Sunday, November 9, 2008
Madman is Not My Friend
A couple weeks ago, Theric graciously lent me his Madman Gargantua, collecting all of Mike Allred's pre-Image Madman comics. I'd heard many good things about Allred and Madman over the years, so I was curious to check it out. I've read a little over half of the 850-page collection now and I must say, it's very good stuff. The charactes are zany, the stories are wacky, and the art is delightfully retro. And I won't comment on Allred's propensity for drawing the title character with a rather largish bulge.
So why is Madman not my friend? Here's the deal: Between Amazon.com gift certificates and a recent birthday, in the past couple weeks I've acquired a dozen or so trade paperback collections of DC superhero comics, which are now sitting on my shelf, waiting to be read. Madman Gargantua is gargantuan. 850 pages. And these are not pages with a panel or two of pretty superhero poses and a couple lines of dialogue. Allred's stories are packed with action, dialogue, and inner monologues pondering the nature of the universe. It's taking me a very long time to read this collection.
Meanwhile, those trades, collecting recent unread adventures of my superhero friends as well as not-so-recent adventures that I missed the first time around and will fill in the gaps in my encyclopedic knowledge of the DC Universe, and other adventures I've read before but am anxious to revisit just for the fun of it, call to me from the shelf. And I find myself resenting Madman for keeping me away from them. Which has led me to a realization: I don't read comics because I appreciate the literary qualities of the artform; I read comics because the stories in them are about familiar people and places that have been part of my life for sixteen years now. Heck, probably half of what I read is crap, as far as literary qualities go, but I read and enjoy it anway.
So I've decided to break my rarely-broken rule of finishing one book before moving on to the next, so as not to ruin my Madman experience with the anticipation of other things I'd rather be reading right now. I'll catch up on Batman and Superman and the Justice League, then get back to Madman when I can appreciate him for what he is: a fascinating piece of comics art and storytelling, but not my friend.