It’s Wednesday, so here’s a post about comic books

When I was a kid, I was a DC Universe guy all the way, with rare forays into the Marvel Universe to read a few X-Men books, and the occasional Silver Surfer 100 page spectacular (remember those? I loved those oversized one shots in the 70s and 80s.)

I realized last week, though, that the bulk of the DCU does absolutely nothing for me these days, and I’ve stopped reading DC books, even Batman, which I don’t even recognize at the moment.

The Marvel Universe, however, has been blowing my mind and pleasing me greatly for at least the last year, mostly because Brubaker, Fraction and Gillen all write Marvel titles, that kick all kinds of ass. I’ve been reading Captain America, Uncanny X-Men, Invincible Iron Man, Secret Avengers, Thor, and Osborn, and I eagerly anticipate every Wednesday with an excitement I haven’t felt since I was a teenager.

Yesterday, via Reddit, I came across this article at Platypus Robot: A Marvel Universe Primer. It gives some basic history of the Marvel Universe, and suggests some starting points for new readers. If you or someone you know is interested in reading some amazing stories but don’t know where to start, check this article out; I think you’ll find it quite useful.

What are you reading these days? Who's that artist or writer you will follow to the ends of the multiverse? And where are those pictures I ordered? Is Don on the phone?

126 thoughts on “It’s Wednesday, so here’s a post about comic books”

  1. Hey Wil,
    Any chance you could clarify why DCU doesn’t hold your interest anymore? I’d be interested to see what you think, personally all the crisis stories only tends to confuse me further. Thanks in advance.

  2. I’m an unabashed Vertigo fangirl. I went to my first comic book convention last year just so I could say I had been in the same building as Fables’ Bill Willingham. Brian Wood, who writes Northlanders and DEMO (among other titles) is a rock star. And, I’ve just picked up Unwritten which blew. me. away.

  3. I would also recommend titles by Jonathan Hickman: S.H.I.E.L.D., Secret Warriors, and his recent Fantastic Four run. Expansive, clever and inter-related in ways you wouldn’t expect.

  4. I’m a Legion of Super-Heroes guy all the way, but I’m also enjoying Batgirl, John Rogers’ new D&D comic, and a couple of others. I’d like to be enjoying SLG’s Captain Blood comic, but it’s been years since the second issue.

  5. I’m a fanboy of anything Brian Bendis writes. His creator-owned stuff like SCARLET is good (vigilante girl in Portland) and I loved his DARK AVENGERS run from awhile back (Osborn taking over Iron Man’s role, playing therapist to Sentinel, and Bullseye taking over Hawkeye’s job were great).

  6. I’m a big fan of Invincible myself, as well as most of the Kirkman universe books. They are a beautiful, mostly self contained universe of interconnected characters and stories filled with a lot of humor, action and drama. You also can’t go wrong with a smattering of pulp inspired books. Atomic Robo (hilarious), Hellboy/ B.P.R.D. all great. I’m just getting into Sixth Gun and I think I may start grabbing Scalped as well.
    I’m sad, comic sales are lower than they’ve been in a very long time, but really, there are some fantastic books out there, even (and I might say especially) outside the big 2. I’ve been posting a “comics for non-comic people” blog every week to try to entice my friends to take up the hobby, and I’ve gotten some nice feedback.
    Always good to hear somebody else geek out about the hobby. I take it you picked up Thor: mighty Avenger yeah? My opinion, most fun Thor book I’ve read in almost a decade.

  7. I tend to follow artists. My first series I started collecting issue by issue was Crimson due to Humberto Ramos’ amazing artwork. Frank Cho is another favorite, and I tend to collect any book that has his art on the cover. And the combination of Mike Wieringo’s artwork and Mark Waid’s writing finally pulled me into the Marvelverse when they teamed up for the Fantastic Four. I miss Mike’s artwork so much, RIP.

  8. Hm – Invincible by Kirkman and Ottley (though I’ll read just about anything Kirkman writes). Most of the books by Tony Lee, including the IDW Doctor Who comics (and not just cos I drew an arc of that series *shameless plug*).
    I’ve gone through the same thing with DC that you did, but I still make time for the occasional Action Comics (such as Cornell and Woods’ run).
    Marvel, it’s pretty much just Ultimate [Comics] Spider-man.
    And The Guild (well, the mini and the one-shots) from Dark Horse and that Day lady and crew.

