Good alternative comics suggestions?
November 12, 2006 3:47 PM   Subscribe

Let's say I want to read some comic books...

Like Warren Ellis style comic books or the walking dead or Alan Moore (I'll take suggestions for good Ellis and Moore books as well). In other words the stranger ones, not Marvel and DC so much, but also not I was a teenage indie rock moper, sci-fi and horror mostly. More like graphic novels, new and strange and good. Can you all make some suggestions? Thanks.
posted by Divine_Wino to Media & Arts (26 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
This is a pretty easy question and there have probably been Metafilter threads on this before. You're looking for a mainstream alternative style, typically practiced by British expat writers of Moore and Ellis's generation.

For Moore, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, and From Hell are the obvious selections. If you've read those, then hit up AMERICA'S BEST COMICS (ABC). Get all the TOP TEN volumes that he wrote (probably the best superhero comic of the last 10 years or so) and PROMETHEA, Moore's take on wonderwoman and his own magical theosophical beliefs. Other things to get right now: the new DC collection of Moore's DC superhero stories and his 1963 series on ebay, a faux-series of Kirby/Lee-esque Marvel satire comics.

After Moore, I think Grant Morrison has generally been recognized as the most innovative superhero writer since then. He's definitely the most creative, though not necessarily the most original. Start out with his DOOM PATROL trades which are slowly being rereleased; the first few (like, I would argue, animal man) but it gets a lot better. See if you can find FLEX MENTALLo online. Then get the NEW X-MEN omnibus, which collects like 1100 pages of his xmen run in one hardcover. It's worth it: people who like conservative superhero comics hate it; everyone else think it's one of the most innovative superhero comics of the last ten years. If you like Ellis, then you should get THE FILTH, a sort of awesome disgusting pastiche of exploitation porn culture, cog sci, etc. Morrison's magnum opus is THE INVISIBLES, which is fairly incredible but hasn't aged well.

Warren Ellis, I think, is very overrated. Aside from Transmetropolitan, check out Authority and Planetary.

If you like Warren Ellis, check out Garth Ennis, who is more gory and comedic and also more sentimental. I think he's a lot more human than Ellis. His two main works are his Hellblazer stories (the best hellblazer story doesn't even have john constantine in it) and PREACHER, which it sounds like you'd like.

Other people grouped with Ellis/Moore are Neil Gaiman (Sandman - an incredibly rich, brilliant but also very twee and inventive set of fables and horror stories); Jamie Delano (leftwing Moore lite: his first Hellblazer trade is great); Peter Milligan (the least auteurist and franchised of this bunch--it sounds like you'd like X-FORCE/X-STATIX, a parody of the x-men starring mutants on a reality tv show; also see SHADE THE CHANGING MAN).
posted by kensanway at 4:00 PM on November 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Also, you'd probably like ROBERT KIRKMAN. There was a Marvel series where every character was written as a zombie--check that out
posted by kensanway at 4:02 PM on November 12, 2006

The only graphic novel I've read, a gift given by my strange-indie-rock-sci-fi-moper friend, was The Filth, a confusing, hyper-violent, and twisted science fiction story about politics and metaphysics. This review sums it up very well. I highly recommend it if you enjoy blowing your mind from time to time.
posted by themadjuggler at 4:05 PM on November 12, 2006

Or, just follow kensanway's advice [I should've previewed!].
posted by themadjuggler at 4:07 PM on November 12, 2006

Let me second everything kensanway said, especially concerning the Authority/Planetary recommendation.

Let me follow-up by encouraging you to dig even furhter back in the Ellis catalouge and secure as much of his Stormwatch run as you can. The later issues are especially rare, but you'll be grateful for every copy you can put your hands on.
posted by EatTheWeek at 4:26 PM on November 12, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks very much. How about not superhero per se stuff?
posted by Divine_Wino at 4:48 PM on November 12, 2006

I just completed Kim Deitch's Shadowland, and it is superb, as is his earlier Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Really colossally good stuff.
I also like Johnny Ryan a lot, but your tastes may vary.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:00 PM on November 12, 2006

I'm always recommending for people to read Fables, Y: The Last Man, Preacher, and Powers.
I'd also second Top Ten/Promethea/Authority/Planetary/Sandman and pretty much everything else kensanway mentioned.
posted by gemmy at 5:05 PM on November 12, 2006

Recently I'm loving Y the Last Man and Ex Machina, both created by Brian k. Vaughan.
posted by darkripper at 5:13 PM on November 12, 2006

Here's an oldie - see if you can find some of the old Chuck Dixon Alien Legion series - it was published under Marvel's Epic line, if memory serves. Whup-ass space marine stories!
posted by EatTheWeek at 5:14 PM on November 12, 2006

posted by SPrintF at 5:28 PM on November 12, 2006

What kensaway said (Especially the Doom Patrol plug; a high water mark in American comics, IMO.) It sounds like UK creator/Vertigo style comics will be right up your alley.

I recommend Nil: A Land Beyond Belief. It may not be exactly what you're looking for, but it is strange and good. And cute!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:30 PM on November 12, 2006

Carla Speed McNeill's Finder is jammed full of new, weird ideas and cultures. It's an sprawling anthology series set in a technological city that is crawling with offbeat, well-developed characters.

Eric Powell's The Goon is a good balance of Ellis's rude humor and Morrison's odd situations. It has the flavor of a Bruce Campbell/Sam Raimi movie.

Oni Press puts out a wide range of non-superhero graphic novels. Several of their books have that teenage indie-rock mope vibe to them. I enjoyed The Coffin and Geisha, two well-written science fiction stories with perspectives on humanity from the outside.

