Comics

I have been putting off doing a post about the comics I read for a long time. I suppose I figured that most people wouldn't care either because they aren't 'comics people' or because they are comics people and I don't really like the comics most comics people like.

I'll start with my must-read comics.

My all-time favorite comic is Usagi Yojimbo. I have to get one thing out of the way before talking about Usagi; the main character, Miyamoto Usagi, is an anthropomorphized samurai rabbit — 'usagi' is the Japanese word for rabbit. Now, I know how that sounds but believe me it is an excellent comic. In my opinion it's one of the best written comics ever. The fact that the characters aren't human actually let's you identify with them as characters without some of the preconceived notions we give human characters. It works incredibly well.

In Usagi Miyamoto Usagi is a yojimbo (bodyguard for hire) wandering from village to village as a ronin (masterless samurai). Over the course of his adventures in feudal Japan we discover how he grew up and received his samurai training as well as how he became ronin.

The comic deals with themes such as honor and love and death. The author, Stan Sakai, gives life to the characters that you probably wouldn't expect from rabbits and rhinoceroses and pandas. He's been writing and drawing Usagi Yojimbo since the mid-1980's so there are many characters and overlapping story-lines in the world he has created for us. And he annotates references to previous issues and defines Japanese words to make it easy to read and follow the story arcs.

I started reading the trade paperbacks with book one and I'm currently on book sixteen. Book twenty-seven comes out in June so I have a way to go.

Honestly. Seriously. This is an excellent comic. Usagi Yojimbo is my desert island comic. I could live without all other comics as long as I have Usagi.

My second favorite comic book hero is The Batman. I don't really care for superheroes with supernatural powers. Batman is powered by money, ingenuity, muscles, and psychological damage. In general, I prefer the Batman movies and the old Adam West television series to comics because the comics have so many extra characters and weird story changes that just confuse me. But I started getting into Batman comics with the Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One graphic novels. I have also started reading the rebooted edition of Detective Comics which features Batman.

For all of the reasons that I like Batman I should like Iron Man, too. And I do like the Iron Man movies. But the crazy plethora of Iron Man comics just confuses the hell out of me. To be fair, Batman isn't much better in that department but I can stick with the one, Detective Comics, and stay on top of things pretty well.

Those are the main comics I obsess over. Here are some of my other favorites.

Saga - This is my favorite new comic. They're releasing Saga in six-issue blocks and issue twelve came out last month. At its core Saga is a love story about a young couple that come from opposite sides of an interstellar war. Saga is hilarious and superbly written and has excellent art but it is very mature and definitely not safe for work/children/people without a healthy sense of humor.

47 Ronin - 47 Ronin is a five-issue series that tells the traditional, true story of forty-seven Japanese samurai who avenge the death of their lord and master who was wrongly executed. It's a fascinating story that has been retold many times in poetry, prose, and on film. This comic version features artwork by Stan Sakai, the author/artist behind Usagi Yojimbo.

Y: The Last Man - Written by Bryan K. Vaughan, who is also the author of Saga, as similar humor and mature themes as that comic. Y: The Last Man is funny and has great art and excellent writing. It follows the story of the last man left on Earth after an 'event' wipes all of the males off the planet.

I'll finish my list of comics with a rundown of comics I'm either casually reading or haven't gotten far enough into to say if I'll stay with them.

The Walking Dead - Zombies.

Sandman - Morpheus, the King of Dreams.

Lone Wolf and Cub - More samurai stuff.

And Finally...

I have a few words about digital versus paper comics. I actually prefer digital comics to paper copies. And it's for reasons that comic book purists would most likely hate me for.

First, the convenience of finding, buying, and reading right on my iPad — and all in a matter of seconds — is just plain awesome. I don't have to wait for Amazon to send the book to my house (two whole days!). And, even better, I don't have to go deal with people in person at a comics shop. You guys know I don't really like people.

Second, I actually get too distracted when reading an entire page of panels. I prefer seeing each panel by itself so I can focus on the artwork and lettering. I find it easier to follow the story that way.

It is also a plus that I can avoid junking up the house with a bunch of old comics sitting around. I have no desire to keep a comics collection organized. This is 2013. I just don't see much point in buying paper comics.