Comic Book Guy Milhouse(1)

Get ’em hooked: A comics primer

Best...comic...ever.

So you have a nerdy circle one(husband, boyfriend, wife, girlfriend, friend, crush, sibling, child) and you want to get them into comics. Well that is how comics work best, much like the crack dealer on the corner (we all have one right?). You get them started on a freebie and before you know it they will be making weekly trips to the comic shop of choice and picking up their scrips (its what the cool kids call a subscription) reading joyously into the night.

So let’s now run through some archetypes and what recommendations I can make.

Blankets

The Teen Angst-er

So you want to get your favorite tortured soul into comics but know they’ll just laugh at that Green Lantern story line and couldn’t care less about vampires battling mutants.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

This coming of age story walks through heartbreaking detail of a boy growing up in what could lightly be called an overbearing family. It is written well and the art is unique, black and white and contains a lot of heft and real moments

Buy Blankets on Amazon

The Sandman

The Poet

You know the type, verbose, dark, and painfully solemn.  Once again, your capes and cowls won’t fit, but there must be an author out there that fits right…you may have heard of him.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

Fantastically written, like a modern day Poe. Odds are you’re poet has already read a Gaiman novel or seen a Gaiman movie, but Sandman is where they should start

Buy the Sandman on Amazon

War Stories

War/History Buff

They own the books, the History Channel is always on. They worship at the feet of Band of Brothers or Patton.

War Stories by Garth Ennis

I would argue that no one writes comics like Ennis in general, but definitely no one handles war and battle like Ennis. The author has written an amazing war story into the Punisher series, created a great tale in Battlefields, but this book broken into 4 stories is handled deftly and is a good primer to break them into more Ennis stories and eventually into comics as a whole.

Buy War Stories on Amazon

Preacher

The Movie Buff

They go to all the comic movies. They see themselves as a comic fan, but they’ve never picked up a book, they just really enjoy the movies. So this one is a bit easier. We can go capes and cowls, but maybe not, what do we do to ease them in:

If they liked Christopher Nolan’s Batman:

Batman the Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb. It’s dark, very dark. It’s also a twisting detective noir story, and a great tie in to the movies.

Buy Batman: The Long Halloween on Amazon

If they liked the original Superman movies:

All Star Superman by Grant Morrison. It’s fun, and engaging. Morrison handles Superman beautifully.

Buy All Star Superman on Amazon

If they are a fan of Sin City, 300, Watchmen:

I know, you think I’m going to recommend a Frank Miller or Alan Moore story, and honestly you could do well with either, but I feel like both of their stories are often a lot more heavy then the movie versions, and I have something that goes the long haul and is arguably one of the best comic series ever written.

Preacher by Garth Ennis. Probably my favorite series of all time written by an author who has plenty of other stories to get them. Plus this person likes the movies not about banner stars (your batman, superman and the like). This series is epic, cinematic, and completely fun.

Buy Preacher on Amazon

The Guild

The Girl Gamer

I’ve been avoiding gender purposely and I am currently writing a review for the book I’m about to recommend, but I feel like this is sector of nerdery that is highly ignored at times, whether it’s in gaming or in comics. My wife goes shopping for comics with me a lot of times, and most often when she looks for books its girls with DD cup size, a 22″ waist and wearing a bikini. It is rare to see a book handle women naturally and elegantly without pandering.

The Guild by Felicia Day. I book written by a woman with a story that I think a lot of girl gamers could get into.

Buy The Guild on Amazon

Walking Dead

The Horror Fan

I don’t think there’s much for me to write here, it is pretty obvious. There’s a TV show, a long run comic, zombie hysteria. It is the lumbering giant we know as the Walking Dead. Above all this crazy must read now-ness, I’ve seen a ton of interviews with Kirkman and he honestly just seems like a great guy. Well worth supporting. I also heard, on iFanboy I believe, that he sold the series by saying it would be Zombies vs. Aliens. So go thank him for never doing that.

Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman.

Buy The Walking Dead on Amazon

Y the Last Man

The Literary Buff

Sure they read books, but do they look at pictures? Time to get their visual cortex stroked.

Y the Last Man by Brian K Vaughn.

The main character is named Yorick. Do you really need more? You do? Oh, OK. The story is original and handled extremely well, you gain insight into how a man handles a catastrophic(for men) worldwide event and the idea of gender breakdown. The conversations are intelligent and the mix of intrigue and cliffhangers keep you reading.

Buy Y: The Last Man on Amazon

Scott Pilgrim

The Gamer

There is one book that handles gaming in a fun way while throwing in an endearing love story. The way in which O’Malley handles Scott’s chase to win the one he loves is so real while handled in such a comically overblown way. Any gamer can relate to dreaming of and pseudo stalking the girl he wants, and any gamer can appreciate battling it out to win her. So who cares you didn’t see the movie, you and a lot of other people, the books are fun and there is a ton of nudge nudge wink wink in them for hardcore gamers.

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Buy Scott Pilgrim on Amazon

Mice Templar

The Dungeon Master

I can’t recommend the D&D books and respect myself in the morning. I own many of them and while they can be somewhat enjoyable, theres something very hokey about most of them. So keeping that in mind.

