Converting my wife into a comic book geek
November 15, 2006 1:58 PM   Subscribe

What graphic novels can I use to persuade my wife to join me in geekdom?

I'd like to buy my wife some comics/graphic novels for Christmas. She read comics as a child (Wonder Woman/She-Hulk) and while I will probably buy her a collected volume of WW, I'm curious what modern works might catch her eye. She's enjoyed the better examples of the recent superhero movie glut, particularly Spider-Man and Batman. Her reading material runs to thrillers (Cornwell etc) with the occasional dip into more literary waters (Eugenides), while her television viewing encompasses Heroes, Lost, and reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

I have a moderate collection myself--including standards such as Watchmen, Y: The Last Man, and several Batman volumes--with which I can get her started.

Given those parameters, what do you think would appeal to her sensibilities? Don't limit yourself to the superhero genre; I'm open to all ideas. If there are any female MeFites who can suggest stuff I might have overlooked, those suggestions will be especially welcome.
posted by nightengine to Media & Arts (55 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Get the new She-Hulk by Dan Slott. It's less metafictional than the Byrne version but way more clever, tender, and classy. My girlfriend loves it and She-Hulk looks like Priscilla Presley.

The old Wonder Woman comics are an incredible mix of Murakami-style surrealism and romance comics. Someone should post a picture of Egg-Fu.

If she likes Buffy, get her Whedon's Astonishing X-Men hardcover, which is very Buffy-like.

Stuff that's often recommended for female comics readers:
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
Persepolis by Marjane Sartrapi
Love and Rockets by Los Bros Hernandez
Cruddy by Lynda Barry
The new Carol Tyler book
posted by kensanway at 2:05 PM on November 15, 2006

Hellblazer and Preacher are probably right up her alley. Sandman is pretty close to being THE univerally loved graphic novel(s).
posted by doctor_negative at 2:07 PM on November 15, 2006

Sandman. It starts off like a literary thriller, and the whole series is very chick-friendly.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:09 PM on November 15, 2006

I don't think you can go wrong with the BKV. Get Y The Last Man vol 1, and if that's a hit, grab Ex Machina vol 1, both written by Brian K Vaughan in a style that will please any fan of those TV shows you mention. Also, I think Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life would have a strong appeal. .
posted by blueshammer at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2006

1602 was very good.
posted by Stynxno at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2006

Better yet, try the trade paperback of Whedon's Fray - it's a self-contained short series set in the future of the Buffy world. Good stuff for a Buffy fan.

Someone's got to make the ubiquitous Sandman suggestion, so it might as well be me -- that's been the gateway comic book for many a female reader. (For me it was Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, but I'm less confident about recommending Jhonen Vasquez to anyone without being very familiar with their sense of humor. Same goes for Warren Ellis.)

I'll second the Fun Home recommendation; it's really wonderful. Along those self-contained-story lines, maybe Craig Thompson? Brian K. Vaughan's Pride of Baghdad?
posted by Stacey at 2:13 PM on November 15, 2006

Golden Age Wonder Woman is the best example of her stuff. DC's Wonder Woman Archives series is good, but expensive. Other stuff you might consider:
  • La Perdida by Jessica Abel
  • Persepois, as mentioned above
  • Maus
  • Love and Rockets, as mentioned above (there are a couple of excellent recent hardcover collections of this material available from Amazon)
  • Walt & Skeezik, which reprints Gasoline Alley strips from 1921 (this is my favorite comics-related publication of the past two years, but it may not be to everyone's taste)
  • League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (which I'm betting you already own)
  • Powers
It's a tough question to answer, really. There are so many comics, and each person's tastes are different.
posted by jdroth at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm female and into the comics, but I am not likely very typical of my race, and tend toward more indie storylines not superhero... Dave Cooper has got some wacky, very satisfying views on unconventional sexuality. Phoebe Gloeckner has amazing, adorable, disturbing visitations on childhood. I haven't met a person yet who didn't like the Preacher series; this might satisfy her Buffy-loving impulse to good v. evil plots. Charles Burns' Black Hole examines the darker aspects of high school without getting too based in the usually touted horrors.

