Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Suggested Readings in Comics

Art by Duncan Fegredo
Growing up as I did amongst actors, singers, painters, potters, mimes, sword-swallowers, tightrope walkers, heavy metal musicians, master craftsmen, and all and sundry sorts of outcast and weird, I developed into a rather unusual child. 'Loud' is not a strong enough descriptor, 'frantic' too subtle a word, 'dramatic' a gross understatement. It drove my teachers mad--they yelled, they chastised--in first grade, my student report said that I would 'never amount to anything'. The only thing that didn't seem to get me in trouble was drawing, because when I was drawing, I was quiet. So I drew. When adults asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I was going to 'draw comic books'.

I loved comics as a child--well, I loved the pictures. I'd flip through, taking inspiration for my little sketches of minotaurs, heroes, robots, dinosaurs, snake women--the usual. I never really had two issues in order, so reading comics always felt like walking into a movie halfway through. In college, I found self-contained graphic novels, and actually started enjoying comics for the story. By sheer happenstance, the first comics I read ended up being some of the best ever written. As some of my friends have pointed out, this has given me extremely high expectations for what comics can and should be--the only person who is harder to please is my old college roommate, who has only read the top 10% of stuff I passed on to him.

After the success of my post 'Suggested Readings in Fantasy', I've gotten a few requests for a similar list for comics, which I've finally found time to actually do. One of the standard lines in comic promotions is that the fans are 'character-centric', meaning that they don't tend to care who the writer or artist is, as long as the story is about Fantomah or The Whizzer or Fatman The Human Flying Saucer--or whomever their favorite hero happens to be. I'm the opposite. I pretty much only care about who wrote it--and sometimes who drew it--which is how I will be organizing this list. My reviews will be linked if I've written one, and as ever, this list will change as I keep reading.

Highly Suggested

Alan Moore

Artist unknown
Alan Moore is the most prominent and well-respected writer in comics, and his was also some of the first work I read. Though best known for movie-spawning titles like Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Hellblazer, my first experience with Moore was before all that, and the book that introduced me to him was Swamp Thing. It was his first book for an American publisher after making a name for himself in Britain, and though I've since gone on to read his more prominent works, as great as they are, I still prefer Swamp Thing. While Watchmen and V have amazing focus and sense of purpose, there is something about the more gradual, many-faceted drift of the Swamp Thing stories that I prefer. Without an overarching political message to deliver, Moore allows himself a rare subtlety and sweetness alongside his cutting satire and subversion. Then again, it was one of the few times Moore was allowed to write without editorial oversight.

Steve Gerber

Jim Mooney
Though Alan Moore gets most of the credit for moving comics away from the outdated Comics Code, Stever Gerber was actually exploring complex moral stories back in the 70s. Sadly, he was before his time, struggling for years over the rights to the characters he created, before eventually giving comics up and going to work on cartoons like GI Joe, Transformers, and Dungeons & Dragons. Yet, before he left, he created some very interesting and controversial books, including Man-Thing, Omega the Unknown, and Void Indigo. His stories were dark and unapologetic, some of the first to ground heroes in real life. Though his work is still largely unrecognized by the public, it continues to influence numerous comic writers. Unfortunately, the recent reboot of Omega by Jonathan Lethem is unremarkable.

Pat Mills and 2000AD

Kevin O'Niell
2000AD is a long-running British comics anthology which was started in 1977 by writer Pat Mills, and which is still going strong today, at more than 1800 issues. It was a pivotal part of the reinvention of American comics, and many of the best comic writers first cut their teeth there--including Alan Moore, Peter Milligan, Warren Ellis, Neal Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Jaime Hewlett, and Garth Ennis. The stories within have also been influential in pop culture, inspiring films like Robocop and Mad Max--and of course, the most famous character to emerge from its pages: Judge Dredd. However, you need not delve into back issues: Dredd, Slaine, Strontium Dog, and other notables can now be found in trade paperback collections. But some of Mills' best work was printed outside of 2000AD, most notably Marshal Law, a satire on comic book conventions that's so full of mock-fascist swagger and twisted sensuality that it makes Frank Miller's vaunted 'maturity' look like a kid pointing his army men at a naked barbie while saying 'pew'.

