|Where's the rape kit? I think this seal did get serious injuries!|
So, I thought I'd sprinkle in one of my few personal introvert posts instead. This one about me and comic books. Those of you completely uninterested in the topic might as well skip it, I won't be upset with you.
When I grew up, I would say I probably read basically as much comic books as the average kid. In Sweden that mostly meant Donald Duck and some of the local Swedish humour comics ("91:an", "Lilla Fridolf" etc.). Reading comics weren't frowned upon at home and as our Dad liked the old Carl Barks Donald Duck comics from the 50's and Lee Falk's "The Phantom" (which for some reason falled into obscurity in the US but remained extremely popular in Sweden) I guess it was mildly encouraged even. As I got a bit older I switched from the cartoon comics to Superman and Superboy, which at that time in the early eighties was heavily geared towards younger kids with pretty silly plots.
Then as I got a little older still I started to get into the Marvel comics, particularly Spider-man, X-men and the Fantastic Four as those were published in Swedish language editions. For a little while I even started buying imported US Marvel comics as the Swedish publication tended to lag a few years and the offering was limited. But on a limited weekly allowance this was pretty minor, but still, going up to Stockholm and one of the few real comic book stores and check out all the American books was quite the event.
But as I started high-school I had begun to outgrow the stories and my interest and money instead shifted to music and I basically stopped buying comics. It's not that I didn't want to like comics, it was just that I found the stories a bit too juvenile and not particularly interesting anymore. I had checked out some of the comics geared for an adult market but found them dull, expensive and focused on sex and nudity instead of stories (which I found a bit pointless as regular real porn seemed more fitting to fullfill any needs of sex and nudity). Then I remember one summer at a used market close to our summer house when our family was staying there and I came across a few cheap used copies of the Swedish edition of Watchmen and it completely blew me away. I remember managing to scavenge most of the back issues but lacking one of the volumes in the middle (in Sweden they were published two US editions combined in one). But Watchmen demonstrated how great and mature comic books could be when done right. Then a Swedish company started publishing some of the US Vertigo contemporary horror comics ("Hellblazer", "Swamp Thing" etc.) and they caught my interest, but after a while the publication stopped as the market was not large enough in Sweden. Buying imported English language versions was not really an option either as money was tight and imported stuff considerably more expensive. So throughout University I knew there were some interesting stuff out there but access to it was strictly limited.
After university I moved to Japan and started doing my Salaryman thing. For the first time in my life I found myself with a decent paycheck and money to spend on other stuff than the pure necessities. As the Japanese Amazon shop provided quite good access to US publications at decent prices I started to order some comics on a regular basis. Mostly trade paperbacks of the larger "mature-audiences" titles like Preacher, Hellblazer, Sandman and whatnot. But I still kept very far away from the Superhero comics. But sometime in 2004 or so during a visit in Sweden, facing the 10+ hour flight home, I went to the local book shop to see if I could pick up some interesting serial killer biographies or other interesting and nurturing reading to kill time with on a long flight. The bookshop also had a quite large comic section in it, but as there really wasn't anything out on the market that I particularly wanted, I didn't really plan on buying any comics. But then I saw "The Ultimates", at first I didn't really know what it was about much, but through reading on the back and quickly flipping through it I figured out that it was a reimagining of the classic superhero team "The Avengers". Without any big expectations, I bought it as I thought it might help kill an hour or so on the flight with some brain dead superhero comics.
As you might understand, it completely blew me away. It had somewhat the same effect that reading Watchmen had had on me many many years earlier. The Ultimates showed how cool it could be with superheroes if you left all the silliness and stupidity behind and put the superheroes in a somewhat realistic contemporary setting. When I first read the books, I remember how I kept thinking "this should really be made into a film". So again I started glancing a bit on the Superhero stuff out there and granted, most of it still was crap, but I started to find some really good stuff in there as well. As it turned out, the kids nowadays never read comic books, so it seems like the stories aged with the readers so by the time I came back to the superhero comics, they were no longer really written for the kids but for an audience in their 20's and 30's.
Well... "What about Manga?" you might think... The irony in it is that I live in Japan with plenty of access to cheap manga everywhere and the Japanese ability to be able to read it without too much effort, but I just never really got it... I don't hate on Manga as an art-form or storytelling device, but I just never really could get into it as I am used to the Western pacing, style and clearer divisions between genres. I tried "Akira" and some of the bigger titles back in the day and really really tried to like it, but in the end I just gave up...
There you have it, the story of me and comic books. If you made it all the way to this you might even have found it mildly interesting, who knows?