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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Comic Book/Graphic Novel Suggestions: What Are Your Favorites?

I'm notoriously picky when it comes to comics. When I was a kid, I was a huge Marvel junkie. I had all kinds of comic books, the collectible cards, action figures, and a very strict Saturday morning X-men cartoon viewing schedule (by that, I mean that if I missed an episode, someone would feel my wrath; unfortunately, that person usually was my mother). Then, when I hit my late teens, I got into Japanese manga (and am still very much into it, although in phases, rather than as a constant). But, despite all this, I feel very much disconnected from the comic/graphic novel community and I'd like to get into it again, partly for sheer enjoyment of the visual medium and partly because I am considering adding comics/graphic novels to my academic repertoire.

So, here's what I'm looking for (after the fold):

Comic books or graphic novels from anywhere (online, print, Tibet, wherever) that have a high quality of artistic style, that are in some way fantastic in nature (science fiction, fantasy, weird, or slightly horror-oriented) and have complex, unique, or fascinating story lines. They do not have to be in color.

I'm not particularly interested in standard American superhero comic style (i.e. X-men, Spiderman, and so on). That's not because I don't like X-men and so on, but I'm more interested in projects that pay as much attention to the visual medium as to the story line. I want my eyeballs to explode and my brain to the same time.

So, what would you suggest I look into? What are your favorites?

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  1. Can't say that I have ever been big on comics or graphic novels, mostly because there has never really been a time when I was exposed to them. My experiences are somewhat limited--the newspaper's funnies when I was younger and webcomics when I began using the internet. Only in recent years have I begun reading proper comics/graphic novels and I am very limited in that, too.

    That said, I am very fond of Warren Ellis, who was one of my favorite novelists before he was one of my favorite comics writers (though he was the latter long before the former). The first to recommend is Transmetropolitan, a blend of science fiction and weird with a protagonist reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson and an overall story that revels in the power of the written word, namely journalism. It's a fantastic work and I reread it at least once a year.

    Continuing with Warren Ellis, there is also Planetary, which is all about the weird and fantastic. Luckily, since you are asking late into the game, you have the chance to read it as a finished series. Some of us had to wait quite a while to get the final issue.

    One of my personal favorites is Fell, also by Ellis. Not exactly fantastic, but definitely weird and featuring some fantastic art, which takes a bit to get used to, I feel, from Ben Templesmith.

    And that's it. I am done doing the fanboy thing. Other comics readers should be able to give you a more balanced list. :P

    Also, the X-Men cartoon was great... but it had nothing on Batman.

  2. James: Awesome! Thanks for the suggestions.

  3. I can definitely recommend three different series:

    HOPELESS, MAINE - (total eye-candy, with an awesome story to boot, but it's only about 57 pages along)

    ARMAGEDDONQUEST - download the first 300+ pages for free online at And speaking of Warren Ellis, he gave AQ this awesome quote:

    "ARMAGEDDONQUEST squirms and thrashes in a crawlspace it dug out with its bare talons, partway between the early graphic novel and classic “outsider” art. It’s the comics version of the demon-haunted work of the young Daniel Johnston, raw, passionate, demented, electric."

    –Warren Ellis

    Plus AQ has been running as an add on the top of WISB for quite some time now. Feel free to change the link to the one provided here. :P

    Then there's the alternate-history THE DESERT PEACH. Part M.A.S.H., part MAUS, The Desert Peach is a sweeping World War II saga. Set in Africa during the rise of the Nazi party in Germany, the series stars Pfirsich (German for "Peach") Rommel, the fictional gay younger brother of Erwin Rommel, The Desert Fox! The art on this one is reminiscent of Aubrey Beardsley.

    Read it online at

    I'd also highly recommend RUNOFF by Tom Manning ( Three volumes in total, and Guillermo Del Toro recently hand-selected it to produce the movie version. It's seriously one of the most unique comics I've ever encountered. Think Twilight Zone meets From Dusk 'Til Dawn.

    Lastly, one of the best pure fantasy comics ever made is THIEVES AND KINGS (, and one of the best sci-fi comics is FINDER (

    That should tide you over :)

  4. Oh, no, that won't tide me over at all. That's not enough, Dave. I'll be done with those the week after I'm done teaching this semester. In like 3 hours...or maybe 12.

    Keep them coming :P

  5. If you really want something that will take time and is truly epic in scope then I can't go past Cerebus, all 300 issues of it.
    Fables by Bill Willingham is totally and utterly awesome. Admiitedly collection #13 The Great Fables Crossover kind of 'jumped the shark', but everything else was capital G Great.
    I've also recently read Buffy Season 8, or at least what is collected so far and if you were a fan of the show, then you should love the continuation.

  6. To continue with the Warren Ellis flood...I would suggest 'Ocean'.

  7. Elfy: I'll definitely look into those. Thanks for the suggestions :).

    Thufer: That one sounds interesting. Thanks!

  8. DC's Kingdom Come is one of the best things, comic wise, that I have ever read.

  9. Dave: I'm not much into all that DC Superman stuff, unfortunately. He's sort of dull to me. But thanks for the suggestion anyway :)