Category Archives: Comics

Graphic Content – Captain America

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
48/501Title: Captain America
Creators: Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
Years: 1940-50 (first run)
Country: USA

It’s a question that comes up with any long running series – without consuming the whole thing, how do I get a good overview. Well, in the case of Captain America I opted to read a portion of the original run (whose first issue famously depicted Captain America punching Hitler) as well as some of Captain America’s run in the 1960s (where he becomes the lost in time superhero that we all know).

Given the volume of Marvel superhero movies that have been out in the last ten years, Captain America is a good place to start. I mean, this was one of (if not the) first major Marvel superhero comic to come out. With Superman and Batman making their debuts some 2 years earlier, I can see how (in 1940) the idea of an All-American superhero doing battles against Germans would have been appealing.

It’s interesting to read Captain America from two different decades, where the enemies shift from Nazis to Communists. Nazis still appear in later issues thanks to the evil Red Skull and Captain America’s own flashbacks – but, on the whole, the enemies do move with the times.

Having read this series from two different eras, I have to say that I am more of a fan of the silver/bronze age Captain America. In the original run it became a bit samey to have him as the army man in a clear good versus evil battle. Instead, in the later runs, there is more interesting psychology as he reacts to being a man out of his time period (due to being cryogenically frozen), his survivor’s guilt and how he deals with everyone he knew no longer being around.

I also liked this period better because, at least for a while, Captain America stories were paired with Iron Man stories – although the two didn’t always meet. It’s also in this later period that we see him interact with other Avengers like Hawkeye, Wasp and Scarlet Witch. Reading these make me think that I’ll enjoy reading the Avengers comics, but that may need to wait a while.



Graphic Content – Kampung Boy

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
47/501Title: Kampung Boy
Creator: Lat
Year: 1979
Country: Malaysia

The variation within the 1001 comics list really is something to behold. This week I’ve read an adaptation of Chinese erotica, a Franco-Belgian humour comic about a long tailed animal and now we have have a touching (and humorous) autobiography about a boy growing up in rural Malaysia.

It’s a short graphic novel where we follow the first 10-11 years of Mat’s life in a rural village (called a ‘kampung’ in Malay). We watch as he makes friends, learns to read and goes through the many rites of passage associated with being a young Muslim in Malaysia.

Everything is done seamlessly through the eyes of a child, down to the asides about his father scratching his back. It was such a joy to read that, I couldn’t help but feel that Kampung Boy ended as soon as it had begun. I guess that this means I’ll have to pick up a copy of Town Boy at some point to continue following Mat’s story as he gets us to life in a major town after growing up in the countryside.

Right, it’s time to go for something a bit more sizeable and typical of comics – that’s right it’s my first proper superhero comic and I’m going to be reading Captain America. It was a close run thing between this and X-Men, but this won out because I’ve never really gotten to know Captain America. This is exciting.

Graphic Content – The Marsupilami Robbers

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
46/501Title: The Marsupilami Robbers
Creator: Franquin
Years: 1954
Country: Franco-Belgian

Another short comic today, but at least this one doesn’t feature dripping genitals. Instead it is an exploration of my childhood as I read one of the comics where lovable weird creature Marsupilami made his first appearance.

The Marsupilami Robbers is part of the longer running Spirou and Fantasio series, something that I had never heard of until this list. I’m guessing this is a more famous series on the continent considering just how long it’s been running. Still, interesting to note how Marsupilami has become such an international success – which included his on Disney animated show and a hit song in the Netherlands (that I cannot get out of my head, thanks again husband of mine).

Honestly, this comic felt a little inconsequential but I guess it makes sense to give major series their own entries. The protagonists were just such goody goodies that it was pretty hard to find joy in a lot of their hi-jinks (until they got into a punch-up with some border guards… that was weird). Apart from Marsupilami the only characters with any real charisma was their little squirrel friend and some sort of lizard that escaped from the zoo.

In any case, I’m going to be sticking with comics for a little longer, it’ll be another short one next and then I’ll (finally) make a start on one of the big superhero series. Not sure whether to go Marvel or DC with this… but I guess I’ll just see when I get there.

Graphic Content – 110 Pills

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
45/501Title: 110 Pills
Creator: Magnus
Years: 1985
Country: Italian

There are some things that you’re never meant to read on public transport. The liberal use of the n-word in Gone With The Wind toes this line, but the huge amounts of nudity in 110 Pills vomits on the line and then runs away. I knew that when my husband picked this erotic comic as his choice of what I was to read it was going to be dicey… but oh my god.

Let’s back up a bit. 110 Pills is an Italian comic based on an abbreviation version of the 1610 Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei. Within the comic we watch the last few months of Ximen’s life as he takes 110 pills that grant him incredible sexual prowess… although he is only meant to take them, at the most, once a month. Before these pills he’s incredibly sexual, but once on them he becomes voracious and incredibly experimental with how he gives and receives sexual pleasure.