Lots of girls like Strangers in Paradise, I hear: some fun humor and also somewhat serious storylines always delivered with levity (annoying to me, perfect to some). She might like Blankets too...
posted by ibeji at 2:17 PM on November 15, 2006

These are perhaps more stereotypically girly than you might be looking for, but I particularly enjoyed Strangers in Paradise, Superman: Secret Identity, and Spider-man Loves Mary-Jane. SiP has more serious stuff while the Spider-man is sappy and high-schoolish. What about Fables? I just started reading those but it's a pretty popular series as well.
posted by coffeespoons at 2:21 PM on November 15, 2006

I have finally just started to get into comics after trying and trying to get into them and finding them boring or uninteresting. Alan Moore's The Watchmen is what did it for me. After that I read Ghost World, which I really enjoyed, although I never saw the movie. If she has, I don't know if it would be as enjoyable. Currently I'm reading and enjoying the second volume of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing. The Walking Dead is actually pretty good, I believe it's up to 5 volumes.
posted by pazazygeek at 2:25 PM on November 15, 2006

Ooh, fun question. As a comic book geek and wife myself, I can't even begin to tell you how much I love Grant Morrison's work on Doom Patrol, the Invisibles and the New X-Men. Buffy creator Joss Whedon has done some interesting work in comics. Serenity: Those Left Behind is a missing episode of Firefly, and Fray stars a far-future slayer. You don't need me to tell you that Alan Moore is a genius; you already have Watchmen but have you read my favourite of his, From Hell?

Beyond superheroics, I love Box Office Poison, Epileptic, La Perdida, Persepolis, Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde, while Fun Home and Pyongyang are two of the best things I've read in any format, all year. Honorary mention to two strip books that sucker-punched me as well: Doonesbury's The Long Road Home is the best thing he's done in ages, and Cancer Made Me A Shallower Person will make you a better person.

It might be worth adding Girls Read Comics (And They're Pissed) to your RSS feed. And I should add that I'm indebted to Blog of a Bookslut for many of the recommendations above.

Lucky wife to have you! I'd love a stack of comics for Christmas.
posted by rdc at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2006

Second anything by Joss Whedon or Brian K. Vaughan. They both write smart sci-fi that avoid/subvert a lot of the narrative cliché traps that sell to boys but just register with women.

My fiancée also enjoyed Alias (the Marvel comic, nothing to do with the TV series, which morphed into The Pulse, which I haven't read) and 100 Bullets.
posted by mkultra at 2:28 PM on November 15, 2006

Another vote for Maus -- it was a revelation when I read it the first time, and made me completely drop my former snobbishness toward graphic novels. I also really love Sandman, From Hell, and Love & Rockets.
posted by scody at 2:45 PM on November 15, 2006

Is Bone too hackneyed an answer? Or is it too cutesie and light?

Abadazad is really very good, although aimed at adolescents.
posted by oflinkey at 2:48 PM on November 15, 2006


It has such a Buffyish sensibility that Joss Whedon is taking over the writing from Brian K. Vaughan in a wee while.

The first trade paperback is a really excellently paced stand-alone story with tons of twists. The writing is witty and cute without being precious.

I second the recommendation of Alias, which is sort of a sideways look at the Avengers from a semi-has-been hero who becomes a private detective and generally frets about her personal life. It often reminded me of the better, more insightful moments on Sex and the City, only with fewer ridiculous costumes. (Hmm, when I actually type that out it sounds like faint praise...hope it makes sense to somebody)

The latest She-Hulk runs are great, too, but you have to remember to COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY IGNORE THE COVERS. They're generally truly horrifying cheesecake that have absolutely nothing to do with the contents. The stories are full of sparkling dialogue and mostly address legal issues at Jen's law firm (which sometimes heads into Harvey Birdman territory--they refer to their legal files as "the long boxes") while she tries to balance her double life.
posted by bcwinters at 2:52 PM on November 15, 2006

I like Finder. Also, Joe Sacco's stuff, like Palestine, as was mentioned previously.

