Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Comics, Comics, Comics

When it comes to recommending which comics people might like, it’s a bit like telling them about stuff to watch on the tele.

Except of course, pretty much everyone has a fair working knowledge about what’s already out there in TV land.

I mention TV because so many people make the mistake of thinking about comics as if they are a genre rather than a medium.

Mention comics to some normally intelligent people and you’ll often get daft remarks about children’s entertainment, or a form restricted to the exploits of spandex encased super heroes.

Comics are wide open - that’s the first thing to get across. There are comics about pretty much everything.

There are those who don’t buy superhero books and those who wont buy anything else, but I’ll read anything as long as its well done and there is tons of extremely good stuff of all kinds out there.

And that’s the other thing to get across. The general standard of writing is extremely high.

Your appreciation of the artwork in a comic book will be swayed by subjectivity, but you are highly unlikely to be reading something that isn’t at least well developed and executed.

Anyway, onto what I’ve found most enjoyable since returning to the medium.

For beginners:

If you’re just starting out reading comics, you should pick up “Watchmen” by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons and “The Dark Knight Returns”. By Frank Miller. I would describe these two books as the pillars on which modern age superhero comics are built.

If these tales of caped crusaders leave you cold, you may still enjoy the slice-of-life humour of Peter Bagge’s “Hate”, the dark surrealism of Daniel Clowes’ “Eightball” and the gorgeously observed romanticism of “Love and Rockets” by Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez.

What I would say to anyone coming to comics for the first time is try a lot of stuff out.

You can do so at no expense by visiting your library, which will have a bunch of trade paperbacks or “Graphic Novels” are they are contentiously known in chattering circles. I discovered a bunch of things I liked by just picking up stuff on spec and trying it out.

If you know comics but haven’t read anything in a while, here are some recommendations:

Note that some of these titles will be ongoing, and some will be no longer running but available in collected editions.

I’ll make a note regarding genre next to each title as well, if that helps.

Preacher - Supernatural thriller

The Invisibles – Action Adventure/intellectual intertexual mind fuck

Ex Machina – Superman meets the West Wing

Y - The Last Man – high concept adventure about the last man on earth

Runaways – very fun teen superhero romp

Top Ten – a world where everyone has superpowers

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – a "super-team" of pre-existing fictional characters such as Jekyll and Hyde and Captain Nemo band together to fight the good fight for jolly old Blighty.

Daredevil – superhero adventure

Criminal – crime thriller

The Ultimates – revamped version of the Avengers

The Goon – zombie humour

Scalped – crime thriller set on a Native American reservation

Welcome To Tranquility – what could possibly go wrong in a retirement village for elderly super heroes?

The Other Side – The Vietnam war from both sides of the conflict

Street Angel – the adventures of 12 year old vigilantess Street Angel, martial artist and worlds greatest homeless skateboarder

Rising Stars – If you like “Heroes”, see where they nicked most of the story from.

Truth Serum – dark idiosyncratic humour

Ultimate Spiderman – Sort of like Spiderman 90210 – lightweight but bubbly fun

Powers – following a police unit who deal with superhero related crime

The Nightly News – featuring a very striking and original design and layout style, this has a very “fight club” tone to it.

Scott Pilgrim – Slice of life romantic humour meets Magna? Mmm, yes. Yes sir.


There are just a few of the titles I’ve been enjoying lately.

To close, it’s pretty safe to say that while we’ll all have our ideas about who the best artists are you can’t really go wrong with any of the following writers:

Grant Morrison
Alan Moore
Garth Ennis
Mark Millar

You’re highly unlikely to go wrong with:

Brian K Vaughan
Brian Michael Bendis
Ed Bruebaker
Greg Rucka
Peter Milligan


As for who to avoid – we all have our own ideas on what sucks – if you are unsure about something, try to get it out the library before buying it.

1 comment:

david said...

Of the Comics you mention here, I know and love them.
The ones I dont know Im going to give a bash on the strength of your recommendation.

NO! I am!