Help me find my next favorite graphic novel.
October 21, 2008 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Help me find my next favorite graphic novel.

After some time away from the comic book shop, I've rediscovered my love of graphic novels. Back in the day, I was a passionate fan of Gaiman's Sandman, Swamp Thing, much of the early Vertigo stuff (Doom Patrol especially), Watchmen, etc. - all the biggies. One of my all-time favorites, for its sheer singularity and human scope, is Craig Thompson's "Blankets." I've also enjoyed Y: The Last Man, Bone, and pretty much everything published by First Second Books.

I recently went to my local comic shop and asked the guy behind the counter for newer recommendations, and he steered me toward "Queen and Country" and "Criminal." Both are excellent, if a little bit hardboiled and light on the fantastical.

So, what should I read next? Is there another Blankets or Sandman out there that I've yet to discover?
posted by jbickers to Media & Arts (40 answers total) 92 users marked this as a favorite
Box Office Poison

Ghost World - while the movie was good in it's own right, (as always) the book was better. Now in a new Special Edition

Fun Home.

Black Hole.

Kingdom Come

The Dark Knight Returns (though you've probably already read it)
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:19 PM on October 21, 2008

crap. The Dark Knight Returns

for that matter, sitting on my own shelf, not yet read (but highly recommended to me by others):

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth


Batman: The Long Halloween

reading: it's an illness, folks.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:25 PM on October 21, 2008

Alan Moore's From Hell is extraordinary. Gary Millidge's Strangehaven is quirky and fascinating. Some of the Grendel Tales are very good (I recall the Macan/Biukovic ones and the one by James Robinson in particular). Veitch's Bratpack is like Watchmen on a bad-hair, stoned-out-of-your-skull day, but very good. Abuli/Bernet's Torpedo is a fun but still grim take on Depression-era gangsters.
posted by Iosephus at 5:37 PM on October 21, 2008

Identity Crisis is way better than it should be. I don't usually dig the DC universe and most superhero books, but this is just the best. It's a blast.

Desolation Jones is way fun, but kinda dirty. It's all done with humor but you should know there is a bit of fun filth throughout.

Everyone loves Walking Dead. It's great zombie fun.

My Friend Dahmer is a comic written and drawn by a guy who went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. It's weird and awesome and makes you remember all those creepy people you went to high school with and forgot.

And finally Crecy is a great piece of historical fiction that is just great fun.
posted by aburd at 5:38 PM on October 21, 2008

In the tradition of blankets:

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine

Clumsy and Unlikely by Jeffrey Brown

Louis Riel and I Never Liked You (though I never really liked the latter) by Chester Brown

and basically everything by Chris Ware

Other obvious choices are:
David Boring and Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

Good places to start looking for artists are by reading anthologies like:
McSweeney's Issue 13 (Comic Issue)

Best American Comics 2006, 2007 and 2008
posted by shamble at 5:39 PM on October 21, 2008

You've surely read Persepolis, right? If not, that's pretty obvious.

La Perdida by Jessica Abel.

There's a recent collection of Scott McCloud's black and white issues of Zot!. It's half 60s throwback adventure, half heartfelt drama.

And if you want drama, there's always Terry Moore's Strangers In Paradise, which I never finished reading. There's some good stuff there, if you can stick with it.

More recently is Mariko and Jillian Tamaki's Skim, which I quite liked.

I thought Guy Delisle's Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea was fun. I haven't read his other books, though.
posted by darksong at 5:39 PM on October 21, 2008

I almost forgot DMZ.
posted by aburd at 5:39 PM on October 21, 2008

If you enjoyed Sandman, you should check out Gaiman's Death: The High Cost of Living.

Although it's very different from the titles you've named, anyone who wants to be familiar with the best in graphic "novels" (it's really a biography) should read Maus. It's an awe-inspiring piece of art, and probably the single most influential work in convincing many people that graphic novels can be treated as real literature rather than mere entertainment.

I'll second From Hell, and also recommend Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (don't be put off by the lackluster movie, if you saw it). And Garth Ennis' Preacher is quite an experience.

(None of these are particularly obscure, so you may have read some/all of them already. I'm just getting into graphic novels in a serious way myself.)
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 5:48 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Also, though I'm (obviously) not the OP, thanks to everyone else for the recommendations in this thread. Some great stuff here.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 5:49 PM on October 21, 2008

100 Bullets is tough guy pulp about a man who presents people with a briefcase containing a gun, 100 'untraceable' bullets, and irrefutable proof that the person has been grievously wronged, complete with a photo of the person who did it. The story starts off simple but becomes deeper and more complicated as the various plots unfold; I'm only on vol. 5 but loving it so far.

