Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Comic Recommendations

Okay, people have been asking for recommendations ever since the show started on what to read and where to get them. Well, I'm finally putting something together here that hopefully will answer most questions and give some stuff for people to look at.

I've never read comics before, but I want to start. What should I read/buy to get started?

There is no answer to this question. I'm sorry, but there simply isn't. The thing is that there's a wide variety of subjects that comic books cover, just as much as regular fiction. This recommendations list assumes that people mean "Superhero comics" and not just comic books in general, since superheroes are a GENRE, just like fantasy, romance, or westerns. Comic books are a MEDIUM, the way in which the stories are distributed. As such, there are just as many topics as other forms of entertainment.

Assuming you want to start with superhero comics, there is no single document you can read that can serve as a primer to getting into them. Many of these superheroes have been going on for over sixty years and a story from the 50s or 60s won't necessarily have the same relevance that it does today, but they're still in continuity or etc., etc. Simply put, there are too many stories for too many characters. Most of the time, I honestly recommend that you head into a comic book store or a book store, head over ot the trade paperbacks or graphic novels and just look for something that you think looks good to you.

However, assuming you want someplace to start, this list will serve as my personal recommendations of things that I enjoy and you might enjoy yourselves. I will also state in the descriptions of these recommendations how difficult it will be as a new reader to understand some of the plot points occurring within them.

Click "Read More" for the full list.

Completed Stories
These are books that are complete and it is very, VERY unlikely that there will be continuations for them or were just made so long ago that the individual stories of the characters are difficult to find.

JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative
As I've said many times before, this is my favorite comic book ever. It's a three-issue miniseries that was meant to get the ball rolling on a new Titans series and it succeeded. The basic premise: an alien force grabs hold of the moon and starts kidnapping every member of the Teen Titans that's ever been on the team.

Admittedly, this one might be difficult for new readers, however this is also the book that got me into comics books to begin with. It gives enough history within its pages that you know what's going on without needing to consult wikipedia and it makes you want to read more about the characters instead of simply being confused by them. It is also the book that I hold as the benchmark for comparison to all other "Event" comics.

This one is also difficult to find since it's out of print, but it's worth trying to find it.

Watchmen is another one that I often will compare other comics to, basically because it is considered by many to be the GREATEST COMIC EVER MADE. I don't necessarily agree, but at the very least it's the "Citizen Kane" of comics. As good as the movie was, it could never hope to capture the actual comic and the multitude of themes and events transpiring within it, plus it changed details here and there (not just the squid thing that I harp on a lot).

The premise is basically that in the 30s and 40s, people were inspired by superhero comics to actually try to become crimefighters themselves. By 1985, it's looked at as a forgotten fad and now one, the Comedian, has been murdered. If a local comic book shop or book store DOESN'T have a copy of Watchmen, even if they don't regularly carry graphic novels, you should wonder what the deal is with it.

V for Vendetta
Another Alan Moore story, but this one's a hell of a lit more grim and washed-out than its barely-recognizable movie adaptation (Hugo Weaving as V being the exception in that).

V for Vendetta is a story about fascism vs. anarchy, not any standard left vs. right politics. The characters are rich and complex, with interweaving plots about attempts to grab power among those already among the elite and a man's quest for revenge who could be easily interpreted as either hero or villain for his actions. This story contains a TON of memorable moments, but for me, none is better than a simple line, "Give me a Viking Funeral." Should be easy to find and does not require any previous comic knowledge.

If you've seen my "Justice League: Cry for Justice" reviews, you should be familiar with the name James Robinson. Robinson is NOT a bad writer and Starman is proof of that. Even I, someone who hates Cry for Justice with every fiber of my being, cannot bring myself to fault him for this series.

Starman is the story of Jack Knight, the son of the Golden Age hero Starman. When Starman's old enemy The Mist begins a massive crime spree to destroy his nemesis and everything he olds dear, Jack must reluctantly take up the mantle of Starman to save his father and Opal City. Along the way of Jack Knight's journey as a hero, he gains allys from across the DC Universe, both heroes and villains, and his story has a definitive conclusion that to this day no one has interfered with out of respect to that character and to James Robinson himself for it.

The series is currently collected in the six Starman Omnibus books, which all should be fairly easy to find or order. While it is built HEAVILY on the mythos of the DC Universe, pretty much every character's backstory is explored and given to the readers, so any supplementary reading just enhances the experience. There are the occasional issues, though, that connect to events occurring in the greater universe at the time, like DC's "One Million" event, but again, it's nothing you NEED to know in order to get the point of the story.

Avengers: Forever
I freely admit that I'm more of a DC fan than Marvel. That isn't to say that I'm not a fan of some Marvel things, but I'm just not as into the Marvel Universe as others. However, I had read a long time ago about how Avengers: Forever was supposed to be really good, so on a whim I picked it up... and it is glorious.

The premise is that the Avengers' longtime ally, Rick Jones, has been targeted for elimination by the being known as Immortus. An alliance of other cosmic forces gathers seven members of the Avengers from across its past and future to protect him and discover the greater plot in play to destroy mankind.

Again, this one may be more difficult for newer readers, but as someone with only a passing knowledge of the Avengers, this was still incredibly fun for me. This one may also be a bit harder to find, but it's well worth it.

After the events of the DC event book "Infinite Crisis," the world must now continue without Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman within it. The series was released weekly for an entire year and it was glorious, told in real time to that year. What began as a way to fill in the gaps between Infinite Crisis and the DC books at the time which had "jumped ahead one year later," instead evolved into a story about minor characters in the DCU like Steel, Black Adam, Booster Gold, Renee Montoya, and more exploring various corners of the DC Universe.

There's something for everyone here - a story about a supervillain seeking redemption through the rebuilding of his home nation, a cosmic story about three lost heroes trying to find their way back to earth, one man's quest to bring his wife back to life through magic, and, again, much more.

This one should be easy to find and I'm pretty sure is still in print, but it's a story about the DC Universe as a whole, so of course there are going to be references to events transpiring within it and things that have happened before, but I think should be easy enough for newcomers, especially when reading it again and picking up on all the little things that were hinted and foreshadowed from earlier.

There's no easy way to define this series. At its core, it's fantasy. The entity known as Dream (AKA Morpheus, AKA the Sandman) has been trapped for 70 years by a sorceror, but now he's gotten free and rebuilds his domain as the weaver and lord of dreams. Throughout the run we meet some heroes of the DC Universe both past and present, but for the most part this is a story that is all its own, since at the time the DC imprint Vertigo wasn't certain of whether it was really a part of the DC Universe or not.

It's got romance, parables, action, and even a sojourn into hell in one of my favorite issues ever, "A Hope in Hell." This one's still in print, too, and it's honestly that good, though the art style may not be to everyone's taste. It has both beauty and horror and both are given their proper exploration.

Crisis on Infinite Earths
One of the first "Event" books from a major comic company and it's also one of the best. In 1985, the DC Universe had A LOT of alternate universes and timelines. For many, it wasn't difficult to follow, but for new readers it was considered a challenge trying to figure out who was from what world. As such, it was decided to bring them to an end in one of the first "event" comics.

A massive wall of anti-matter is traveling through every parallel universe, wiping them out. What's causing it? How will the worlds survive? Starring EVERYBODY that DC owned, it's the very definition of epic, and really the point where modern DC Comics began. It's also still in print, so it shouldn't be difficult to find. It might be a little difficult for new readers since there are a lot of characters in it who are either dead or have changed over the years, but the principle characters like Batman and Superman are there and you'll have fun wanting to know about some of the other heroes highlighted in it.

Secret Wars
Those are the first words of a being known as the Beyonder, who brings forth a large group of heroes and a large group of villains to duke it out on an alien world. It admittedly can be confusing at times and it's VERY action-oriented, but for an event comic it's got a lot of good character moments and it's also the origin of Spider-Man's black costume. It's got enough great twists and turns to keep you interested and just great superhero action. You don't need to know very much about Marvel history to get this one - most of the history or the like is given in-comic.

Blue Beetle
Jaime Reyes' story spun-out of the event book Infinite Crisis, wherein he was given a supposedly-mystical scarab that granted him an armored suit. In his solo series, we see him having to learn how to be a hero while exploring the legacy of the two previous Blue Beetles, paying tribute to those characters. Many people didn't give Jaime a fair shot while he was Blue Beetle, but you can still find the trade paperback of the series, which for a while was my absolute favorite book on the market.

After the abysmal Countdown, it would've been very easy for the third weekly series from DC to be even worse, but thankfully it wasn't. Taking a cue from 52, the series is self-contained. Instead of a world without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, this series asks what if ALL THREE of the them were taken out of the world's entire history and creates new heroes and resurrects several formerly dead ones. While at times the artwork isn't anything spectacular, it's a great story in my humble opinion and definitely worth checking out, though it does continue some elements from the next recommendation.

