Hello, my name is Mike and I’m a comic book nerd.
I’ve read comics since I was a kid. Going to high school in the late eighties, it was something one hid, like a scarlet letter "C" blazoned across your chest. (Which is ironic since comics were then more popular than ever before). You spoke about comics in hushed voices in the darkest corners of campus. You confided only to your closest friends about them, a trusted few who shared the same secret shame. And you never, NEVER, mentioned them to girls.
Times have changed.
Comics are no longer confined to magazine racks and dingy little comic shops. They now sit on the shelves of most major book stores in the form of graphic novels and trade paperback reprints. And, while the majority of readers have been adults for some time, the medium is reaching a broader range of readers everyday.
Still, I feel many adults resist comics. So, in an effort to expose the Murderati readers out there to a different kind of storytelling, I give you my picks of some of the best comics out there. Give them a try and you just might discover the secret nerd within.
CRIME AND GRIME
The first and best of Frank Miller’s Sin City yarns. Dark and violent with images cut from blocks of pure shadow, the graphic novel is even better than the film. Miller IS the best in the business.
100 Bullets: First Shot, Last Call
Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso mix two parts hard-boiled crime with a healthy dose of espionage to create one very addictive story. Buyer beware, this one is an ongoing series.
My all time favorite series, written by Garth Ennis with art by Steve Dillon. The storyline follows ex-preacher Jesse Custer, his gunslinging girlfriend, and their Irish vampire sidekick on a quest to find God and give the man upstairs a good ole fashion ass whuppin’. Funny, outrageous, violent, and thought provoking.
Transmetropolitan: Back on the Street
Take Hunter S. Thompson and drop him in the dark future of Blade Runner. ‘Nuff said. Written by Warren Ellis with art by Darrick Robertson.
MEN IN TIGHTS
Batman the Dark Knight Returns
Thanks to a campy TV show and a slew of horrible cartoons, Batman had become one of the most laughable comic book heroes in history. Then came Frank Miller’s masterpiece. In one stroke, Miller returned Batman to his darker origins and proved once and for all that comics (even superhero comics) weren’t just for kids. (I told you he’s the best.)
A great story by Mark Waid with beautiful painted cells by Alex Ross. I hate Superman, but I loved this book. A must have in any collection.
Okay, I might have included this one for nostagila stake. Everybody’s favorite mutant claws his way through an army of ninjas. Loads of fun for the young of heart. Story by Chris Claremont with artwork by Frank Miller (yes, Frank made the list one last time).
Those in the know might notice my list is heavy on the D.C. side. As a teenager, I always found myself in the Marvel camp (X-Men, The Punisher, Daredevil). But these days it seems DC and the Independents are telling more sophisticated stories. Anyone out there have any Marvel picks that should go on my list?
This is a little off subject, but ITW is having a cool promotion. Click here for a chance to win 150 thrillers.
Oh, great. More to read! 😉
You remind me that I’ve been intending to read SIN CITY for – a long time, now.
But you leave out my favorite graphic novelist – the incomparable Neil Gaiman. SANDMAN is just beyond amazing… for those of us who like things a little more fantastical.
I tried to get the rights that very SIN CITY when it came out. But I didn’t have enough dough. My agents thought I was an idiot.
I was a comics nerd since I could read. When I’d spend my paper route (remember those, people?) money on Comics, my mom would always tell me what a waste it was.
“Why do you keep buying all those funnies?”
“They’re COMICS, Ma!!!”
I’m an old school guy. I have all the original Miller LONE WOLF AND CUBs, all but one of the original SILVER SURFERs, all of the second version of SS, most of the original DAREDEVILs, and a hundred or so other assorted titles, mostly Marvel.
But LWAC and SS will always be my most treasured.
I came to novels very late in life. If it weren’t for comics, I’d probably be working at some golf course in Arizona, selling argyle sweater vests to old men who smell like soup.
Ah, another passion and addiction. My problem now is the safe storage of my collection as my 3 teenage boys are wanting to read them. They can read them but they tend to be hard on books and magazines. My wife is probably going to have a fit on this as I see the only way its going tobe from now on is one copy of me and one for the kids to read.
Okay, I’m one of the uninitiated who never read comic books — never have.
Tell me more about the allure of this form. What does it bring to the table that turns you on so?