Carl Barks and Don Rosa

Carl Barks
It's unfortunate that Barks is not better-known in America, but his legacy around the world, and its influence on comic book writers and artists from Europe to Japan is profound. Barks was known as 'The Good Duck Artist' in the days when Disney didn't let creators sign their names. His comics were inspired by pulp adventures, like the novels of Haggard and Kipling, as well as real life adventurers of the thirties: big game hunters, archaeologists, and explorers. Barks created some of the best tales in the genre, all starring cartoon ducks, and it was his comics that inspired Lucas and Spielberg when they made Indiana Jones. After his retirement, his work was taken up by Don Rosa, who has gained a reputation for being a worthy successor to Barks' legacy.

EC Comics and Mad Magazine

Wallace Wood
EC Comics published anthologies of horror, crime, military, and science fiction that were truly progressive, in both art and writing. Yet today, the only EC character people are still familiar with is The Crypt Keeper, who introduced horror stories in EC's monthly Tales From The Crypt. This is because EC were wiped out in a scandal over the 'safety of children', resulting in 'The Comics Code', a strict form of censorship that prevented any meaningful artistic expression in comics for the next forty years, until it was finally broken by Gerber and Moore. After the code was put in place the publisher of EC, William Gaines, went and formed Mad Magazine, taking the artists and writers along with him, since the Comics Code did not limit magazines. This included artist Wallace Wood, one of the best inkers ever to touch pen to paper, and who did many prominent stories for both EC and Mad, in various genres from action to comedy. These days, both classic Mad and EC stories can be found in trade paperback collections.

Winsor McCay

Winsor McCay
Winsor McCay was a talent of supreme skill and imagination, one of the very first film animators in the world, and also a noted newspaper strip artist, back when that meant doing a full color page once a week. Works like Little Nemo in Slumberland and Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend are wonderfully fantastical, and drawn with a keen draughtsman's eye for perspective, line, form, and movement--inspiring the ligne claire style of European comics. Though I am not generally including comic strips on this list, McKay's full-page work and longer storylines are much closer to comic books than to modern 'gag-a-day' strips.

Jean Giraud (Mœbius)

Jean Giraud
Jean Giraud is one of the most visionary and influential artists in all of science fiction, inspiring the design of films like Star Wars, Blade Runner, Alien, Tron, and The Fifth Element. He worked with various writers throughout his storied career, and even penned a few tales of his own. I certainly appreciate Giraud's fantastical works like Arzach, The Airtight Garage, and Stel, many of which are available in trade paperback--but I much prefer his collaboration with writer Jean-Michel Charlier about an American cowboy named Mike Blueberry. Coming out in the sixties, just as European director Sergio Leone was pumping much-needed life into cowboy movies, the Blueberry series is irresistible to any fan of the spaghetti Western. It is a much less heroic, much more desperate West, conveyed in psychedelic colors, with wide, alien desert vistas stretching out behind the frantic action. The stories themselves are exciting, well-paced adventures, with vivid characters and many nods to real historical events. Between the remarkable art and the solid writing, Blueberry has become one of my two favorites.

Kazuo Koike

Kazuo Koike
If Giraud's Blueberry is the comic book equivalent of Sergio Leone, then Koike's Lone Wolf and Cub is the answer to Kurosawa's great samurai films. Done in a style reminiscent of traditional sumi-e ink work, Lone Wolf and Cub is a collection of fascinating portraits of feudal Japanese life--and unlike many longrunning series, there is little repetition in plot: a story about gangsters running a gambling house will be followed by a story about the heir to the town bell-ringer, then a traveling theater troupe, and after that a tale of holy men and spiritual purity. Though the action is sometimes over-stylized, especially considering the slice-of-life themes, the stories possess a powerful realism that makes them intriguing, and sometimes profound.

