Which graphic novels should I read?
January 22, 2011 7:10 PM   Subscribe

I've decided I love graphic novels. What should I read next?

I have six graphic novels right now that I just bought. It's a diverse array:

Feynman by Ottaviani and Myrick: boring, but I like that it was about physics
Drinking at the Movies by Julia Wertz: really funny, though it got a little too Family Guy-ish at times.
Carnet de Voyage by Craig Thompson: depressing
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less by Sarah Glidden: Pretty awesome. I like any books about Israel/Judaism that don't have to do with the Holocaust.
Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: really depressing...but interesting, though I got lost at times, it being more of a diatribe than a story.
The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey by Steve Sheinkin: also really, really funny.
(I also had to read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel for a class, which I found way too "Look at me! I'm making a point!" for me.)

You may not have heard of any of these, but I guess I'm looking for graphic novels (comic books? big comic books?) with strong lead characters, preferably girls (I need role models! Even if they come from books...) Not political diatribes, but not too teenage-boy either. I think I prefer humorous to serious. I really don't care about the artwork (In fact, I'd prefer more words, less action). Historical or otherwise educational graphic novels would be great, but not necessary. Books with Jewish characters that aren't about the Holocaust would be awesome, too.

Oh, and preferably...er, cheaply priced and findable on Amazon.
posted by lhude sing cuccu to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (66 answers total) 86 users marked this as a favorite
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

For girls? Strangers In Paradise. I hear Love and Rockets is pretty good, though I haven't read them. I also liked Fray, but then again, I'm a Whedonite.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:18 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

The art is pretty much the point, to my mind, but YMMV. Even though you're not interested in the Holocaust, no serious fan of graphic novels can ignore Maus.

I'm also very fond of The Ring of the Nieblung by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane.

I've never seen it in English, but Proust in graphic novel form is wonderful.

Buffy is fun in graphic novels, too.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:19 PM on January 22, 2011

I enjoyed Rapunzel's Revenge, which is a retelling of Rapunzel set in the old west.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 7:30 PM on January 22, 2011

The art is pretty much the point, to my mind, but YMMV.

Maybe, but it makes me feel bad about myself, since I'm a bad artist. This is the same reason I don't like to read about people who are too successful...
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 7:36 PM on January 22, 2011

I came here to say the Sandman, so I second that. Lots of female role models, but it's dark and horrifying at parts and spine-tingling and amazing at others, sometimes within a couple of pages. If you're not really into fantasy, though, I don't know how you would like it, and it certainly isn't light-hearted. Maybe you would like Death: the High Price of Living? If you want to see if you like it, lots of comic stores and a handful of used bookstores have cheap copies of #50, Ramadan, because it was one of the best-selling comics of all time. It's outside of the normal continuity, too, and if you do decide to read it, start somewhere towards the middle.

Lynda Barry sounds like she would fit perfectly, but I haven't read many of her graphic novels so I don't know which would be best. What It Is was fantastic, though, but more of a weirdo book of collages with comics interspersed.
posted by wayland at 7:36 PM on January 22, 2011

Oh, you'll love The Rabbi's Cat by Joann Sfar.
posted by gnutron at 7:38 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

You might like Persepolis.
posted by mellifluous at 7:49 PM on January 22, 2011

Damnit, you mentioned Persepolis, I just missed it. Sorry!
posted by mellifluous at 7:50 PM on January 22, 2011

Hereville could more or less have been designed to order to meet your specifications.
posted by craichead at 7:55 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

As far as Ring of the Niebelung goes, I think the 2 volume P. Craig Russell version is way better. Better art, story is less compressed, costume design doesn't look like 1970s space opera.

Fables is excellent. At some points it is overtly a metaphor for the political/military situation of Israel.

