I am aware that some of you may not be dyed-in-the-wool fantasy fans as I am. Rest assured that enjoying my comic can be the first step into a much greater and more colorful world for you. Let me take a moment to point you to a few materials that will hopefully whet you appetite for this greatest of genres.
“Fantasy” itself is a very wide, blanket term. So let’s focus on the kind of fantasy that is actually good. I must make a note, first, to dissuade you of the notion that things like Star Wars or Star Trek are fantasy. They are not. They are science-fiction (in fact, pretty much anything that contains the word ‘star’ in the title is probably sci-fi, except Stardust). The reason the two genres are so often combined is because fans of one are often fans of the other. Beyond that the content, in my opinion, differs greatly.
The most well-known form of fantasy is called “high fantasy.” These are the stories set in unique worlds, separate from out own, with lush histories and landscapes. The plots usually revolve around epic struggles upon which entire civilizations pivot. For those eager to read some of this, I recommend The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, or the lesser known Phantastes by George MacDonald (a tough read but well worth it). For a more modern read, I cannot recommend enough The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.
Another very common form of fantasy is called “sword and sorcery.” A little odd-sounding I know. It was coined to describe the sort of writing made popular by Robert E. Howard and his lovable Conan the Cimmerian. This sort of fantasy epitomizes grand, swashbuckling heroes pitted against dark and, often vile, magical beings (or monsters, lots and lots of monsters). The focus is on the personal quest/conflict of the hero and how he can obtain his goal.
For some great modern fantasy novels, go after anything by Neil Gaiman. His work is literally defining the genre for this generation (Neverwhere is my personal favorite). His work often throws a normal person into very supernatural circumstances and how he is invariably changed by the experience. A body of work that will forever change the way you view the world is The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe. His work is very much beyond description (not for the faint of heart fantasy fan, though. It is for the very hungry).
Why is fantasy so important? I feel fantasy stories give us a more pure window into our existence. They strip away the superficial trappings of our modern world and force us to look at conflict at its true sources. We see good and evil plainly. We root for the good hero and can see his weapons of victory are readily at hand. In our often drab and disillusioning age, we don’t always know who’s the villain or more importantly who’s the hero. A refreshing fantasy tale can sometimes remind us.
I hope you venture forth and enjoy some fantasy today.