Moving beyond The Sandman and Strangers in Paradise

I love Ask MetaFilter. I really do. It’s an incredibly useful site and while sometimes fights do erupt, it’s smartly moderated. There is an awesome wealth of information to be had there.

But there are some things it does not do well. A user asks “Which graphic novels should I read?” and explains what she’s read recently — for example, she really liked How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden and thought Julia Wertz’s Drinking at the Movies was really funny for the most part. She liked Persepolis OK.

She wants to know what she should read next, specifying she’d prefer strong female characters and more funny than serious.

The first two recommendations she gets are The Sandman and Strangers in Paradise. I was actually surprised at how long it took someone to bring up Y: The Last Man.

Certainly, taken as a whole, there are some good recommendations in there for her mixed in with things like The Dark Knight Returns (and I’m biased, sure, but thank you kind user who pointed her to the Ignatz winners and nominees because that is a good starting point).

And no, The Sandman and Strangers in Paradise are not bad comics. They are, for the most part, good comics. They are comics I like. But they’re not the first comics I’d recommend, especially under circumstances like this. They aren’t specific to what this woman was asking for, to begin with, but mostly, they are incredibly lazy recommendations and basically say to me “I stopped paying attention to what comics women may like about 10 years ago because we only need those two.” (When I started Comicsgirl way back in the dawn of time in 1998, do you know what were some of the first comics I wrote about? Oh, that’s right: The Sandman and Strangers in Paradise.)

There are so many great comics out there right now for and/or by women. I don’t think you have to look very hard to find them (at least, I don’t — I have shelves full of them). I personally feel like the asker of the question already has a pretty good handle on some interesting comics in terms of that. I’m sure if the typical “comics for women” were of interest to her, she would’ve found them already. After all, that she’s picked up both Julia Wertz and Sarah Glidden makes me think she knows what she’s doing more than she thinks she does.

I just think if the usual answers is all someone has, not answering the question is always a valid option, too.

Strangers in Paradise image taken from Terry Moore’s site.

5 comments

  1. ostrakos says:

    I feel the same way when I hear that question asked even without the specificity of this person. While the mainstream may not offer the best options, the best of the “underground” (or whatever you want to call it) will eventually get enough recognition that they are not so underground anymore, and you can go searching even deeper for the next great batch of things (and I think this applies to not only comics but movies, music, books and any other art you wanna add). Complacency breeds contempt, boredom and stagnation right?

  2. comicsgirl says:

    I think in some circumstances, the usual choices can be the best choices. After all, they became the usual choices for a reason. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. And I think too many people turn those choices into that.

    There are certainly times when The Sandman or Strangers in Paradise are going to be the best answers. In this particular case, though, they weren’t. People don’t need to know of obscure things to give good answers, but I just want them to try a little bit harder to give an on-point answer.

  3. [...] ComicsGirl! She wrote a post about a subject that has long been a pet peeve of mine: well-meaning male fans [...]

  4. John says:

    How about making a big deal out nothing and adding yet another brick to that wall between female and male comic fans that women seem intent on making ever taller by yelling “stereotyping!” every two seconds? Or hey, how about getting your recomendations from the help at Barnes and Noble. Problem solved.

  5. comicsgirl says:

    I am going to assume you haven’t read much more of my blog than this post. If you do, you’d probably see that I am very much pro-comics for everyone and I’m definitely not about dividing people.

    I like both The Sandman and Strangers in Paradise. I have and I will recommend them both to women and men who’d like to read comics.

    My point here is that a woman who has expressed interest in comics like How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less and other down-to-earth autobiographical comics may not be particularly interested in the soap-opera melodrama of Strangers in Paradise or the epic rambling narrative of The Sandman. (She might be — this is true — but I’m just going by the books she’d said she read.) That doesn’t mean those two comics are always going to be the wrong answer to the question of “What comics should I read?” Just that I don’t think they’re always going to be right ones, either.

    So John, if a friend came to you and said she’d read the comics in that particular list in the question I’d linked to and wanted to know what to read next, what would you recommend to her? I am honestly curious.

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