Superheroes & More: An Intro to Comics and Graphic Novels by Tom Roberts

November is Book Bitches’ Comics & Graphic Novels month. I’ve dipped into comic books over the years, but I’m by no means an expert – so I recruited one! My good friend Tom (@Beardyknave) is very well read when it comes to this area so I asked for some advice and recommendations for those looking to try it out! Here’s what he had to say…


There’s a bit of a stigma that comes with comic books, a big bang theory fuelled stereo type of men in tights and women with impossible to fly with cleavage. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Comics open up a world that can be used to portray ideas, visuals and social commentary that can be out of reach for me or at least more appealing than huge blocks of text (that’s not a dig at books, I read literally everything I can get my hands on).

With the success of the Marvel movies and DC attempting to replicate the success of the Marvel movies, comics have never been more popular so there hasn’t really ever been a better time to get into them. As well as Marvel and DC there’s a plethora of other companies that have a lot to offer, usually even better than Cap and his mates.

So here’s some recommendations, enjoy!



Scott Pilgrim – Created by Brian Lee O’Malley and first published in 2004, it follows the life of the titular Scott Pilgrim a slacker from Toronto who plays in a band and is generally terrible at life until he meets a girl who turns his world upside down. It sounds like stereotypical crap but its hilarious, heart warming and very very down to earth. Okay the interspace doorways and street battles may not be, but trust me on this. See also ‘Seconds’ also by O’Malley



The Ultimates – Marvel created the Ultimate universe as a separate entity to their normal run of comics to help introduce new readers into comics without having to read up on the intimidatingly heavy history of the characters. The Ultimates are the Avengers of this reality. Written by Mark Millar (who also wrote ‘Kick Ass’ and ‘Kingsmen’) The Ultimates is a condensed, easy to pick up version of the Avengers which the Marvel Cinematic universe is also based around. See also Ultimate X-Men, Ultimate Fantastic four and Ultimate Spiderman for more easily accessible stories based around popular characters.



Rat Queens – Written by Kurtis J. Wiebe ‘Rat Queens’ was originally a kickstarter project that was picked up by Image Comics a week before the campaign started. The eponymous “Rat Queens” are a rambunctious party of adventurers in a medieval fantasy setting. They comprise the rockabilly elvenmage Hannah, the hipster dwarven warrior Violet who shaved her beard before it became cool, the atheist human cleric Dee, who hails from a family of Lovecraftian monster cultists, and the hippie halfling thief Betty, whose idea of a hearty meal is a bag of drugs and candy. Its fantasy that isn’t just aimed at the male D&D crowd, its aimed at everyone and it’s amazing.



Transmetropolitan – A cyberpunk, transhuman masterpiece written by Warren Ellis, ‘Transmetropolitan’ follows the misadventures of gonzo journalist and professional awful person Spider Jerusalem. This Hunter S. Thompson of the future rages against the machine at every opportunity which sees him encounter human/alien hybrids, cryo-stasis refugees from the past and a very very dubious election. ‘Transmetropolitan’ is bleak, cynical and funny as hell and raises some genuine questions about society, albeit through the eyes of a drugged up mad man.



The Sandman – Neil Gaiman has written some phenomenal fiction throughout his career but nothing ever published quite achieves the scale and scope that is reached in his ‘Sandman’ comic. The lead character Morpheus is the lord of dreams and one of the seven Endless, immortal beings representing aspects of human life. After escaping decades of captivity from a low level wizard he sets out to set his kingdom straight and repair the years of damage his absence has caused. ‘The Sandman’ series is worth reading for the visuals alone, never mind the incredible story that unfolds over the 75 issue run.



Saga – Saga is an epic space opera/fantasy comic book series written by Brian K. Vaughan and illustrated by Fiona Staples, published monthly by the American company Image Comics. The series is heavily influenced by Star Wars and depicts a husband and wife, Alana and Marko, from long-warring extraterrestrial races, fleeing authorities from both sides of a galactic war as they struggle to care for their daughter, Hazel, who is born in the beginning of the series and who occasionally narrates the series as an unseen adult. The comic was described in solicitations as “Star Wars meets Game of Thrones,” and by critics as evocative of both science fiction and fantasy epics such as The Lord of the Rings and classic works like Romeo & Juliet. It is Vaughan’s first creator-owned work to be published through Image Comics.



Batman: The Long Halloween – Following a year of murders in Gotham City, Batman teams up with District Attorney Harvey Dent to fight the mob and the mysterious Holiday Killer. Written by Jeph Loeb and with art by Tim Sale, this noir thriller fleshes out the Batman mythos and for once doesn’t just focus on the Joker. There are a lot of Batman comics out there but this is one of the best.



Low – Rick Remender is a comic genius, everything he writes is stunning including titles such as ‘Black Science’, ‘Deadly Class’, ’Tokyo Ghost’ and ‘Uncanny Force’, but ‘Low’ combines an engaging science fiction story with truly beautiful art work by Greg Tocchini (seriously I’m looking for prints by him to frame). The book follows the Caine family who are trying to find a way to get humanity back above the surface of the ocean due to oxygen supplies running out. This is because when the atmosphere of earth heated up mankind had no option but to seek refuge in underwater cities. Its a future that isn’t too unbelievable which makes the entire book resonate just that much more.



Tank Girl – Tank Girl (Rebecca Buck) drives a tank, which is also her home. She undertakes a series of missions for a nebulous organization before making a serious mistake and being declared an outlaw for her sexual inclinations and her substance abuse. The comic centres on her misadventures with her boyfriend, Booga, a mutant kangaroo. The comic’s style was heavily influenced by punk visual art, and strips were frequently deeply disorganized, anarchic, absurdist, and psychedelic. The strip features various elements with origins in surrealist techniques, fanzines, collage, cut-up technique, stream of consciousness, and metafiction, with very little regard or interest for conventional plot or committed narrative. Jamie Hewlett of ‘Gorillaz’ fame was the first artist to work on the comic and its really some of his best work.



Hellboy – A demon from Hell with a conscience, a sense of humour and a penchant for pancakes, Hellboy is an outcast that helps humanity by beating the crap out of monsters. Working for the Bureau for Paranormal Defence and Research he’s helped by the pyrokinetic Liz Sherman and his best friend Ape Sapien who is half human half fish. Mike Mignola started working on Hellboy in 1994 and its grown to be a cult success, his German expressionistic art style and angular characters setting the books apart from a market full of buffed up spandex wearing heroes.

For further reading see also ‘Red Son’, ‘V for Vendetta’, ‘Watchmen’, ‘Astonishing Xmen’ and ‘Daredevil, Man Without Fear’.


There we have it Book Bitches – seems like there’s something for everyone in here. I’m looking forward to choosing my November read! Thanks again to Tom for the great recommendations, if anyone has any more questions or fancies chatting books get in touch with Tom on Twitter: @Beardyknave

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