Wednesday, 21 September 2016


'Comics are a gateway drug to literacy' ― Art Spiegelman

The cliche poster everyone in my freshers year had.
If you take one look at my 'read' list on Goodreads you'll notice that a decent chunk of it comes from reading comic books and the odd graphic novel, (FYI, there is actually a big difference between the two). Some people might think adding comic books to my 'read' list on Goodreads is cheating, and to those people I say: really? Seriously? You're gonna be like that? Bugger off.

(Well, actually I'd probably be way more polite but you catch my drift.)

Comics are, sadly, not regarded as a 'true' part of the literary world at times; the swapping of the term 'graphic novel' to describe what is actually a comic to make it sound 'better' is an indictment of this. There is a stark difference between what constitutes a comic and what constitutes a graphic novel, Debra Kelly has written a really great article that explains that difference in more depth here, but in basic terms a graphic novel is a much older form of literature (dating back centuries) and are entirely more complex and long in length, while a comic book is a relatively new form of story telling that is short, punchy, with story-lines or arcs being completed in a couple issues or a small volume.

So why are people still so snobby about it? Probably because the image of the 'comic' is not seen outside of the idea of the classic superhero comic for kids (think Captain America, X-Men etc.), therefore the assumption is made that they contain no real substance (because pages of POW, WHAM and SMASH are bad), so they can't really be a piece of literature. Well, yeah, comics probably do owe their success down to the popularity of superhero comics, but does that really mean they aren't worth anything just because they came from such humble beginnings? 

Nowadays we are slowly seeing a drift away from preconceived notions of the comic/graphic novel, with some of the biggest and most recognisable pieces of these genres becoming social phenomenons, such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta and most recently Batman: The Killing Joke. But again, all but Watchmen are graphic novels, because for some reason the term 'comic' is still seen as a 'dirty' word and is still struggling to lose it's childish connotations, which frankly, sucks, as there are loads of brilliant comic book series out there (for kids AND adults), but sadly the literary world is  bit poncy still and wants things that evoke feelings and have a message rather than meriting brilliant storytelling. Not to say that comics can't be a great avenue for social/political/economical commentary, it is this commentary that has made Watchmen and V for Vendetta so popular, (hacktivist group Anonymous taking up the Guy Fawkes mask as their own really cemented Alan Moore's work into the mainstream), but does a text have to do this in order to be 'taken seriously'? The fact is that this is such a loaded and controversial topic that extends to many different genres and texts outside of the comic and can't be answered in one simple blog post.

Quite simply, people still look down on comics and that sucks. A graphic novel is not greater than an a comic just because the plot might be more heavily developed, nor is a comic book less worthy of praise just because it's plot might center around a super-human being and their fight to save the universe. The comic book is an amazing blend of art, literature, and convenience and it's creators should be bloody well revered for the amount of effort that goes into every single issue, not looked down upon because they cost about £3 a pop.

So, here's my list of the top 5 comic book series from the front-runner in the modern comic Image Comics, because these series are blooming brilliant and a great way to get into the comic book genre and prove that it isn't limited to just men in tights (but please do give me some recommendations for DC and Marvel series as I'm very much looking into getting into reading about blokes in tights).


(All cover images from Image Comics Website)

Alex + Ada is a short sci-fi comic book series of 15 issues from Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughn. Set in a future where androids are an everyday commodity, Alex + Ada follows the story of Alex who, due to recently breaking up with his fiance, is sent a Tanaka X-5 android by his Grandma, who he names Ada. The series follows the development of their android:/humanoid relationship as well as concerns over the possibility of conscious and free thought in robots.
It's a pretty cute story and, due to it's length, a great place to start if you aren't keen on sticking to a series for the long-haul.


(All cover images from Image Comics Website)

Deadly Class is kinda like Hogwarts but instead of learning to make potions or ride a broomstick you learn how to dispose of a body and how to kill someone efficiently with a toothpick. Deadly Class follows Marcus Lopez as he struggles with being a teenager in the late 80's with unrequited crushes, drink, drugs, and trying to not piss off his fellow classmates...who happen to be children of famous assassins, part of long-lasting crime families, or Neo-Nazi gangsters. Obviously it's a tad gory so not for the faint-hearted, but this depiction of teenage life with the backdrop of the 80's and the added complication of violence, murder and morality is extremely fascinating and engaging and a great series to pick up and dive in to.


If, like me, you like reading about serial killers and have a thing for crime lore then I highly recommend Nailbiter. Created by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson, Nailbiter dares to ask one of the most hotly debated questions of modern society: where do serial killers come from? Oh, and why has the town of Buckaroo in Oregon been home to 16 of them? It's a question Agent Nicholas Finch wishes to answer...with the help of  one of Buckaroo's deadly 16, Edward "Nailbiter" Warren. This series has way more to it than meets the eye, with hints of the supernatural and otherworldly influences possibly being at play. Nailbiter is one of those series that will have you waiting impatiently for the next issue because seriously, what the hell is going on in Buckaroo?


If you look at my read list on Goodreads you'll see that I basically marathoned all the volumes of Chew that I could in about two days. Chew has a crazy premise; Tony Chu is a cop, he's also a cibopath meaning he gets psychic readings from anything, or anyone, he takes a bite out of. Cue Tony Chu chewing on  piece of rotting human flesh to find out who murdered them. Yep, this is 100% real. Along with Chu there are a myriad of other people with food-related powers such as making functional weapons out of chocolate, or being able to turn into whatever food you last ate (there's a brilliant bit where a guy whose running for mayor has an apple pie head, classic). Oh, and there's strange writing orbiting the earth, eating chicken is so illegal you have illicit chicken restaurants, and there's a rooster called Poyo who is such a badass he gets deployed as a WMD.
This series is a roller-coaster ride, is crazier than I can express but is so damn good I implore you all to pick it up, do it for Poyo.


If you have never heard of Brain K. Vaughan and Fiona Staple's beautiful lovechild Saga then where the hell have you been?! Saga is, without a doubt. one of the best comics to be released in recent years and is one of the best things I think I've ever read. The story is one of two lovers form different sides of a brutal war, it's sort of like Romeo and Juliet but with more sex, magic, weird TV princes and set in space. The story is amazingly crafted, the characters are diverse, representative without feeling like tokenism and the artwork is absolute stunning. Also, there's a little seal guy called Ghus who is the best character ever, along with Lying Cat, a large turquoise Spyhnx that is essentially a walking polygraph test. Saga is sexy, funny, badass and tugs on my heart strings every single issue and if you don't pick it up and read it now I don't know what is wrong with you. Just bloody well do it.

~ Honourable Mentions ~
Image Comics have such an amazing repertoire, so I couldn't resist giving a small shout out to some other equally as good series they have on their books, just click on the relevant covers to go to their page on Image Comics:

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