Krona, a powerful scientist seeking to understand the origins of the universe, makes a bet with the Marvel villain called the Grandmaster. Both pit each universe's respective super-team on a scavenger hunt for some of the most powerful items in their universes. The two teams must learn to respect the other and eventually join forces to save all universes from Krona. This one can be confusing for people new to comics, but it was a load of fun for me, especially the ending confrontation when members of both teams' history keep appearing and disappearing to help. Simply put, it's flippin' awesome. Besides, where else will you see Superman wielding Captain America's shield?

Ongoing Series

NOTE: These are series that are currently ongoing at the time of this post.

Booster Gold
BOOSTER GOLD! He protects the past to ensure your future! I would actually recommend two readings before jumping head first into this series. First is Showcase Presents Booster Gold, a black and white reprint of the original Booster Gold series from the 1980s. It's inexpensive and really shows that despite Booster wanting to make a business out of crimefighting, he ISN'T just in it for money and never was, despite what many modern writers like to have him be written as.

The current series basically continues on from the events of 52, which is another thing I highly recommend reading before jumping into this. However, the premise of the current series is basically that Booster Gold travels through time to right wrongs in the timestream.

Secret Six
Holy crap I cannot recommend this series enough. However, if one wants the full backstory, they should first pick up the series that got them together, known as "Villains United." That book was a tie-in to the event Infinite Crisis (itself a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths), but it sets up the main characters of the Secret Six. From there, there was a Secret Six miniseries "Six Degrees of Devastation" that set up some more character bits, but otherwise the main series itself is AWESOME.

It has a strong focus on the characters. What we have here are six B-list villains who have joined together because they honestly have noone else. It's often both heartwarming and sad, yet at other times disturbing. They've dealt with some of the worst, most evil people (not just supervillains - honest-to-god EVIL people) in the world and yet have still come out as likeable and making you want to read more about them. This is, simply put, one of the best damn books I've ever read.

Birds of Prey
On the other side of the villain/hero divide is Birds of Prey, also by Gail Simone. While Chuck Dixon was the first writer on the book during its first run, Gail really made it her own. The basic premise has Barbara Gordon, AKA Oracle, organizing heroes to run missions for her. Her usual agent is Black Canary, who is NOT a psychotic Irish ninja and has instead been trained by some of the best martial artists in the world.

Really you should be able to jump into any issue or trade without needing to know TOO much more, since any backstory is revealed to the readers in the dialogue. After Gail left the book a few years ago to work on Wonder Woman, Sean Mckeever took over and while it still had good elements, it just didn't quite work the same way, but it's still worth checking out if you become a fan. So yeah, either pick up the current ongoing series or check in with some of the back-issues.

Justice Society of America/JSA
Since a new creative direction is starting in the book, I can't say for certain if the ongoing is still worth it, but the back-issues of the series, particularly when it was called "JSA" are definitely worth checking out. They were the world's first superhero team and they fully embrace that legacy, bringing in new versions of old characters, legacy heroes, and just basically work together to face off against all manner of villains.

Like so much else, there is no single place to start looking at the Merc with a Mouth. I would strongly advise looking for trades of Cable and Deadpool, where the two Liefeld creations work awesomely together with Cable the straight man and Deadpool being jokey and breaking the fourth wall. Deadpool's current solo series is an hilarious read and I'd recommend starting there with his tie-in issues to the event Secret Invasion. Deadpool Team-Up has him joining forces with a ton of Marvel heroes, even our old pal US-1 (now called US-Ace).

Green Lantern/Green Lantern Corps.
Several years ago, Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, went bad - killed the entire Green Lantern Corps., then tried to remake the universe. Twice. Writer Geoff Johns made it his goal to repair that creative error and has built up a massive amount of mythos around the Green Lanterns.

While at times both series can be a little convoluted and event-crazy, both series are definitely worth checking out for a mixture of superhero action as well as space police kind of fun. Start with the trades, though - at any given time, there might be an event or the like happening and you'll be walking into it without any context as to who is what and where.

Justice League of America/JLA
The quality of the Justice League's main book tends to ebb and flow. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's average. Personally I think it's at its best when it embraces its tagline of "The World's Greatest Superheroes," which is why if there's a place you want to start from, I'd suggest start with a trade collection of "A Midsummer's Nightmare," which in turn leads into the series "JLA" as written by Grant Morrison.

At times, Grant Morrison's work can feel like you're reading something that just skipped two pages, but this stuff is the height of epic, combining multiple storylines at once to raise the stakes for the heroes and truly make it seem like even though they're the most powerful superheroes in the world, they have a true challenge on their hands.

Power Girl
Power Girl is Superman's cousin from a parallel universe. There, done, that's her origin story in a nutshell. She doesn't take crap from anyone and her series is a lot of fun. The initial run of the book is probably at its best, with fun artwork from Amanda Conner and just awesome writing. The current series by Judd Winick is still good and has some superb artwork from Sami Basri. While it's not as good as the initial run, it's still a good book and worth checking out.

Batman/Superman/Wonder Woman
Because of the natures of these books with often-rotating creative teams, recommending the "Current" run of any of them will inevitably become outdated. As such, here are just some recommendations for runs I recommend you seek out:

-Batman/Detective Comics runs where Dick Grayson initially starts out as Batman. While him currently being Batman is also good, I think the initial energy of when he started is excellent, particularly under Judd Winick or Grant Morrison (though again, the warning for Grant Morrison's book stands - almost every piece of dialogue becomes important in some fashion).
-Superman: I enjoyed Kurt Busiek's run on the book, but of course with a character like Superman your mileage is always going to vary.
-Wonder Woman: I HIGHLY recommend Gail Simone's run on the book, but if you really wanted a look farther back, Greg Rucka's run is full of heart and great mythical action.

Teen Titans
The Titans have had a looong history. If you wanted to start in the past, I'd recommend looking into the run written by Marv Wolfman in the 1980s, considered the very best of the book. Beyond that, Devin Grayson's run on the book, with the team as adults helping teach some of the old guard, is my personal favorite run. The current series written by J.T. Krul has been good so far, but it's only been about three or four issues so far. Geoff Johns' run has been liked by many (and is the start of where the current volume of the book began), but for me it was very hit and miss in some of its aspects.

Red Robin
While I'm not fond of either the name or the costume, Tim Drake (AKA the third Robin)'s run as the solo hero has been very good, starting with his search for the then-dead Bruce Wayne (though he is annoyingly mopey in the early stuff of the current book), it's followed by a great storyline which pits him against Ra's Al'Ghul and the book is currently written by Fabien Nicieza, who many of you may recall I've felt bad about making fun of in my reviews because he's a good writer. And unlike books like Cable: Blood and Metal, these books don't have hideous artwork or ludicrously boring stories.

Darkwing Duck
For those of you who enjoyed the original cartoon, this one picks up a few years later after the series and manages to tell just awesome superhero stories while building on the continuity of the show and having an ongoing storyline. It's exciting, humorous, AND dramatic. Just awesome so far.

I fear many fans of Cassandra Cain, the previous Batgirl, haven't taken a look at this series because of perceived disservice to that character. As a fan of Cass, I sympathize and agree she has been given the short stick as of late, but Stephanie Brown's run as Batgirl has been very enjoyable, IMHO. Steph takes the role seriously and her own mythos and supporting cast have been built up over the last year to great effect.

General Recommendations

There are a number of books that I don't read, just because I'm not all that interested in them or haven't had time to really look at in greater detail. However, that isn't to say they're bad and I've heard people recommend them to me over the years, so here's just a general list of titles currently ongoing that you may want to check out for yourself.

Captain America - The series as written by Ed Brubaker
Incredible Hercules - The series spun out of Incredible Hulk and I believe it was written by Greg Pak, though don't take my word for it.
Annihilation - Space Adventure stuff - end of the Marvel universe as we know it, but focuses on Marvel's space heroes fending off the oncoming threat.
Nova - Kind of like Green Lantern, but is the follow-up to Annihilation. I really only read the first few issues, where Nova chews out Iron Man for being too busy with the Civil War crap to stop the Annihilation wave. (It has been pointed out that the ongoing series has been canceled, unfortunately)
Thor - The series written by J. Michael Straczynski. I admit I only read a few issues, but I hear the series has continued to be good even after JMS left.
Amazing Spider-Man - At least, the times when it was written by JMS. One More Day notwithstanding, the series up until that point was actually pretty damn good, with Aunt May discovering Peter's identity and changing the nature of their relationship for the better. Sure, there are some flat-out WEIRD things that happen during the run, but they're not necessarily all that bad compared to others.
Astonishing X-Men - Many have recommended Joss Whedon's run on the book as a good place to start for those looking to get into the X-Men.

That's all I have off the top of my head. I'll probably update this list as time goes on or more people hand me recommendations to add. However, this is what I've got personally.

I'd like to once again emphasize that really, your best bet for getting into comics is simply walking into a comic book store or a book store, finding something that looks good, and going from there. Maybe you'll like it, maybe you'll be disappointed, but walking into a store and picking up JLA/Titans: The Technis Imperative from a comic book store is how I got my start and it seemed to go pretty well for me.


