The Wednesday Club and my Origin story
I recently finished watching the first episode of The Wednesday Club on Geek and Sundry (slightly belated as I missed it when it aired) and it’s absolutely lovely.
The VOD is currently only available on the Geek and Sundry twitch and Alpha, both of which require a subscription to access but when/if it gets released onto youtube I’ll try to remember to come back and update this post with a link.
The Wednesday Club is a talk show with Taliesin Jaffe, Amy Dallen and Matt Key about comics and when it was announced I couldn’t help but be excited.
I had the good luck and pleasure of meeting Amy Dallen a few years ago while working the Outland (Norway’s geek store chain) stall and she is just fantastically kind and amazing and I was fortunate enough to get to talk to her a couple of times during the event.
Also, I’ve been fascinated with Taliesin Jaffe and his seemingly neverending knowledge of both the odd, weird and the mundane ever since I started watching Critical Role. Plus, he seems to have a fantastic sense of humour, which I totally appreciate.
So, with just those two names attached to the show, I knew I had to watch it. I sadly didn’t know much about Matt other than having seen him around the set of Signal Boost but I figured if he was to host with Amy and Taliesin, he had to know his stuff as well.
All this combined with the fact that while I love comics and graphic novels, I’ve had a hard time getting into the “mainstream” and superhero stuff, making me even more interested to see what they had to say about it and hopefully I could get some pointers on what to read.
I was not disappointed. Despite this being an introduction episode (the episode is aptly named “Origins”) just the sheer amount of information and geekery was highly informative and entertaining. It was also very interesting to listen to how they got into comics, as the relationship with comics over in the US seem to be quite different from the relationship I’ve seen over here in the Nordic countries, not just because the format and availability seem to differ quite a bit.
Growing up, I was an avid reader as soon as I learned to read and while I’ve always classified myself as a books person, I did read a fair amount of comics. My main fare was (of course) Donald Duck, mainly the pocket books, and a variety of mostly European comics like Finn & Fiffi (Spike and Suzy/Willy and Wanda), Tintin, Asterix, Barna Hedenhös, Yakari, Gaston (and the spinoffs in both Marsupilami and Spirou) etc. As I got a little bit older I ended up reading a lot of The Phantom, Thorgal, Prince Valiant and a wide variety of more local humour comics (91:an Karlsson, Herman Hedning, Hälge, Kronblom, Pyton) because those were the main magazines available in the stores.
I did have my run-ins with the more US-centric comics early on, with a few issues of X-Men and Star Wars from the 80’s, but they never got me sufficiently hooked to go looking for them. Also, the translation of the Star Wars comics put me off so badly. I could never get used to r2d2 being called “Ärrtvå” (basically the Swedish pronunciation of ‘R2’, so the same as ‘Artoo’).
I would later trip over Witchblade and fall in love with that, but sadly due to the way it was being published in Sweden at the time, I never got much continuity out of it, as the publisher waited for a set amount of the standard small issues that were published in the US to be imported, then printed in Swedish magazine format and it wasn’t always that the magazine got the issues right between releases. The license to print and translate the series also seemed to be dropped and bought a few times, making things even harder.
Overall I never thought much about reading comics as I grew up. It wasn’t a huge thing in general, most people read comics at one point or another. If nothing else, people tended to read the comic strips in the newspapers. The only comics I regularly bought myself were basically the horse magazine Min Häst, because I enjoyed the storylines they had and in particular the one’s drawn by Lena Furberg (who was one of my first art idols) along with the occasional issue of the competing horse magazine Penny (which these days seem to be called Wendy?) when I could afford both.
Most of the comics I read early on were “leftovers” from my brothers that my mom had kept. We still have a nearly complete collection of Finn & Fiffi that I keep reading whenever I’m home visiting. I say nearly because we have managed to read one of the books to pieces (the pages have fallen out of the cover).
Comics were just more available reading material that had more interesting stories, and I was mainly focused on books anyhow, so I never thought much about them as a media growing up. Especially since the only way to get any of them were the grocery stores or small convenience stores, and they only stocked the “children’s selection” and a few select other things such as The Phantom, Modesty Blaise and whatever else was deemed popular or classic enough. Specialty comics stores weren’t really a thing in Sweden for the longest time. It started to take off slightly in the mid 90s when the Science Fiction Bookstore moved into a bigger place in the middle of Stockholm. I never really went there to get comics, but I visited whenever I could as soon as I learned about it for more fantasy books.
In my early twenties, (I think at least, it may have been even earlier as I’ve basically been on the internet since I was 10-12) I started to discover webcomics and as such ended up reading more comics alongside my books again.
As I started working at Outland some six years ago now, I really started realising just how wide of a medium comics are and just how many different narratives are out there.
These days, I read more comics than I do books, in part because I’ve managed to burn myself out (it’s been a slow, long ongoing process ever since my late teens) and I have a really hard time concentrating on any one thing for a longer period of time. Comics help a bit as they are compelling and bite-sized enough that I don’t feel guilty reading them. With books, I get very fidgety if I try to sit down and read for longer than 30-60 minutes because I feel guilty for not being “productive”, and as such reading books isn’t as enjoyable as it used to be.
I have in a lot of ways moved away from the western comics though, as I’ve found more stories that interest me within manga. Even so, I do still consider them the same medium, they’re just made in different places and with different mindsets. I’m slowly finding more things that interest me within the western style comics, such as Saga, Pretty Deadly, The Wicked + The Divine and the new Ms. Marvel. I’m slowly trying to find more of the fringe comics that deal with interesting narratives, which was one of the reasons I wanted to watch the Wednesday Club when I first heard of it because I knew about Amy’s and Taliesin’s expertise on the matter.
I have also desperately tried to get into the superhero comics because I really enjoy the new Marvel movies in particular, but I often find myself put off by the art style, which makes me really sad. For example, I would love to learn more about Iron Man, because I really like his character, but most of the comics I’ve picked up have been really hard for me to read due to the art style. In some cases, the story just doesn’t flow well enough that I can be bothered, which may just be me getting pickier as I get older.
So, that is my “comics origin” story, and I’m very much looking forward to the next episode of the Wednesday Club. Thank you to Amy, Taliesin and Matt for bringing on this fantastically nerdy, geeky and informative show about comics, and for bringing back some of that love for reading in my life.