Monday, November 30, 2009

Bookmonkey's Top 5 Canadian Genre Films

Since I started posting blogs in August and began getting comments from around the world to my posts, I've found that more and more often I've become a defender of my nations character (as far as Genre films, TV, and Books goes). So this week, I'm going to look at some of my favourite Canadian films.

So here we go, my top five Canadian Genre Films

This 1983 film starring James Woods is one of the big reasons we have a "NO TV HOUR" in our home from 6-7 at night, as the film gives you the message that TV kills, literally. The movie follows James Woods, who plays a television producer in Toronto, as he attempts to find the new best thing for television. What he finds is a channel called Videodrome, which is basically snuff TV. The problem occurs when he begins to find out exactly what Videodrome is actually trying to do. The film does have some pretty gruesome bits, but it is definitely a Canadian classic.

For those of you who haven't seen it, Ginger Snaps uses the idea of Werewolves as a metaphor for puberty. Basically you have two teenaged sisters (Ginger and Brigitte) who seem pretty preoccupied with death at the beginning of the film. Ginger gets her first period and is attacked by a werewolf on the same night and then everything starts to get very weird, and very freaky. Watching this film as a guy, I have to say that it definitely plays to all of the fears we have about girls at that age.

I actually found this movie as I began watching the films that had won Genie awards (Basically our Oscars here in Canada). George C. Scott plays a man who after a devastating family tragedy, buys a suspiciously perfect house in a new town. The tone of this film is pretty quiet, but once you realize the house is haunted the tension builds to an unbelievable level.

Alright, you know the scene in Resident Evil where Alice and the Umbrella agents enter a corridor and one of them is "cubed" by a laser? Totally stolen from my favourite Canadian horror film, Cube. Basically a small group of people wake up inside a giant cube shaped room, there are doors leading out from the middle of each side and as they move through these doors into other rooms, they are either attacked by some random killing device or left alive. Together, they have the skills to survive and escape, but that's only if they don't kill each other first. Simply an amazing film.

This movie asks a pretty simple question. If you knew, for certain that the world would end tomorrow, what would you do with your last night? The characters in this film do all sorts of things, some funny, some terrible, some heartbreaking, with their last hours on Earth. For a film with such a grim concept, there is a lot of light here. This film should top anyone's list of must see Canadian Genre films.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Things I've Noticed: There is a process to having a good read

I read a lot - maybe 10 books a month, not including manga, comics or magazines, so over time I've noticed that I can dramatically increase my reading enjoyment if I do a little prep work. My logic is pretty simple - if you like reading, give yourself a couple minutes of prep time to make sure that you can really enjoy a good read.

Bookmonkey's recipe for a good read

1. Find a good book
I really can't stress this enough, although I suppose I could spend an afternoon reading the ingredient lists on the food in my kitchen, I will probably have a better time if I've found a good book to read.

2. Get rid of distractions
Take a minute to look around the room you will be reading in and get rid of distractions, a quick tidy might help and make sure you've got good light - no need to damage your eyes. Also a big one for me - don't read while the television is on - you might feel like you are incredibly intelligent doing both at the same time, but in the end you are just doing both half as well as you should be.

3. Find a good time
Basically you are looking for a time to read where you can actually sit down and put your focus on the book. For some people this is on the bus during the commute to work or school, for others it's a comfortable late night read. Lately, I've been doing morning and lunch-time reading.

4. Get a reading theme song
Yes I know this sounds ridiculously corny, but if you play the same tune before you start reading, you will teach your brain to realize that when that song is played, you are about to do some reading. Right now my reading song is "It's a good day" by Peggy Lee, but my song changes every couple weeks. (and yes, the theme song to "Reading Rainbow" has been my reading song from time to time) The importance is to have a musical cue which says to your sub conscience "SHADUP, I'm reading now."

5. Get a beverage
For me, this is a coffee (pictured right), but anything will do, just have it at hand so you don't have to stop reading to go get a drink. I don't know why, but often my brain will start coming up with excuses to stop reading for a moment and "You need a coffee" is a pretty common excuse for me.

6. READ!
Sit back, relax and enjoy your book. You've earned it.

So there you have it. I'm sure a similar process could be used to watch Television, or whatever else you like to do. The big thing for me is to remember, I'm doing this for fun, and I deserve to make my fun stuff a little special.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Genre Character of the Week: Anton Gorodetsky

As a guy who grew up on Role Playing Games (RPGs) I am a big fan of spending experience points. Basically, for all of you who had better things to do in your teen years, a character in a RPG would get experience points for doing stuff and then you, the player, could spend those points to make your character faster, stronger, or able to speak French. I honestly believe that it was the hard work that went into gaining experience for my character that gave me serious respect for a good character arc in a story. One of my favourite characters which show this phenomenon in genre fiction is Anton Gorodetsky.

Anton is the protagonist in Russian author Sergei Lukyanenko's Night Watch, series of books. Basically he is a lower level wizard (tech support, really) in Moscow's Night Watch, an organization which guards the city from the members of the Day Watch, who claim they do the same thing - the series has a real Russian Cold War feel to it. Anyway, in the first novel Anton is given his first field assignment, to track down a vampire and of course it all goes horribly wrong - otherwise there wouldn't be much of a story.

Throughout the four novels that comprise the series, Anton grows in his abilities, meets a girl, marries her, is promoted, becomes a dad and eventually goes much farther both professionally and personally than he ever imagined. I love when this happens to characters in genre fiction. Rather than simply solve the problem, move on and repeat, Anton learns from each major event in his life, which causes him to grow as a person. I find that far too often, the characters in genre fiction simply don't change from one book to the other, the same awesome guy shows up, kicks ass, and leaves. Character growth is good - it is what keeps me coming back for more.

*One quick note about the movies - I had already read the books when I saw Night Watch, and I really liked the movie. I have been told that if you haven't read the books, the movies don't make much sense. I will say this though, Konstantin Khabenskiy (pictured above), who plays Anton in the films is really, really good. I totally bought him as the character and that's pretty tricky when the character in the novels is such a favourite.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Book Review: The Wolf's Hour

I've been reading Robert R. McCammon for years now and he's delivered some of the creepiest horror and most wonderful fantasy I've ever read. Right now I'm working my way through his complete works in publishing order and after reading his 1989 novel The Wolf's Hour, I knew that I had to share this book with as many people as I could.

The novel, at it's core, is a World War II espionage story wherein an Allied agent must travel across Germany to discover what the Axis has planned to counter D Day. The agent is clever, passionate, dangerous, and a werewolf. The novel works a lot like Richard Mathesons "The Incredible Shrinking Man" in that it switches back and forth from the current conflict to the characters history, showing us how he got in this predicament in the first place.

The hero of the novel, Michael Gallatin, is a British citizen who originally emigrated from Russia. The story of how he became a werewolf fills about half of the novel and the mission to figure out and prevent the German plan code-named "Iron Fist" fills the rest. The book is filled with action, almost to an Indiana Jones level, although I will say that the violence and sex is described explicitly enough that I might not recommond it for kids. The pacing of the book is incredible. Although the book is a thicker one, it was a quick and action-paced read.

The novel feels a lot like some of the bigger Hellboy stories, in that villains are doing some sort of giant plan and our hero has to do everything he can to stop it, after all, the world is depending on him. Some of the violence is extreme, but usually the more gruesome things happen to the more terrible people in the novel, so it feels justified.

I started reading Robert McCammon (pictured right) ages ago with his novel "Swan Song," an end-of-the-world book that rates as one of my favourites to this day. A lot of his earlier fiction is horror, but this book comes across more as adventure, and I loved that fact that although the hero is a literal monster, the villains (Nazis) are shown to be so monstrous that they definitely deserve what's coming to them.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Things I've Noticed: I'm starting to by less new genre films on DVD

Looking over my DVD collection this morning, I realized that I'm not buying a lot of the new stuff in genre films lately. I mean sure, I've got The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Trilogy boxed set, but that came out back in 2001, 2002, and 2003. If you only go back 5 years, to 2004, and you take into account that a number of DVD's I get are for my kids (Harry Potter and Narnia), my genre films on DVD are pretty slim.

