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National Comic Book Day is this weekend, and if you’re wondering, “Didn’t that just happen?” or “Isn’t that in May?,” well, you’d be confusing this with Free Comic Book Day. Yes, that typically takes place the first Saturday in May and yes, it was cancelled in 2020 and postponed in 2021 until August 17th, but National Comic Book Day arriving so soon after the August celebration is really a blessing in disguise. It’s been a while since comic book fans could come together to celebrate the writers, artists, pencillers, colorists, letterers, and all the other amazing creators that bring our favorite comics, graphic novels, strips, and manga to life.
Whether you’re a veteran comic reader or a new fan, wondering where to begin, a tried and true way to find your next read is to bounce off of the content you already enjoy. To help you pick your next title to ask your local comic store for, here are some titles to try based on Quirk books you like.
Frogcatchers for Dare to Know fans
Have you already zipped through the recently released Dare to Know by James Kennedy? If so, you may still be reeling from the wild ride the book throws you on, but if you’re ready to jump right back on to the next rollercoaster, pick up Jeff Lemire’s Frogcatchers. Honestly, a lot of Lemire’s works could fit well with Kennedy’s debut adult book as they’re also trippy journeys of self-discovery (ie. The Underwater Welder), but Frogcatchers steers from Lemire’s usual tales of self-understanding in heavy relation to others (ie. partners, children, etc.) and focuses wholly on the self, similar to Kennedy. It’s not just the trippiness that makes this a good rec for Dare to Know fans: Frogcatchers features a nameless narrator, flows between memories and the now, spices up the narrative with some uncanny horror (lots of doors, monsters, video game glitches, eerie hotels, no, thank you), and leaves the reader wondering, “hey, is this guy dead?”
Buy the comic:
Stray Dogs for League of Ursus series fans
If you picked up Robert Repino’s League of Ursus duology because it was described as Toy Story meets Stranger Things then the pitch of Lady and the Tramp meets Silence of the Lambs will sound just as appealing. Tony Fleecs and Trish Forstner’s recent Stray Dogs comic is only 5 issues and makes for a quick read, but it presents a neat concept in its short run with a dog who ends up getting dog-napped by….her owner’s killer? Like the League of Ursus books, readers follow along with a fuzzy but fiercely loyal critter who must convince her band of equally fuzzy companions to assist in a search for answers. One’s focus is that of escape, the other of rescue. One is geared toward middle grade readers, the other a bit highly. Both are shockingly dark, highlight monsters in human and non-human forms, and emphasize the power of cooperation and teamwork.
Buy the collected volume:
The Low, Low Woods for The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires fans
Grady Hendrix and general horror fans may already know of Carmen Maria Machado from Her Body and Other Parties, but this past year she also completed a horror comic with art by Dani and colors by Tamra Bonvillain, which The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires fans will especially enjoy. This comic focuses on the town of Shudder-to-Think, Pennsylvania, the monsters prowling the woods, and two teenagers who wake up in a movie theater and must piece back the truths of this strange town. Like Southern, this setting is rich and plays heavily into the aesthetic and feel of the narrative, but more than that, the horror isn’t in the monsters themselves (though both stories don’t pull any punches when they do want to get brutal) but how the woman and children are treated. If gaslighting, second-guessing, heart-pounding twists, and some genuine and relatable horrors was your cup of tea in Southern, it could definitely be your cup of tea in The Low, Low Woods as well.
Buy the collected volume:
The Nameless City series for Hunters of the Lost City fans
Okay, so Kali Wallace’s Hunters of the Lost City doesn’t come out until April 2022, but if you’re a fan of middle grade world-building, political intrigue with surprisingly vicious antagonists, relatable and heroic protagonists, and fantasy concepts like magic and occasional action, you’ll want to pick this up when the time comes. While you wait, you could also try the three graphic novels in Faith Erin Hicks’ The Nameless City series (colors by Jordie Bellaire) for similar story beats. Unlike Hunters of the Lost City where our protagonist must venture out of their walled-in city to unveil the secrets of their world, the characters in The Nameless City books remain in their walled-in city to do the same, but both narratives are transformative, exciting, and accessible narratives for middle grade fans with characters you can root for and villain motives you can analyze.
Buy the 1st graphic novel:
Fruits Basket for Geekerella fans
Manga and anime fans may know of this popular shoujo manga, but if you’re just starting out with manga, Natsuki Takaya’s Fruits Basket is a great place to begin, especially for fans of Ashley Poston’s Geekerella. Like Poston’s Elle, protagonist Tohru instantly charms readers with her easy kindness, strong moral compass, deep love for her late parent, and her ability to keep going, no matter what. Elle may direct her passion towards the Starfield franchise and Tohru towards freeing the Sohma zodiac members of their curse, but both are characters easy to get behind. Their narratives also retell/reference familiar tales (Cinderella and the Chinese zodiac race story), feature an assortment of lovable and colorful side characters, and include an endearing romance as a major plot point.
Buy volume 1, collector’s edition:
Ice Cream Man for Bites of Terror fans
Bites of Terror creators Liz and Jimmy Reed know the power of bite-sized horror comics, and one look at writer W. Maxwell Prince and artists Chris O’Halloran and Martín Morazzo’s Ice Cream Man says this team does too. There’s something especially fun about wrapping horror in brightly sprinkled, vibrantly colored packaging and throwing in an overarching narrator to bundle the separate stories together. One may use dioramic food figures and the other standard illustrations, but both are full of snappy and often blunt commentary coated in humor, food-related puns and artistic choices, and mysterious recurring characters that intrigue the reader and string them along through each tale.
Buy volume 1:
Speaking of Bites of Terror, feel free to jump into some of our other comics:
- Comic Quests series: a middle grade, pick-your-path adventure series for fans of Pokémon, D&D and RPGs, and steampunk history
- We Are Here Forever by Michelle Gish: a post-apocalyptic comic collection based on the popular webcomic, featuring adorable purple creatures and quite a bit of dry, existential humor
- Giraffes on Horseback Salad by Josh Frank; adapted with Tim Heidecker; illustrated by Manuela Pertega: a beautifully illustrated and respectful adaptation of the unproduced Giraffes on Horseback Salad script by Salvador Dali, featuring the comedic Marx Brothers
- Manfried the Man by Caitlin Major and Kelly Bastow: humanoid cat people keep cute humans as pets, so basically Garfield in reverse
Looking for more comic recommendations? Give these past posts a scroll: