As some of you know, I am on a quest to start reading some comics. But as an adult totally new to the comic world, I have no idea where to begin! Enter Skye of Planet Jinxatron who has graciously written this post about comics that book lovers should enjoy! I’ve written a companion piece on her site, about books that comic lovers will enjoy! Read both posts and be sure to share and comment if you like our exchange!
Hi everyone! I’m Skye from Planet Jinxatron, here to talk with you about comics!
When most people think of comics, they think of superheroes and kids. Comics today are so much more! Every genre you can think of is represented, and there are kids’ comics, all-ages comics, and comics for grownups. Many are even collected in “trade paperbacks” a.k.a. graphic novels, which a lot of libraries have been building collections of in the last few years.
Brenda asked me to make suggestions for grownup people who love to read, but haven’t gotten into comics yet. So here are my picks for fans of the following genres: dystopian YA, history, mystery, fantasy, westerns, memoir, and horror. Not a superhero in sight! Just lots of great storytelling, strong dialogue, and gorgeous art. Some are more like the cartoons you’ve seen in the newspaper or online, while others are more like paintings, and everything in between.
I know Brenda’s a big fan of dystopian young adult novels, so let’s do that one first: Deadenders, co-created by writer Ed Brubaker and artist Warren Pleece.
Deadenders happens in a post-cataclysm future where most of the population lives without sunlight, and poor teenagers have no future. When small-time criminal Beezer starts having visions of the world before the cataclysm, though, he draws far more attention from the authorities than his crimes warrant. There’s a mystery, which of course leads to a conspiracy… and then things start to get really strange.
If you like history, try The Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks, with art by Canaan White.
The Harlem Hellfighters was the nickname for the the 369th infantry regiment in World War I, which was all African-American. They were reviled by many whites in their own military, undersupplied, often humiliated by their own superiors, and spent more time in combat then any other U.S. unit. However they fought tremendously well and were highly decorated. Canaan White’s drawing here don’t flinch from some of the horrors, but they also bring us closer to these heroic warriors as Brooks tells us their individual stories.
For mystery, I could not choose between these, because they are both excellent!
First, Stumptown by Greg Rucka, with art by Matthew Southworth.
Dex is a private investigator who’s perpetually low on cash. Her relationship with local police is slightly strained. Her personal life is usually a mess. Once Dex gets her new case, though, nothing’s going to stop her from seeing it through… even if it kills her. Greg Rucka is one of my favorite writers because he knows how to keep you wondering what’s going to happen next, and Dex is one of my favorite tough gal heroines because she keeps you wondering what she’s going to DO next.
Second, Watson and Holmes: A Study In Black by Karl Bollers, with art by Rick Leonardi and Larry Stroman.
This modern take on Sherlock Holmes takes place in an urban community. Watson is an ex-military med school resident, and Holmes is an eccentric with a predilection for following clues. There’s a missing girl, a connection to some local gangs, and a deeper conspiracy they’re about to get tangled up in. Any fan of the any Sherlock should take a peek at this, and prepare to be sucked in. I love the backstory for Watson and his role in the duo.
Readers of fantasy absolutely must check out the epic fantasy series Mouse Guard by David Petersen.
This is one of the best all-ages comics ever. And by “all ages” I really do mean from 5 years old through 95 years old. And if you know any 105 year olds, I’d hand it to them too. Petersen’s art is gorgeous, and his stories impeccable in plot, character, and emotion. The mice of Mouse Guard are people, and they are also heroes and epic figures. Even if you’re not into the fantasy genre or talking animals, the characters are what make this series so compelling. (How does he do it?! They’re mice!)
For the reader of westerns (or anyone else!), I’d suggest Cow Boy: A Boy and His Horse by Nate Cosby, with art by Chris Eliopoulos.
Boyd Linney is a bounty hunter. A ten year old bounty hunter. He comes from a family of criminals, and he aims to put them away. At first it seems like a funny comic, and it is, but there are layers of emotion here. Especially in brief flashbacks to Boyd’s younger childhood, where it’s clear he was abused and neglected. It’s not a pain and angst book or presented in an upsetting way, but his history informs his mission. His relationships with his no-good family can also be more complicated than his “absolute justice” thinking allows for. You can even read the first few chapters of Cow Boy online to try it out.
My favorite memoir comic of 2014, hands down, was El Deafo by Cece Bell.
Bell lost most of her hearing when she contracted meningitis as a young child. She does an amazing job showing the emotional process she went through as a kid trying to fit in and find friendship despite the giant hearing aid strapped to her chest at school. It’s both funny and emotionally real. Also, the people are drawn as bunnies. What’s not to love?
Horror fans should check out Coffin Hill by Caitlin Kittredge, illustrated and co-created by Inaki Miranda.
Coffin Hill is very, very dark. Like, a family of witches where the teenage girl went into the woods with her friends ten years ago, and not everyone came back. Eve Coffin grew up to be a cop, though that’s gotten rocky, and now she’s back in her hometown because kids are disappearing again. This is Kittredge’s first comic writing gig, and there are a couple of weak points in the story, but the rest of it and the strong art make up for that in spades. I can’t wait to see what happens next for Eve.
Those are my suggestions! If you need more, you know where to find me… or just keep browsing the graphic novel section of your library and you’re sure to find something that will suck you in.
Thanks so much for sharing these with us Skye! If you don’t already follow her site, Planet Jinxatron, you absolutely should!