I do love genre movies, and have seen lots of them in theatres, rented lots more and even waited for the public library to get some because they don't deserve my rental dollars (Transformers). But looking over my stuff, I've be surprised if I have more than ten genre flicks from the last 5 years.

Taking into account that I'm only talking about films, not Television series, here's what I've got.

In Fantasy since 2004, I own Pan's Labyrinth, Mirrormask, Lady in the Water, and Stardust, all of which I've watched on DVD at least twice, most of which I've checked out the special features on. When I think of spending money on Fantasy films, I just find that a lot of it ends up going to stuff that would be perfect Christmas or Birthday gifts for my daughters.

In SF since 2004, I own Children of Men and Sunshine. I know that you can consider most Super Hero flicks to be SF, but as I buy most of them for my kids, they aren't really my collection. To be fair, since my BFF Mike is a huge SF and Super Hero fan, I can borrow these titles from him so there isn't as much of a need for me to purchase these.

In Horror since 2004, I've got Shawn of the Dead, Planet Terror and Slither. I am a pretty big horror fan, but even taking into account the 2009 horror films I'd like to own (Drag Me To Hell and Zombieland), I'm just not finding a big need to re-watch a lot of newer horror movies.

When I think about a movie that I might like to own, I have three filters that make sure I don't end up broke (pictured right).

1) Do I have somethings I'd rather do with this $20 bill?
2) As much as I liked it in theatres, will I ever re-watch this film?
3) Would I be embarrased if someone saw this on my DVD shelf?

I still by a lot of DVDs, but these days more of them tend to be hard-to-find classics and hidden gems of genre films. I hope that means I'm getting more discerning in my selections, rather than just being picky.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Genre Character of the Week: Hellboy

When it comes to demon-fighting characters in genre fiction, film and television, you have your priests (Father Callahan in the novel Salem's Lot), your teens (Buffy Summers in the film and television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and your various Vampires hunting down their own kind and hoping, one day, to become human again (Nick Knight in the Canadian Television series Forever Knight), and then you have Hellboy.

Mixing together the best parts of pulp, horror, fantasy and action, you need one heck of main character for the reader to connect with, and creator Mike Mignola definitely delivered.

For the purposes of this post I'm going to stick with the character as portrayed in the comic series - I love the movies, but the comics are my personal favourite. Most of the stories in the Hellboy series involving him solving a problem created by some creepy creature from folklore either with a clever bit of thought, or failing that, by beating the everlasting crap out of the thing.

As a character, Hellboy is just about the perfect mix of horror (he is a demon), and a blue-collar mind-set, he might not love his job, but he is the best at it there is and the job needs to get done. Unlike the first film, the entire world in the comics already knows about him (the United Nations granted him honourary human status in 1952).

What I love the most about Hellboy is pretty simple, for a guy who is red, horned, mistaken for some kind of ape, and has a stone hand/key to the destruction of the world, he is one of the more human characters I've ever had the pleasure read, he just resonates with me, and as you read further and further into the comics, you start to understand just how decent a guy he is.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Holy Cats! My blog was mentioned on a podcast!

Hi everyone,

I received an email yesterday that one of my posts (Thing's I've Noticed: Documentaries are starting to freak me out) was mentioned on the "Awesome Blog of the Week" segment of the Transmission Awesome podcast over at That Guy With The Glasses! You can find it at about 38 minutes into the podcast.


Monday, November 16, 2009

Bookmonkey's Top Five Overlooked Genre Films

Everyone has them, four or five movies from their childhood that are simply perfect, that represent some of the most creative genre stuff you've ever seen, and that have never been heard of by any of your friends. Of course they have flaws, but for whatever reason, you love 'em and you'd fight anyone who called them down.