Girl Genius is, well, genius. And available for free on the web!
posted by Adridne at 8:06 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My all-time fave is Bhester brown's examinations of Canadian Hero/Anti-hero's Louis Riel's mental illness but everything he has done is lovely too. I read a lot of Drawn and Quarterly's catalogue, flip through and see if anything grabs you (Make me a woman by Vanessa Davis looks especially up your alley).
posted by saucysault at 8:10 PM on January 22, 2011

A few non-fictiony ones to check out (note, these are mostly not funny and don't have female main characters):

Logicomix is about Bertrand Russell and other major figures in foundations of logic. I don't agree with one of its central claims (that the search for logical rigor leads to, or must be intertwined with, madness) but it's a good read anyway.

Jim Ottaviani (one of your Feynman authors) has a whole series of science-based graphic novels - rival paleontologists steal each other's sample bones in the late 19th c! He has at least one on women in science too.

Larry Gonick has written a multi-volume Cartoon History of the Universe which is very fun. He also has a bunch of science topics as well. Funny.

Chester Brown has a biography of Louis Riel (a Canadian historical figure) which is great, if you're into history.

Action Philosophers! seems cute, I haven't read it.

and on a different note:
The Golem's Mighty Swing is about a traveling Jewish baseball team in 1920s c America.

Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is a novel, not a graphic novel, about two Jewish cartoonists making superhero comics around and after WWII. (Just thought I would mention it, since it might be of interest)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:11 PM on January 22, 2011

Ooo! How bout Y: The Last Man? Other than Yuri, it's all women.. It's a great story too...
posted by Glendale at 8:13 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

argh, That should have read Chester Brown. See their other artists here.
posted by saucysault at 8:16 PM on January 22, 2011

Asterios Polyp is pretty amazing.
posted by ldthomps at 8:23 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Sandman is a great recommendation. Ghost World might also be up your alley. Gunnerkrigg Court is worth a look (it's starting to be published in physical format), though it's still being written (you seem to be looking for more self-contained/complete works?)
posted by kagredon at 8:28 PM on January 22, 2011

I'm going to nth Strangers in Paradise, Fable (loves it. on-going though I think) Maus and Sandman.

Also, V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Mr. Punch, and Signal to Noise for plain good reading. If you like classic horror, check out Swamp Thing and Hellblazer. Blade of the Immortal, though categorized under "manga" is more of a graphic novel, both in writing and art.
posted by Sallysings at 8:35 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I cannot believe that I am the first to suggest Will Eisner's A Contract With God.

It's not only the first "graphic novel", it's also a story about a Jewish family in the Bronx in the 1920s and 1930s. It's a fundamental piece of comic art. It's excellent.

Oh, and you should also read Bone, because it will make you happy and then sad and then happy again because it is an amazing work of comic art storytelling that anyone interested in the medium should read.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:37 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Will Eisner's Last Day in Vietnam.

How did you get a copy of Ottaviani's Feynman? He's a hero of mine (Feynman) but Amazon says the book isn't available yet.
posted by thewestinggame at 8:42 PM on January 22, 2011

Oh, and if you want historical stuff and have a taste for current events, read everything by Joe Sacco.

Warning: they're not humorous.

It's hard-nosed reporting in the form of graphic novels. Joe Sacco will win a Pulitzer Prize someday. I will wager money on this.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:43 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Maybe I Kill Giants?
posted by Zoyashka at 8:45 PM on January 22, 2011

How did you get a copy of Ottaviani's Feynman? He's a hero of mine (Feynman) but Amazon says the book isn't available yet.

Hm, that's weird. I actually found it at The Strand when I was visiting New York. Maybe they get books first or something.

These suggestions are great so far. Hereville sounds awesome!
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 8:46 PM on January 22, 2011

Try some of Chester Brown's (e.g.: Louis Riel, The Playboy, I Never Really Liked You, etc.) and Adrian Tomine's (Ghost World, etc.) works. Most of them are amazing.

American Born Chinese is also an interesting one.

Batman: The Killing Joke

And there is this mini-series called Gotham Central which I immensely liked.

