to is the endless appetite for the depressed, ennui-laden, and what I think of as self-indulgent memoir.  I find them tiresome in the same way that I find literary novels about middle aged divorce and ennui tiresome.  Memoir as a type doesn’t bother me, as long as the person has a strong reason for sharing their story.

StitchesAbby: I’m not sure.  I tend to have that problem, too.  I hated Pedro & Me and was probably the only person who hated Blankets.  Stitches turned me off completely.  Yet, I like reading memoirs (or at least Bossypants).  Maybe there is something about the imagery combined with the story that makes it feel less real and emotionally effective?  There is less text to explain the thoughts and reactions to different things – everything is condensed.  The images help illustrate, of course, but can be harder to connect to in some cases.

Pedro & Me was boring and made Pedro seem like less of a person – more of an ideal.  The book was short and full of vignettes, so I never got to know Pedro as a person.  It seemed like a sentimental remembrance rather than an honest look at the author’s friend.  Stitches felt like the author’s therapy session.  It was cut up, similar to Pedro, and it felt disconnected.  He brought up different things, but never resolved or fully fleshed out different ideas.

And I have no idea why I hate Blankets.  Maybe because I was forced to go to youth group as a teen.

Jennifer W.: I weeded Pedro several years ago. Never checked out. At all.

I hated Stitches. Like I said in my Marzi review, it’s ok to write out your painful childhood issues, but share them with your therapist, not with me.

Abby: Also, at his Alex Award acceptance, David Small said he hated comics, but felt like it was a good medium for his story.  Which was so frustrating that I left.

Jennifer W.: Um…

Robin: I also found Stitches to be fairly tiresome (and Small’s attitude really didn’t endear him to anyone, as far as I can tell.)  I enjoyed Fun Home, but violently hated Are You My Mother? because it was so much entirely about her therapy, which I find not at all interesting.  Fun Home felt a lot less self-indulgent, whereas AYMM was the definition of that problem.  I liked Relish ok, but did have a bit of the reaction other folks have had — Knisley was 24, so how much insight can she really have on her life yet?

RelishJennifer W: I liked Relish – I didn’t think of it as a memoir, more as a “this is what I think about life so far” kind of thing, which is kind of how I felt about Little Fish – I loved that she acknowledged how much she’d changed in such a short time and that she didn’t think this was the way she was going to be forever, she’d have lots more experiences/new ideas in life. Plus, I like pictures of food. But I wouldn’t call either one “real” memoirs, because a memoir kind of implies, to me at least, a look back at either a whole or significant part of your life, and how can you tell what’s significant until you’ve lived most of it?

Jenny: For me, it just comes down to whether or not I enjoy the book as I haven’t the patience or interest in the more self-indulgent, just-putting-it-out-there-to-talk-about-themselves titles.  So, I loved Burma Chronicles and Persepolis, liked The Alcoholic and Fun Home ok, didn’t care much for French Milk (it wasn’t bad, but she just sounds soooo like a teenager and I am soooo not one anymore), and found the personalities behind Stitches and Blankets to be irritating (and, yes, Smalls did himself no favors with his bizzaro comments).

pyongyangSnow: I think of Relish and Pyongyang (which I love with a fiery, fiery passion) as “memoirs with a purpose.” Meaning the authors are DOING something, not just sitting around whining. I’m much more likely to listen to you talk about your life if you’re actually doing something. If Raina can have all that crap happen with her teeth and still make a memoir that isn’t about how crappy life was when her teeth were broken, then others can too. But I also grew up with a mother who was very much of the “put your big girl pants on and deal with it” camp and since she’s survived burns over 80% of her body (never refer to my mother as a “burn victim” or you yourself will be burned by her), open heart surgery, and a rattlesnake bite (not all at the same time), I tend to side with her.

Allen: How can one hate Blankets?

Abby: I know, Allen, believe me, I know.  I’ve tried multiple times.  But I just…hate it.

Robin: I did like Blankets (the connections between art and faith really worked for me personally, and I love his actual art, so that covered a lot of the problems.)

