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Words and Pictures

Aside from being a certified comic book connoisseur, I am also, to use the vernacular, a "playa". I know what a girl wants and this has led more than a few of my fellow four-color fans to ask that eternally vexing question: "How do I get my girlfriend interested in comics?"

There are as many different answers to that inquiry as there are women in the world, but for brevity's sake I'll indulge in a bit of generalization. Women tend to prefer characterization over plot and emotion over explosions. While there are a few ladies out there who can appreciate the aesthetics of a good gunfight, they are very much in the minority. If you happen to be dating one of those women, I would suggest loaning her your run of Punisher: War Zone.

For the other 99 percent of you, a little more care is required in selecting the proper introductory comic. First, look at the kinds of movies and books your gal-pal enjoys. If she prefers to wile away her afternoons curled up with the latest novel by Stephen King or Anne McCaffrey, I would suggest titles like Sandman, Meridian or Y: The Last Man. They all have a decidedly literary sensibility that is sure to appeal to the estrogen crowd. Not to mention that the ladies just go crazy over brooding, Byronic anti-heroes like Morpheus.

If your lady's not a fantasy buff, then what about mystery? Someone keeps buying all those Sue Grafton novels, after all. The most obvious recommendation is Ruse. It has some of the wittiest dialogue of any book on the market and more sexual tension than you can shake a stick at. Then there's pretty much everything Brian Michael Bendis has ever written: Alias, Jinx and Powers chief among them. BMD knows how to write female characters better than almost any other male writer in the business, and that alone qualifies him for this list. That and his smooth, sexy bald head.

Of course, there are times when a girl just wants to let her hair down and laugh and a little. Strangely enough, for a medium whose name means funny, there are few books on the market that actually are. And there are even fewer once all the self-reflexive parodies of established comic book icons have been removed from consideration. Still, I can think of at two books off the top of my head that are funny enough for a man but PH balanced for a woman. The first is Blue Monday, essentially a John Hughes' movie on paper. A clever and charming exploration of teenage life, any woman young enough to remember what high school was like will love this book. Kyle Baker's excellent Why I Hate Saturn earns my second recommendation. It's all about the various relationships - dating, family, etc - of a neurotic, self-absorbed career woman. It's When Harry Met Sally crossed with Seinfeld - only better.

"But what about superheroes?" one of my fanboy friends asks in high-pitched voice. "How do I get my girlfriend interested in superhero comics?" This is a tough one. Superheroes have always been a male genre for the simple fact that most stories revolve around two guys fighting. It may get our testosterone flowing, but it leaves the ladies cold. Which means that you need to give her superhero books with a little more substance and a little more, for lack of a better term, soap opera.

Ultimate Spider-Man is probably the easiest sell given the recent success of the movie. Bendis (that sexy best) has wisely decided to make Peter Parker, not Spider-Man, the real star of the series. To a female audience, the issues Peter has with his Aunt May, his girlfriend and himself are far more interesting than watching him suit up to take on Doc Ock. Another sure-fire winner is Birds of Prey, especially the early issues. The series is essentially an examination of female friendship set against a backdrop of crimefighting and espionage. The TV show pulled down consistently impressive numbers of female viewers - and given how bad it was, that's saying a lot. My final selection is Superman For All Seasons. This is a book entirely about relationships: Clark's relationship with his father, his first love, his greatest enemy and his future wife. It's powerful stuff, and it gives the character a depth that I doubt most female readers would have ever dreamed he possessed.

Women are strange and wondrous creatures. Without them life wouldn't be worth living, but with them it's an unendurable hell. That is until they become comic fans. Then it's more like purgatory. And purgatory isn't really that bad.


Joshua Elder

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