Comic Books That Comics-haters Should Try

  • The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
  • Sin City by Frank Miller (all volumes - very violent, even for a comic)
  • 300 by Frank Miller
  • Concrete by Paul Chadwick (all volumes/collections, but I particularly liked Strange Armor)
  • The Watchmen by Alan Moore
  • Bone by Jeff Smith (all volumes)
  • Sandman by Neil Gaiman (all volumes)
  • Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai (all volumes)
  • Any Far Side Collection by Gary Larson
  • Any Calvin and Hobbes Collection by Bill Watterson
  • Any Doonesbury Collection by Gary Trudeau
Author Comments: 

First off, it seems weird to put the "funnies" (Larson, Watterson, and Trudeau) on the same list with the "comics". All those terms are misleading. Except for Bone, there's very little "comic" about the "comics" entries, and while The Far Side, Calvin & Hobbes, and Doonesbury are certainly funny, calling them "funnies" just doesn't do them justice. Enough semantics; all are terrific in their own right.

Leaving the "funnies" aside, let me comment quickly on the others. All have been collected into trade paperbacks (I read few comics, but those that grab me, I only read once they are collected into trade paperbacks (graphic novels)), so you don't have do buy them issue-by-issue. Dark Knight, Concrete, Watchmen, and Sandman are all serious. Bone is light-hearted and good for all ages. Usagi Yojimbo draws on Japanese history, and is excellent. If I told you it centered around a Samauri rabbit, you would neither take me seriously, nor read it, so I won't tell you that.

Five words, Jim: Terry Moore, Strangers In Paradise. Focused on the life of Francine and Katchoo, two young women living in Houston and dealing with sex, weird ex-boyfriends, the Mafia... you know, the usual. Funny and touching and very real.

Cool beans, thanks! That is one I hadn't heard of (until now). I've added it to my mile-long "to-read/buy" list.

Besides Frank Miller, are there any more "main stream" comics you might put on this list? Anything currently being published?

While I haven't read it, I've heard wonderful thinks about Kingdom Come. It's on my "to read/buy" list. But other than that, I don't read many comics that haven't been referred to me. But I do think these are all mostly in print (the Usagi books can be tricky, but I think most if not all are available from Things From Another World).

Anyway, is Dark Knight the only thing you've read on this list? I can provide more information on any of the other titles, but if you liked that, I think I can safely guarantee that you'll like The Watchmen, if nothing else.

I've read Kingdom Come and liked it. The art is truly amazing and, if you know a lot about the DC world (which I don't), I guess there are references in the art all over the place.

On a slightly similar tangent, Marvels is also pretty good. It looks at the early Marvel universe from the eyes of a normal guy. The art is also by Alex Ross, the artist of Kingdom Come.

On the comics side, I would recommend "MiracleMan". You can still find book four (by Neil Gaiman) in used comics sections, and it stands very well on its own.

On the "funnies" side, I have just one addition: Pogo.

Thanks for the recommendations. I keep meaning to check out Pogo, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I will someday, I promise.

jim, ever glanced at the European comic HEAVY METAL [a.k.a. Metal Hurlant]? Its best issues date from the 70s and 80s. Some really weird stuff here; raunchy too.

No, never have. I remember reading lots of comics as a pre-adolescent, and only got back into them as an "adult" with Watchmen and Dark Knight. Since then, I've stuck exclusively (and selectively) to those collected into trade paperbacks rather than single issues. Not sure if there's a "Best of Heavy Metal" TPB I could check out...

ElfQuest! (though I haven't read any in years)

Good idea! I read the first four when I was a kid and I loved them. If I re-read them as an adult and liked them as much, I'd definitely add them to this list.

my favorite Far Side showed a man looking worried in an office building and a duck in a far off office building watching him with binoculars. The caption read: "Somehow, somewhere, a duck is watching you." Still makes me laugh to this day.

I don't think I could possibly pick a favorite Far Side, but in my feeble 5-second attempt to come up with one this leapt to mind: two knights are carrying another knight down from a tower on a stretcher. His pants are down, and there's an arrow sticking out of one of his buttocks. A knight still up on the tower is explaining what happened to another knight. He says...

Y'know what, let's make it a quiz! Who can provide the caption?

Hmm, that one does sound familiar, but I have no idea what the exact wording of the caption is.

My favorite Far Side is a rather dumb, simple one, but one that made me laugh very hard when I first saw it. A woman has nailed her dog door shut and is shouting to her naive, wide-eyed weiner dog, "Come here, Fifi! Faster, Fifi!"

Love that one. Larson got lots of hate mail for it, if I recall correctly.

I can't remember the exact caption, but it has something to do with mooning, yes?

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Yup! "So then I says to Borg, 'you know, as long as we're under siege, one of us oughta moon these saxon dogs."

I always liked the Far Side drawings without captions, too. I guess you could call them sight gags. My favorite has a high-society lady who has fainted over on a dinner table with a bowl of soup in front of her and a one-eyed mounted moose head above her on the wall. (The other eye is, of course, floating in her soup.)

We seem to have pretty common tastes in comics, although I haven't dipped into a graphic novel in quite some time.

As a fan, I'm not sure if I should be excited or scared that I recently heard that Sin City is heading for the screens. It appears that Robert Rodriguez is signed on to direct...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Whoa, a Sin City movie! I like the choice in directors, but Marv will be difficult to cast. Any ideas? I'm momentarily stumped.

So have you read all the stuff on this list?

Various websites are reporting Josh Hartnett and Marley Shelton are in the cast.

I haven't read 300 or Concrete, but I've read at least several issues of all the others. I even ran across a Bone comic while cleaning out some boxes from my parent's garage a few weeks ago...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well I know what I'm going to send you when I return Perfecta and Satellite Sky then! (if you want)

Josh Hartnett? Well, I know what my gut is saying about this one. Marley Shelton I've never heard of. Or at least I'm forgetting her at the moment.

How 'bout casting Marv? I still got nuthin'.

I'd love to check those out.

I'm playing with the idea of one of my favorite under-rated actors, Ron Perlman, as Marv. Whaddya think?

Shelton has only been in one or two films, the most popular perhaps being Sugar & Spice.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ron Perlman's a pretty good choice. Not perfect--I see him as more of a gentle giant because of City of Lost Children--but that's my fault, not his. I always run into this problem when trying to cast physically imposing roles. There just aren't that many great big men acting, it seems. Or at least they don't get popular, what with all the winnowy Depps and DiCaprios stealing the limelight. Russell Crowe has that whole "seethe and explode" thing working for him, but he doesn't quite do it for me, and doesn't strike me as tall enough. Nick Nolte has the seediness and the voice and could bulk up for the role, but is too old. Vinnie Jones is tall enough and mean enough, but too lanky. So far I can't top Perlman, but I'm not yet satisfied.

Oh hey, how 'bout the huge musclebound sidekick from Gladiator? Let me look him up... I *think* this is him.

Here's the latest casting rumors. Of those, the only one that seems like a natural fit to me is Mickey Roarke. The other choices are mostly either boring or dreadful.

Hey, did you know Ron Perlman is Hellboy? Directed by Guillermo del Toro. What's your gut say about that?

The trailer I caught the other night really put the pain in my gut. I'm not expecting a whole lot out of Hellboy, at this point.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Even so, I just found this nice piece on Ron Perlman that I thought you'd be interested in.

I'm setting myself up for disappointment again by starting to get excited about Sin City once more.

Yeah, each trailer is better than the last. I think I liked it better when I had no hope at all. I'm now prepared to proclaim it "the movie most likely to break my heart."

Ben Affleck for Marv!!!! :~D

That way Jennifer could star as well. Who doesn't wanna see more Bennifer.

:-) Too doughy.

Haha! Doughy indeed. :B

How about the Barry Ween books?

Never tried 'em. Should I? What are they about?

Yes, you should. :) Here's book 1. They're a very funny series about a little kid who would be a mad scientist and evil genius if he was mad and evil and the adventures he and his best friend have.

Sounds great! I've added it to my Amazon wishlist, and may even buy it outright. I've got this Amazon gift certificate burning a hole in my pocket...

Let me know what you think.

Now that I'm getting back into comic books again, I'll have to check out the ones here that I haven't tried! Great list!

"You know, Sid, I really like bananas...I mean, I know that's not profound or nothin'....Heck! We all do...but for me, I think it goes much more beyond that." -- G. Larson

Batman: Year One is a fantastic Frank Miller with a terrific updated retro look by David Mazzucchelli and Richard Lewis. And Arkham Asylum is as disturbing as Sin City and written by Grant Morrison with Dave McKean.

I am still desperately seeking a trade paperback of The Legion of Superheroes from any of its wildly schizophrenic eras.

I'll have to give Year One another shot. I think I may have left if off for fear of overloading the list with Frank Miller (not that I haven't done that already (and not that he doesn't deserve it)), but I can't remember now.

Jim, what do you love so much about Doonesbury? I've never been able to enjoy - let alone laugh at - it.

You need to go back and read them from the beginning to realize what a great job Trudeau has done creating interesting living characters that he's aged in real time. The early stuff has more pure humor, which makes it more accessible (some of his college strips are still hilarious), and it's a great way to walk through history from the late 60s to the present. Then you just have to look at all the comics that failed to quit when they should have (just about everybody, but especially Berke Breathed) or the geniuses that quit at the height (or thereabouts) of their powers (Watterson, Larson) and realize that Trudeau has been doing this for 40 years and he really hasn't lost much. Maybe his drop step isn't quite as devastating, but he can still take it to the hole.

Calvin & Hobbes, I think, was still in it's prime when Watterson quit. And, I always wish he'd done more and not moved to the moon, but as my most beloved comic strip, it would've been sad to see it jump the shark one day.

Harry Knowles' review of Sin City is up. He gushes, but I trust him the least of just about anybody. He gushed the same way over Hellboy and other turds.

I'm not what we would call a comics lover, but I've read good comics/graphic novels this year.

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is a nice discovery too, even the non-graphic novels lovers can hardly say something against it. It's fun and strong at the same time, it also gives us another look on Iran.

Maus by Art Spiegelman too. On the WWII, but also (and most) on relationship between a father (a survivor) and his son (born after the war). Very original in its form (the jew are mouses and the germans, cats).

I think I have to make two posts because of the spam filter! (hyperlinks!)

I've discover also Joann Sfar lastly and like him. He had done the series Little Vampire and adapt The Little Prince (but I don't think it's translated in english yet). I've like Miguelanxo Prado (Streak of Chalk, Peter and the Wolf) and Bastien Vivès (Le goût du chlore) stuffs too.

For your list, I have found The Watchmen an unusual superhero comics book. I like some Sin City, but not 300, because I don't think the characters was as deep than Sin City and I found it was too focus on the action rather than the story.

Funny, the reason this list jumped onto "Recent Updates" (I assume) is because I archived it. Not that I don't still like the stuff on here (although I'd probably ax 300), it's just horribly out of date.

Maus should certainly be on here. Brilliant. Persepolis I really should read, and I wasn't aware of Little Vampire or Streak of Chalk. Both look interesting, thanks for the recommendations!

I recently read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, which was terrific.