Zeraphim said...

Funny thing is that i was thinking while reading the title "hope that he recommends Red Robin and v3 of Batgirl as well as Birds of Prey" and in good taste, my good sir, you did! Crisis on infinite worlds is really a good event story and holds up pretty good even today =)

You're the reason i got all the issues of 52, and i don't regret it! I will surely look up most of these comics on this list i don't own already to the extent as i can... they're not that big in publishing these things in sweden and the digital distribution for DC and marvel titles can be... scarce sometimes...

Keep on the good work =)

The Mad Scientist said...

Thanks for posting this, Lewis! I look forward to hopefully picking some of these up in the future!

By the way, I'm glad you posted this mostly because I'd have been lost without it. Every time you've mentioned The Technis Imperative in one of your reviews, I thought you were saying "The Tetanus Imperative". I would have been searching for a comic where the Titans all got immunizations! How boring would that be??? =P

Cferra said...

This is pretty much my list if I was to do something like this. I have read mostly Marvel in the past and it's good to see some of the ones I'd have chosen here. As for DC, I'll have to check 'em out. Nicely done!

MechaManiac said...

For those of you wanting a little more giant robot action than superheroes, here are my two following recommendations based on personal experience and what I've heard:

Transformers: The War Within is a good place to start for those new to the Transformers mythos, IMHO. It details how the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons started, and it featured art by then-fan-favorite Don Figueroa and was penned by famed Transformers scribe Simon Furman (some eagle-eyed AT4W viewers may recognize the name: he wrote the second issue of Marvel's Brute Force).

The second recommendation I give is Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers. Although I only read the last two issues of its 5-issue run, I can say without a doubt that it is one of the best Transformers stories ever written... which is ironic, considering the fact that Furman didn't even really have his hand in this project! It was co-written by Nick Roche and Nick Roberts, the former of whom also drew the art. Granted, you do need to read up on quite a few other comics to get a proper explanation for why some characters act the way they do (including the reviled All Hail Megatron!), but it is still worth every effort. In fact, I'd recommend actually picking up the TPB for Last Stand of the Wreckers, as it has some bonus content, such as a small prequel comic, and a prose epilogue story, and both are in canon to the main course.

Those are my recommendations, and I'm sticking to them.

Ming said...

Thanks for posting this list of comic recommendations.

There are other excellent comic books out there as well. Let me list some of them:

- Irredeemable and Incorruptible by Mark Waid and Boom Studios
- Darkwing Duck from Boom Kids
- Fables (and various spin-offs) by Bill Willingham
- G.I. Joe (original/Marvel Real American Heroes, Devil's Due/Disavowed, and current IDW run)
- Geoff Johns' run on the Flash (both Wally West and Brightest Day/Barry Allen)
- the main Brightest Day series
- Justice League: Generation Lost
- The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck
- Kick-Ass by Mark Millar
- Justice League: The New Frontier
- League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore

BTW, have you ever considered doing a list of your MOST HATED comics ever or the ultimate WORST comics you've ever seen?

Mildra: The RPG Monk said...

Thank you for putting up this list, that's one more geek frontier to dive into in earnest (especially since this will be useful in my research)

now if you'll excuse me, I've got a few things to order.

~The Monk

Hound_bound said...

Thanks for this. I'm the opposite of you in that I read mostly Marvel (Hence the Nova icon :) ) so having some recs on DC stuff is really great. Thanks so much for this!

Octo7 said...

Good list Linkara! but...

I know you've already got two Alan Moore books up there but Saga of the Swamp Thing 1-6 should be there too in my opinion! It practically gave birth to Sandman and the entire Vertigo line. All 6 volumes are easy enough to find as well. Swamp Thing is what got me into American comics again, I think it would be a good starting point for people looking for something a little more than Superhero stuff. It's one of the most epic, well written series I've ever read, far more consistent than Sandman :D at least that's my 10 cents.

Jeremy A. Patterson said...




Octo7 said...

Incidentally, my only two absolute editions are Watchmen and V, and it was worth the 200 bucks :D

Anonymous said...

I was thinking the other night why I don't read comics, at least not Marvel or DC ones, the Status Quo never changes, its been decades and the universes are still the same, all the villains are still loose and if a hero ever dies they come back by some means or in the reboot that comes out a year later. Why start comics when you already know how everything is

Screech The Mighty said...

Fun fact: I read the Blue Beetle paperbacks simply because you said they were awesome. And you were right. ^^

"However, the premise of the current series is basically that Booster Gold travels through time to right wrongs in the timestream."

I smell some Doctor Who crossover fanfic!!!

E. Wilson said...

I'mma' throw some love out to "Gotham Central", which was just collected into hardcover; not only is it totally awesome, but one of its main characters becomes central to the also-incredibly-awesome 52 series already mentioned above. Rene Montoya is probably my favorite B-List character in the DCU, edging out the rank-and-file of the Sinestro Corp.

(Having said that, I've always thought you're more than generous when it comes to recommending comics on AT4W; you never hesitate to say, "A much better Batman story than this one is such and such", or "So-and-so wrote this terrible story here, but they've also done good work on this other title there." I think more people just tend to focus on the bad because it's more entertaining and memorable.)

Anonymous said...

I don't read many comics, but I absolutely adore the Sandman series. Thanks for recommending it here.

Still trying to get some money to get the Blue Beetle books. Being a college students sucks sometimes. :(

ShadowWing Tronix said...

I was surprised to see Darkwing Duck. While I give a must read review every month, I just wasn't expecting it in the list.

Non DC & Marvel titles don't get enough love.

Lewis Lovhaug said...

"I was surprised to see Darkwing Duck. While I give a must read review every month, I just wasn't expecting it in the list."

Added it after someone in the comments reminded me. XD

Jarkes said...

So, regarding the Green Lantern Corps... What did you think of the two recent events involving them, "In Blackest Night" and its follow-up, "In Brighest Day"?

Derecho said...

I got into comics through Young Justice. It's a great series, a devoted creative team and great character moments. Now if only the show would live up to the namesake (just like Young Justice)

Jarkes said...

A comic I enjoyed is "The New Frontier," an Elseworlds-esque story (I say esque because it's not officially an Elseworlds title) where DC superheroes have to deal with McCarthyism in the 1950's and '60's, and eventually fight an Eldritch Abomination known as The Circle. It was also adapted into a DCU Animated Original Movie, which I actually saw before reading the comic. It's awesome, and it makes perfect sense. Oddly enough, I happened to be studying about the 50s and 60s in my American History class around the same time. Huh. Irony.

WGPJosh said...

Cool list Lewis! You're responsible for getting me back into comics and I'm happy to see some of your top picks. I'm really glad to see PG on the list-I always wondered what you thought of her. Not a real fan of Winick's run, but I adored Palmiotti, Grey and Connor's run like most people. It's one of the few superhero comics that I read and just fell in love with.

If I may go on a bit of personal tangent I'd also like to mention a few of my favourite comic series if I may. I find they're very, very accessible and easy to get addicted to:

Though I confess to not being a huge superhero fan, I have to give a shout-out to Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's Harley and Ivy series. Two of my absolute favourite characters of all time in a delightful multipart comedy romp. My only complaint is that it's too short. The whole series ins collected in a trade.

Star Trek fans would do well to check out DC's take on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Malibu Comics' take on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, both from the late 80s and early 90s. I found both series incredibly faithful to and evocative of the TV series, often managing to actually top them. They're also divorced enough from canon that those with only a passing interest in Trek will get a lot out of them too. These were the books that got me, a huge Trekkie but non-comic fan, to check out American comics when I was young. All of the Star Trek comics made up 'till the early 2000s can be found on a tremendous DVD package called "Star Trek Comics: The Complete Collection" put out by GitCorp.

It's hard to find at the moment, but my favourite comic series of all time has got to be Carl Barks' magnum opus ostensibly based on Disney's Donald Duck cartoons but with an entire universe all to itself. Barks recasts Donald as a down-on-his-luck working class everyman and gives him a rich Uncle by the name of Scrooge McDuck. Scrooge is the richest duck in the world and often takes his nephew and grandnephews on globetrotting adventures to find new investment opportunities. Yes, I just also described DuckTales, the late-80s, early-90s cartoon show. It was Barks' stories from which the premise to DuckTales was borrowed. Barks' 5 decades of work on the Duck comics will be collected in anthology format starting this fall.

I tend to lean more toward the European graphic novels more often than not. My favourites are The Adventures of Tintin and Snowy by Herge, a Belgian series about a boy reporter, his dog and their offbeat friends who travel around the world getting involved in international politics and crime rings and Marsupilami, another Belgian property about a fantastic animal with a 7-meter long tail who lives in the depths of an uncharted South American rainforest. Both are beautifully drawn and boast decades of stories with perfectly crafted social commentary and satire ripped straight from the headlines.
Sadly, Marsupilami is hard to find in the US and is only translated into European languages, though Tintin you can find just about anywhere books are sold and in English. Additionally, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are making a movie based on a crucial story arc in Tintin to be released this December. A good time to catch up!