Blankets_coverJenny: My issue with Blankets is the same I had with Habibi.  I really love Craig Thompson’s artwork but find his voice off-putting.  It’s like he’s still a sixteen-year-old boy with all the navel-gazing and hormones that entails and it creeps me out that he hasn’t grown out of it yet.

Snow: Sorry, Allen, I didn’t like Blankets either. I’m with Robin on loving his art and with Abby on being dragged to youth group every Sunday and Wednesday (welcome to the South, y’all).

Robin: I find Chester Brown, as intriguing as he can be, to the just the kind of cartoonist who’s great at what he does, but what he does has zero resonance with me as a reader (I feel the same way about Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes.)

Thomas: *bursts through doorway* Is it too late to hate on graphic memoirs?!

For my part, there seem to be a handful of graphic novels each year by fresh art-school graduates that are all about how their art school experiences were unique and eye-opening. Navel-gazing and pop culture references ensue. This sometimes bleeds over into memoirs where the events in the author’s life are presented as interesting in and of themselves – “Hey everyone, my childhood wasn’t that great! Can you believe the number my parents did on me? This one time, I got high…” And I’m glad if these stories are entertaining or therapeutic to others, but they often seem most therapeutic to the author and not all that skillful in the realm of graphic expression.

Those are my biased two cents, and I’m always glad to read a graphic memoir that busts through my prejudices.

Robin: The other thing that has less to do with memoir itself and more its status — I get really, really tired very quickly of people acting as if memoir is the only worthwhile form of comics to read.  I don’t think it’s stated as bluntly, but whenever you look at which comics/graphic novels win awards, are discussed in book clubs, or are looked at by non-comics people, it’s like memoir is the only type people will give the time of day. That’s not really memoir’s fault, but it means I get exhausted by how much people won’t look at anything else.

Renata: Haha!  I could be the only one who likes memoir.  Although I do think a lot of teens really like “therapeutic” memoirs of people who went through difficult experiences, both in graphic novel form and print. Some teens are going through the kinds of bad experiences that compel adults to write memoirs about, and they appreciate feeling like someone understands them. Others may have a more voyeuristic intent. And a lot of people prefer “true” stories (even given the flexible nature of “truth” in memoir, cough James Frey) to similar fictional stories.

As they say… every book has its reader!

Snow: Renata, I love your reminder about every book having its reader. It reminded me of something that came up during my time on Great Graphic Novels for Teens. We had several books which we were considering which I just hated. They were realistic-ish dramas where people did bad things to each other and stuff was depressing. (My opinions, obviously.) Others on the committee thought they were amazing and raved about their potential to speak to teens, but I knew they wouldn’t have worked for me when I was a teen. That’s when I realized (and I know this isn’t a revelation to anyone) that some people can process the bad things or hard things in life through realism and other people process them through fantasy (or horror or science fiction). I can’t handle depressing stories or movies or anything where people are mean to each other, UNLESS they are a fantasy. My husband was floored that I wouldn’t go see Cold Mountain but that I loved Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s all in the presentation. If there are dragons (witches, vampires, fairies, so on) then I’m fine with angst, drama, pain, hardship. But I don’t want them in a realistic setting. So, yep, something different for each reader.

Sarah: I enjoy a good graphic novel memoir also.  Relish, Persepolis, and Smile are all up there on my own personal list of awesome.  I don’t personally love the angsty, whiny memoirs (graphic novel or otherwise), but I don’t hate the entire genre.  I’ve also found a number of teens who are going through something (or feeling voyeuristic) and check out the more intense books.  So, I will totally be on your team, Renata, though there are some that I could live without.

Jessikah: This is true.  We can’t deny the therapeutic power of the memoir.  I don’t have a dislike of the genre really, but I get why some might.  However, I do think there are some seriously overrated graphic memoirs out there.  I mean, not everyone’s story has to be a starred review.

That said, I do love Persepolis.

persepolisSaeyong: Someone is going to slam me for this (whimpers). I hate Persepolis. I won’t back out by blaming my collectivist Asian culture (sigh) for why I hate it: she is totally privileged in a time and place of chaos, and she continues to be privileged, and she seems much too whiny and depressed about it all when she’s supremely lucky. And the art is awful. And everyone else around me loves it.

