5 Comics That Inspire

Aug 12, 2014   //   by Mark Maia   //   So-Called Living: The Blog  //  No Comments

To write comics, you need to read comics. And truth be told, I don’t read nearly as much as I use to, or want to. Why? Because I’m an adult now, and with that comes a string of responsibilities I like to call, everyday life. I know there’s a lot of you out there just like me. Guys in their 30’s, getting tied up in the need-to-do’s,” and setting aside very little time for the want-to-do’s. So, I’m proposing a change in perspective. Move “reading comics” over to the “need to do” list, right next to groceries and cutting the lawn.

Ok, there, it’s done! That was the easy part, but now what? You’ve carved yourself out a nice little chunk of time to get your comic on, but what comics do you read? I’d love to read them all, but that’s not going to happen. So for those of you in the same boat, I’ve created this reading list. It’s a short list, and God knows I could keep adding to it., But, for this post, I thought I would stick to five. Five stories that have inspired me to not just write, but to write better. Because as far as I’m concerned, I’m not going up against indie comics alone. Oh no. To get your attention, I need to go head–to-head with the big boys too. I need to be as good as the best. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that’s not going to happen overnight. But, I’m willing to put the work in to make it happen, or die trying.

So, enough rambling. Here are five comic book stories/series (in no particular order) that have inspired me to improve myself as a writer.

1) Locke & Key

Locke & key

Writer: Joe Hill

Artist: Gabriel Rodriguez

The gist of it: The Locke family, consisting of big brother Tyler, little brother Bode, sister Kinsey and their mom Nina, move into an old mansion, filled with magical doors and keys. Fantasticle adventures ensue; but what would an adventure be without an evil adversary, determined to use these keys to fulfill its own evil agenda? Leaving it up to the kids of Keyhouse to save the day.

My two cents: Locke & Key taught me that I have a lot to learn when it comes to storytelling. I’m pretty confident with my dialog, but dialog alone does not a good story make.

Locke & Key builds its story from the ground up, and sets up a strong foundation for events that follow. It’s is a story I can get lost in, and a story that I have recommended to anyone that would listen. From the writing to the artwork, there is just so much good in these pages. Pick it up, you will not be disappointed.

2) The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead

Writer: Robert Kirkman

Artist: Tony Moore (Issues #1-6) and Charlie Adlard (Issues #7-present)

The gist of it: Officer Rick Grimes wakes up one day from a coma, and finds himself in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. Now he’s got to learn to survive in a world where everyone and everything on two legs is a potential threat to his safety and that of his family. Who do you trust? Who do you fear? And how do you survive in a world ruled by the undead?

My two cents: I love the setting that Kirkman has built here. It’s not your typical zombie story, but a drama of people trying to survive in a dying world, with zombies as a backdrop. I love his commitment to the story, and if a fan-favorite character has to die to better it, so be it. If there’s anything I want to take from reading Kirkman’s work, it’s his ability to keep the reader turning the page. When I first sat down with The Walking Dead, I was 30 issues in before I even looked up. I want people to get lost in my stories, just like the way I got lost in The Walking Dead.

3) The Ultimates: Vol 1

The Ultimates

Writer: Mark Millar

Artist: Bryan Hitch

The gist of it: Nick Fury puts together a team of metahumans, made up of: Iron Man, Giant Man, Wasp, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, etc.

One day Banner loses his shit, and has himself a Hulk-level temper tantrum through the city, causing some serious damage, and killing many. So, Nick Fury’s recently assembled team of heroes is called into action to stop him. Bottom line, it’s the Avengers, just 100x awesomer.

My two cents: I’m not going to lie, growing up, I was not a huge Avengers fan. They always seemed kind of dated and old fashioned to me. So when this story came out, I was hesitant. But being that I was a huge Ultimate Spider-Man fan, I was willing to give the Avengers of this universe the benefit of the doubt, and man, am I glad I did. I absolutely loved what Millar has done with these characters. Everyone got a much needed update, and it was awesome. I gave up on the Avengers as a source of entertainment a long time ago, but Mark Millar showed me how old ideas could be made new again, and what was once great, can continue to be so, as long as you’re willing to adapt to your audience and give them what they want.

4) All Star Superman

All Star

Writer: Grant Morrison

Artist: Frank Quitely

The gist of it: During a solar experiment gone wrong (thanks to Lex Luthor), Superman’s cells are exposed to a massive amount of solar radiation, which is slowly killing him. Knowing this, Superman sets out to do the most he can with the remainder of his life, and spend what little time he has left with those he loves.

My two cents: A lot of people give superman a hard time, but personally I’m a fan of the Man of Steel. They say he’s hard to write for, maybe they’re right, I don’t know, I’ve never written for him myself, but I’d love to try.  And given the chance, I’d like to think I would take a similar route as Grant Morrison did, with All Star Superman. All Star Superman shows us a different side of Supes. Sure he’s still strong, flies, and pretty much does whatever the hell he wants, but that’s just who he is. And, who he is shouldn’t be looked at as a character design flaw, but instead as a challenge to writers to make it work, and get me as a reader to care, and relate to the world’s most unrelatable man. And that’s what Grant Morrison has done with All Star Superman. If you’re like most Superman haters I know, then nothing I say will make you read this story or change your mind in any way, but if you’re open to give the man in blue a second chance, then make it All Star Superman, you won’t be disappointed.

5) Daredevil: Underboss

Daredevil

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Alex Maleev

The gist of it: The Kingpin’s Lieutenants “assassinate” him, ala Julius Caesar, and there’s a bounty on Murdoc’s head. It’s been a while since I read this one, so I’ll just leave it at that ;)

My two cents: Underboss is the story that brought me back to comics. That’s right; there was a point in my life after I started reading comics, that I just stopped. Why you ask? Life got in the way (short answer). Anyway, during my 4 year hiatus from comics, I was working on a pitch for a Daredevil game, and decided to bone up a bit on old horn head. So I picked up a collected edition of the Underboss story, from Heroes, the local comic book store. And, not to bring up any spoilers or anything, but there was this scene with Kingpin’s wife, and The Rose (their son), that was just… WOW. Well done Mr. Bendis, well done. Now, Dare Devil, is one of those characters that I never got into. As a kid, I found his stories boring, but not because they were bad, but because I was 10 years old. And I guess that idea of “Dare Devil is boring” just stuck with me, so I avoided it, but after reading Underboss, I was hooked. There are few stories in my life that I can remember having had such an emotional impact on me as this one. It was moving, and powerful. When I finished that issue with The Rose and him mom, I was literally left with my jaw open. I looked over at the guy sitting next to me and simply said, “Wow.” So thank you Mr. Bendis, for helping me rediscover comics, all over again.

You might have noticed, throughout that very long post, that didn’t talk about the art for these books or the talented artists responsible; but I assure you, all the art created for these books, played just a big a part in my love for them as the story telling itself. So, big respect for the talented artists that work so hard to make these books happen. I applaud you.


Leave a comment