OK enough of me. 'Fraid I got a bit long winded, though I hope I helped somebody. Thanks giving me some space to jabber and thanks for your thoughts Lewis-I enjoy hearing you opinion and analysis of sequential art.

Pete Wolf said...

I'm surprised you didn't suggest any of Claremont's X-stuff. Honestly, if you've never read comics before, I'd recommend picking up from the beginning of the start of his works, so basically Giant-size X-men #1 and X-men #94 and on, New Mutants #1 and on, Xtreme X-men #1 and on, X-men Forever #1 and on, and Uncanny X-men 381-389 and 444-473. The first issue or so may seem unfamiliar, but it's pretty easy to get into after you get accustomed to the canon.

Addley C. Fannin said...

These are definitely some awesome recomendations. I've been reading comics for about five years now so I've covered some of this ground; but I haven't looked into Starman. It's next on my list now. ^_^

And I'm really happy that Red Robin made your list. Tim's always been one of my favorite characters (heck, Young Justice was my Teen Titans, if you get my drift) and I agree that his solo series as been great. And that goes double for Jaime as Blue Beetle!

Batgirl...I keep wobbling on that, and it's got nothing to do with Cass's cruddy treatment. It's just that, especially after her pregnancy, Steph Brown always danced a little too close to the domestic abuser territory for me to be comfortable with her. And the terrible, fan fiction-like story they used to bring her back didn't help much. But I've heard the recent creative team is handling her story better and making her into a much more likable character, so...maybe I'll give it a shot.

I'd like to recommend my personal favorite series and gateway drug, the original Young Justice run (not the new tie-in to the cartoon, though for a cartoon tie-in that's not bad either) buuuuuuut it is really hard, since there's only two collected books and one of the is pretty expensive. -.-; But if you can find it, especially the first collection, I think it's a great way to get into the fun mindset of comics and how good the writing can really be.

Psychotime said...

Not much for indy, I see. Ah well, it's your list, after all.

technotreegrass said...

I agree about walking into a comic book store. It is how I found Eric Powell's The Goon, which I highly recommend to everybody reading this blog.

Anonymous said...

You should keep a link to this post on the front page. Eventually this post is going to not be on the front page, and anyone viewing the blog after that may not realize this post exists.

Some Guy Who Dislikes Death said...

"Why start comics when you already know how everything is"

Erm, for the story. You know, the middle parts? Do you not enjoy anything, dude? "I don't like music because it fades away." "I hate movies because the credits always roll." "I never read books cause I always get to the back cover."

I mean, I kind of see your point. "Where's the drama if most people who die come back?" Well, death isn't the only tragedy in life. Where is it written that the only way for there to be drama is if people die? There's tons of bad stuff that can happen to characters. In fact, it's awesome that after a character has suffered or endured a lot, they keep fighting until they succeed.

"No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of." -Kurt Vonnegut writing tip

Jack T. Chance said...

Suggestions that weren't already mentioned.

Y the Last Man - The story of what happens when every creature with a Y chromosome dies, except for the main character Yorick Brown and his monkey.

Fables (and it's spin off Jack of Fables) - The story of characters from different European fairy tales living in modern day New York in their secret community known as Fabletown.

Transmetropolitan - Ummm... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transmetropolitan

Runaways - A group of kids find out that their parents are actually a group of supervillains known as "The Pride". They run away from home and along the way meet Marvel mainstays. If that doesn't seem at all interesting, a 12 year old girl beats up both Wolverine and the Punisher.

Kenley said...

Linkara that is a very good list. I have read most of the series and I'm glad that you have Booster Gold and Power Girl. Those are the books that I recommend, but some people do not want to grab it, because Power Girl looks more like fan service and people remember Booster as a very narcissistic person.

I think there are a few good comics you left behind. Some of these aren't super hero comics.
-Superman Red Son- I read this without too much knowledge of Superman. The only knowledge I have is from the TV series.Some people say this is better than Watchmen, but I still prefer Watchmen.
-Fables-This doesn't require too much knowledge about comics. In fact, you only need to know some Fables.
-The Unwritten-This is currently my favorite comic book series. Other comic books require me to read up to issue 2 or 3 before I love the series, but this had me since issue one. It's not bad in terms of story, but the concept is absolutely amazing.
-Scott Pilgrim- Do I need to explain this?
-Kick-Ass- It already has some mainstream attention.
-Sweet Tooth- A great story about a post-apocalyptic world
Justice League Generation Lost- I think majority of the backstory is in the book

nebosuke said...

It looks like this post is as good a time as any for this. I've really got to thank you Linkara for getting me back into comics, your praising of Crisis on Infinite Earths and 52 convinced me to try them out and I loved both of them. I've been Netflixing the Justice League cartoons and found them to be just as enjoyable as the Superman and Batman cartoons I enjoyed all those years ago. The biggest thing though is that all this got me to return to the first comic book superhero I ever followed, Green Lantern. I admit I got into him because he was my Dad's favorite superhero, though the Green Lantern he followed was Hal Jordan and for me it was Kyle Rayner. Anyway, your praise for the Sinestro Corps Wars (plus I was also curious about John Stewart as a result of the JL cartoon) got me to try Geoff Johns revival of Green Lantern and I have been hooked ever since (just finished Sinestro Corps Wars and am working my way to Blackest Night). Thank you so much for helping bring back an enjoyment of a favorite superhero (and on a side note I must thank you for showing Power Rangers was good and I was right for enjoying them as a kid and am enjoying them again with Samurai) and to give me something to talk about with my Dad in regards to comics.

Anyway, if you don't mind my asking, I just finished reading Superboy: The Boy of Steel since I wanted to see a continuation of things on his end after Legion of 3 Worlds (which I had to read twice once for an intial impression and secpnd after reading a few Legion comics and wiki for context, plus it was good to see Superboy Prime get his just desserts) and really enjoyed it. Considering your mention of Teen Titans, does that include any followups to what I just read?

Anonymous said...

This is helpful, I haven't read a superhero comic since probably around the time Bruce took back the Batman title from the other guy with the armoured version of the suit. It was also the last time I hunted for individual issues, try to stick to trades or one off freebees these days, because I got tired of hunting for them myself/having other people hunt for them for me.

Fiery Little One.

Thoom said...

You mean to say that you are willing to forget about JMS' insipid Spidey story, "Sins Past, Sins Remembered" in which it was discovered that Gwen Stacy was banging Norman Osborne behind Peter's back, and had Norman's children without anyone's knowledge? And that the kids were raised and trained to kill Spider Man?

You forget about that shit, though it was equally as dumb as OMD?

Lewis Lovhaug said...

"So, regarding the Green Lantern Corps... What did you think of the two recent events involving them, "In Blackest Night" and its follow-up, "In Brighest Day"?"

Well, first of all the "In" isn't part of their names. XD Secondly, Blackest Night was okay. Brightest Day hasn't finished yet, so I have no opinion on it as yet.

Lewis Lovhaug said...

"You mean to say that you are willing to forget about JMS' insipid Spidey story, "Sins Past, Sins Remembered" in which it was discovered that Gwen Stacy was banging Norman Osborne behind Peter's back, and had Norman's children without anyone's knowledge? And that the kids were raised and trained to kill Spider Man?

You forget about that shit, though it was equally as dumb as OMD?"

The story was incredibly awful, yes, but in the long term it really had no effects on the title except for the very poor attempt at a follow-up to it. Otherwise it's been largely ignored and rightfully so. Unlike One More Day, which is still being felt in the Spider-Man titles because Peter and MJ are no longer a couple.

Benjamin J said...

Proud to say that I've read a lot of the books on this list (often repeatedly - I may actually need a new copy of Watchmen soon, I've been reading my copy cover to cover several times a year for over 10 years), and I plan to read a lot of those listed that I haven't yet (particularly Starman and Darkwing Duck).

BTW, while you didn't mention it here, due to your recommendation on the Top 15 you'll never review, I'm also dying to check out NextWave.

"Besides, where else will you see Superman wielding Captain America's shield?"

AND Thor's hammer. I want that cover on a poster. George Perez is the frigging man.

Ozaline said...

I'm more into Supergirl then Powergirl, personally, and the last and current Supergirl creative teams have been very good (almost everything before that was garbage though).

I do pick up Powergirl occasionally, otherwise I agree with your recommendations.

Have you read the Wizard of Oz, Land of Oz, and Ozma of Oz adaptations from Marvel? Even if you're not a fan of the Oz books Skottie Young's art is just too adorable.

Eyz said...

Some very great stuff I'm a fan too.

KKDW said...

(meant as one comment but split in to on account of being too long)

Well, a lot of this is stuff I've already read or already plan to read, but here are my thoughts on them:

Technis Imperative: Currently reading this one, picked it up because of your recommendation of it in that 'Holiday Shopping Guide' video you did at the end of 2009, and I'm really enjoying it.

