Q & A 21: What is your comic book guilty pleasure?

In Q & A, a weekly feature of Fantastic Fangirls, we ask our staff to tackle a simple question — then open the floor to comments.

What is your comic book guilty pleasure?

Anika

I decided on my response by considering the following question: what is embarrassing to admit I love? And there is not a comic in print that falls into that category. Comics require a great deal of commitment. If it starts going badly, I cut and run. There are things I read that plenty of other people might find questionable but nothing I am embarrassed about. I am embarrassed to admit to the following.

I love the movie Judge Dredd.

As a film, it is pretty awful. Actually, as a film, it is beyond horribly awful. It is an epic display of over-acting from start to finish. (In my defense, such as it is, it is an epic display of over-acting by Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante. And seen as an undisclosed contest for who can over-act the very best…seriously, that’s fun to watch.)

But, okay, here’s why I love this movie: if you can look past the over-acting, the effects, the Garb of Justice (by Versace!), if you can look past the convoluted dystopian future, the clones and the robots and the cannibals (how many sci-fi cliches can we fit in one movie?) — if you can look past the movie you are watching, the philosophical debate is very intriguing. I am a political extremist. I would never support one man’s judgment being law but I understand the mindset that creates that eventuality so that kind of story fascinates me. Toward the beginning of the film, Judge Dredd is assigned to teach Ethics to the next generation of Street Judges; if you watch the film as if it were his lesson plan maybe you’ll understand what I see in it.

Caroline

I love Louise Simonson’s run of X-Factor, a lot. That’s the one where the original X-Men team — Angel, Beast, Iceman, Cyclops, and Jean Grey — reunites to take a bold stand against narrative logic. I mean, before the series started, Jean was dead and Cyclops was married to someone else, and living in Alaska. But Jean was resurrected by editorial mandate, Cyke was happy, but also angry, and he left his wife (and newborn son!) anyway. Obviously this requires the original gang to move in with Angel’s buddy from boarding school and pretend to be a mutant hunters in order to rescue mutant children. Of course! Also did I mention that nobody bothers to tell Jean that Scott is still married?

So the structural framework of the series is a mess. In fact, if I were forced to describe a single empirical area in which these comics excel, I would probably say, “I think that Jean’s hair is exceptionally pretty in this run.” And yet. . . I love these comics. It’s fascinating to watch Simonson try to dig out from under the series’ original premise. Jean’s not dead anymore, Scott’s left his wife, Warren has dragged the gang into a hair-brained and irresponsible scheme for obscure reasons. . .so now what? One of the weak points of storytelling in mainstream comics is the way consequences get pushed aside for the next big adventure. But Simonson’s run is all about facing consequences, and living with the lies you’ve told, and the ways the past catches up with you.

The themes are buried in a lot of melodrama and plot contrivance (Scott’s gone for two hours and Mr. Sinister kidnaps his wife; he leaves Angel’s hospital bed to check on his wife, and gets back just in time to see Angel’s plane explode. You get the idea). But there’s a core of emotional truth here that a lot of better-constructed stories never get at. There’s a moment when Scott, who has half-assedly been trying to do the right thing in his love life, turns to Jean in the middle of one of their “We shouldn’t — you’re married” conversations. And he just holds out his hand. Nothing is said; I don’t know why but I’d guess the editors wouldn’t allow their heroes explicitly to consider adultery. But there’s something eloquent in that gesture, something that coming from Cyclops-the-Boy-Scout might as well say, “Fuck it, I’ve spent all my life playing by the rules, it got me absolutely nowhere, just forget all that and take my hand and we’ll see what happens.” And you know that, just for a second, Jean Grey the professional good girl considers it. She doesn’t, of course.

Yeah, I love these comics.

Jennifer

Come on, people. My favorite band is Hanson. My favorite movie is Newsies. And I proudly own up to both of those facts. Does it look like I believe in guilty pleasures? If I like something, I like it, and I refuse to be embarrassed about it. Case closed.

