Comics recommendations out of left field
August 17, 2016 2:49 PM   Subscribe

I have a weird relationship with comics: I don't read them very often, but I basically always love them when I do. I have $50 in store credit at my friendly local comic shop, which carries a wide selection. I'd love to hear your recommendations on what I should get with it.

Admittedly my tastes skew indie. I have read and enjoyed:
  • Bone
  • Blankets
  • Box Office Poison
  • The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For
  • Maus
  • Fun Home
  • Girl Genius through the 11th paperback
I just got Are You My Mother? and Hot Dog Taste Test.

I'm not opposed to reading more traditional comics, but I tend to avoid them because I'm wary of a huge commitment with tons of lore to catch up on and so on. (I do the same thing with long-running book series and TV shows.) I'm very open to reading something that has a clear end point and manageable length. Sandman and Watchmen are both on my radar, although I'm thinking it'd be just as easy to read them through the library. It seems better to spend the money on stuff that'd be harder to find.

I'm intentionally not saying anything else, because I'd love to hear suggestions that I wouldn't find on my own. What should I read? Thanks in advance.
posted by brett to Media & Arts (43 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Paper Girls.
posted by Sara C. at 2:56 PM on August 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I (and also my son) devoured Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 3:00 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

This One Summer, Uzumaki, Nimona, and Ms Marvel. All very different, all very good!
posted by sonmi at 3:02 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really enjoy Jason Lutes's Berlin. I think you'll find that the first volume stands alone really well.

Love and Rockets was a long-running comic that I cut my teeth on, so to speak - it covers a lot of territory but if you want stories that you can read without background, I recommend Poison River, The Death of Speedy or Chelo's Burden. Gosh, those are all so good....I lost a bunch of mine in a move and only have the big hardcover collections, but I really need to rebuy all the originals.

As a side note, since you can't get it except by ordering from the artist or reading it free online, if you like comics you should check out A Redtail's Dream. I was so impressed by it that I paid ninety American dollars for a paper version, and that is much out of character for me.
posted by Frowner at 3:03 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Was about to say Paper Girls.

Also Daytripper which I recommend to everyone always. A 10-issue complete story, visiting important day's in a character's life and imagining if he had died on that day.

Locke and Key. Joe Hill's fun haunted house story. Complete run is 10 trades or so.

And not that you wouldn't find it, but Hellboy in its entirety is a remarkable work. Try the Seed of Destruction trade and see if it takes. You will not be disappoint.
posted by Kafkaesque at 3:03 PM on August 17, 2016

Giant Days: slice of life, 3 women go to university in the UK. Sex, drugs, classes. Tone: meta, ironic, heartfelt.

Chiggers. Young girl goes to camp. Some people are mean to her. She's mean to some people. In groups, out groups, diseases. Tone: uncertain, hopeful, warm.
posted by signal at 3:04 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, totally seconding Giant Days. But also Epileptic.
posted by Frowner at 3:06 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Scott Pilgrim, which starts with Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life. (Warning: does contain Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Adorable all the same.)
posted by praemunire at 3:08 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really love Adrian Tomine's work, in particular Killing and Dying- a series of short, tragicomic vignettes centered around ordinary, flawed people. For example, one story centers around a woman who looks exactly like a famous porn star, and how the resemblance ends up affecting her relationships and her approach to love. Another centers on a stutterer's determination to become a comedian despite a parent's apprehension. It's a depressing read at times, but absolutely worth it.
posted by perplexion at 3:12 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Thieves & Kings is amazing but from what I remember kind of petered off, so maybe doesn't meet your "definite end" request.

