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Monday, November 26, 2012

Read This! With Michael Chen

Before we jump into what you should be reading in the comic world, a bit of an update (indulge me): My comic book shop has now been open for two weeks and things are going great. I know “the sign could be bigger” and the “stairs are inconvenient” but it also “feels like a New York City shop” or “has a lot more space than I imagined”. Perhaps the greatest form of flattery is the number of people who have showed up to read comics in the lounge, play games of all varieties or just talk comics. To quote one recent visitor “I missed these talks”. That is the heart of what makes comics – and comic shops – so awesome. They represent a community to share, discuss and disagree on some of the greatest stories ever told (alright, some of those stories are pretty terrible but that’s why I’m here to point you in the right direction…as soon as we escape this parenthesis…just as soon as we climb out of this thing…its curvier than I thought……..)

Whew! Want to catch up on your comic literacy and don’t know what to read? Read This #2 has you covered!


That is the seriously ambitious title of an ongoing comic book series. Acclaimed writer Brian K. Vaughan (Ex Machina, Y: The Last Man, Runaways) knows a thing or two about descriptive titles. He has promised that this will be his longest running serious yet and the entire run will feature the beautiful art of breakout artist Fiona Staples. Saga is a bit difficult to describe but the most apt description is probably Star Wars meets Game of Thrones meets Romeo and Juliet meets robot sex. Yup, there is robot sex. This is an undoubtedly mature title and Vaughan deftly handles those themes as said robot sex is used to depict the effects of robot PTSD (intergalactic war, remember?) Saying this isn’t your father’s C3PO would be putting it lightly (Does your father actually have a C3PO?! Because if that is the case, I do not know how you could ever put that lightly).

The story follow star crossed (literally) lovers Marko and Alana – members of different species that just happen to be engaged in an endless intergalactic war. If that isn’t epic enough, they aren’t even the main characters in the long run. The story is really about the narrator; a baby that is born in the first issue and has an irritating habit of foreshadowing as only a narrating baby can. Vaughan’s breakout hit has made him a star in the comic book world but more than his writing, you should read his work because he understands his audience is comprised of people not pocketbooks.

As Vaughan noted in a recent interview: “…we said we wanted our book to always cost $2.99, but to never be less than 22 pages long, a potentially risky equation in this marketplace.”

In a world where thirty-five cent comic books don’t even qualify as a distant memory, an author that can sell comics at $3.99 with their name alone taking this stand is admirable. Vaughan put his money where his mouth is. Promising a money back guarantee on Saga. How many author’s put the work into an amazing double sized first issue and then back it up with a money back guarantee? He’s so confident in the work he’s putting out there that he has extended this guarantee to any Saga issue that comes out.

I’ve already typed a lot of words about why Vaughan is a great guy and someone we should support. But here are some quick hits for those of you that still aren’t convinced to try this thing out. In no particular order five reasons to read Saga:

1. Vaughan has stated Saga will never be turned into a television show or a movie. Watchmen is amazing in its original form. It reportedly stopped the D.C. offices when it was first circulated. The movie was boring…and I still get awkward attacks whenever I hear the song Hallelujah. Saga is amazing like the former. And it can only be found in comic form.

2. In this era of 24/7 cable news, smart phones and WAY too many shiny lights, Vaughan is able to use the thirty days between issues effectively by planting little clues to the bigger universe. There are religious tensions referenced in a single line. Shared histories that are put aside to face the immediate problem. Clues to an entire universe at war need to be teased through. A writer that expects intelligent readers? *geekgasp*

3. Fiona Staples’ art is unique. It looks sort of like a watercolor if watercolors were used to depict winged aliens, robot dukes and cats that can detect lies. More than style, Staples is a co-creator and her input was directly responsible for main characters who were not your typical Caucasian protagonists. So go her.

4. Vaughan has made a career out of writing comics you can share with “non-comic readers”. Sidenote: There is no such thing as someone who does not like comics. All it takes is the right comic. I can safely say that Saga is that type of comic for any number of people. There are laser guns and Byzantine politics and logical character reactions and ghosts and interesting narrative choices and robot psychology and tender parenting moments and bounty hunters. If you don’t like any of those things then watch Twilight. Twilight has none of those things.

5. It is currently on issue #7. That is not a lot to catch up on. Even better, the first volume of the trade paperback collecting issues #1-6 was released in October. It contains 160 pages of epic story and beautiful art for $9.99. I just fainted. Buy this book. THERE IS A MONEY BACK GUARANTEE FROM THE AUTHOR AND $9.99 CAN’T BUY YOU A DECENT MEAL AT T.G.I.FRIDAYS ANYMORE (well…nothing can…but they don’t give you a money back guarantee!)

Do yourself a favor and start reading Saga. Do me a favor and do it in a local comic shop. Amazon, ebay and online comic megashops don’t need the additional business but your local comic shop does. More importantly, you may not realize how much you will enjoy the shared experience of reading, discussing and nerding out over Saga. Perhaps the best part of owning a comic book store has been the conversations. I love everything about how a great story can bring people together. Sorry if that is cheesier than the menu at T.G.I.F.*

*I’m actually not sorry. I meant what I wrote and I don’t like that place.

Shameless plug: Manifest Comics and Cards is located at 762 Broadway Second Floor Bayonne, New Jersey. It is awesome. Please send comments, questions and (polite) criticisms to Even if you can’t stop by the store a simple “like” of our facebook page is always appreciated!

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