Help a Returning Noob Navigate the Graphic Novel/Comics Universe!
February 10, 2013 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm starting to get back into reading comics and graphic novels again after an absence of nearly 30 years. I'm hoping the cool kids of the Mefiverse can assist me in choosing some titles.

Some parameters:

Genres/Styles I'm Not Interested In:

- Superheroes. I find a lot of that stuff really silly and stunted. Possible exception for the amazing Watchmen. Don't care about Batman, etc.

- Anime/Manga/etc.

Titles I Used to Love When I Started Collecting Back in the 80's:
- Nexus
- Swamp Thing
- the original Judge Dredd series
- the Steven comic (the little guy with the fedora who's constantly pissed off)

Titles I've Seen Recently That I Liked:
- the Fables series
- The Last Man series
- Locke & Key
- Mouse Guard (love Mouse Guard!)
- Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer
- Morning Glories
- Transmetropolitan

Titles I've Seen Recently That I Didn't Like Much At All:
- The Boys series or Preacher, etc. (comics that feature monster doses of violence/gaudy sex/etc. at the expense of telling a story.)


Okay, that's about it. Release the hounds!
posted by Lipstick Thespian to Media & Arts (28 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
The Unwritten is what you want, I think.
posted by gerryblog at 6:37 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh, and it's only a twelve-issue series, but consider Daytrippers as well.
posted by gerryblog at 6:38 PM on February 10, 2013

Best answer: Secret History. Posits a family of immortals--not superheroes, mind you--that have been behind most of the major and several minor world historical events. Published by Archaia, same outfit that puts out Mouse Guard. Translated from the original French.

Anything by Joe Sacco. This stuff is non-fiction. He's a journalist, and his books relate his experiences in the West Bank, Gaza, and Bosnia.
posted by valkyryn at 6:48 PM on February 10, 2013

You should be reading Saga (as should everyone). Nothing else by Brian K. Vaughan has every grabbed me (I've tried his work multiple times) but I love this one. Fiona Staples' art is gorgeous and I think it just keeps getting better. I am usually not like this with comics -- I know comics are a matter of personal taste -- but I recommend this to just about everyone. It's one of the only comics I make sure to read every single month (the others are the Adventure Time comics).

Image has definitely been publishing a lot of stuff you'd probably enjoy lately (some of it seems a little hit or miss to me, though).

More standalone books that series, but you may also dig a lot of what Archaia is publishing right now. I wouldn't say it's necessarily at all like Little Nemo, but you may like Return of the Dapper Men.

There's plenty more by Ben Katchor if you want to explore there. Without knowing what you liked about that, I hesitate to recommend much along those lines but I'd be happy to try to do so.
posted by darksong at 6:48 PM on February 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Asterios Polyp
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:59 PM on February 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Okay, response roundup! :) -

- I like Joe Sacco also but am not always in the mood for straight-up nonfiction in graphic novel form.

- I've read the first Saga installment, and love the art and hate the writing. Could be an age thing - all I kept thinking was that baby is toast after 10 minutes in this universe. Period.

- Asterios Polyp: loved it.

- What I loved about JK Real Estate Photographer was the odd, but endearing and strange stories and especially the wonderful art. Just something really singular about it, almost haiku-like in the way that the content is delivered. One of my all-time favorite comics.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:05 PM on February 10, 2013


Try Grant Morrison's miniseries Joe The Barbarian.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:18 PM on February 10, 2013

I enjoyed The Maxx many years ago, which I was introduced to via the surprisingly good animated version that used to run on MTV's Oddities back in the day. It takes the superhero format (which I have no interest in either) and turns it inside out, with a healthy dose of psychopathology and existentialism.

I would also recommend the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman.
posted by dephlogisticated at 7:19 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Try The Goon, who's like Hellboy if he lived in the world of a Tom Waits song.
Scott Pilgrim is also amazing.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 7:19 PM on February 10, 2013

Ditto The Unwritten. You can get started with several collected volumes that are out there.
posted by limeonaire at 7:20 PM on February 10, 2013

Response by poster: Ah yes, Sandman....I have lost SO MANY hours to this series. NOTHING LIKE IT.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:30 PM on February 10, 2013

If you like Transmetropolitan, you might enjoy Chew. I think that Elephantmen's art and writing would likely appeal to you based on your likes. I have been enjoying a newer series called Revival centered around a single town where the dead came back to life, but only in that one town.
posted by slavlin at 7:35 PM on February 10, 2013

If you liked Y: The Last Man, then I think you'll like Ex Machina, which is written by the same author, Brian K. Vaughn.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:55 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Charlemagne mentioned Hellboy in passing, which you should also check out if you haven't. And if that's a direction you like, also try Courtney Crumrin

Maybe Finder which has incredibly detailed world building. Narratively it can meander, but that can make it feel more true-to-life sometimes.
posted by RobotHero at 9:05 PM on February 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't know if you'll find any of this relevant, but since my own reading list has so much over-lap with yours, I'll contribute the following, a little off the beaten path:

Dungeon by Joann Sfar, et al.

The Mourning Star by Kazimir Strzepek

Web comics:

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

by Tim Sievart

Erfworld by Rob Balder

And if you ever find anything, anywhere as awesome as Little Nemo, let the rest of us know. Meanwhile, I'm off to check out Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer. Sounds interesting.

