In travelling from Swamp Thing #21, The Anatomy Lesson and the first real issue of Alan Moore’s run through to Swamp Thing #171, the final issue of Mark Millar’s run, I wanted to set boundaries. Beginning before the Mature Readers revolution in the mainstream happened, in the dark corner that the Dark Age first grew from, and ending with its final echo. In between those two comics came a battalion of children’s characters updated for a teenage audience, nearly men from shared universes turned grim and gritty or psychedelic or moody.
It was a moment in comics’ long history. By the mid-90s there was Vertigo on one side and Image on the other, the triumph of writers and the triumph of artists respectively, both committed to creator ownership. The speculation market was out of control and the bookstore market, the trade paperbacks that’ve ensured the survival of mainstream comics, were rising. The indie comics scene, Dan Clowes and the brothers Hernandez, was still indie: you needed to know about these guys to buy them and you probably learned about them from a cool friend.
I’ve not entirely done this blog properly. The blog thing is to be complete, so I should have started with the Wein-Wrightson Swamp Thing and read every issue including Nancy A Collins’s run. Instead I’ve flitted about and missed out issues, notably the Fear Machine arc in Hellblazer, simply because I didn’t have the motivation to write about them.
If I’m following my journey as set out so far, painting a picture of the Mature Readers decade, then the obvious next comic to cover is Gaiman’s Sandman. It follows in the footsteps of Alan Moore so exactly that it hardly leaves a trace at first, it acts as a bridge between the DC universe days and the Vertigo era, and it’s certainly the comic from this period that had the biggest impact. It became a classic in a way that Swamp Thing, still a run of comics rather than a graphic novel, never has. There are things about that I find baffling – what do readers not familiar with DC continuity make of the constant guest stars and references of the first 30 issues? But I don’t want to write about Sandman for two reasons: one, everybody on the internet’s done an issue-by-issue reread of Sandman and two, I reread it recently and didn’t actually like it that much. My favourite arcs, Season of Mists and Brief Lives and World’s End, stood up well but few of the others did. I absolutely agreed with my teenage decision to drop the title one issue into The Doll’s House.
So what next? Well, I’m planning a couple of weeks to a month off the rereading headline updates. During that time I’ll still post. I want to spend a bit of time talking about other comic-related things that have been on my mind, including more hatred of Before Watchmen, and I might even get to the never-fulfilled promise of writing about stuff that isn’t comics. I recognise this breaks the first law of blogging, Always Post, but my circumstances have changed since I began this, I’m writing for money four days a week and I need a break.
I’m not sure what to write about when I do return to rereading, either. I thought I’d plunge into British superheroes next, covering Moore’s Captain Britain and Miracleman, Morrison’s Dan Dare and Zenith, and a few others. That covers much the same period while stepping away from DC Comics, which’d be a welcome change for me. Or I’ve considered giving Matt Wagner’s Grendel the reread treatment from start to finish; always a big favourite of mine and contemporary with the Dark Age, I’m interested in seeing how it stands up today. Or there’s that examination of sci-fi in comics – and why it’s never been the success it should have been – that takes in American Flagg!, 2020 Visions, Heavy Liquid, Transmetropolitan, a bunch of 2000AD stuff.
Anyone who’s a regular reader or who’s commented thanks a lot for dropping by, please give me your views, and if you follow the blog then you’ll get notified of the updates anyway.