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mygif

You can pretty much jump into Yotsuba&! with any volume, really.

And that’s what I’d give a comics curious reader if they asked me.

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mygif

Footnotes 1 and 2 also translate as “F— YOU CHRIS SIMS!”. Hahaha.

(I love you both)

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mygif

Bone is a great suggestions to someone who has collected Calvin and Hobbes.

I think I would recommend more superhero comics, just because that’s what people think of when they think “comics” (ok, maybe not in the instant case, since it’s a response to someone who’s reading comic blogs that tend to be a bit more far ranging).

I think I would recommend the first New X-Men hardcover, since it can be found pretty cheap at larger used books stores and it’s designed to be accessible to anyone who’s seen the movies.

Also, the first Brave and the Bold Showcase is pretty cheap and a neat collection of crazy silver age nonsense and fantastic pulp Neal Adams work. Seriously, it whiplashes from a story where Batgirl and Wonder Woman are competing for Batman’s affections in ever more ridiculous ways to a Batman/Deadman The Fugitive ripoff.

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mygif

I’m not sure that a 1300 page book would be the best first recommendation. They want to try comics, not commit a month of their life to reading a single story. I think you’re better off with smaller stories.

Of course you also have to gauge the type of entertainment the person would like.

Other books I’d recommend.

Fun Home (especially if they are into classic literature)

Stuck Rubber Baby (if they are okay with the gay content)

Batman: Year One is pretty good beginning point if they want to read superheroes.

I’ve heard a couple of respected retailers say Ultimate Spider-Man Vol. 1 is a good starting point for new readers.

Courtney Crumrin Vol. 1. (more for girls, but guys too if they’re into goth and can handle their protagonists being female)

Palestine by Joe Sacco is great and still relevant.

There are a number of anthologies which would be good too, particularly the Big Book series from DC/Paradox.

I’m sure I could find others if I spent some time gazing at my bookshelf.

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solid snake said on November 23rd, 2009 at 9:45 am

I would also recomend The Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come.

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Will "scifantasy" Frank said on November 23rd, 2009 at 9:57 am

I seem to recall that there was a (short-lived) The Big Guy and Rusty TV series…am I delusional again?

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mygif

The one comic that’s worked best for me has been Volume 1 of Atomic Robo. Solid action, great dialogue, good art, and no weird continuity or fan only jokes.

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mygif

@solid snake: Kingdom Come? I’m pretty sure that you need a pretty firm grounding in the DCU already for Kingdom Come to be at all worthwhile.

Going by MGK’s rules, I’d add on Satrapi’s Persepolis and Tezuka’s Ode to Kirohito.

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mygif

@Grazzt: Yeah, I agree. I think The Dark Knight Returns and Kingdom Come are both great books, but not the kind I’d use to welcome someone to the wide world of comics. And if you are starting with superhero comics, is it better or worse to introduce them with an Elseworlds tale?

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mygif

@Will: Yeah there was a Rusty & Big Guy cartoon. I don’t know how long it ran, but it definitely existed…

Weirdly I just (and I mean like an hour ago) ran across a Geoff Darrow recommendation while reading an Andrew Vachss book. Odd…

I think the reason I haven’t touched Ennis’ newer war comics is because of the Phantom Eagle book he did for Marvel. It read as such a pale, lesser version of his Enemy Ace book that I haven’t wanted to touch his new work given how much I loved his earlier War Stories books…

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mygif

There’s a book I’d recommend, following your rules. It’s a single graphic novel, it’s topical. It is Comics, but not superheroes or anything of that like. And it’s based on a true story (loosely).

Pride of Baghdad.

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mygif

David B.’s “Epileptic”, for one, and Doug Tennapel’s “Creature Tech” for another.

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mygif

So you’ll recommend Bone at 1300 pages, but not something a quarter the size because it’s split into more than one volume?

I think any new reader would find something that long intimidating, however cuddly the characters look.

One thing you didn’t mention is how sophisticated the storyteling gets in some comics. A new reader needs to be able to follow the basic panel and text box/balloon progression without being confused by complex layout, multilayer narrative, or art that is busier being pretty/complex/symbolic than supporting the story.

So short and easy to follow would be my top criteria. I would say Yotsuba, but there’s the whole right to left aspect that would be confusing.

Of course it depends a lot what type of fiction the person is interested in. No point in recommending Elfquest to someone who enjoys noir thrillers.

But all things being equal, my number one choice for introducing someone to comics would be Groo.

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mygif

Those are some great – and a few surprising – suggestions. I can’t honestly agree with Scott Pilgram, but I’ve had that argument before and feel it’s ridiculously overrated.

That said, here’s a few of mine:
1) Flash: The Return of Barry Allen – It might seem like an odd one, but this early Mark Waid story is just a good, pure superhero story. I don’t know if the latest printing still has the conversation between Waid and his editor, Brian Augustyn, but it helps a newbie get into it.