  9. Mostly, I don't recognize it. I feel like a lot of books are getting characters added to them just for the sake of adding more characters, and the main DCU books don't *feel* like the books I was reading a year ago. It's amusing to me that I can accept everything about Batman, but having his 11 year-old son as Robin is a bridge too far for me. And I freaking LOVE Grant Morrison, but Batman, Incorporated just doesn't make even a little bit of sense to me. I want Batman in Gotham, doing Batman stuff, dammit. Maybe I need to give Detective or Batman and Robin another look, but just like life is too short to wait for LOST to get good again, life is too short to buy comics with the hope that *this* will be the one where the last 6 issues finally make sense (especially when there are so many books out right now in the MU that I'm absolutely loving.)
    Someone once said that the DCU is fundamentally different from the MU, in that the MU was essentially created all at once in the 60s, while the DCU was created over several decades, so maintaining any kind of continuity is much more challenging for the DCU than the MU, hence the seemingly endless "Crisis" titles. Maybe that's why the DCU feels so scattered and foreign to me.
    I certainly don't want to start an edition war, and I'm sure that there are plenty of people out there who feel exactly the opposite of me, which is entirely fine, but since you asked, this is what's been on my mind.

  10. I *highly* recommend Thunderbolts. It’s the best Marvel book these days, in my opinion. Classic superhero team stuff reminiscent of the 70s and 80s, but with all kinds of modern sensibilities and the usual Thunderbolts twist (ie, they’re all bad guys striving for redemption or at least planning intricate double-crosses).
    I also noticed you didn’t mention Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man, which is has a similar “classic but modern” vibe and has been…er…amazing.

  11. I just picked up my weeklies. Only, I hadn’t picked up my weeklies in a few weeks, so I ended up with:
    The Guild – Tink (both variant covers)
    Farscape #17
    Invincible Iron Man #502
    G.I. Joe A Real American Hero #164
    I’d love to follow Fraction pretty much anywhere he goes, but I just can’t afford a ton of books, so I stick to IIM there. And while I know it’s cheesy, I’ll never let go of my Real American Hero line. I have every issue from the original Marvel run, and when Hama came back to write for the IDW reboot, well…yeah. I’m there.This month’s issue has Dr. Mindbender and B.A.T.’s on it, for crying out loud! It’s my guilty pleasure, and I don’t see that changing.
    And then there’s The Guild, which I eat up in any contest. Farscape is pretty much the same deal. I pick up any Serenity comics for the same reason – to support the franchise.

  12. My universe of choice is DC – I think their stories have been consistently great over the last about 3 years, whereas my interest in Marvel waned greatly with Bendis writing EVERYTHING I used to read and love – aside from Powers, I typically don’t dig his work (that said – his work on New Avengers with the latest relaunch has been nothing short of magic). My favorite DC books are Green Lantern: Emerald Warriors, Flash, Red Robin and Batgirl. With Marvel, I’m reading Uncanny X-Men, X-Factor, Cassanova and New Avengers.
    GI Joe: Cobra from IDW has been fantastic, as have the Star Wars, BPRD, Hellboy and Guild books from Dark Horse.
    However – if I can make 1 suggestion for people to pick up, it’s Incorruptible from Boom! Studios – just a brilliant book, with great art and writing.

  13. I'm grabbing Thor: Mighty Avenger today. I never read Thor outside Avengers, but Fraction's Thor has made me a superfan.

  14. Me too. I'll pick up anything Jamie McKelvie or Sean Phillips draws. As you can imagine, I'm a huge fan of Criminal and Incognito.

  15. If you’re looking for a good solid Gotham book, go with either Detective Comics or Batman: Streets of Gotham. Batgirl is also a lot of fun, but is a departure from the grim n’ gritty of typical Gotham fare – think Spider-Man were he in Gotham City.

  16. I used to LOVE Green Lantern, but since last summer, I feel like they've really cocked up that whole title with all the different colors and new characters and stuff. Is it as complicated and confused as I remembered it when I tried to read Blackest Night last year?

