Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Comics 101: Comic Books for Adults Who Don't Read Comics

Let’s clear things up right now. Age, sex, gender, religion, shape, size, reading habits, interest, political beliefs…. it doesn’t matter. Comics are for everybody and you don’t have to be “into comics”  to enjoy them. Like books, comic book genres run the gamut, you’ve got everything from superheroes to memoirs to weirdo sci-fi nonsense to sports. Just because the medium uses art to facilitate the storytelling process doesn’t mean that all comics are juvenile. Comics can be lighthearted all-ages read, but they can also be dense and violent. Story-wise, you would be hard pressed to find a comic that didn’t fit someone’s interests. Then, you’ve got your art. It’s not all just newspaper comic strip art. Some of it is photorealistic, others abstract. There’s pencil and ink art, there’s painted art, there’s computer art. Again, there’s something for everyone.
~Eric Margolis, "You Don't Have to Be 'Into Comics' to Read Comics

I started out with Fables, since I have a fondness for adapted fairytales. It came through as a repair job when I worked in the conservation lab at UCLA. Until then, I didn’t realize that there were comics for adults that didn’t have superheroes in them.
~Carrie, librarian

We want you to read comics! No excuses.  No exceptions. ABC Library's collection of comics (search the catalog for: graphic novels - there's a big debate on what they should be called) is exploding, and it's not all superheroes and manga - though there's plenty of those, that's not what we'll be discussing here.

Many adults say they aren't interested in comics because they are for children.  Many parents have to be convinced to let their children read comics because they consider them fun or light, not serious reading. To the first point, Scott McCloud, a comics theorist, would argue that "...our minds become the driving force behind reading a comic or graphic novel. Reading graphic novels is the most participatory form of reading, and your brain learns to read in an entirely different way." Besides the complexity of the text and drawing that a comic can exhibit, there are a whole lot of comics out there with themes suitable for mature readers these days - memoirs and mysteries and beyond. To the second point, Neil Gaiman would say: "The simplest way to make sure that we raise literate children is to teach them to read, and to show them that reading is a pleasurable activity. And that means, at its simplest, finding books that they enjoy, giving them access to those books, and letting them read them." As comic book readers ourselves, we can tell you that some of us started with Asterix and Tintin and Archie comics in childhood, later became English majors and read more than our fair share of the literary canon, and as gainfully employed adults still find time to read literary fiction - in our experience, seems like reading comics and graphic novels does not necessarily stunt your reading growth.

The other side of the coin is people sometimes tell us they find comics difficult to read.  There are a couple of books in the system that delve deep into the medium, with discussions of  the history, theory, art, and meaning of comics, cartoons, and graphic novels. We recommend, to start: Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk and Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. Or, take a look at Scott McCloud's TED Talk about "The Visual Magic of Comics". If Scott McCloud's enthusiasm doesn't reel you in, we don't know what will.

How to do you find comics that you might be interested in? Well, Albuquerque certainly has its fair share of comic book stores, and, though we've all see the stereotypical Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, comic book retailers are not all like that! (But "How to Combat Comic Store Rudeness" is out there, just in case.) Another nice option - and a free one! - is to check the catalog at your local library! We've compiled a list below of comics in a variety of genres to get you started, running the gamut from some heavy-hitters of the genre such as Art Spiegelman, Alan Moore, and Will Eisner to newer comics from different points of view.  We recommend checking a handful out to see what your comic style is - we find that if we don't like the art, it doesn't matter who the comic is by or what its subject is, we're not going to like the book - but there are many different styles out there, so don't give up on the first try!

ABC Library also has a Graphic Novel Club which meets at the Lomas Tramway branch at 2 p.m. on the first Saturday of the month. They welcome new members and don't mind if you haven't read the book! This is a great opportunity to discuss comics with like-minded enthusiasts or to find out more about the genre.

We hope you'll consider checking out some comics today! If you would like to add to our list or have questions, please let us know in the comments.


Scalped: Volume 1, Indian Country by Jason Aaron

Richard Stark's Parker, Vol. 1: The Hunter adapted by Darwyn Cooke

Blacksad by Juan Diaz Canales

Fairy Tales

Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book One by Bill Willingham


Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill 

Morning Glories: Vol. 1, For a Better Future by Nick Spencer

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

The Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One by Alan Moore


The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time - A Doonesbury Book by G.B. Trudeau

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life. Vol. 1 by Bryan Lee O'Malley

The Unwritten: Vol. 1, Tommy Taylor and the Bogus Identity by Mike Carey & Peter Gross

Doom Patrol: Crawling from the Wreckage by Grant Morrison

Saga: Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

Air: Letters from Lost Countries by G. Willow Wilson  

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley

The Finder Library: Volume 1 by Carla Speed McNeil

Bone: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith

Interiorae by Gabriella Giandelli 


Maus: A Survivor's Tale by Art Spiegelman

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel

Aya by Marguerite Abouet

Lena Finkle's Magic Barrel by Anya Ulinich

Blankets by Craig Thompson

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel 


The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman

Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories by Will Eisner

The Graphic Canon - Volume 1 : From the Epic of Gilgamesh to Shakespeare to Dangerous Liaisons edited by Russ Kick

The Complete Concrete by Paul Chadwick

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea by Guy Delisle

Fanny & Romeo by Yves Pelletier

Daytripper by Fábio Moon & Gabriel Bá

If you want to learn more about graphic novels, consider: The Graphic Novel: An Introduction by Jan Baetens; Masterful Marks: Cartoonists Who Changed the World edited by Monte Beauchamp Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong; Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists by Hillary L. Chute; and Gene Kannenberg, Jr.'s 500 Essential Graphic Novels: The Ultimate Guide.


7000 BC - independent comics from New Mexico

How to Get Started Reading Comics That Have Been Running For Decades [Lifehacker]

How to Read Love & Rockets [Fantagraphics]
"The Hernandez brothers' decades-spanning œuvre can seem overwhelming to new readers, but it's actually much easier than you might think, and we've put this handy guide together to prove it. We envy the pleasures that await you."

Graphic novel reviews

No Flying No Tights - "Why Should I Read Comics?'

"Panels is a celebration of comics, the people who make them, and the people who love them."

Get Graphic
"'Graphic Novel' is a format, not a genre. Graphic novels can be fiction, non-fiction, history, fantasy, or anything in-between."

Internet Public Library [IPL] - Graphic Novels

Great Graphic Novels [American Library Association]

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