 Peter Milligan

Duncan Fegredo
Alan Moore and Peter Milligan are two of the only authors in comics who are capable of bringing a literary sensibility to their work. They are true stylists, playing with the conventions of the genre, exploring its possibilities--and of the two, Milligan possesses the greater subtlety and sense of irony. His revamp of Shade: The Changing Man is one of the most perfectly realized and thoroughly explored arcs in comics. Some of the individual issues are simply flawless. The series does start a bit slowly, and the weakest writing is at the beginning, before Milligan finds his voice. Unfortunately, the trade paperback collections of the series only cover the first arc, so if you want to read it, it's either find back issues, or a torrent. However, his other works are somewhat easier to find. Enigma is a thematic parallel to Moore's Watchmen, but progresses in a more naturalistic, personal way, as opposed to Moore's grander narrative setpieces. The Extremist is a disturbing delving beneath the flesh of man. What is perhaps most remarkable about Milligan is that each of his stories is different, in terms of approach, theme, and tone. His most famous work may be Human Target, which was even picked up as a TV show--but while entertaining, it does not reach the depth or complexity of his other work.

Warren Ellis

Ben Templesmith
Ellis is an intriguing writer, capable of getting strange without losing the thread of his story. He can be by turns creepy, scathing, sarcastic, silly, and touching--and if you like stories about reckless rebels making their own way through an insane world, then he's the author for you. His magnum opus is Transmetropolitan, a post-cyberpunk love letter to gonzo journalism. Also good are Desolation Jones, a CIA spook story about plastic LA, Fell, a more subtle and unsettling piece about a young cop in a bad part of town, Planetary, his enjoyable and somewhat odd take on the superhero genre, Global Frequency, a sci fi conspiracy thriller, and Nextwave, a madcap parody of super team books full of ironic nostalgia. Unfortunately, he also has some works that don't quite make the grade, such as The Authority and BlackGas, where the treatment is a bit too slipshod to do justice to the idea.

Kurt Busiek

Alex Ross
Kurt Busiek is the consummate storyteller of comic books. His pacing, his characters, his ideas, his sense of scene--they're always just where they should be. His work shows that you don't have to take apart the whole genre, like Moore or Ellis, in order to make good comics--sometimes it's enough just to pen a great yarn. Busiek's Astro City is just that: a well-done, compelling take on the superhero genre Busiek loves, full of hardship, but also hope. It's what capes comics should be, if DC and Marvel were run by writers instead of nerds obsessed with continuity and in-jokes. His Dark Horse run on Conan The Barbarian is likewise beyond reproach--it's one of the most perfect recreations of the original author's intent in a new medium that I've ever seen-- made doubly good by the painterly art of Cary Nord.

Mike Mignola

Mike Mignola
Mignola is one of those rare creatures: the writer/artist who is profoundly good at both. When I first saw the Hellboy film, I figured Mignola's comic was just another wacky, Lovecraft romp with Nazi magic and all the other cliches of the occult. Then I actually read the comic. The film never even comes close to capturing the intense and deep way that Mignola plays with mythology. His inspirations are so rich and varied, his allusions and brief references capable of suggesting a vast and intriguing world behind the world. I tend to find his short stories to be much better than the comic's 'main plotline', because the constant driving plot takes a lot away from the subtle pacing and rich tone of the shorter works. Eventually, the main plot just gives itself up to wholesale exposition, but there has been some improvement since Mignola took on Duncan Fegredo as artist--and to his credit, Fegredo has perfectly distilled and reproduced Mignola's style. He is simply the best living comic artist out there today. Mignola also did the art for a comic based on the Lankhmar series, with Howard Chaykin taking writing duties, which I found quite enjoyable and true to the original.

Sam Keith

Sam Keith
In some ways The Maxx is the quintessential 90's comic: violent, introspective, angsty, all about a faceless badass dude--and yet Keith manages to turn the whole thing into a cartoon of itself by simply asking the question 'What really separates Wolverine from a crazy homeless man with delusions of grandeur?' The answer may surprise you. Truthfully, that's only Keith's starting point, and he takes the story to some very interesting places afterwards, asking questions about the nature of self, reality, perception, and the fundamental need for companionship. It does go on a bit, at the end, but there's something fascinating about watching a mind unravel, and wondering what will be left when all's said and done.

