This Monday, in an attempt to broaden my horizons, I asked people to recommend me a couple of comics recently released. I wanted to read and review books that I normally wouldn’t pick up on my own volition. Ragnell of Written World, who is probably off somewhere snickering right now, pointed me towards the infamous Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #58 and David Uzumeri of Funnybook Babylon fame advised me to pick up Fantastic Four #571. Done. And done.
Now, with all due respect to the illustrious Stones, there’s no such thing as a virgin read where comics are concerned. Even if an individual has never picked up a comic book, it’s likely that he or she has already packed a steamer trunk full of preconceived notions about comics and/or superheroes. We all come with cultural baggage and comics are a large part of America’s history. You can avoid comics, but you can’t avoid the impact they’ve had on American citizens. Our language and our thoughts are shaped by capes, spandex, and four-color buffoons. So, let’s pop open this steamer trunk and see how I feel about the books selected before even cracking one of ’em open, huh?
Judging a book by its cover. I could probably count the number of Fantastic Four stories I’ve read on one hand. Yet, I have a clear image of what to expect from a Fantastic Four comic. A Fantastic Four comic series should be about three types of exploration. First and foremost, is exploration of the cosmos. This is where the action is—dodging solar flares; fending off alien invasions. This is the stuff of grand adventure, folks! Next up is exploration of the family. How do you make a marriage work? What makes a good father? Am I my brother’s keeper? This is where one can find drama and conflict between team members. And last, but not least, is exploration of the self. How can I reach the peak of my abilities? What is man’s greatest accomplishment? Are there things that should rightfully be beyond man’s reach? This is where opportunities for character development take place.
Now, while the Fantastic Four are part of the Marvel stable, where the building blocks for tasteless and sexist Wizard jokes are routinely produced, I expect the characters to engage in PG-rated fare. I’m assuming there are no crotch shots of the Invisible Woman and that the only sexual activity taking place on panel occurs between the married Susan and Reed Richards. Of course, I could be wrong. However, these are my expectations or preconceived notions about the series. I’m guessing I’ll receive an adventure story nestled somewhere comfortably between the Incredibles and the Impossibles. We’ll see if I was right next post!
And now for Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose. Hrm. I was made aware of the series through the hilarious reviews of Chris Sims over at the ISB. I also have a friend who loudly inquires as to who would buy such garbage each time he happens to come across a comic from the series. I give him the same answer each time. “R.N.W.” R.N.W. stands for Real Name Withheld for the purposes of this blog. He’s an acquaintance my friend and I went to school with. Imagine the lovechild of Comic Book Guy and Nathan Explosion.
Stop laughing. I mean it. He’s the guy who orders the Ultimate Rock Ballads collection from Time Life. He’s the guy who wears the Three Wolf Moon T-shirt unironically. He’s the guy who had Lady Death spray-painted on the tire cover of his jeep. And I’d bet good money that there’s an issue of Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose sitting somewhere in his house right now.
The thing is, R.N.W. is actually a pretty sweet guy. He just has certain tastes when it comes to his books, his music, and his women. And a comic like Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose caters to those tastes. Yes, we all know that there’s porn for free on the internet. But that doesn’t help people who have very specific needs. It’s like telling a man who is only turned on by women in stilettos stepping into banana cream pies to go lurk around Nine West. That isn’t going to satisfy him. And Playboy isn’t going to satisfy a man who wants both the salacious side of burlesque and the supernatural.Tarot is.
So what am I expecting from Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #58? I’ll be brutally honest. I’m expecting terrible writing and carefully crafted art which caters to men who find the combination of pornography and horror sexually arousing. Have I guessed correctly? We’ll find out soon enough. In the meantime, I have a comic shop to get to.