…There. Said it.

Marcela: I also never understood the huge popularity of Persepolis, Saeyong! Some of the writing was witty, but mostly I felt it was overrated.

Jennifer W: I got bored – too many talking heads. I didn’t care for the art either. I like things like Faith Erin Hicks Friends With Boys, which has some personal details from her life as a teenager, but worked into a larger (more interesting) story. Or for a narrative about a whiny character that doesn’t annoy, I liked Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol – she starts out horribly whiny and self-centered at the beginning and gradually comes to have a wider viewpoint, both of herself and her family, and the world around her.

Snow: I actually like Persepolis, but Satrapi and I are close to the same age and I was a metalhead as a teen, so those aspects of the book worked for me. Book 2, however, I really didn’t like.

Jessikah: This is true.  Persepolis 2 did not work for me AT ALL.  No one should worry too much about having an unpopular opinion on something (in my um… opinion?) as long as your reasoning isn’t bigoted.  I know how it feels.  I had to constantly defend my seething hatred of the movie Grease, throughout my teen-hood, and even to this day.  I feel you!

Marcela: I’ll just put it out there that I really dislike written memoirs (Wild, which the whole world loved? Mehhhhhh), so I’ve really steered clear of graphic novel versions. But, I’m in the unpopular camp of having loved Blankets, so there’s my exception.

For a lot of the teen/childhood reflection memoirs, sure, they can be whiny and man, growing up can suck. But I think that’s why I’ve found that they do really well with teens but not adults. I can’t handle a lot of drama llama teen fiction either, but I’m pretty sure this is because I’m not the target audience.

Saeyong: I think I just dislike angst and whininess in general.  A lot of dystopian novels seem to be putting me off lately, and I don’t do romance either because why would I want to know about the private happenings and intricacies of a relationship I’m not a part of?!

I may just dislike the first person point of view. Graphic novels are actually better for me because you look through the page at the characters, instead of having them in your head as when you read fiction. The distance makes it less irritating.

Jennifer W.: I agree about the first person point of view, Saeyong. I feel icky with that much personal information coming from someone. Like I said, if I want to hear that I’ll just sit at the reference desk and pretty soon someone will come along and tell me all their medical, financial, and romantic details. But why would I care? I do have friends who revel in this kind of thing – they like to read memoirs and psychoanalyze themselves (and the people in books) and find parallels in their lives etc. That’s fine – whatever works for you. But it’s not for me.

FortuneandGloryRobin: I find I much prefer memoir with a strong sense of humor, like Guy Delisle’s Pyongyang and his other travel memoirs, or Brian Michael Bendis’s Fortune & Glory (which makes me laugh out loud every time I read it.)

For those of you who have said memoir comics work for your teen readers, can you tell me which specific titles have worked with your teens?  Because, to be honest, they really don’t circulate with my teens.  With adults, sure, who are also the major audience for our memoirs in general, but teens?  Not so much.

My teens like the tragic/abused memoir, like A Boy Called It, but I haven’t found a graphic memoir that has as strong an appeal.

Renata: I’m not going to say that graphic novel memoirs are flying out the door with teens here, or that any memoir is overall as popular as say, Soul Eater, but I definitely have found that some will resonate with some teens:

  • Stuck in the Middle, ed by Ariel Schrag
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman (we keep this in adult GNs but a lot of teens are very interested in the Holocaust and have enjoyed this)
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson (I believe many teens like this for the same reason many adults on this list have rolled their eyes at it)
  • How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden
  • March by John Lewis

Memoirs are a very small percentage of our GN collection. I guess I’m a little surprised at how many people seem to be rolling around in piles of despised memoirs. I guess if you just don’t like something, any number might be too many 🙂

Robin: I was going to mention the Ariel Schrag memoirs as ones I think do work, and March has been very popular (and to me is quite excellent.)