Comics About Comics

If you're interested in better understanding how the medium works, the specific ways that art and words interact, and how we as critics can give good comics the thorough time and thought they deserve, I suggest Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, Will Eisner's Comics and Sequential Art, and Josiah Leighton's blog on the subject.


These comics are fairly solid, and worth a read. Quite a few of these came close to making the big list.

  • Brian Michael Bendis: Powers is a pretty good deconstruction of the capes genre, but the longer it goes on, the more it starts to turn into a generic supers story, periodically overlaid with ranting walls of text.
  • Enki Bilal: The Nikopol Trilogy is interesting enough, and quite lovely, but it's also self-indulgent and lacking in focus. Some have suggested this is purposeful, but I'm not sure that really helps. It did invent the sport of Chess Boxing, though, which goes in its favor.
  • Nicolas de Crécy: while he is an amazing artist--one of the best in comics--I'm not yet convinced of his storytelling skills. Glacial Period is pretty, but it has that same French habit of false profundity that undermines so much of Jean Giraud's plotting.
  • Geof Darrow: Shaolin Cowboy has great, detailed art--and the book is worth a read just for that. However, the story is rather lacking, and its oddness is too self-conscious.
  • Jamie Delano: Hellblazer is an entertaining example of urban fantasy, though it's very long, and has a lot of ups and downs as different writers take over--but pretty much every great writer out there has done a run at some point.
  • Garth Ennis: Preacher is well-plotted, but Ennis' obsession with being over-the-top crude and 'edgy' made the whole thing rather puerile, and not in a clever way.
  • Neal Gaiman: I tend to go back and forth on Sandman. There are some great high points in there, but also a lot of lulls and false starts, so overall it tends to average out. Black Orchid was more solid, but the environmental message was a little heavy. Only The End of the World Again is fun, but not remarkable.
  • Brandon Graham: Prophet is a Sci Fi feast for the eyes, full of weird imagery and ideas. Unfortunately, the pacing is so rushed it all feels like a 'last episode' recap.
  • Jean van Hamm: XIII is an enjoyable period spy piece, though the storytelling isn't always as smooth as one could wish.
  • Hergé: I've only read the early Tintin stories, which are fairly haphazard slapstick, plus the nationalistic and racist sentiments. Hopefully I'll enjoy the later books more.
  • Hermann Huppen: Jeremiah (The Survivors) is a rather odd European take on the post apocalypse.
  • Alejandro Jodorowsky: the plot of L'Incal became too lead-by-the-nose for my taste. Another 'lowly hero and all-powerful artifact tale', though Moebius' art is great, as ever.
  • Robert Kirkman: Invincible is a pretty great series. It manages a good balance between mythic action and the realism we've come to expect in the post-Moore era.
  • Scott Lobdell: Age of Apocalypse was one of the only comic series I actually read and enjoyed when I was young. In part, I liked it because it's all self-contained, and doesn't require a lot of foreknowledge--plus it's 'X-Men After The Bomb', which isn't a bad pitch.
  • Jeph Loeb: His Batman pieces, Hush and Long Halloween, are about as good as mainstream cape books get.
  • Frank Miller: 300, Sin City, and his Batman stories are classics, but they're so unselfconsciously edgy and uber-manly that its hard not to laugh at them.
  • Grant Morrison: I find most of his stuff suffers from a lack of coherency. His better works include Kill Your Boyfriend, WE3, Seaguy, The Filth, and Arkham Asylum.
  • Katsuhiro Otomo: Akira is beautifully realized, and has layers of complexity, but ultimately, the frantic action tends to be at odds with the attempts at deep philosophizing.
  • Stefan Petruchia: Lance Barnes: Post Nuke Dick is a fun and odd little book, which ought to appeal to anyone who likes the Fallout series or the film A Boy and his Dog.
  • Paul Pope: Batman: Year 100 has some great art and action, but the exposition and purpose of the story are sometimes lacking.
  • Hugo Pratt: Corto Maltese is another Euro period piece, this time about sea voyaging. I've only read the first arc.
  • Rick Remender: I had big hopes for Fear Agent, as a fan of Wallace Wood and EC Comics, but Remender can't seem to find a balance between wacky pulp and serious melodrama.
  • Antonio Segura: Hombre is another fun Euro comic, set after the apocalypse, though the firm-bodied nude ladies can become a bit silly.
  • Dave Sim: Cerebus is a contentious classic, and changed the game for indy comics--but I've only read the first arc, where it's mainly an action parody of fantasies like Conan and Elric.
  • Oliver Simon: The Exterminators is certainly fun, but despite a strong start, it soon gets lost in its own wackiness and political message, and ultimately fails to deliver.
  • Jeff Smith: Bone is an entertaining bit of fantasy, and the art is ingenious and effective. However, I found the storytelling was too bound up in flat archetypes.
  • Jacques Tardi: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec is fun--a bit silly, but entertaining.
  • Judd Winick: Exiles is a pretty standard X-Dudes capes story, with some humor thrown in.