So this Q & A… it’s hard for me. What do I enjoy that others might consider a guilty pleasure? The recent Power Pack minis? No, those have been fantastic, objectively. Crossovers? Well, I already talked about that. A guilty pleasure for me would have to be something I enjoy, despite the fact that I object to its existence in principle. Something like… well, like those Marvel Swimsuit Specials from the 1990s.

You remember them. Page after page of Marvel heroes and heroines in ill-advised swimwear, posed in inexplicable (and frequently impossible) positions. They were exploitative and ridiculous, the art was frequently terrible, and the captions were never funny. But something about the existence of these issues fills me with incredulous glee, and it might make me blush a bit to admit that I sort of want to collect them all. I mean, just look at this image:

In this picture, Captain America is using the Constitution as beach reading. Everything is red, white, and blue (except for his day-glo yellow hair). He has the beginnings of a wedgie. And, best of all, we’re expected to believe that a man engineered to be the pinnacle of human perfection needs glasses to read. There is nothing about this image that is not insane. But do I love it?

Guilty as charged.

Sigrid

Guilty pleasure? Guilty pleasure — a comic I read and love and feel guilt or shame about enjoying? Hmm. I don’t feel embarrassed about the manga I own. I love my Torso tpb and my Essential Dazzler both, and will own up to them both. Most of the stuff I read is either good, or I am reading it for other reasons — I want to support the creator, or I want to know what the characters are up to regardless of the quality of the comic. I’m pretty sure no current titles fit that bill — oh, no, wait. Wait, there is an entire category of titles which I read which I will acknowledge, sure, but . . . But I get a look on my face for doing so. A sheepish look, indeed.

Comics featuring Rachel Summers-Grey.

Yeah, I’ll read these regardless of quality. I will read the most godawful stupid plots, the wretched art, the most awkward dialog, if it has Rachel in it. I’ve been pretty fortunate that the comics she’s been in the last few years have been tolerable-to-good. But that’s not why I read them. I read them to see how My Fiction Girlfriend Rachel is doing, and how the guys — the writers, not the characters — are treating her. I am, perhaps, a little sheepish about my attachment to a fictional character. Sheep sheep sheep.

Baaaa.

What about you? What is your comic book guilty pleasure?

  • I have expressed my love for Teen Titans v1 before, right? I mean, it was the Silver Age, and it is actually pretty bad, and filled with tons of kids vs adults ridiculousness, and the Titans join the Peace Corps briefly, and they have to rescue a band from being framed by bank robbers, and there is Mad Mod, and in the first issue someone says that Garth is dreamy. And they use incredibly ridiculous slang, and they totally objectify Donna, and…

    I have read every single issue. *draws so many hearts*

  • Caroline

    I love everybody’s answers. They are — very us. I also love that I started this Q&A *convinced* I do not have guilty pleasures because everything I like is *high-quality*. Then I went through ‘and OMG Warren’s PLANE EXPLODES and there is a COVER that features Angel with an X-SIGN through him like he’s been CANCELLED.’ And then when I was describing that scene with the hand-holding, I started to cry.

    Anyway.

    Also, X-Factor did not need to endorse No Excuse Jeans. They needed to endorse Bad Idea Jeans: http://www.hulu.com/watch/10310/saturday-night-live-bad-idea-jeans . Because everything about that run was a bad idea.

  • @Caroline Yours made me convinced that I should read more of that run!

    @Sigrid hee. I almost put ‘every issue that the Titans are in’ but not all of them are pleasures. But I’ve totally read a lot of bad comics just because a member of my team is there. Or, in Marvel, because Jubilee is there.

  • Anika

    @Caroline I love all our answers too! To get “ready” for this topic, I watched Judge Dredd Monday night and I can say the lines along with them. And I had this near catastrophe: as the film came out in 1995 (and of course I bought it immediately), I have it on VHS (you know, one of those ‘I can’t justify buying this on DVD when I already have it’ movies). So we put it in and the tracking was all off and unwatchable. I freaked out!! My able husband fixed it but I now plan to get the DVD as soon as I can anyway.