Jennifer W: I wonder if some of the appeal depends on the patron base – naturally, most of these memoirs are about artists, since, ya know, artists are making them…the height of art in my town is the annual elementary school art show. I wonder if they have a wider audience maybe in an urban area with a bigger devotion to the arts?

SmileSarah: I’ve found that the same ones that I like tend to be popular with my teens, but I think that’s me getting so excited about them.  Recently, I was the Homework Help Center Specialist at one of our busiest branches, so I averaged 45 kids a day just doing homework.  I had some good relationships with most of those kids/teens, so they would at least look at many of the books I suggested.  It gave me a serious edge in convincing them of things.

However, my teens/tweens were crazy into Smile, decently into Blankets and Maus, and interested in Persepolis. I think part of the popularity of Persepolis (#1, I will say is much better, #2- not so awesome) has to do with the some of the diversity within my old branch and some on-going conversations about conditions in different areas of the world.

They also got pretty into Relish.  I had to sell that one at first, even to the kids in the culinary career program.  However, as soon as one read Chapter 5 (the one where the kid discovers girlie magazines in Mexico), EVERYONE was reading it.  Like, we just had a crazy reserve list for a while, and they were passing copies back and forth.  I doubt many of them read the whole thing, but that chapter got some serious action.

Thomas: I may have been too harsh on graphic memoirs, as I tend to enjoy nine out of ten (including Blankets, Maus, Relish, March, How To Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, Persepolis, Smile, Stitches, anything by Harvey Pekar) without reserve. There are just certain autobiographical comics (Calling Dr. Laura, Susceptible, parts of Little Fish, parts of The Impostor’s Daughter, anything by Jeffrey Brown) where the protagonist’s quirkiness, vulnerability, and “adorkability” play off as precious instead of compelling. Those comics still have their audience and all, but I’m ready for the genre to get a shake-up and hope there’s not a coming flood of me-too memoirs on the horizon.

Garrett: For myself, I’ll read a memoir if it can compel me or if I particularly enjoy the characterizations, but if something is irritating me I won’t hesitate to put it down, even if not finished.  Life is too short to put up with a bad book.

Caitlin: Cool, I feel like I get it now. The status thing Robin mentioned makes a lot of sense in terms of the immediate dislike response that people have to memoir. If there’s already a bias that graphic memoirs are somehow better/deeper/more important than other graphic novels, and then in practice many of them aren’t especially good/deep/important, then I can easily see how “memoir” has come to mean “pretentious book”. And how that can even carry over to books that *are* good but still don’t live up to those inflated expectations.

I also like the idea of memoir with a purpose vs. without. My Friend Dahmer is a kind of memoir, but I’ve never heard it described that way. I guess when it comes to memoirs with a purpose, you’re more likely to say “it’s about [the purpose]” and you’re less likely to get into that eye-rolling “ugh, some guy’s memoir, who cares” territory.

Opposing ReViewpoints: What We Hated that Everyone Else Loved

Welcome to a brand new feature here at No Flying No Tights, Opposing ReViewpoints.

It’s important, as reviewers and collection builders, to acknowledge our own biases and work to maintain balanced selections.  That doesn’t mean we don’t have those titles we can’t like, and get a tiny bit of glee out of sharing those dislikes.  We all acknowledge, in this discussion, that the titles and creators mentioned have merit for many readers.  They just didn’t work for us.

In our Opposing ReViewpoints series, we at NFNT will be duking it out (verbally, only occasionally physically) over titles, creators, and other comics issues.  Our staff will take sides: hate or love, offense or defense.  Since it’s comics, everyone, no matter how open-minded, has that one thing that just irks them (flames, flames on the side of my face!), we hope this will be an entertaining forum for critiquing the format and acknowledging just how subjective reading and reviewing can be.

In our first installment, I invited the entire staff to chime in with a basic example: the book or series they hated that everyone else loved.