I also really like Rutabaga. First volume is available free in B&W on the website, or in stores in color. Volume 2 is only in stores.
posted by curious nu at 3:19 PM on August 17, 2016

posted by vunder at 3:57 PM on August 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

I really enjoy Rutu Modan, especially Exit Wounds
posted by Ideal Impulse at 4:03 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have recently really loved Ms. Marvel (the Kamala Khan version) and it's a pretty short run.
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:23 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really love Nate Powell's work. I haven't read all of his most recent things but Sounds Of Your Name and Swallow Me Whole are excellent.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 4:31 PM on August 17, 2016

Please don't buy any of the "phone books" for Cerebus the Aardvark. Dave Sim got really strange while he was working on it, not to mention being massively misogynistic.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:33 PM on August 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Good choices above.

My choice would be Saga. SFnal but very good. Reminds me of Gaiman at his best.
posted by bonehead at 4:38 PM on August 17, 2016 [9 favorites]

Giant Days
Strong Female Protagonist
Nimona by Noelle Stephenson
The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks
Basewood by Alec Longstreth (and his enjoyable Phase Seven zine)
Tomboy by Liz Prince
Displacement, Relish, and An Age of License by Lucy Knisley
How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis
The Creepy Casefiles of Margo Maloo by Drew Weing

20th Century Boys is a big series, but fantastic.
posted by jillithd at 4:43 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Top 10
Ant Colony by Michael DeForge!
posted by sacchan at 4:46 PM on August 17, 2016

Strong female protagonist, even though its ongoing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:00 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another vote for Ant Colony. My brain hasn't been the same since.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 5:18 PM on August 17, 2016

Seconding Giant Days and also recommending John Allison's other series, Bad Machinery.
posted by MsMolly at 5:51 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Faith Erin Hicks' Friends with Boys is really good. I've never been disappointed by her, but that's a solid, contained story about friends and family, with a hard nugget of heartbreak at its core, but still endlessly human.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:12 PM on August 17, 2016

Seconds is cute with a solid story.

The creator of Blankets has a newish book out called Habibi. The art is great, but somehow I couldn't get into the story.

Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant? deals with elderly dying parents.

I like many of Guy Delisle's works. Shenzhen is his first graphic novel I think, but it feels quite raw, and I never could finish it. Pyongyang, however, was his major breakthrough, and it's great. Burma Chronicles and Jerusalem are fine. He has other shorter works.

Getting too lazy to link:
Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
The graphic novel adaptation of City of Glass also done by David Mazzucchelli and Paul Karasik
Jimmy Corrigan (although every time I read it, I get massively depressed) by Chris Ware
Building Stories also by Chris Ware
You should explore other stuff by Chris Ware. I LOVE his isometric art style
posted by curagea at 6:35 PM on August 17, 2016

I second Saga and Ms Marvel. I also love Bitch Planet (the feminist sci-fi women's prison comic you didn't know you needed).
posted by mjm101 at 6:45 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Lady Killer by Joelle Jones! 50s housewife who's secretly a cold-blooded contract killer, it's awesome.
posted by Tamanna at 6:49 PM on August 17, 2016

The Infinite Wait and Other Stories by Julia Wertz
posted by river99 at 6:58 PM on August 17, 2016

Came to favorite Saga recommendations, even though it's pretty well known and ongoing. Best thing in comics right now.
posted by anti social order at 7:03 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pick up collected volumes of The Unwritten, Sex Criminals, or Transmetropolitan.
posted by limeonaire at 7:33 PM on August 17, 2016

Strangers in Paradise.
posted by bunderful at 8:30 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Strangers in Paradise.
Brecht Evans, The Wrong Place.
posted by yesbut at 9:50 PM on August 17, 2016

Octopus Pie

The current run of Silver Surfer has both a rom-com and a fairy tale take on super heroes.

How about horror staved off by a group of heroic pets? Try Beasts of Burden.
posted by Eikonaut at 9:50 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're looking for something upbeat, thought provoking, sharply perceptive, and masterfully artistic, check out Calvin and Hobbes. (No history or saga to catch up on, either; you can jump in wherever and it immediately makes sense.)
posted by quiet_musings at 10:58 PM on August 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Saga is great: very often funny, but also poignant, sad, beautiful, epic. Also it has LYING CAT which everyone needs in their life.
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:50 PM on August 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

OK I'm trying to divide your stuff preferences into categories, bear with me.

