Comics: beyond capes and tights


Terry “Doc Midnight” Gant, owner of Third Coast Comics. Photo/Tiffiany Tate

Not many people think of comic books when they think of the various forms of literature. I know because I will be the first to admit I, for more years than I care to admit, thought comic books were little more than dudes in capes and tights flying around and kicking butt. That’s all well and good, but if I want to see dudes in tights, I’m far more likely to go to the ballet, truth be told. So it goes.
Then, I got schooled. Or so I thought. Maybe a decade ago, I was
introduced to a few zombie apocalypse sort of comics, read maybe a few
old copies of something like Tank Girl and finally got around to reading Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

But, still. Though Maus seems to come dangerously close, comics weren’t really literary
in my mind, must less journalistic or historical. Until that is, I met
local human comic encyclopedia, Terry “Doc Midnight” Gant, enthusiastic
owner of Third Coast Comics
in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood. I spent an afternoon hanging out
with Terry in his colorful and inviting shop recently and I, Amy Guth,
have now been schooled to the literary, journalistic and historical
ways of the comic book.

As I walked in the shop, my eyes fell first upon a heavy artfully-fashioned copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, illustrated by Ben Templesmith. The book was gorgeous. Gorgeous. From there, Gant showed me a copy of Safe Area Gora¬ěde by Joe Sacco, a journalistic comic book about the Bosnian War. Okay, clearly this
was way beyond capes and tights. From there, Gant brought me across the
shop to his small press and independent comics section, where I found a
graphic adaptation of Studs Terkel’s Working, and one of Great Expectations. Whoa.

Gant went on to share his considerable wealth on information about Manga‘s giants including Osamu Tezuka, Naoki Urasawa and Yosihiro Tatsumi, then Trojan War: The Age of Bronze on comic form, genre fiction like Queen & Country,
before we settled in to talk a long while about small and local comic
presses as he showed me his entire shelf display devoted to promoting
Chicago comics writers and artists including Lilli Crane, Jessica Abel, Ivan Brunetti, Brian Azzarello and Chris Ware.

Saturday, August 15th, Third Coast Comics celebrates its one-year
anniversary and to help celebrate, famed gothic comics artist, Ben
Templesmith will be in the shop signing copies of his highly-acclaimed
work from 2-6pm, to be followed by meet-n-greet in the shop’s back
courtyard. Find Third Coast Comics at 6234 N. Broadway in Chicago.

a Chicago native, bought his first comic book, The Uncanny Men, for
twenty-five cents at age 7 and now boats a personal collection of over
30,000 comics, says, “This year has beaten my previously chosen
potential occupations of astronaut, pro wrestler or heavy metal


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  • Some more books to consider:

    Nightly News by Johnathan Hickman
    Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan
    Preacher by Garth Ennis
    BONE by Jeff Smith
    FELL by Ben Templesmith and Warren Ellis
    ORBITER by the aforementioned Mr. Ellis and Colleen Doran
    BEASTS OF BURDEN by local creators Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson

    And the list goes on and on and on...

    Comics aren't just capes and tights, that's for sure. Glad to see you've discovered that!

  • In reply to GeekToMe:

    Yes! Since I got schooled at Third Coast Comics, I've picked up Y: The Last Man and Preacher. I'm mid-way through Preacher now, and dig it.

    Thanks for the other titles. I'll check them out for sure.

  • In reply to GeekToMe:

    I just finished reading a graphic memoir - The Impostor's Daughter by Laurie Sandell. It was a review copy and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it, how deep a story it told, even in the seemingly simple style of a graphic novel... memoir.

  • In reply to GeekToMe:

    I've read the "comic books are more than musclebound heroes in tights" argument everywhere from blogs to The New Yorker. The problem with the assertion is that it implies that a "serious" subject(Iran in "Persepolis," Bosnia or Palestine in Joe Sacco's work, etc.) equals good work, whereas a "pop" format (superpowers and costumes) equals juvenile. Every journalist I've ever read make the more-than-superheroes assertion mentions "Maus" and similar titles to prove his or her point. The non-superhero titles mentioned here are great, but so are plenty of superhero titles. The obvious examples are Frank Miller's "Dark Knight Returns" and "Batman:Year One" and Alan Moore's "Watchmen." Those titles feature capes and tights, but they deal with mature themes as skillfully as Art Spiegelman or Joe Sacco. There are other brilliant serious superhero titles. Off the top of my head, I'd add "Archer's Quest," a brilliant Green Arrow story by Brad Meltzer, and "A Superman For All Seasons" by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. I am more of a DC guy, but there's plenty of great Marvel stuff, too. Glad you're digging "Preacher," which I loved. I think my all-time favorite comic, which is not a traditional superhero title, is "Fables" by Bill Willingham.

  • In reply to FancyPantsNJ:

    :O If you dig some Bill Willingham, have you picked up House of Mystery at all? Well written, great art. Fantasy based story line, features various great artists for the short stories.

    Check it out :O It's on it's second volume TPB printing now. :o It's relatively new. So :D

  • In reply to FancyPantsNJ:

    It's great to see the local scene getting some love. There's also a thriving online scene that's just crossing over to print, like the new ACT-I-VATE primer, and hope to see that in local stores. I'm not in the book but I'm serializing a column over there that is going to be experimenting soon with what a "text comic" can be and do:

  • In reply to GeekToMe:

    :O Also, beyond the comics itself, don't forget the conventions that celebrate them. Including the Chicago Comic Con at Rosemont which just passes and the soon to be, coming in April C2E2 at McCormick place.

    Speaking of Bone, Jeff Smith is a guest of honor there (C2E2)! It should be great. :D

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