Comic books for the uninitiated, unwashed masses

I’m thinking of seriously setting foot in a comic store for probably the first time in my life… if i want to pick up a trade paper back of something - anything - what would you recommend as a good starter? I don’t want to spend loads of cash, just enough to get a whole “storyline” or whatever you crazy kids call it in preferably one book.

Some comics I’m interested in are “LXG”, Hellblazer, Preacher, Batman, Spider-man, Hulk. Of course, if you have suggestions for some more obscure ones to someone like me (I think the guy who did Preacher also did one on two hitmen? Perhaps called… Hitmen?) that would also fit the bill, I’d love to hear about them.


Must-reads in addition to the titles you listed (and I recommend Ultimate Spider-Man if you’re going for some TPB Spidey action):

Rising Stars
Strangers in Paradise

IF you’re going to go for the superheroes go for the “Ultimate” line.

Ultimate Spider Man… Mmmm.

Thanks for the suggestions. Watchmen sounds pretty cool too. Oh, I forgot to mention Sin City. Nothing like Jessica Alba to pique my interest in a comic!

Although I wanted something less “standard”, I’m almost totally swayed by Ultimate Spider-man now:

Mmmm indeed.

Of course, my opinion is still very much swayable ;)

Oh, another quick question… Can I just walk into a comic store and ask for this, or should I just go the amazon route?

It’s been a long time since I read comics, but as the exxellent Watchmen is still been recommended, I’ll throw in my two new pence in favour of the Swamp Thing graphic novels done by Alan Moore and Batman:The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. Moore’s V for Vendetta was pretty good too IMO, but I don’t know about its availability these days.

Barnes and noble has what are the first six softcover (or first 3 hardcover) collections in a single volume for $40. It’s a damn bahgain!

Strangers in Paradise
Queen and Country
Berlin: City of Stones
Top Ten
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Swamp Thing
(Early) Hellblazer

No, go for Astro City. Those trades are terrific.

No, go for Astro City. Those trades are terrific.[/quote]

Theres a lot of “Meta” in comics these days. Comics that pay off your knowledge about comics through sly winks, or post-modern interpretations of characters and stories. To my mind Astro City falls firmly into that category. The more you know, the more you’ll like it. And no doubt, for that it’s damn good.

While the Ultimates line engages in some of that, there’s a pretty solid effort to make sure that the books are exciting whether or not you know anything at all about Spiderman.

There’s nothing wrong with (late) Hellblazer, either. You sound like you want you some Garth Ennis, so his run on HB is optimum. Agreed on Sandman and Top Ten.

Watchmen. Required comic geek reading.
If you simply must have more Ennis, his Punisher stuff has been pretty good. Hitman makes for a nice read (especially Who Dares Wins), but neither compare to his HB work or Preacher.
The Authority
Red Son, a DC Elseworld about if Superman crashed in the Soviet Union
Kingdom Come
Astro City, definitely Astro City (as mentioned)
The Peter David/Gary Frank years of Hulk are interesting
Ultimate Spidey is fun, but you’ll read a TPB in about an hour, Bendis is short on dialogue

As said, The Dark Knight Returns is great, the sequel not so much. Cruise the TPB aisle and look for bookshelf format Batman stories, many of them are good. Legends of the Dark Knight has some great arcs in it, as well.

Y the Last Man is kooky Twilight Zone style fun about if every man on Earth died except one (and his monkey)
Fables is a love-it-or-hate-it (I love it) about if fairy tale characters came to life and lived in a part of NYC. I think it’s great.

I’ve only read early Hellblazer, so I can’t comment on the later stuff.

How did this thread go on so long without anyone mentioning Frank Miller’s SIN CITY?

I’ll second Watchmen and Marvels. Both are finished stories, so no cliffhangers to worry about unlike Ultimate Spider-Man(although those are cool too).

Most of my suggestions are just seconding things other people have already said:

Superman: Red Son
The Ultimates (as in, the book called the Ultimates about the Avengers, not the whole line of Ultimate comics)
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Batman: Year One
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 1 and 2 (not sure if 2 is out in paperback)
Rising Stars, but it’s stalled a few issues from the end so you might want to wait until the end of the year when they’ll supposedly be done.

Kingdom Come is worth it for the art alone, but I personally didn’t really get into the story. So if I’m going to recommend a book just for the art, I might as well throw in a recommendation for Hush, Jim Lee’s 12 issue Batman run with Jeph Loeb’s marginal story giving Jim an excuse to draw all of Batman’s enemies.

Oh, and for my money, Watchmen was good, but not some astounding revelation. I think it may be a case of reading the kind of comics it paved the way for prior to actually reading it making the difference, though I’m only vaguely aware of what exactly it’s influence was. All I know is everyone told me how important it was, and maybe important isn’t the same thing as entertaining. I may have actually liked V for Vendetta more.

I think the thing with Watchmen is that it was probably a lot more relevant and important when it first came out. It’s still a decent read, but i wasn’t very impressed with it either.

