Sunday, February 12, 2012

Comic Books For Hipsters

Yes, when one thinks of comic books, one might imagine Sheldon Cooper from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ and his mylar-covered collections of ‘Flash’ and ‘Green Lantern’, but it needn’t be that way. There are plenty of alternative options for the hipster wanting to add some sequential pictorial storytelling to their sharehouse. Not too many of course... only about 20 or so, rather than making the mistake I did and hoarding 2,000, which makes visitors and girlfriends wonder if you have a huge stash of porn in all of those boxes. With this in mind, let’s run through some careful selections.

First, the obvious choice - you need ‘Scott Pilgrim’. If you don’t already know, here’s the premise: the eponymous Scott must defeat the seven evil exes of his love, the uber-hipster chick Ramona Flowers (who moves to Toronto from New York, naturally). In terms of comics, this is the mother lode of hipsterism: shitty punk bands, slackers, record stores, obsession with one’s age, t-shirts, chic outfits for the girls, parties, relationships, and old-school video games. Furthermore, whereas for all other series you should only have a couple of issues or volumes, preferably in non-sequential order to emphasise their randomness, it is acceptable to have all six of the ‘Scott Pilgrim’ books. This is because they’re small, hence making good beer coasters, and because you really need all six to get the full story. Also get a ratty second-hand copy of the DVD for good measure.

Next, make sure to pick up a graphic novel each by Daniel Clowes and by Chris Ware. Clowes has done a cover for ‘The New Yorker’ and wrote the ‘Ghost World’ screenplay (based on his graphic novel) for the film that starred Steve Buscemi and a pre-fame Scarlett Johansson. Based on this you might be tempted to pick up the ‘Ghost World’ volume, but a better choice is ‘Like A Velvet Glove Cast In Iron’, which has a cooler title, came out before ‘Ghost World’, and has a David Lynch-like plot involving a dominatrix and a woman who looks like a potato. Ware, meanwhile, guest-edited a volume of ‘McSweeney’s’, and you’d be well-advised to pick up an issue of his ‘Acme Novelty Library’ wherever you can find one (probably eBay, but don’t admit this). Each volume has its own distinct design and is never reprinted, making them rarer than a New Order 7-inch.

It might at first be considered compulsory to have a book by comics’ greatest writer, Alan Moore (UK), but this is a tricky case. While no-one who has read Moore’s original graphic novels—‘Watchmen’, ‘From Hell’, ‘V For Vendetta’, ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen’, etc.—doubts their quality, they have been made into terrible, terrible movies. So it really depends: if you have friends that you think may be hip to Moore’s writing, keep a volume or two around, but otherwise be aware that you potentially open yourself up to ridicule. A safer bet may be a ‘Sandman’ volume by fellow Brit and Twitter superstar Neil Gaiman, in which one can’t help but look at the title character and think of The Cure’s Robert Smith.

Another Brit, Grant Morrison, also poses difficulty. Morrison is the closest thing that comics has to a “hipster laureate”; his book ‘Supergods’ is full of tales of punk rock, drugs, travels to Kathmandu, and sex with hipster chicks. But Morrison’s biggest successes have all been with superheroes: Superman, the Justice League and the X-Men. With this in mind, you may want to limit yourself to a couple of random issues. Perhaps an issue of ‘New X-Men’ with the cool reversible logo from around the middle of his run (preferably with art from his hipster-in-crime Frank Quitely), and the new Action Comics #1 (not the old one which sells for a kazillion dollars), which has an updated, working-class Superman in t-shirt and jeans, while keeping a 1930s-type backdrop. (This Superman has also been described as ‘hipster Superman’ - a ringing endorsement.)

Finally, you need an issue of a current comic book series to make it look like you’re keeping up with the trends. My pick is ‘Batwoman’ - don’t laugh yet, I’ll explain... First, the current Batwoman is Kate Kane (which is close to a name of a vintage clothing store - truly), who sports a short red bob, was kicked out from the military for being gay, and whose sister dresses up as a super-villain based on ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Second, the art is by a penciller named J.H. Williams III, and it’s beautiful, with panel sequences routinely spreading over two pages, and often looking like something out of a fairly tale. With that in mind, you’re best advised to just leave a copy open on the coffee table so that visitors will be dazzled by the art before they realise it’s a ‘Batwoman’ comic, again potentially opening you up to ridicule. And for God’s sake don’t put it next to a ‘Green Lantern’ book.

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