These are titles that I would not suggest reading.

  • Jason Aaron: Scalped is an over-the-top grim tale of violence and poverty with the structure chopped into bits to make it seem complex.
  • Jonathan Hickman: The Nightly News has a great sense of design, but the plot feels like talking politics with a college freshman who just learned the word 'Hegemony'.
  • Joe Hill: Locke and Key is a rehash of Horror and Urban Fantasy tropes without a lot of thrust. Hyper-stylized skater art and awful dodge and burn coloring don't help.
  • Antony Johnston: Wasteland is a post-apocalyptic story, but lacks depth. All the conflicts play out on the surface, and the pacing is rather stilted.
  • Robert Kirkman: The Walking Dead is mostly just an extended and repetitive soap opera, and the art drops off after the first arc.
  • Jonathan Luna: Ultra was completely forgettable, and the art didn't do it any favors.
  • Mark Millar: Millar is sophomoric to the point of stupidity. Wanted and Kick-Ass are Dark Age titles written twenty years too late to be relevant. Red Son is an interesting idea made pointless.
  • Grant Morrison: in The Invisibles, Morrison seems to have thrown together every wacky idea he could think of to see what would stick. Very little of it does. Animal Man was the book that made his reputation, but unlike the deconstruction of other britwave writers, his doesn't seem to have much in the way of insight or originality.
  • James O'Barr: The Crow ultimately takes itself too seriously for a goth-themed revenge story. The movie's better.
  • Bryan Lee O'Malley: Scott Pilgrim is quirkiness done by-the-book, which rather defeats the point. Also weirdly homophobic.
  • Paul Pope: Heavy Liquid has some excellent art, but Pope can't quite seem to marry words to it.
  • James Robinson: Starman was supposed to be another great Britwave comic, like Shade or Hellblazer, but I didn't see much there--though I only read the first arc.
  • Doug TenNapel: Creature Tech feels more like a rough draft than a finished product, and the religious moralizing feels tacked-on.
  • Brian K. Vaughan: Y: The Last Man is basically a harem anime, where characters make nonsensical decisions in order to maintain the plot. Runaways has the same character problem. Pride of Baghdad is just badly-written.
  • Bill Willingham: Fables is completely uninspired, scripted with all the aplomb of a teenager. It takes mythic themes explored decades ago in Sandman and Hellboy and does absolutely nothing with them.
  • Joss Whedon: Fray gives us a look at the sci fi future of vampire slaying, but fails to serve up anything new, lacking even Whedon's usual clever dialogue.
  • Brian Wood: DMZ and Northlanders are both told without any subtlety. The characters constantly inform you what they are thinking and feeling, and the female characters are quite bad.

To Read

The following are titles I haven't gotten to yet, but which I plan to read when I find the time.

