A common stereotype about comics is that they are only for super heroes. The ongoing success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been a double edged sword. This explosion in popularity brings much deserved attention to the medium, yet it constantly reinforces this misconception about what comic books really are. People are so stuck in this train of thought that much of the viewing audience for television’s most popular show, The Walking Dead, doesn’t realize it originated from a still ongoing comic book.
Then there is the sad reality that your average adult seems to look down upon this medium as if it’s not worth their time. To them I say…. get your head out of your ass! The truth is that Comic books and Graphic Novels are a remarkable outlet for storytelling. Assuming you give them a chance, what can be found between those flimsy pages is an unmatched outlet of versatility. I’ve read a lot of comics in my life. Even as a published novelist, graphic novels have held the spot as my absolute favorite reading medium. Comics are so much more than superheroes or even zombies!
To prove my point, I have compiled a top five list of examples that demonstrate how versatile this creative outlet can actually be. I’ve intentionally omitted series like THE WALKING DEAD, 300, etc. If it has a film adaptation then I skipped it entirely. My goal was to pick more recent and lesser known stories to hopefully encourage at least one person to go out there and explore volumes they may have overlooked in favor of those zombie or superhero stories. Hopefully someone’s wish list will get a little broader after learning of something here.
Top 5 Examples of Graphic Novel Versatility
Runner up – AMERICAN VAMPIRE by Scott Snyder
Stephen King gets some credit for this, however, his story is a very small part of this ongoing tale that weaves through American history’s underbelly. In actuality it is the supremely talented Scott Snyder who gets credit for this gem. Snyder is propelled by the engrossing art styles of Rafael Albuquerque in a story following warring species of vampires beginning in the wild west. I’ve only read the first two volumes of this but definitely want to continue to see where (or when) the viciously beautiful main character, Pearl, goes next.
This one had originally slipped by me until I stumbled across it in a used bookstore. Warren Ellis holds a very worthy place among my favorite authors so I dove into FELL, FERAL CITY with high expectations. As predicted, Mr. Ellis did not disappoint. It’s a quick and engrossing read about Detective Richard Fell. Fell is transferred to Snowtown – a district filled with hopeless grime and mystery. Honestly, it’s hard to describe what is so fascinating about this story but it will grab your attention in a hurry. The dialog is solid with a haunting artstyle. **Fair warning – the cover says Volume 1 but there is NO Volume 2.** I was so stoked after reading this that I directly tweeted Warren Ellis to praise the title and express my excitement about the future of the story. Imagine how much of a chump I felt like when I learned the project was never continued…
There’s nothing out there quite like CHEW…. it follows Detective Tony Chu who is “Cibopathic” meaning he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. Unfortunately, this means that the best way for him to figure out who committed ghastly crimes is to have a little nibble on the evidence (or corpse). As if that wasn’t ridiculous enough, Chu is a detective for the Special Crimes Division of the FDA – the ‘most powerful law enforcement agency on the planet’ that gets it’s power from a global ban on poultry because of bird flu. CHEW is completely outlandish, gross, and regularly laugh out loud funny. This is a far cry from The Avengers!
TERMINAL LANCE is a unique story because it is essentially a war diary written by and illustrated by an Iraq Veteran based on his own experience at war. It chronicles a U.S. Marine from enlistment all the way through returning home from battle. This offers a difficult look at PTSD and how people respond to veterans. The art is simplistic yet perfect for the tale because the subtle style doesn’t distract from the importance of its message. I believe this is an important read for just about anyone these days. It’ll make you appreciate some things that may have been taken for granted without even realizing it.
It may seem a bit taboo to list something called “Sex Criminals” after a harrowing war journal…. but here we are! Truthfully, I would have passed this one over had it not been part of Comixology Unlimited’s catalogue. I’m very thankful that I gave it a shot because the book was an incredibly original read and an all around riot. The story is about a couple who share the insane power of temporarily stopping time while they do the nasty. What do they do with this power? Steal things, obviously. It’s filled with laugh out loud moments, plenty of sex (duh), crude humor, and fluid dialogue. I saw a lot of parallels to the way my wife and I talk to each other so the story instantly clicked with me. Moreover, this is a far cry from the superhero/zombie genre that had me eager to flip the pages.
Stephen King’s cover blurb succinctly described WYTCHES in a way that can’t be beat – “It’s a fabulous triumph.” WYTCHES is a breathtaking brainchild of my favorite creative comic book duo: author Scott Snyder and Jock. These two put the pairing of peanut butter and jelly to shame because they consistently produce brilliance together. WYTCHES is the kind of story that will stick with you long after you finish. You’ll see it in the shadows, you’ll hear it rattle across your window at night, it’ll surface with any element of mistrust with your neighbors. Also, as a parent, WYTCHES resonates more than your average comic book ever can. If you’ve never experienced anything remotely close to this after reading a comic then you are seriously missing out.
So what do you think? Would you have added/ omitted anything? Did you to-read list grow as a result? Let us know in the comments of directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
– The Belligerent Barnes