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Victor Samsonov
Victor Samsonov

Good Comics To Read



This isn't meant as a comprehensive list of the "best" or "most important" or "most influential" comics, of course. It's a lot more personal and idiosyncratic than that, because we asked folks to name the comics they loved. That means you'll find enormously popular mainstays like Maus and Fun Home jostling for space alongside newer work that's awaiting a wider audience (Check Please, anyone?).




Good Comics To Read



Craig Thompson wrote and drew this bittersweet, 600-page, semiautobiographical story of a young man raised in a strict evangelical tradition, haunted by feelings of guilt and shame as adolescence gives way to adulthood. His attempts to navigate a sexual relationship cause him to question his most deeply felt beliefs, and it's that extra, achingly heartfelt layer that elevates Blankets above similarly themed "sensitive artist is sensitive, artfully" indie comics. Thompson grapples with big ideas about faith, art and sex, yet his art is always expressive, intimate and highly specific.


Comics nerds are a nitpicky, combative lot, so whenever Will Eisner's collection of comics short stories gets called "the first graphic novel," the "um, actually"s descend like so many neck-bearded locusts to remind everyone about Rodolphe Topffer and Lynd Ward and to point out that it's not a novel, it's a collection of stories. So let's put it this way: Eisner's 1978 A Contract With God is widely regarded as the first modern graphic novel. But it's not on this list because it was first, it's on this list because it remains one of the most beloved. Eisner sets his stories in and around a Lower East Side tenement building very like the one he grew up in, and it shows. He imbues each story with an elegiac quality reminiscent of the fables of Sholom Alecheim, replete with a fabulist's gift for distilling the world's morass into tidy morality plays. Moody, moving and darkly beautiful, this work helped the wider world accept the notion that comics can tell stories of any kind, the only limit being the vision of their creators.


You will never be as cool as anyone written and drawn by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. But you can approximate that level of cool by reading The Wicked + The Divine, their color-drenched, pop-addled, gender-bent tale of a group of kids who've been taken over by deities and granted supernatural power and appeal with one major drawback: Within two years, they'll all be dead. But until then, they can enchant crowds, perform miracles and save lives. Gillen has described it as "a superhero comic for anyone who loves Bowie as much as Batman," which is pretty perfect, in our opinion.


Before it became an international television franchise/cultural phenomenon, The Walking Dead was a scrappy little black-and-white horror comic. It still is, of course, though the plotlines of the comic and the TV show have diverged in ways that invite heated debate. There is an urgent, elemental power to Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore's bleak and battered vision of a zombie apocalypse and the survivors who attempt to hold onto their humanity, against impossible odds. Both creators clearly love the genre, and know how to toy with reader expectations. But in a very real sense, The Walking Dead has never been about the gore-splattered "Walkers." It's about how quickly, and how violently, humans will turn tribal to protect their own. Reading The Walking Dead can be a punishing experience (don't fall in love with any character), but thousands of readers, and millions of viewers, are gluttons for exactly the kind of punishment it serves up with dispassion.


Ben Passmore's slim, 11-page mini-comic is an open letter, written in the second person, consisting of a litany of gentle admonitions for well-meaning but racially tone-deaf white people: "Your black friend hates that you slide into 'black' presentations thoughtlessly. He feels like you're mocking him, but knows that you are totally unaware of this ... Your black friend wishes you would play more than Beyonce. There are more black performers than Beyonce and he's worried you don't know that." That last sentiment is matched to a panel in which a clueless white guy sings along to "Formation," while his black friend shoots a hilariously weary side-eye at the reader. Your Black Friend is by far the shortest comic to make this list, but there is nothing slight about it. Beneath its sardonic tone lies a truth that is urgent, sincere and deeply affecting.


This is it: Frank Miller's 1986 magnum opus, the gold standard against which all Batman stories will forever be judged, for better or worse. Miller's tale of an aged Caped Crusader coming out of retirement to fight a new breed of criminal was deliberately set outside DC's continuity, which gave Miller lots of room to play. The result is big and operatic (think Rambo meets Wagner's Ring Cycle). But it's also grim and gritty and helped usher in an era of dark, brooding heroes that remains the default superhero mode. It became such a hit both in and outside comics circles that readers of in-continuity Batman hungered to bring the book's dark vision of future Batman an in-canon reality, voting by phone to kill off Robin in 1988.