-Pyongyang (and Delisle's other stuff)
-A Contract with God
-Epileptic by David B. (strongly suspect you'll like this)
-Phonogram: Singles' Club: Fictional characters, but writer admits it is highly autobiographical. Yes, this is volume 2. Volume 1 is weirder and way, way weaker so go there if you really like volume 2, and volume 2 is effectively stand-alone
-Daytripper: a man lives out various paths of his life (fictional character)
-Asterios Polyp (fictional character)

I can't call these biographical, but reminiscent of Blankets
-Black Hole by Charles Burns. Uh, read a synopsis first.
-Habibi by guy who wrote Blankets; fictional characters.

Feminist and/or featuring women and/or queer folk, all without pre-existing lore
-Bitch Planet: sci-fi femsploitation (ongoing, I think)
-Saga: sci-fi Romeo & Juliet, with a baby instead of a kiss (ongoing)
-Sex Criminals: people whose sex stop time deal with awkwardness of life (especially volume one, it's just so poignant and sweet then) (ongoing)
-Paper Girls: sci-fi newspaper route (ongoing)
-Giant Days: three women try to support each other through their time in university (ongoing)
-Pretty Deadly: oral mythology as comic book. Read a sample? (ongoing, I think? But slooow)
-Velvet: Ms. Moneypenny is going to wreck you (ongoing)
-Lumberjanes: an all-girls summer camp goes supernatural. And quite queer. (ongoing)
-Nimona: very light, a shapeshifter becomes the assistant villain (finished)
-The Wicked and the Divine: Read a sample if you can; quite polarizing and ongoing, but with a clear end (the characters are all supposed to die within 2 in-universe years).

If you change your mind and want to try superhero-type stuff without the burden of lore
-Ms. Marvel: in Marvel-verse, but a new character (ongoing, but new)
-Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: in Marvel-verse but no knowledge of Marvel-verse is needed (all existing characters are introduced with an in-universe collectible card explaining their shtick). North & Henderson; also feminist & queer (ongoing, but new)
-Fraction, Aja, Hollingsworth and Wu's run on Hawkeye (Marvel-verse), starting with My Life As a Weapon. It's as 'indie-esque' as a Big 2 comic gets, with an entire issue seen through the eyes of a dog. Helps if you know the really big Marvel characters like Iron Man, but mostly stand-alone. (finished)
-The Luna Brothers' stuff is "superheroes, with a 'but...'". So: Ultra is about superheroes as celebrities. Jon Luna did something without Jo, Alex + Ada, which is "companion cyborg with a 'but...'" (both are finished)
-Atomic Robo: a robot with a heart of gold. Also, a heart of plutonium. (ongoing)
-Lazarus: arch-capitalist dystopian future, and the protag is an unkillable soldier for her family. (ongoing)
-Zero: this series is very weird and deliberately jumps around and messes with you. Artist changes every issue; colourist (Jordie Bellaire) and writer (Kot) stay the same. (finished)
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:24 AM on August 18, 2016 [7 favorites]

Rat Queens! It's so, so good. Also, n'thing the recommendation of Bitch Planet.
posted by neushoorn at 5:23 AM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Wow, you could be me when it comes to comics! I second (or third?) Persepolis and Nimona, as well as anything by Brian Lee O'Malley (Seconds and Lost at Sea, in addition to Scott Pilgrim) and Julia Wertz (all of her work is great). Also recommend Fred Chao's Johnny Hiro series, and Lucy Knisley, especially Relish.
posted by ferret branca at 7:51 AM on August 18, 2016

