Originally posted on my blog about 5 years ago — updated and adapted for Relic Scout.
So this is the story where I admit I became a comic book geek at 36 years old. 36 YEARS OLD. You read that right.
It was the Fall of 2012 and I needed an escape from the stress of every day life. At the time, I was (and still am) really into Merlin Mann’s podcast, Back to Work, which basically focuses on becoming a better human being. (It’s great — check it out!) During an episode Merlin started talking about comics and it eventually turned into a reoccurring theme. I have followed Merlin for many years (43 Folders, etc.) and I knew Merlin had great taste in music, so it got me interested.
Having turned 36 in May, I was hesitant. Comics. Really? Sure, I bought a bunch of Batman and Archie comics when I was in middle school, but it never really stuck. I spent most of my money on sports cards at the time, so collecting something else didn’t really fit into my limited budget.
Thinking back to my childhood, it’s pretty amazing I didn’t get more into comics. I loved Batman (I remember watching the classic TV series a lot as a kid, as well as the movies from the early and mid 90s). I also loved Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends (the early 80s TV show) and I also watched re-runs of the animated Spider-Man show from the late 60s. Then you have Wonder Woman and The Incredible Hulk live action TV series and the Superman movies of the late 70s and 80s — all of which I watched many times. Throw on top of that a love of sci-fi, like Star Wars, Star Trek, Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century, and many more I won’t bore you with… I was a natural for the medium.
Anyway, back to Merlin. The one book he talked about regularly was Astonishing X-Men, by Joss Whedon. So I took the plunge… and it was beyond awesome. Partly Joss Whedon’s awesome talent at building characters and a story, partly the amazing art of John Cassaday, partly the serialized nature of the story, and partly the relatable nature of the X-Men. It was an amazing experience.
Those trade paperbacks got my hooked. From there I looked for more Marvel books. Avengers vs. X-Men was the big event of 2012 and I immediately dove head first into that, without knowing much of anything about the writers, artists, or any of the characters beyond the big names. Avengers vs. X-Men is what got me to my local shops — looking for the next issue or those back issues I missed before I jumped on the train.
Holding the books in my hand, reading them cover to cover, and making those weekly trips became a ritual. One that became calming AND frantic all at the same time. On one hand, I got engrossed in the escapism of the stories. Living the fantasy of the characters lives, relationships, and choices in my mind. On the other hand, I NEEDED to read the next issue. Like now. I couldn’t wait until next month. So, what does one in that situation naturally do? Add more to my pull list, of course!
Fast forward until now: boxes upon boxes of comics in my house. The biggest change since 2012 has been Image Comics. The breadth of stories and characters in the non-superhero world has been eye opening and quite enjoyable. There is such great writing, art, and storytelling going on outside the big two of Marvel and DC.
Sometimes I feel like I have a problem. I haven’t really collected anything since sports cards in the mid 80s to the mid/late 90s. I tell myself I could stop. I’ve gotten better at dropping series I don’t love and I am more picky about what I choose to read, though sometimes I feel like I could read anything. (Well, almost… ) It just feels so great to hold a visual story in your hand and get immersed into the pages.
With that, I want to share my favorite books from this year, in no particular order. If I can convince just one other person to give the medium a shot, I’ll be happy. It’s such a misunderstood and stereotyped art form and so much deeper (and different) than most people would expect. I am certain there is a book for everyone.
Anyway, here we go…
My original 2013 list:
- Saga by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples, from Image Comics (aliens, star-crossed lovers, and a super talent creative team. I’ve seen this described as Star Wars crossed with Romeo and Juliet, which is pretty accurate.)
- Zero by Ales Kot, from Image Comics (spies, espionage, great story and art)
- Lazarus by Greg Rucka, from Image Comics (dystopian future where powerful families fight for control of the resources, human and otherwise.)
- Velvet by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, from Image Comics (another spy book with a super great story and art.)
- Avengers by Jonathan Hickman, from Marvel (you know the Avengers from the movies, but how about a super complex and detailed story from a great writer?)
- New Avengers by Jonathan Hickman, from Marvel (another from Hickman, this time with some of the smartest and most interesting heroes: Black Bolt, Captain America, Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Mister Fantastic, Namor, Black Panther, and the Beast as the Illuminati.)
- Hawkeye by Matt Fraction and David Aja, from Marvel (the least superhero book about a superhero… and it’s amazing. Aja is probably my favorite comic book artist too.)
- Superior Spider-Man by Dan Slott, from Marvel (Amazing Spider-man was in the 600s when I jumped into reading comics, so it was VERY intimidating. This book was a chance to start fresh with a book and beloved character, so I climbed on… and was glad I did. Slott made some controversial choices in the Spider-man universe, but one thing is for sure — he knows how to right a great story.)
- Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky, from Image (hilarious, raunchy, and a great story.)
- Trillium by Jeff Lemire, from Vertigo (a pretty amazing mini-series involving time travel, aliens, and a star (and time)-crossed couple. I love Jeff Lemire’s unique style.)
- The Wake by Scott Snyder, from Vertigo (a gripping, horror mini-series form one of the best story tellers in the medium.)
- Note: If Avengers and New Avengers interest you, check out Infinity by Jonathan Hickman, from Marvel. It’s his big cross-over event that ties his two books to a battle with the super villain Thanos. The book linked below collects: Infinity 1-6, New Avengers 7-12, and Avengers 14-23.
- And a bonus older book, which I read this year: The Collected Essex County by Jeff Lemire (a story that weaves being a dad, relationships, growing up, hockey, and Canada will win me over every time.)
Amazon Quick Links
My current 2018 list:
- Deadly Class by Rick Remender and Wes Craig — misfit kids learning the deadly art of crime at a secret boarding school during the 80s. Amazing and soon to be a TV series on SyFy.
- Paper Girls by Brian K Vaughn and Cliff Chiang — the adventures of time traveling paper girls written by the amazing BKV, need I say more?
- Mister Miracle by Tom King and Mitch Gerads — Tom King’s Vision is one of my favorite series ever and Mister Miracle is very much in the same vein and not far behind in quality. King’s Mister Miracle struggles with life, marriage, parenting, technology, expectations, and destiny in a way that’s all too relatable for modern day adults. A must read.
- Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorrentino — Lemire is one of my favorite writers (Sweet Tooth, Trillium, Essex County, Descender, Black Hammer, Plutona, Moon Knight, Royal City — all great) and Gideon Falls does not disappoint. Fans of horror and mystery take note.
- Saga and Sex Criminals are still going, so check them out! (Still great too.)
Amazon Quick Links
So, what’s your origin story?