  17. I grew up in Apartheid-era South Africa, and in those days DC was banned about twice as often as Marvel (which was only banned about once every 4 months, or whenever War Machine was prominently featured) so we mostly read British comics like Judge Dredd and 2000AD, which is still pretty damned awesome. Nowdays I’m mostly into Marvel and creator-owned material, as well as re-issues like Cerebrus and Bachuus, but I do still enjoy getting my Archie on every now and then. What can I say? I’m a Veronica fan…

  18. Sadly, you are echoing my thoughts. I am and have always been a DCU guy, with forays into Marvel. But lately, the whole Batman Inc. thing has really disappointed me to no end. I understand the need for Dick to move on, and even Tim to move one, eventually. But it is just too much as you said, the kid, all over the world. Batman belongs in Gotham. It is a sad day when you longer can stomach the comics you grew up with all these years collecting and cherishing…:(

  19. I’m a total girl with my comic interests. I never read Marvel, or DC, or anything like that until I met my husband in college. As a kid I read ElfQuest exclusively, although I haven’t picked a volume up for a long, long time. Recently I’ve gotten really into Mouse Guard. I love love love the art, it’s super amazing. Otherwise, my husband met Kurt Busiek at ECCC in 2010, and he introduced us to a book he did called A Wizard’s Tale, it’s really well done. And for the past few years we’ve kept our eyes open for new volumes of Flight collections on the shelves. They are full of indie comic genius.
    My husband, on the other hand, has an entire BILLY shelf unit devoted to Spider-Man, Batman, Frank Miller, and Star Wars graphic novels. He’s not bought himself a book for a long time though, probably for the same types of reasons you gave for steering away from DC lately.

  20. The big two have always been very hit and miss for me. It’s kinda like trying to find a starting point in tangled ball of twine. That said, I have been loving Runaways. As for other comics, it’s mainly been Hellboy, Fables (oh god, Fables! Eee!), and webcomics.

  21. To be honest, I’d say both camps have pretty much lost my attention, with the possible exception of Green Lantern (which I never used to read as a kid but found briefly interesting- in a cheesy sort of way- during the whole “color war” event they did a little while back). My twin brother and I used to tear through piles of Marvel stuff back in the day, especially X-Men and Sergio Aragones’ Groo the Wanderer. Going off to college, we had to split up all of our stuff and he got all of the comics, effectively killing my collecting. Too many years go by, and superhero comics are completely baffling to me. Who’s who? Why are they doing these things? Are these my feet? Get off’n my lawn, etc.
    That said, these days I’ll read anything by Eric Powell- The Goon is utterly required reading. I’m also a big fan of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo and Mignola’s Hellboy. Superhero stuff? Mmmmm… Deadpool’s good fun, as is Kirkland’s Invincible.

  22. Yeah, Fables is one of those Sandman or Transmet kind of books that can't even be fairly compared to anything else except itself, because it's so amazing.

  23. As much as I love GL, yes, it is confusing and you have to really be committed to the story Johns is telling. You miss an issue, and you’re screwed.
    That said, Emerald Warriors is a bit of a departure from the core GL books. Guy Gardner is the lead, and it features Kilowog, Arisia and other rotating cast members away from the regular goings on of GL and GLC. You get brief recaps and mentions of whats going on, but unless it’s a specific cross over (‘War of the Green Lanterns’ starts this month) you just get solid action and great story telling. Pete Tomasi is one of the writers I’ll follow anywhere, and he writes Guy Gardner better than anyone else ever has.

  24. Have you seen the Darkwing Duck comics coming out of Boom? It’s like the show never ended but got darker!
    I’m also hooked on classic reprints of Carl Barks or Don Rosa’s Uncle Scrooge comics.
    …yeah, I’m a duck fan…
    I also read “How to Understand Israel in 60 days or Less” by Sarah Glidden from Vertigo. a nice travel log/coming of age graphic novel with some social commentary. good stuff!

  25. It’s been awhile since DC reinvented Batwoman (2005? 2006?), and initially, I was hooked back in, but my interest has fallen off lately. I’ve been re-reading Kakalios’ Physics of Superheroes this week, and had been thinking about getting re-acquainted with Green Lantern. Now, I’m wondering if it’s even worth my time…

  26. I completely agree with you, Wil! I was a huge DCU fan in my youth. I tried picking it up again with some of the annual event series they put out (see Final Crisis or Civil War), but honestly, I think (due in large part to gaming, no doubt) that my tastes have evolved and become more — dare I say? — sophisticated.
    That being said…
    I’m loving me some Terry Moore these days. I’m also revisiting a lot of classics, such as Gaiman, and some old Aspen series. And I’m giving Red Sonja a shot (another childhood fave), just in case she’s grown up, too. :-)
    FYI, if you haven’t read Preacher, you really — REALLY — should.
    I’m also starting to explore The Mice Templar, Echoes, The New York Five (a DC series that seems intriguing), and Fables. Generally, I’m a fan of Image and Vertigo Comics.
    Truthfully, I’m kinda disheartened by the plethora of TV- or video game-based comics. (Dark Horse, I’m lookin’ at you!) I love those avenues of entertainment in and of themselves, and read comics for different reasons. I’m a bit resentful of the cross-over, and how successful it appears to be.
    For what it’s worth, that’s my two cents. Thanks for the post!

