Robot 6

Four x 5 | Four articles about five comics

Building StoriesIt’s summer, and the news has slowed down considerably — I can see it, both when I put together Comics A.M. every morning and at work, where the steady stream of press releases we usually pump out has slowed to a trickle. I also know, from being a news reporter myself, how much editors love lists; my editor was always after me to break things down into a finite set of bullet points.

So it is that the news feeds are blossoming with lists of five comics that you should read. And so naturally, I have made a handy list of four articles about five comics that someone, somewhere, thinks you should read.

The Funny (Touching, Fascinating) Pages: 5 Comics for Summer, by Myla Goldberg | Let’s kick this off with a highbrow piece from NPR — but I’m immediately deducting a point for this sentence: “Oh, right, the term now is ‘graphic novel’ — as if calling them “comics” was somehow undignified or not sufficiently intellectual.” No, no, no! Could someone please send a memo to all editors everywhere explaining that the term “graphic novel” denotes a format, nothing more? So tiresome! Anyway, with that out of the way, Goldberg comes up with a solid list of indy comics—Chris Ware’s Building Stories, Ben Kachor’s Hand-Drying in America: And Other Stories, Lisa Hanawalt’s My Dirty Dumb Eyes, Ulli Lust’s Today Is the Last Day of the Rest of Your Life, and the complete Moomin collection. Aside from Building Stories, I don’t think these books get a lot of play in non-comics circles, so props to Goldberg for doing her homework. [NPR]

5 Comics You Should Read (But Most Likely Haven’t Heard of), by Fightinginfishnets | This pseudonymous writer works part-time in a comics shop, and she knows her stuff. These are books she has recommended to her customers: Neil Gaiman’s The Books of Magic, Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave, Thom Zahler’s Love and Capes, Faith Erin Hicks’s Friends With Boys, and Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson’s Beasts of Burden. [Jezebel]

The Five Best Superman Comics for New Readers, by Dan Seitz | Most obvious story idea of the week? Maybe, but it’s probably quite helpful to perplexed readers who saw an ad for Man of Steel, decide to check out the comic, and are presented with a bewildering away of “Superman” options. Seitz’s choices: John Byrne’s The Man of Steel, Alan Moore and Curt Swan’s Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, Joe Kelly and Lee Bermejo’s Action Comics #775, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’s Superman Annual #11: For the Man Who Has Everything, and Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman. Seitz puts each comic nicely into context, and he includes comiXology links so you can buy them on the spot. Be warned, though, that this is one of those annoying slideshow articles where you have to click to a new page for each paragraph. [Uproxx]

The 5 Comics You Should Be Reading in 2013, by Stephanie Hill | No messing around here—that headline is like a sharp uppercut to the jaw. Read these, dammit! Despite that clean-cut headline, though, Hill doesn’t give us five comics, she gives us five categories and recommends a couple of comics in each one… except the last. So the article doesn’t really deliver on the headline, but since it really goes beyond it, we won’t quibble. Here are her categories and recommendations: The Big Two: Hawkeye and X-Men from Marvel; she doesn’t have much enthusiasm for DC but singles out Green Arrow because of Jeff Lemire. Continuing Titles: By this I think she means non-Big-Two monthly comics, and the two standouts here are Saga and Empowered. Webcomics: Highest recommendation is Strong Female Protagonist, but she also likes Lackadaisy and Romantically Apocalyptic. Kickstarter: Is this a real comics category? It seems like there is a lot of crossover with webcomics and indy graphic novels. Regardless, her picks are Dresden Codak (print edition of the webcomic) and Code Monkey Save World (a comic that might not exist without Kickstarter), as well as the lesser-known The Sleep of Reason. What Else? Apparently Hill hit her fifth category just as the caffeine ran out, because her final recommendation is to go to your comics shop and find something interesting, which is not bad advice but doesn’t exactly fit the format. But then, neither does the rest of the article, and she gives you 11 comics to look at, as opposed to the five in the headline, so it would be churlish to complain too much. [PolicyMic]



Brigid, I don’t get the reaction to Goldberg’s graphic novel poke. If anything, she seems to be railing against what drives you (and me) crazy — that the name has come to be seen as a kind of shorthand for comics, even though, as Goldberg points out, “graphic novel” doesn’t work as a catchall. And in a world where libraries have graphic novel sections, not comics sections, I think the battle is all but lost.

I’d also argue that before its current bastardization, “graphic novel” was about more than format, it was about distinguishing between Stuck Rubber Baby, say, and a collection of EC reprints.

Myla Goldberg’s selections felt just off to me–Moomin aside. While each book has strong merits, they’re hardly equivalent to the paperbacks trotted out for relaxing Summer fun. Even if you don’t want to bring in “capes & tights” lighter better choices abound.

Brigid Alverson

June 19, 2013 at 3:52 pm

@Earth-2 Chad: If you look at the way people talk, and write, about comics, it’s clear that more and more, “graphic novel” is indeed a catchall term for comics that are in book form. I realize that many book-format comics aren’t really graphic *novels,* in the sense of being a self-contained story, but that has become common usage, especially outside the industry, where no one knows what a “trade” is. Conversely, I think “comics” denotes single-issue comics to most people.

What I found tiresome in the article was the cliche of a writer going all aw-shucks about “graphic novel” being a high-falootin’ term for just plain comics. There’s nothing inherently highbrow or artsy about graphic novels, any more than any other type of book, but somehow non-comics writers have to do this sort of little dance about them.

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