So here we go, my top five overlooked genre films:

First off, yes this film is an obvious knock off of Conan the Barbarian. The '80s seemed to be filled with sword and sorcery titles that ranged from clever ones like this to weaker ones like the Deathstalker films (although as a 13-year-old boy, there is a LOT to love in Deathstalker II). Beastmaster was actually popular enough to spawn multiple sequals and even a TV show (which yes, was an obvious knock off of Hercules and Xena). Basically you have a barbarian who can talk with the animals. Bad guys destroy his village and then he fights back. The premise is simple, the cheese factor is high, but the movie is definitely a classic.

I'll be honest, a big part of why this film is on the list is my wife - she totally loves this movie and is completely frustrated by the fact that it's not available on DVD. The only version we have available is on a Betamax Cassette. Basically this film pairs up vampire films with rock 'n roll musicals, and the result is pretty great. The movie takes a pretty standard story - Guy (Ralph) meets girl, guy turns out to be vampire/rock 'n roll star, both guy and girl are part of a curse that involves a pirate and a murder with a ham bone - and then takes the story in a new direction. The music is pretty great and there is a stand-out performance by Toni Basil as the Vampire's mother.

This movie simply rocks. Take a group of small-town kids and pit them against some of the scariest monsters from Universal pictures - Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, The Mummy, The Wolf Man, and even The Creature from the Black Lagoon (who was sadly lacking from Van Helsing). The kids are all late Elementary / early Junior High (Middle School) age, and as their town begins to fall under the control of these monsters, they fight back in a number of very clever way - rather than going for the cute but over-the-top, Home Alone approach, these kids came across as realistic and relatable. Plus, I do owe my favourite movie line from the '80s to this film - Wolf Mans got Nards!?!

Imagine psychics who can enter your dreams and kill you there - kind of like Freddy Krueger, but with government funding behind them. The film focuses on Alex, played by Dennis Quaid, who is forced to join a university project which is working on giving people the ability to enter the dreams of others. Alex is gifted at this, and eventually finds out that the funding behind the project comes from an agency who wants the subjects to become assassins. The dream imagery for this film is fantastic, and the action is pretty darn great.

Seriously, if you haven't seen Krull - I don't even know what to say. It's great, it is one of the best examples of Science Fantasy I've ever seen on film. I want to talk more about it, but if you haven't seen it, I'll just have to wait. Go. See it. NOW!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things I've Noticed: Non-Fiction is getting cooler to me

I use the library a lot, so much in fact that my wife often refers to the library as my "Girlfriend," but it is only lately that I've started getting into non-fiction books. For years I stuck to the fiction section and missed out on all sorts of great reads.

In the last couple of years I've begun to read about one non-fiction book a month and this morning I was noticing that a lot of them are beginning to be the kind of books I'd recommend to others. Here are three, just so you can get a taste of what I'm talking about.

Things We Think About Games, by Will Hindmarch and Jeff Tidball
This book is a list of rules for people who play games, almost like an etiquette book. They refer to every kind of game from board game, to Role Playing Game, to Console and online games. Advice ranges from good suggestions for first-time board-gamers, to better ways to play World of Warcraft. The whole book takes maybe an afternoon to read and basically asks gamers to think about their hobby and find ways to play more effectively.

The experience of reading this book, written by one of the creators of my favourite high school show (Freaks & Geeks), was shockingly like looking back at my own childhood. The author looks with a merciless and yet nostalgic eye at his own childhood in the late '70s/early '80s and shows us all the horrible and wonderful things we might not remember about growing up. It is really, really good and there is a sequel, Superstud: or how I became a 24-year-old virgin, that had me laughing so hard I cried.

This book starts with a pretty neat idea. A man wants to build a clock that will still be functional in 10,000 years. The clock has to be mechanical, as there would be no guarantee that electrical power could be consistent and maintained over such a massive amount of time. Maintenance of the clock must be described in such a way that virtually anyone (remember, in 10,000 years time we might not be reading in English) could fix it if any problems came up. The chapters switch from a discussion about how to make this clock work to discussions about long-term planning, a concept most people don't like to think about. This book is engaging, interesting, and the kind of thing you have to discuss with friends once you finish.