Watchmen: This was pretty much the first superhero comic I'd read, while I'd read other comics before this (like the Beano and my Dad's Dan Dare collection). I actually requested (and got) it as a Christmas present, because I'd heard it was good and liked the sound of it but also because it was close to the film coming out so I thought I'd best read it first.

V for Vendetta: Not read this one yet but I plan to since I want to read as much Alan Moore stuff as possible.

Starman: I'll see if I can pick up the omnibuses at some point.

Avengers Forever: I'm more a DC guy than Marvel as well but I want to get more into the Marvel Universe so I might give this a look at some point.

52: Again, picked it up from your recommendation. This was my first step into the DC universe and I loved it. And it certainly helped in regards to learning about the wider aspects and characters of the DC Universe so it certainly was a good place to start.

Sandman: Definitely going to pick this up, I just need to decide whether to get regular trade paperbacks or to go all out with the Absolute Editions

Crisis on Infinite Earths: This is a major part of DC history so of course I should pick it up, and this almost certainly warrants picking up the Absolute Edition

Secret Wars: Yeah I think I should read this at some point as well.

Blue Beetle: Thanks once again to your video on Blue Beetle I've been reading this one, though in this case my brother's been buying the trades of it (along with a Blue Beetle action figure!)

Trinity: I think I might give this a look.

JLA/Avengers: This is one I want to look at.

Booster Gold: Started reading it early last year, also got the first trade paperback but I haven't read it yet.

KKDW said...

(part 2)

Secret Six: I'll go for this in trades, almost started picking it up regular following the Action Comics crossover but was having money issues so I decided against it.

Birds of Prey: Currently reading, plan to get the trades of the first series.

JSA: Current reading this and I plan to pick up the trades of the current series and the JSA series.

Deadpool: Well, my brother picked up the Prelude to Deadpool Corp trade paperback, haven't read it myself yet.

Greeen Lantern/Green Lantern Corp: Reading both of these at the moment, started with the beginning of Brightest Day. Again, plan to pick up the early issues in trade paperback.

JLA: See what I said about JSA

Power Girl: Started at issues 13 and I intend to get the trades.

Batman: Since I've read the 5 volumes of Batman: No Man's Land I'm planning on working forwards from there.
Superman: Same as above, but start post Infinite Crisis I think, though might also get the available trades of post-crisis material.
Wonder Woman: Plan on getting the Gail Simone and Greg Rucka run's along with the post-crisis reboot trades.

Teen Titans: Currently reading this and enjoying it, was thinking about picking up the trades of the Geoff Johns run but I'm not so sure about that. Definitely going to pick up the New Teen Titans era though with the upcoming Omnibus volume.

Red Robin: This was one of the first actually 'issues' rather than a trade I got and I'm enjoying it. Main reason I picked it up was because of the Batgirl crossover.

Darkwing Duck: Never saw the cartoon so I'll probably just ignore this one.

Batgirl: My current favourite series started with issue 8 and picked up the trade of the first 7 issues. Also I plan on picking up the trades of Cassandra Cain's Batgirl series.

And on the general recommendations: I've been thinking about JMS's Spidey run so maybe I'll give it a look, and my brother's said he wouldn't mind reading some Thor so we might try out his run on that to. Definitely want to go with Astonishing X-Men though.

I'd also like to throw in my own recommendation for anyone reading the comics, the Marvel series Runaways. I've got the first three big volumes of this series and I think it's excellent, and you don't need to know decades worth of back-story with this one since it only started in 2003 and doesn't really get into much interaction with the rest of the Marvel Universe until volume 2. Basic premise: A bunch of kids find out that their parents are in fact super villains. I think this series is awesome, though I've heard that the third series isn't that good but I haven't read it yet so I'll have to see for myself later on. Also, there's apparently a film version in development.

Anonymous said...

i'm choosing V for Vendetta, it reminds me of Watchmen, with all his layers.

And now i'm asking you a favor, I asked you before but you didn't respond.

I suggest Bonelli comics, Diabolik, Kriminal and Satanik.
I thought they were different then the american comics.

Hope you will enjoy them!

Dj.D said...

Would this book count as a starting point?


skc said...

Thanks Lewis!

Realize making recommendations for people cometely new to the genre can be trying, but it IS appreciated. When you're a newbie, the offerings available seem limitless, and it's kind of nice to have someplace to start from. Have read a couple of the ones you have on the list, and found your recommendations to be spot on! Looking forward to reading some of the other ones you recommended!


m121akuma said...

@Thoom: I'm more than willing to forgive "Sins Past" for the entire "Ezekiel", which I felt was fantastically well done and introduced an interesting spin on the mythos, while really evolving Peter and his supporting cast as characters in a way we'd never seen before, and more than likely, never will again.

@Linkara: *Scrolls through list*
*Sees Trinity and JLA/Avengers*
Fantastic list for those two alone.

Anonymous said...

hi linkara i wish to say thanks for the list and i also wanted to ask if you are still planing on doing the star trek elite force 2 lets play?

Lewis Lovhaug said...

"hi linkara i wish to say thanks for the list and i also wanted to ask if you are still planing on doing the star trek elite force 2 lets play?"

Eventually, but not any time soon, I'm afraid.

reservoirdogs said...

What of Joe Kelly on Deadpool, Grant Morrison on Animal Man, or Matt Fractions Iron Man?

NGT said...

I will second the 52/Trinity recommendations, since they're not too hard to get ahold of and they really are that good.

(Also, Showcase Presents Booster Gold is stupidly hard to find for me.)

Danger said...

nice list there Linkara, most of those I really enjoy or have heard good things about and plan on reading. However,I wish you would have added Batman: The Long Halloween to the list of completed stories. Also, while I thoroughly enjoyed Chris Yost's work on Red Robin (agree, dumb name, costume's alright though), the only thing that makes reading Fabian Nicieza's work is that I'm reminded of Chris Yost's first 12 issues. I'm about to drop the title.

Nevermore said...

ASTRO CITY is one of the best superhero comics ever. And the best part is, you can start at any point (except maybe in the middle of a multi-part story) without feeling lost, as the focus changes with every story. There's no such thing as a "main character", each story is just like a piece in the vast tapestry that is the world of Astro City.

That and the fact that there are no crossovers with other titles period. Anything Busiek wants to tell within the pages of the series, he can tell with its own characters.

Also, realistic time skip! The first issue was released over 15 years ago, and characters that were kids when it started have become adults by now. (And due to its erratic release schedule, there's only eight trade paperback collections' worth of material by this point.)

Anonymous said...

Other stuff I'd recommend for people who want more old school stuff, or Marvel:

The Man of Steel minseries: the first appearance of the rebooted Superman after Crisis on Infinite Earths. I might be biased, 'cause I never cared much for Pre-Crisis Superman, whereas Post-Crisis Superman is my 2nd favorite superhero of all time, but I've always found it compulsively re-readable. Also, Lois Lane is awesome.

All-Star Superman: Brilliant homage to a Silver-Age-ish Superman that's heartwarming every time. If you've ever thought Superman was boring, this really sums up a lot of the reasons why people who regularly read Superman love him so much.

Knightfall: The infamous arc where Batman was crippled and replaced with a '90s antihero. Includes a lot of silly '90s excess, but ultimately winds up as a nice "fuck you" to murderous vigilante crap and a reaffirmation of Batman's ethics.

The Killing Joke: One of my favorite comics ever written, by the brilliant Alan Moore. Revolves around Batman chasing after the Joker, their twisted relationship, and the Joker's possible past. Anyone who's seen The Dark Knight will recognize a lot of themes lifted from this comic.

John Byrne's run on the Fantastic Four: Byrne gets a bad rap for some of the more..um...awful stuff he's written, but his '80s run on the FF, (stupid Malice arc aside) was...well...Fantastic. Giant majestic cosmic stories, major emphasis on the dysfunctional-but-tight-knit family aspect, some truly epic stories involving Doom and Galactus, etc. Plus, he made the Invisible Woman truly badass for the first time.

Amazing Spider-Man #121-122: The deaths of Gwen Stacy and Norman Osborn, which pretty much hammered the very last nail into the coffin of the Silver Age. Historic stuff, required reading, and unlike Jason Todd's death in "A Death in the Family", actually good storytelling.

Daredevil: Born Again: Before Frank Miller went insane, he wrote brilliant stuff like this. The Kingpin finds out Daredevil's secret identity, and proceeds to slowly destroy every single aspect of his life until his existence is a living hell and he starts cracking from the stress. Brilliantly paced and really, really psychologically dark.

Action Comics #775: It's rare that one single-issue story can merit this much praise, but it's deserved. An exploration of what people with the Authority's values would be like in the DC universe, and anyone who prizes morals and integrity will be delighted that the answer is "get brutally deconstructed to reveal them as the sniveling, pathetic, selfish little brats they are". Plus Clark Kent coins the heartwarmingly innocent phrase "What's so funny about truth, justice, and the American way?"