Mice Templar by Brian Glass

It’s fun, which a D&D type book should be. It’s also a great world with enjoyable characters, and if you want more fantasy then the typical book this is the one to go with.

Buy Mice Templar on Amazon

Squee

The Hot Topic Goth

Look, I hung out with these Goths in high school. They’re misunderstood. Most of them are nerdy, goofy people who got a little too into Vampire the Masquerade and decided never to leave that world. That being said, many of them are familiar with Invader Zim and I’m going to recommend a book by the same author that I enjoyed quite a bit more.

Squee by Jhonen Vasquez

Squee is fun with a dark sense of humor. It might also break the Hot Topic Goth out of their world of darkness with a night light and show them to lighten up a little. They aren’t that weird, there are plenty of people around them who feel different.

Buy Squee on Amazon

This is a starter. You need more? Just let me know in the comments and I’ll suggest what I can. Just give me a breakdown of the person and I’ll attempt to find your match, like the millionaire matchmaker without all the awkward computer science millionaire gawkiness. Also I’m not obnoxious. At least I don’t think I am.

  • yo, i got into comics when my boyfriend at the time loaned me Ed The Happy Clown. i’m not sure what sort of nerd i was before then, but it worked!

    • matt

      Al! Yeah, there are ton of books I could recommend, but I think these are the more non-comic friendly of the lot. I was reading mutant and superhero stories at a pretty young age and didn’t get into the more indie side of things until later in life.

      • al

        the only comics i read before i was 19 were the tick, and only because i could never manage to wake up early enough to watch the saturday morning cartoon (it was on at like 10:30!)

        i think it was ethc’s surrealism and penis jokes that really got me in. now i heart all sorts of comics!

  • “The Killing Joke” is a fun, albeit short, book that you could tack on to “The Movie Buff”‘s required reading.

    • matt

      yeah Killing Joke and Long Halloween were two of the books that Nolan pulled from supposedly. I chose Long Halloween because I think it stands alone very strongly and also because it ties in the mob bosses from the movies.

    • matt

      also for a dude “not into comics” your knowledge of comics is surprising me.

  • Micah G

    Wow, great article! I always wanted to be into comics, but as a kid all the “older kids” (I’m looking at you Ash, Mark, Seth, Ira… ect.) got terrified if I walked near their comics and for some reason (probably because my hands were always covered in butter) and I was told over 100 times about reading them without fully opening the spine. This manifested a demon of hate within me that loathed the books. It was cool to read about some different genres!

    • Ash

      Micah, you would really like “Y the last man”. It reads like a light hearted Indiana Jones type adventure in a post apocalyptic world. Grab all the trades, it was the best thing I read a few years ago.

      • Micah G

        Sure! I’ll check it out! Is it against some code to order comic books from amazon? Thats gotta make comic book shops who are eeking by pretty upset. I apologize for my ignorance… but is a “Volume”, such as Y the last man Vol. 1, just a single book? Also, if I get them I will read them like I read my medical books, creased backwards upon itself…

        • matt

          If you have a shop you want to check out up there then I definitely encourage it, if not, get it on Amazon. I love Park Ave CDs down here, but I tend to only buy vinyl from them (don’t tell seth). I get most of my music on amazon.

          The one I linked to up there is the first book out of 10.

          And read em however you want, I don’t treat them like they are artifacts, I treat them like books that I’ll pass down to my kids one day. Lord knows they will probably beat the crap out of them. Unless it is a collectors edition (an Absolute or nice Hardcover), then I wouldn’t worry about it maintaining value.

        • helloscientist

          I know there is a good comic shop near you Micah, and I know you know where it is, because I told you where it is.

    • matt

      comic shops are kind of overwhelming, I don’t blame you. It’s never too late to get back into them.

  • Michole

    Y the Last Man is awesooooome. I need to start reading The Walking Dead since the show is so amazing. Also, I love Fable, those are fantastic. So are adjectives.

    • matt

      Yes! Fables, I should have added that. That IS a fantastic book.

      • Ash

        Matt, Michole is the one that told me about Ender’s game when I was in college. You guys need to chat about it. I would venture to say she’s the #1 Ender’s fan.

        • Michole

          There is no book I love more than Ender’s Game. I would marry it.

  • I know they are called “comic books” but for some reason when 15 pg comics are just referred to as “books” I am still a little confused because of the connotation. That being said, how about some recommendations for the Star Wars fan? I want to read the dark empire trilogy, and have the first mass effect series, but I should think outside the box a little more than that.

    • matt

      I don’t like to think of books as needing to be a certain length, and most of what I linked to are trades, which are groupings of issues and a little more hefty. Working on some sci-fi examples but it may take me a few.

  • I’m about halfway through Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. It’s an graphic bildungsroman about a queer girl and her closeted gay father. More than that, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve even had the pleasure of reading. Very literary. I’d recommend it as a good gateway to more traditional graphic novels.

  • matt

    Love all the feedback! I will be planning a part 2 coming soon.

  • CAS

    This is a terrific primer! Thank you!

    I’m still relatively new to comics and something I would have found super helpful early on was some sort of explanation of the breakdown of the comic book publications – like the differences between single issues, trade paper, volumes, special edition books.

    • matt

      Not a bad idea for a post. I’ll be planning some more comic primers and will include this. Thanks for reading!