web stats

CSBG Archive

Comics Should Be Good’s Question of the Month!

Here’s a new routine we’ll be doing here on the blog. Every month, around this time, we will all answer the same comic book related question. Feel free to send in suggestions for future questions to bcronin@comicbookresources.com! This month, we’re using a question that Greg Hatcher suggested – “If you had to pick one current ongoing series to recommend to new readers, what would it be and why?”

Read on to see how we all answered!

We’ll do this alphabetically by first name..

Bill Reed

I suppose this depends on how strict your definition of “ongoing” is. At the moment, the title I’m leaning towards recommending most heavily is Red 5′s Atomic Robo, by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener (and friends). “It’s a mini-series!” you may cry, shaking your fist at the thunderous heavens, but bear with me. The way the book’s shaping up, it looks like it’s becoming a series of mini-series, and that’s ongoing enough for me. We’ve had one mini-series (soon to be available in a far more palatable and digestible trade paperback) and a Free Comic Book Day Special (what better format to hook new readers?), with another mini-series on the horizon. Yeah, looks like Atomic Robo’s going to stick around.

The book Bill bets on!

Why praise it so heavily? Especially for readers new to comics? For one thing, it’s not laden down by the oppressive weight of the dread creature called “continuity,” so we don’t have to worry about any sort of confusion on that end. More worthwhile, however, are the book’s attitude and execution: it’s fun. Yes, that harmless three-letter word is a curse to “serious comic readers” everywhere, but for new readers, it’s a blessing. Atomic Robo is a comic that doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s an adventure comic about an irreverent, ass-kicking robot that’s been around since 1923 and takes on strange menaces with the help of his action scientists. There’s a good premise for you. It leads the comic into what might seem like standard comics territory– robots, Nazis, robot Nazis, giant ants, etc.– but Clevinger’s scripts sing and zing, and Wegener’s clean, dynamic art tells the story perfectly. The book’s got a lovely sense of freshness about it. *sniff sniff* Mmm. Lemony.

Atomic Robo is perfect entry-level comics (not to worry, sports fans, it’s also perfect comics for those of you who have been around for a while). It’s suitable for all ages, too, so your best friend, your wife, and your kid can enjoy it. It’s got a cracking sense of humor and a high level of excitement. I hope it sticks around, and I hope that the FCBD issue has hooked a new batch of readers.

Brad Curran

There’s no magic bullet for the one comic that’s going to hook new readers, because they’re not a monolithic, collective blob. Not that Brian assumes that, even if he is an android who doesn’t quite understand humanity, no matter how well he fakes it. Well, that’s my pet theory for why he’s so prolific.

So, yeah, you really ought to tailor this kind of thing to the reader’s taste. But that statement of the obvious defeats the purpose of the question, and as much as I enjoy routing purposes, I’ll break down and pick one: Casanova.

Curran's choice!

It’s a genre hybrid, so it’s not as limiting as something that’s strictly a superhero or crime book; it’s got an absurd amount of bang per buck (and not only because it costs $1.99, although that’s part of it); it makes excellent use of the serial format, with cliffhangers to make you crave that next issue; it’s new enough that catching up wouldn’t be hard at all, and episodic enough (well, other than the last couple issues in a given storyline) that you could hand a new reader an issue hot of the stands and they could figure things out pretty fast; and… well, I hate to harp on the price, since it’s an excellent comic regardless, but even if they despise it with every fiber of their being, it’s only $1.99.

Hopefully this hypothetical new reader is okay with the occasional bit of ultraviolence, some foul language, and a blue color palette, and finds Fraction’s “backmatter” process stuff interesting and not the dreaded “pretentious,” can live with the occasionally eratic schedule of a creator owned comic. It also helps that they have two eyes and a heart, too. People with eye patches and pacemakers tend to not be big fans.

Brian Cronin

Seeing as how I wrote a bit awhile back about recommending comics to non-comic readers (and how you shouldn’t use a superhero comic, unless they specifically say “I’m interested in superhero comics”), it’d be pretty funny if I picked a superhero comic as my choice.

Sadly, I am avoiding said hilarity.

My first two picks I decided to back off on because while I love them both, they might be a bit too heady for a general new reader, and those are Ganges and Acme Novelty Library. Both stunningly expressive works, but they’re not the easiest works to get into for a new reader (Ganges, though, certainly more so than Acme Novelty Library). That said, we sure are lucky that Kevin Huizenga and Chris Ware are doing ongoing works.

I’m loving Jason Aaron’s Scalped, but that’s a bit of a genre book.

So if I were to pick a more mainstream book, I am going with Fables.

Brian's choice

The concept of doing new stories with classic fairy tale and mythical characters is a popular one (Mike Myers did it with Shrek, Sondheim did it with Into the Woods, Schwartz is currently doing it to great popular acclaim with Wicked), so new readers will be familiar with the concept, while also, since the concept of the book is based on the idea of using famous characters, they will also be familiar with the characters in the book.

In addition, Bill Willingham has generally created a book that appeals to different types of readers – there’s plenty of action, but there’s also plenty of character moments. It’s a bit of a soap opera, just one that has battle sequences every once in awhile.