Also, Fun Home
posted by easilyconfused at 9:04 PM on January 22, 2011

Another vote for Bone. Amazing stuff, fits many of your preferences. That should be high on your list.

I Kill Giants is also close to what you're asking for. It has definite flaws, but most graphic novels do. (The more art forms you introduce into telling a story, the more mistakes you can make...) It's worth reading, if not buying.
posted by voltairemodern at 9:11 PM on January 22, 2011

Oops, just noticed you mentioned Fun Home already, just scratch that.
posted by easilyconfused at 9:15 PM on January 22, 2011

Another vote for the excellent Logicomix. Maus and Sandman are canonical, and must-reads for any serious graphic novel reader.

Also, check out the work of Craig Thomson - Blankets is a remarkably good coming-of-age graphic novel that is both touching and endearing without any teenage-boy vibes.
posted by rahulrg at 9:18 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

You should read Maus.
It is the only Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel.
posted by Flood at 9:30 PM on January 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Strong female leads? Can't go wrong with Castle Waiting.

Finder by Carla Speed McNeil doesn't have a strong female lead, but is filled with strong female characters and several of the story arcs have female leads. It also has the benefit of being some of the best science fiction being writen today. Now that I think about it, I'd be surprised if McNeil wasn't a bit inspired by Maureen McHugh; their take on the future seems to have a lot in common thematically. Both worlds are completely unafraid to offer up some time line that gets us "From here to there", and instead has the people just inhabiting the world, uninterested in the past in the same way most people of today don't really know or care about the Merovingian empire. I'll have to ask Ms. McNeil if I ever see her at another comic convention.
posted by bswinburn at 9:49 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend Daniel Clowes's latest, Wilson. It's dark but hilarious; Amazon's review describes it as "like Garfield, say, if Jon were a foul-mouthed incipient felon".
posted by arianell at 9:50 PM on January 22, 2011

Love and Rockets is great.

Bite Me! is online, free, and hilarious. Dylan Meconis' other comic, Family Man, is more serious but also quite good. Enlightenment theology and werewolves!

Dicebox. Also online. Migrant workers in space, by Jenn Manley Lee.

Digger, by Ursula Vernon, available online and in print. Very much fits the "strong female character" requirement, lots of humor in with the adventure.

Bone, by Jeff Smith. Epic slapstick fantasy, available just about everywhere.
posted by VelveteenBabbitt at 9:54 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I second Blankets and Maus.

For humor, I liked Same Difference and Other Stories by Derek Kirk Kim.
posted by catburger at 10:03 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Definitely take a look at Rutu Modan's Exit Wounds.

I really want to suggest Rob Walton's Ragmop, but it's a) rather political and b) apparently not easily findable on Amazon.
posted by Bigfoot Mandala at 10:16 PM on January 22, 2011

Cancer Vixen
posted by brujita at 10:26 PM on January 22, 2011

Vanessa Davis does comics that are intelligent but lighthearted and funny. Also: Judaism and girls.

You might really enjoy
Love and Rockets. Start with one of the big hardcover "Locas" anthologies that came out recently.

I'm not normally an Alan Moore fan but From Hell is a historical thriller that had me on the edge of my seat.

This list of Ignatz Award winners and nominees is also a good place to start.
posted by milk white peacock at 10:30 PM on January 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Underground is pretty good. The authors actually let you download the entire comic on their website for free. There's also a donation button if you want to send them money.

Zot! is a strange mix of the wonderful and the mundane. I like it.
posted by Qberting at 11:19 PM on January 22, 2011

"La Perdida" meets most of your criteria.

Absolutely anything by Will Eisner fits the "Jewish focus" criteria, and he's one of the greatest ever to write and draw, besides.

If you enjoyed Carnet du Voyage, you should really read "Blankets", by the same author. Haven't read that in years but remember it fondly.

"Palestine" by Joe Sacco is a great read, although it's very depressing and political (in a way that's unfriendly to all concerned).

I just read "Paul Moves Out", which is a very slight little book, but kinda great. Might be too 'teenaged boyish' though. I also love "Get A Life", while I'm talking French comics.

