Give me your comic book tips, tricks, and resources
September 28, 2009 8:39 PM   Subscribe

Please help me fuel my new-found obsession with comic books! What are some of your favorite recommended reads, as well as comic book resources, tips, and tricks?

In the past few weeks I've become very interested in comic books. Not just the stories themselves, but the whole culture, history, and industry. This is my first real exposure to the world of comic books besides reading Watchmen and a few other graphic novels a couple years back. (For reference, I find that I'm more drawn to the DC Universe, and Batman specifically.) Given this new obsession, how can I use all the resources available to me to best enjoy the comic reading experience?

I'm open to all your tips and tricks of the comics world (or reading recommendations), but I do have one thing I'd specifically like to find: an RSS feed, or more ideally, an email newsletter that would keep me updated on all the new stuff that's coming out in each week or even further out.

Also, are there any good comic-related apps for the iPhone? I'm really loving ComicBookDB for its comprehensive information, but it would be great if there was something like this that was specifically made for the iPhone.
posted by joshrholloway to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Be sure to check out the Pulitzer prize winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. Excellent pre and post WWII fiction about the comic book industry.
posted by netbros at 8:59 PM on September 28, 2009


You might find this blog interesting... Comics in Crisis At least he mentions quite a few comic books and their plots. I'm not a big DC fan - I used to read Marvel religiously - but I've learned a lot about the DC universe reading it.
posted by patheral at 9:12 PM on September 28, 2009


To add to what netbros said, Kavalier and Clay is about a guy who writes a comic called the Escapist, and it's been turned into a real comic as well.

Also, there are some great classic graphic novels, Maus and Persepolis among them.

(fwiw, I like batman- a lot- and have found wolverine pretty awesome as well.)
posted by alon at 9:17 PM on September 28, 2009


If you're interested in history, the modern Justice Society of America is composed of Golden Age superheroes and homages to Golden Age heroes (in particular, the original Flash and the original Green Lantern).

To read about comics as an art form, try Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 9:26 PM on September 28, 2009


Locate and digest everything that Frank Miller has touched. If you haven't been bludgeoned with it in other forums yet: Neil Gaiman's "The Sandman" series is must read material. I'm also a big fan of "John Constantine: Hellblazer", which also appeared (and remains) in the DC Comics Vertigo imprint.

ComicZeal for iPhone.

CBR has all the (comics) news that's yet to print.
posted by EnsignLunchmeat at 9:45 PM on September 28, 2009


You just asked my favorite question.

Things I think you definitely should check out...
Dark Knight Returns
Batman Year One
Kingdom Come
Batman: The Killing Joke
Superman: Secret Identity
Marvels
Daredevil - Guardian Devil
Rising Stars
Captain America Omnibus, Vol. 1
Ultimate Spider-man
Powers
Inhumans
Fantastic Four (Mark Waid's first story arc)

On the non-superhero side...
Bone
Fables
Sandman
Y the Last Man
Mouse Guard

I'm also a comic culture nerd as well. My fave book on the subject is Comic Book Culture.

You might want to go to your local comic shop (comicshoplocator.com) and chat up the folks working behind the counter. You'll find all sorts of great rec's from them. I assure you, comic folk loooove to suggest their favorites to new readers. A certain kind of camaraderie builds between the customers and employees. I never would have gotten as into comics as I am if it weren't for the folks I met while hanging out in the comic shop. While you're there, pick up a Previews catalog (or ask to browse the store copy) and you can read all about everything that is coming out in a particular month.

One of my favorite "books about comic books (this category gets it's own shelf in my house)" is Batman Unmasked.

Most of the online comic shops will send out email blasts about the upcoming week of books. Try midtowncomics.com or milehighcomics.com. There is also a newsletter, Comic Shop News, which is distributed weekly in stores.

As for websites, newsarama.com has become a standard for many comic fans. There is also comicbookresources.com.