Also, HotHead Paisan, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

I like Maus, but in this book-snobby town it's the comic book referenced by people who want to show they don't hate the format- it's just that most comic books are so terrible! (Well, yeah, but so are most books.) I can't be prejudiced- some of my best friends are comic books! Completely not Maus's fault, but tainted by it just the same.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:00 PM on November 15, 2006

I loved Sandman once upon a time, but don't find it readable anymore. Alas.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2006

My fiancee enjoyed Y:The Last Man.

And I must strongly second (or third) Persepolis, especially for females.

Also, just about everything Chris Ware does. The Acme Novelty Library is something I treasure.
posted by gnutron at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2006

Not pure Sandman, but Neil Gaiman's Dream Hunters. Worked on me. Depending upon how she might feel about the art (which I love), CatWoman: When in Rome is, IMHO, gorgeous and fun.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

I second Runaways. Pretty much anything Brian K Vaughn does it for me. You already mentioned Y, which is one of my favorites. That being said I think Ex Machina is even better. Also Pride of Baghdad is amazing and really shows that comics can be a lot more than just stories about super heroes.
posted by Sandor Clegane at 3:13 PM on November 15, 2006

Speaking for myself, and not women as a whole, I recc Chris Ware's Acme Novelty Library. I was never into graphic novels but after reading Ware's serial in the New York Times Mag last year I was hooked. The beauty of the art and the gut-wrenching narrative bring together the best parts of art and story into a neat, although depressing as hell sometimes, work of literary genuis.
posted by Meemer at 3:20 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Girl Genius! You can read all the comics (so far) here. If you think your wife would like them you can get her the trade paperbacks.
posted by lekvar at 3:26 PM on November 15, 2006

Oh, and I forgot about The Rabbi's Cat. Another excellent, non-comicy graphic novel.
posted by gnutron at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is one of the most accessible books of any kind I have ever read (minus the confusing first few pages...). I had never read a rgaphic novel, and it's amazingly beautiful, and incredibly sad and wonderful.
posted by ORthey at 3:27 PM on November 15, 2006

Totally Love and Rockets. Chock full of amazing writing and even more amazingly stong female characters.

The big coffee table beasts are expensive and huge, but totally worth it.
posted by o2b at 3:30 PM on November 15, 2006

Female Buffy fan & occasional comic geek here. I'd recommend Alan Moore's collections of Top Ten, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Tom Strong.
posted by mogget at 3:43 PM on November 15, 2006

Your wife and I have similar tastes, I think. So far I've been disappointed almost every time I've read comic books -- I want to love them, but the writing is so often crap. Anyway... If you do go with Love and Rockets, I recommend the collection that's just Maggie and Hopey, Locas. It's less weird and easier for a non-comic-book person to like. Especially good if your wife is now or has ever been a punk.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:50 PM on November 15, 2006

Y: The Last Man is definitely a good one. My wife also liked Sandman, Lucifer (the Sandman spin-off), and Fables (mentioned above). All are good, literate high adventure.
posted by mbrubeck at 3:57 PM on November 15, 2006

Oh, another vote for Chris Ware! Acme Novelty Library is fantastic!
posted by scody at 4:00 PM on November 15, 2006

My wife's first several graphic novel/comics interests:

Craig Thompson's Blankets and Good-bye, Chunky Rice
Dan Slott's She-Hulk and The Thing
Alison Bechdel's Dykes to Watch Out For collections and Fun Home
Adrian Tomine's Optic Nerve
posted by Zed_Lopez at 4:20 PM on November 15, 2006

+ Fables
+ Y: The Last Man
++ Grant Morrison's New X-men arc (as per rdc)

How about her trying some online stuff before you drop some serious coin on TPBs? Diesel Sweeties, Scary-Go-Round, Alien Loves Predator, Dinosaur Comics, etc.

