Free Comic Book Day is upon us on Saturday 4th May ! Keith, Maya, and The Happy Sorceress share some of the personal favorites they would recommend to readers.
I'm certainly not the only one to suggest the Pulitzer-winning Maus by Art Spiegelman to the comics-curious. In fact, when the first volume was initially published in the '80's, I spoke so highly of it before it became the first comic to win a Pulitzer, that my boss at the time asked me to get her a copy. There's the two-volume version and the Complete Maus. A powerful story not only of a Jewish family surviving the horrors of Nazi Germany, but of a generational saga of a son coming to understand his father.
For romance fans wanting to test the format of comics, I highly recommend the work of Thomas Zahler. His work is equal parts romance and humor. Comics are most famous for superheroes, so there's his Love and Capes series (four volumes). Contemporary romance can be found in his most recent book, Warning Label, and his latest web comic series is Cupid's Arrows.
For the historically-minded, Rick Geary produces many non-fiction graphic novels among his work, the centerpiece being his Treasury of Victorian Murder series. Covering subjects as diverse as Jack the Ripper, Abraham Lincoln, H. H. Holmes, James Garfield, Lizzie Borden, Mary Rogers, and more. His biographical work also includes Billy the Kid, Trotsky, and J. Edgar Hoover. His art is clear and charming—somewhat at odds with some of the subject matter, dulling the more gruesome aspects—and the subjects well researched.
Keith is a life long comic book reader and historian. You can find more information about Keith on Twitter.
The Happy Sorceress' Recommendation:
I like a lot of things. Movies, TV shows, books, foods, songs. But anytime I’m asked to name a favorite, it’s as if I’m hit with a mind wiping stick. Suddenly, I no longer recall what those things are. Books? Never heard of ‘em. Names escape me. I don’t know if it’s the pressure of elevating one work above all others, or the on-the-spot-ness of it, but I draw a complete and utter blank.
My standard reply: “I don’t have favorites”.
Which is technically true: I cannot pick a single book/movie/song as The One, but there are a few that rise to the top.
So, with the caveat of ‘I have many loves!’, here are a few of the comics I can’t stop talking about.
Jessica Jones by Kelly Thompson, with art by Mattia de Iulis and Martin Simmonds
This book is gorgeous. The kind of art you want to swim in, it’s so lush and beautiful. And Thompson not only writes fascinating, funny, and action-packed stories, the lady is an ace at dialogue. Every character feels true, and the conversations could be lifted from (less superhero-y) real life. .
Sometimes funny, often tense, and occasionally terrifying, this is a book I read first on new comics day.
Velvet by Ed Brubaker, art from Steve Epting
I am in love with this book. Velvet Templeton is smart, sexy, and takes zero BS from anyone. Part noir, part 007—without the rampant misogyny—seemingly ordinary executive secretary Velvet takes herself out of retirement to expose secrets and lies while showing the men how it’s done.
Another book with the kind of art you can lose yourself in, with seductive, rich color and gorgeous, realistic characters. I give this book as birthday/Christmas gifts.
Wonder Woman by G. Willow Wilson, art by Cary Nord
I had high hopes for this one. Wilson writing Diana of Themyscira? Praise Hera!
I was not disappointed.
She gets our Amazon princess. As a woman, a warrior, a hero, a friend, a lover and the struggles to find balance in all those roles. She also writes fight scenes you can’t take your eyes off of, expertly executed by Nord’s outstanding art.
Wilson has given Diana something new, while still feeling familiar, and I am so here for it.
Black Magick by Greg Rucka, art by Nicola Scott
It’s easy to say ‘If Greg writes it, I’ll read it’, but Black Magick is a superb and scary bit of storytelling.
This book ticks key boxes for me—it’s a detective story and it’s filled with magic. While it’s a slow burn, the intertwining mysteries keep you coming back for more.
Bonus points for women’s friendship!
Nicola Scott wielding a pencil takes me to my happy place. She conveys emotion like few else. One look at a closeup of Rowan’s face, and you wonder if Scott isn’t dabbling in the mystical arts, too. She’s that good.
And these, as the song goes, are a few of my favorite things.
The Happy Sorceress bakes for superheroes (and civilians, too). She is very active in the comic book community and can often be found under a pile of friendly dogs. You can find her on Twitter.
With the announcement of the upcoming Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen solo comics there is no better time to recommend a modern look at Superman's origins. Yes, it's been told a bazillion times. We all know the story. However, Birthright by Mark Waid drawn by Leinil Francis Yu offers a modern take on the classic tale. I love this origin story because it explores why disguised as Clark Kent is so important and Superman is more than what he can do but a part of who he is. The story also shows why it is so important for Lois Lane to fall in love with the alien who has spent his life hiding a part of himself. She is also shown through a modern lens and her relationship with Clark Kent also reflects the modern era. After reading this story I challenge anybody to say Superman is boring.
My second recommendation is Abbott. Written by Saladin Ahmed, drawn by Sami Kivela. This story takes place in the ‘70's which is my personal golden age of comics. It stars a black female reporter, Elena Abbott who lives in a white man’s world and those around her don’t let her forget that. She’s also grieving her husband. The comic mixes the supernatural with murders in Detroit, and Abbott is on the beat trying to figure out what is going on. It's a really good book that also explores the racism of the times.
My final recommendation is Jack Kirby's 4th World Omnibus collection. It is an utterly unwieldy tome but it collects the full story of Darkseid, The New Gods and the whole mythology around it. With a possible movie coming out—directed by Ava DuVerney—there is no better time to see where this all began. Kirby is a fantastic world builder and this classic is one of my favorites of all time.
Maya is a life long reader of comic books, her favorite era is the bronze age. You can find her talking about it a lot on Twitter.
What will you pick up this Free Comic Book Day? Please share below in the comments or on social media using #comicbooklove. We'd love to know!