You're more than welcome to MeFiMail me anytime about comics. I could go on and on and on...and I apologize in advanced for the subsequent posts I may make when I remember other books that you should read. Happy reading.
posted by mrsshotglass at 9:56 PM on September 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


Oh my goodness. I saw this question earlier, spent a little while coming up with a short list, and come back to find mrsshotglass having replicated my list, down to Mouse Guard, but with links, and resources!

Listen to her, apparently.
posted by Mizu at 10:05 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, I just wrote this in a thread a few minutes ago:

Hellboy: Unfortunately, the first trade paperback is pretty mediocre, and sadly unskippable since it sets up the overarching plot line, but TPBs 2-8 (and counting) are among the very best contemporary comics.

Also: Bone, Y the Last Man. Yes and Hell Yes.
posted by martens at 10:10 PM on September 28, 2009


Try these:

Starman Omnibus
Sandman
Preacher
Ex Machina
100 Bullets
Y: The Last Man
Justice League International
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Sin City
From Hell
Fables
Bone
Sketchbook Diaries
Skyscrapers of the Midwest
Blankets
Box Office Poison
... and any Treasury of Victorian Murder by Rick Geary

Have fun!
posted by dragonette1 at 10:18 PM on September 28, 2009


This is a little bit tangential to your question, but one of my favorite blogs, mightygodking.com, has a lot of interesting, thought provoking entries about comics, including a regular Thursday feature where he looks at a page from Who's Who in the DC Universe and talks about it. You'd probably enjoy trawling the archives.
posted by Caduceus at 10:29 PM on September 28, 2009


Read everything Art Spiegelman has touched - some of it is phoned in but even the bad stuff makes you think.

Also, Planetary and Ex Machina are my current favorites. You might like the multitude of Elseworlds Batman trades.

Moore's recent stuff for America's Best Comics was hit or miss, but I really enjoyed Top 10 and Promethea. Both are in trades by now.
posted by benzenedream at 10:51 PM on September 28, 2009


I read "girlie" comics, but I only started reading them in the last year or two, so I have a bit of catching up to do. Others have suggested mine, but I'm going to go ahead and write them out anyway as enthusiastic seconds. Those that I love:

Hellboy
Y: The Last Man
Fables (James Jean's cover art is also not to be missed; it's bloody fantastic)
Crossing Midnight (link has a few good examples)
Sandman
Books of Magic (really, anything Neil Gaiman's been involved in)
Lucifer
The Unwritten (also fantastic cover art)

I think it's telling how much I like Vertigo. Anyway, comics can be an expensive obsession, especially if the comics you want to start reading are either finished or out of print. Also, there are a lot of great short-run comics and adaptations of existing works, like anything made about Discworld or the adaptation of Neverwhere. Have fun!
posted by neewom at 10:55 PM on September 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Anything Frank Quitely touches will put your idea of 'comic book art' in a headlock. Look for the Superman book he did with Grant Morrison.

Fables is so-so, the art is particularly meh. Y The Last Man is really well written, do seek it out,
posted by GilloD at 11:17 PM on September 28, 2009


Yes, please read Sandman.

Also, Beautiful Stories for Ugly Children is a favorite.
posted by dchrssyr at 11:39 PM on September 28, 2009


I'm really surprised that my favorite comics haven't been mentioned yet. They're not superhero comics, but they're the reason I respect and read comics--which I never did as a kid. I've included wikipedia links, although those're clearly full of spoilers.

Transmetropolitan

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac

Anyway, comics can be an expensive obsession, especially if the comics you want to start reading are either finished or out of print.

Comic books are the only literary form that I'll pirate. I won't steal a book, but if getting caught up with Spider-Man is going to cost me half a million dollars (which is a ballpark estimate I heard recently for a complete Amazing Spider-Man), I feel not the slightest remorse in downloading the whole series. And trust me, you can. You can read, in digital format, all of those impossible-to-find issues of most popular superhero comics.
posted by Netzapper at 1:51 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


What? No one has mentioned The Goon? The Goon is awesome, if you like zombies and ass-kicking and tentacular horrors and more ass-kicking.

