(image via flickr)
For the book fiend who devours novel after novel—with little regard to whether it has pictures in it or not—diving into comics might seem daunting. Heck, even dipping a toe into comics might. There are so many out there—not to mention all the countless spinoffs and reboots. Starting on a whole new medium altogether can feel like drowning, and so the book fiend dismisses it with a wave and goes back to novels, where it's safe and familiar.
Well. There is no surefire guide out there for getting into comics (except one personally tailored to your interests by a close friend or an amazing comic store employee). But I've compiled a list that I think comes really, really close. This list is tailored to the interests of the literary nerd—the rad individual who reads voraciously and is ready for the next cool thing, if only they had a diving board. Cannonball!
Sandman, written by Neil Gaiman: This one was an obvious choice, but it's even more relevant now that we'll be seeing a brand new prequel series taking place in the same world called The Sandman: Overture (starting October 30th). The Sandman follows the story of Morpheus, Lord of Dreams, in his journey to change his ways and right some wrongs after a long imprisonment. Naturally, Gaiman tosses in a liberal amount of mythology, which he fuses to his modern-day tales.
Fables, written by Bill Willingham: Have you ever wondered what happens after the Happily Ever After bit? What happens to these characters, hundreds of years later, when they've been driven out of their fairy lands and into hiding in New York City? Fables, that's what. This series is ongoing, and has plenty of spinoffs, so jumping in might be dangerous for your wallet, though it'll certainly be a delight to your bookish senses.
Fables features pretty much every public domain folk and fairy tale character Bill Willingham can get his grubby mitts on, and has received many well-deserved awards.
The Wizard of Oz miniseries written by Eric Shanower and illustrated by Skottie Young: After having watched the Wizard of Oz movie as a kid, then reading the first few Wizard of Oz books as an adult, and then picking up these comics by Shanower and Young, I can safely contend that these are, by far, the absolute best way to experience the classic L Frank Baum stories. I'm not exaggerating, not even a little bit. Eric Shanower adapts the text of the novel into comics form, and Young brings it to life with his fantastic artwork. It's a prime example of a new medium enhancing an original work, and each novel is collected into a neat little miniseries.
So far, they've finished the first five and are working on the sixth. If you recognize Skottie Young's name, and just can't put your finger on where you've seen it, look no further than the cover of Neil Gaiman's recently-released Fortunately, the Milk.
A Wrinkle in Time, adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson: Seeing the graphic novel adaptation of A Wrinkle in Time makes me wish that more of the books I grew up with got the same treatment. They're fond stories that we look back on and smile, and consider re-reading every now and then. But we possibly just watch the (sometimes awful) film adaptations then pull the next book out of our reading pile.
Having a story adapted to comics gives it a breath of fresh air and creates a new reading experience when it's time to go back and enjoy it again. That's what happened with A Wrinkle in Time. And it is good. Bonus: you can read an excerpt on TOR.
Y: The Last Man, written by Brian K. Vaughan; art by Pia Guerra, and others: If you're less into fantasy and more into science fiction, distopian, and end of the world-type scenarios, this might be your starting point. Y: The Last Man wrapped up neatly into just 60 issues, and follows the story of Yorick Brown, the only man to survive a plague that wiped out every mammal with a Y chromosome (though, somehow, his monkey also survived).
Just from that bit, I'm sure you can imagine the complications that follow as the world falls apart. This series is collected into five deluxe books.
Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Fiona Staples: Saga is a current, ongoing series that started recently (2012), so your catch-up will take no time at all. It's all about love - the kind of love that's shared between people who shouldn't love each other because their planets/races are at war. In this story, they're just trying to escape the madness, to find a place where they can live peacefully and raise their newborn daughter, who is actually the (sometimes) narrator of the story. It's a bit science fiction, a bit fantasy, a bit parenting, and a lot epic.
People familiar with the story might be tired of hearing this, but comparing the feel of Saga to Star Wars is a pretty good way to give potential readers an idea of the kind of situation their worlds are in. The main difference, of course, is that the story is primarily about survival, and not fixing the galaxy's problems or becoming a heroic knight.
Ultimate Spider-Man, written by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Mark Bagley and Stuart Immonen
Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Sara Pichelli: Spider-Man, a beloved character created by Stan Lee, has been around for a long time. Like other big-name comics characters like Superman, Batman, and the Wolverine, it can be difficult to pick out a book to start with when there's just so much material out there. Ultimate Spider-Man retells Peter Parker's story in a modern setting from scratch.
The newer of these Spider-Man books gives us a totally new story with a new protagonist, Miles Morales, who ends up with Spidey's powers after being bitten by a spider engineered specifically to...recreate the incident that brought about Spider-Man to begin with. This takes place in Brooklyn, and Miles is biracial, which is refreshing if you're sick of the same-old, same-old faces in comics. Either book is a great starting point, since you don't need any prior knowledge of that world or its characters in order to fully enjoy the story.
Batman: Year One, written by Frank Miller and drawn by David Mazzucchelli: This great introduction to Batman is neatly collected into a single hardcover. You get Bruce Wayne and how he became the Batman, and some kick-butt action from Jim Gordon as a cop, and Frank Miller's iconic visual storytelling (if you like this story, there's an easy pathway to more Batman just by following more of Miller's work).
As an added bonus, there's an animated adaptation of Batman: Year One which is faithful to the comic, almost to a fault. And for the truly faithful, look no further than right here for The Batman Handbook: The Ultimate Training Manual. I know, that last one isn't a comic...I'm just saying, I think you need some Batman in your life.
Thief of Thieves, story by Robert Kirkman, with varied writers, and drawn by Shawn Martinbrough: Just before he's about to pull the heist of a lifetime, Redmond decides to do good. And of course, he decides to do this the way he knows best: to start stealing from other thieves in an effort to balance his karma. This is another book that just started up recently enough that playing catch-up will be easy, and the subject matter is familiar enough that most new readers should feel comfortable settling in. There are currently two collected editions of this comic out to make things even easier.
I hope that if you're thinking about jumping into comics, at least one of these books will make you fall in love with the medium. Of course, I've only listed 10, and there are loads more that fit the bill, so feel free to fill in more suggestions in the comments below! I had a hard time narrowing down my list to just what you see above, but you, dear readers, have no limits beyond a character cut-off.
Kristina is a freelance photographer and writer with too many hobbies and not a single idea what she wants to be when she grows up. It probably involves sunflowers, books, and a healthy amount of travel. For now, she writes about nerdy stuff. You can learn more about Kristina at geekerydo.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter (@kriskitten). She is more of a dog person and has never even owned a cat.