Most of all, like a soap opera, you can depend on Fables almost every month for a new story, which I think is important for hooking a new reader – give them something every month, so they have a reason to come into the store, and while they’re there, maybe something else could catch their attention.

Danielle Leigh

My recommendation for new readers (either new to manga or even to comics in general) is xxxholic by CLAMP and published by Del Rey (simply pronounced as “holic”). These volumes (currently 11 are available in the U.S.) represent CLAMP’s most mature work, as their art-style and story-telling capabilities are beautifully integrated to tell a supernatural tale about a special young man who comes to change the world around him in surprising ways.

Danielle's choice!

The Plot: Kimihiro Watanuki’s life really, really sucks — not only can he see spirits and all sorts of supernatural-shenanigans, they are very attracted to him as well. Imagine trying to go to school on a daily basis when a big, scary blog of ectoplasm is chasing you down, trying to make you its pillow. Going through life as the human equivalent of supernatural cat nip isn’t much fun, so when Watanuki stumbles across a beautiful and mercurial witch named Yuko who grants wishes (but only in exchange for some form of “payment” of equal value), he makes the obvious wish – to be cured of his “gift.” Yuko promises to grant his wish but in exchange Watanuki must become her indentured servant (poor bastard).

Radiating out from Watanuki and Yuko’s initial encounter are a host of expected and unexpected consequences – since nothing in life, according to the logic of the narrative, can be attributed to coincidence, everything is “fated” to happen. In spite of his wish, as Yuko’s servant-boy Watanuki finds himself ever more entrapped in the supernatural world, often becoming entangled with Yuko’s other customers (who have their own wishes and agendas). Often, and occasionally against his will, he ends up resolving various supernatural conflicts with two classmates in tow; one a very pretty girl Watanuki likes, and the other a standoffish boy he greatly dislikes, but whose very presence transforms Watanuki’s supernatural gifts in surprising ways (remember this is CLAMP, and if you don’t know what that means, let us just say that opposites have a way of attracting in their narratives, regardless of gender).

Watanuki starts off as a very average kind of guy who just happens to have an unfortunate burden to carry, and he tends to spend the first few volumes reluctantly using his abilities to help others and whining about it. It should probably be mentioned most of the humor of `holic comes from the fact Watanuki is a great big – and occasionally adorable — spaz. Yet even if he resists letting the supernatural infiltrate his life and relationships, CLAMP slowly reveals the very human potential of his other-worldly gifts, and as readers we are given the true pleasure of witnessing Watanuki mature over time and learn to accept the burdens *and* the blessings associated with his gifts.

The basic plot is probably a cliché to everyone who regularly reads manga (i.e. a supernatural shop where customers ask the impossible and have but two potential resolutions depending on the true nature of their motives: they can come to either bad or good ends) but CLAMP’s take on the subject feels quite fresh. It must be said the art alone makes ‘holic spectacular even when we might feel we are spinning our wheels plot-wise (Important note: when CLAMP gets to plot arcs with real and long-reaching effects they will blow the top of your head off. Trust me). Imagine manga done in a style reminiscent of the art nouveau movement – this world and the people in it are long, lean, sharp-edged, elegant, and beautifully detailed. And oh yes, the entire title is rendered starkly in (almost exclusively) black and white. Gray tones – the real expressive “guts” of most modern manga — are practically nonexistent. Artistically speaking this makes ‘holic quite innovative, but beautiful art alone would leave me cold. It is the way CLAMP uses this surprising art style to create a world we both know and don’t know, portraying the everyday and the other-worldly, all in the service of telling us an age-old story — a young man’s coming of age. While the majority of manga is about human development of some kind, very rarely has this subject been rendered with such sensitivity, humor, and even pathos, as in ‘holic.

Go read, enjoy, and marvel at how strange and beautiful comics can be.

Greg Burgas

I think I’ll have to say Casanova. Or Rex Libris (if someone already claimed Casanova). Both are unfettered by continuity, neither feature superheroes, both are packed with content, Rex Libris is hilarious, Casanova is exciting (so is Rex Libris, for that matter), and perhaps most importantly, both show the kind of stories comics can tell beautifully, without the worry of special effects budgets.

One of Greg's picks!

They’re highbrow enough to appeal to people who are snobs about comics, but lowbrow enough to appeal to everyone’s love of visceral entertainment. And neither have a long history themselves, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to get caught up.

And you don’t have to explain Skrulls for people to love them. That’s a bonus!

Greg Hatcher

The nice thing about this question for me is that my wife is actually one of those mythical ‘new readers.’ She married into all this. Julie’s got some nerdy interests and they intersect mine here and there — she’s a bit of a Trekkie, for example. But by and large comics began and ended with Charles Schulz for Julie, until she met me.

So sometimes if I am curious to see what a non-comics reader thinks of something, I’ll ask Julie to look at it. (I gave her the first issue of Green Lantern: Rebirth because I wondered if it really was as incomprehensible to a newcomer as I thought it was. Answer was a resounding yes.) But there are very few that she grabs out of my hands because SHE is interested in reading them.

