Graphic Novels That Will Suck You In
Comic books haven’t been simply comic for some time. In fact, if they were ever innocently funny, that was very quickly taken over by sex and violence and, of course, masked men who took tights much too seriously. So, comic book fans allot much bookshelf, or under-the-bed, or behind-the-couch space to the hundreds of issues that comprise story lines of their favorite superheroes and supervillains, or maybe horrible and gory murders, or whatever. Then, someone decided to bind a few issues of comics into one book, call it a graphic novel and deliver it to you via Amazon.com or whatever huge bookstore happened to be near you. And this is how comic books bridged that gap between your average caped fanatic and your basic bookstore browser too haughty or overwhelmed to enter a comic book store. From there several graphic novel canons were derived which sucked the average book reader into the world of beautiful illustrations and succinct dialogue.
So, if you were ever curious about the comic book world, like I was, the following five graphic novels can very easily become your gateway drug. At least that’s what they did for me, especially because they are (mostly) finite and I am not left forever wondering just what will happen next.
1. Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis as drawn by Darick Robertson (a collection of 11 books): I am almost ashamed to say it, but I really haven’t picked up anything by this master until about a week ago. And I am completely hooked. The main character, Spider Jerusalem, is the perfect anti-hero in a post cyberpunk dystopic world. He is jaded, cynical, aging and quick to apocalyptic anger. He is not exactly a protector and he is not entirely a marauder; he is a journalist actively digging for the truth and trying to fulfill an infernal book contract. We meet him atop a mountain, naked, covered only by a mane of hair, holding a gun and surrounded by filth while screaming obscenities at a phone receiver and clutching his last 5 dollar bill. It is gory and hilarious. It also makes me ashamed as the horrible truths of the book are not that far off from what is truly happening in the world. Or could happen. Every page brings with it a new atrocity.
2. The Watchmen by Alan Moore as drawn by Dave Gibbons: In a single book lie all the reasons to allow superheroes into your life. I was always turned off by the true and tried formulas each one of them follows, by the overly muscular one-dimensional rage machines that I always imagined when I thought of superheroes. In The Watchmen the superheroes were never very super and have already grown older, flabbier, and are often embarrassed of their past. Some abandoned the life-style after the golden age was annihilated by technological advances and actual superpowers of nuclear Dr. Manhattan. This graphic novel, unlike most others, actually uses many literary devices, tells stories within stories, forms allegories, metaphors, etc. A lot of work has been put into the structure and the plot and every frame is wrought with relevant details. The first page of the novel is covered in blood and begins the story of mystery and murder as told by of one of the most compelling characters, Rorschach.
3. The Sandman (a collection of 10 books with a variety off-shoots that are not necessary to the story) by Neal Gaiman as drawn by various artists: Not the Sandman you’re thinking of, this character after whom the series is named is actually the personification of dreaming. His siblings, the Endless (Death, Desire, Despair, Delirium, Destruction and Destiny) are of the same ilk and although there is an overall tale where Dream (one of Sandman’s numerous names) is the protagonist, the other Endless tales weave in and out through history and worlds real and mythical. The tales are often grim and some are heartbreaking with constant references made to folklore sprung from archetypes. All satisfy a desire for a just desert and include good amounts of the usual sex and violence although the heroes this time around are rail thin or monstrously obese. Admittedly, this comic is often revered by goths (much like the one about to be discussed) but don’t let that stop you from immersing yourself in a rich story.
4. Johnny the Homicidal Maniac or Squee by Jhonen Vasquez (1 volume each): I am mentioning both of these graphic novels because either one or the other is often cited as the beginning of an unhealthy obsession with the literary achievements of Vasquez. They are both hilarious and shot through with satire based on hate. Much like Transmetropolitan actually. Squee and Johnny make appearances in both books, but Squee is more of a collection of short sketches while JTHM is an ongoing story about a (you guessed it) homicidal maniac who lives in a house where inanimate objects talk to him and one of the walls has to be regularly painted with blood. JTHM begins as just a day-to-day existence for Johnny but as the book goes on, a story takes root and the book becomes less hilarious and more morose.
5. Y: the Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan as drawn by Pia Guerra & Massimo Carnevale: The only comic series on this list that is actually not finished the creators plan on completing it in 60 issues 54 of which are already done. Certainly not as deep or influential, it is nevertheless a gripping story that is sometimes funny, sometimes touching and overall driven by a mysterious plague that suddenly took down every male on earth excluding Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand. Technically every male’s fantasy, for Yorick this is more of a nightmare as he is hunted down by a new gang called the Amazons in a post-apocalyptic world which is slowly being rebuilt while corpses are cleared away and food is becoming scarce. His only aim at the start is to somehow find his girlfriend who is currently in Australia, while simultaneously appeasing his mother who is a government official aiming for presidency.
There are others that I should read, but haven’t gotten around to yet, one of them being Maus by Art Spiegelman. And I’m looking for more. d42 has for some years been my pusher, but I’m looking to push back.
Article Copyright © 2007 to ETL