I've just read the first volume of Desolation Jones but it's quite good too. Gritty noirish tale about an ex-intelligence agent with carte blanche in the seedy underbelly of L.A., trying to slog his way through a mystery.

Less tough by far, but very cute and sweet and thoroughly enjoyable: the Owly series by Andy Runton, about an owl who lives in a house in a tree (with a bed), feeds the other birds, and spends his (its?) spare time befriending various forest creatures.

Robot Dreams, about a dog who builds a robot for a friend, and what happens to that friendship--cute, funny, sweet, sad, mature, and 110% awesome.

Sleepwalk and other Stories. A collection of slice-of-life short stories that tend towards the pensive and unresolved, focusing more on character, psychology, ambience, and situations than plot or tidy conclusions. Some of the short stories are *very* short, even just a page or two. Highly recommended for people interested in relationships and/or "quiet" fiction. Actually, Adrian Tomine's work in general, esp. this one and Shortcomings (though some people are quite fond of Summer Blonde).

Goodbye, Chunky Rice, since you liked Blankets. Story of loss in its many forms; darling pictures make it possible to take lightly. Bold clean artwork.

Bookhunter. A mystery/comedy parody of cop films, Bookhunter tells the story of a team of library police protecting the Oakland public library’s collection in 1973. The author knows a lot about book culture, especially older accession methods and book preservation; the story is fast-paced, engaging, and very funny. Highly recommended for bibliophiles, fans of police procedurals, and people with offbeat humor. Seems to be out of print, so read it at the author's site.

Complete Maus, if you haven't read it.

Complete Persepolis, if you haven't read it.

Seconding Epileptic and Fun Home.
posted by johnofjack at 5:50 PM on October 21, 2008

The Invisibles. Grant Morrison wrote the entire series, but various people did the art, which varies in quality, though it gets better by the end. Likewise, some "chapters" are better than others (some of which is amusingly dated with early/mid 90s trends--"smart drinks?" "techno"?), and the series could've been pared down a bit, BUT, when it's good, it's really, really good. Mind-blowing, even, I would say.
posted by zardoz at 5:54 PM on October 21, 2008

You may really enjoy Fables by Bill Willingham. The games are set in a fairly grownup world. It definitely has a strong Sandman vibe.
posted by Restlessavenger at 5:56 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you like Batman I can recommend The Man Who Laughs, and Arkham Asylum.

Seconding anything by Alan Moore.

Fray is pretty great if you're into Joss Whedon.

I also liked 30 Days of Night.
posted by supercrayon at 5:57 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I read Barefoot Gen not too long ago and really enjoyed it. It's not exactly beach reading, but it's very powerful and moving. You can buy vol 1 on Amazon. (Another graphic novel in this vein is Art Spiegelman's Maus, which you've probably heard of but I thought I'd mention anyway.)
posted by markcholden at 6:11 PM on October 21, 2008

All-star Superman just wrapped up and it was fantastic. Easily the best "new" comic I've read.

Rick Veitch has been experiencing something of a renaissance, with a new book Army@Love (war satire... good, if a little heavy-handed) being published by DC, but also a ton of his early stuff getting reprinted by various publishers. Get it!

Totally diggin' Criminal. I think it's a great series.

Tried Grant Morrison's Invisibles? It's fun and deep. If you liked The Matrix movie you'll love it, as they basically ripped the plot off whole-sale from this comic.

Alan Moore's Promethea is a straight head-fuck. I liked it a lot.

Planet Hulk from Marvel was a big, dumb summer blockbuster a year (or maybe two?) ago. It's a fun read.

Tried Fables? Also from Vertigo. Haven't read it myself but I've heard good things.

If you wanna get an idea of what's going on in comics these days there are several blogs I'd recommend. Esp. check out:

Progressive Ruin
Beaucoup Kevin
Armagideon Time

I'd also like to use this opportunity to plug my personal favorite graphic novels I've found lately, namely Lewis Trondheim's Dungeon. He's a French artist, I believe. Every single volume of this comic is absolutely fantastic. Drama, horror, humor, pathos, it's got it all.

Oh, and, god do I love me some Owly.
posted by word_virus at 6:27 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Wow, shockingly my favorite, Transmetropolitan, hasn't been mentioned yet. Think Hunter S. Thompson in the future. Anything by Warren Ellis is good, but that's his magnum opus (thus far, Doktor Sleepless looks like it may rival it for scope).

And I'll second From Hell, DMZ, Fables and Arkham Asylum.
posted by hobgadling at 6:37 PM on October 21, 2008

Filling some gaps, the other posters are doing an excellent job so not much more for me to add (and my memory is always the slow-reaction kind, heh).

