Comics 201: More Recommendations

In our latest episode, Paul and I mentioned a number of comics recommendations for beginners in a variety of genres. However, we also mentioned that we had to pare down our lists significantly so that the topic would even approach being manageable. Here, as promised, are our other selections.

SUPERHEROES

FANTASTIC FOUR #232-293 (John Byrne)

After his legendary Uncanny X-Men run, John Byrne took over Marvel’s first family, the Fantastic Four. Cinematic storytelling, emotional character shake-ups, shocking betrayals. And he grew up Sue Storm, taking her from the Invisible Girl to the Invisible Woman.

 

SWAMP THING #20-64 (Alan Moore/Stephen R. Bissette/Rick Veitch/John Totleben/others)

Moore took a relatively goofy, underutilized DC Comics character and used his unique brand of literary black magic to recreate the man-that-thinks-he’s-a-plant superhero into a plant-elemental-with-the-soul-of-a-man god. Dark, disturbing, and cerebral.

 

ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN (Brian Michael Bendis/Mark Bagley/others)

A 21st century update of Spider-Man, bringing the character and his mythology back to basics for a new generation. Witty, dramatic, genuinely moving–it’s like if Joss Whedon wrote Spider-Man. Possibly even better than the original Lee/Ditko stuff.

SCI-FI/FANTASY

ATOMIC ROBO (Brian Clevinger/Scott Wegener)

If The Sixth Gun (see below) is a Weird Western, this is Weird Science. Imagine Hellboy was a 1930’s robot built by Nikola Tesla that battles Nazis, mummies, and giant insects.

BONE (Jeff Smith)

An epic of adventure, dragons, stupid rat creatures, and cow races. Starts innocuously, but quickly blooms into a massive, moving saga. Tolkien by way of Saturday morning cartoons.

HELLBOY (Mike Mignola/others)

Mignola creates a dark, bizarre world in which all manner of supernatural beasts, from folklore both obvious and obscure, roam the earth. And there’s good ol’ American Satan spawn Hellboy to take ’em down. Weird, wonderful art.

MOUSE GUARD (David Petersen)

Petersen takes what could have made for a cute kid’s comic–talking mice with swords and capes–and turns it into a riveting fantasy epic in the vein of Lord of the Rings or Star Wars. The depth and breadth of his world, and his fine details, make for a becoming fictional universe.

THE SIXTH GUN (Cullen Bunn/Brian Hurtt)

An ongoing Weird Western comic series. Six mystical guns must be kept out of the hands of evil men lest they be combined to bring about the Apocalypse. Part Deadwood, part Hellboy, all awesome.

V FOR VENDETTA (Alan Moore/David Lloyd/Tony Weare)

After Watchmen, here’s another bleak vision of the future from Alan Moore, this time of a dystopian England. It’s a complex, compelling tale of an anarchist in a Guy Fawkes mask working to destroy the government.

OTHER

ALEX (Mark Kalesniko)

How Alex views himself is most evident in how Kalesniko portrays him: an anthropomorphic dog in a world of humans (ugly, despairing humans, but still). Formerly an animator for a major studio, Alex now wastes his days away a miserable, paranoid failure.

FUN HOME: A FAMILY TRAGICOMIC (Alison Bechdel)

An autobiography on the level of PersepolisFun Home is a frank and honest examination of Bechdel’s life growing up gay and her relationship with her distant, unknowable father.

MOM’S CANCER (Brian Fies)

Originating as a webcomic before being published as a hardcover collection, Mom’s Cancer is one of the more moving portrayals of illness and the way in which families react to it that I can remember. Fies is not afraid to dredge up his most painful, shameful feelings during that incredibly difficult time with his mother.

PEDRO AND ME: FRIENDSHIP, LOSS, AND WHAT I LEARNED (Judd Winick)

Winick, now a major talent at DC Comics, used to be a housemate on The Real World: San Franscisco, and this is a powerful look at the transformative effect living with Pedro Zamora, a fellow cast member who was HIV-positive, had on him.

WEBCOMICS

ALL NEW ISSUES (Bill Ellis)

A funny, observant strip about comics shop employees, their friends, their relationships, and just generally being broke.

A SOFTER WORLD (Joey Comeau/Emily Horne)

A thrice weekly webcomic by Canadians Joey Comeau and Emily Horne. Strips are generally three panels of photographic art with text. Recurring themes include sexuality, accidents or disasters, and zombies. Absurdist and dark.

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