Of those, the biggest success in recent months was Cover Girl, from Andrew Cosby, Kevin Church and Mat Santolouco. Here’s the press copy summing up the premise: “He’s Alex Martin, the down-on-his-luck actor whose star is rising thanks to a roadside rescue caught on tape. She’s Rachel Dodd, the bodyguard assigned to keep him alive after several mysterious attempts on his life. Will Rachel be able to keep Alex alive long enough to get to the bottom of the attacks on the actor? Will Alex be able to keep his hair perfect the entire time?” It’s a great idea, well-executed, and Mat Santolouco did a terrific job on the art. If that was an ONGOING book, it would be the clear winner, no question. It’s amazingly fun and accessible.

In fact a lot of BOOM’s output fits the bill here except they tend to do mini-series that are collected into one-off book projects. BOOM is actually doing a nice job of finding that niche area in the market for those of us that like adventure — stories with a bit of swash in their buckle — but are getting burned out on costumed superheroes. Hunter’s Moon, 2 Guns, Left On Mission, Stardust Kid, Potter’s Field… all would be easy recommendations from me for this except they’re not ONGOING. But I did at least want to mention their books because it seemed unfair to penalize them for being smart enough to use a different publishing model.

But I did suggest both the question and the “ongoing, monthly” qualifier. So I guess I better stick to the rules. What I can tell you is that new readers aren’t looking for superheroes. Mostly they want to laugh, they want something fun. More than anything else, the comics that catch people’s eye at at the art studio where I teach tend to be humor books, or at least books with a lot of humor in them; stuff like Naughty Bits, K Chronicles, Barry Ween.

And of those, Tom Beland’s True Story Swear To God is the one that hits the best with the most people. Anyone who picks it up at the studio can’t put it down, in my experience. They stop what they’re doing and read all the way to the end. Then they start asking me about it and wondering where to find more. (This was Julie’s pick, too; when I told her about this particular challenge she blurted, “You’re going to say Tom Beland, aren’t you?”)

Beland’s work is not very kid-friendly, though, which is a shame; because his art style is so wonderfully accessible and old-school just in terms of the drawing. Everyone that talks about True Story tends to focus on the writing, but one of the things I really love about it is the art. It’s got a great sort of Tex Avery vibe to it — always in service to the story, but the fact that he can use the art to tell so many different kinds of stories with all the different shadings of emotional tone is amazing to me given that he does it in such a cartoony, humorous style.

But for kid-friendly I’d go with something else, probably one of the Marvel Adventures books.

Greg's pick for kids!

The most successful (well, artistically, anyway) kid-friendly monthly I’ve seen is the entire Marvel Adventures line. To be honest I often think it’s the best-kept secret in superhero comics. Those fans that snarl about out-of-control continuity, about wanting more self-contained stories, about superheroes being too dark, etc., etc… really, Marvel Adventures is the line for you. Those books are uniformly entertaining and you can hand them to almost any reader of any age and they’ll connect with the story on some level. The one I enjoy most is Avengers, because I enjoy the child-like version of the Hulk interacting with Spider-Man and the others, and it always makes me smile. But really any of them would be a good pick. The only grump I have about them is the way the art reproduces in the digests; it’s too tiny and hard to read. If Marvel could figure out a slightly different reproduction ratio that was easier on the eye and got those digests into grocery store racks next to the Archie ones, I bet they’d move a lot of them. Certainly my middle-school kids love the ones they’ve seen.

Pól Rua

With the announcement of new material, I’d LOVE to recommend Larry Marder’s ‘Tales of the Beanworld’ as it’s immediate, it grabs, entices and draws in all at once. It’s also deceptively simplistic on its surface. However, I think that MAY be pushing the definition of ‘ongoing’ a little far.

‘Groo’ is another one I like to throw at new readers, but it’s settled into a series of miniseries. Again, very immediate, but also self-contained for the most part.

‘RASL’ by Jeff Smith may be a contender, but alas, while I was impressed by issue 1, it didn’t really have enough ‘meat’ to it. I love Smith’s work, but it really works better in trade format.

‘The Goon’s another series I like to recommend. It’s funny as hell, and Powell’s art and writing are bloody meticulous. That said, it’s starting on a longer story arc, so now is NOT the time to be jumping aboard. Besides, everybody loves big knuckleheads punching zombies and monsters. Like I say, immediacy.

‘Atomic Robo’ is another good ‘un. Somewhat reminiscent of Hellboy, but without the backstory, it’s immediately likable, energetic and fun. It’s not an especially challenging read by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s certainly the sort of thing that might encourage a new reader to read more.

Unfortunately, this question is really difficult to answer with ONE title. What may work for one person may be abominably ill-chosen for another. It really depends on who the title is for and what sorts of stories they like.

Someone who enjoys ‘Jonah Hex’ for instance, may not be able to get into ‘Owly’, f’rinstance. Though both are good titles for new readers.

And I’ve forgotten ‘Scott Pilgrim’. Sure it’s not a 22-page dealie, but it IS ongoing.

Pol's eventual choice!

‘Scott Pilgrim’ it is then.

So there you go! Feel free to send in suggestions for future Questions of the Month!

68 Comments

JSA,

because if you can figure out what the hell’s going on there with a bunch of characters you’ve probably never heard of, then you can handle everything. Enough with this pussyfooting, new reader “friendly” done-in-one bunk.

