Ten Comics for People Who’ve Never Read Comics
The Walking Dead tv show. Avengers: Assemble. The Arkham Asylum games. Adaptations from comics are huge business these days. So why aren’t comics seeing a boost in popularity? Well, with decades of shared universe continuity, and comics shops having a (rather unfair) reputation of being unwelcoming to newbies, many folk just don’t know where to start. Well fret no more, as here is Ramp.ie’s ten comics for people who have never read comics.
Story: Grant Morrison / Art: Frank Quitely
The definitive and best take on Superman for a generation. All the classic elements are there; his love of Lois, crazy concepts like a city in a bottle, and a disgracefully evil Lex Luthor, but it’s condensed and distilled into its purest form, doing away with all unnecessary embellishments to the character’s mythos that have accrued over the decades. Superman is truly heroic; wonderfully confident, and supremely compassionate, his greatest power is his belief in the inherent good in others. Wonderful in every sense of the word.
If you Liked this: Mark Millar’s Superman: Red Son imagines a Commie Superman raised in the USSR. Grant Morrison’s current run on Action Comics focuses on a younger Superman.
Batman: Year One
Story: Frank Miller / Art: David Mazzucchelli
One half of Miller’s 1980s mission to revitalise the Batman mythos, Year One shows an inexperienced Dark Knight at the very start of his career, filled with righteous fury. All of the campness is stripped away, with Gotham re-forged as a violent, noirish dung heap of corruption, its police and local government as crooked as the mobsters who run it. The real star is a young Jim Gordon, struggling as a lone good cop in a city full of vice. Still massively influential twenty five years after publication, Year One was one of Christopher Nolan’s main influences for Batman Begins.
If You Liked This: Miller’s excellent The Dark Knight Returns shows Batman at the other end of his long career (but avoid its woeful sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again). Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader (Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert) gives a more metaphysical take on the character.
Story: Warren Ellis / Art: Darick Robertson
In city named The City, where nobody even remembers what year it is, this political science fiction comic follows journalist Spider Jerusalem as he rages at the inanity, insanity and all around him. Part eerily-prescient futurism, part satire of contemporary society, Ellis skewers targets such as personality based politics, and a culture obsessed only with the now. Spider makes compelling antihero as, despite his crazed indignation at the world around him, he always maintains his love for humanity, no matter how much they piss him off. A love letter to the weird fringes of human society.
If You Liked This: Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary presents a team of ‘Archaeologists of the Impossible’ exploring the secret history of a century of pop culture .
Story: Kieron Gillen / Art: Jamie McKelvie
Music is magic, and magicians use music to work their mojo. Phonogram is an effortlessly cool urban fantasy that examines just how important music can be in how we define our identity. McKelvie’s art is sharp and kinetic, with a wonderful sense of movement, and Gillen’s writing is sharp and witty enough to keep up. If you’ve ever listened to an album a dozen times on repeat, or felt the irresistible urge to dance to a monster tune in a club, Phonogram is for you.
If You Like This: The third and final volume of Phonogram ships later this year. Gillen and McKelvie have just begun Young Avengers, which promises to be just as hip and wonderful, only with teenage superheroes.
Story: Grant Morrison / Art: Frank Quitely
The Incredible Journey meets Robocop. Three cute pets are turned into cyborg killing machines, then escape and try to find their way home. If you’ve ever loved an animal, We3 will tug your heartstrings like nobody’s business. The panel layout is wonderfully innovative, trying to suggest an animal perception of the passage of time. We3 is graphic and gory, never shying away from the animal nature of its protagonists. The violence is never relished, though, but highlights the baseness and inhumanity of people who would turn pets into weapons of war.
If You Like This: Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon follows a pride of lions who escape Baghdad zoo, and must struggle to survive the war-torn city.
The Walking Dead
Story: Robert Kirkman / Art: Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
Cop Rick Grimes wakes from a coma to discover a world overrun by zombies. So far, so standard horror movie, but with a run over a hundred monthly issues (so far) instead of two hours, The Walking Dead has the advantage over its celluloid cousins of being able to and let the horror ferment and fester in the back of your mind. There’s no rescue coming in time for the end credits; this world is irretrievably broken, and the comic’s characters have to make their way in it as best they can.
If You Like This: American Vampire (Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque) bring a more fast paced style of horror, with their tale of a new species of vampire evolving in the New World.
Story: Neil Gaiman / Art: Various
What started as a horror-tinged reinvention of a golden age superhero evolved into an epic and at times tragic meditation on the power of stories, and the extent to which we can change who we are. The tale of Morpheus, Lord of Dreams and his dealings with various gods, monsters, literary and historical characters, and his unforgettable siblings The Endless helped change the face of comics forever (no exaggeration). Forgive a shaky start, and dive into one of the most beautiful works of literature of the twentieth century.
If You Liked This: Spinoff Lucifer (Mike Carey, various artists) questions the nature of free will. Carey also examines the nature of stories in his series The Unwritten (art: Peter Gross)
Story and Art: Art Spiegelman
Spiegelman’s harrowing account of his parents’ experiences as Polish Jews during World War Two, with different peoples portrayed as different animals; the Germans are cats, the Jews mice, the Poles pigs. Rather than cheapening the horror, this cartoonish conceit instead helps to highlight the absurdity of such racial delineation. Maus shows not just the immediate brutality and evil of the Holocaust, but also the lasting damage done to its survivors, and their descendants. A powerful and affecting work.
If You Like This: Craig Thompson’s Habibi follows two escaped slave children as they lose, and struggle to re-find each other in a fairy-talesque Islamic landscape.
Story and Art: Jeff Lemire
A series of inter-weaved stories set in Lemire’s rural home community, Essex County deals with family, grief, memory and the possibility of reconciliation. Lemire’s scratchy art, with his haunted faces, and large areas of empty space fit the stories perfectly, adding a stillness and feeling of (at times suffocating) quiet. The sparseness of the art and captions belies the depth of emotion that every panel conveys.
If You Like This: Lemire’s graphic novel The Underwater Welder captures the same poignancy and emotion, with a plot like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Gorgeous.
Story: Brian K. Vaughan / Art: Fiona Staples
The newest comic on this list, Saga is everything that Star Wars wishes it could still be. Effortlessly sexy and deliciously bonkers, Saga has it all; a galaxy at war, a forbidden love across the battlelines, ghosts, and robots with televisons for heads. Staples’ art is exquisite, moving effortlessly from quiet character beats, to breath taking double page spreads of alien vistas or wooden spaceships grown like trees. This is the beginning of something very special
If You Liked This: More wild sci-fi in Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s Manhattan Projects, which posits the twentieth century’s greatest scientific minds involved in a bizarre secret history.