Posted on Starpulse.com
As a comic fan, I’m often asked by non-comic geeks what series they should try out to get started in the vast world of comic awesomeness. This is a pretty general question, since it all depends on your personal taste.
There are comics for just about anyone of any age, although there are some more critically acclaimed than others. It’s also difficult to encourage people to start in the major comic books because of the hundreds of thousands of issues they’ve missed already. Sure Spider-Man is pretty much the same character he was a few decades ago, especially after “One More Day,” but occasionally a villain or character will pop up and you’ll go, “Who is that?” Then you have to wikipedia them and that links you to another storyline, which links you to another character and a few hours later you’re still just confused.
Anyway, trying to get started in an old comic title is a story for another column, but this one is about independent storylines that are either complete or easy to pick up on. They don’t require you to read the entire scope of DC or Marvel comics to follow, and while none of these have been made into movies (yet), they probably will be sooner or later. It’s good to read them now so in a few years when the movie comes out you can sniff and go, “Well it was fine, but the comics are soooo much better.”
Y The Last Man – You can find the entire “Y The Last Man” on trade paperbacks now in ten volumes. This will make it very easy to read this engaging and entertaining story from start to finish. It’s about Yorick Brown, an oddball young man who favors magic and escape artists tricks. Just as he’s about to propose to his long-time girlfriend Beth, who is abroad in Australia, a calamity hits the earth. At once, every single male human and animal on the planet dies gruesomely with no warning. Every man except for Yorick and every male animal but his pet monkey Ampersand. Yorick just wants to find Beth and make sure she’s okay, but as the last man he gets drawn into an important mission to find out the truth of what happened to the earth. With Agent 355, a government agent who acts as Yorick’s bodyguard, and Doctor Alison Mann, a geneticist who could learn the answers to the plague, Yorick travels the world looking for the truth and his one true love. It’s a fairly dramatic story but with plenty of humor. The characters are all engaging and the situation is fascinating to say the least. This comic is somewhat adult with sexual situations and language, but most ages and genders should enjoy it.
Fables – “Fables” is the only series on this list that is still being published, but you’ll soon see why. It’s a reinterpretation of very famous and well-known fairy tale characters into the modern day. The Fables lived in their own mythical Homelands until a horrible creature called The Adversary conquered it and drove them out. They now live amongst us in New York City, although those Fables who cannot appear to be normal humans are hidden at “The Farm” in upstate New York. The series is a mixture of fantasy and storytelling of the highest degree, and then it blends some mystery, romance, tragedy, and drama in there for good measure. The main characters are Snow White and the Big Bad Wolf, for example, and Prince Charming is a womanizing jerk, Beauty and the Beast are in couples therapy, and Jack (from Jack and the Beanstalk) is a con artist. How could you possibly go wrong taking something nostalgic and beloved and putting a new modern twist on it?
Transmetropolitan – Okay, first things first, “Transmetropolitan” is not appropriate for children or young teenagers in any way. It’s a very adult comic, so if you’re a bit squeamish about language, violence, or sex it’s probably not for you. If you’ve got a cast iron stomach and a spine made of stone, this comic was made for your enjoyment. Fans of Hunter S. Thompson will loooove it. Based in a cyberpunk future world, the comic surrounds the life and work of Spider Jerusalem, a gonzo journalist who reluctantly comes out of retirement. Spider owes two more books to his publisher so he comes back into The City to find a proper story. He decides to take on the President, his former nemesis, and the newest rival to the Presidency in a no-holds barred journalistic piece ripping them to shreds. Spider is ruthless, disgusting, insane, and strangely admirable in his obsessive need for truth and honesty in a decadent world. The world of “Transmetropolitan” is dangerous and a little depressing, but it’s like a car crash: almost impossible to look away from once your interest is peaked.
Preacher – Here’s another rather adult comic; the best ones often are because they openly deal with the more serious issues. This one deals specifically with religion, the South, death and life, and power. The main character is a miserable preacher named Jesse Custer with a sordid and tragic past who is possessed by a supernatural being named Genesis. The possession causes his church and everyone in it to die instantly. Genesis gives him the power to force anyone to do what he wants, using “the Word of God.” Jesse decides to go on a search for God to get some answers about Genesis and where his life is going from there, but God has abandoned Heaven and is in hiding. With his ex girlfriend Tulip and his new best friend Cassidy, both with secrets of their own, Jesse wanders the United States looking for God and answers. This is a great series to pick up if you’re a fan of westerns, for its style in both art and dialogue is very reminiscent of old western films. It does have some blasphemous elements to it so some people might get offended, but in general the original story and the memorable characters are worth trying out.
The Sandman – Neil Gaiman is something of a celebrity in geek culture, since he’s a writer of one of the best graphic novel series of all time and regularly publishes wonderful fantasy novels. Several of his stories were made into movies (“Stardust,” “Coraline“), but his most noticeable and famous piece of work was the series “The Sandman” for Vertigo Comics. This series was on the New York Times Bestseller List, it won the World Fantasy Award, and it’s highly acclaimed by critics and fans alike. The series is about The Endless, a group of supernatural beings who represent several major parts of human existence: Death, Destiny, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. The story mainly features the story of Dream who starts the series being kidnapped and held prisoner for years. After he escapes he returns to his destroyed kingdom to pick up the pieces. “The Sandman” heavily features mythological stories, fables, and tales from all different cultures, and usually embraces the fantastical as true and real. It jumps from Ancient Greece to the Crusades to modern day all in one chapter, but it’s organic and fractured, almost like a dream itself. The series is also well known for having some of the best art in the industry, with several big name comic artists trying their hand at the issues and making their own marks. This is a very long and complicated story, but it’s worth trying out. The journey is painful and beautiful and like nothing else you’ve read.