Toss them right into the fire and see if they burn.

CASANOVA would definitely be my pick.
after they read the first 14 issues, they will trust you, and then you can throw all star superman their way.
the first comic you hand them shouldn’t have dudes in tights.

of course, the first comic my girlfriend ever read was watchmen. i warned her that every comic that she reads after that might suck in comparison.

Every month, around this time, we will all answer the same comic book related question.

It’s probably just me, but I read this and thought “This will get very repetitive after a few months. Why don’t they use a different question every month instead of always answering the same?”

Wait, so Fables *isn’t* a genre book?

If it has to be a current ongoing the totally Fables. It’s a brilliant series without continuity worries, and Willingham has also done some super hero stuff so you can then get friends into those sorts of books that way. I think the triple threat of Fables, Sandman, and Y: The Last Man makes the best jumping on point, unless someone is specifically interested in super heroes. If they are then the ongoing to use is Invincible Iron Man, or Iron Man: Director of SHIELD if they are also interested in espionage stuff. Iron Man is so hot right now. Everyone I know loved that movie.

Oh, and I have to agree with Michael. Fables is way more “genre” than Scalped.

If the word “genre” puts you off, then feel free to think of a different word, but just noting that Scalped has a more specific audience than Fables does.

Scalped and Fables also have in common that both of their early issues pale compared to the later stuff.

All ongoing comics are genre, and it’s just pretension and misguided aspirations of some mythical “mainstream artistic acceptance” that lead people to say Scott Pilgrim isn’t “genre.”

Mike Loughlin

May 12, 2008 at 11:48 am

I would say Stray Bullets if it were still ongoing (do “on hiatus” comics count?)- Lapham’s clear artwork, engaging characters, sense of pacing, and ear for dialogue made it a comic I used to recommend to non-comics or super-hero comics readers.

I stopped buying Ex Machina when I stopped buying most comics, but I think non-comics readers might find the mash-up of politics and sci-fi interesting and accessible. Tony Harris & Co. produce highly attractive artwork.

probably Jonah Hex. nice done-in-one stories, usually very appealing art, humor, violence. and it could really use more readers.

PS238. I assume the vast majority (maybe even the *entirety*) of you aren’t reading this. You should all remedy this omission posthaste. (And yeah, about 4 months ago, I wasn’t either.)

I buy entirely too many comics, but this one borders on *brilliant*, month in, month out. Heck, it’s kid-friendly, even.

i wanted to try PS238, but it’s near impossible to find.

I have never read PS238, but I keep hearing good things about it.

Comb & Razor, ask your LCS to order you a copy.

For someone’s first comic ever, I’d recommend an Archie comic, one of DC’s Johnny DC books, and then one of Marvel’s Marvel Adventure books. They would need to learn the language of comic books. Even reading one of each of those books would take them less than 30 minutes, and they would then be more likely to be able to jump into more complicated stuff. Yes, they are pretty simple, but that is the point. You don’t become a chef until you are able to handle a knife.

Letting someone read Watchmen as their first book is kinda mean. It’s hard to find a lot of things after that that might reach that level.

PS238 is practically incomprehensible to a new reader, so if you want to give it a shot, start with an early issue.

As to the quality of PS238, it’s a good comic. Not great, but good enough that I would slightly recommend it.

>>As to the quality of PS238, it’s a good comic. Not great, but good enough that I would slightly recommend it.

Brian Cronin — not *quite* history’s greatest monster.

PS238 *is* pretty continuity-heavy. One neat thing (if you’ve read all the issues, anyway) Aaron Williams does is bring in something from, say, 25 issues ago & make it all look seamless. Probably it helps if you’ve read all 32 (I think) issues within the last 3 or 4 months, which is what I did, courtesy of a couple of cheap-as-heck eBay lots. (It’s been on my pull list ever since.) Looks like past issues are also posted online at Aaron’s site, & I know TPBs are available.

Comb & Razor — Alan Coil is right. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how little trouble my LCS has had so far (knock wood) supplying me (& a couple of other regular readers, apparently) with new PS238s every months … considering, that is, Diamond’s apparent unwillingness/inability to do the same with AMELIA RULES, for instance, or even various Boom! titles.

I probably should have a thing on the front page of the blog to remind folks of my rating system, so that people know that “slight recommendation” is definitely a compliment from me, because I’ll admit, it does look like a bit of a backhanded one, and that’s not the intent!

I saw someone somewhere take issue with me not recommending a book that I found “pretty enjoyable.” I don’t think “pretty enjoyable” is good enough to actually recommend. So if I think something IS recommendable (even slightly), then it means that it is better than “pretty enjoyable.”

Which is a compliment, even if it doesn’t sound like one. :)

And if I had to go with a Big Two title (which I’m reluctant to do, since I’m starting to think those companies are, if possible, even more innately wicked than most capitalist enterprises & thus should be, y’know, burned to the ground ASAP), I’d probably go with X-MEN FIRST CLASS.

