Road Trip! The Epic Voyages of Comics
With the San Diego Comic-Con almost upon us, fans and professionals from all across the globe are about to converge on the San Diego Convention Center. Some are there, and some are currently en route. And so it’s in that spirit of travel that we present this run-down of some notable road trips in comics, with the hope that your travels from point A to point B and back again will be almost as interesting as what you do when you arrive.
Starting Point: New York, NY
Distance: Approximately 9,950 miles (all distances given as the crow flies) One of the most critically-acclaimed series of the past ten years, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s “Y: The Last Man” puts countless miles behind it over its sixty issues; but it begins with Yorick Brown, the last surviving human male, trying to make it from Brooklyn to Australia to find the girlfriend he’d proposed to by phone just before almost all men on on the planet died and the world as everyone knew it ended. So remember, be careful about long distance relationships, they always end up more complicated than you think.
Yorick’s accompanied by Agent 355, a U.S. Secret Agent assigned to protect his life; Dr. Allison Mann, a geneticist who needs to get Yorrick to San Francisco to analyze how he survived, and Ampersand, Yorick’s capuchin monkey, the only other male mammal to survive. The group makes the standard stops across the Midwest and plain states common to any trip across the U.S., concealing Yorick’s identity and meeting the friendly types of people you’d expect them to meet. In other words, they’re often quite lucky one of them is a trained killer. If you haven’t read the series yet, now’s a good time to start. Vertigo released a promotional edition of the first issue priced at one dollar at the start of July and is in the process of putting out deluxe hardcover collections of the entire story.
Starting Point: Los Angeles, CA
Destination: New York, NY
Distance: 2,451 miles
Written by J. Michael Straczynski, with art by Gary Frank, “Midnight Nation” tells the story of a man who loses his soul and has a year to walk from Los Angeles to New York to get it back, which runs counter to the norm of flying into L.A. and then proceeding to lose your soul.
David Grey, formerly a police detective, is stuck in between realities, unnoticed by most people and accompanied only by Laurel, a mysterious woman assigned to be his guide. She’s helped others attempt the same trip in the past, but doesn’t like to talk about the results. There’s camping, fireside chats, a library with every great book that’s never been finished, and a meaningful stopover in Chicago on the way to the Big Apple.
There’s also the threat of attack from a group of nearly mindless robed men with strange markings from head to toe. Not only in Jersey like you’d expect, but every step of the way. The twelve issue series is available in trade paperback, and an oversized deluxe hardcover edition is set to be released later this year.
Starting Point: Sacramento, CA
Destination: New Babylon (formerly New York City and Washington, D.C.)
Distance: 2,373 miles
The Marvel Universe of the future is not a a very pleasant place to live in Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s “Old Man Logan” arc of “Wolverine,” but if you actually want to go somewhere else — well, that’s even worse. Wolverine, who gave up on being a hero fifty years ago when the villains won, just wants an ordinary life on the farm with the family he’s raising in northern California. But when he can’t pay the rent to the Hulk’s grandkids, he’s got no choice but to go on a cross-country journey transporting illegal goods with Hawkeye to scrape the money together. In the Spider-Mobile.
There’s the usual stop in Vegas you’d expect any traveler to make, and then there’s the sightseeing along the way. Mt. Rushmore, suitably updated to reflect the new world order, not one but two oversized skeletons, and a couple dinosaur herds. And along the way we find out what happened to all the heroes and just why Wolverine refuses to fight anymore. The first seven issues have been released, with the giant-sized finale due out in September.
Starting Point: Troy (near modern day Çanakkale in Turkey)
Distance: Approximately 325 Miles
“It’s 280 nautical miles to Ithaca, we’ve got a full crew, a few barrels of food, there’s no wind, and we’re in a sail boat.”
Now, it’s been a while since I’ve read “The Odyssey,” but I’m pretty sure those are the lines with which the great poet Homer started his epic poem, the ur-road trip myth of Western Literature. If you’re up for a refresher like I am, there are a few graphic novel adaptations of the story that have either been recently released or will be soon. Marvel’s eight issue series written by Roy Thomas with art by Greg Tocchini has been collected into a hardcover edition, and IDW will be releasing their own version of the classic later this year.
The millennia-old story still resonates with lessons useful to us today. For just one example, take Odysseus’ unfortunate decision to piss off Poseidon, god of the sea, prior to a lengthy ocean voyage. Keep that in mind as you interact with the many people with power over your travel plans in the coming days, whether they be the airline attendant who might be able to bump you into a better seat or the friend you’re counting on to wake you up and make sure you make it out the door in time. Stay on their good sides, lest your own travels be fraught with danger and interminable, seemingly years-long delays.
Obviously these are just a few comic series that use epic trips to tell their story. What are some of your favorites?