David Mack's Kabuki is excellent. Think something like technosamurai noir.

Trillo/Breccia's Alvar Mayor is another extraordinary one. Fantasy/historical drama during the Spanish Conquest of the Americas. (I think it might be hard to find, though.)

John Bergin's From Inside is very good, but extremely unsettling. Also probably a bit hard to find by now.

Straczynski's Rising Stars is pretty good (though I found it a bit uneven), and offers a different interesting tangent to the Watchmen idea.
posted by Iosephus at 6:44 PM on October 21, 2008

And seeing Ellis up there... I keep making a point of forgetting how excellent his Planetary is every time we have a comics question. *selfsmack*
posted by Iosephus at 6:47 PM on October 21, 2008

Kaz Strzepek's Mourning Star is sort of a post-apocalyptic fantasy I found around the same time I discovered Y: the Last Man and liked for a lot of the same reasons. The art is in black and white and really quite beautiful.

You might like Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds (there's a .pdf preview! check it out!) if you liked Blankets; another good personal-scope story (well, a collection, really) is Curses by Kevin Huizenga. Good, if more non-fictional are Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown (bookslut review! excerpts!) and the (utterly amazing) work of Joe Sacco.

(on preview: Planetaaaaary! Hooray!)
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 6:50 PM on October 21, 2008

I'd like to second Box Office Poison. I really enjoyed the hell out of that, twice now.
posted by Ponderance at 7:08 PM on October 21, 2008

One more: I really enjoyed the graphic novelization of I Am Legend. It's very true to the original novel (which is to say, it has almost nothing in common with the Will Smith film). Fairly text-heavy, but not really more so than Watchmen.
posted by [user was fined for this post] at 7:33 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Seconding zardoz: if you liked Doom Patrol, you might dig Grant Morrison's other stuff, including the Invisibles, the Filth, We3, etc. Alan Moore's Promethea has much of the same message as the Invisibles, but the focus is more on magick and Moore's usual formalisms than Morrison's sex, drugs, and rock'n'roll.

You might also dig Warren Ellis' stuff. While Desolation Jones is (sadly!) on pause, Transmetropolitan is required reading, and I've very much been enjoying Freakangels, which is published weekly online and has truly gorgeous art.

Brian Wood's DMZ is good, if v. political; you may prefer the 12-issue series he did, Demo, which deals with superpowers, in a way, but not in the annoying Marvel/DC say.
posted by ubersturm at 8:00 PM on October 21, 2008

The amazing though short Blacksad deserves mention. It's top notch stuff.
posted by chairface at 8:20 PM on October 21, 2008

Top Ten is the best thing Moore has ever done (possibly topped only by League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). Which means it's the best thing anyone has ever done.

I also put off reading Tom Strong for a while because I thought it was supposed to be one of the weaker ABC titles, but it contains more pure, unbridled, comic-booky fun than pretty much anything. Just read the whole ABC line.

(How the heck did a single man write all these titles -- ones that blow everything else out of the water -- concurrently?)
posted by painquale at 8:29 PM on October 21, 2008

Its non-fiction but you might like it.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:35 PM on October 21, 2008

My first foray into graphic novels mirrors yours pretty much, so here is what I've been enjoying.

Seconding (or whatever):
Desolation Jones
Walking Dead (in my top five ever)
Top Ten (also in my top five)
Tom Strong

Locke & Key (very Sandman-ish, just published, written by Joe Hill)
Arrowsmith (also sort of Sandman-ish)
The Light Brigade
The Authority
The Nail (alternate Superman)
Superman: Red Son (another alternate Superman)
Pride of Baghdad
posted by gemmy at 9:50 PM on October 21, 2008

Has no one mentioned Ex Machina yet? I've only read book one so far but am really enjoying it.

Also backing up Box Office Poison, Maus (seriously, don't miss this), Walking Dead, TransMetropolitan, and everything by Adrian Tomine.

True Porn and True Porn 2 are great anthologies, too. Indy artists telling true sex stories. Very fascinating, but full of nudity and graphic sex, so probably don't read it at work.
posted by Brody's chum at 10:32 PM on October 21, 2008

27 comments and not one mention of Will Eisner? For shame! Take a look at the A Contract with God trilogy for starters. Not too keen about his Spirit works, but you can check those out too.

Since you enjoyed Blankets, try Thompson's Carnet de Voyage, which isn't a novel but is great to "read" through.

Alan Moore's Promethea series is fantastic, but be careful: it's practically his acid trip. SO much mythology/astrology/religion references and SO much color, your head will seriously spin.

Recently, Spiegelman's Breakdowns was reprinted. Worth reading/admiring.