Greg Burgas –

Purely on your recommendation (unless someone else here has been unstintingly recommending the title, which I guess is possible, since half the people here seemed to be named “Greg”)., I picked up the REX LIBRIS collection a few weeks ago. I have no doubt that I’ll love it, but I’ve initally been put off by the fact that the librarian character — Rex, I presume — speaks in sort of tough-guy lingo, or at least so I gathered at first glance. Somehow, I excpected someone who sounded more like a … lilbrarian? Y’know, sort of like Giles in the BUFFY series.

Just me being silly, I’m sure, & once I’m over it I’ll no doubt have the time of my life. At least the character doesn’t wear an absurd hat like Rex Libris or Molly in RUNAWAYS (another recommendable series, come to think of it, at least as written by Vaughan … I’ve been reading only the digests & thus haven’t read a word of Whedon’s take yet.)

“an absurd hat like Grimjack,” that is. (I’m home sick today, so I blame Crohn’s disease for my carelessness.)

At the risk of sounding cliche, I’m gonna say Detective Comics. Yeah, it’s super mainstream, but it’s really user friendly. Back in my younger-Marvel only-days, DC’s DC was the only DC title I would occasionally pick up. It’s pretty self contained, the story archs are rarely longer than three issues, and the creative teams always seem to churn out a good to great product.

The Goon is also another solid ongoing read. You can pick up any issue, and not feel lost. The artwork is always amazing, and it’s always a fun read.

I sing the praises of Marvel Adventures Spider-Man every month. Between Fred Van Lente and Peter David (yes! *THAT* Peter David!), the writing is far from some throwaway bullpen intern that people expect it to be.

Dan Bailey wrote:
“(which I’m reluctant to do, since I’m starting to think those companies are, if possible, even more innately wicked than most capitalist enterprises & thus should be, y’know, burned to the ground ASAP)”

…and this is why I think that users here feel that the Big Two are innately wicked and should be burned to the ground. Because they say so. Not to beat a dead horse, but I figured I’d point and go “see?” while I had the chance. :)

I’d have to agree with Fables. Genre maybe, but different one, and one that most regular people are more comfortable with than fights in tights.
Does it have its weaknesses? Sure, but none that are really relevant to whether the book makes a good candidate for “one current ongoing series to recommend to new readers”, which is the question being posed, not, “what’s the greatest thing in the history of the world?” I know many people have quibbles with it, but these tend to be of the “Valid But Not Really That Big a Deal” variety.

Craig, Dan Bailey is not a “user” here.

And you say this in a post where you agree with an ACTUAL “user” here (Hatcher) about Marvel Adventures. And heck, my pick is a DC Comic.

All you are pointing out is how poorly constructed your position is.

how many issues in is PS238 anyway?

i first heard about it maybe… 2 or 3 months ago and i thought it was brand new, but the way folks talk about it, i get the vibe that it’s been running for a while…

I should point out that my grumpiness as regards the Big Two is borne out of my outrage over what appears to be Marvel’s disinclination to help Gene Colan with his medical bills despite being asked to do so (if that’s changed in the last 3 hours, & I hope it has, I’ll be very pleased to hear it), which led me to ruminate on DC’s historic callousness toward Siegel & Shuster, Kirby’s ordeal in trying to pry his original pages out of Marvel’s hands, etc.

If any of you guys thinks that’s cool behavior, good on you.

I happen not to.

“it’s fun. Yes, that harmless three-letter word is a curse to “serious comic readers” everywhere, but for new readers, it’s a blessing.”

C’mon.

Where are these legions of serious comic book readers who despise anything “fun”? If they even exist, they have no Internet presence, because everything written in the Internet about comics is to praise the “fun”. It’s almost like a dictatorship of “fun”, as long as critics are concerned.

Sorry for the rant, and I have nothing against “fun” books (by “fun” I take it you mean “light”, because I know plenty of people who think “dark” fiction is quite fun), but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone in the Internet lately writting about how much they like “serious” work and despise fun books.

Why all this defensive attitude about “fun”?

Comb & Razor –

PS238 #0 came out in 11/02. #31 came out … last week or the week before.

Rene –

I dunno. Presumably the “legions of serious comic book readers who despise anything ‘fun’” are the ones who didn’t buy, oh, NEXTWAVE, or Dan Slott’s THING or SHE-HULK, or any number of other somewhat light-hearted comics, as opposed to whatever grim’n'gritty garbage is flying off the shelves in comparison.

(And yes, Comb & Razor & anyone else, I’d say PS238 is seriously underpublicized. I think I first heard about it when a copy happened to pop up in a dollar box at one of my LCSes a few months ago. Pure happenstance, obvously.)

Rene said:

Where are these legions of serious comic book readers who despise anything “fun”?

They’re not on the internet, apparently. The blogosphere is a very, very small slice of the comics-reading audience, and most of us are of similar minds and tastes, it seems– which means, in the end, that the majority of comic readers are buying other things.

Why all this defensive attitude about “fun”?

Because the books aren’t selling, and they should. Creators are almost afraid to call their books “fun” in interviews lest their sales drop to catastrophic levels. Comics that are “fun” and/or “light” apparently aren’t “important,” and are therefore ignored. It’s an idiotic practice by a strange and jaded community of readers, and I don’t like it.

>>Craig, Dan Bailey is not a “user” here.