  27. Sorry, but I will follow those DCU guys forever. But there is one non-DCU book I’m reading and really like – Morning Glories. I haven’t figured out what the heck the story behind it is, but it’s just fascinating.

  28. I didn’t see anyone mention Jason Aaron’s work on Scalped. It’s by far my favorite book right now, along with Powers and Shield. If you haven’t read Scalped yet, pick up the first trade and you will not be able to put it down.

  29. My monthly reads are:
    – Superman
    – Batman
    – Batgirl (way awesome)
    – Red Robin (also way awesome)
    – Batman and Robin
    – Glamourpuss (Dave Sim)
    For graphic novels, I’m really big on the indie stuff right now and have just finished “Map of my Heart” by John Porcellino (such a brilliant book), “Drinking at the Movies” by Julia Wertz (really funny, really cool), and “The Book of Genesis” illustrated by Robert Crumb, which was mindblowing. Aside from being faithful to the Biblical text (it’s word-for-word), his images just once again prove his mastery of comics, pacing and shading.

  30. I picked up the first trade of Preacher at Powell's a few years ago when I was in PDX to visit some friends. I think I got it in the early afternoon, and by that night I had gone back to buy the second and third trades. I think it took me 10 days to read the entire run, because I just couldn't put it down.

  31. BTW, the reason I’m a DCU fanatic is that I learned to read with Superman in the 60s and met my current husband in the pages of a Batman comic in the 80s. However, you’re right, Wil, in that Batman is a whole different animal, no pun intended. Batman, Inc. is pretty bizarre. But I do love Superman walking across the U.S. Nyah!

  32. I know it’s disturbingly trendy at the moment, but the Walking Dead books are among my favorite storytellings. I have only recently entered the world of comics, having attended my first Comic Con early this month at ECCC (saw your panel, very entertaining), but Robert Kirkman is already a name I recognize, along with Charlie Adlard (even Tony Moore).
    As an unpublished but still enthusiastic writer, I completely respect a story that remains loyal to itself. It has never jumped the shark or gone stale, through it’s 82 issues this story has kept me guessing and shocked. Admittedly I collected every issue and burned through them at a breakneck pace, and thus experience in a short while what those who read from the beginning experienced over the course of seven years. Now of course, I have to wait. Balls.

  33. I like Marvel, DC as well as other stuff like Invincible, Walking Dead, Hellboy, etc.
    DC right now is a mess however. They’ve either killed off or retired the successors to a lot of characters so they could bring back the originals (Aquaman, Atom, Flash, Hawkgirl, Hawk, etc.) or because they were scared of fan outlash, have both old and new characters around. Do we need FOUR Green Lanterns from Earth? All FIVE Robins are alive and kicking now in various identities (Dick, Jason, Tim, Stephanie AND Damian).
    Why does DC hand over HUGE parts of their universe to Grant Morrison? Sure Animal Man and Doom Patrol were great Vertigo books and JLA had some high points but since then? Infinite Crisis was incomprehensible. Seven Soldiers was a mess. The whole last few years of Batman has been just dumb, especially the whole “I’m not Batman I just support his lifestyle” concept. Yeah, right.
    I love the characters and when you gave a good writer-artist team, they still have some great comics. But there is no direction. I sometimes wonder if I could hear the DC editors talking if I would hear something like, “That didn’t work, try this. That didn’t work, try this. That didn’t work, try this.” And so on.
    I’m dreading Flashpoint and can only hope they get back to basics after that.

  34. I’m a big indie/vertigo fangirl. Superheros are great, but dark fascinating stories will always hold me the most captive.
    Unwritten is killing it, Sweet Tooth, Unknown Soldier, Chew, Stumptown is great when it comes out… I dropped Fables awhile ago, but Jack of Fables has stayed consistently entertaining for me. Walking Dead! Oh man Walking Dead has stayed in my top 5 for years now. Hellblazer, Fear Agent, BPRD/Hellboy…
    I have a penchant for horror as well. I will buy anything Steve Niles puts out. He makes my nerdy little heart flutter.
    On a related note, It looks like there will be another issue of Fell sometime soon. You know, a few years later is all. Quite excited for that.