"The Death of Jean DeWolffe" storyline from Spider-Man: brilliant Spidey/Daredevil interaction (unlike the Surgeon General crud), early signs of Spidey going insane from the Venom symbiote before he realized it was evil, and one of the best murder mysteries I've ever read.

Fantastic Four Annual #2 "Bedlam at the Baxter Building". Doom brainwashes legions and legions of FF foes into gatecrashing the wedding of Reed Richards and Susan Storm. Reed and Sue's wedding guests, who happen to be Avengers, X-Men, and other assorted asskickers, object. Utter chaos ensues. After all these years it's still one of the best battle royales in comic book history. And only Reed and Sue would have a wedding disaster of such epic proportions the goddamn Watcher had to intervene in order to fix it.

Thelder said...

I liked your list linkara, and thanks, some of this comics I had'nt read yet, so I'll give a try.

Also, I'd like to add some of my suggestions (and if you did'nt read then, give a try)

The Invencible Iron Man (series by Matt Fraction and art by Salvador Larroca): Even when the story crosses with events like Dark Reign, Invencible Iron Man still mantains it's stand alone tone, you don't have to follow the saga itself to understand exactly what's going on. Also, all the characters have most of their backgrounds explained at least a little for the new readers, since this series was aimed for people who watched the movie and wanted to follow the comic books. Probably, it's one of the best going series for Iron Man, and also can atract new readers.

Runaways: Originaly created for the Tsunami in 2003, an imprint from Marvel Comics trying to reach the newly strong manga reading audience, Runaways was the only title to make some degree of success. Created by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona, the story was centred on a group of teenagers that discovered that their parents were a powerful group of super-villains known as "Pride", and then they try to stop their parents since no one belive in then. Many times the characters renember me many of the good moments in comics like Fantastic Four, X-men and Teen Titans, since each one has it's own personality and opinions, and they spend as much time trying to understand each other as they spend trying to stop their parents. And the first arch has one of my favorites plot twists. The Joss Wedon phase in the comics was as good as Vaughans phase, since himself also is a declared fan of Runaways

All-Star Superman: Yeah, I know that you don't agree with all this hype on All-Star Superman, but at least you aknowloged that it sure is a great story. So, why it wasn't on the list? It is a stand alone mini-series, so it can be accesible to new readers, and it`s also one of the best Superman stories ever told, so, why no?

Batman Year One: What`s the better way to start on super-heroes comic books than with the first years of one of the most iconic heroes of all time? Probably one of the best Frank Miller stories, from before he became the insane ero-pedo-old man that he is now. Maybe it`s a little dificult to find a copy nowadays, but it sure is one good start for readers.

Yogurt said...

Nice recommendations. I'd also like to suggest the collected "Shortpacked!" comics. Yeah, I know they're available online, but come on! They're that good!

Zippy said...

I'll keep these recommendations in mind!

Anonymous said...

Hey, linkara

i'm sure some else has pointed this out but i don't have time to read all the comments, but Nova is no longer an ongoing at marvel. it got cancled because .... well it is pretty hard to do a book when the hero is dead.

Trevor said...

-Y: The Last Man
-The Walking Dead
-Scott Pilgrim (Volume 1-6)
-Batman: The Long Halloween
-Superman: For all Seasons
-Detective Comics: Elegy
-The Umbrella Academy

Anonymous said...

For self-contained books good for new readers:

Mark Waid's JLA: Year One. A great look at well, the first year of the JLA, consisting of Green Lantern, The Flash, Black Canary, Martian Manhunter, and Aquaman, with a lot of focus on their relationships with each other. The depictions of their personalities is a really good short-cut for new readers to get a general idea of the characters' original personalities: cocky pilot Hal Jordan, shy scientist Barry Allen, rebellious overshadowed daughter Dinah Lance, etc. Lots of light-hearted, vaguely Silver-Age-y adventures until around halfway through. Also, Doom Patrol crossover!

Anonymous said...

alan moore's run on TOM STRONG is a very good read.it was fun,had good art,and likeable charichters makes this a very good read for people thinking about reading a superhero comic

fleetway's SONIC THE COMIC is a videogame comic that had epic stories,hand painted art and was magazine size. also it adepted not just the sonic games but also ecco the dolphin and decap attack among other games .this is a defantly for people that are fans of classic sonic or just simply classic sega.

(note: this comic is a uk exclusive so good luck finding) it)

sean said...

Sandman is one of my fav comics I've read. I highly agree with that suggestion. And if you like that then you might also like the spin offs. There are two staring his sister Death. Yes that Death. The first being VERY good the 2nd being not as good as the first but still a very fine book. But if you want a BIG story that twists and turns then read Lucifer. Yes. That Lucifer. A great spin off from the Sandman. Though it may not be for everyone.

Shanya Almafeta said...

Glad to see there's a little love for the new Darkwing Duck out there - although it's really 'a lot of love', because I've had it on subscription for months and my FLGS has only been able to get two of the last umpteen issues.

It's a swan song to the long-time fans, while still telling a coherent story and being able to stand alone without the (far-out-of-print) comics. Sort of like the Sonic comic Archie if you didn't have twenty years of canon to worry about.

Also, what happened to the avatar you used to use, the white mask?

Lewis Lovhaug said...

"Also, what happened to the avatar you used to use, the white mask?"

That was a chibi Lightbringer. I decided the blog should focus more on the comic side of things since it's more popular than Lightbringer.

Volvagia said...

First comment, but have you read Johnny the Homicidal Maniac? I know "disturbing" isn't your cup of tea (constantly harp on needless gore, death and guns in superhero comics), but it's a personal fave, mostly because, like the title character, I am an asexual. (That having been said, I prefer issues 4-7. If you want to rip apart issue 1 after reading it, I'd be all for it. Personally: Issue 1 = C-, 2: C, 3: B-. 4-7: A.)

Nevermore said...

Oh right, JLA: Year One is also very entertaining. Granted, the superhero plots are somewhat lacking, but the character writing more than makes up for it.

Outside of superheroes, there's also Transmetropolitan.

Chance said...

When I first went to my local comic book shop (when it was still around), I generally went only for the Image Street Fighter comics. I struck up a conversation with the owner and we got on the subject of superhero comics. I said I would never be able to figure out how to get into them.

He then recommended Elseworlds titles for me, since they tend to deal less about ongoing and major past events and more about introducing the characters in unique situations. He argued that it'd help me get a feel for the characters without having to worry about every minor character.

So, on his recommendation I picked up Kingdom Come. I have to say, from that point on, I was a regular customer of that store until it shut down.

Shad said...

I just realized this list doesn't contain Next Wave, the one that had more robots and booze than the nerdiest frat party.

Mecha-Gino said...

Invincible is a good series to read and while you do have to start from the beginning of the series it isn't THAT long of a series. And we've got these nice Ultimate collection hardcovers with 12 issues per book and extras too. It's a great series that blends elements from Superman and Spider-man AND IT'S FROM IMAGE! :O

The Tick is another great indie series that's really funny with the only draw back is the pricing on some issues and on those trades. They're not out of print or anything, it's just 34.99 seems a bit much for a non-hardcover with black and white pages. And the single issues alone are 4.99 or close to it.

Madman, again is another great funny indie series. Sort of blends those scifi B-movie elements from long ago and a Superhero who has to deal with aliens, mythical beings, and beat nicks.

Irredeemable is a great indie book that involves the Superman archtype in a different direction. What if Superman went from being Superman to Lex Luthor? Basically, what if the world's greatest Superhero turned into the world's greatest Super villain. It's an awesome series with some great twists and turns and it's only gotten to the 24th issue mark so it shouldn't be that hard to catch up.

Grendel is another great series if you're a fan of pulp magazines, infact it's kind of like one the way it's layed out.

Mecha-Gino said...

Also that Invincible Iron man hardcover with 19 issues is a great start to get into Iron man, seeing how it was made so fans of the movies can get into the comics.

Hibryd said...

I wanted to thank you for your earlier Blue Beetle recommendation video. I picked it up and enjoyed it a lot, but as with most DC (and Marvel) series, the story was thick with other DC references. Most of my knowledge of the DC universe comes from scattered episodes in the Timmverse animated series, so when I was going through Blue Beetle I had no idea who half the characters were, or what events they were talking about.

I guess that's why I've always stuck with newer comic titles (usually from Image/Vertigo/Dark Horse/etc.) or self-contained series rather than DC/Marvel lines. Unless they have a comprehensive character guide like Kingdom Come had in the back, I'm lost.

William Thomas Berk said...

For those who want superheroes:
-"Arkham Asylum"
The artwork takes some getting used to, but it's still a wonderfully demented and beautifully macabre look into the psyche of Batman, Joker and the founder of Arkham Asylum. It's entirely self-contained, and anyone remotely familiar with Batman should get by easily.