Also the book The Ten-Cent Plague, an absorbing history of comics role in American popular culture, the legal battles fought for and against the medium, and the con-men, hacks, fetish artists, geniuses, and ink-stained wretches who created them.

Did I mention that The Goon contains lots of gorgeously drawn tentacular ass-kicking? Because it does.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:01 AM on September 29, 2009


Seconding Transmetropolitan - 60 issues of pure genius.

(Please don't pirate them though unless absolutley necessary - get the tradepaper backs if you can't get the originals - those guys have gotta eat and not all of them are pulling in the Spidey/Batman franchise paychecks!)
posted by man down under at 2:10 AM on September 29, 2009


Yeah, MightyGodKing is a good source. I also enjoy Comics Should Be Good, which has been an nice way for me to keep a finger on the pulse of current comicdom without actually going out and reading everything. It also features some great retrospectives on older stuff that I had not read (not sure if that's because it was obscure or just because I missed it back in the day).

I'm really surprised no one's mentioned Busiek's Astro City stuff. Loved it.

Not sure if it's the case for where you live, but I've gotten tons and tons of graphic novels out of the library. They've run the gamut, and lots of it is dreck, but know I know why Jeph Loeb is considered such a hack and I'm able to make informed comment on the past 10 years of so of comics when I wouldn't have been able to before.

Moore also deserves more mention here. From Hell is excellent and you should definitely see if you can track down his Swamp Thing work, both for it's own sake and to see the kernel of what the past 25 years or so of comics have become.

To see a bit of where the Watchmen has led us, you should also check out The Authority (at least the ones that Warren Ellis had a hand in. Also, to go with that, check out What's So Funny About Truth, Justice & The American Way, which isn't the greatest story (it's pretty damn transparent), but is definitely of interest if you are into comic book culture.

And to switch media, I also strongly recommend chasing down the various DC Universe cartoons that have been produced over the last decade and change. Great stuff, especially Justice League Unlimited, but also Teen Titans, Legion of Superheroes and most recently The Brave and the Bold.

And speaking of the Legion, if you really want to go down the rabbit hole of DC universe continuity, check out the Legion of Superheroes. Can't really tell you where to start, but if you scratch the surface a bit and find it of note, I'm sure you'll be able to follow the breadcrumbs.

Finally, as far as published histories, there's Gerard Jones' Men of Tomorrow, which gives a history of the beginning of the American superhero comics industry.
posted by ursus_comiter at 2:43 AM on September 29, 2009


Thanks for all the great recommendations, everyone. I should mention that I have already read Y The Last Man, Batman Year One, and The Long Halloween since those seem to be "required reading." I tried to get into Bone but it just lost me (though the art was excellent).

mrsshotglass, your post was exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for out of this AskMe. I really appreciate all the resources you linked.
posted by joshrholloway at 4:45 AM on September 29, 2009


Dear Netzapper, You can get a lot of complete runs of comics on DVD for a decent price. Reprints are also readily available in the DC Showcase line and the Marvel Masterworks lines.

There's a big movement towards comics as educational material and they've become more readily available through libraries. I have a friend who's job it is to help librarians develop their comic book sections. If you borrow from libraries, they'll see that their money was not wasted on the genre and they'll be inclined to add to their collections. You might even find a fellow comic reader who would be happy to lend books to you.

These resources will not cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. Please don't steal from our industry, we're suffering so much already.

(And for those of you that say, "Oh but the movies bring in so much money," they bring in money for the studio, some to licensors, less to the publisher, even less to the creators, and very little to the folks who run your local comic book store.)
posted by mrsshotglass at 7:10 AM on September 29, 2009


In the non-superhero vein, one of my favorite series is Greg Rucka's Queen & Country. It's a British spy series featuring a kick-ass heroine, exotic locales and an attention to detail that makes a fantastic series.
posted by nushustu at 7:27 AM on September 29, 2009


Check out Scans Daily. It's a good place to be introduced to new comics. They beanplate in the comments as much as mefites do, fair warning.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:15 AM on September 29, 2009


There are a lot of good recommendations here for comics and comics blogs, as well as a lot of people who are just sort of dumping their favorites lists (some of which may not necessarily be suitable for the beginning comics reader).