Or is this just a ploy to allow you to buy more comics for yourself, a la Homer buying Marge a bowling ball? In which case, carry on.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:56 PM on November 15, 2006

Enthusiastically seconding Blankets by Craig Thompson ...
posted by jbickers at 5:14 PM on November 15, 2006

I second Finder. That's the series that got me back into reading comics. If she likes that, there's also Mystery Date.

Since she likes thrillers, I'd recommend Whiteout. She might also like Astro City.

I love Transmetropolitan, but I'm not sure that's one I'd recommend.
posted by sculpin at 5:20 PM on November 15, 2006

thirding "blankets" by craig thompson.
posted by kerning at 5:22 PM on November 15, 2006

All of the above.
posted by redsparkler at 5:59 PM on November 15, 2006

Runaways. Really, it's good Marvel that doesn't take a whole lot to get in to (my problem with many mainstream Marvel/DC comics is that trying to get into them is like trying to get into a 50 year old soap).

Is she into superheroes as a concept? Because there's a host of good comics that play with the idea. Astro City being the best of them, IMO (my wife got kinda sniffly at the story of The Samaritan and his love of flying).

Also consider Superman: Red Son. It's a really neat retelling of the Supes story told as if he crashed into the USSR rather than the USA. You don't need to know Superman beyond common knowledge to pick up on it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:31 PM on November 15, 2006

There's Warren Ellis's Fell (violent and dark though) and Transmetropilitian. Here's the first issue onf FELL, all on-line, so she could try it out:

Preacher is great, but a violent and could easily be found offensive.

Love & Rockets-- The Death of Speedy and Flys on the Ceiling are the best.

A Little Bit of Goodnight-- nice mystery/crime drama

-- quick paced crime drma

Jar of Fools--slower drama, but worth it.

Cerebus: High Society, Church & State I and Church & State II. Warning: reading futher volumes of Cerebus could make for tense a home life as Sim kinda went insane and started doing some really ugly stuff about women.

might tickle the literary side of her brain.

Whiteout and Finder are also good suggestions.

The Grendel series by Matt Wagner is top notch, but is long and collected over a series of volumes, which must be read in order to fully enjoy. Start with Devil by the Deed.

And i can't believe no one mentioned Hellblazer--This is early colection, more thriller driven and somewhat bloody and violent.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:48 PM on November 15, 2006

I have similar tastes to your wife and I got into comics through The Tick and Sandman. Ten years later I'm starting to get into the Dark Knight comics, I've read a couple of volumes of The Preacher, and I liked Y: The Last Man.

I personally don't think much of Alan Moore and wasn't fussed on LXG or Watchmen. I didn't mind Top 10: The Forty-Niners but I've never read any of the other Top 10 comics.

Right now I'm reading both volumes of Superman: For Tomorrow and really can't get into them, but I'm sure I've read other stuff by Brian Azzarello that I've enjoyed. Maybe something from Hellblazer?

I'll pick up anything by Gaiman. Murder Mysteries isn't too bad. Someone mentioned 1602 and I enjoyed that a lot.
posted by tracicle at 7:18 PM on November 15, 2006

Rod Espinosa's The Courageous Princess and Phil Foglio's Girl Genius, two of my favorite things ever.
posted by SPrintF at 7:25 PM on November 15, 2006

nthing Chris Ware. His art is just so gorgeous, and some of his layouts are really ingenious and narratively inventive. It's not very sci-fi or punk, but god it's beautiful. Some people have complained that it's too cheaply depressing, but I think it's worth it anyway. Check it out in your comic store.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:49 PM on November 15, 2006

The Sandman series does seem like a pretty good bet to me, based on what you posted.
posted by dagnyscott at 7:50 PM on November 15, 2006

Dark Horse will soon be releasing "Season 8" of Buffy. March 07, I think.

