Top 10 comics to give to new readers

The comics industry is in trouble. Piracy is rampant, and numbers are low in many places.

The best way to fix this? Get comics into some new hands. Here’s ten books that would do well if introduced to your friends and family.

10. Ultimate Spider-Man

The Ultimate Spider-Man. Art by Mark Bagley.

Ultimate Spider-Man is a great place to start new readers, because it doesn’t push too far outside of preconceptions as to what a comic should be. It’s a character everyone knows, but without 60 years of heavy continuity.

This fresh take on Spider-Man launched Brian Michael Bendis’ career as an architect of the Marvel universe, and still stands as some of his best work.

9. The Walking Dead

''The Walking Dead Volume 1 Deluxe HC

Now a huge success for AMC, the source material is stronger than the TV show. The story of Rick Grimes trying to protect his family in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland is both gripping and heartbreaking.

The stark black and white art adds to the despair, and this series is a great start for any horror fan. Though the plot can crawl a little on a monthly basis, it’s easy to devour in big chunks.

Much like tasty, tasty brains.

8. It’s a Bird

It's a Bird

This “sort of Superman” story is a fantastic example of post-modernism in comics. The semi-autobiographical comic centres around writer Steven T. Seagle’s search his missing father, while trying to come to terms with his family’s legacy of Huntington’s disease.

Amidst the turmoil, Seagle is offered a stint writing Superman. Friends and family weigh in on the character’s legacy and what he means to the real world – though this means little to a man terrified by a creeping genetic legacy.

For people who’d enjoy a heady take on a classic character, this pushes all the right buttons.

7. Batman: Year One

Batman: Year One

Anyone who enjoys Christopher Nolan’s Batman films needs to read Year One. There’s plenty of great Batman books out there – but Frank Miller’s look at Bruce Wayne’s early years stands as the definitive Dark Knight story.

The book showcases a Batman that feels gritty and real – something Nolan would draw upon heavily for his trilogy.

6. Scalped

Scalped

Traditionally, comic books have been less than racially diverse. This book by Jason Aaron about life on a fictional Native American reservation speaks to spiritualism and issues of race in a vibrant, realistic way.

It’s also one of the best crime dramas ever written in comics.

5. V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta

It’s difficult to choose just one Alan Moore book to introduce to a new reader – but V for Vendetta tops the list.

Some might argue for Watchmen as a self-contained story, but this tale of protest in a stifling and oppressive future is some of Moore’s best work.

Considering the political climate across the globe, it doesn’t hurt that it’s exceedingly topical, too.

4. Preacher

Cover illustration of Gone to Texas, by Glenn ...

Not for the easily offended, and definitely not for the devout Christian.

Garth Ennis’s pseudo-western tale of a Preacher, his girlfriend and a Vampire scouring the earth to force God back into heaven is offensive, touching and provocative, all at the same time.

It might also be your only chance to see a man have sex with a pile of meat — which could be a good thing.

3. Maus

Maus

The harrowing story of a lone Jewish man trying to survive during the Second World War is about as legitimate as comics can get.

There’s no shortage of Holocaust literature out there, but Art Spiegelman’s masterpiece is world-renowned for the way the conflict is summed up so astutely by mice and cats.

2. Y: The Last Man

Cover of "Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmann...

A fantastic premise that doesn’t disappoint – what if you were the last man on earth? After a mysterious plague kills off every male mammal but Yorick Brown and his monkey, he finds out.

The results are not quite as sexy as one would think. But they are captivating from beginning to end.

And yes, he does get laid.

1. Sandman

Neil Gaiman’s opus is not the easiest read, nor the most accessible – but it can hook a reader on the medium for life if they give it a shot.

His story of the anthropomorphic personification of dream and the rest of his family isn’t a traditional comic book in any way.

But it is a sprawling, fantasy epic with heart wrenching, personable characters and an imaginative story that you just won’t find anywhere else.

There’s a reason Neil Gaiman is so beloved – and that reason starts here. Spring for the leather-bound absolute editions if possible, as they’re worth the investment.

Honourable Mentions:

  1. Garth Ennis’s Punisher Max: The best take on Frank Castle, ever.
  2. Magneto Testament: The story of a young Magneto, trying to survive the German’s concentration camps. Not in the same league as Maus, but still a fantastic read.
  3. Locke and Key: A tough decision not to put it on the main list, as Joe Hill’s soon-to-be-finished series is one of the best fantasy yarns of all time.
  4. Batman: The Long Halloween: The second best Batman story after Year One.
  5. Unknown Soldier: Joshua Dysart’s story of a Ugandan doctor turned mercenary fighting against the LRA and Joseph Kony is incredibly compelling. And you’ll learn more here than you would in any Invisible Children video.
  6. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Give this to English students. Watch them geek out.
  7. Watchmen: Mostly because it would be considered a bit of a tragedy not to include the book on this list.
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4 comments

  1. Krys C

    Buddy, I had no idea you were keeping a blog.

    Nice to see Locke and Key got honorable mention but I’d definitely have put it on the main list. Then again, I’ve only read the top 5 you listed. Still, can’t believe Transmetropolitan doesn’t get a mention? You’re a journalist, dammit.

    • womph

      I honestly couldn’t get into Transmet – Ellis has much better stuff. For something about a journalist, I’d be more inclined to suggest DMZ.

  2. nightwing1997

    While most of these are GREAT comics, I’m not sure I’d give any of them to new readers. Year One, Preacher, and Y I would. But the story-telling and conventions of Locke and Key, Watchmen, League, V, and Sandman are WAY too complex for any new reader.

    And IMO The Black Mirror is the 2nd best Batman comic. Long Halloween would fall somewhere in the 20’s for me.

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