Graphic novels and comic books can be a mildly contentious issue for readers and lovers of literature. Are they ‘real books’? Should they be included in reading lists, or have their own separate genre as they’re considered such an alternative medium? Are they just a colourful distraction for children to pore over and then discard?
I believe comic books are a valid form of literature, and should be considered far more than pulp or just for children. According to Scott McCloud in his book Understanding Comics, the heady mix of stunning or often action-packed artworks and engaging story is a higher form of participatory reading.
They have evolved over the last 50 or so years to become something for everyone, if you have ever read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Chronicles you have noticed what wonderfully dark and enticing pieces of artwork they have become. If you have had literarily-snobbish thoughts cross your mind when you are confronted with an adult who reads comics or graphic novels, take a moment to reflect on the idea that you may be missing out on something wonderful…
We asked our faithful Reading Addicts on Facebook for their ultimate favourite comic book or graphic novel anti-hero, but I was a little surprised at the apparent lack of comic book nerds in our midst… We collated the results nevertheless and here is what you told us. There are a couple of classic choices, however I have come away from this with a few new comic books to enjoy!
See if your favourite is here, and if not- let us know!
1. John Constantine
Occult detective John Constantine, is a con man with a scathing wit and a golden-tongue. His cynicism and cunning, and constant chain smoking, provides us with a perfectly roguish anti-hero.
2. Harley Quinn
Harleen Quinzel, former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, is strong, smart, psychotic, and the master (or mistress!) of disguise. While working in the asylum she treated an infamous patient, the Joker, who she eventually fell in love with, but don’t forget- she is far more than ‘just’ Joker’s girl…
3. Poison Ivy
Pamela Isley is a botanical biochemist, one of the best in her field, and the most zealous for her cause. She’s intensely passionate eco-terrorist out to save the world’s plant life, without a care for who gets in here way, including Batman. For a while she was a member of the Birds of Prey for a time but was not against betraying them for the sake of her personal convictions.
Wade Wilson, became a test subject of the Weapon X program after finding out he had an inoperable brain cancer. Deadpool became a wild and unpredictable mercenary with a dark sense of humour and a leaning towards suicidal tendencies.
6. Beta Ray Bill
Cyborg Beta Ray Bill was bestowed the powers of Thor after proving worthy to Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) and since had his own forged for him- The Stormbreaker. Beta Ray is one character who seems monstrous but will prove himself worthy…
8. Queen Maeve
Described as the ‘Wonderwoman’ of The Seven, Maeve was grown in a laboratory, and as a result has some amazing super powers including flight and super strength. After a traumatic event she turns to alcohol (specifically gin) which makes her a sour and nasty personality at times.
9. The Female
Known as The Female of the Species, and part of The Boys team, don’t be fooled by her mutism. She is ultra-violent and kills without mercy after being used a weapon since she could stand. Super-strength and supreme agility give her advantages many don’t possess.
Cassidy is charming and witty but full of dark secrets, hiding them well behind his humour and lust for life. He does not, however, hide his vampirism, which gains him agility and healing powers, as well as a veracious appetite for blood.
An infant demon with a giant stone hand was discovered in 1944 by US soldiers and they named him Hellboy. He is the world’s best paranormal investigator, born to summon the apocalypse, but instead devoted his life to fighting evil.
13. Dark Phoenix
The Phoenix Force is a cosmic entity, occasionally choosing a host to live within and grating them superhuman powers. Jean Grey was one of these vessels… Phoenix was psychically seduced by the villain Mastermind but the power became too much for the human portion it assumed and she turned into Dark Phoenix.
Codename V is an enigma. A freedom fighter and terrorist, a hero and a villain, and the protagonist and antagonist for V for Vendetta series. Anarchy rules for V, although he does occasionally like to peruse art galleries and has a gift for languages… Charismatic and intelligent, but also dark and violent, V is not a simple hero or villain.
15. The Shadow
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” Kent Allard is a vigilante who started as a spy in WWI and is one of the original dark avenger characters in the comic book universe. He is highly intelligent, a master of disguise, and can mesmerise and manipulate to his heart’s content.
Selina Kyle’s alias is Catwoman- an apt name for a cat burglar, don’t you think? She has a sporadic romance with Batman, which at times proves useful… She is strong-willed, independent but morally dubious, great ingredients for an anti-hero.
17. Black Widow
One of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and a former KGB agent, Natasha Romanova became Black Widow after being bio- and psycho-technologically enhanced. She has been romantically involved with a few Marvel characters, including Daredevil.
18. Spider Jerusalem
Spider Jerusalem stars in Transmetropolitan, and is a notorious journalist in The City (the central of the comic’s USA-based world).One of his favourite pieces of journalism he wrote was a 8000-word article which solely consisted of the word ‘fuck’. He is cynical, foul-mouthed, and a heavy smoker- key features to many anti-heroes- and was heavily inspired by Hunter. S. Thompson.
One inmate, named Myeisha Garcia, who a part of the programme finished her recording by saying “We’ve come a long way, and I love you,” to her two daughters who currently live with their grandmother. She was sentenced to 10 years after she was charged for manslaughter after killing her boyfriend in a domestic violence fight which she claims was self defence.
At his side will be his queen- the wonderfully talented musician and artist, Amanda Palmer, and they will be jointly be ruling their watery subjects from the Coney Island Mermaid Parade float.
Coney Island prides itself on honouring American pop-culture through fresh and original shows and acts. Drawing from circus and theatrical traditions of P.T. Barnum, the people of Coney Island present uniquely American visual arts. This year the mermaid float will carry Queen Mermaid Amanda Palmer and King Neptune Neil Gaiman along the Coney Island Boardwalk before arriving at the beach for the official Beach Ceremony: the ‘opening’ of the ocean for the summer swimming season.
The STKF has recently awarded a $50,000 grant that will be used to help with providing books and a literacy program in Portland elementary schools.
Spokeswoman Kate Snyder noted that Portland public schools’ Books and Literacy Resources program will certainly benefit from the award with the $50,000 used to build book collections to also celebrate culture and language differences.
The art can be traced back over 1,000 years to the Tang dynasty where dragon scale bookbinding was once reserved for the very wealthy and privileged of the Chinese people. Each piece was original and exquisitely hand made and passed down from generation to generation of royalty and the wealthier families.
Very few of the original books can be found today which prompted Zhang to look into the process and attempt to recreate it. Zhang found himself taking a more scientific approach to his artwork in an effort to recreate an exquisite piece just like the original artists did.
Their website states the charity is an: “educational, not-for-profit employment program designed to empower underserved youth with the knowledge that they as teenagers have a vital voice. They have the power to be active participants in their communities, not just passive observers.”
The book is meant to highlight the scary situations some children experience in their lives, and the awful reality many disadvantaged kids live through.