  • Mike Allred Madman
  • Sergio Aragones Groo the Wanderer
  • Bob Burden Flaming Carrot 
  • Juan Diaz Canales Blacksad
  • Joe Casey Automatic Kafka
  • Howard Chaykin American Flagg, Challengers of the Unknown 
  • Pierre Christin Valerian
  • Nicolas De Crecy Foligatto
  • Paul Chadwick Concrete
  • Geof Darrow Hard Boiled, Doc Frankenstein
  • J.M. DeMatteis Moonshadow, Abadazad
  • Will Eisner The Spirit, A Contract With God
  • Warren Ellis Ministry of Space
  • Harlan Ellison Vic and Blood
  • Steve Gerber Howard The Duck, Destroyer Duck
  • Rene Goscinny Asterix
  • Brian Haberlin Anomaly 
  • Jean Van Hamme Thorgal 
  • Jamie Hewlett Tank Girl
  • Jonathan Hickman Pax Romana, Transhuman 
  • Richard E. Hughes Herbie Popnecker
  • John Layman Chew 
  • Scott McCloud Zot 
  • Peter Milligan Bad Company, Greek Street
  • Mike Mignola Rocket Raccoon
  • Alan Moore's Miracleman, From Hell, The Ballad of Halo Jones, Promethea
  • Grant Morrison Doom Patrol, Flex Mentallo, Seven Soldiers
  • Hector German Oesterheld El Eternauta and Mort Cinder
  • John Ostrander Grimjack
  • Paul Pope 100%
  • Eric Powell The Goon
  • Stan Sakai Usagi Yojimbo
  • Rob Schrab Scud
  • Eric Shanower Age of Bronze
  • Osamu Tezuka Metropolis, Phoenix, Black Jack
  • Greg Tocchini The Last Days of American Crime, Sequence Shot
  • G. Willow Wilson Air

And though I know they have a few other highly-touted books out, my initial experiences with Brian Wood and Brian K. Vaughan have soured me on them rather thoroughly. If you enjoyed this list, you may also like my Suggested Readings in Fantasy.


  1. I was wondering if you'd read Cerebus. I've actually been thinking for a while about rereading all the books, though I would probably skip the 1st one. "High Society" is not bad, but a bit slow in terms of action. IMO Sim reached his peak around "Church & State" and was at an even keel for a while there. "Jaka's Story" and "Melmoth" are both good. He kinda went off the deep end around that point, though, and some of the books veer into ranting or are simply unintelligible. He and Gerhard's art is always quite good, influenced me a lot when I was younger.

    Honestly, I haven't been really into comics for at least a decade and while I have read several of these, our tastes diverge at some points. I do recommend Moonshadow, despite its imperfections. What you say about Pope's work makes a lot of sense, even though I've only read a few issues of THB. I love his art, though.

    This might give me a few things to explore if I ever decide to get back into comics again.

    1. Yeah, that accords pretty closely to what I've heard about Sim--the high points, then the drop off into ranting. I'll probably try some of the better-regarded arcs at some point.

      Agree about Pope's art style--often, his writing ends up being superfluous because the art tells the story so effectively on its own.

      Thanks for the comment.

  2. Interesting. An article titled "Suggested Readings in Comics" without a mention of Kirby. His dialogue might sometimes seem mediocre but the art is truly off the world.

    Parker adaptations by Darwyn Cooke, Criminal by Ed Brubaker and Casanova by Matt Fraction are other notable series that strike me right away.

    1. I do know of Kirby, but I've never been drawn to longrunning mainstream capes series--that's part of what kept me away from comics in the first place. Not to say Kirby's works couldn't be good, just that I've never read any.

      Thanks for the other suggestions, I'll look into them.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Hmmmm, also interesting that an article titled “suggested readings in comics” makes no mention of Stanley Marvel?????

  3. Nice list, as always. Certainly reconfirmed that I need to move Transmet, Astro City and Swamp Thing up on my comics to-do list. (Still irks me how expensive some of the Carl Barks and Winsor McCay collections can get, their work is so attractive).
    Have you looked at Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind? I bought ViZ Media's two volume reissue a little while ago, but haven't had the time to read it. Seeing the film gives me a good idea of how the first two chapters will go, but otherwise all I have to go on is the gorgeously detailed black-and-white artwork.
    P.S. Kick-Ass was given to me as a birthday present by a good friend of mine, a few years ago. Much as I appreciate it, it was the first comic I actually owned that just didn't do a thing for me. The whole aesthetic... it rubbed the wrong way in an indescribable fashion. Must've been the puerility.