I love fiction, and will continue to read it for years to come, but as I've started looking at non-fiction, there are a lot of really cool titles out there that get me very interested in our world. Next up for me: The Radioactive Boy Scout: the true story of a boy and his backyard Nuclear Reactor, by Ken Silverstein.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Genre Character of the week: Enoch Wallace

Thinking back over the dozens of stories I've read in my life featuring immortals, a couple observations come to mind. First: Immortality is bad - in stories it tends to be used as a punishment or something the immortal is trying to escape from. Second: even the value of life when you live forever comes down to the little things. My favourite immortals in books tend to be the most human ones (sorry vampires), as I find them more relatable. Looking at all the great immortal characters I've read about over the years, my favourite, hands down, is Enoch Wallace, the protagonist of Clifford D. Simak's novel Way Station.

Taking place in 1963 (the year it was published) Way Station introduces us to Enoch Wallace, living a small cabin in the woods of Wisconsin, who for some reason is being monitored by a government agent. From the outside, everything about Mr. Wallace appears to be normal, just a middle-aged man, living a quiet life alone in the woods. The government has become interested however, because Enoch is listed as having fought in the American Civil War (or War between the States depending on your point of view), and as that was almost a hundred years ago, how does he still look thirty?

The answer (which is given very quickly - I'm trying to be light on spoilers) is fairly simple. Enoch's cabin is a way station, a stopping point for Galactic transportation of people and products. Aliens stop by, mail comes through, Enoch makes sure everything works according to code and in exchange, he has been granted immortality.

Unfortunately, this is all about to change. Part of what I love about Enoch is although at first, due to his immortality he is disconnected from humanity (initially he actually looks down on people, both individually and as a species), but over the course of the novel begins to understand everything that makes humanity so wonderful.

I love the fact that this high-concept SF book (it talks about the Cold War, war in general, and the value of human beings as a species) really makes the character development of Enoch it's focus. His journey from shut-in, haunted by his ghosts, to functional human being, who begins to care deeply for the people around him blew me away. Enoch is a quiet man, put in an impossibly difficult situation, and like the best people I've ever known, finds a way to shine.

In 2004 the movie rights for this book were purchased, and I would definitely turn out to see how this book, with one of my favourite characters in SF, is adapted to film.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Book Review: Burnt Offerings

Burnt Offerings - I've spent a few years looking for this book. I first came across the title in Stephen King's Danse Macabre (an incredible book, which deserves its own review), in the Horror Novels section. King listed it alongside such great ghost novels as The Haunting of Hill House and Ghost Story, so I was pretty interested in finding it.

Whenever I came across online lists of best horror novels it always hung around the bottom of the list, not in the top ten, but consistently present. As my library didn't have a copy of it, I kept it on a list of books to find in used-book stores, and there it sat for over a decade.

Two years ago I found Stephen Jones and Kim Newman's incredible book Horror the 100 best books and there it was again, listed at number 71 and that was it. I had to find this book.

In the last few years I've got better at using more of the services available through my public library, and the Inter-Library Loan service is starting to become one of my new favourites. Less than a month after requesting the title, I got it from a public library in Manitoba, and here we are.

The book has a pretty straight forward plot, a family - the Rolfe's (Mom, Dad, Son, and Great-Aunt), are given a chance to leave New York City in the heat of the summer, to become the summer caretakers at a suspiciously perfect house in New England. Sure the house is a little run down, but as Mrs. Rolfe is an obsessive cleaner, it seems like a perfect match. There is only one small catch, the owner of the home is still living there, an unseen woman, living in a tiny room on the third floor, and she needs food brought to her bedroom door three times a day. No one ever sees this woman, but sometimes the food is nibbled at.