Wonder Woman's much-buzzed-about movie may have granted her a bit of a popular-vote groundswell, but there wasn't much agreement on which run of comics from her long and storied life should make the final cut. Arguments were made for her debut comics, which remain bracingly weird; George Perez's mid-'80s reboot; Greg Rucka's tenure, when he turned her into a kind of superpowered diplomat; and Brian Azzarello's recent turn, in which he recast the Olympian gods as rival crime families. Ultimately, it was Gail Simone's run on the character (especially her four-issue launch tale, The Circle, with art by Terry and Rachel Dodson) that best managed to nail Diana's iconography by depicting her as powerful as we know her to be and as compassionate as we need her to be.


Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson created Swamp Thing for DC Comics in 1972, a muck-monster who owed a lot to Marvel's similarly swampy Man-Thing created the year before. But Alan Moore's tenure on the character, beginning in 1984, redefined the character in a fundamental and groundbreaking way, turning him into arguably the most powerful hero in the DC Universe, albeit one shot through with the darkest elements of gothic horror. Penciler Stephen Bissette and inker John Totleben's images seemed to float in that darkness, imbuing Moore's literally epic tale (Swampy visits both Hell and outer space) with a sense of dread and foreboding, even when that tale involved Swamp Thing communing with Evil itself ... by walking into its giant fingernail. Yeah, look, you really have to read it.


Pear pimples for hairy fishnuts! The original run of Berke Breathed's '80s strip is one of the most quotable comics of all time. A mix of pointed political and cultural satire and gentle, meadows-and-dandelions sentiment, Bloom County began with a bunch of misfits in a Midwestern boardinghouse but expanded to poke fun at everything from presidential politics to penguin lust. And with the introduction of Bill the Cat in 1982, discerning comics fans got an epic riposte to that other orange feline cartoon titan, Garfield. Ack oop!


One of the few comics our readers chose that doesn't have an ongoing story, SMBC is your one one-stop shop for daily jokes about science, politics, relationships, deconstructing The Wizard of Oz and pretty much anything else creator Zach Weinersmith sets his pen to. Plus, you can click the big red button underneath each strip for an extra joke!


Our readers really loved Ben Hatke's charming story of a young girl who ends up on a strange planet after trying to rescue her best friend from an alien cult (that might have come to Earth because Zita found a big red mystery button, pressed it and created a rift in space). Torn away in a moment from everything she knows on earth, Zita becomes an interstellar adventurer, saving planets, battling aliens (the Star Hearts only sound nice ... they're really not) and escaping dungeons. Hatke's cute-but-not-cloying art stretches from realistic to truly weird, creating a delightful backdrop for Zita's heroics.


The below list is a very different breed, and is instead a collection of all my favorite comics and graphic novels I have ever read. Every time I read a new comic book series, I add it to the list, and rank it among the substantial competition of all the best comics ever.


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Here is mine top list with a lot of European and American comics:1. Modesty Blaise by Jim Holdaway2. Donald Duck by Carl Barks3. Blueberry by Jean Giraud4. Blake & Mortimer by Edgar P. Jacobs5. Prince Valiant by Hal Foster6. Tintin by Hergé7. Asterix by Albert Uderzo8. Spirou & Fantasio by Franquin9. Lucky Luke by Morris10. Mickey Mouse by Paul Murry11. Calvin and Hobbes12. Valerian by Mezieres13. Garth by Frank Bellamy14. Rip Kirby by Alex Raymond15. Bernard Prince by Hermann16. Johan and Peewit by Peyo17. The Smurfs by Peyo18. Benoît Brisefer by Peyo19. Natacha by Walthery20. Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup20. Franka by Henk Kuijpers21. The Phantom by Lee Falk22. EC comics23. Valhalla by Peter Madsen24. Rejsen til Saturn by Claus Deleuran25. Oumpah-Pah by Albert Uderzo25. Tanguy et Laverdure by Albert Uderzo26. Felix by Jan Lööf27. Red Kelly by Hermann28. Donald Duck/Mickey Mouse by Romano Scarpa29. Bruno Brazil by William Vance30. Gaston Lagaffe by Franquin


Thanks for the list Dave, in 2019 I had checked the same list and I noticed that you have changed the list with many new comics, although for recent comics (like Tartarus for example) I would not add until they had a decent run and would leave heavy weights like Crisis from DC.


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