How to Comics: 10 Books Perfect For Newcomers
Do you have friends or relatives that love sharing their newfound love of comics with you? Does it seem like you constantly see an interesting movie or TV show and then hear about how it’s based on a comic? Maybe your boss is withholding a promotion until you finish Hellboy?
Whatever the reason, if you want to get into the hobby but are unsure where to start, Blacksite POPcast is here to help.
We have emptied our long boxes, torn down our book shelves, and double checked Google for any potential plagiarism to bring you this list.
In honor of our 10th POPcast, It’s our list of 10 comics that are perfect for newcomers! First rule, there are no rules. Second rule, no superheroes.
1. Locke and Key — Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez.
In our discussion of Horror comics on the POPcast Episode 10.5 this week, Dan and Clarke agreed that Locke and Key was the best of the genre. And when Dan and Clarke agree about anything, you know it must be true. This creepy adventure tale about family, grief, and growing up is the perfect marriage of story to medium. Writer Joe Hill (Stephen King’s son) is known for his thrilling suspense novels, but even as big fans of those, we can’t remember a more exciting moment from his work than a certain giant fight near the mid-point of this incredible comic. You may want to lock your doors before diving in.
2. Y: The Last Man — Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.
Brian K. Vaughan is one of the most consistently great authors in the business, and there isn’t a better introduction to his work than his breakthrough series about the last man on Earth (and his pet monkey). When a plague wipes out (nearly) everything with a Y chromosome, women inherit the planet. In addition to the apocalyptic fallout that comes from losing half the populace, there’s another problem: how will we make more humans? Pursued by a tribe of Amazons, the newly powerful Israeli military (which had the most women), and anyone with an interest in prolonging or ending the reign of men on this planet, Yorrick Brown and his badass spy companion Agent 355, must somehow make it across the country to a cloning facility that just might save the species. The series is a hell of a lot of fun, and surprisingly moving at times. Joss Whedon is a fan (obviously), and we think you will be too.
3. Preacher — Garth Ennis, Steve DIllon, and Glenn Fabry.
It’s an odd thing recommending Preacher to someone. What will they think of you when they get to the part where a violent hillbilly fucks a fish, or when the inbred descendant of Jesus Christ becomes a minor character? But that’s just the kind of off-the-wall, not safe for the silver screen stuff that comics were made for. And while this series is full of messed up stuff like that, it also has more heart than pretty much any comic we’ve ever read. If you don’t want to read a tender story about a cowboy preacher, his assassin ex-girlfriend, and a drunk Irish vampire traversing America while trying to hunt down God, well, you’re probably a pretty stable person. Maybe comics aren’t your thing.
4. Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge — Carl Barks and Don Rosa.
So you want to get into comics, but make it a family affair? It’s tough to find a nice middle between comics that are too mature for young audiences or too juvenile to satisfy adults. If you’re familiar with Ducktales (and seriously, who ISN’T?), then the characters and themes of these stories will be very familiar to you already. This is where they were born! As proved by their popularity since, these are evergreen stories from the middle of the 20th century that will certainly thrill you.
Barks’ clever adventure stories are beloved around the world and influenced the likes of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Osamu Tezuka. Donald Duck: Lost in the Andes is a fine starting point to any family adventure.
5. Blacksad — Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido.
The Big Sleep by way of Zootopia. Influenced by the former, influencer of the latter, a former Disney employee has crafted a unique take on film noir, detective stories, and talking animals. Trust me, it works. Canales’ stories pit the black cat PI Blacksad against gangsters, fascists, and Russian agents – maybe too close to home nowadays. Meanwhile, Guarnido’s art is lush and painterly. This is a book you will happily thumb through just to relive the beautiful imagery. You may be initially taken aback by seeing Disney-esque characters engaging in bloody shoot-outs, but these tales will pull you in and not let go.
6. Blankets — Craig Thompson.
Did we say Preacher was the comic with the most heart? Momentary lapse in memory. Just try to get through the wistful melancholy of Blankets without tearing up. Craig Thompson has said his goal with this series is to capture the feeling you get when you share a bed with someone you love for the first time. Maybe you remember what that felt like or maybe it hasn’t happened for you yet. Either way, you’d be hard pressed to read a more intimate and touching story.
This one might particularly hit home with our Utah audience, as the story focuses on a young man who was raised in an orthodox religion beginning to look at life from outside of it. It’s not a takedown of religion by any means, but it captures that phase of growing up from a religious childhood.
7. Black Hole — Charles Burns.
While Blankets is largely a celebration of discovering romantic love outside of a restrictive upbringing, Charles Burns’ Black Hole treats sexual discovery like a horror story. A plague spreading through a small town causes every teen who has sex to grow creepy appendages. From that bizarre set-up comes a powerful story that will force you to relive both the horror and beauty of your awkward young adulthood. Some of the images from Burns’ one-of-a-kind art are burned in our minds to this day, for better and worse.
8. The Fade Out — Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips make crime comics. That’s pretty much all they do, but they do it better than pretty much anyone. While they’ve essentially been bringing film noir to comics for at least two decades now, this is their first story that is actually set in the time and place of film noir: 1950’s Hollywood.
The setting creates plenty of interesting avenues for the masters of crime comics to explore: the unchecked greed and power of Hollywood’s golden age swirling with the post-war angst of its haunted characters, and brought to a boil by the McCarthy era’s communist witch-hunt. It’s a perfect noir story in a perfect noir setting, made by people who perfectly understand what makes the genre perfect.
9. Beauty / Miss Don’t Touch Me / Beautiful Darkness — Hubert Boulard, Fabian Vehlmann, and Kerascoet.
Beneath the smooth line work and colorful art of Kerascoet (pen name of two artists) hides a monster. Writers Fabian Vehlmann and Hubert Boulard’s ability to display misery and melancholy in seemingly simple fairy tales can be quite breathtaking. It is safe to say this anthology (the stories merely retain similar art and themes, each book is self-contained) will leave you despondent. In Miss Don’t Touch Me we watch as a prudish woman is forced to join a brothel in hopes of solving the murder of her older sister. Meanwhile, Beautiful Darkness greets us with the tale of a vicious band of tiny beings that have emerged from the body of a slain child.
Observing these characters get pushed to their limits and suffering the choices they are driven to can prove quite cathartic. These are “I wanna feel bad, amazingly” books. If you are looking for stories that pull no punches, wrapped in deceptively beautiful art, pick up any of these 3 titles.
10. Fables — Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham.
Stop us if you’ve heard this premise before: a bunch of fairy tale characters live in our world, and they’re not quite like you remember from the stories! Oh, you have heard it? Well, that’s partially because Fables has been ripped off plenty of times and partially because it’s just not that original of a premise. But reducing this epic Vertigo series to that elevator pitch really sells this delightful series short.
Willingham and Buckingham aren’t really here to deconstruct your favorite fairy tales (although they do that); they’re here to remind you why you liked these stories in the first place. Fables often delivers the same sense of wonder, whimsy, fear, and unrestrained imagination you felt when your parents read you these stories as you fell asleep.
Many think the series went on a little long, and it does tend to meander after a bit after the big “Adversary” storyline concludes. But the wonderful characters who inhabit this comic are a joy to spend time with. You’ll be sad when it’s over, even if you know it’s bed time.
Think we missed something? Hate our choices? Tell us in the comments or send us a message on our Contact page!
You can pick up all of these books at your local comics shop or Amazon.com (you monster).