And I know you said no manga, but Nausicaa transcends classification and is easily my top recommendation for anyone looking for a good --long-- graphic novel. It's the Little Nemo of manga, as it were.
posted by zueod at 10:15 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've recommended it before, I will recommend it again, Finder. It's scifi for grown ups.

Also I think you may like Castle Waiting, if you like fables. This is a much more straight take on the "what it would be like to live in a world where all the fables are real", but it's charming and the only comic I know filled with transvestite bearded nuns.

Lastly, I'd like to put plugs in for Shutterbug Follies and Berlin.
posted by bswinburn at 11:02 PM on February 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Dear Comics Lovers on Metafilter: I do so very much appreciate all of this. Keep 'em coming. Go nuts. First one's free.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:04 AM on February 11, 2013

Best answer: Shawn Tan's work - The Arrival (wordless and amazing), Tales From Outer Suburbia (quick but cute)

Lynda Barry's 100 Demons

Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise

Ellis & Cassaday's Planetary - sure it's superhero-like, but how can you resist a series with the tag-line "Archaeologists of the Impossible!"

Matt Kindt's WWII spy drama "Superspy."
posted by canine epigram at 6:25 AM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: Zueod - Nimona and Erfworld have to be two of the greatest things I've ever read on the 'net.

Everyone in this thread - read them now. Especially Erfworld. The in-jokes are mind-blowing.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:08 AM on February 11, 2013

Best answer: You might like 100 Bullets, Blankets, I Killed Adolf Hitler, I Kill Giants, Forgetless, Wanted, Strangers in Paradise, 7 Psychopaths, Pride of Baghdad, Optic Nerve, or Whiteout

Ignore the film adaptations of some of these comics. 7 Psychopaths is unrelated to the film of the same name.

As for a superhero title, I thought Fantastic Four: Unstable Molecules was rather different. Not perfect, but a fine attempt.
posted by CarlRossi at 8:52 AM on February 11, 2013

Genres/Styles I'm Not Interested In:

- Anime/Manga/etc.

I have very similar tastes to you (my favourite North American comics are Sandman, Y: The Last Man, Watchmen, Books of Magic), and I've never been taken with mainstream manga.

But not all Japanese comics fall into the typical Manga styles and tropes. 20th Century Boys is just about one of the best comics I've ever read from any country - in both story, writing and art. Naoki Urasawa is especially talented when it comes to character art - not only have I never had to use hair styles to tell characters apart (as I have with some anime/manga), but his characters are recognizable from ages 10 through 40-something - and the emotions on their faces are so very real. The story is powerful and as sophisticated as any literary novel.

The other manga which really grabbed this non-manga fan was Ōoku: The Inner Chambers. The art in this series is not as original (it's very reminiscent of yaoi, aka pretty boys with pointy chins), but the story is very strong. I would recommend it to fans of Y: The Last Man as it deals with a similar situation (decimation of the male population and the fallout) in a similarly thoughtful manner.
posted by jb at 8:56 AM on February 11, 2013

Response by poster: oh, also? If I haven't mentioned it yet - Will Eisner is gorgeous work. I know that's like telling a physicist or a chemist that atoms are gorgeous, but I love the style of his work. Anything reminiscent of this will do.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 8:57 AM on February 11, 2013

Saga is also by Brian K. Vaughan. I was exposed to this via The Comic Shack #23 podcast.
posted by GurnB at 9:06 AM on February 11, 2013

Will Eisner, you say? Are you my secret twin?

First I'll second Castle Waiting [1] [2]--emphatically and enthusiastically, as in how did I not include that?

If you like Mr. Eisner and have not checked out Walt Kelley, now's the time. Despite the vastly different subject matter, the two mens' pens clearly drew from the same ink well. Fantagraphics has once again come to the rescue by issuing two stunning volumes of his work. They very much deserve shelf space next to your McCay collection.[1] [2]

In the same vein, I'll add my recommendation for the Popeye collections. E. C. Segar is a personal god, so this recommendation might carry a certain bias.

And something I haven't read, but which fits a lot of your criteria: The Goon. Strongly influenced by Eisner, and featuring an angry little dude in a fedora in addition to the eponymous hero, it might suit you very well.
posted by zueod at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2013

Best answer: Not new, but newly collected- Tove Jansson's Moomin strips.

Brecht Evens- The Wrong Place
posted by to recite so charmingly at 11:54 AM on February 11, 2013

Eddie Campbell's Bacchus.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:19 PM on February 11, 2013

Seconding The Maxx. It's a little weird but highly engrossing, not really about superheroes even if it might look like it at first - and god, there's a page in the fifth volume that makes me tear up just thinking about it.

And to add something that I'm surprised hasn't been mentioned yet, based on your reading preferences I think you definitely need to check out Jeff Smith's Bone if you haven't already.
posted by DingoMutt at 5:48 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I've found the first two episodes of Unwritten from the library today and I'm absolutely stunned by it - just an amazing combination of identity issues, depth of reading and that devastating underlying metaphor of Story Above All Else. Absolutely fantastic series.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:01 PM on February 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

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