Anything by Dan Clowes. You can probably find Ghost World at your library but maybe not David Boring which is great and his latest, Prudence which also great. Actually everything that he does is great.
If you're in the mood for some euro SF I recommend Aama by Frederik Peters.
posted by SageLeVoid at 8:08 AM on August 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Small Press Expo Announces 2016 Ignatz Award Nominees

Just going down the list, I have a TON to add to my To-Read list, but those I *have* read and highly recommend are:
  • Beyond: The Queer Sci Fi and Fantasy Anthology edited by Sfé R. Monster and Taneka Stotts
  • Kevin Budnik for Handbook
  • Cartozia Tales edited by Isaac Cates
  • A Small Revolution by Samantha Leriche-Gionet (AKA “Boum”)

posted by jillithd at 12:07 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Lots of my favorites upthread!

Agreed that Habibi is much more difficult to get into than Blankets - very smart and brilliantly conceived, but not nearly as moving and intimate/authentic as Blankets.

Warning regarding Preacher: When I read it 15 years ago, I liked a lot of the general concept, but on re-read much of it is pretty horrible and juvenile, especially in its treatment of gay and queer people/sex: invariably played for laughs, as humiliation for a villain, or to demonstrate who the baddies are.

Joe the Barbarian: one of my favorite stand-alone comics, by Grant Morrison. Love the art (Sean Murphy), love the concept and execution (alternates between reality, memory, and the ... hallucinogenic, toy-infused dreams of a teen in distress.)
posted by verschollen at 4:32 PM on August 18, 2016

Response by poster: I wasn't expecting so much response! Many thanks to you all. It'll take me a little bit to sift through these, but I'm looking forward to checking some of them out!
posted by brett at 6:41 PM on August 18, 2016

I am reading or have read most of the non-autobiographical stuff flibbertigibbet listed above. That is basically the definitive list of comics you should peruse, along with neushoorn's recommendations of Rat Queens.

If you read on public transit, be mindful that many of these contain occasional-to-frequent adult content, which you may or may not be comfortable reading next to nosy strangers.
posted by Owlcat at 6:45 PM on August 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Of the stuff I've read on your list, we have very similar tastes, except I wasn't too fond of Blankets and read more superhero stuff. Lots of good suggestions so far, and here are a few more:

- American Born Chinese by Gene Yuen Lang: A triptych narrative that blends the/a Chinese-American experience with mythology. I've heard Yang's Boxers and Saints is even better, but I haven't read it yet!

- Hark, A Vagrant! and Step Aside, Pops!: collections of Kate Beaton's rightfully-beloved, deeply nerdy webcomic (hard to describe, but some samples: Strong Female Characters, Come Dream with Me Tonight).

- Mouse Guard, by David Petersen (with contributions from others). Um, medieval fantasy with mice. Two volumes of the "main" storyline, a prequel, and a couple of anthology volumes.

- The Wicked + the Divine (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie et al). Every 90 years, a pantheon of gods reincarnates into the bodies of normal people, granting them superpowers. Two years later they die. In this cycle, they're pop stars. Ongoing, but with a clearly-defined end point -- supposedly we just hit the halfway mark this week.
Gillen+McKelvie are frequent collaborators; their other stuff includes the above-recced Phonogram and Young Avengers vol II (also great! does not require reading vol I.)

- Sub-Mariner: The Depths (Peter Milligan, Esad Ribic et al). One of the oldest superheroes reimagined as an undersea horror character. It's really, really effective.

- Nthing Ms. Marvel and Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, also nthing the caveat that they're both ongoing. In the same category is the bizarrely underrated Silk, which balances your usual superhero shenanigans with one of the best, most normalized depictions of mental illness and trauma recovery I've seen in pop culture -- and starring an Asian American woman.
posted by bettafish at 6:57 PM on August 18, 2016

Along the lines of Bone, skewed more for kids, is the new webcomic Isle of Elsi which is gorgeous and fun and clever.
posted by jillithd at 7:30 AM on August 19, 2016

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