The best part of the book is watching this strange and frightening summer unfold. In a way it's like the opposite of King's The Shining, as the family is in a lovely home in beautiful weather, rather than the Overlook in Winter. Just like the King book however, the atmosphere of this book really starts getting to you early on and never lets go. A film was made in 1976, and unfortunately I've never seen it, but I can say that as horror novel, Burnt Offerings treats the reader to one of the best examples of building tension that I have read in a long time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Things I've Noticed: World-Wide Genre books are definitely worth a look

Looking over my bookshelf this morning, I notice that I'm actually starting to get a noticeable collection of genre books that come from around the world. In addition to books from my own country, I have a lot of British and US fiction (remember, I'm from Canada) but today I'd like to focus on the books I've got which were written in other languages and translated into English. These three books are definitely genre fiction, but the fact that they come from entirely different cultures adds to their appeal for me.

Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami (Japan)
Sometimes when I read the premise of a book, I think - that's pretty cool, I'd like to check that out sometime. Every once in a while though, the premise itself demands that I find and read the book. Battle Royale's premise: In a dystopian future where youth gangs were once a serious problem, the government takes one grade 8 class (13 and 14 year olds) from the country out to a secret location once a year, and forces them to kill each other until only one kid remains as an object lesson for the Nation. Think about that a little, imagine all of your friends in junior high (or middle school), and think about how difficult it would be to decide what you would do in that situation. The novel took me less than a day to read because I could not put it down, the tension was simply too high.

Blindness, by Jose Saramago (Portugal)
It begins with one man. Sitting in his car waiting for the light to change, his vision simply fades to a milky white. Blinded, he is taken by a not-so-good Samaritan (the man ends up stealing his car) home, and then to on Optometrists office by his wife. The doctor can find nothing wrong with his eyes, but wants him back in the morning for tests. The next morning, The Doctor, the nurses, the not-so-good Samaritan, the wife and all of the patients from the doctors office are also blind, and this is just the beginnings. The novel shows us, through this plague of blindness, how quickly society can fall apart. When you read Lord of the Flies, there is a part of you that thinks - yeah, but they were kids, in a real emergency things would be better. The speed with which society falls apart in this book chilled my blood.

The Night Watch (Watch Series #1), by Sergei Lukyanenko (Russia)
This book is packed with different supernatural creatures and moves effortlessly from a personal to an epic scale. I would best describe it as Russian Urban Fantasy. In it, we follow a young wizard, Anton, as he is promoted from research to field work in the streets of Moscow. Basically this world has the concept that the supernatural forces of good and evil are locked in a cold war, and both work to maintain a balance until one side can figure out a way to completely take over the world. The theme of the importance of balance is brought up again and again in this book, as well as in the remaining three books in the Watch series. Each novel is broken up into three shorter stories, usually connected by the main character or a main event. They are definitely dark, definitely Russian, and definitely some of the coolest Fantasy books I've read in a while.

All three of these books were adapted to film, Blindness being the best, Battle Royale being freakiest, and Night Watch being hard to understand if you haven't already read the book (kind of like David Lynch's Dune). As far as genre fiction from other countries go, all three of these books are a great place to start and definitely get me thinking that I've got to find more.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Genre Character of the Week: Latro

Recently I took a university course in Ancient Greece, and as I've found that reading related materials helps my grades, I started checking out movies and books which focused on the time period. The best find (for Ancient Greece) by far was Gene Wolfe's Soldier series featuring my pick for genre character of the week, Latro.

These books (Starting with Latro of the Mist) take place right at the end of the defeat of the Persian Wars in 479 BC (The Film 300 shows the beginning of the war). Our main character, Latro, who fought for Xerxes, has suffered a serious head wound and now has two serious problems: One, he has lost the ability to retain short-term memories (very much like Leonard in the film Memento), and has to keep a record of his life on paper now or he forgets everything, Two: Latro can see the gods.