-"The Killing Joke"
Another essential read for fans of Batman and Joker. Again, the book is pretty much self-contained with no prior knowledge necessary, though anyone wondering how Barbara Gordon became the Oracle will find the answer here. Plus, it's Alan Moore.

For those who don't want superheroes:
-"Scott Pilgrim"
It's a coming-of-age tale and a sympathetic teen romance, wrapped around pop-culture references and gaming tropes. If you've seen the kick-ass movie, imagine more of the awesome same.

If Watchmen is the "Citizen Kane" of graphic novels, then Bone is the medium's "Lord of the Rings." Imagine everything you'd expect to find in a huge fantasy epic -- magic, monsters, ancient prophecies, a great evil, a world in peril, a beautiful princess, a backwater hero with a great destiny -- and now put in three Looney Tunes archetypes who seemingly wandered in from a completely different story. It's fun, it's awesome and it's hilarious.

Somewhere in between:
Grant Morrison tells this short but sweet tale of three animal cyborg war machines who run away from the government in search of a home. This is a quick read that will tug at your tear ducts even as the blood flows free.

It's raunchy. It's sacrilegious, It's violent. It's sexy. It's whip-smart. It's beautifully drawn and it's wonderfully written. There's just no other way to describe this comic series.

Mogo X said...

Good job Lewis. And the whole go in and pick up a title thing is what worked for me too. Granted Uncanny X-men Wasn't that good and The Outsiders, while passable is okay. But Teen Titans, the Johns run, were some of my first serious comics and don't regert going for it.

Razorgeist said...

Thanks for posting this Lewis. I took you're recommendations to heart and have already ordered a copy of JSA. Plu Ive got both Trinity and Birds of prey on my lists. Could you recommend some good horror comics.

Mary Jane said...

A couple of very different recs:

For people who really want something that makes them feel the utter adoration of the superhero comic genre without having to wade through the continuity of the DC and Marvel universes first, I'd recommend Nextwave. For an explanation of why it's so frickin' awesome, I direct you to Linkara's "Top 15 Comics I'll Never Review", which really sums it up nicely, since any of my explanations will likely be lame and/or spoil things.

For people wanting to read stuff about mainstream superheroes without having to worry about the exact continuity, I'd recommend DC's Brave and the Bold titles. They do vary in quality, but just poke around for stuff that interests you. They usually have very vague timelines (usually "sometime a few years ago") and therefore gives the reader a chance to read about mainstream superheroes in an in-universe (as opposed to Elseworlds) setting without worrying about ongoing storylines or current events.

On the flip side, for an example of how the long history and characterization of mainstream characters can be used to give those characters a chance to shine in self-contained stories, I recommend the 4 issue miniseries Fantastic Four 1234. It's heavily character-based and puts meticulously crawls all over the family's utterly dysfunctional dynamics and inner demons and nightmares (which is actually a plot point). It might be rather confusing to people who don't know much about the FF, but it was one of my first FF reads, and I still enjoyed it, and being uncertain actually heightened the suspense before the climax. It's really, really, really, *really* dark, to the point of full-fledged psychological horror, but its nothing like the grimdark cliches of the Marvel universe. It also has absolutely gorgeous artwork, Doctor Doom being awesome, Reed Richards being awesomer, a variety of lines and moments that pretty much define pwnage, and possibly the most haunting final panel I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Linkara, I really want to read 52, but I was wondering if there's anything I should read before reading that series to help me with continuity? Also, I know that there were "One Year Later" arcs for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman in the regular titles — should I read those after, before, or during 52? I'm well-versed in DC characters, but I'm not really up to speed on any big storylines that have been published since a year or so before Infinite Crisis except for the big spoilers I've heard from other people. (I've just in the past couple of months decided to jump back into comics thanks to you, actually!)

Steve said...

Wow. I was gonna say you could just link anyone who asks to the christmas recommendations list but this has a lot more on it!

Thanks for taking the time to put this together :D

SheriffBart said...

Anything by Neil Gaiman is going to be excellent. His novels, "Neverwhere", "Anansi Boys" and "American Gods" are very good,too.
The Walking Dead may be the best ongoing comic out there. It's a story of a group of people trying to hold onto their humanity during the zombie apocalypse.
Preacher is highly recommended for more adventurous readers.
Mike Carey's Lucifer is so well written it makes me angry.
Warren Ellis' Transmetropolitan has already been mentioned. Check out Fell and Desolation Jones as well. He's also doing a weekly webcomic over at www.freakangles.com
If you really want to read something with tights and capes The Infinity Gauntlet was pretty good.

Michael Heide said...

A lot of great comic books have been named in the article and in the comments. So instead of repeating those I agree with, I thought it would be better to add another book. One that hasn't been listed yet.

Amazing Spider-Man, post-OMD.

There's no denying it: One More Day was bad. The editors were faced with the impossible task of unmarrying Pete and MJ, and after a lot of behind-the-scenes struggling and rewriting (while the first issue was already on the stands, no less), the end result just isn't that good. Neither is the follow-up, OMIT.

But that doesn't mean that the stories following OMD were bad. Amazing Spider-Man after OMD, especially the issues by Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Fred Van Lente and Zeb Wells, were great Spidey tales. Peter Parker works as an unmarried character, and why wouldn't he, he was unmarried for decades before they married him to MJ.

Was it necessary to unmarry the character? Debatable. But it definitely didn't ruin the character, nor the book.

And let's face it. As bad as OMD was, it was not worse than Cry for Justice.

Frankie said...

"But that doesn't mean that the stories following OMD were bad. Amazing Spider-Man after OMD, especially the issues by Dan Slott, Mark Waid, Fred Van Lente and Zeb Wells, were great Spidey tales. Peter Parker works as an unmarried character, and why wouldn't he, he was unmarried for decades before they married him to MJ.

Was it necessary to unmarry the character? Debatable. But it definitely didn't ruin the character, nor the book."

......................*blue screen of death*


Um, well, I don't want to dismiss anyone's personal likes and dislikes outright, but I'm just going to give new readers a heads up that this is a very, very, VERY rare opinion.

Anonymous said...

hey you forgot to put down a good frank miller comic, like daredevil visionaries volumes 2, 3 because those have one of franks best arc in daredevil and also his creation of electra.

SheriffBart said...

Speaking of Ellis and Carey. They both did runs on Hellblazer.I believe every comic reader worth their salt should have at least a passing knowledge of John Constantine.
Carey's work was converted into trade paperback and shouldn't be too much of a problem to find. Ellis actually posted his work for free on the tubes.

BoosterG said...

I agree with almost all of your suggestions wholeheartedly! You're the reason I started reading the Blue Beetle comics, and I cannot thank you enough! Anyway, a couple more recommendations:

Superman: The "Grounded" Arc. While this series is not for everyone, if you're a big fan of Kal-El, it does explore his character nicely.
Justice League: Generation Lost. This series is just about over now, but DAMN, I enjoyed the ride. Hit and miss at times, but overall a great story, with ties to the DC universe as a whole while still being (mostly) self contained.
Chew. A nice piece of humor. I've only read the first 2 trades, but what I did read was awesome.
Black Panther, the Man Without Fear. Basically, T'Challa's character in Daredevil's shoes. Not the best ongoing series right now, but still enjoyable.
X Men, Manifest Destiny (Wolverine's stuff). Wolverine's adventure in Chinatown seems a bit rushed, but it's a fun little look at another part of Logan's past.

Anonymous said...

Some like him and some hate him but he is my favorite writer because I like all things twisted and fucked up.
But I will tell everyone that should read The Boys by Garth Ennis.

venatus said...

I was wondering if you had any good way to track down comics starring a particular character, I'm just getting into comics, but so far my favorite has very few trades to her name, and most lists i've found don't seem to differentiate between playing a large role or a brief cameo.

or failing that, any comics featuring black widow you could recommend.

Michael Heide said...

"Um, well, I don't want to dismiss anyone's personal likes and dislikes outright, but I'm just going to give new readers a heads up that [liking Amazing Spider-Man post OMD]is a very, very, VERY rare opinion."

Not at all. Just four days ago, Diamond Comics released the Top 100 for February, and in that month alone, Amazing Spider-Man had four issues in the Top 15. Now I know that sales don't equal quality. But it shows that my opinion can't be THAT rare, especially if you factor in people with subscriptions.

The thing is: The vocal minority about Spider-Man that claims that OMD (which WAS bad, don't get me wrong) ruined both the book and the character is also very vocal about one other thing: THAT THEY DON'T READ THE BOOK. That they boycott it because of OMD. That they'll never touch a Spider-Man book again until OMD gets undone.

While "vote with your wallet" is indeed a valid approach, it also means that the people following that approach a) deprive themselves of good stories like Keemia's Castle or Shed, just because they hold a grudge against a four-part story created over three years ago by writers, artists and editors that are no longer working on the book. An understandable grudge. But a grudge against a past story, not against the present ones.

