Thursday, May 23, 2013

Steampunk Comics

Here in Houston Texas, Comicpalooza starts tomorrow, May 24th. If you have a chance to come, please do, so many stars will be there. I will be on a Sex in Space panel on Friday, the 24th, and Steampunk Egyptology and Indie and Small Press publishing panels Saturday the 25th and Sunday the 26th, I and Steampunk author, Delphine Dryer will be on a Steampunk Quips and Tips panel for writers and readers. So Comicaplooza had me thinking about comics and Steampunk. I’m not a big comic reader but I have read some I loved. Here are my five Favorite Steampunk Comic Books: 

Bryan Tallbot’s 1970’s Luther Arkwright series is considered the starting point for the modern era of Steampunk comics. Speaking of Bryan Tallbot, his Grandville series is total Steampunk. I’ll begin with it, followed by four others that are not necessary the best Steampunk comics but they are my favorites. If you find Steampunk interesting, but haven’t read anything in it, comic books are a great introduction to the genre. 

The author and artist, BryanTablot, was inspired by a 19th century illustrator, who drew anthropomorphized characters in costumes of the period and used the pen name J J Grandville. The story takes place in an alternate world where the British lost the Napoleonic War and a Scotland Yard Inspector, a badger, investigates the murder of a British diplomat. The events of 9/11 and a conspiracy theory are woven into the plot. The cast is made up of animals garbed in Victorian clothing, there are a few humans now and then, maids and bell hops, who are called doughfaces, which I find hilarious. Grandville is smart, interesting, well plotted and the art is incredible.

The premise is genius. It takes place in England in the early 1900’s, just ten years after the War of the Worlds when the Martians were defeated by microscopic germs humans had been immune to for centuries.  British scientists adapt the highly advanced Martian technology to everyday life. Carriages running on robotic spider legs like the Martian vehicles replace horses and homes are heated and lighted by a version of the Martian heat ray. Two British spies take on a case of a missing girl and uncover so much more. Stempunk fans will love the Victorian/Edwardian London setting, the utilization of alien technology and the H. G. Wells connection, as well as the dark, dystopian tone. I found this a powerful read, the story and images stayed with me long after I finished it.

This is a story of star crossed lovers from two different houses. Sounds familiar? One of the two fantastic castles is built by a grafter as a monument to the science of nature, while the other is built by a tinker as a tribute to the science of technology and machines. The tinker creates a clockwork girl named Tesla. You will even find two quotes of Nikola Tesla within the story. Though different, several images of the little clockwork girl and the monster boy are reminiscent of scenes from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. This is a children’s story and suitable for ages eight to 108. This graphic novel is one of the most heartwarming stories I’ve ever read. So sweet and charming and it has a happy ending. 

4. Ignition City by Warren Ellis

In a dieselpunk/alternative history, washed up space heroes live in Ignition City, a rough and rowdy settlement cut off from civilization on Earth’s last spaceport. Ignition City has a strong woman for the main character,
Mary Raven, a space pilot and daughter of the famous spaceman, who stopped a Martian missile plot. She heads to the spaceport to discover how her father died and who killed him. It has colorful language and a Wild West tone. There are aliens, ray guns, and the marshal flies around in a rocketeer type outfit. I found this a fun, page-turning, action packed read with realistic characters that I loved.

Struck, a rugged, old west cowboy hero, robs banks, cheats at poker, lies to women with promises of marriage and runs away at any hint of trouble. Yeah, this bad boy is a real charmer. Still when some old prospectors dig up robots, who in turn dig up a whole army of metal men that go on a rampage, killing humans, our hero comes to the rescue of his woman and his town. Of course he has to, he’s set for a lynching and the sheriff gives him no choice but to help or to hang. Struck has some help himself from an elderly Native American gentleman and Sasquatch. Yes that’s right, Big Foot himself. This comic book is a blast, so much fun. Iron West will make your day. It is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen and I often think of lines and images from it, even though I read it years ago.

Other great Steampunk Comics I highly recommend:

Steampunk by Chris Bachalo and Joe Kelly

Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez

Ruse by Mark Waid (2nd half of the series by Scott BeattyAetheric) Mechanics by Warren Ellis

Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio

Jonah Hex by Jimmy Palmiotfi & Justin Gray

Gotham by Gas Light by Brian Augustyn and Mike Mignola

The Amazing Screw-On-Head by Mike Mignola

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol 1 & vol 2 by Alan Moore

You can see the five I’ve listed, and the other comic books I’ve suggested, have Victorian, Dystopian, Dieselpunk, Westernpunk or Alternate History ascetics as well as Steampunk. We can look forward to the future of Steampunk comic books offering even more diversity and choices for readers. There is something for every Steampunk reader between my five favorites and the others I recommend. If you can’t find these comic books at your local comic book store, they are available on Amazon and other online bookstores. Also if you are in the U.S., most of these are all available from the inter-library loan program, order them from your local library website or at your local library.


Tina Donahue said...

These stories sound fascinating. Hope you have a great time at your convention! :)

Cornelia said...

Thank you so much Tina, I appreciate it.