StoneFrog1TOON Books and The Stone Frog

Jennifer W.: I am not an unadulterated fan of TOON books. I love the idea and they’ve done some great things for comics, especially for beginning readers, but many of their books seem to sacrifice story to art. I particularly disliked Stone Frog, their foray into graphics for middle grade. It received generally positive reviews and I’ve had some vigorous arguments with people about it. People seem to like the complexity of the art, but I feel it lacks in child-appeal – and that goes for many of TOON’s titles, which have significantly lower circulation numbers than most easy readers.

If you haven’t read it, Stone Frog is a dream-like blend of Alice in Wonderland and Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend with intricate black and white illustrations and a sometimes marvelous, often terrifying dream landscape that combines to create a new adventure that is firmly rooted in classic children’s literature.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of a single child who’d be interested in reading this. It’s about a beginning chapter level, very simple dialogue, old-fashioned clothes and behavior, some very frightening images, and the whole “dream fantasy” plot is rather cliche.

TinyTitansTiny Titans

Snow: My quibble with Tiny Titans is also appeal-related. I don’t doubt that the comic attracts kids, particularly because of the adorable art. And I’m sure they think the comics are silly. Why are those crazy characters doing those crazy things? But therein lies the problem: it’s not a comic for folks (of any age) who don’t know the entire DC Universe backstory. Too many of the jokes depend upon the reader knowing about various “crises” or different incarnations of characters and stuff like that. Tiny Titans is a comic for devoted fans to buy and maybe share with their kids, not a comic to get readers hooked on American superheroes. I’d rather see DC (and Marvel) spend the time and effort to create comics for kids that introduce their characters in a kid appropriate fashion. They give kids tons of opportunities to buy shirts and toys and a ton of other stuff with their characters’ images on them. Why can’t they create some actual comic books at the same time? Isn’t that why a comic book company exists?

Okay, so my rant might be more about the availability of superhero titles for kids from the big two. But I’m sick of folks saying, “But Tiny Titans is for kids!” No, it’s for fans, and it’s appropriate for kids. There’s a difference.

Jennifer W.: I definitely agree Snow. I found Tiny Titans mildly amusing (even though I know very little of the universe) but I didn’t purchase it for the library because my patrons aren’t really interested in that type of comic – they want “real” stories about the superheroes they love, like Batman the Brave and the Bold! But they’re all 6-8 years old. Sigh.

Sword Art Online

Jessikah: Everyone seems to applaud Sword Art Online (SAO) for the story, the depth of the characters, and the darker psychological elements.

Here’s my beef.  I like the idea of SAO.  People all around the world are playing a multiplayer online role-playing game, and suddenly their minds are trapped in the world.  Disconnecting could kill them!  I especially liked it the first time when it was called .hack//Sign.  Seriously. .hack//Sign isn’t that old of a series.  Do people not realize that SAO is basically the same plot?

But, I digress: similar scenarios between anime series isn’t all that uncommon. My real issue is that I felt SAO did nothing to improve upon the ground had .hack//Sign covered. Sure, SAO is super pretty and all, but I didn’t find the characters to be all that intriguing.  The protagonist, Kirito, felt kind of dull, and in the spirit of a cliche harem anime, every girl he runs meets falls in love with him!  Eventually he develops a meaningful relationship with a girl called Asuna who is far more interesting than Kirito himself.  By the 13th episode, the story in SAO is seemingly wrapped up in a haphazard manner, but then you find out that it’s not actually freaking over yet!  Basically there is a whole other half season and this time, they turn Asuna into a damsel in distress!  Why?  Maybe if the original story was drawn out across these episodes, the motivation of the (first) villain would not have felt so contrived, and the characters could have been better developed.  I felt that failed to live up to the precedent set by its big sister, which kept plot twists coming up until the very last scene.

AttackonTitanAttack on Titan

Allen: I’ve got beef with Attack on Titan. At first, I think the show does a BRILLIANT job of conveying the terror and sheer horror of a population having their world turned upside down by the invading Titan. Eren’s rage is palpable and understandable (if a bit over the top) and the method of fighting Titans is pretty damn cool. It’s like Spider-Man but with swords!

What really kills the show is the twist. SPOILER WARNING!!!

