Getting into comic books can be hard if you don’t know what you like or where to start. Do you like superheroes? Are you a Marvel or DC kind of person? Are you after more personal, character driven works? Or did you watch Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and decide now was a red hot time to get into comics?
These are all good questions, so we’ve put together a helpful list to help you into the wild, wild world of comics. Some of these are the best the medium has to offer, some are just really good jumping off points to help you figure out what you’re into.
Writer: Alan Moore, Artist: Davie Gibbons
Someone is hunting down and killing retired superheroes. What starts as a simple murder unfolds into something larger and much more dangerous. Watchmen doesn’t need to be your favourite comic, but it’s capital-I Important. It’s gritty and mature and, for better or worse, it changed the medium.
Everyone on this book is firing on all cylinders – Moore’s intricate plotting and superhero genre-deconstruction, Gibbon’s incredibly detailed art and beautifully laid-out pages. Even John Higgins’ colours are a sight to behold. It’s a comic that should be on everyone’s shelf, even if you only read it once.
BATMAN: YEAR ONE & THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
Writer: Frank Miller, Artists: David & Frank Miller
Yeah, it’s cheating having two here but you kind of can’t have one without the other. Year One is regarded as the definitive Batman origin story, giving us a look at the exact moment Bruce Wayne decides to become the Dark Knight. Dark Knight Returnstakes us to a future where Bruce Wayne has retired from being Batman and Gotham has become a dystopian hellhole.
Spoiler alert: He becomes Batman again. But can Gotham be saved or is it too far gone? Aspects haven’t aged well but pretty much every Batman comic since has been living in the shadows of these two – that’s how important and influential they are. If you dug Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, these are right up your ally.
DC: THE NEW FRONTIER
Writer/Artist: Darwyn Cooke
Set in the 1950s, The New Frontier focuses on the dawn of superheroes in the DC universes, ending with the birth of the Justice League.
This is the perfect entry point for anyone interested in the DC universe as a whole and heroes that aren’t Batman or Superman, especially if you want to know more about the Flash or Green Lantern. Cooke’s art has this timeless, classic look to it and the series feels like a big love-letter to all these great characters. It’s not hard to feel Cooke’s enthusiasm rub off on you while reading it.
Writer: Joss Whedon, Artist: John Cassaday
The X-Men are one of the hardest superhero franchises to get into due to how convoluted their history is. Thankfully, Joss Whedon – yes, that Joss Whedon – is a huge X-fan, which is why Astonishing X-Men plays like a Greatest Hits of X-Men stories.
They fight anti-mutant activists, face giant killer robots, knock heads with a team of evil mutants and they even go to space. It’s a good X-Men series that’ll help you figure out what you like about the team, and help start you down the path to even better X-Men comics.
SUPERMAN: AMERICAN ALIEN
Writer: Max Landis, Arists: Joëlle Jones, Nick Dragotta, Francis Manapul, et al.
There’s a misconception that Superman is a boring character. That ain't true. Superman is great – you just need to read the right comics.
Superman: American Alien is good starting point, giving a detailed look at the last son of Krypton’s life. You get to see him as a small boy in Smallville realising he can fly and follow his life up until his big debut as Metropolis' Man of Steel. Each issue is drawn by a different artist and acts as a snapshot of these key moments of self-discovery. It’s a great character driven series that really nails why Superman has remained a pop culture icon.
Writer: Warren Ellis, Artist: Stuart Immonen.
I was going to put a Spider-Man comic here, but then I remembered Nextwave – “It's like Shakespeare. But with lots more punching.”
Focusing on a rag-tag team of Marvel D-listers – the very last people who should be put in charge of protecting the planet – who find themselves protecting the planet from potentially world-ending catastrophes. Nextwave is the exact opposite of Watchmen, ejecting all seriousness and embracing how absolutely bonkers and goofy comics can be. It’s like watching Saturday morning cartoons after drinking a dozen Red Bulls, to put a finer point on it.
Ellis knows how to write a fun, self-aware series and Immonen’s cartooning is perfect for Nextwave’s high-energy wackiness.
Writer/Artist: Daniel Clowes
Ghost World focuses on the lives of Enid Coleslaw and her friend Rebecca Doppelmeyer, during the transitory period between the end of high-school and adulthood. It’s an episodic coming-of-age story focusing on the directionless ennui of being a teenager.
They’re both assholes but in that special way that teenagers are assholes. Clowes is one of the most iconic figures in the industry, and Ghost World is a perfect entry point for his work. Get around it.
Writer: Brian K Vaughan, Artist: Fiona Staples
Saga is a space-opera focusing on two aliens, Alana and Marko, who have fallen in love and conceived a child. The only problem is that they both come from different sides / races of a long-running intergalactic war.
Hunted by their enemies and now wanted for treason by their respective armies, they start a journey to find somewhere where they can raise their child. Vaughan excels at writing relatable characters while balancing a million different plot threads and emotions. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll see a surprising number of robot penises.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE
Writer: Kieron Gillen, Artist: Jamie McKelvie
The Wicked + The Divinehas a simple premise: we treat musicians like gods, so what if they were actually gods? I'll give you a moment to pick yourself up from the floor.
Every ninety years twelve people are imbued with godlike powers and become Taylor Swift / Kanye West-tier pop-icons. The only catch? Within two years they will all be dead. This is consistently one of the best comics on the stands, and definitely the most stylish. It has some sharp commentary on fandom, sexuality and gender, and it will keep you on the edge of your seat as the story unfolds (which is what you're here for, right?)
Writer/Artist: Simon Hanselmann
Fun fact: One of the best cartoonists currently working is from Australia – Tasmania, to be precise.
Megahex is a collection of comic strips focused on Megg, Mogg and Owl – a green- skinned witch, a grey cat and an anthropomorphic owl. They’re all stoners and the worst people you’ll ever meet. No one is making funnier comics than Hanselmann right now. His sense of humour can come off as incredibly mean-spirited at times (especially when directed at the Frasier-loving punching-bag that is Owl), and he isn’t afraid to hold back when it comes to exploring the insecurities of these dysfunctional characters.
THIS ONE SUMMER
Writer: Mariko Tamaki, Artist: Jillian Tamaki.
This One Summer focuses on two pre-teen girls, Rose and Windy, who have been vacationing at the same beach town for years (that’s the only time of the year they see each other). It’s a touching but bittersweet coming-of- age story. No one writes teens like Mariko Tamaki, and she really captures how awkward and confusing puberty is.
Sometimes growing up can feel hard,but it’s something you have to face whether you like it or not. Comics about young women struggling through their adolescences are few and far between, but This One Summer more
than fills that void.