What’s a Good Comic for Beginners?

Interesting social media / Twitterverse domino-falling from yesterday’s post on Locke & Key. There are big brags to be had so might as well get those out of the way first…

What’s that, MichaelJ? Casual retweets from the best artist in comics?

Why yes it is, MichaelJ 🙂 How nice of you to notice!

/ big brags

Anywho, Diego Natalino asks what might be a good comic for beginners?

Here are some random guidelines I thought up in response:

  1. It is my general belief that comics are at their best when doing superheroes. Superheroes are kind of ridiculous (check more-or-less any movie prior to Batman Begins)… But comics can make you take them seriously! There has to be something special there (plus most every comic is a superhero comic, so…)
  2. That said, I don’t think anyone is default-wired to like superheroes. I think most comics fans are somehow conditioned to like them through I-don’t-know-how. I am not sure I would put a superhero book in front of a new reader, necessarily (especially a girl) (BTW half the population is girls).
  3. Comics have some of the best writing on the planet, but writing without pictures is just prose. Comics at their best have not just some of the most beautiful pictures on the planet… They have pictures that are lined up in a special way to tell a story; but pretty pictures without the accompanying guidance of the story is just a portfolio. I would want any recommendation to have both a great story and great art.
  4. Comics have a tendency to feed into a particular audience. The active comics-reading audience for the most part has been reading comics for 20 or even 30 years at this point. Many of the best stories are written for people who have decades of comics-reading under their belts. My friend Chris Pikula in particular was insistent on recommending Watchmen (BTW I consider Watchmen not only the best ever comic book but a pinnacle of fiction in any genre)… I am resistant to recommending Watchmen as a first comic because in order to “get” even 25% of its storytelling innovation and richness, you would have to be steeped in many volumes worth of DC superhero lore. “Anyone” can “like” Watchmen but — maybe it’s just me as a territorial comics fan — I don’t think you can fully appreciate it as a neophyte. Corollary: I would want to recommend something anyone can pick up and like and read without a huge amount of background.

Here are some of my recommendations:

For someone who likes Harry Potter: Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things.
You can actually read Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things #1 for free on Comixology (so you might as well do that). Courtney Crumrin is basically Harry Potter, if Harry were a girl, and a bit of a jerk. Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things #1 is probably my all-time favorite first issue of a series. It has literally no continuity requirements; is written and drawn by former Magic: The Gathering artist Ted Naifeh. Just a note of forewarning… Courtney Crumrin and the Night Things #1 is my all-time favorite #1, but it is more for the story than the art, and as this comic was fairly early in Naifeh’s comics illustration career… Let’s just say he has progressed since.

For someone who likes Dexter: Stray Bullets
Great suggestion from Big Jon Rudd on Twitter! BDM used to work at one of New York City’s big comic shops; next time you see him, ask the Pro Tour Historian the story about Stray Bullets #1 coming in… The book was really something special, and surprising; different and new. David Lapham self-published Stray Bullets after his departure from Valiant comics; he was eventually rewarded with an Eisner for his work on this series. The only problem?

You might have a tough time getting a copy 🙁

Stray Bullets looks fairly out of print, back issues and trades look pricey on Amazon, and I didn’t see digital offerings.

For someone who likes Star Wars or Lord of the Rings: Saga
Saga is the new smash-hit comic from my old high school buddy Brian K. Vaughan. It is freaking awesome, absolutely gorgeous, and actually the book that got me into reading digital comics in the first place. I paid $3.99 for my debut copy, but Brian is literally giving away the first issue on Comixology (so go read that).

For someone who likes The Walking Dead: The Walking Dead
Yes, before it was the inheritor to Mad Men and Breaking Bad on AMC, The Walking Dead was a hell of a comic book. It remains one of my favorite books after all these issues. Not for the weak of heart.

There are all kinds of superhero books that you can knock yourself over with, but I wouldn’t necessarily block those off as gateways to comics-adoration. If you want to know some of my favorite ongoing titles, I’d say American Vampire, Chew, and of course Locke & Key (which according to Matt Sperling, was quite the serviceable first foray into comics).

Very curious about any comics readers’ thoughts on this. If you have a particular thing you like (Vampires, fairy tales, torn blouses, pirates, etc.) I would be happy to try to field some further recommendations in the comments below.


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#1 MTGBattlefield on 11.20.12 at 9:38 pm

What’s a Good Comic for Beginners?…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

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