Scott Pilgrim vs. The World came out last weekend. If you were not aware, Scott Pilgrim is based on a comic book. In the last 10 years, more and more comic book inspired movies are climbing the list of top-grossing films of all time. With a sequel to The Dark Knight in the works, as well as the release of Marvel’s Avengers line, that trend might not be changing in the next few years. As you’re watching Iron Man for the 4th time, you might be thinking “If only there was some way I could continue to have as much fun as Tony Stark!” Well, now there is! Comic books.
With all of these “ironing men” and “man bats” around, interest in comic books is growing. However, there are probably 10 Batman titles alone released each month, so people don’t know where to start. Naturally, they come to me. Why me? Well, there are several reasons that make me qualified to give out comic book advice:
Why Should I Listen to You?
- I am a huge geek with little shame.
- My brain absorbs trivia.
- I am always right about everything and everyone should listen to me all the time.
- I was Batman for Halloween, 2 years IN A ROW!
- Also I read a lot of comic books.
I have been reading comics books for decades. As a child, I would pick up the occasional Batman or X-Men with the hyperfoil variant cover. Then the 90s happened and I stopped reading comics until I was a sophomore in college. This was around the time when Batman Begins was released. I learned what series the movie was based on and I picked them up on Amazon. Then I hunted down a few more “must have” Batman collections. My junior year of college I took a vacation out to Hawaii, which is about a 1,000 hour flight. I picked up some Ultimate Spider-Man comics to keep me entertained. This eventually lead me into 616 and if you know what that means, you won’t need to read this list of recommend titles for people who want to get into comic books because you are already a nerd.
By the way, the lists are in no particular order (not even alphabetical). However! I tried to stick with series that are easily accessible and are either currently running or recently ended. You won’t find Watchmen on here. It’s only a matter of my (correct) opinion and just read it, shut up.
But I Like Superheroes!
(Notable author(s); Waid / Notable artist: Romita, Jr.) A few years ago, Spider-Man went through a lot of changes. It was getting messy, so Marvel gave him an aggressive jump start to his continuity, and the result have been pretty good. The recent reboot to Parker’s life makes it easier to catch up with the stories. Slow building background arcs unfold behind the scenes while fast paced dialogue and quick fists take the foreground. The series has become very self aware and is very, very insistent on keeping it’s readers up-to-date on what happened last week or who Raptor is. Really. Who the heck is that guy? He hasn’t appeared since 1993, but Waid keeps us in the know. Its got a strong supporting cast of all of Peter’s friends (and enemies), and it’s fun watching Puny Parker grow up a bit.
I don’t even know how many volumes there are of this, but each story arc is fairly self contained and the author does a good job of filling us in if we missed anything.
Batman & Robin
(Notable author(s); Morrison / Notable artist: Quietly) It’s not your grandpa’s Batman & Robin! Bruce Wayne is missing and someone has to pick up the mantle. Dick Grayson is the Dark Knight, and Damian Wayne is taking over as Robin. The classic roles of the Dynamic Duo are reversed as a lighthearted Batman tries live up to the original, while training a Robin who was raised by Ras Al Ghul’s terrorist faction. Morrison keeps the action heavy, the chatter witty, and the plots moving.
There is currently 1 complete volume, but the series is still going.
(Only author; Kirkman / Notable artist: Walker) Bright colors and clean lines mask what can be a pretty gritty comic. What started as almost a parody of other superhero titles grew into a story in its own right. We follow Invincible – college student, super human, son of Omni-Man – as he fights against dimension hopping villains, alien invaders, dates, joins teams, leaves teams, and deals with his half-alien little brother. And since none of the characters are big time licenses, Kirkman has no problem killing off anyone at any time all the time. It gets a little gory at times, especially towards the later issues, but it’s a stylish read.
There are 12 volumes so far, but I’d definitely start at the beginning. Bonus fun: Each volume is named after an old TV show.
(Notable author(s); Johns / Notable artist: Reis) This was a title spanning event that DC began in 2009. For anyone who wants to get into crossover events, this is the one to do it. The supplemental titles follow individuals or certain groups during the Blackest Night event, but can be ignored if all you care about is the main plot. Oh the plot? It’s about a rival Lantern Corps doing battle with the Green Lanterns (and all life ever) by raising every dead character ever in an army of super-space zombies with space-magic rings that cry out “flesh” as they look for more dead. Doesn’t that just sound awesome? Because it is.
