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Good reading on the rise

Comics aren't what they used to be. Step into Donna Roy's comics andused books shop, Moonrise, in Medford's Crater Corners, and you'll see.

Get checked out by Spooky, the store cat, a friendly Siamese.

Come past the genre romances, mysteries and horror novels, and you'llcome to the comic books ­ boxes and boxes of them, walls full of them.

Batman now looks a bit like actor George Clooney. Superman has mutatedinto some kind of energy creature and is a member of the Justice Leagueof America.

And they don't sell that much.

So what IS selling?

Well, Spawn, for one thing. But Roy says the new movie doesn't seem tofollow the comic book too closely, making the hero seem a little too nice.

He was a hellspawn, she says of the original character ­a complete bad guy.

Roy has owned and run Moonrise at 1739 McAndrews since 1989. She startedwith used books and has moved more into comics over the years. She's a sciencefiction specialist who has one of the biggest collections around. She swapsused books with her customers, so she's come to depend more on comics forcash flow, she says.

Originally from Kansas, Roy was a physical education teacher who taughtin Kansas and in Guam before she came to the Rogue Valley. She read comicsas a kid but doesn't consider herself a comics fanatic.

Moonrise offers a large collection of back issues ­ vintage comicsthat are favored by collectors. These are originals, many of them from bigpublishers such as D.C. and Marvel, which she otherwise doesn't sell inlarge numbers.

They don't issue many reprints, Roy says.

Most of her customers are young adults, she says, and more are men thanwomen.

She says she sells mostly the works of independent publishers, or thosewho don't subscribe to the Comics Code adopted by the industrymany years ago in response to widespread concern that comics caused juveniledelinquency.

Here are Star Wars comics, and Star Trek.

Here is the popular Lady Death, from the up-and-coming publisherChaos.

Here are Japanese comics with their rich fantasy worlds, published inEnglish-language editions in which the artwork appears in reverse imagefrom the Japanese versions. Roy says they have a wider range of storiesthan most American books.

Rumi Takahashi's Inu-Yasha, for example, is a feudal fairytale with a contemporary attitude.

Roy says the hottest trend in comics, among her customers anyway, isbad girls.

In bad-girl books, the protagonist is a female anti-hero with a darkpast, sort of along the lines of the film, La Femme Nikita.

She's almost evil herself, Roy says. She's just notas evil as the ones she's fighting against.

Lady Death is another bad girl, spun off from the popular EvilErnie series.

Vampirella is another, picking up on the vampire theme.

In a typical bad-girl story, the lead character may be an assassin workingfor forces she doesn't understand.

The books are $1.95 and up. Most are in full color, some on slick paper.

There are still black-and-white devotees, and many of the Japanese storiesaren't in color.

Roy says some of the heroes have tie-ins to movies. Many of the Japaneseones are tied to cartoons and video games.

One thing that hasn't changed, Roy says, is that the books with goodart sell more than those without, such as Todd McFarlane's eye-catchingSpawn stories.

Donna Roy of Moonrise Books sorts part of the large selection of comics at her McAndrews Road store. - Photo by Jim Craven.</P