The Greeks actually have a pretty big history of people dealing with the gods in a regular, sort of day-to-day format (The Iliad has a lot of this), but I just love how Latro is able to notice the gods and be noticed by them while all the people around him are unaware. Through the series he ends up with a slave girl called Io, who is maybe 9 or 10 when they first meet, and who is very helpful to him in protecting him from people who might want to take advantage. As Latro (a name given to him by a surgeon as his own name is forgotten), travels through the ancient world, he meets more and more of the gods and does a lot of mini-quests, helping them in return for clues as to who he really is.

The thing I admire most about Latro is his innocence. Although he is a soldier, and a formidable one at that (he kills a lot of people throughout the series), his injury has knocked his preconceptions and judgements right out of his head. He takes everyone as they appear at first, regardless of whatever he is told by others and simply lets their own actions decide his opinions of them. I also love how the gods seem to be just as surprised that Latro can see them as the people around him.

The third book of the series, Soldier of Sidon, takes place in Egypt and is filled with Egyptian, rather than Greek gods, and as Latro has amnesia, readers can jump on in any of the three novels. My only complaint is that I want more! Latro is desperate to find out who he is and how to return home (wherever that is), and at this point in the series he is a little closer, but still not there yet.

Historical fiction usually needs a main character who is removed from the prejudices of the age or modern readers won't be able to relate as well. Latro, with his strange way of seeing the world, is a very unique solution to this issue, as he may have had all those prejudices once, but now must simply trust people on what he sees (and writes down.)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bookmonkey's Top 5 Current Comic Series

I'm one of those people who likes to wait until a comic, novel, or television series are finished before I start buying them. I want to see where the story ends before I decide that it needs to be on my shelf, but certain comics are so good I can't wait. Although I love reading super hero comics, they make up a pretty small part of my overall collection.

Here are my top five currently published comic series that I'm snapping up as they come out (in graphic novel format).

Okay, this is the one I actually buy issue by issue but the reasons are pretty simple. The Dark Tower series of novels by Stephen King is possibly my favourite genre series of all time (Sorry LOTR, but you come a very close second). The series is written by Peter David and illustrated by Jae Lee. It works to fill in the gaps between the novel series and although I've had a problem with Lee's art in the past - it fits this series so well I am consistently blown away by it. If your a fan of the novels, check out the comics, they are simply that good.

You have to read this series. Bill Willingham is simply an amazing storyteller. Take all of your common knowledge of nursery rhymes, fairy tales, fantasy books and myths, then turn it into a series that is by turns violent, wonderful, epic, sensual, urban, hilarious, and a war story and you begin to get the idea of how good this series is. In addition, the spin-off series Jack of Fables, is also incredible. I'm not even sure why you are still reading my recommendation, go and read this now.

Last week I talked about how the protagonist of this series is one of my favourites in horror fiction. The series does exactly what I want to know after every zombie film - What next? Where does this go? What happens six months later. This series is pretty grim, what with all the zombies, but there is also a lot of hope in it, and for me hope is a pretty big part of what I like in any story. I just read that the series is being made into a TV show for AMC next year, and as I'm a fan of both of their other big shows (Mad Men and Breaking Bad), I am really jazzed about how they will adapt this amazing series.

In a way, part of why I like these series is the same as why I'm a fan of Fables - they take classic folklore and give it a modern twist. Hellboy is simply an incredible character. I think I decided on loving this series when I read the two-page story, Pancakes, which shows a defining moment in the characters life, when he chose good over evil. The stories are incredible, the artwork is amazing (although BPRD's takes a little getting used to), and the graphic novels are actually decently priced (thanks Dark Horse!). The movie adaptations are great, but the original material is fan-freaking-tastic.

All right, I'll admit it, a huge part of why I love this series is because I'm Canadian. It takes a basic story (young man growing into adulthood and finding his first love) and then adds in the fact that in this world, if you date a girl you must battle each of her evil ex-boyfriends - in seriously awesome, martial arts battles. The series owes a lot to manga for its style and is incredibly funny. Scott's world is so well developed you end up caring for all of his friends and their stories too. Simply put, this is my current favourite comic book.