2) Marvels – Ordinarily, I’d say Kingdom Come, but that has a LOT of continuity behind it that might confuse a new reader. Marvels, on the other hand, is fantastic.

3) Batman: Dark Knight Returns or Year One – Nuff said.

4) Sleeper – Criminal just proves the same creative team can top it, but Sleeper is great, too.

5) Zot – Like Brian Disco Snell said above. Plus, it has some great behind-the-scenes reflective commentary.

6) Pride of Baghdad – It’s like Lion King meets Homeward bound. Great stuff.

7) Death/Funeral/Return of Superman – I’d recommend the three trades, rather than the omnibus, which cuts out quite a bit from the Funeral trade. It’s a little dated and goes a bit over the affordable price range, but it’s epic and introduces you to a lot of things about the DC Universe. I mean, hey, it’s what got me into comics.

8) Superman: Secret Identity – I know, it’s more Superman, but this is Busiek and Immonen at their very best.

9) The Sentry or The Inhumans – Both by the same creative team (Paul Jenkins & Jae Lee) and both are great, self contained stories.

10) Punisher: Welcome Home Frank – This is for someone who wants something light but violent.

I could probably think of a few more, but I think that’s some good additions to the list.

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Paul Wilson said on November 23rd, 2009 at 11:43 am

I like Batman: The Killing Joke as the One Good Batman story for a beginner. It’s light on the wallet, the art’s excellent and it features Batman vs the Joker, just like the recent movie.

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mygif

Interesting that we overlap on only two comics, though I should really add Bone to my list. It is greatness and I forget it a lot of times. Also, Death is a great replacement for Sandman. I have a hard time recommending the first trade of Sandman and will usually recommend starting somewhere else.

Have you read any Anna Mercury yet?

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mygif

Wait, there’s still no single volume All-Star Superman?

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mygif

Damn, there are things on that list that I had never even heard of. And now I have to go read them and most likely buy them(I can already tell you Blankets and The Complete Adventures of The Big Guy And Rusty The Boy Robot are definite buys). Goodbye food.

All Star Superman is amazing, and this is coming from a guy who HATES Superman. It might have something to do with the two books that I first ever got(Batman: Year One and the Death of Superman), but I always found it hard to relate to him.

I’d also suggest the first Ultimate Spider-Man Omnibus(which gets 1-3), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen(which comes free every time you destroy a copy of the movie), and The New Frontier(just because it’s almost completely comprised of awesome).

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mygif

How different is the comic book of BIg Guy and Rusty from the cartoon? I mean, I’m sure it’s neutered down somewhat, but how much.

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mygif

I think the reason I haven’t touched Ennis’ newer war comics is because of the Phantom Eagle book he did for Marvel. It read as such a pale, lesser version of his Enemy Ace book that I haven’t wanted to touch his new work given how much I loved his earlier War Stories books…

If you haven’t read Battlefields: Dear Billy then you’re missing out: it’s easily one of Ennis’ best war comics, period.

2) Marvels – Ordinarily, I’d say Kingdom Come, but that has a LOT of continuity behind it that might confuse a new reader. Marvels, on the other hand, is fantastic.

Marvels loses a lot of its impact if you’re not familiar with the major events and characters of the Marvel Universe. It’s still readable on that basis (unlike Kingdom Come, which is hardcore fanboy porn), but it doesn’t make my list.

So you’ll recommend Bone at 1300 pages, but not something a quarter the size because it’s split into more than one volume?

The complete Bone collection is big, but like I said: it’s great value for money. That quarter-the-size-split-into-multiple-volumes thing? Will cost twice as much to get all the volumes.

And Bone just flies by. It’s not a dense read at all, not the first time through.

But all things being equal, my number one choice for introducing someone to comics would be Groo.

I love Groo, but the collections are all these small little fiddly things of four issues a pop for like twenty bucks, and Groo is kind of like ZZ Top in that it’s only one song over and over again but it’s a really great song so you’re fine with it. Groo is something I recommend down the line.

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mygif

I’d actually heard of the “Big Guy and Rusty” cartoon (which actually ran for two seasons, so not so short-lived) before the comic. I remember watching the opening credits, with the big bombastic awesome opening theme song, and then my jaw dropping when the credits to this totally wholesome-looking cartoon ended with, “Based on a comic by FRANK MILLER and GEOF DARROW.”

Also, along the lines of Criminal v1, I’d like to add Darwyn Cooke’s adaptation of “Parker: The Hunter” to the recommendations list. I don’t know how $16.50 (by Amazon’s prices, anyway) for 144 pages in hardcover is considered, value-for-money-wise, but it’s a beautiful, well-made book, so I’d consider it worth it, and it is both standalone and utterly fucking awesome.