Other than that, you can always pick up "Best American Comics" anthologies ($6 on Amazon), or back issues of "Drawn & Quarterly" (pretty easy to find at libraries in my experience). Those are a great way to find a few authors you might like. McSweeney's issue #13 ($6.50 used) is also a great sampler, full of great material.
posted by zvs at 11:24 PM on January 22, 2011

Off the top of my head, books I have not seen mentioned yet that you might try include Shutterbug Follies, Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms (a manga with 2 related stories; note that the first one is sad but worth it) , and One Hundred Demons.

For something different, I urge you to give a wordless book with absolutely wonderful artwork a try - The Arrival by Shaun Tan.

Note to thewestinggame - you will like Feynman. My husband got an advance copy and it is great.
posted by gudrun at 11:45 PM on January 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have pretty much the same opinions as you do on the titles you mention. (Except for Persepolis. I quite liked that.) Fables I would avoid for now, as it doesn't get going until a few trades in. (Also the treatment of female characters in that series gets...weird.) Maus is a Holocaust book, so maybe hold off on that as well. Logicomix is educational but a very poorly told story and I ended up hating the book completely by the end, despite the intriguing concepts within it. (Although, I don't know, it might make you feel better as an artist.)

For a comic that's educational and word-heavy I'd pick up the recently released Evolution. The "Frequently Bought Together" section on that page has two other titles I would suggest, as well. LobsterMitten's comment is absolutely spot on, I think. I would also suggest Orbiter by Warren Ellis and Colleen Doran. It's basically a sciency love letter about space exploration and bereft of Ellis's usual cynicism.

On a less educational note: Y: The Last Man is good. Runaways volumes 1 through 3 (or the first hardcover) is a really good buy. Strangers In Paradise, too, but try volume 2 or 3 to begin with, and only try one to see if you like it. I Kill Giants is a cute suggestion and its first issue can be picked up for only a dollar. Best American Comics is a great suggestion and the latest iteration (2010) can be picked up for a song.

Sandman is just as good as everyone says it is, but it's a huge investment, as you'll want to tear through the whole series once you start, so maybe save that for a rainy day? There are lots of good standalone suggestions in this thread.

How did you get a copy of Ottaviani's Feynman? He's a hero of mine (Feynman) but Amazon says the book isn't available yet.

Promo copies are done and being circulated (it's not a big enough title to get embargoed) so some of those end their journey at The Strand.
posted by greenland at 12:13 AM on January 23, 2011

I hear Love and Rockets is pretty good, though I haven't read them.

I find them a bit uneven, but they're generally pretty good.

I'll nth anything by Joe Sacco, who is a very good, very humane comics journalist.

Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For is obviously women-centric, although you might find it a bit of a slog to get up to speed with, and is perhaps more political than you'd like, but also very funny and warm. Her autobiographical The Fun House is a very, very good slice of life piece.

I say Stuck Rubber Baby in all these threads because it's wonderful.

J M DeMattias's Moonshadow is a wonderfully poetic, lyrical, tragic, surrealist coming-of-age story; the art is perhaps in violation of your rule, given it's impressionist watercolours...

Rick Geary does these wonderful, dark-humoured little non-fiction pieces like "The Borden Tragedy" or "Anthology of Victorian Murder".

For light escapism you could try finding a collection of Alan Moore's "Halo Jones" stories, which are centred around a female protagonist and bloody good fun.

Bryan Talbot's "One Bad Rat" is a very well-done story with a female protagonist, but is centered around her sexual abuse.
posted by rodgerd at 1:17 AM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Alan’s War: The Memories of G.I. Alan Cope (nonfiction)
by Emmanuel Guibert

Same Difference & Other Stories
by Derek Kirk Kim

Burma Chronicles, and
Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China (all nonfiction)
by Guy Delisle

by Jeff Smith
posted by blueberry at 2:19 AM on January 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Looks like at least the first of Joann Sfar's Klezmer books has been translated, too.