Or anywhere else, I hasten to add. I mean, I take 3 prescription drugs & a couple of OTCs, but I’m not & never have been a druggie, probably because I’m too cheap to even consider spending that sort of money for stuff I can’t store on a shelf somewhere.

Dan: Yeah, unfortunately, that’s how Rex talks. I don’t mind it, but I know that other commenters here have said it bothers them. It doesn’t bother me because I find the “accent” juxtaposed against a lot of the high-minded stuff he actually says pretty humorous. But yeah, he talks like that throughout.

I hope it doesn’t ruin your enjoyment of the book, especially because you got it on my recommendation!

Greg –

I figured the juxtaposition, as you put it, will actually prove to be a neat little factor in & of itself. (I think I, LIBRARIAN, is next on the ol’ reading list. This weekend I plowed through an absolutely absurd stack of collections — FRAY, the first ALIAS HC, the first HELLBOY trade, the most recent 1 1/2 RUNAWAY digests, ICE HAVEN [not a collection per se, of course] & undboutedly a couple of others that aren’t coming to mind. And I’m midway through SPIDERWOMAN: ORIGIN, albeit in individual issue form.)

Just tell me he doesn’t start wearing a stupid hat.

Please?

She-Hulk was a great book, and it’s a shame it didn’t sell, but is it right to assume it didn’t sell because it was light-hearted? I think the real reason why She-Hulk, Thing, and Nextwave didn’t sell as much as some other books out there is because they’re not “relevant” to the larger comic book universe they belong. It’s not so much about tone, but about continuity.

If it truly exists (because I’ve rarely heard anyone saying they don’t like a comic because it’s light), it feels weird to me this dismissal of anything light-hearted, but the automatic praise directed at anything light feels equally weird.

Fret not, Dan – no hat!

A big shout out for Tom Beland’s book TSSTG! Very new user friendly.

Or How about the Lone Ranger or Zorro from Dynamite, classic tales retold. Or for little ones how about Owly?

>>but the automatic praise directed at anything light feels equally weird.

Rene, you must not’ve noticed my hissy fit over how much I hated SEAGUY …

Rene, you must not’ve noticed my hissy fit over how much I hated SEAGUY …

I wouldn’t call Seaguy light, but I would call it brilliant.

To arms, Daniel. We duel at midnight.

Nobody mentioned Blue Beetle? I realize that Sturges run probably won’t be as good what Rogers just did, but it’s a good character. Theoretically you even have the advantage of a character who is new to the superhero business, so he’s learning the DC continuity along with you (and making fun of some of the ridiculousness at the same time.)

Similarly, Invincible fits roughly the same demographic (although there’s much more backstory to the character now, and it’s gorier at times.)

Assuming that “new reader” means “someone who is familiar enough with the medium to want to get into it,” as opposed to “someone who has never read an artistically-sequential story in their life” or “someone who has been reading their brother’s old ARCHIE comics for a week and wants to read more comics,” and assuming that “current ongoing series” refers to anything that is scheduled (or at least presumed) to be published on a continuing regular basis and not a mini-series or maxi-series or non-serial series of maxi/mini-series or drawn on a roll of toilet paper in the public restroom at the corner gas station, then I’d have to go with FABLES.

Cronin gave all the artistic and commercial reasons for FABLES, but I’d toss in one other reason, the geographical one: FABLES is the most accessible comic that one can expect to find anywhere comics or graphic novels are sold. Most comic shops will have at least one non-pull copy, one more than can be expected of any other non-superhero, non-movie-coming-out-in-a-month comic, and pretty much any TPB-carrying bookstore will have some trades (sometimes even more likely than the superhero or movie-coming-out-in-a-month collections). And locatability is important: I can’t expect that the new reader will necessarily rely on me to provide the comic, nor that they’ll want to go where I go to get it. Furthermore, it helps build comfort for the medium if one can just get their introductory product wherever and whenever without searching for a specialty store and filling out forms and waiting weeks for it to come. With FABLES, you can safely assume that if a place carries comics, the trades and un-traded issues will be there for you, at least more than you can for anything else.

Thok –

BLUE BEETLE is probably my favorite DC series. Only reason I didn’t mention it is uncertainty over the quality with Rogers’ departure, which of course you touch on.

Otherwise, obviously, one of these days I’m going to have to look at FABLES. Only reason I haven’t is discomfort over starting a series that I’m already dozens of issues behind on. Also, fantasy scenarios & such don’t do much for me, probably because my heart is so empty & cold, & I have no soul whatsoever. (It also probably doesn’t help that I tend to be extremely unimpressed with what I see under the Vertigo imprint these days, though the exceptions, when they occur, *are* notable …)

Bill –

>>To arms, Daniel. We duel at midnight.

I’m game. What time zone are you in?

I try to mention my love for Rex Libris every time Greg mentions it, so it’s no secret that I love it. I’d have to say one of the biggest reasons it’s my favorite is because it’s a comic that exists as a comic. It knows and revels in it’s roots as a comic book, and the story couldn’t be done any other way. The amount craft that is put into that comic is what every other comic should be aspiring to. I’m probably overselling it, because it’s funny and action packed style are definitely tailored to my tastes, but it’s the best comic ever. And I don’t just toss that around(okay, yes I actually do, but still…)

I’m with Brian about PS:238. I picked up a random issue after hearing so many good things about it, and it was alright. It was pretty continuity dense, which didn’t bother me too much, but there wasn’t anything in the particular issue I read that really grabbed me.