(Having Eren turn into a Titan was pretty weak and infuriating to me. The show ceased being about the challenge of humanity and how they will respond in the face of apocalyptic horror and turns into a fight between monsters. I have yet to finish it, but the twist really sucked the wind out from the sails.)

Jessikah: Allen, I did enjoy AOT, but I totally agree with you.  I almost quit after that happened.  I was so angry, I refused to pick it back up.  Then curiosity got the best of me.

MyBoyfriendisaMonster3My Boyfriend is a Monster Book #3 (My Boyfriend Bites)

Andrew: Yes, clearly I was not the intended audience for this book, but I read the first one and thought it was actually pretty decent as it tossed out some of the horrid cliched stereotypes, such as the female lead being dependent upon the guy.  Instead in the first book we had a female lead that was a star athlete, star student, well respected and could handle her own.  I had thought (mistakenly as it turns out) that the series would follow that couple along.  Instead, they did one offs showing different “monsters” and the third one, of course, is vampire related.

And maybe, maybe I should have stopped at the vampire part, but I figured I had started reading it, I should at least give it a try.  Instead I read a book that made my brain hurt from the sheer insanity of events that happen.   A good fantasy book that’s set in a recognizable realistic universe, like this one tries to be, has a good balance of both elements. In this one Jean-Paul, the “vampire” saves the female lead when she falls into an empty elevator shaft…by jumping down and landing before her and catching her.  And I can get that.  And I can kinda stretch my brain to see him stopping the falling elevator.  My brain breaks when the walls collapse on top of the elevator…and he’s still able to hold it.  And then it only takes two hours for rescue crews to get them out and let them leave…even though clearly what he did was beyond weird.  And that they were going to take an elevator down in a two story building even though they walked up the stairs to begin with.  And the female lead doesn’t figure there’s something weird with the dude for being able to hold up an elevator??  It takes her another chapter before she goes “Hey…maybe he’s not human.”  Basically it felt like a really, really, really bad B movie that had gone awry and they just went “eh…we’ll just keep going.”

But everyone else that reviewed it seems to love it!

Jennifer W.: Heh. I love that series, but only specific ones. The vampire one…uh, no. Some of them the plots are really strained and I felt that the quality of the artwork really varied. The first two are my personal favorites.

everygirl1Jeffrey Brown’s autobiographical comics

Thomas: Any time Jeffrey Brown writes about his own life, I want serial killers to appear in his book and end the story.

Don’t get me wrong, Brown’s proven over the course of multiple books and genres that he can flex his humor and creativity, as in the Star Wars books. His autobiographical works, however, are as aimless and shoegazing as a wordless “mumblecore” movie. I read Every Girl Is The End of The World For Me and A Matter of Life and dread the thought that the rest of his growing catalog might be just as dull. Maybe I’m reading his books incorrectly or don’t have a properly calibrated sense of humanity, but his sad-sack earnestness and white-bread existence only take the plot so far before I get impatient with watching him live a painfully ordinary life.

How far can emotional nuance get stretched before it’s just a monotone signal, signifying nothing?

Volume_1-Days_Gone_ByeThe Walking Dead

Jessikah: I know everyone loves The Walking Dead, but it just bores me to tears.  People are always talking about the characters, their interaction, the story, etc.  I believe that they all really find these things worthy.  I’ve tried to give it another shot, but the only emotion I get out of reading it is, “Meh”.  I really wish I didn’t feel this way, because I constantly hear friends and colleagues discussing it, and get that distinct memory of how I felt as a child when I was too sick to go to a birthday party.  Everyone else is having a good time with it, dammit!

Allen: I don’t blame you on that, Jessikah. For the comic, I was pretty much done with the whole thing around the time the characters found themselves in DC. I really liked it at first because the characters were interesting and I liked the idea of an ongoing zombie adventure. Problem is, it gets rote real fast. As for the TV show, I wish I stopped before season 3.

