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So, you want to start reading comics?

Work in progress. Recommended Reading for the comic book novice.

Graphic Novels, Trade collections of limited series, and ongoing series.


List items

  • By David Mazzacchelli (yes, the same as Batman: Year One)

    2010. Pantheon Books. Hardcover

    Finished reading this book this past weekend... holy jeez. Probably one of the best things I've read in most any medium, but where it sets itself apart is how it masterfully utilizes the the format to tell the story. Each character has their own dialogue balloon and type face, which corresponds to their personality. The book focuses a lot on individual perspective and how every person sees themselves and their worlds differently. We are seeing Asterios' world through his eyes (via his brother), and so things are colored a certain way, lines very structural and functional and graphic – like how an architect may see things. But this sense is heightened as we move through the story and are offered glimpses into other characters views as they intersect with Asterios' path. It makes for a compelling read on love, life, perspective, and art. It also makes you appreciate the unique storytelling abilities of comics at its best. This book should be up there with the best visual storytellers from Windsor McCay and Will Eisner to A.A. Milne and Dr. Seuss to Art Spiegelman and Daniel Clowes and anyone else you can name. But it has more personality and intimacy than a lot of more cynical modern comics – it actually moves you, makes you recall relationships past, moments of your life you regret or think about fondly, and just what is really important to you.

    That's why it tops my list.

    Recommended for comic readers and non-comic readers alike, it may even function as a primer for reading comics and the storytelling language you find in the medium.

    *There are some sexual situations and adult content. Recommended for mature readers.

  • By Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá

    2010. Vertigo Comics. TPB

    Similar to Asterios Polyp in its profound personal effect on the reader, Daytripper is a beautiful meditation on life and death. Told in one-off stories that also contribute to a greater whole, each issue follows Bras de Oliva Domingos, a writer, who at the end of each issue... well, I don't want to say too much, because so much of it is discovering this book. Basically you get views into different chapters in his life, and learn more about his relationships and life.

    It is a really beautiful book, that can be easily approached by comic readers and non-readers alike.

    *Recommended for mature readers. Sexual situations and a couple instances of violence.

  • Written by Frank Miller. Art by David Mazzucchelli (yes the same from Asterios Polyp)

    1987. DC Comics. TPB

    This is one of the stories that contributed to the stories for Christopher Nolan's Batman films. It deals a lot with Batman's relationship with then, Lt. James Gordon. They are both in the early days of crime-fighting and are still getting to know Gotham City. Selena Kyle/Catwoman is also featured as well as other classic Batman characters.

    *PG-13 material. Selena is depicted as a prostitue, but no on-panel sex. Typical Batman-superhero violence.

  • By Adrian Tomine

    1995-Present (2011). Drawn and Quarterly. TPB and single issues

    Optic Nerve is the name of the single issues released by Adrian Tomine that contain a variety of short and longer stories. They are then collected in trades such as "Summer Blonde," "Sleepwalk," and "Shortcomings." The most recent issue, #12, features two main stories, a short comedic autobiographical piece and a letters page full of some of the weirdest, hilarious, and wacky letters ever to see print.

    Reading Optic Nerve is like reading the best short stories in the New Yorker. Some are very sad, some are really funny, some end happily, others will end with a question mark and without clear closure. But that is the charm of Tomine's work, they will stick with you in ways that make you think, feel, and question, but ultimately enrich your appreciation for the art of comics and storytelling.

    *Recommended for mature audiences. Sexual situations and adult language are pretty common throughout.

  • Written by Bill Willingham. Pencils by Mark Buckingham, various.

    2002–Present (2011). Vertigo Comics. HC, TPB, single issues

  • Written by Alan Moore. Art by David Lloyd.

    1985-89. Vertigo/DC Comics. TPB

  • Written by Alan Moore. Art by Brian Bolland.

    1988. DC Comics. TPB

  • Written by Brian K. Vaughn. Art by Pia Guerra.

    2002-08. Vertigo Comics. HC, TPB

  • Written by Marjorie Liu. Art by Daniel Acuña.

    2010. Marvel Comics. TPB

    I so wish this creative team was still on this book. I've read just about every Black Widow mini in the past ten years, and this is probably the best one of all. Marjorie Liu crafted a spy thriller that felt as mysteriously threatening as the first Mission Impossible film (sorry, haven't read many spy novels), but keeps with Natasha's character and story, enhancing her in ways I have been waiting for from one of these series. Daniel Acuña turns in some of his best ever work in this book, painting cold Siberian landscapes, leafless trees, and cold, dead roses.. (WIP). Plus, it's a female lead! Hooray! Something for the ladies and the gents, right here.

  • Written by Ed Brubaker. Art by Sean Phillips.

    2003-05. Wildstorm Comics. TPB

  • Written by Frank Miller. Art by David Mazzucchelli (yep, him again!)

    1986. Marvel Comics. TPB

  • Written by Paul Jenkins. Art by Jae Lee.

    2000. Marvel Comics. TPB

  • Hergé

    1936, various. Methuen. TPB, HC.

    *Blue Lotus, Tintin in Tibet, Shooting Star, Calculus Affair, Seven Crystal Balls

  • Bill Watterson

    1985-95. Andrews McMeel Publishing. TPB, HC.

    *Probably the most accessible and well-known entry point. It's impossible not to like this kid and his extraordinary imagination.

  • written by Ed Brubaker. art by Sean Phillips.

    2006-present(2011). Icon/Marvel Comics. TPB, HC, single issues.

    *Wanted to include the first HC, but this is my favorite story line, and isn't in the HC.

  • *Hark! A Vagrant is a really fun spoof of history, literature, comic books, and life... hilarious.

  • *Swallow Me Whole, Please Release, Any Empire.... these have to be added to the 'base.

  • David B.

    1996-2003. Fantagraphics/Pantheon. HC, SC

    *memoir style, a little too dense for list..?

  • Brian Azzarello. Eduardo Risso.

    1999-2009. Vertigo Comics. TPB, HC.

    *Probably my favorite volume of the series. May switch out for the Counter-Fifth Detective, because I remember that one being the most stand-alone book of the series, while remaining strong and connected to the overall narrative.

  • Bryan Lee O'Malley

    *have yet to read, loved the movie, will get back to you on this one.

  • Jeph Loeb, Chris Bachalo

  • Neil Gaiman, Chris Bachalo

  • J. Michael Straczynski. Gary Frank.

    This is probably one of the ugliest covers I have ever seen for a trade. or any book really. They used to use the cover from the first issue, but apparently Marvel designers are angry at Straczynski...? Great read, however. Violent and scary version of the Justice League, basically.

  • J. Michael Straczynski. Olivier Coipel.

    A great introduction to Thor, and ideal for those who just met him from seeing the movie.

  • Jeph Loeb. Tim Sale.

  • Paul Jenkins. Jae Lee.

  • Art Spielgelman