Otherwise I recommend anything by Masamune Shirow, particularly Appleseed.
posted by krisjohn at 8:10 PM on November 15, 2006

I'll third anything by Chris Ware. I hooked my girlfriend on "Jimmy Corrigan." I'd also look at comics by Jeffrey Brown 'Clumsy' in particular went over really well with the old girlfriend.
posted by geryon at 9:24 PM on November 15, 2006

She might like Ellen Forney's Monkey Food.
posted by brujita at 9:37 PM on November 15, 2006

While I applaud you wanting your wife to share your passion, please make sure it is something she is actually even slightly interested in before you go too far in. Leave your Watchmen laying out, something like that...just... please don't make her feel pressured (Can ya tell I went through something like that, myself LOL?)

Another idea for slowly segueing her... Find out if she digs short stories in general, then get her an anthology of short stories that take place in one of the comic book universes.
posted by polexxia at 9:40 PM on November 15, 2006

Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know by Paul Gravett is the reference book for you.
posted by mlis at 9:57 PM on November 15, 2006

I have recently been getting into graphic novels, and I like: American Splendor, Persepolis (Marjane satrapi has a new book coming out...) Maus, and Tricked by Alex Robinson. Which is basically everything I've read. For me, the best way of getting into this world was buying the McSweeneys comic issue. Excellent overview of what's good in graphic novels, not that I know much. Oh, and I'm a girl for what it's worth.
posted by MadamM at 10:02 PM on November 15, 2006

I (female) really just started to get back into comics about a year ago this month. When I was growing up, I read mostly Archie, Pogo, Bone, and random other comics in Disney Adventures magazine and that I picked up along the way. Here are some of the more memorable comics I've read in the past year:

-Love and Rockets
-anything by Jeffrey Brown
-anything by Robert Crumb
-anything by Harvey Pekar
-the True Porn anthologies
-anything by Adrian Tomine
-most anything by Daniel Clowes except Ghost World. God, I hate Ghost World.
-American Elf
-pretty much any Drawn & Quarterly anthology
-pretty much any recent anthology in general—those are good for finding more comics artists you're interested in
-Sin City
-anything by Marjane Satrapi
-NOT Chris Ware—he's too sad for this time of year
-My Faith in Frankie
posted by limeonaire at 10:52 PM on November 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Mm, and if she's going to check out some comics online, try the archives of Mac Hall, Ctrl-Alt-Del, Questionable Content, and Halo & Sprocket.
posted by limeonaire at 10:56 PM on November 15, 2006

And I wouldn't bother with From Hell—I tried, I truly tried to pick it up and read it, but Eddie Campbell's scrawl just got to me. I'd already read some of his shorter stuff, too—but I couldn't even get past the first few pages of From Hell.

I'd say that's something to work up to reading, if she tries to read it at all. Definitely not something to start with.
posted by limeonaire at 10:58 PM on November 15, 2006

As a chick I am nth-ing the recommendations for Sandman. It's a brilliantly written comic that draws from a staggering range of literary and mythological sources. If she was into Buffy, I think the chances of her liking Sandman are quite good.
posted by shiu mai baby at 4:46 AM on November 16, 2006

Please don't forget the manga! My wife would have nothing to do with Watchmen (even though she loves superhero movies), but got totally hooked on Nausicaa and Yotsuba&!
posted by rikschell at 6:48 AM on November 16, 2006

Paul Auster's City of Glass, illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, is a classic.
posted by initapplette at 8:42 AM on November 16, 2006

Tintin! No, really. I loved them as a kid, and still love them today. The writing is better than in most comic books I've read, and you don't have to worry about weird sexy female characters (since, um, there's only one woman, and she's a minor character). They don't have to be read in order, except there are a few that are spread over two books. I'd recommend... oh... how about The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure to begin with? Make sure you get the big editions, not the annoyingly small multi-story ones.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:05 AM on November 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

the maxx by sam kieth. should be out in tpb, maybe hard to find.
posted by juv3nal at 1:00 PM on November 16, 2006

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