The Rabbi's Cat
is inspired by one side of his family, Algerian Jews; Klezmer is inspired by the other, who came from the Ukraine. My feeling is that The Rabbi's Cat tails off pretty badly--the first one is wonderful and the next two are also very good, but then less so. And I suspect that the reason for this is that the Klezmer books were taking up all his energy: they're brilliant. He seems to have paused after the third one, though, maybe because he's now directing films as well.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 2:30 AM on January 23, 2011

Strong female lead: try Kiki.
posted by wolfr at 2:53 AM on January 23, 2011

You might enjoy Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan. The protagonist, Spider Jerusalem, is a far-future caricature of Hunter S. Thompson, and his sidekicks the Filthy Assistants would both constitute strong female role models in their own ways.
posted by chmmr at 2:56 AM on January 23, 2011

Aside from being the best graphic novel ever, and like no Batman story that came before it, Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns features a strong female character in Carrie Kelly, the new Robin.

seriously, don't let the fact that it's about Batman fool you. It's a phenomenal piece of storytelling.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:05 AM on January 23, 2011

Anything by Julie Doucet and Gabrielle Bell. I also liked Blankets by Craig Thompson. Stuff by Daniel Clowes,
posted by analog at 7:43 AM on January 23, 2011

oops, pressed post too soon - works by Daniel Clowes and Seth are also good.
posted by analog at 7:46 AM on January 23, 2011

Also - try reading this series, it might give you a good idea about what you might like.
posted by analog at 7:51 AM on January 23, 2011

I've heard good things about Ariel Schrag.
posted by Chenko at 8:11 AM on January 23, 2011

Also check out Miss Lasko-Gross. While Phoebe Gloeckner's work is a little more harrowing, she's amazing.

As others have said, the 2010 Best American Comics is a good place to start (I like that one over previous volumes -- better diversity of creators & subject matter).

Julia Wertz also edited an anthology called I Saw You, which came out a couple of years ago. It's comics based on Missed Connections posts on Craigslist. It's mostly lighthearted but has a good selection of creators. It may be worth a read.

I also love Carol Tyler. She's an amazing artist, smart and funny.

In the not-exactly-but-might-be-close category, is Megan Kelso and Jen Wang's Koko Be Good.
posted by darksong at 8:44 AM on January 23, 2011

At the risk of self-promotion, you could read the one I made a couple years ago: The Hipless Boy, by Sully.
posted by Sully at 11:06 AM on January 23, 2011

Books with Jewish characters that aren't about the Holocaust would be awesome, too.

James Sturm's Market Day is one of my favorite graphic novels from last year.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 1:50 PM on January 23, 2011

Nthing Sandman. The whole series is wonderful and I highly recommend starting from the beginning and powering through, but almost every volume stands pretty well on its own.

Given your stated desire to read non-Holocaust Judaism material (though Maus is amazing), I cannot believe no one has recommended Robert Crumb's Genesis. I learned more about the Old Testament from that than anything I've ever read. It was incredible. I hope he works long enough to do Exodus too.
posted by kostia at 2:04 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing V for Vendetta (for strong characters), Alan's War (although this is more about the art for me: checkout this video on how it is made) and Maus, From Hell and A People's History of American Empire (for the historical perspective).
posted by caelum at 3:45 PM on January 23, 2011

If you're just starting to read comics, definitely read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics. It's over 15 years old now and some of the cultural points are outdated (comics have changed significantly). However, the book will introduce you to the formal aspects of comics you might gloss over as a new reader. That you said you're not interested in the artwork of comics tells me this book is essential reading. The visual aspects and verbal aspects of comics are not mutually exclusive. Understanding Comics does a nice job teaching it.

You may like Jaime Hernandez's work. His Locas series is about hispanic women living in Southern California. It's a massive series that's been running for over 25 years, so it's unclear where to start. If you go to the Fantagraphics website they go over how to get into the series.