    @Margot ….the Titans JOIN THE PEACE CORPS? I want to read that yesterday!! (My Titans are the New Teen Titans in the 80s)

  • Dan

    I don’t really believe in the concept of a “guilty pleasure.” If I like something, I admit it. But, that’s just me. I’ve never hid my love of Power Pack, for example, even though it is usually met with strange looks.

    Maybe the closest thing I have would be the original run of Gen13. Despite what Gail Simone tried to do with the recent reboot, the original series was…not that good. And, I admit that I really only read it for the cute redhead.

  • @Anika YES. In the first issue of Teen Titans v1. They go to South America and there are wacky hijinks and offensive stereotypes. (Hence the guilty part) That issue is collected in the showcase presents teen titans and also in the archive edition of silver age titans.

    I think those volumes also have Ding Dong Daddy, a villain who tries to make kids drop out of school and race/steal cars! (He showed up in the cartoon and I laughed forever.)

  • @Caroline You’re the reason I have a mission to collect that first run of X-Factor in its entirety, you know.

    I love our answers. Celebrate the guilty pleasures! Let them be free! There’s no need for shame.

  • handyhunter

    The Daredevil movie. <3

  • Cash

    I’ve been reading comics since 1968, so I’ve got four decades of guilty pleasures built up…

    I guess the top one would have to be my lengthy love of the Legion of Super-Heroes. Even–maybe even especially–the goofy Silver Age Shooter/Swan issues where a group of Legionnaires would go off on some sort of near-parodic adventure facing “The Super Moby Dick of Space!” or “The Super Stalag of Space!” or something equally improbably and hyperbolic.

    It was goofy enough to have the group include people like Bouncing Boy and Matter-Eater Lad (c’mon, people, let’s just THINK about that one for a minute…), but then they’d go off to a distant planet and meet someone like Blockade Boy (who had the power to turn into a solid steel wall) and you just about had to pinch yourself.

    But even so, Chameleon Boy remains my all-time favorite comics character, and I would write a LSH series in a second if given the opportunity.

  • Cash

    Oh, and Jennifer: isn’t Cap wearing mirrored sunglasses to protect his baby blues from harmful UV rays?

  • Jo

    Anything Titans-related, no matter how bad the art or stories or team or when it was written. Yes, oh yes. :)

    Anything with Rogue/Gambit being star-crossed lovers because I’m a sucker for that. Especially if Jim Lee was doing the art.

    Greg Land. He traces – so what? It’s beautiful. I don’t care.

    Judd Winnick – I think he has a great grasp of humor for his characters. I also know I’m the only one who thinks this. (LOVE GA/BC series!)

    Lastly? DANGER GIRL. Oh, yeah, they all look alike, thanks J. Scott. And they all are pretty one-note and objectify women. I don’t care. They look hot. Sometimes, hot girls are all I’m looking for. :)

  • @Cash Long Live the Legion! (Also, my roommates favorite comic book character ever is Matter-Eater Lad. Everything she knows about comics she’s learned from me.)

    If I’m adding to my guilty pleasures thing, I am really fond of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen. I’m sorry, there was an entire story devoted to Jimmy Olsen needing to win a marbles tournament. And there is plenty of Superdickery. (Plus, Jimmy is awesome.)

  • Like others I had to think about this. I mean I own a copy of the Super Dictionary from when it was published, so my taste level is probably questionable. (Now I’m picturing Nina Garcia and Michael Kors criticizing my comics collection… ick!)

    The closest thing I had to a guilty pleasure are the “bad girl” books: Witchblade, Tomb Raider, and especially Dark Horse’s Ghost. I haven’t read those in awhile.

