The last meeting of the Marylebone Library Graphic Novel Club was on Superhero reboots, with an emphasis on DC’s New 52 series and Marvel Comics’ The Ultimates. We considered the reasons for restarting an entire comic book series from scratch and considered some of the best and worse titles to result from these and why.
We all agreed that Marvel had not quite achieved a full reboot of their collection since they had not restarted all their stories from scratch, but rather created alternate scenarios and plotlines alongside their existing collection. DC risked it all by ending their main series and started again with new origin stories and modifications to the characters to make them more accessible to a new audience.
It’s also worth noting that the New 52 series was also discussed in a previous meeting on women in comics.
The group will be meeting again this evening (!) – Wednesday 8 January – and today we’ll be talking about ‘Seriously Funny! From newspaper panels to graphic novel’. Please, bring along any titles of interest and hopefully we can exchange some good reads.
The following meeting will be on Wednesday 5 February and will debate ‘The Graphic vs the Novel’: I’ll be asking each member to bring one title that is a testament to good writing or good art to argue their case. See you there?
Staff and readers at Westminster Reference Library are well used to their evening studies being accompanied by the screams of movie fans and the occasional celeb – or indeed fully-garbed Imperial Stormtrooper – passing by in Leicester Square. On Wednesday it was the turn of the Superman fans to line the red (actually blue) carpet route in the pouring rain as the latest re-imagining of the now 75 year old superhero got its first UK outing.
One of the key features of the new film is its cutting-edge visual effects (“You’ll believe a man can fly!”) including the creation of Superman’s planet – Krypton, his home town – Smallville, and his city – Metropolis. Location is often fundamental to the mood of a superhero’s story – think Batman without Gotham City, Thor without Asgard or The Fantastic Four without Latveria. While apparently most of the comic book superheroes have visited London at some point in their stories (probably due to the preponderance of British comic book artists), in the main if you remove a superhero from his or her city a great deal of atmosphere is lost.
Research for Man of Steel’s Metropolis involved effects artists scaling the perilous heights of Chicago’s skyscrapers, held only by ropes and harnesses. But what might the less well-funded comic book artist or aspiring film maker do to find inspiration for their own superhero city? They could do worse than visit the library! In fact, popping around the corner from the excesses of the premiere would have afforded a range of resources to inform and delight.
They could begin with a look at the precedents: Film Architecture: set designs from Metropolis to Bladerunner might be a good place to start. This exhibition catalogue is held within the library’s amazing Performing Arts collection – a browse along the nearby shelves would reveal several more books on this and related topics. Moving over to the Art & Design collection they could browse books on the buildings of Chicago, New York and other cities around the world, plus books on different architects, architectural styles and movements.
Of course, there are not enough superheroes based in our own beloved city (in fact, are there any?). A bit of research into London’s architecture would seem to be in order.
Airborne heroine? London High might come in handy.
Lycra-clad hero? Take a look at The architecture of London 2012.
If you’re not planning to imagine your own city, but want to become immersed in the imaginations of the best of the comic book artists, then you can visit one of the city’s lending libraries and borrow some of our brilliant range of graphic novels and comics.
Just as Man of Steel is intended as a ‘reboot’ of the Superman films, so DC comics have recently rebooted all their classic characters – including Superman – with ‘The New 52‘, many of which we have available to borrow. We also have Terry Moore’s Strangers in Paradise, source of the “Look it up!” Librarian (yes, we all think we’re superheroes).
If you get really hooked, don’t forget you can meet with like-minded souls at the Marylebone Library Graphic Novel Club which meets monthly on a Wednesday.
[Ali, Clint, Psyche]
Posted in Books, Marylebone Library, Special collections, Westminster Reference Library
Tagged architecture, art & design, book groups, Chicago, comics, DC Comics, films, graphic novels, London, Man of Steel, Marylebone, Metropolis, movies, New 52, Odeon Leicester Square, performing arts, premiere, Superman, Westminster Reference