This finished a while ago, so you can get the hardcover with the main story line, or the side stories in their own books.
(Notable author(s); Morrison/ Notable artist: Quietly) Superman is an icon, whether you like him or not. Morrison does what few others have done in decades; he made Superman interesting. Dropping continuity and sticking with Superman’s basics, Morrison creates a world where Superman is free to do what he wants. Supes juggles impossible tasks, travels through time, saves worlds, tries to understand Lex Luthor, all while trying to convince Lois Lane that Clark Kent and Superman are the same person. There are two volumes available, the art is colorful and stylish, and it’s the only Superman comic I own.
There are two volumes and that’s that.
But I Hate Superheroes!
(Notable author(s); Willingham / Notable artist: Buckingham) An entire town of characters from fairy tales, folk lore and myths – ranging from the Big Bad Wolf to Pinocchio – find themselves living in New York after being chased from their various mythical homelands by a force only known as “The Adversary.” While they try to fend off the Adversary’s attacks, make allies with other Fable lands, and deal with politics and romances, Fabletown trains and schemes on how to free the Homelands once again. You know you want to watch Little Boy Blue chop up goblins with the Vorpal Sword. Keep your eyes on Lost’s old time slot, because rumor has it, Fables is going to be taking it over soon.
Right now we are up to 13 volumes and it’s still going. There is also an equally awesome spin off called Jack of Fables, which is about 5 volumes in and is more comedy focused.
(Only author/artist; O’Malley) If the movie didn’t convince you to read the books, maybe I can! Scott Pilgrim is a 20-something guy with no job who is in a band called the Sex Bob-ombs who falls in love with a 20-something girl named Ramona because she keeps using his dreams as a shortcut on her delivery route for Amazon.ca. Got it? They decide to date, but in order to do so, Scott must do battle with Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes. As absurd as it sounds, the core is very human, dealing with our ever-changing relationships with other people. Also there is fighting.
The series is complete. There are currently 6.5 volumes out, all over 200 pages of stylish, B&W art.
(Notable author; Brubaker/ Notable artist: Phillips) Several short stories tie the lives of Center City’s less reputable citizens into a compelling series. We follow several generations of people with seemingly no conscience, people who were down on their luck, people who made bad decisions. If you like crime dramas, you’ll enjoy this gritty tale. The art is dark and loose and it fits perfectly with the tone.
There are currently 5 volumes available, all fairly self contained.
(Notable author; Kirkman/ Notable artist: Adlard) People still like zombies, right? Well, if you even like zombies only a little, you should be reading this. Zombie movies have 2 hours to tell a story, so what happens to the people who continue to survive for a month? Six months? A year? Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to find that everyone is gone, and also the dead walk the Earth. He eventually meets up with a group of survivors. We watch as they try to survive nature, the undead, gangs, and find a nice place to settle. Kirkman pulls no punches and has no qualms about killing off your favorite characters at any moment. It is never safe. The Walking Dead will soon have a series on AMC, slated for six episodes in it’s first season. Let’s try to support this one.
We are up to 12 volumes and the stories keep rolling in. They read much faster than you wish they would.
Y the Last Man
(Notable author; Vaughan/ Notable artist: Guerra) Yorick is a 20-something amateur escape artist living in Boston who has a monkey named Ampersand. I could probably stop right there and most of you are sold. However, that’s not all! One day Yorick wakes up to find that everything on Earth with a Y chromosome is dead, with the exception of him and Ampersand. Why did every man die? Was it a Biblical curse? A virus? Germ warfare? Yorick runs into two companions – Agent 355 and Dr. Alison Mann – and travels across a ruined country to get to Dr. Mann’s lab. Revealing anything more would probably spoil the story, but there are Amazons, assassinations, and all lady armies after the last man on Earth.
The series is complete and spans 10 volumes. It might also get a movie, but there hasn’t been much news about that.
Now you go to your local comic shop, or even Amazon.com, and get some comics! There are plenty of other titles out there, many of which I would recommend immediately, but I wanted to keep this accessible and short. Is there anything else out there I need to pick up? Let me know!