Paul Pope is a science fiction writer/artist who is definitely treading his own idiosyncratic path. He's done work for Vertigo (100% and Heavy Liquid), but I think his strongest work is his self-published THB, about a teenage martian colonist and her inflatable robot bodyguard.

Steve Rude and Mike Baron's anti-hero Nexus. Strong art and a strong philosophy make this an enjoyable and thoughtful action/adventure tale.

John Ostrander and Tim Truman's extradimensional mercenary Grimjack really has a Warren Ellis flavor to it, but it predates Ellis by a decade.

Bryan Talbot's Luther Arkwright books from Dark Horse are epic, metaphysical alternate universe stories with meticulous and well-drawn artwork.

I love Paul Chadwick's series Concrete so much, I'll mention it again. Great ideas spring from the sci-fi premise, leading to insightful speculation about the human condition. If you like Moore, you should enjoy this.

Slave Labor publishes Evan Dorkin's bitter, angry pop-culture humor comic Dork, the excellent Halo and Sprocket and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, among other stylish and unusual books.
posted by JDC8 at 5:36 PM on November 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all for the excellent answers.
posted by Divine_Wino at 5:54 PM on November 12, 2006

While it's not as hard-core as Moore, Nausica is sci-fi and weird. It's also been translated into english relatively recently. If you like the anime, the manga covers a lot more ground.
posted by Humanzee at 5:57 PM on November 12, 2006

My favorites are Sandman, Preacher, Y: The Last Man, and Transmetropolitan.
posted by i_am_a_Jedi at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2006

Let me nth: Y the Last Man, Hellblazer, Ex Machina, and Sandman.

I really liked Warren Ellis' Global Frequency, which are available in two trade paperback volumes.

I also like the 100 Bullets series, which is kind of a noirish conspiracy story.

I also recently picked up the first trade paperback for a series called DMZ, and thought it seemed promising. The first book was a good read, anyway.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 7:09 PM on November 12, 2006

I'll recommend one of my favorite graphic novels ever, Charles Burns' Black Hole. It's excellent-- a kind of dark, sci-fi-ish coming of age story about teenagers in mid-70's Seattle.
posted by GS1977 at 7:20 PM on November 12, 2006

A couple things I like, though they are a little away from the style of the folks you mentioned (because all the more obvious stuff has been mentioned already) :

Suspended In Language, a comic about Neils Bohr, is non-fiction but could still appeal to the science geek inside you.

Torso, by Brian Michael Bendis is based on the story of Elliot Ness trying to stop a serial killer in depression-era Cleveland.
posted by RobotHero at 7:40 PM on November 12, 2006

And nobody mentioned Cerebus, though the standard rule is to start with "High Society" which is volume 2, and skip Volume 1 which is mostly Conan parody.
posted by RobotHero at 7:43 PM on November 12, 2006

Generally, anything written by Grant Morrison, and Doom Patrol specifically.
posted by lekvar at 10:41 PM on November 12, 2006

Seconding Black Hole. D_W, you must read this. Black Hole is exactly what you're looking for: sci-fi and horror mostly. More like graphic novels, new and strange and good.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 6:17 AM on November 13, 2006

The two volumes of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis are really, really good.

And I'd wholeheartedly second the rec for Hellboy. It's weird and funny, and Mike Mignola can fucking draw.

I'm not sure if it's been collected in trade format, but Peter Milligan's Human Target series was really weird and good. Actually, anything coming out from Vertigo will at least be worth a look.

and finally, I'll fourth or fifth the sentiment that you can't really go wrong with Grant Morrison or Alan Moore. Well, you can, but not often, and even the failures are interesting.
posted by COBRA! at 7:26 AM on November 13, 2006

Personally I think Morrison is a crapshoot. Sometimes he's amazing, other times it seems like he ignored the warnings and tried the brown acid. Then again, a lot of people loved The Invisibles and I found it completely forgettable.

I second the suggestion for DMZ. I think it's fantastic; if I had to give up everything but one book, that might be it. I also love Powers.

I noticed that Scud the Disposable Assassin cropped up on some torrent site the other day. That was fun and quirky too, you should look for the graphic novels (I assume it was eventually collected...)
posted by phearlez at 7:51 AM on November 13, 2006

Left out a few more of my favorites:

Peter Kuper's painted work, especially "The System."

Kyle Baker's cartoonish, perceptive satires. "Why I Hate Saturn" is my personal choice, but there is a lot of good material by him.

Joe Sacco's journalism/current events work; "Safe Area Gorazde" is a ground-level view of the conflict in Bosnia-Hertzegovina back in the 1990's.

The collaborative anthology book Flight is a showcase for young non-superhero artists and writers. A very strong series of three books. Most of the creators have their own webpages that are linked to the main site. I liked Phil Craven and Derek Kirk Kim's work a great deal.

Drawn and Quarterly has a terrific stable of artists. My favorite D&Q artists are Jason Lutes (for his historical series Berlin), Seth (Palookaville), and James Sturm (Golem's Mighty Swing). They are all excellent artists, but be warned that they are slow; gaps of a year or more are not uncommon. They are worth it, in my opinion.

Jason Little's Bee is another well-drawn non-superhero graphic novel.

Check out Bob Fingerman's work, especially Beg the Question. Earthy tales of a cartoonist's life in New York.
posted by JDC8 at 12:59 AM on November 14, 2006

Response by poster: I've read most of your suggestions and they are wonderful. Thank you.
posted by Divine_Wino at 6:33 PM on April 9, 2007

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