Josh, I noticed from your profile that you're from Nashville. I didn't get to visit many comics stores during my visits there, but I did go to The Great Escape and it has a more than adequate selection of comics. Whenever you visit other cities (not only large cities but college towns are often good places to find a decent comics store), check out the LCS (local comics shop) using that link that mrsshotglass posted.

Also remember that your local public library is also a good place to read comics (for free!) and see what writers, artists, genres etc. grab you. They certainly have a decent selection.

What a world of wonders awaits you!
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:19 AM on September 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Atomic Robo.

Atomic Robo.

Again: Atomic Robo.

There's a 7-day 7-page comic running right now that should give you some insight into the absolute JOY of Atomic Robo at http://www.nuklearpower.com/2009/09/28/the-yonkers-devil-1-of-7/ for your reading pleasure.

The first Atomic Robo series is an anthology bit that gives you a lot of his history and clues you into how weird his world is ("Cars have been the best weapon against giant insects since 1950. Science fact."), and the people he's met. The second, Dogs of War, is a weird science WW2 series, and the just-finished third, Atomic Robo And The Shadow From Beyond Time, is H.P. Lovecraft monster hunting made fun.

There was also a Free Comic Book Day story that may still be on the web, "Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur" which is SCREAMINGLY funny.

Atomic Robo. Ask for it by name. You will NOT be disappointed. It's fun comics. Even when there's a couple of moments to easily descend into angst, it doesn't.
posted by mephron at 8:44 AM on September 29, 2009


One area of comics you're missing is the True Crime/Crime/Horror genre that took precedence between the Golden and Silver Ages. In fact, we would not have even had a Silver Age of superheroes were it not for horror comics collapsing near the peak of their popularity.

For more, read The Ten Cent Plague after you're done reading Men of Tomorrow.

Also, if you're interested in the Golden Age, back when nobody had any idea what they were doing, check out Supermen!: The First Wave of Comic Book Heroes. And if you like that, run, do not walk, to get the two Fletcher Hanks anthologies.

For more modern info, check out Comic Book Wars for the background behind modern Marvel and Was Superman a Spy? for some of the weird truths of comic book history.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:12 AM on September 29, 2009


Seconding Great Escape. Growing up in Murfreesboro TN, I cut my comics teeth on the 5 - 15 cent comics they had available. I didn't care about value I just wanted my Rom and Daredevil story fix. It has an awesome selection of everything though. However, I recommend taking some time to look through the, probably a quarter now, bins. Just to check out whatever for cheap. And it's fun to look at comics from the past decades just for the ads alone. I'm a big fan of 70's comics myself coming of age as I did in the 80's.

Also, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay? I love love love comics and loathe loathe loathe this book. YMMV.
posted by josher71 at 9:44 AM on September 29, 2009


Atomic Robo? Oh hell yeah. Can't believe I didn't think to mention it. It's good stuff. You asked for iPhone apps: there's one called "Comics" from comixology.com that I think will run you a dollar or two and though the selection isn't great right now, they add new comics every Thursday (that range in price from free to $1.99) and there are many Atomic Robo comics available, including the Free Comic Book Day book, "Why Atomic Robo Hates Dr. Dinosaur", which is truly funny and smart and a great (free) introduction to Robo & the Fightin' Scientists of Tesladyne.

Also, seriously? Read The Goon or I will stab you in the eye with a knife.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:19 AM on September 29, 2009


The Invisibles
posted by symbollocks at 11:13 AM on September 29, 2009


Also worth a look.
posted by josher71 at 11:31 AM on September 29, 2009


http://thatguywiththeglasses.com/videolinks/linkara/at4w

Just something fun for you.
posted by Ingenting at 2:58 PM on September 29, 2009


Check out War Rocket Ajax. Pop culture + comics, with some very relevant and interesting guests thrown in every week.
posted by FarOutFreak at 3:10 AM on September 30, 2009


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