It’s worth noting that, whilst this is abbreviated, 110 Pills takes a lot from this 1610 erotic novel. I assume this also includes the scene where Ximen pops the pill and engages in a few days orgy with a number of pre-op transwomen. Something that I did not expect to see, even after all the incredibly graphic depictions of many types of sex.

The story itself is an interesting and curious look into how certain circles of Chinese society viewed sex back in the 17th century, even if a lot of what happens feels more an excuse for shock tactics than real story telling. Still, it’s not too hard to liken the sex pill addiction in this story to addictions to opium – especially when you consider the incredible rush and the excruciating after effects.

As interesting as this was, I think this will be the last time I allow my husband to pick a comic for me to read on my commute. At least for a while.

Graphic Content – Attack on Titan

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
44/501Title: Attack on Titan
Creator: Hajime Isayama
Years: 2009-onwards
Country: Japan

Here we are with one of the final entries from the 1001 Comics list that doubles up as an adaptation on the anime list. Since the this show is now into its third season and has been able to maintain it’s huge popularity for years. So, I figured it was time for me to give this bestselling manga a go.

In a nutshell, Attack on Titan takes place in an alternate future where humans have been nearly wiped out by the ‘titans’ – mindless human-like giants whole sole goal is to eat humans. As the title would suggest, the main narrative is around the fight back of the humans against the titans, having been penned into their walled city for over a century.

Honestly, I am not sure if I have ever read a comic with so much graphic violence. The titans themselves are so incredibly creepy because their design is near the bottom of the uncanny valley… and they literally eat humans alive. I don’t think I have ever seen so much just relentless slaughter and dismemberment in a comic. Sure, Parasyte had a lot of body horror, but the terror on the faces of the characters as they’re being eaten just makes it that much more freaky.

As much as I was enjoying reading Attack on Titan, I made the choice to quit reading it around Chapter 50. You see I realised just how much better (and in some places disturbing) this would be on the screen. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the Attack on Titan was excellent and I’ll probably start reading this once I’ve watched all the adaptations… but I don’t want everything spoiled before I start watching. How soon will that be… honestly I have no idea at this point.

Graphic Content – The Gumps

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
43/501Title: The Gumps
Creator: Sidney Smith
Years: 1917-1959
Country: USA

With a starting date of 1917, it’s going to be difficult to find an older comic that is as easily findable online. Back in its day, The Gumps was a very popular syndicated comic about a middle-class family and their friction. It’s said to straddle the world of the comedic and melodramatic, so it should be perfect for me. Right?

Well, no. I don’t know if it’s the comic not ageing well or my not enjoying the somewhat longwinded way The Gumps goes about storytelling, but this comic really didn’t do much for me. It’s an interesting idea to have a comic with protracted storylines that spin out common/mundane topics. The problem that I had is just how long these comics take to reach a punchline and, even then, those punchlines don’t always work.

Still, this is an interesting part of comic history as The Gumps was one of the comics that helped to spearhead the idea of the syndicated comic rather than exclusives. It’s something that would have likely happened eventually, but credit where credit is due.

If you want to have a go at The Gumps yourself, here is a link to an online archive featuring a bunch of strips:


Graphic Content – Nana

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
42/501Title: Nana
Creator: Ai Yazawa
Years: 2000-2009
Country: Japan

Whilst Nana hasn’t officially ended, after being on hiatus for nearly a decade it is probably time to call time of death on this one. To be able to run a manga series for 9 years is no mean feat in and of itself, it’s just that how would you come back to this after so long?

Anyway, I’m straying from the point which is that I really enjoyed reading Nana. As with most things there came a point where I had to stop binge reading it and take a break, which for me was Volume 17, so I am not able to comment on how Ai Yazawa left it before she put the manga on hiatus. Still, I think this leaves me in a decent enough position to comment.

At the beginning, Nana is a manga about the relationship between two young woman who move to Tokyo and share the name Nana. It’s one of those ‘odd couple’ style storylines where one of them is punky and outwardly more self-assured, whilst the other likes cute things and is fairly needy. There were times where I found myself laughing out loud and so really began to fall for the characrers… then the manga began to change.

I get that a long-running manga needs to change things around to keep things fresh, but I began to tire a bit at the end when the character roster got so large that you didn’t have a lot of time with the original Nanas. Similarly, you could go volumes of issues without the two Nanas interacting with each other, which is what sold me on this manga in the first place. The move also between a comedy drama about friends to a more dramatic manga about the trials and tribulations of being a band, whilst a refreshing change to begin with, just made me feel like Nana had been written into a corner that it couldn’t find its way out of.

This will not be my last time with Nana as the anime adaptation currently features on another one of my lists. I am actually looking forward to watching this as the cut-off point will be way before the time I stopped reading – meaning that the vast majority will be the comedy-drama that I came to love.

