12 graphic novels for the women of Venus
by rick olivares
In the 13th episode of Season 6 of “The Big Bang Theory” titled, “The Bakersfield Expedition,” Amy, Bernadette, and Penny go where no woman has gone before… a comic book shop (in Bakersfield, California).
After that eye-opening trip where they are ogled like inside the comic book specialty shop that is filled, they talk amongst themselves about… comics.
Bernadette: I didn’t know there were a lot of pictures. One page only had one word, “Brakadoom!”
Penny: Yeah, well I have street smarts.
Bernadette: So what do you guys think?
Amy: Well, there was a lot of action. The story moved along at a brisk pace. It was overall - what is the word I am looking for…?
Penny: So stupid.
Penny: I don’t know how Leonard can get caught up in this?
Bernadette: It’s crazy they can spend hours arguing about things that don’t exist.
Amy: What a waste of time!
Penny: I know. A hammer’s so heavy that no one else can pick it up.
Have you ever experienced this with your girlfriend? Or a female friend you tried to hook into that four-colored medium that consumes you?
Sure have. And it isn’t only comics… throw sports in as well. But that’s another lengthy and touchy subject as well.
Now back to the topic. You want to watch “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” but she yawns and asks why can’t we see “Rio 2” and “Haunted House 2” instead. So I guess you get the drift.
Here’s how I got my Helen of Troy to capitulate to the four-colored paneled delight.
If she has no taste for superheroes and thinks them silly then shoving her Batman and the X-Men is like howling at the wind. So I chose graphic novels that would appeal to what she likes but also made sure than I not only read and enjoyed them but actually have them in my collection. The better to passionately talk about them, my dear padawan.
For the romantic:
Cairo (Vertigo) – I have no idea if this excellent book will be adapted into film. With loads of comic books making their big screen or television debut, you can say, this could be the next big comic book film. Written by G. Willow Wilson (Ms. Marvel, X-Men) with art my M.K. Parker, Cairo is about six wholly disparate people who are drawn together by different circumstances regarding a stolen hookah. Maybe this book will not be adapted into film and that is a crying shame. But she will forgive you for fibbing because it’s an excellent read.
Stardust (Vertigo Comics) – What girl doesn’t like Neil Gaiman? Trade that paperback for the trade paperback with the Charles Vess art! That’s a powerful Love Potion #9. In the town of Wall in 19th century England, Tristran Thorn is head over heels in love with the beautiful Victoria Forester. One romantic October night, they watch a shooting star fall from the sky. Victoria tells Tristran that if he can retrieve that star and bring it back for her, she will marry him. It is this promise that sends Tristran into an unforgettable adventure that will change his life in ways he never saw coming.
Wasted – When I think of this book, it reminds me of a Greek tragedy. And perhaps, it is the greatest Filipino comic book of the modern era. Why it got even the hipsters who read only American comics into reading local fare! This will make every best of list and I kid you not. Passionately written and drawn from the heart of Gerry Alanguilan, Wasted is about a young man’s inability to get on with his life after a disastrous break-up. Violence follows.
For those with a philosophical bent:
Daytripper (Vertigo Comics) – If comics are categorized like music, then Daytripper by the twin Brazilian brothers Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba will be filed under “world music.”
Set in exotic Brazil, the story follows the life of Bras de Olivias Dominguez. The twist is every chapter starts with a different period in his life yet ends every time with his death. It’s about making choices and decisions that end with happiness or sorrow, good or bad, as well as love or loneliness. This one will stay with you forever.
Blankets (Top Shelf Productions) – Girls want to be understood. And they want to someone who will listen. I got your “see-I-understand-you” right here. “Blankets,” is written and drawn by the multi-talented Craig Thompson and is an intensely personal story that is pretty much autobiographical in nature. It will resonate with a lot of people as it tells of the time and repetitious tide of falling on love, triumph, questioning one’s existence, sorrow, loneliness, and angst.