Hellboy :)

The Crow. Yes, the graphic novel that inspired the movie. Dark, gritty, and so emotional. You can almost feel pain just by reading it.

There's this one comic that, while wordless, was totally weird. It's a French comic about a hitman and this big yellow blobby bear-thing who haunts him. If anyone can help me with the title, it'll be much appreciated. It starts with a P.
posted by curagea at 10:49 PM on October 21, 2008

Don't forget Julie Doucet, Lynda Barry, Joe Sacco's Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, Fair Weather by Joe Matt, and YA titles like Linda Medley's Castle Waiting, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang and the wordless and wonderful The Arrival by Shaun Tan.
posted by gudrun at 11:52 PM on October 21, 2008

James Robinson's Starman, which is very Vertigo-ish in feel but takes place in main DC continuity (you may want to keep Wikipedia to hand while you read it, but oh, it's worth it!). First trade, First (450 page!) omnibus. Take your pick?
posted by bettafish at 1:58 AM on October 22, 2008

Not yet mentioned:

posted by painquale at 3:21 AM on October 22, 2008

Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O'Malley.

On one hand, it is a story about growing up, falling in love, and getting you shit together. On the other hand, it's about Scott Pilgrim defeating his girlfriend's Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends in a series of constantly escalating video-game-ish kung-fu fights.

In both hands, you are reading it and it is totally awesome.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:51 AM on October 22, 2008

Great suggestions above.

Samurai Executioner by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, whose writing and art heavily influenced Frank Miller, of 300 and Sin City fame. The Eternals by Jack Kirby if you like over the top writing and beautifully garish art. Neil Gaiman and John Romita Jr. have done a new take on that book by Kirby.
posted by Alex Voyd at 11:14 AM on October 22, 2008

Dave McKean's Cages, Chester Brown's The Playboy, Love and Rockets collections (not really graphic novels but big story arcs interspersed among standalone stories)
posted by nanojath at 11:16 AM on October 22, 2008

I've just finished Posy Simmonds' Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe-- which is an updated Far from the Madding Crowd.
posted by brujita at 11:19 AM on October 22, 2008

The Vertigo title Fables is a good ongoing series that should appeal to Sandman readers.

Alan Moore's Top 10 has ended, I believe, but there are several collections available. It's like an ensemble cop drama, but all the cops—and the entire population they police—are super-powered.

Fun Home and Persepolis are must-read graphic novels, though their subject matter is not all superhero or urban fantasy. They're more along the lines of autobiographical realism, but don't let that put you off.
posted by paulg at 12:43 PM on October 22, 2008

Nthing American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. It was the first graphic novel to be a National Book finalist and it won the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award. It in the young adult category, but i'm in my late thirties and I loved it.
posted by MiggySawdust at 7:17 PM on October 22, 2008

Yeah, American Born Chinese is a great one. It's considered "vol. 1," though, which puzzles me a bit. I liked the ending and wonder where else it will go (but will gladly read vol. 2 whenever it comes out).

Looking through the last few months of reading I see a few more standouts I forgot to mention.

The Borden Tragedy was analytical but oddly affecting, making the case for Lizzie's innocence.

Torso: a True Crime Graphic Novel documents a lesser-known part of Elliot Ness's life: on the case against the United States' first serial killer. I liked the writing a lot in spite of the frequent typos, the characterization was good, and the art was top-notch.

Monkey vs. Robot was cute and fun, about a battle to the finish when monkey discovers that robot is taking its rocks and trees and polluting its water. This one's for kids, like Owly and Robot Dreams, but I think if you go for whimsy at all you'd like it and the other two.

Another one for kids--this one probably less of a boy book, but also cute, fun, and funny--is Jellaby, about a precocious young girl who moves with her mother to a new house and befriends a quiet purple monster.

And I see no one's mentioned Harvey Pekar ... I really liked The Quitter, in spite of disliking its protagonist. ^_^
posted by johnofjack at 8:24 PM on October 22, 2008

since people have veered off the track of the OPs original request (I think anyway...) I will push further away and recommend Buddha by Tezuka Osamu. Its the story of Buddha's life and its epic, beautiful and wonderful. Vol. 1.
posted by zennoshinjou at 7:52 AM on October 23, 2008

Obviously this is really late, but this AskMe gave me a lot of good tips for graphic novels. In addition to everything that's been mentioned, I'd like to recommend Yoshihiro Tatsumi's work - I just picked up Goodbye this weekend and it was really good. I'm looking to pick up The Push Man and Other Stories or his autobiographical A Drifting Life which weighs in at a whopping 840 pages. If you like Adrian Tomine's short stories, you would probably like Tatsumi.
posted by pravit at 8:04 PM on April 26, 2009

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