Thomas: The series is often sold on the notion that it depicts what surviving a zombie apocalypse would *really* require, but the story became, as Allen said, rote. I stuck with the series, partially because the hardcover editions were so nice to read, and the series had its ups and downs as it went, but the main villain who eventually replaced the Governor as the “big bad” was so over the top and juvenile I had to quit. For the record, it was hardcover book nine that broke me, which included the polarizing issue #100.

Andrew: I enjoyed the first few issues of The Walking Dead because it was different, or at least different enough for me for a time.  It reminded me of one of my favorite sci-fi stories, The Day of the Triffids which looks at surviving the apocalypse after living plants wipe out humanity.  And those first few issues captured that pretty well…but after that…it was just so much of the same and dystopia type future that I keep seeing that it just became dull and boring to me.  The Gutters webcomic did a strip about it that sums up how I feel about it pretty well.

Garrett: I’m not a huge fan of horror in general, and I really don’t like zombies in particular.  Already, the series had two strikes against it as far as I was concerned when I started reading it, but I was willing to give it the benefit of the doubt because I was really enjoying Invincible.

I got through book 5 of the skinny trades, and I just couldn’t be bothered to purchase any more.  I think my problems with the series mostly stem from my complete disregard for the use of zombies.  I think that zombies have utterly ceased to be useful for representing anything anymore…they are tired, overdone, and have long since overstepped their roots in symbolizing capitalist consumerism or anything else remotely analogous to metaphor.  As far as I’m concerned, they have become nothing better than disaster porn that lacks anything sympathetic about the nature of the destruction.  If you look at Godzilla, for example, you see a creature that is capable of emotion despite being a force of nature. With zombies, they might as well just be a another earthquake or something.  I do not find anything interesting about them, at all.  I saw a trailer for some ridiculous super-storm movie (I can’t even remember the name) at the theater for X-Men and zombies might as well be the exact same thing. With The Walking Dead specifically, I also simply grew weary with the story.  It’s all grim, all the time, and while I understand that grim is a big part of horror, I just can’t get behind following a story so non-stop fraught with peril.  The plotting and the dialogue became a bit juvenile for me, and that’s an argument I have with Invincible as well…they seem to have irrevocably moved into soap opera territory and that bores me to tears.


Jessikah: I started off enjoying it as it was a shoujo manga with a punk rock edge.  As people suggested I might, I really dug the art work and the characters.  Then they all started making insanely awful choices, and acting like flakes!  And it kept getting worse!  I wanted to scream at both Nanas through the pages.  There was a point when I literally (not even joking here) threw the book across the room in frustration.  After that I stopped.  I actually was emotionally invested in the story, but I couldn’t stomach it anymore.  That was a huge disappointment to me.

Frank Quitely

Robin: I’ll finish this installment. Those who have spoken to me know already that I just really, really cannot stand the way that Frank Quitely draws people.  There are many admirable things about the man’s work, from his pacing to his panel layout to his perspectives.  All good.  And yet, I cannot help but cringe when I see his character designs.

This really punched me in the gut when I was reading Warren Ellis’s The Authority, way back in 2000 (and now I feel especially old.)  I adored the whole package, from Ellis’s writing to the elegant art crafted by penciler from Bryan Hitch.  Then in came Frank Quitely (and Mark Millar on writing) and…I almost had to give the series up.

We went from this:


To this:

Millar 2001 - The Authority


And, as an example, Apollo and Midnighter went from looking like this:


To this:


Always with the heavy jaws and creases around the mouth and heavy, heavy limbs.  Don’t get me started on how frightening the women look.

I’ve warned new comics readers, when diving in to traditional superhero comics, they need to be prepared for the fact that the writers and artists will change.  It’s especially unsettling to those who are used to media (manga, television) that rarely if ever change the basic look of characters.  It’s a bit like watching your favorite TV show, and then suddenly, mid-season, the showrunners swap out all the actors for folks who look a lot like the original cast of characters but are not actually the same people.  This can happen with the writing, too, but we’re all more used to writing shifting over the course of serials.  Art, on the other hand, causes much more of a gut reaction.

What do you think?

Come on, share with us your deepest, darkest criticisms.  There has yet to be a list that no one wants to argue about. Bring it.