Other than that, i can’t really recommend anything over what everyone else has suggested except for Battle Angel Alita. Viz took a few liberties it shouldn’t have, but it’s up there with Preacher in having a great art coupled with a character-driven story that makes you feel like you’ve traveled a long road when you get to the end. Each volume is wrapped up pretty nicely too.

Wow, you guys rock. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside that you’d jump in and lend a brotha a hand (especially one so comic book-naive as I).

Ok, I have a ridiculous amount of comic book research to do now. Can you believe that (the canadian internet vendor I’d like to purchase from) doesn’t hold either Ultimate Spider-man Vol 1 or Batman: Dark Knight Returns?!

What’s up wit dat? Stupid Canadia.

Anyhoo, I digress. Thanks y’all!

If I were to purchase only one Sin City book, which one should I get?

While the people in this thread have mentioned some phenomenal mainstream books, there’s plenty more to discover about comics outside of the mainstream as well. Here are just a few recent ones:

Jimmy Corrigan: The World’s Smartest Boy by Chris Ware. A tremendously depressing, graphically adventurous novel concerning an extremely awkward man trying to reunite with his long-estranged father, Ware’s book made headlines in Britian when it won the Guardian award for best novel last year. It’s a very sad but deeply rewarding experience that really pushes the limits of comic narrative.

Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez. A 500 page epic that collects the stories of a fictional South American town, originally written for the Hernandez Brothers seminal Love & Rockets magazine. Similar in tone to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gilbert’s stories center on his all-around earth mother Luba and her seemingly endless extended family. Love & Rockets is still, for my money, the best comic ever, and this book explains (partially) why.

Who’s Laughing Now? , Dork! and Milk & Cheese by Evan Dorkin. Milk & Cheese (i.e: dairy products gone bad) is entirely a one-joke idea, but it’s a great joke: the alcoholic title characters go on a gin-fueled rampage through whatever happens to be pissing them off at the moment. Funny in the way that the Adult Swim lineup in funny - Dorkin, in fact, writes for Space Ghost: Coast To Coast. Dork! started life as a catch-all collection from Dorkin, collecting the stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else, but eventually mutated into a strange auto-bio-confessional comic. Still, the strips about the Eltingville comics club is worth the price of admission. Who’s Laughing Now? collects the Dork! issues into graphic novel form.

The Filth and The Invisibles by Grant Morrison. Morrison is, like Alan Moore, halfway between the mainstream and alternative comic scenes; both of these series were released on DC’s Vertigo label. The Invisibles is the comic medium’s version of Foucault’s Pendulum as re-written by Philip K. Dick - it’s a wild ride through Morrison’s crazed subconscious rantings on conspiracies, language, meta-texts and general weirdness. The Filth is, by comparison, shorter but ten times loopier - it’s either an investigation into the absolute nature of reality, or the story of a man going crazy because his cat is dying. Maybe it’s both.

There’s many, many more - I didn’t even mention Dan Clowes - but this’ll get you started.


Give you one from a few big comic companies:

The Walking Dead
Gotham Central
Ex Machina

Marvel… Pick up the Jurgens run of Thor from the last couple of years. None of their current titles do much for me.

If you want cheap ($16.99 US and an amazingly extortionate $27.99 CDN–nice exchange, Marvel), and don’t mind black-and-white, check out the Marvel Essentials line. You can get multiple volumes of pretty much every Marvel hero from the Silver Age (that’s 60s Marvel). There are always 25 or more issues, collected in numerical order, in each book so you can really get into the entire early Marvel runs. There are now six volumes of Essential Amazing Spider-Man, so you can read the first 130 issues of the book, plus all the annuals and specials, going from the beginning in 1962 past the death of Gwen Stacy in 1973. There’s no better way to start getting into Marvel.

I’ve attached a list of all the Essentials currently being published. BTW, buying from Chapters is a waste of time. Go with Amazon. Chapters is more expensive and the service is pure shit. Also, a lot of comic trades wind up in comic stores long before they show up in mainstream bookstores. The Essentials are like that, oddly enough. For example, Essential Spider-Man 6 has been out in comic shops via Diamond for a month or two now, yet Amazon in the US still doesn’t even have it listed.

Essential Ant-Man
Essential Avengers 1-4
Essential Captain America 1-2
Essential Daredevil 1-2
Essential Defenders
Essential Doctor Strange
Essential Fantastic Four 1-3
Essential Howard the Duck
Essential Hulk 1-2
Essential Human Torch
Essential Iron Fist (coming this summer)
Essential Iron Man
Essential Marvel Team-Up
Essential Punisher
Essential Silver Surfer
Essential Spider-Man 1-6
Essential Spider-Man 6
Essential Super-Villain Team Up (coming late-summer/fall)
Essential Thor
Essential Tomb of Dracula 1-2
Essential Uncanny X-Men
Essential Wolverine 1-3
Essential X-Men 1-5