To put things in perspective: I hated Green Lantern Rebirth. With a passion. I hated the unnecessary and contradictory retcons.
I hated that it brought back Hal Jordan, a boring character who couldn't hold his own title a decade earlier.
I hated that it destroyed the character development that Hal went through in the years in-between.
I hated that it heavily diminished the panel time of Kyle Rayner, my favorite DC hero.
I hated how lazy the miniseries just ticked off a list of things the creators wanted to undo without a satisfying explanation, like Guy's loss of his Vuldarian genes or the resurrection of Sinestro.

And I stopped reading Green Lantern. Until a year or two later, when I heard good things about the book and decided to give it another try. And the book was great. Was Green Lantern: Rebirth necessary? Debatable. But it didn't ruin Green Lantern as a book, just like OMD didn't ruin Amazing Spider-Man.

Now if you do read current issues of Amazing Spider-Man and don't like them, that's another thing altogether. Different tastes and all. Fair enough. But too many people that claim that the book is ruined don't read it and therefore cannot judge it properly. And too many people enjoy those issues for my opinion to be the random fluke you make it out to be.

Falcovsleon20 said...

"The thing is: The vocal minority about Spider-Man that claims that OMD (which WAS bad, don't get me wrong) ruined both the book and the character is also very vocal about one other thing: THAT THEY DON'T READ THE BOOK. That they boycott it because of OMD. That they'll never touch a Spider-Man book again until OMD gets undone."

Actually, in all fairness I did read a couple of post OMD Spider-Man comics and thought they were either meh or bad. They did introduce some interesting elements (Anti-Venom for one) but the stories themselves just really aren't all that good.

I can only think of two Spider-Man comics I've read in recent memory that made me want to keep picking them up and I'm not even sure if they count as Spider-Man books but just Spidey-related: The new Carnage miniseries and the first issue of the new Venom series.

Gaeth said...

A reccomendation:

Iron Man - Start with Extremis and go from there. The science is kinda sketch in Extremis, but it's one of the best story arcs, imo, and it goes in depth into Tony Stark's character and motivations.

A bit of a non-sequitur, but while I'm on the subject; I honestly think that Iron Man really gets way too much flak from comic book fans. :(

Nick Coy said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Linkara! I've been thinking about picking up Nextwave ever since you mentioned it in your "Comics I'll Never Review" video, because it sounds glorious.

What do you think about Empowered? I like it but, given your past opinions, I could see how you might have a problem with some of the elements of it.

BoredLizzie said...

Thank you for taking the time to compile this list and explain what makes these comics great! I enjoy reading your writing just as much as I enjoy watching your videos, and appreciate your well articulated style.

On your recommendation I picked up Simone's run on Wonder Woman, and yes, it's entertaining as hell. After I'm done tackling Fables and Excalibur Classic I'll look into Secret Six. (Because I love villains so very, very much!)

I agree that Deadpool's at his best as a foil to a serious character like Cable. Simone wrote a very enjoyable few issues for Cable & Deadpool, too!

Thanks for the effort and love you put into your work. It really does show though and is inspiring to see.

Kessler said...

Well, as long as everyone is listing comics:

Lucifer- you should only read this after reading the aforemention chapter of Sandman. This series starts off where it ends, and feels right at home in the Sandman mythos.

100 Bullets- It starts out like the movie "The Box": Random people are offered a chance at revenge on those that wronged them. It evolves into one of the most intriguing stories of the decade.

Infinity Gauntlet- This is not only the best crossover event Marvel has made, but one of their best comics ever.

Animal Man- Grant Morrison + previously obscure superhero = best comic ever!

Shattered Glass- for Transformers fans, a What-If story set in an alternate universe where Autobots are evil while Decepticons are good. It's worth it for transfans just to see previously established characters undergo complete 180 personality changes.

Peter David's X-Factor- I've got nothing to say here. it's just so.... wow.

The Dark Tower - A supplement to the Stephen King novel series, yet good enough to stand on its own. One of the few series i've been compelled to buy the paperback issues from; they contain exclusive writings by King himself.

Formula Fox said...

A comics recommendation list that leaves out Gold Digger is blasphemous!

Hm? Comics to START with? Yes, this counts, since you can just go to the Antarctic Press website and buy GD-ROM to get literally everything from the first comic through issue 100 of the current series. And you can still get 101 up to the current issue(128) through the website, too.

GD starts out with some problems - the artwork's not that great and some things aren't well explained, but as the comic run goes on it simply gets better and better. Helps that it's the same guy working out what he wants to do and he literally remembers EVERYTHING he's already done. By the end of the original black and white series(50 issues) it's already worked itself into a well-written, well-drawn, well-told series that is sure to have an awesome outcome whenever the series reaches it's ultimate climax.

And if you don't want to trust some random commenter on an internet post(even one who donated a copy of GD-ROM to our friendly neighborhood Linkara a while back), check out the Last Angry Geek's review of Women of Gold Digger over on TGWTG.

My crusade to promote Gold Digger shall never end. It will outlast the series itself, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

One comic I really love is Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman. Like has been stated by some other commenters anything he writes is really good, but 1602 really manages to be both for new readers and old. In fact it was the comic got me back into reading comics again a few years ago, and the trade is still in print as far as I've seen.

Anonymous said...

Fantazmo call on Power Girl. I've been to terrified to pick up the post Amanda/Jimmy stuff, but I'll be sure to give it a go now that it's made the Linkara list. I'll show this list to a friend who assumes that PG is nothing but cheescake. Maybe then he'll give the series a try and fall in love with it like everyone else who reads it.

AndroidAR said...

The first superhero comic book I remember reading was the trade paperback of " the Death of Superman" that my dad had, and it's still one of my favorites. I was about 2 when the event happened, and about 5 when I first read the book, and despite not knowing who a lot of the characters were, I found it to be a good read (and Doomsday has been my favorite supervillain since then).

On that note, I recently picked up JLA #55 and Superman/Batman Annual #5 (both from this month), both of which are part of the "Reign of Doomsday" storyline, and holy crap did I enjoy those (and I not normally someone who reads comics, these are the first I've bought in years). While "Death of Superman" and "Reign of the Supermen" are essentially reading (especially the latter), I haven't read "Reign of the Supermen" but I've still enjoyed the story so far. If that isn't a good description, then this could be:
JLA #55: Doomsday vs Alpha Lantern Boodikka, Blue Lantern Saint Walker, Supergirl, and Starman
Superman/Batman Annual #5: Batman and Supergirl vs Doomsday vs Cyborg Superman merged with the JLA satellite. This issue is AWESOME.

M@ said...

Nice list, Mr. Lovhaug, and I'm curious; ever read "Kraven's Last Hunt"? Much like your feeling about the Titans GN, "Kraven's Last Hunt" is my all-time favorite superhero GN.

As someone who is also a fan of the MJ and Spidey dynamic, this book does a really good job at showing how important these two people are to each other.

Besides that, Kraven's descent into madness and his scheme against Spider-Man are brilliantly portrayed. I sometimes feel that comics don't do a good job of making the villain seem like a legitimate and deadly threat to the hero, but this comic has that in spades. You genuinely wonder how Spidey is gonna get out of this scenario.

Anyway, I realize that you're more of a DC National than a Marvel Zombie, but give that one a try. If you regret it I'll... uh... eat your hat? No, that doesn't work...

Anonymous said...

Whedon's Astonishing X-Men would NOT be a good jumping-on point for the X-Men books unless that was all you read of the X-Men. Ever. At the time it was published, it gave no sense at all of the state of the franchise as a whole, and certainly wouldn't be a good place to start at this point. The irrelevence of the book just continued into Warren Ellis's run, as well. There's no way to just jump from Astonishing to the other books without recommending heaps of other X-Men or making someone Wikipedia everything. It's practically in its own contunity half the time. It was considered the "flagship" X-Men book at the time Whedon was at the helm, but it really didn't feel that way based on the relative unimportance of the stories being told there.

Plus, I think Whedon's run sucked. Ellis's was bizarre -- sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not-so-good-way -- and, as I said, pointless, but Whedon's was just ridiculously awful on top of it. I don't know one person who actually liked his run who wasn't already a fan of his because of Buffy or something, but to those of us who weren't Whedonites going into it, it's pretty apparent that Astonishing is just not a very good representation of the franchise or the few characters from it that Whedon chose to focus on, especially in the context of trying to introduce it to a newbie. It reads as if he were writing it like, "What if the Buffy characters were X-Men?" The characterization is bad, the stories are mind-numbing and riddled with plot holes.

From a life-long X-Men fan who can find some good in almost every writer's tenure, I can't recommend Whedon's run.

Jesse Saunders said...

I'd like to add Mad Love to the list.

ball sack said...

So is the blue beetle n52 any good compared to the original and in general?

Lewis Lovhaug said...

"So is the blue beetle n52 any good compared to the original and in general?"

In my humble opinion, no. I feel it misses the point and spirit of the original greatly and is considerably less optimistic and fulfilling as a story.