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mygif

You discount the Simonson Thor as not having aged particularly well, but what about Pak and Van Lente’s Incredible Hercules, which covers some of the same ground but is current? Which of course also offers the bonus of having the trades able to lead into a regular monthly book.

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mygif

I’m so happy you included Light Brigade. Such an underrated story.

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Matthew Johnson said on November 23rd, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Any book by Larry Gonick — but of them all probably Cartoon History of the Universe (vol 1).

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mygif

Those are all good recommendations and cover a nice broad area of comics. I was thinking a little on how to recommend people into superhero comics specifically–that is, if you were going to do that to someone, or maybe they foolishly asked you. All-Star Superman is good for that, obviously, but there are some others that might work.

Astro City is good stuff though it is definitely enhanced by some familiarity with the material. However, I know from my own experience that reading it with only a five year old’s familiarity with Superfriends is enough to make it work.

Manhunter’s first volume is a complete story, though still an intro story. It avoids too much DC continuity until Infinite Crisis started interfering later and even then it’s at least a brief intrusion.

E is for Extinction can successfully draw someone back in who thought they had escaped the X-Men for good.

Gotham Central is a way to trick people into enjoying stories about superhero stuff.

Someone else mentioned Incredible Hercules already.

Invincible could potentially be a dangerous gateway drug.

It’s really hard to think of Big Two offerings involving anything close to a major character that could be considered accessible enough for an easily-scared new reader who was specifically trying to understand this confusing world.

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mygif

Runaways, and some of the Ultimate line both work really well.

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mygif

I’ve had good luck getting people into superhero comics with the Astro City TPBs. Particularly Confessions and Tarnished Angel, but also Family Album to a lesser extent.

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mygif

Good list, but I think the most crucial thing about recommending comics to people is not to think of it as a magic list of books that will always work. You have to adjust your recommendations to that person’s tastes. There are definitely people who simply won’t like A-S Superman, or Barry Ween, or Scott Pilgrim, or even Bone, but would probably get right into Y: The Last Man. (Which, incidentally, is the book that has the best track record at hooking comics neophytes for me. I’ve never lent out the first volume and not had the person come back demanding the second.) And I get your reasons for discounting it, but Sandman can be a very good choice as well; yes, the first volume is subpar and convoluted, but Dream Country and (especially) Fables & Reflections are perfectly standalone, and suited to anyone who likes fantasy. In fact, “Ramadan” is the story that made me into an adult (well, teenage) comics fan.

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mygif

Rebecca! You are a girl, I am a girl. I am not assuming that because we are both girls that we’re going to have everything in common, but I am also a girl who didn’t grow up reading comics and wanted to get into them about 5 years ago, and did. These are a bunch of dudes who are giant comic nerds, which is fine, but I think you (and me) probably have different needs than them. Sorry dudes.

I hate to be so black and white about male/female differences but the comics world is really gendered and women can often feel uncomfortable entering that kind of space. On the upside, there is a strong solidarity between female comics readers and comics creators. See groups like Friends of Lulu.

The most important thing I’ve learned about being into comics is that you should read what you like. Guys are going to get on your case for not reading (and loving) Batman comics whatever. Try it out, and if you’re not into it don’t pretend you are just to gain cred with the “experts”. Tell them to step off. There is no “right” way to be a comics fan.

The second most important thing is that being a comics fan is really really expensive. Do not bother with buying issues; wait for the trade paperbacks. Buying issues is for people who are already addicted and need their next fix. Also, it’s more enjoyable to read things in big chunks.

Many public libraries are starting to develop their comics collections nowadays, so that’s another place to start if you want to experiment on the cheap.

The book that really got me into comics was, as Mr. Bird recommended, Blankets by Craig Thompson. I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t profoundly moved by this book.

Others that he recommended that I agree with are Maus, which is also a great gateway book, and Pyongyang, which is probably the book I’ve re-read the most. Also try Fun Home by Allison Bechdel. The Scott Pilgrim series may be sort of overrated, but it’s also really fun. The League of Extraordinary Gentleman series is great.

Do not be afraid to be a super dorky girl about things either. One of my most satisfying comics experiences was reading the Scholastic Babysitters Club graphic novel adaptations, illustrated by Raina Telgemeier who is just a delightful person. They’re really well-illustrated and funny and nostalgic. Castle Waiting by Linda Medley is also fun and I’m going to get so hated on because nothing ever happens or goes wrong in that world but it’s still good. I read a few volumes of Marvel’s Runaways series that is geared to the pre/Teen market and that was also enjoyable.

Alright boys, let ‘er rip.

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mygif

No love for Hitman?

…at least when it finally gets the Omnibus treatment goddamn it DC what are you assholes waiting for.