    1. Yeah, there's a lot of stuff out there that's hard to get ahold of (at least, legally). I know about Nausicaa, and the movie, but I haven't read the manga. My impression is that most of Miyazaki's stuff is worth checking out.

  4. Have you ever heard of the Maus comic?

    1. I've heard of them, yes, but never read them. I know they're classics, and have been widely-praised, but the idea of them has just never appealed to me. Then again, I don't find WWII particularly interesting, overall.

  5. Have you read "The life and times of Scrooge McDuck" by Don Rosa?
    They were really intriguing to me, and i thought they depicts really well how the gold rush of the 1890s played out. It is mostly based on tellings and hints in Barks stories, and Rosa really adds character to the McDucks.
    Another series is Wildcards, a multi-author anthology which impacted me negatively at first, but has grown on me. Various superhumans in alternative history, if you are into that.
    Thanks for the list!

    1. I haven't gotten to Rosa's work yet. I'm reading through Barks first, then moving on to Rosa.

      I've heard a bit about Wildcards--mostly that it was written by George R.R. Martin and is wildly uneven, so I've never felt much interest in reading it.

    2. Wildcards is pretty uneven, about as much as historical fiction.
      I like that tough. It is kind of a new take on superheroes, similar to the nolan trilogy. It is stocked up like a long movie series .
      There are lots of different authors, Roger Zelazny, Lewis Shiner, Walter Jon Williams, Pat Cadigan, Howard Waldrop, Leanne C. Harper, Chris Claremont, Victor Milán, John J. Miller, such small authors write most of it. Martin is the editor tough, but that doesn't matter really.
      You may know, but The Sandman was originally an idea Gaiman made for Wildcards. It is a really one of a kind series.

  6. Everyone likes Saga. It's unanimous.

  7. I understand the approach but you really can not objectively review comics solely based on the writing and by ignoring the art. Blacksad is nothing without Guarnido's art, same with L'incal and Moebius. It would be like reviewing a movie solely based on the soundtrack...

    1. Well, this list is just brief suggestions, not a set of complete reviews, and I do indeed talk about the art of many of my selections. Additionally, I provide links to my full reviews, where I go into greater depth about both the writing and the art.

  8. Great list. I agree with most of your comments, and found a bunch of new titles to put on my must read-list. The only one I missed from your write up was the amazing Greg Tocchini. His style is unlike anything else and the closest I've seen comics come to high art paintings. Check out The Last Days of American Crime, and his no-text Sequence Shot (currently available through iTunes).

    1. Glad my list led you to some interesting stuff. Tocchini's woek does look intriguing, I'll have to check it out. Thanks for mentioning him.

    2. So I started reading Shade based on your review, but must say I'm struggling a bit with it. I originally stumbled upon it after enjoying Enigma, and really loving The Extremist, but I'm finding Shade really difficult to get into. I've now read the first six issues (or this first collected book), and I still don't understanding much of what's going on. You mentioned that the writing gets better after a while, but does it also get more coherent, or is Shade simply not the comic for me?

    3. The early stuff in the collections is not representative of the later storytelling in Shade, no. I can't say whether you will like it, but it is definitely different--I think the later stuff is more like Enigma.

  9. Replies
    1. Well, I mostly just read gag-a-day webcomics like Whomp!, SMBC, and Perry Bible Fellowship. Hark! A Vagrant is always great, too. I also like Oglaf, though some of the strips are very nsfw. I think the most brilliant webcomic I've read is A Lesson is Learned but the Damage is Irreversable--lovely art, too. Unfortunately, it hasn't updated in years, but it's certainly worth it to go through the archives.

