Conversions are our specialty
Ken Lowery Presents: Ringwood
Ken asks how we might magically change non-comics readers into comics readers in one fell swoop. Okay, he didn’t really ask that, but he talked about some books that he’s had some success with.
Some of the titles he comes up with:
The Authority (first two vols)
Y: The Last Man
I’ll add some potentials to that list, but let’s take a look at why those might be good candiates to warm people up to the Grand Comics Experience.
You’ll notice that there’s only two superhero titles on the list. And really, they about as far from traditional superheroes as you can get without a prescription. This is worth noting, but I don’t think it automatically disqualifies superhero books. I think, however that the less continuity you have to know to enjoy the book, the more likely you’ll be able to pass it to a new reader and not lose them entirely.
I know. Duh.
How about genre content, then? I touched on it above, or rather a distinct lack of a particular set of tropes. The works that aren’t superhero books are firmly set in the crime/suspense genre, with some science fiction as well as some fantasy. Though the above are not traditional representatives of these genres, for sure. There’s no spaceships and rayguns and evil empires or wizards in pointy hats. To some degree, these works defy expectations of the genres that they work in. Not entirely, mind you, but enough to make them stand out.
Another observation. They’re all self-contained stories. Granted, some of them are still ongoing affairs, but we can assume that there are endings for books like 100 Bullets, Fables and Y. These things have (or will have) a beginning, a middle (or a lot of it) and an end. It won’t be an interminable soap opera of indeterminate length or just a string of standalone stories that are linked only by common characters, not pointing to a greater whole.
This is important, doncha think? The above are whole stories (or on their way to being told). I think that matters far more than their genre content or art style or anything else (not that all of the above aren’t outstanding artwise; I’m arguing nothing of the sort.) There has to be more than a simple resolution of plot to get people drawn in. And the above books provide that. This is why they succeed to turn on readers (in the small test group, at least.)
I’ll note one more thing. I doubt Ken gave any of the above to readers as anything other than a trade collection. I could be wrong, but I bet I’m not. You’re never going to hook a wide swath of new readers on 22 pages at a time. Maybe if the books magically appeared in their mailbox or something, or if they were so powerfully sucked into the worlds contained within, then maybe you’d see people heading down to the comics emporium every Wednesday. But as it stands, the episodic nature of montly comics is a hinderance to everyone but regular comics readers.
Ultimately, I don’t think genre matters so long as you get a complete story, and all the information needed to enjoy it as it’s presented. I’m not saying that you couldn’t hook a non-comics reader with a superhero story, I can think of a couple that could work well. Batman: Year One for instance. Dark Knight Returns not so much so. A lot of its punch depended on it being the first of its kind for superhero books.
So, let me offer up a couple of possibilities that could work towards a universal harmony of comics readership. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list. It’s untested in the field, and I take no responsibility for careless application of these hypotheses.
Hellboy – some superhero tropes, but no extensive backstory to digest. Character progression is slow and not immediately rewarding on the surface.
Grendel: Devil’s Legacy – I’m trying to remember how many of the Grendel stories worked on their own. I know they all interlock into a larger opus, but some chunks, such as this one, work quite well solo.
Sandman – The perennial favorite. Sounds good in theory. Not sure how it works out in practice, but DC keeps printing them, so there must be something to it.
V for Vendetta – A natural, as the movie is coming along shortly. Again, though, self-contained, limited reliance on other tropes and a darn good story to boot.
Kill Your Boyfriend – though I’ve not read it personally, it always comes up in conversations such as this. Any commenters wish to speak up on behalf of this one?
Elektra: Assassin – Hell, if Ken can convert folks with The Filth, then this gentle primer should work like a charm. You could not know a thing about her career in Daredevil and get along just fine, if you can wrap your head around the art.
We3 – Certainly belongs on this list as not only a good story but a wonderful example of the power of the comics form.
AiT – There’s a host of AiT material that I’m not going to break down completely by title which should do this job well. Only a few things in their catalog stand out as tougher sells to newbies. Self-contained stories are where it’s at.
Age of Bronze – Bet you could rope in a bunch of non-readers with this. Though I’ll caution that it’s all an epic work which won’t be completed for years. That said, the first two volumes stand alone fairly well (okay, you really need the first one to read the second).
The Interman – a personal favorite of mine. Action and thrills and exotic locales and a fun little story.
100% – A little risky. Paul Pope’s art isn’t for everyone, but this is certainly his strongest story. Science fiction romance drama and a unique visual style.
Frank – Okay, just seeing if you’re awake here. Though I suspect that this would hook a couple as well, but I’m not sure what else you’d throw their way after finishing this oneric masterpiece.
Hmm. The more I think of this, the more I think it’s turning into another Lieber’s Eleven (where he asked folks for recommendations of 11 books that you’d offer to libraries.) Damn, everything really has been done before…