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mygif

I think there should be an explicitly stated exception to the first guideline when it comes to Superman and/or Batman, because those two guys are cultural icons. Ask a random dude on the street, or in a cubicle, ‘What is Batman’s secret identity?’ and he’ll probably say ‘Bruce Wayne’ before you’re done talking, and can probably name at least a few of the ancillary characters and villains as well. Ditto Superman. So you could pick ongoing volumes from the middle of runs there and as long as they were REASONABLY self-contained…

Also, I gotta say; for all the massive amounts of McDuck love on this blog, no ‘Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck?’ Scrooge is the original pulp hero, dammit, and the whole thing stands on its own, delivers good value (last I checked it was seventeen or so bucks for a 260-odd page book, and when you consider the density of Rosa’s art and writing that’s a goddamn bargain) and is fucking awesome. Yeah, there’s a lot of Barks fanboy porn in there, but the cool thing is that you don’t need to understand it at all.

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mygif

I would add Ghost World and Shazam! The Monster Society of Evil to this list. The first because it’s mature and thoughtful, the second because the art is beautiful and expressive, and it’s a fun superhero comic without requiring knowledge of a zillion back issues of DC continuity.

I would also recommend I was Seven in ’75 by Ellen Forney. Very funny and real, even if it’s not a long narrative. Then I’d list Linda Medley’s Castle Waiting which starts as a vaguely interesting fairy tale and turns into much, much more.

Finally, and this is important: comics are expensive, but many local library systems stock them now. Check the online catalog for these titles before you start shelling out cash, if your cash is hard to come by.

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mygif

MAGGIE THE MECHANIC by Jaime Hernandez and HELLBOY:THE CHAINED COFFIN AND OTHERS by Mike Mignola; although both series get continuity-heavy later on, these are basically short story collections, and are an easy way in for newbies.

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mygif

my cousin’s eleven year-old son loves the tintin books i’ve lent to him. he’s also a big fan of lewis trondheim’s kaput and zosky.

the dungeon series is also very accessible, especially the dungeon parade stuff. ditto johan sfar’s book the rabbi’s cat.

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mygif

Crap. I did it wrong. I started with Watchmen.

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mygif

My immediate thought was “Phonogram”, mainly as a test case to see if your rules blocked it.

They didn’t. And they shouldn’t – it is an excellent read, which uses a lot of references, but not references one needs to get to understand the story. Um. With the exception of maybe a few which anyone from Britain will know. (Specifically, who Blur, Oasis and Pulp are, to a very small degree.)

Second suggestion which you don’t have:

2) Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth.

Absolutely excellent, if totally depressing and utterly unlike most comics. Again, it does genuinely seem like a good idea.

Runaways is almost a good idea, but unless the collection of the entire first volume is still in print, it fails as it is not self-contained.

Actually,

3) The Complete Alan Moore Future Shocks.

Now bear with me. This is a collection of many 2-6 page stories, utterly self-contained one-offs, by Alan Moore, with glorious B&W artwork by a variety of excellent characters.

It’s far from obvious, sure, but it provides variety and does not require a commitment to reading a long story.

Thoughts?

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mygif

@Murc: “Life and Times” is currently going on Amazon.com for $88. Used. The single new copy they have in stock commands a price of $150. Amazon.ca doesn’t have a copy for less than $Can200! A hardcover reprint is in the works, but it’s not quite out yet (still in preorder on Amazon).

At least until the reprint comes out, I doubt anyone new to the medium will want to shell out that much cash.

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mygif

If you want to get into mainstream superhero comics, DC published a line of books all with the title of “Greatest ______ Stories ever told.” Superman, Batman, and Joker at least were all very solid books, not only with good stories, but some context and information about the artists and writers involved in their creation.

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mygif

I’d have picked “Orbiter” over “Ocean” for introductory Ellis work, and I second Astro City – you could start with “Life in the Big City” (all self contained stuff), but I think for the real effect, “Confession”, not just because of the Confessor’s story, but “The Nearness of You” which remains the creative high point.

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mygif

I was waiting for someone to recommend Hellboy (good job, drmedula) … the early TPB volumes are mostly self-contained short stories, so accessible for a first-timer.

If you like mythology and fairy tales (like me) and like smart stories that don’t explain everything to hell, Hellboy is SO fun. I’ve already gotten into BPRD, the sort of spin-off series, which has serious meat of its own and I have to say, sometimes even better than Hellboy.

Like Karen, I also recommend TPBs. They’re cheaper, more satisfying, and from my POV, just easier to digest. I find it hard to keep track of storylines if it’s a month between each instalment, especially when an issue contains only so much story. Reading a TPB feels more like reading any other ol’ book, and makes it easier for you to sink your hooks into it.

And I guess these don’t qualify as one-offs, having multiple volumes, but once you get into series, I enjoy Ex Machina and Walking Dead.

Echoing recs of Batman: Year One, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Maus.

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mygif

I drew up a list of good “starter comics,” broken down by genre, a couple of years ago. And here it is.

Maybe I need to add Criminal…

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mygif

No one’s mentioned Fables yet? All the new-comers I’ve lent it to love it.

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mygif

I’m a big fan of Maus, but honestly, I would recommend Persepolis before it. It has a relatable female protagonist. The artwork is less busy and utilizes fewer panels, making it easier for an unfamiliar party to absorb. Furthermore, the conflict and situations are more familiar to today’s reader, e.g. Middle East & listening to hard rawk versus WWII & starvation.

That said, after they’re done with Persepolis, hit them with Maus immediately. Maus should not be missed.

Art References, re: the how busy it is:
Maus
http://www.randomhouse.com/pantheon/graphicnovels/art/maus1spread2.gif
Persepolis
http://www.groonk.net/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/persepolis.gif

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mygif

Yeah, definitely Fables, and on the superhero front, I’d recommend the new Blue Beetle or The Ultimates. They’re multi-volume, sure, but Blue Beetle is just a fun and accessible superhero book, and the Ultimates is as close as anyone will get to a superhero movie in book form.

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mygif

The answer I usually give is USAGI YOJIMBO…a great comic for people who don’t like reading comics (or even if they do). Most issues are stand-alone, but you can get a complete sense of the character and what he’s all about in each.

For a long haul read that has some handy literary pretensions, I go with BERLIN.

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duquesne_pdx said on November 23rd, 2009 at 3:49 pm

What, no V for Vendetta? Let’s show people some damn fine distopian writing.

And there’s a case to be made for Vol 1 of Goon, by Eric Powell. The stories are self contained enough that a new reader can simply enjoy the carnage and mayhem (now with slackjaws!), and some damn fine artwork.

My $.02.

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mygif

I also enjoyed Ex Machina and Walking Dead, but not enough to continue reading them past the third TPB volume or so.

Oh! And I liked Y: The Last Man enough to drop $100+ on the TPBs. Then I lent them to a friend, she went to England on a artists residency for 3 weeks, and liked it so much that she NEVER CAME HOME!!!! Now they’re all sitting in a storage unit somewhere in Hamilton. Ugh.

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mygif

I really like Warren Ellis, but I don’t think I would pick Ocean. I might have to think about it a bit more, but my opinion of Ocean is that it was both the best and worst of Ellis. It has the big high-concept idea executed fairly well and lots of interesting details that are well researched and completely thought through to the end. I also think the pacing’s weird, it doesn’t so much end as just stop and all the characters either spout SCIENCE! or speak in the same voice. It even features the most flimsy evil corporate straw-man ever.

I think Ellis is a good introduction but I’d pick either Global Frequency or Fell (I don’t think either are collected into a single volume, though). GF because it’s a showcase for defferent visual styles and shows the flexibility of the medium, which is one of the central reasons I like comics so much. Fell because it’s accessable as a police procedural, but it is maybe one of the best comics I’ve ever read that makes the case simply that comics aren’t short stories with pictures, or story boards with word balloons. Both of them can be pretty dark and violent, which might turn new readers off, but that’s just what you get with Ellis.

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mygif

The first volume of Runaways isn’t a bad start. Self-contained, new characters, little, if any, knowledge of Marvel comics required and just a great read overall.

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mygif

That’s true about Marvels, MGK. I think I take for granted how much of a fanboy I am and how much my knowledge of comics and its history helps me enjoy a story. I would say JLA/Avengers is a much bigger fanboy porn monster than Kingdom Come. And I loved it.

Runaways is a great one, especially if you include the cost of, say, the digests. It’d be cheap and easy to get almost all of Brian K. Vaughan’s run. Do they still print them? I know Marvel has now gone to printing them in HC and trade size.

Come to think of it, would Sentinel or Gravity be good recommendations? Both are super-cheap (digests) and relatively self-contained…I think. Again, I’ve been a fanboy for 15+ years, so it’s hard to say.

Also, Astro City would be a great one, too, since each volume is relatively self-contained.

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Marionette said on November 23rd, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Hey MGK,

I understand what you are saying about Bone being good value for money, it’s just that I would be daunted by the sheer size of that volume if it was my first foray into the world of funnybooks, even if it cost me a dollar.

I said Groo because, running gags aside, you can pick up almost any issue and enjoy it without any further reading. I wasn’t suggesting reading the whole thing, but almost any individual volume can be enjoyed on its own.

And Karen, as a non-dude I found your comments just a teeny bit patronising. I also know lots of other non-dudes who are fans of the most mainstream superhero titles. As I said before, without knowing the new reader’s tastes or what they are looking for in a comic, it’s hard to get too specific. Maybe Rebecca is coming to comics because she is looking for superheroes in their natural habitat. In which case Castle Waiting, wonderful though it is, is superfluous to requirements.

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Required Name Here said on November 23rd, 2009 at 6:44 pm

PS238. Its got superheros and kids, great writing, great art, its a pretty sweet comic. You don’t need to know anything about any of the DC or Marvel history to enjoy it, and the more you learn about those histories the better the in-jokes become. High recommendations to it. (And no this isn’t Aaron under a different name, I’m just a huge fanboy of his.)

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mygif

I liked I Kill Giants, but it telegraphed it’s ending quite a bit. However, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t well done.

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mygif

Your Obedient Serpent currently works in a comics-and-games shop in a shopping mall, and we get a lot of walk-in traffic that a regular strip-mall shop doesn’t. The mall also has a major movie multiplex in it, so whenever a big superhero blockbuster comes out, our traffic shoots up accordingly.

I frequently get the “where should I start?” question, and, more particularly, “Where should I start with super hero comics?

Now, I confess that my tastes lie in the superhero genre. It’s fair to say that I’m not so much a fan of the comics medium as I am of the superhero genre; while I can respect the quality of works in other genre, very few of them “hook” me enough to pick them up on a monthly basis.

Despite this, I have a hard time coming up with good “gateway drugs” for those new to the Long Underwear crowd. I have four decades of immersion in the tropes of the genre, and and the details of the story. I’m not quite sure what, um, “normal” people will find accessible.

My recent suggestions have included Justice — most everyone can pick up on “The Super Friends, Grown Up, Fully-Painted.”

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mygif

On footnote 2: Chris Sims

On Superman – doesn’t that qualify? You said first volumes are ok if they’re not introductory (ok so sort of, but cmon now, it’s SUPERMAN) and blah blah whatever. I think it passes.

Also, even though I hate his mainstream superhero work (Doom Patrol hardly counts). We3.

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mygif

Marionette,

My comment probably was a teensy bit patronizing; I’m having a sick day and am feeling all sour :P

If I was rewriting it, I’d probably drop the sour tone, but I still think the advice holds up. I’m not saying that no women like superhero comics, because clearly that’s not true. But for the most part, women are not into superhero comics.

I think the reason women are less interested in superhero comics is not because of the action and fighting, but because most superhero comics have mythologies which are too complicated to get into if your a noob. Plus, superhero comics do this whole, “OMG, so-and-so returns to take revenge!” thing which is totally meaningless unless you’ve been invested in the storyline for a long time.

Oh right, and the fact that there are too few compelling, relatable female characters in superhero comics.

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mygif

I did not enjoy the way you presented #15. I think that that description does the book a great disservice. I can not understand why you decided to present it that way.

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mygif

This is an interesting post and commentary for me to read. I have many freinds that are into comics, and they encourage me to try them out. With the exceptions of Gaiman’s Sandman and a borrowed run of Hellblazer or Transmetropolitan. But honestly, despite the protests of length the only title I would be interested in is Bone, because it’s the only one that seems to be any value for the money.

My issue with getting into comics is they aren’t enough bang for the buck. If I buy a novel or a comic I want something thast gives me enjoyment and a decent time return for my money. For the price of two monthlies, I can buy a novel that gives better story, characterization, plot and more. I don’t dislike comics, they just aren’t worth the price, even TPB’s are lacking.

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I’ve collected comics for longer than I’ve known my wife (around 17 years now), and the ONLY thing I’ve ever gotten her to read is Ghost World. She really liked it (and I’m pretty sure she read the book before she saw the movie).

I’ve offered her other stuff that I’m sure she’d be interested in — Y the Last Man, Fables, some other stuff. (She likes, among other things, well done sci-fi — BSG is a fave.) And she always admits that the premise sounds interesting, but she’s never actually picked up a book.

So, I’d say Ghost World. Although obviously it didn’t get her to *start* reading comics.

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I started my friends with Ultimates, and Ultimates 2. I also started my 10 year old cousin with Ultimate Spider-man and Marvel Adventures Spider-man. Seems to work well so far.

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No one’s mentioned Love and Rockets yet? I’m shocked.

Also, I can think of a few ren faire/history geeks who would love Crecy as a starting point, and if you know the person VERY well you might be able to give them Empowered.

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“For the price of two monthlies, I can buy a novel that gives better story, characterization, plot and more.”

Depending on the novel. I’ll take two issues of Pak & Van Lente’s Hercules over most of the paperback trash I spend my days hawking to the public any day.

Not that I’m bitter about my job or anything. Hey, some days I even get to sell TPBs of Herc. That’s good.

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ApathyMonger said on November 23rd, 2009 at 8:50 pm

“What, no V for Vendetta? Let’s show people some damn fine distopian writing.”

Amen. V was the first great comic book I read.

I’d add Pride of Baghdad too.

I didn’t care much for Ocean. It was perfectly competent, but it never hooked me in the way Ellis’s other books have. I would have put in Global Frequency instead if it’s not disqualified by any of the rules. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t get the one-volume trade thing they’re doing with Sleeper and Losers at some point anyway.

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[...] * How to start reading comics. [...]

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Tales to Enrage said on November 23rd, 2009 at 10:24 pm

I’ll give you that most of the Earth sections of Simonson’s run on Thor are dated. I don’t think the same holds true for the stuff he did that was set in Asgard, and Beta Ray Bill STILL holds up in his origin, which is pretty astonishing when you consider the basic concept of having an Alien Thor, at least for when it was written.

However, I also would never recommend it as an introduction for another, far less subjective reason-it’s at least 30 issues to find in various trades. And anything where you have to instruct people on which parts are the good parts are a terrible introduction anyway, no matter how good the good parts are.

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Great list. I maybe would have added:

Marvelman, because I feel it would make such a good introduction to the superhero genre for people who hadn’t touched it since childhood, and

Alias, because it’s so damn well-written, and doesn’t require total knowledge of the MU to enjoy.

Re: the racism in Asterix; a good example of how much more enlightened the comics became would be “Mansions of the Gods”, where the Nubian slave-leader proves to be more intelligent than Asterix himself.

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Re: the racism in Asterix; a good example of how much more enlightened the comics became would be “Mansions of the Gods”, where the Nubian slave-leader proves to be more intelligent than Asterix himself.

And that slave-leader is, of course, eventually revealed to be the pirate crow’s nest guy. Circles within circles!

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Mary Warner said on November 24th, 2009 at 1:45 am

I thought I was a pretty big comic-book freak, but I haven’t read a single book that anyone has mentioned here. I haven’t even heard of a great many of these.
Maybe it’s because there were no comics stores around here until the early ’90s, so I could only get the major newstand series before that, and then I stopped buying comic books in 1995 and didn’t get another new one for eleven years, so there is a lot I missed. (Although I have bought some stuff I missed during that time.)

My knowledge is mostly restricted to Marvel super-heroes. I think most ’70s and ’80s Spider-Man is pretty good, and I assume you can find cheap enough reprint collections of most of it. And it doesn’t take long to figure out who the major characters are in that time period.
I really love the New Mutants series from a few years ago, the one by Nunzio deFilippis and Christina Weir. That was from the period I missed out on, but I’ve bought all but one issue recently and I think they’re great. And then there’s the New X-Men that continued that series. (Not that overrated Grant Morrison New X-Men. If you recommend this to anyone you have to make sure you make that distinction.) Most people who might be considering reading comics are familiar with the X-Men movies, so they can grasp the premise of these series immediately, but they don’t have to worry about all that convoluted X-Men history, because almost none of it figures into the story.
I also think the New Warriors is pretty good (when Nicieza was writing it), and it’s pretty easy to figure out everything even if you know nothing about Marvel history.

For non-super-hero stuff, what about Archie? I haven’t bought an Archie digest in a very long time, but they were cheap and full of good classic stories back in the old days. I assume that’s still the case.

I haven’t read very much Japanese manga, but Nana is pretty good. The characters are really interesting.

I think these suggestions are all pretty good for both male and female readers. Not too masculine or feminine.

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As a casual reader of comics, I don’t really have an expert opinion to offer, but this post has made me think about how I first started reading comics. When I was a kid, my local library used to shelve the collections of newspaper comics with their meagre selection of graphic novels and TPBs (they’ve come a long way since, thank god), and after I exhausted all the Foxtrot and The Far Side collections, I started looking at what else was on the shelf. I think the first “grown up” comic I read was Bryan Talbot’s The Tale of One Bad Rat, which made a huge impression on me when I was in junior high, because I didn’t know comics could tell stories like that.

I’ve met with success lending Scott Pilgrim and Runaways to complete non-readers, so those are pretty good bets.

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lilacsigil said on November 24th, 2009 at 3:55 am

All-Star Superman? Isn’t that entirely about the Silver Age? I would fail that on your very first criterion. Then again, I started with comics by reading a cheap black and white Australian double-sized reprint of Frank Miller’s Elektra storyline in Daredevil. When I was seven. As for female readers and superheroes, there’s actually a lot of vague X-Men knowledge in the slightly-geeky-but-not-comics-geeks community and Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-Men (now that it’s not taking months between each issue!) seems to have brought a lot of new female readers to the comics. Same for Runaways.

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[...] Vodič za one koji nikada nisu čitali stripove, a voljeli bi [...]

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Why is there no eighth pick?

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All Star Superman is not entirely about the Silver Age. It’s a story done using the styles and trappings of the silver age – but it relies on nothing it doesn’t explicitly introduce.

It’s one of these things that is “a love letter to X” without being “something which only makes sense if you have a good working knowledge of X”, which is where anything ever ever ever written by Geoff Johns falls down.

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Olav the Hairy said on November 24th, 2009 at 6:01 am

Simonson’s Thor doesn’t hold up as entertainment?
Can you please re-read issues 379-380 and see if this changes your mind?
Don’t wish to blindly worship the chap but as superhero comics need a blend of action, humour, great art and a denouement, those two are among the best I’ve ever read. Liked all the comics on your list, by the way.

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regarding kyle baker, i would totally use “why i hate saturn” rather than “the cowboy wally show”. In fact, “Saturn” is one of the things I’ve used several times as a gateway to comics addiction.

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@That Guy: I get your point insofar as that comics issue by issue are not cheap, so TPBs are a nice compromise.

But comic books do require the participation of not only a writer, but an artist (who is sometimes the writer as well), an inker, and an letterer. I understand it may be a bit archaic to place extra value on pictures — now that digital ink and colour add no real *material* cost — but it is a labour-intensive undertaking.

And as BringTheNoise pointed out, there are many comics that offer “better story, characterization, plot and more” than a lot of crap novels.

Quantifying entertainment by dollar value, though, is always tricky. By that rationale, watching movies is almost always a terrible deal — for a $30 Blu-Ray DVD of a two-hour movie, I could spend twice as much and get more than five times as many hours with a boxset of a single TV season.

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I started on Preacher because I asked my local comic shop guy (where I go to play MTG) what a good, non-spandex comic would be to start with. I also required trades, because I don’t like dozens of 20-page comics lying around. I loved it and haven’t looked back – I’m in the middle of the Fables trades (a good starting point, too) and Transmet. Oh, and The Boys, which is brilliant.

As far as one-shots go, WE3 and Pride of Baghdad are both excellent ways to introduce people to the format.

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Karen: As a matter of fact, I’ve read Maus. I think my grandfather gave a copy of it to my older sister when she was studying the holocaust. I’ve also read all the Tintin series; they were the only comics that the local library had.

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I’d actually plug three Essential/Showcases, as good starting points for a novice comics reader (and they are the epitome of “cheap and accessible”, to me.)

1) Essential Spider-Man, Volume One: This holds up so very very well, even after almost fifty years, and buying it will get you the first appearances of Spider-Man, the Chameleon, Doctor Octopus, the Vulture, the Lizard, Kraven the Hunter, the Green Goblin, the Sandman, Electro, the Enforcers, Mysterio, and IIRC, the Scorpion and the Sinister Six. That’s pretty much every significant Spidey foe except for the Kingpin and Venom.

2) Essential X-Men, Volume One. This jumps ahead to the Bronze Age, so it’s a little bit easier on people than pure Silver Age craziness. It’s got the X-Men team everyone knows from the movies, and early Claremont is pretty stand-alone friendly. Yes, you can go on forever if you want, but the first volume doesn’t end on a cliff-hanger.

3) Showcase Presents Superman. Undiluted Silver Age, but some of the best of it, and it’s a lot of bang for your buck in terms of stories. And it’s all stand-alones, and plenty of them are short, and it’s Superman back in the era where he was allowed to be Awesome.

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Rebecca,

Sweet! My SO has all the Tintin books but I haven’t gotten around to them yet because I’m in school and too busy to read non-school books, but they’re on my list! Any favourites?

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Martha Cornog said on November 25th, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Many of these will not appeal to women newbies to comics. The best I’ve found for that (and I think it fits all the criteria) is Cancer Vixen, by Marisa Acocella Marchetto. Hot New York bachelorette meets the love of her life – and oops! There’s a lump on her breast. Does she live happily ever after anyway? You betcha.

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My thoughts:

Desolation Jones is a better Warren Ellis introduction than Ocean.

Runaways and Sean McKeever’s “Sentinel” are perfect shallow-end introductions into Marvel’s shared universe.

Doom Patrol Volume 1? No, no, no, no, no. I can guarantee that 85%-90% of everyone in the world who would totally get into this … is already reading comics.

I Kill Giants is a great pick though, that I hadn’t thought of as a gateway before.

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Well, I started with Sandman vol. 1, but then, I was borrowing the first three volumes from a friend.

I’d have included From Hell and V for Vendetta.

Also, for the person who wants to get into Marvel, that’s what Young Avengers is for. It’s so wound up in continuity, but explained so smoothly that anybody reading it gets a good primer of what’s happened for the past 20 years.

We3 and Cairo too.

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“Jimmy Coorigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth”…was this mentioned?

Also, I found Bone unexciting and immature at best.

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Unrelated, I started reading Legion comics because of you. Through volume 5 – starting on volume 4. Thank you so very much.

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[...] a more fundamental question was asked: “How do I start reading comics?” In his response, Mightygodking explains that, more often than not, comics fans go about it incorrectly, and make [...]

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