  35. Thanks to my writing at GeekDad and GeekMom, I’m finally getting into comic books, even though I’m almost 38. Better late than never! Right now I’m reviewing The Undersea Adventures of Capt’n Eli. It’s a lot of fun!

  36. I’ve always been a Marvel-ite through my life. It was my Mother who led me down that path by picking up UK reprints of Fantastic Four and Spider-Man when I was a kid. I’ve generally stuck with Marvel ever since.
    Yes, there have been the occasional falling out (I ditched Spidey around the time of the drone…I mean Clone saga, and FF lost me when Reed was ‘killed off’), but I always end up coming back. I now pick up a fair chunk of the core titles (and anything with Deadpool in it – for shits and giggles).
    I have read various DC over the years, Batman, Green Lantern and The Flash being particular choices, but never ‘connected’ with them.
    I recall one analysis of the differences circulated when there was one of those occasional Marvel/DC team up things. The DC heroes were disgusted that in the Marvel universe there was so much suffering and intolerance. The Marvel heroes were shocked to see that the DC ones were treated like gods.
    I think that kind of summed up why I connected more with Marvel. Their characters are so flawed. They are not perfect. They make really bad errors. They felt more real to me. DC characters (at least in the past) have always seemed to be a bit to ‘perfect’.
    There are, of course, exceptions to these rules. No-one could ever say Batman is ‘perfect’, but the overall feel is there.
    I still wander off onto other comic lines (some Image and Dark Horse stuff, anything Mark Miller brings out all too infrequently), but Marvel are my ‘go-to’ guys.

  37. I have to also take a moment to add that recent events in Fantastic Four actually made me shed a tear. The loss to the team was so expertly conveyed in the aftermath issue…without dialogue. All the emotion was depicted in the artwork.
    I love it when a title can convey such strong, and clear feelings without exposition.

  38. That’s funny. Back in the day (1980s to be more precise) I was a heavy Marvel reader (particularly X-men – remember when there was only one “X” title?), and only a handful of DC titles interested me. I think I (wrongly) associated DC too heavily with the old Justice League cartoon, and the Marvel Universe seemed more closely related to our own. Then I was a poor college student with no money, and titles started proliferating, and you couldn’t keep up with storylines without buying 5 extra titles per month, so I quit reading. I recently started getting interested in comic books again. My son is 10 and I was interested in finding something he could read. Perusing a few websites and going into the local comic book store was an exercise in being overwhelmed – even the Marvel titles I recognize are opaque to any attempt to figure out who’s who and what’s going on. A good part of that is being away for 20 years, I guess.
    Thor: The Mighty Avenger is the only title I’ve found so far that I’m willing to share with my kids, and wouldn’t you know, they go and cancel it. Oh, well. My Walt Simonson Thor Omnibus should arrive someday (pushed back to April), and my son will have a chance to get acquainted with some good old Norse mythology to counteract that Greek stuff he’s getting from the Percy Jackson books.

  39. My favourite comics writer is Brian Michael Bendis.
    Brought into the Marvel Comics family originally to work on some side-project going under the title Ultimate Spider-Man, Bendis reinvigorated everything for Marvel. The success of the Ultimate line lay in the fact that they weren’t tied to decades of history, nor to the need to keep characters alive for marketing purpose, and Bendis used this to its fullest.
    Yet despite the fact that the core MU was bogged down in decades of history, Bendis was ably to leap right into that as well and refresh and revive everything I loved about Marvel comics at a time when I was beginning to grow tired of “Character X dies tragically to sell comics now and in 6 months when Character X returns”. Where the Ultimate Universe was a chance to tell fresh stories, Bendis proved that it wasn’t an exclusive playground, and the same ingenuity could be applied to the Core Universe.
    His work on USM has remained top notch to this day (The only Ultimate title (or, possibly, comic in general) to be consistently enjoyable throughout it’s existence). His work on his creator owned Powers is fantastic and I weep that we still don’ have a TV series based on it.
    In the end, I think Brian Michael Bendis’ greatest legacy will be that he inspired Marvel writers to allow their characters to grow and evolve in a meaningful way,and more important, convinced the powers-that-be that this was the right thing to do. Thanks to his pioneering vision, we have a new Captain America, a new Fantastic Four, a new Avengers, a Secret Avengers, the list goes on. He didn’t write them, but he proved that change is good.
    And after 60 years of reading the same stories told by different writers, the reading public ate it all up, proving change isn’t just good, it’s Amazing.

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