It's about the Holocaust, but Maus is such a huge influence on comics - it's been lauded for years and does deserve it - that it's still worth reading.

Not a graphic novel, but you'll like Kate Beaton's humor webcomics about history and herself.

Recommended above, but Julie Doucet and Gabrielle Bell are also right up your alley (not to say they are the similar beyond being female creators). Doucet's New York Diaries is superb.

Finally, I always recommend Ivan Brunneti's Anthology of Graphic Fiction (both volumes) to anyone who has just begun to read comics. It's an excellent sampling of the "alternative" side of the medium(although both books are dominated by men, but the industry is still predominantly a boy's club).
posted by bittermensch at 7:55 PM on January 23, 2011

Nthing the Hernandez Brothers as authors you might check out. Palomar is my favorite Hernandez anthology - if you like Marquez, get this collection. Y - The Last Man for another option. For old school, try the Maxx. And yeah, Sandman is great.
posted by chuke at 7:56 PM on January 23, 2011

Posy Simmonds' Gemma Bovery and Tamara Drewe (*don't* see the movie first!)
posted by Bwithh at 8:39 PM on January 23, 2011

oh, everyone should read Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan (I'm surprised it hasn't been mentioned yet) and this will suit your interests in historical and literary graphic novels.
posted by Bwithh at 8:42 PM on January 23, 2011

plus I forgot to say Simmonds' graphic novels have a high word to picture ratio, which you asked for... (sorry, tired and failed to consolidate my comments into one...)
posted by Bwithh at 8:47 PM on January 23, 2011

Oh, yes, coming back to add enthusiastic seconds and thirds to Jimmy Corrigan, Best American Comics (though the Gaiman-edited 2010 edition is kind of inaccessible), and both volumes of An Anthology of Graphic Fiction.

Which reminds me, seek out the Chris Ware-edited Issue 13 of McSweeney's, for it is lovely.

And Alison Bechdel's most-known work, Dykes to Watch Out For, isn't up my alley (I appreciate it but don't love it), but her autobiographical Fun Home is terrific.
posted by kostia at 10:19 PM on January 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I missed the mention of Fun Home in your question. Forget I said anything there!
posted by kostia at 10:22 PM on January 23, 2011

Oh my god Yotsuba&!. It's about a little girl who moves suburban Japan (it's written by a Japanese person, natch) who basically comes from "to the left" (when asked about her previous home) and is just a little odd, but it's highly endearing and extremely hilarious (like Calvin & Hobbes minus any cynicism and without the visualization of imagination). You can check out a free fan-translated version at koiwai.biz if you're interested in seeing it before buying any. It's not technically a "graphic novel" so much as a running long-form comic series, but it's amazing anyway.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:01 AM on January 24, 2011

American Splendor
posted by sabh at 6:49 AM on January 24, 2011

Whiteout is a fantastic book (just two short complete novels out). DO NOT bother with the movie. Queen and Country is also related and fantastic. Both are driven by very strong female leads that kick ass with great writing. Worth checking out.
posted by xtine at 10:47 AM on January 24, 2011

A little different then what you're thinking probably, but I loved the 9/11 Report Graphic Novel, and it's a cool artifact to have from this time period.
posted by lunit at 7:06 AM on January 27, 2011

comics about Judaism/Israel but not about the Holocaust - Rutu Modan has 2 lovely books called:

also cartoonist Leela Corman is coming out with a new graphic novel, Unterzakhn, probably in the next year or so.

AYA, AYA OF YOP CITY, THE SECRETS COME OUT all by Marguerite Abouet follow the daily life of the main heroine, aya, living in the Ivory Coast in the 1970s. The Comics Girl blog reviews them.

Vanessa Davis is just coming out with her graphic novel, MAKE ME A WOMAN about growing up as a Jewish girl.

Also, Paul Pope's 100% and Heavy Liquid are fun books in a unique futuristic setting.
posted by Geameade at 1:46 PM on February 8, 2011

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