Nobody mentioned Blue Beetle? I realize that Sturges run probably won’t be as good what Rogers just did, but it’s a good character.

I almost did– I mean, I really like it– but the book was born out of a crossover and immediately weighted down with extraneous editorial baggage. And it’d be more difficult to jump on with Rogers’ latest, greatest, run-ending arc, because of the lack of build-up. While it still reads well, they might not want to leap into the “third act” of a giant story. Combine that with the unsure future of the title, what with the varied writers, and I didn’t want to put it on the list here. Also, I wanted to skip over Big Two superhero books.

I do recommend Blue Beetle, though, and it is one of my current faves.

I’d also say either Fables or Ex Machina (though I won’t deny that small parts or parts of dialogue of Machina are harder to get if you don’t live in the US)

and while XXXHOLiC is probably the most awesome thing I’ve read by CLAMP (which is already saying a lot) I’m not quite sure how good it would be for new readers because while the first stories have been prety much self contained the last volumes have been more and more concted to other CLAMP works (specially it’s “sister” series Tsubasa Reseirvoir Chronicles), so by that point it would require the reader to either A) have liked this series enough to pick up Tsubasa or B) already be reading it (meaning, almost the exact problem that you have with more than a few american comics)

OK, OK … I concede — PS238 is probably too continuity-conscious for a new reader picking up an issue at random. (Which doesn’t mean everyone ought not to start with the first TPB, dammit.) I guess I’ll have to go with X-MEN FIRST CLASS after all, assuming that our theoretical new reader has *some* vague understanding of comics. I mean, I haven’t read an X-book since Dave Cockrum was on the main book the first time (there was a 2nd time, right? Or not?), & I haven’t seen any of the movies, & I’ve had no problems with a single plot point.

(MARVEL ADVENTURES: AVENGERS is a fairly close second, though it’s just a *bit* more uneven, probably because of what I perceive — not necessarily accurately — to be a certain situation with revolving-door writers & especially artists.)

Even though, y’know, given my hatred for the Big Two, I am ethically bound to demand that the new reader in question shoplfit the comic.

Fables—trades, the simple answer. If you like the first trade, you can order the second, then the third, all the way up to the most current (#10?). As you approach the current issue, you could buy the monthly issues to read after the most current issue. That way, you could be up to date in just a matter of 2-3 months. If you like it, that is.

A regular customer came into my LCS a few weeks ago and told the comics manager he wanted to try Fables, as he had heard 2 non-comics reading co-workers talking about how good it is. In this case, it was the non-reader causing the regular reader to try a different type of book.

Oh, okay Dan.

But I still have this impression that both DC and Marvel nowadays relegate their lighter books to peripheral parts of their universes, and that is why the majority of comic book readers don’t buy them, rather than any innate preferences for grim and gritty stories.

Actually, some issues of Mighty Avengers seem to fit the bill of “fun” book (though it’s still Bendis idea of a “fun” book, that might not jibe with anyone else’s idea), with the Avengers fighting Mole Man monsters and Iron Man-possessed by Ultron-turned into the Wasp, and a miniaturized Ares coming to the rescue, and all the characters joking and stuff. And the book sells a lot, because it’s Bendis and it looks central to the MU.

Is there any grim and gritty book nowadays that stars a non-central character from the big-two universes that sells a lot?

Danielle Leigh

May 12, 2008 at 7:09 pm

hi Julian, I guess I disagree since only a few chapters real deal with Tsubasa, while the majority of the title is about Watanuki, his classmates and Yuko.

Yes, the end of the first volume crosses over but rarely do these moments last long or end up meaning much although I think volume 12 and beyond will probably start linking these two series together much more closely…however, that is still 12 volumes later, meaning that there are at least 11 very accessible volumes for a new reader, which counts in the title’s favor enough that I think a little crossover action can be overlooked.

Rene –

You may well be right. Even though I buy a ridiculous amount of comics, a fairly high percentage of them from the Big Two, I don’t really read the mainstream “universe” books & so don’t feel qualified to speculate further … But yes, it is indeed true that SHE-HULK & THING & DEADPOOL & NEXTWAVE & X-MEN FIRST CLASS don’t star major characters (I mean, the Thing is a major character … but not by himself) &/or don’t affect the major goings-on in the Marvel Universe. (And if I could think oif a DC equivalent offhand, I’ll bet the same would be true).

The same, of course, goes for similarly intentioned miniseries like GLA & AGENTS OF ATLAS (which actually was played somewhat “straighter” than most of the others, but still had no real truck with mainstream Marvel at the time, if memory serves). *sigh*

Maybe that, as much as anything, is why I tend to gravitate toward indies (but *not* Alan David Drone’s beloved “artcomix”) so much these days. (In addition, of course, to the Big Two’s being wicked & all.)

Casa-freaking-nova. It’s all that’s awesome in comics.

Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius is a funny, entertaining book. I would have loved it as a kid (I love it now, even!). I think it reads like an extended newspaper comic, so it may fit someone with little experience reading comic books. I imagine the funnies are by far the most common way people are introduced to comics.

Rex Libris is a great series. Check it out. It’s published by Slave Labor Graphics.

All good recommendations. I’d also add Criminal, and maybe Northlanders and Young Liars as well.

The Franklin Richards comics (which i have to say I think of as a series of one-shots … it’s entirely possible I’m totally wrong, though) are quite pleasant, but in my case, more than anything else they engender a devout longing for an ongoing of Chris Giarrusso’s back-of-the-book “Mini-Marvels.” For me, those leave Franklin & H.E.R.B.I.E. (as well as the similarly intentioned & also very enjoyable TINY TITANS) in the dust. Colleen Coover’s occasional 2-or-so-pagers at the back of X-MEN FIRST CLASS are great, tioo — another ongoing I’d kill to see.

Usagi Yojimbo.

>>Even though, y’know, given my hatred for the Big Two, I am ethically bound to demand that the new reader in question shoplfit the comic.

How does that hurt the Big Two more than it hurts my LCS?

I’d have to pick Castle Waiting. It’s a great series that’s alot of fun, beautiful artwork, and great stories. Also I chose a series that needs help with sales because it should be more popular than it is.

>>How does that hurt the Big Two more than it hurts my LCS?

You do know I’m not serious. RIght?

My past recommendations in this category would have been Jeff Smith’s Bone and Mark Crilley’s Akiko. They have both ceased with publishing new issues, so I guess they wouldn’t count as ongoing, although there are trades available for each.

Similarly, I would recommend Kunkel’s Herobear and the Kid as a wonderful book that should find instant apeal with animation fans, but again, it is just one TPB, and not an ongoing series (I’m dying to see Kunkel’s upcoming Shazam book!).

Elfquest by the Pinis is also a book that I have found appeals to non-comic book types, but again, doesn’t fit the “ongoing” rule.

Depending on my assessment of the tastes and interests of this mythical “new reader,” I would recommend one of these:

* Amelia Rules! (by Jimmy Gownley)

Kid friendly (the kiss of death!), this book is centered around several elemetary school aged characters garners comparisons to Peanuts. At times funny, moving, tragic, and cute, this books really hits all it’s marks nearly flawlessly. Available in floppies and TPB collections.

* True Story Swear to God (by Tom Beland)

Kid friendly in art style, but not at all in language and content. If the “new reader” is a typical female, this is your book — it’s all about a developing romance and relationships between friends, family, and cultures. The fact that it is distributed by Image means should be in most comic shops, I think.

* Castle Waiting (by Linda Medley)

This was in my top 10 “runs.” This is a clever book incorporating aspects of various fairy tales and mythological ideas — the talking centaur, the sprites infesting the castle, the order or bearded nuns that are responsible for the upkeep of the castle, etc. It comes out every couple of months or so from Fantagraphics, and a collection of older issues is available.

* Usagi Yojimbo (by Stan Sakai)

Despite more than 20 collected TBPs (all in print) I think a new reader could get into this book easily. Anyone who is interested in samurai, honor, sword battles, and the like should enjoy this book. From Dark Horse, so it is from a major company and is easy to get in monthly or larger doses.

>>* Amelia Rules! (by Jimmy Gownley)

Kid friendly (the kiss of death!), this book is centered around several elemetary school aged characters garners comparisons to Peanuts. At times funny, moving, tragic, and cute, this books really hits all it’s marks nearly flawlessly. Available in floppies and TPB collections.<<

I absolutely love this title. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned previously, Diamond seems uninterested in providing my LCS with copies. Even worse, for some mad reason Lone Star & Mile High appear to prefer not to acknowledge the existence of recent issues.

If you go with “Elfquest” you might want to have plenty of insulin on hand.

This is really interesting… Primarily because I’ve just started trying to introduce comics to my office… I started with my boss, whose birthday was January the 1st, and I’ve been doing it for everyone’s birthday so far…

The difference is, I’ve been giving out trades, not comics…

I’ve tried to base choices on the individuals’ TV and Movie taste.

My boss (who adores Sci-fi) got Planetary… he has since worked his way through Fables, Marvels, and LOEG… He is going to start getting Fables regularly…

Others have received:

DMZ

Fell

Sandman

Calvin and Hobbes (not strictly a comic, I know, but certainly was a strip…)

Strangehaven

League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Preacher

My aim is to get people to read them and then recommend them to others in the office or pass them around… If they hate it, I want to know why and what they hated…

(oh, and the best entry book for Fables – as others have said before – is definitely Book two – Animal Farm – they can then go back and read book one, but Animal Farm hooks better…)

I also pass on my subscription to 2000AD after I’ve read it…

I think Franklin Richards is quarterly. I’m not certain, but I figured it rated a mention at least.

Giarrusso’s Mini-Marvels are also a great read, and I would love to see it get its own series as well. There’s a digest coming out soon. It’s got everything done to date, so keep an eye out!

[...] Reed picked it as the comic he’d most recommend to new comic book [...]

[...] CBR’s Comics Should Be Good’s Question of The Month. [...]

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives