- Darcie Caswell
With Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s 3rd annual CRRL-Con coming up on May 20, now is the perfect time to indulge your comic book craving. Whether you are new to comics, getting back to them after a break, or have always been a comic book fan, the variety of characters and storylines in comics means there is always something out there to entertain you. The public library has an extensive collection of comic books and provides a great way to “test drive” something new to see if you like it. Checking comics out means you can try one and, if you don’t like it, return it and try another, no financial commitment needed. You can even borrow several and see which is your favorite. The library has the big names, like Thor, Spider-Man, Superman, Batman, and even Archie and Casper. But the possibilities are endless, so here are a few more suggestions.
Ms. Marvel, by G. Willow Wilson, is the story of Kamala Khan, a teenager living in Jersey City doing typical teenager things: pushing boundaries, disagreeing with her parents about curfews, and trying to figure out what kind of person she wants to be. Those issues become much more complicated when she gains superpowers. Defeating evil makes it even harder to make her curfew, and the question of who she really is takes on several new layers of superhero complications.
In The Shadow Hero, author Gene Luen Yang, National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, revives a character from the 1940s, Green Turtle, building out his origin story with both humor and drama. Hank is an unlikely hero, a dutiful son working in his parents’ Chinatown grocery store. It is his mother who gets the idea he should become a superhero, after she is rescued by the Anchor of Justice and decides that is the perfect occupation for her son. The fact that her son doesn’t have any superpowers doesn’t stop her, as she creates an identity for him, gets him some martial arts training, and drives him around looking for evil to defeat. That works out about as well as you would expect, and Hank gets beaten up several times. It’s not until true tragedy strikes his family that it becomes clear he really was destined to be a hero.
If you or your young readers love Marvel characters, give Marvel’s Cinematic Universe series a try. Each superhero in the Marvel Universe has his or her own title, such as Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America. These books tell the origin stories of the beloved characters in a narrative form, providing a rich reading experience. Book lovers and superhero lovers alike will enjoy the details of these stories, as will readers who might be too young to see the movies but can delight in the adventure and suspense of these stories written specifically for young readers.
If you are interested in learning about the history of comics, there are several options. For older teens and adults, Sean Howe’s Marvel Comics: The Untold Story gives the inside history of the creative genius, internal politics, and cutthroat competition that led to the development of some of today’s most popular (and profitable) superheroes. For those who know all there is to know about the history of comics, and might like little-known trivia, The League of Regrettable Superheroes: Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History, by Jon Morris, describes the genesis and background of superheroes who made it to print but were soon forgotten, such as Bee Man, The Eye, and Spider Queen.
If creating comics is your thing, Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics provides inspiration and practical tips. Books providing guidance on how to create comics abound, including Comic Strips: Create Your Own Comic Strips from Start to Finish, by Art Roche, and Draw Comic Book Action, by Lee Garbett. Make Comics Like the Pros: The Inside Scoop on How to Write, Draw, and Sell Your Comic Books and Graphic Novels, by Greg Pak, gives advice on not only creating comics, but also on how to market and sell your product.
No matter your connection to comics—casual interest or superfan, reader or creator—take some time to visit Central Rappahannock Regional Library’s CRRL-Con on Saturday, May 20. It is a fun time for all ages, with costume contests (dress up as your favorite superhero or villain!), comic book creators and vendors, and more comic-centered activities.
This column originally appeared in The Free Lance-Star newspaper.