    2. Yeah, SMBC and PBF have always been my favourites -- I'll definitely check out the others. Thanks for the reply.

  10. Great list, I didn't knew some of the writers. I was thinking of reading some Donald Duck comicbooks, and know I have the excuse to do it.
    Watching your list I noticed you have "El Eternauta" in your "to read" list, I'm curious as to what you'll think of it, personally is one of my favourite comic books, I have a soft spot for that book being and argentinian myself.
    By the way, have you read the works of Jim Starlin and Mark Waid? I started getting into comics reading Waid's Flash and I like that he can write something compelling without recurring to killing characters for the sake of the melodrama or putting unnecesary grittyness in "Capes" comic books (he took a lot of shit from fanboys, in fact he killed off one character just to piss the off) and I really love Starlin's Space operas.

    1. Haven't read Starlin or Waid, no. I guess standard long-running capes books don't really appeal much to me. I did try a few Batman books that I heard were good, and they were alright, but not as good as most original miniseries books, the sort Moore and Ellis and Milligan do.

  11. Worth adding the magnum opus Buddha and the Disney-esque Princess Knight to the Osamu Tezuka list. Admittingly, the latter is episodic and has rather flimsy dialogue, but embraces the concept and genre brilliantly. Not to mention ahead of its time, and in some ways still is.

    1. Thanks for the suggestions, I'll have to keep an eye out for those.

  12. I bet you'd get a real kick out of the work of Jason Lutes if you haven't already. His Berlin series is just marvelous.

    1. Thanks for the suggestion, I'll have to take a look at his work.

  13. Has anyone ever suggested the works of Junji Ito, Inio Asano and Naoki Urasawa to you?
    Junji Ito is quite popular as a lovecraft inspired mangaka. Although some of his bigger stories may be a little too over the top, I still find them intriguing and he has a lot of shorties. I suggest The Enigma of Amigara Fault, it is around 30 pages long and a nice example of what to expect of Ito's work.
    Asano mostly work with Slice of Life stories, but I think Nijigahara Holograph (a more experimental one shot, good even though it was one of his first works) and Oyasumi Punpun (sometimes way too grim but still a great work encompassing a kid until his 20s) may be worth checking out.
    I only have read 20th Century Boys of Urasawa, but his most famous work is Monster because of the anime. He has a fast and cinematic sense of pace I've not encountered in many other comics (on second note, I think it reminds me a bit of Warren Ellis style but more thrilling), and although 20th got a bit draggy by the end it was still a great comic overall.

    1. I know of Ito, but not the others. Thanks for the link, and the suggestions--I'll have to check them out.

  14. Great List! This actually introduced me to Steve Gerber. The only thing i don't agree with is Morrisons Animal Man, which I enjoyed. Speaking of which, have you ever read Milligans Animal Man? It's right after Morrisons and is only six issues long. It's very strange and dark, but I liked it.

    1. I haven't read Milligan's run yet, no. I'll have to check it out.

  15. Have you read UZIMAKI by Junji Ito?

  16. You should try Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, by Hayao Miyasaki. The art is beautiful, the story is impressive, and the pacing feels more natural to me than Akira did.

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  18. May I humbly recommend you add Mort Cinder to your “to read” list.

  19. I noticed that Mike Carey is missing from this comic book list....

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  22. Hello Mr. Keely. Please respond.
    I really like your taste in books and comics.
    I read the broken sword because of your recommendation and it was truly epic, engaging, had charismatic active characters and was morally complex, much better than LotR and also much shorter.

    Do you have a site or page with list and rating of movies that you like? That would be very helpful.
    And do you like Bladerunner original?
    And what is your opinion of Tarantino. I quite like his movies even when only good. Because he doesn't write torture porn like many directors to seem mature. He can always write compelling characters.

    And I think you made a wise decision by stopping to engage intellectually and argumentatively bankrupt people. I think it is very unhealthy to engage with such people. I read your discussion on LotR and GoT. It amazes me, your tolerance for responding to such people. Be safe.

    And I also wanted to ask you whether you support, capitalism or communism. I personally like Capitalist model with some socialist features like quality free education and equal opportunity. I think humans are inherently feudalistic. And all communist governments have always turned tyrannical like with Mao and Stalin.
    Will be interesting to know your opinion