Perhaps you’ve seen The Avengers, Spiderman or the Batman movies and want to learn more. Or maybe you’ve heard your friends talking about this great new wave of graphic novels. But where to start?
Your local comics store is overflowing with colorful superhero books and graphic novels, fantastic stories and universes to be explored. But finding the good stuff can be a daunting task.
A good way to start could be going to a smaller store! Smaller stores are less overwhelming and the clerks probably have more time to give you guidance.
If you don’t have a store near you, you are in luck! The internet has made comics available everywhere, through Amazon or Comixology. You can also get them on your iPad, which is cheaper and doesn’t take up shelf space.
But what books to get?
What is a comic book exactly?
First, let’s talk about the different kinds of comic books.
Superhero books are often referred to as “Monthlies” or “Floppies”, because of the thinness of the books (usually 22 pages). These can be a challenge to follow, since the storylines are often long and winding and requires a bit of knowledge about the characters and the universe.
If you start by picking a specific character or a team you like, do yourself a favour and spend half an hour on Wikipedia to get the background knowledge needed to pick up and follow the story.
Some superhero books are self-contained graphic novels and others are collected in “Trades” (trade paperbacks). These books can be a great jumping-on point, since these stories tend to have more of an arch. Only the successful books are collected in trades – but that doesn’t always mean they are good!
Batman is one of the superheroes who has the most self-contained books (or graphic novels if you will). Check out Batman: Arkham Asylum or The Killing Joke , both written by Alan Moore and featuring a dark and deranged version of the villain the Joker, Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One or The Dark Knight Returns , where an ageing Batman must return to defend a dystopian Gotham once more – both huge influences on the latest Batman movie trilogy.
If you don’t have a favorite character or team yet, you might be better off following a specific writer. You can’t go wrong with writers like Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, Garth Ennis or Grant Morrison.
If you’re up for a longer series of original books, you won’t be disappointed in Brian K. Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man , The Authority , Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen , Brian Woods’ DMZ or Garth Ennis’ Preacher.
OK, but what is a graphic novel?
Graphic novels is a term often used about longer, narrative books, usually self-contained stories you can pick up and enjoy without any knowledge of the writer, universe, characters or whatever. Some are called “Original Graphic Novels” (OGN) or “creator-owned” which means the writer/artist team came up with the concept and the story, not building off of an existing property like Superman or whatever. Adult-oriented themes, personal stories or memoirs are usually labelled graphic novels, but there is really no clear definition of the word.
If you are interested in personal stories, try Craig Thompson’s Blankets , Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, The Quitter , by Harvey Pekar and Dean Haspiel or Epileptic , David B.’s story of his brother’s battle with epilepsy.
Some great fictional graphic novels are Jason’s Hey, Wait… (or anything by Jason, really) , Niklas Asker’s Second Thoughts , Jeff Smith’s Bone, Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World and If you’re up for something a little more challenging in terms of graphic storytelling, check out Charles Burns’ Black Hole or Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware.
If you like crime fiction, chances are you’ll enjoy Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ series Criminal . Though some characters are recurring, each paperback collection is a separate story and you can pick up any one of them and enjoy it just like you would a crime novel.
Are there books you found on your own that you feel other newbies would like? Or do you have recommendations, stuff we forgot? Let us know!
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