Graphic Content – Giraffes in My Hair

And the award for the comic with the weirdest name goes to…

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
41/501Title: Giraffes in My Hair
Creators: Carol Swain and Bruce Paley
Years: 2008
Country: USA

Well honestly Giraffes in My Hair is a bizarre title for some comics. Then again, it’s because of the title that this was picked up as the next comic. I didn’t even get that this was a reference to song lyrics, I just figured this was going to be a surreal comic involving a lot of drugs or hallucinations. At least I was a little bit close on that one.

Giraffes in My Hair is a collection of comics telling the life of Bruce Paley between the ages of 18-30. We see him dabble in a lot of drugs, dodge the Vietnam draft, get imprisoned on numerous occasions and eventually get his life together. Honestly, it is a wonder that he survived all of this and lived to be able see this put onto paper.

The stories that Paley tells aren’t out of the ordinary when it comes to debauched tales of the 1960s and 1970s. A lot of what he experienced are things that many authors and film makers (contemporary and modern) have been telling us for decades. Some have an interesting spin on things – like when he ended up in court for stealing a watermelon, or how Disneyland had stricter entry rules than Mexico – but it mostly feels well trodden.

Giraffes in My Hair is the story of a man who survived a lot of drink and drugs and managed to find a way to mature. However, for all the people that he managed to outlast (including the Vietnam soldiers who died whilst he dodged the draft with a fake mental illness) there is little remorse or survivors guilt. Hell, a friend of his ends up traumatised after being in a Moroccan prison after an ill fated attempt to smuggle drugs and all Paley can do is think about the money he lost. He has no self-awareness and, ultimately, that makes him unlikable. At least to me.

Whilst this comic wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, it did whet my appetite for more comics before returning to the written word. Going to be moving onto I Hate Fairyland (I saw this on sale in Waterstones and couldn’t resist the twisted artwork) and then will see where I end up.

Graphic Content – Mushishi

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
40/501Title: Mushishi
Creator: Yuki Urushibara
Years: 1999-2008
Country: Japan

Well, this may be one of the most magical/mysterious manga that I have ever read. It’s described on Wikipedia as being a supernatural detective story which, whilst true, doesn’t really get to the heart of it.

Mushishi is set a few centuries ago in rural Japan where otherwordly creatures, known as ‘mushi’, exist. The series described mushi as being life in it’s purest form, so pure that few people can actually see them and the mushi themselves take on magical properties. The titular character (a mushishi named Ginko) is a specialist in mushi that travels around solving mushi-related problems.

The whole manga plays like a supernatural procedural with Ginko coming into a village and solving their mushi related problems. This can encompass everything from helping with joint pain to helping people deal with the psychological consequences of their loved one being resurrected.

Whilst there are common themes of light/dark, nature and blindness throughout the 10 volumes, it doesn’t feel that there was any real repetition in the cases found in Mushishi. Whilst it’s not true that every case is unique, there is enough in the variation, development and outcomes to keep it feeling fresh. It also helps that every story has a different type of mushi at the centre.

8 years ago I asked some friends at university about anime that I just had to see. Thanks to this I fell in love with Genshiken and started watching films by Satoshi Kon. Mushishi is the final recommendation from this list I have yet to see and now, since I have read the manga, I will be able to cross this off. Soon. I know I just finished reading this, but I have to see how they dramatised these stories.

Graphic Content – Tex

List Item:  Read half of the 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die
39/501Title: Tex
Creator: Gian Luigi Bonelli and Aurelio Galleppini
Years: 1948 onwards
Country: Italy

Before I start on this, it’s worth noting that in the 1001 Comics book it has this comic nestled under 1969. I am guessing that my reference book decided to use the date of when this comic was either first translated into English or was first released in the USA. In any case, having read some of the earlier issues of Tex it falls very much into the trappings of a 1940s comic book.

Tex is the first comic I’ve read that falls into the western genre. What sets this apart from the other western comics on the list is that it’s also a spaghetti western with it being originally written in Italian and being based on American western movies. This might go a long way to explain how the depiction of Native Americans and other non-white races feels progressive by the standards of 1940s America. Sure, it’s still cringeworthy at times with most non-whites being subservient to white people and/or being referred to with weird epithets… but it’s still better than other comics at the time.

When you read Tex you’re presented with exactly what you expect – swashbuckling (or whatever the cowboy version of that word is) adventures with bandits, gunfire and peril. Tex also gets his kit off a lot since he is regularly captured and stripped because, you know, cliffhangers. I point this out not because it’s particularly erotic, but because it becomes hard to differentiate the titular Tex from other characters when he isn’t wearing his trademark yellow shirt.

As a comic book it’s fine, but after a while you see how templated a lot of these stories are. It began to get a bit silly the third time the villain was a masked version of a character that Tex had just met, but Tex was unable to connect the dots. It stands to reason that Tex was not a comic meant to be binged the way I did, but that’s the way it goes.

In the end, Tex is fine to read a bit of but there’s plenty of better comics out there.