  • @Cash You know, it didn’t even occur to me that those might be sunglasses, because of the shape and the fact that they seem mostly transparent. But now I wish the image featured Cap wearing big ridiculous 80s Ray-Bans.

  • That was a fun one! Probably my favorite Q&A yet.

    Childhood me: the Supergirl movie. I did not realize this wasn’t considered a work of genre-shattering cinematic genius until I reached adulthood.

    College me: Witchblade.

    Current me: Hmmm, not sure? Probably some run of less-than-stellar X-title.

  • Tom DeFalco’s run on Fantastic Four. This is obvious, I am not afraid to admit this either, ever. I don’t care how bad EVERYONE thinks it is. There are so many twists and turns, and half of it doesn’t make any sense, but I love it so much for that. I don’t care how crazy OOC Sue is, she kicks ass and takes names, and then she gets to fight Malice. It’s cracky goodness.

    I also *like* Batman and Robin. It is the epitome of cheesy, and come on, I <3 Arnie, Uma and Alicia, so it’s really hard to not love the movie in all it’s terrible glory. The bad puns are hilarious, I can’t be the only one to have laughed my ass off, right? (I do own all the original bat movies on VHS…)

  • cirquedamelia

    Anything by Mark Millar. The crackier the better.

  • individualfrog

    I really liked MORBIUS, THE LIVING VAMPIRE and DARKHOLD when I was younger. They were two comics in an attempt by Marvel to branch into more horror/Vertigo-y territory in the early 90s. Eventually I cut up all my Morbius comics to make my own silly comic.

  • Jen: Aren’t those shades? Regular glasses aren’t that reflective. Trust.

    I can’t think of any comics guilty pleasures, especially considering that I will loudly proclaim one of my favorites series ever to be Guy Gardner: Warrior. Um…I non-ironically enjoyed a plotline of Rex Morgan, MD once? I got nothing.

  • lilacsigil

    I can’t even think of a comic I’m embarrassed to own. Seriously. Oh wait, I have an issue of the Heroes Reborn Captain America, drawn by Liefeld!!! with girl!Bucky and general total incomprehensibility all over it. AND the Shatterstar mini-series. So I suppose my shame is mostly Liefeld related, even though I buy stuff despite him, not because of him.

    Anika – have you read the Judge Dredd comics? They’re solid, 100% hardline satire, and pretty awesome.

  • Anika

    @lilacsigil I have not read or even ever seen a Judge Dredd comic book. I do not have easy access to comics; I most often get my current comics at Border’s (sad, I know) and when I get to proper comic stores I barely ever have the time to browse (so I have never used it to look up old indie comics). BUT I have oft considered that I should read them and someday I will!

  • lilacsigil

    I don’t have easy access to comics either – I live four hours away from the nearest comic shop, two hours from the nearest Borders, and an hour from the nearest bookshop. I don’t think any of these places carry Judge Dredd! Most of my Judge Dredd reading was actually in my teens, grabbed out of 20c bins at second-hand bookshops. I don’t think I’ve ever read a complete storyline! But they are a terrific satire on security-obsessed society, and even more pertinent now than when I was reading them. Who would have though that Britain really would be covered in cameras, watching civilians’ every move? Judge Dredd did!

  • First: LOVING your blog. It’s insightful, funny AND well-written. Who knew?

    Second: Caroline, I love the Louise Simonson run on X-Factor. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Especially with Walt on pencils.

    Third: My guilty pleasure has to be Secret Wars II. I’m actually in the process of tracking down all the tie-ins. It’s so bad, it’s good. OK, not “good,” but … well, it’s there.

  • Pingback: Say What? Unconscious Plagiarism Plus X-Men Links (Day 17) « Diary of a Mad Marvel Girl()

  • Pingback: Q&A #59: Alert Nerd’s True Geek Confessions at Fantastic Fangirls: Comics and Culture()

  • renniejoy

    Can I be Rachel Summers-Grey when I grow up?