"I'm quick to recommend CHEW because its so bat ish crazy!"-@DwainIBe

CHEW really is an awesome comic. I write about it a lot. It shows boundless imagination and a fabulous sense of humor. Like DwainIBe, I recommend it to people all the time. But I already know many of them won't like it. After all, it's batshit crazy...







but maybe I'm getting ahead of myself...
This post's title quote came up on Twitter in a discussion about what comics people would recommend to friends that don't currently read any. As much as I love recommending comics to people, I almost never give blanket recommendations when someone asks directly about something for non-readers. At least, not without knowing a little more about the person's other entertainment tastes
For example, CHEW is perfect for non-readers who nevertheless are already familiar with superheroes and science-fiction/fantasy stuff from other mediums (like the superhero movie boom). I also recommend it a lot to superhero comics fans looking to expand beyond Marvel and DC into other areas. CHEW utilizes a lot of the same narrative and conceptual devices that superhero fans know and love (good vs. evil, super powers, buddy cop dynamics) and character types that are familiar from popular action stories of movies and television (mysterious badass, hot chick, straight-laced detective, asshole boss, etc). CHEW is irreverent, even hilariously offensive, and both art and story break the rules in all the right ways.
That said, I can't imagine my wife enjoying CHEW. Not having been raised on a steady diet of questionable anatomy, anti- intuitive panel layouts, and non- representational color choices for decades like I have, just following the story might be a challenge for her (and other new fans). But that isn't the real hurdle. I remember trying to explain what CHEW was about to her:
"Well, this federal Agent Tony Chu has the psychic power to sense the history of anything he eats..."
"Uh huh..."
"So when they reach a dead end in a case, he will come in and..."
"Wait! What kind of stuff does he eat to solve cases?"
"Well..."
"Does he eat PEOPLE? Like dead bodies?"
"Well... sometimes, but..."
"THAT'S NASTY!"
"He doesn't hafta eat the whole body... like maybe a finger..."
"I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'RE SITTING OVER THERE CALMLY READING ABOUT A DUDE WHO EATS DEAD PEOPLE!"
"..."

So, yeah. It's not for everyone.
I'm sure she would take issue with the universally big-boobed badasses at the USDA too, but I'm not even going there... The bottom line is that comics as an industry is really good at finding, creating for, and pleasing the people already reading comics. The Big Two fight over this audience's money incessantly and with religious zeal, and for all our revolutionary bluster, most indies are happy to follow their lead. In fact, the strength of indie comics like CHEW is that they can go much harder with the full knowledge that they are flying comfortably under the radar. There is very little risk in being a batshit indie comic, and the reward is that if you distinguish yourself from the herd and enough people like what you're doing, you get to keep playing! Marvel and DC (and their parent companies) can be sued or boycotted, but no one will even care what those nutjobs Laymen and Guillory are doing, except their equally looney fans (like me). Like lots of Image books, CHEW succeeds by offering comics fans something seems different than the norm, but is similar enough to find an audience that is ready for it.
If what you've read here appeals to you, I can promise you will enjoy CHEW. Click here to order the CHEW: Omnivore Edition Hardcover.  That'll get you off to a good start.

Chew Omnivore Ed HC Vol. 01If CHEW sounds too weird for you, Let me assure you that the book is actually much weirder than I'm making it seem, so you should probably skip it. There is other stuff out there that would appeal to you better. CHEW is in the same orbit that most popular comics inhabit, and it owes much of its success to the well-constructed craftsmanship and weird humor that distinguish it from the crowd, but it also benefits from decades of marketing and research (or something) done by huge entertainment companies to develop the market for weird science and heroism. Still, there are lots of comics being created these days that would appeal to audiences that the existing industry is either unwilling or unable to reach. When a non-reader asks for recommendations, don't forget those off-genre books. They are just what comics as an artform needs in order to grow, and they need you to recommend them. Here's a few:
1) WET MOON by Ross Campbell 
Wet Moon is a series of graphic novels about a parade of art school girls in a sleepy southern college town. Ross is a master of the comics medium, and it shows in Wet Moon, an obvious labor of love that follows his cast of characters as they live through the drama of their very non-comic book lives. I started reading Wet Moon before I got married, and my wife picked up one of my books that was laying around the house and became enthralled in the escapades of Cleo Lovedrop and company from page one.
Wet Moon GN Vol. 06 I never got around to posting a review of Wet Moon Volume 6, which came out in September of 2012 (I was distracted by getting laid off), but for the record, it's awesome... probably the most exciting and page-turneriest volume of the series. Feel free to click here for more of my Wet Moon posts if I haven't convinced you to try this book out yet... but really, you need to check it out. All six volumes are available on Amazon. So click here if your comic shop isn't down, so handle that.
More Than Complete Action Philosophers TPB
2) Action Philosophers 
by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunleavy
I personally think every comics fan should own a copy of Action Philosophers, because it shows the power of the medium to cut through the cloud of confusion by combining the power of words, pictures and stories to demystify complex ideas. With smart and funny work by Van Lente and Dunleavy, this book will arm you with the tools to discuss any philosophical topic at a party, as well as give you proof of the flexibility of comics. Click here to cop The More Than Complete Action Philosophers! in paperback or on Kindle.
Happy TPB
3) Happy! by Grant Morrison and Darrick Robertson.
Before I even got to read the first issue of Morrison and Robertson's tale about a worthless cop-turned-hitman who is recruited to rescue a young girl by her imaginary, blue winged unicorn Happy, Rza had already secured the movie rights. While it isn't rare for comics to be made into movies, the spike that books-turned-movies get from the Hollywood treatment doesn't tend to flood new readers into comic shops, and that needs to change. Fans of Tarrantinoesque genre movies would do well to read this so they can smugly dismiss the film's box office by reminding their friends that "the book was better..."
The first volume of Happy! is due to reach comic shops in April of 2013, but you can click here to preorder it and save 45%.

That's enough for now I think, but I invite you and your friends to CLICK HERE to receive my free Comics for People Who Don't Read Comics newsletter, where I'll recommend more comics based on stuff you already like, instead of just throwing my favorites at you. There is way more variety in comics than people realize, and until the industry can take advantage of that variety to grow the reading audience, we all suffer. So this is my contribution to trying to fix that.

thanks for reading...
-samax.  

4 comments:

Arkonbey said...

Didn't hit the "continue reading" link lest there be spoilers.

Just finished Space Cakes.

Did NOT see that one part coming (and you know what I mean!)

So hard to tradewait Chew. It is too full of awesome...

samax amen said...

I haven't read Space Cakes yet. I'm way behind on comics. In other news, I'm poor.

But yeah, just skip the CHEW preview and read the post. It's about how CHEW is really awesome, but not necessarily the best recommendation for new comics readers.

Arkonbey said...

We saved up for months to get Major League Chew and Space Cakes. Worth the wait.

Yeah, Chew is very hard to recommend. I worked at a bookstore last year and got the to carry it. The copy of TPB 1 is still on the shelf :(

samax amen said...

Yeah, CHEW has a high WTFometer rating. I think it's perfect for someone who has been reading superhero comics for 20 years, but is a bit much for the average joe.

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