I’m not being sarcastic. I really want to know.
Alex:I’ve not read Sandman. It’s one of those things that I know I’ll probably like (or at least appreciate) if I give it a chance, but can’t bring myself to pick up. As childish as it sounds, I think my disinterest comes from the lack of physical action in the book.
Paul:I bought the first few issues of Lone Wolf and Cub when they were first being reprinted. I wish I’d kept up.
Aldo:I was worried about keeping all my books in pristine condition until I surfed ebay to see what they were selling for. Unless you’re talking about comics published in the 60s and earlier, your collection probably isn’t really worth much (in dollars that is). But I’m being a hypocrite here. I still buy bags and boards for every new issue and wash my hands before thumbing through the pages.
Pari:The appeal of comics is hard for me to put in words. As a storytelling medium, comics fall somewhere between film and novels, and when done well, they can contain the best attributes of both.
Yet, because they are not taken seriously, comics have an advantage over both. It’s much more easy for a reader to suspend disbelief reading a graphic novel. As such, they can present over the top storylines or images other mediums can’t touch. (On film, even the best superhero costumes are a bit silly. But in the pages of a comic they look cool.) When speaking thematically, comics have a distance from reality that allows them to deal with subject mater in a much different way than other media. They brim with the big ideas like justice, honor, duty, friendship, hate, guilt, and anger.
Like Pari, I’m a newcomer to the genre. But I did a “search inside” on the comics you’ve recommended, and can certainly see the appeal.
You describe “Sin City” as having “images cut from blocks of pure shadow.” I’d amend that to say “images cut from blocks of pure STEAMY shadow.” Damn, these comics are hot.
And I agree that graphic novels can sometimes champion a cause, or explain a concept, a lot easier than other creative media. Look what they did with a recounting of 9/11.
I was one of those silly ones who read CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST and the ARCHIES. Yeah, not so cool at all. But I’m trying to redemn myself now by being a huge fan of LOVE AND ROCKETS, MAUS, and Adrian Tomine. And ANGRY LITTLE GIRLS (www.angrylittlegirls.com) just makes me laugh.
I’ve never been a big comic fan, but once I saw Sin City, I understood the appeal. Thanks for introducing some of us to the medium, Mike.
Does a daily does of Garfield and Doonsbury count?
Seriously – I devoured comics when I was a kid. Okay, so that was centuries ago, but I’m not ashamed to admit that Superman was one of my favorites.
And-thanks, Mike – for the update. I might get hooked again.
Of course – I meant ‘dose’. I can’t help it if I type fast.
Yeah, comic nerds. We can quit any time. Really.
They’ve come a long way from the Underwear Perverts like Superman, or Captain America. I mean, come on. You have superpowers. Why the hell would you want to dress up in brightly colored Underoos to fight crime? The only superhero stories I’ve really enjoyed are the ones that show them as (semi)real people. Or at least exploring what it would take for someone to want to wear a mask and beat the crap out of people to be “The Good Guy”. “Watchmen” does this well and some of the Batman storylines are excellent for this. The man’s a psychopath, he just happens to not like killing people.
My favorite’s “Hellblazer”. The kind of noir stories where the devil makes an almost regular appearance, and is actually more appealing than the chain smoking, self-destructive protagonist, John Constantine. The unfortunate movie adaptation made me physically ill. God, I hate Keanu Reeves.
Anyway, the series has had a wide range of excellent writers, like Garth Ennis and Warren Ellis. If you like Preacher, you’ll dig Hellblazer.
Particularly noir is the story “Dangerous Habits” where he finds that he’s got terminal lung cancer from chain smoking for the last twenty years and that every demon in Hell is waiting to take a chunk out of him when he gets down there. You can find some of the stories bound in trade paperbacks.
One the other end of the spectrum, another one I’ve liked a lot in the past is “Strangers In Paradise”. It’s gotten a lot of acclaim, but it’s been pigeon-holed as comic chick-lit because the two main characters are women, and I think that’s turned off a lot of men from reading it.
Some of it can be kind of soap opera-y, but it’s more character than plot driven. Also, some of the storyline is pretty f-ed up, which makes it even better. Very well done and it sucks you in quickly. You can get it either as the entire series in one book or in smaller books with a few issues at a time. The ending is irritating, though.