For those who are fascinated with horror and the supernatural:
Trese (Alamat Comics) –How’s this for an even more badass version of “Grimm”? She may miss a hunk like David Giuntoli but she’ll find a strong female lead in Alexandra Trese, the supernatural protector of Manila. The creatures of Philippine myth and folklore have adapted into the modern world but that doesn’t mean that certain creatures have given up their cravings for human flesh and blood for Dean and DeLuca. Filled with memorable characters and villains, Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s magnum opus is spellbinding. When things go bump in the night, you do not call the Ghostbusters. Instead you call on Alexandra Trese and the Kambal.
For pet lovers:
Kinski (Monkey Brain Comics/Image Comics) – Written and drawn by Gabriel Hardman, “Kinski” is a story about dangerous if not absurd obsession. With his life in the gutter, Joe, a disgruntled salesman, finds his attention drawn to a Labrador puppy that was seemingly abandoned. Joe “rescues” the puppy fully mindful that it isn’t his property. He names the Labrador “Kinski” after German actor Klaus Kinski and sets in motion events that sent whatever is left of his life spiraling out of control.
For music lovers:
Doomboy (Magnetic Press) – It has been said that the angst and sorrow-ridden are able to write the best songs. In Doomboy, Mexican artist Tony Sandoval tells the story of, D, an ordinary, lonely teenager with an overactive imagination and a love of metal music. When his girlfriend suddenly passes away, D retreats in solitude and broadcasts his heartfelt songs to her beyond the grave under the nom de guerre, “Doomboy”. What he doesn’t realize, however, is that those broadcasts are picked up all across town and beyond. Soon the music of Doomboy becomes legendary, and his innocent private life quickly turns inside out.
Phonogram (Image Comics) – Kieron Gillen (Uber, Young Avengers) and Jamie McKelvie (Young Avengers, The Wicked and the Divine) weave magic and Britrock into a modern-day comic book version of Nick Hornby’s High-Fidelity. Phonomancer David Kohl has to save his missing Britpop goddess, Britannia. He follows a series of leads and meets with other phonomancers, and spends time with a "normal" friend, Kid-With-Knife before he eventually locates Britannia.
For those who enjoy fantasy:
Fables (Vertigo Comics) – Chances are girls would have read Gregory Maguire’s “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” that is a revisionist look at the villain of Oz. “Fables,” written by Bill Willingham and drawn initially by Lan Medina and eventually by Mark Buckingham is in the same vein and is perhaps the best mature readers story of the past decade. When the mysterious Adversary kills, subjugates, and drives out the characters of fables and legends of yore from their homelands, they all relocate in exile in Fabletown, a magically hidden and located in New York City. When the Fables aren’t bickering between themselves, they go to war as they plot a return to their homelands
Saga (Image Comics) – Decades ago, the best way to describe “Saga” is to say it’s a sci-fi “Romeo and Juliet.” Uh Uh. Maybe to modern girls, you can use the its initial solicitation description of a story that is “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones.” Now that’s better.
“Saga,” written by the talented Brian K. Vaughn and lushly drawn by Fiona Staples is a space opera where Marko and Alana, lovers from two warring alien races, fall in love and have a baby who they must protect from their respective families and people who want more than nothing than to end what they believe is sacrilege.
Now that you’ve established your beachhead on Venus, you want her to graduate to the superhero stuff. And this is where I sic them with their first genuine superhero-related book: Marvels.
Marvels (Marvel Comics) – It isn’t a hard-sell book with testosterone filling every page. Au contraire, the lovely painted Rockwell-esque artwork of Alex Ross and the sublime prose of Kurt Busiek will subdue the last pockets of resistance. The story puts you in the shoes and point of view of the man on the as they react to the appearance of “Marvels” or superheroes. It’s perfect as it runs the gamut of the multitude of characters and famous stories from Marvel’s line. Then, she gets interested.
Yo, Sandy! I got you a new customer.