These Comics Won’t Rot Your Brain…They’ll Expand It (Part 1)

Alright, enough is enough. I’m tired of people putting down graphic novels, illustrated texts and the medium of comic books in general. Just because a book uses pictures as well as words does NOT make its message any less potent. In fact, sometimes it aids in the storytelling process…a picture is worth a thousand words after all.

But I realize this is easy for me to say, especially as I’ve been reading comics since I was 5. So, I’m going to help my readers out and recommend some of what I feel are the absolute best graphic novels out there that are also still in print.

These are books that will make you think, make you laugh…maybe even make you cry. Regardless, they are all worthwhile, and should be read as soon as possible.

Midnight Nation byΒ J. Michael Stracynski

The compelling story of David Grey, a police lieutenant who takes the time to investigate a homicide that no one else cares about. Through a series of strange occurrences he finds himself without his soul, stuck on the other side of life where the lost, forgotten and abandoned fade away to. Accompanied by Laurel, an older-than-her-years guide, David must travel from Los Angeles to NYC on foot in under 1 year to reclaim his soul…or else he will belong to the Dark One forever. Delving into themes of Christian mythology, the state of America today, and the loss of empathy for the less fortunate and broken, this book will open your eyes to new ways of looking at the streets of your neighborhood after dark.

Locke & Key by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

What if your family owned a normal house that just happened to have keys that opened strange and magical doors? Imagine a stepping over a threshold and changing into a different species, sex, race, or age. Maybe go back in time or turn into a ghost, become a giant or control the shadows. Everything and anything is possible for those who live in Keyhouse, but this power is coveted by another…and they will do whatever it takes to claim a certain key for their own…

Maus by

Usually available in 2 parts, this is a retelling of the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, using animals as the different ethnicities. Don’t let the “cartoon” aspect of it fool you…This is just as powerful a read as any other survivor memoir.

Sandman or Death series by Neil Gaiman

This incredible author has numerous novels and trade paperbacks under his name, but the stories he brings to life in his graphic novels are just as spectacular. A great many artists come together to beautifully illustrate each tale, so is also a wonderful impromptu portfolio of current art. Working with various world mythologies, and new age ideas about life, death, the essence of dreams and the endless pursuit of happiness and justice, these 14 graphic novels are a good way to change the way you look at the world.

Readers, discuss if you want, or talk about other comics you wish to have mentioned in following parts. I’m breaking it up since it’s such a huge list, but more books are always welcome!

21 thoughts on “These Comics Won’t Rot Your Brain…They’ll Expand It (Part 1)

  1. “I’m tired of people putting down graphic novels, illustrated texts and the medium of comic books in general. Just because a book uses pictures as well as words does NOT make its message any less potent. In fact, sometimes it aids in the storytelling process”

    Interesting you should say this. I saw someone discussing the plight of the poor and he had written a book and hired someone to illustrate his points in the “graphic novel” style because he felt that it would very much aid his storytelling.

  2. The only graphic novel I’ve read is the adaptation of F. Paul Wilson’s “The Keep”. I frankly wasn’t all that impressed. I was really looking forward to it because I’m a huge fan of the novel (and Wilson). But I found that the artwork didn’t do a good enough job of differentiating the characters. I’m sure if I hadn’t read the novel first I would have been totally stumped as to who was doing and saying what.

    I will try and track down a few of the ones you recommend. I’m going to Sydney this weekend, and Kinokuniya has a huge comics/graphic novel section.

    As for comic *strips*, as a girl I was given an anthology of Floyd Gottfredson-drawn Mickey Mouse comics from the ’30s, and literally read it to death. I just bought it again off Ebay and had a wonderful nostalgic time re-reading them all πŸ™‚

  3. Yeah, I’ve found you have to be very careful with novel/movie adaptations. They are often disappointing.

    I’m glad you found some nostalgia to nosh on, Sasha. I was never into comic strips, per se, but I recently dug out some of my old comics that I still own from years and years ago. Pakkin’s Land, Troublemakers, Leave It To Chance, Bone, Poe, the *entire* Crossgen series, Akiko…lots of Indy titles, but also some Batman and X-Men (mostly featuring Nightcrawler). It’s so great to be able to revisit these old “friends” now and then, isn’t it?

  4. I did like comic strips as a kid. I had several Peanuts and Garfield anthologies, and the Mickey Mouse ones are curiously obscure. Everything else Mickey/Disney is huge. Even the Donald Duck comic strips are more popular. but I had to really search for this anthology.

    Someday I’ll do an illustrated post about the interesting Mickey/Minnie relationship in the strips. In some ways Mickey is the quintessential white knight, but he’s also very masculine (mouseculine? LOL) These were written in the 1920’s and ’30s, so it’s interesting to watch the cartoon personalities evolve over the last century.

    I have never owned or read a comic book. Shocking, I know. No X-Men or Superman or anything. :O

  5. “I have never owned or read a comic book.”
    Not to cast stereotypes, but I’m not surprised. I can count the number of women who really read comic books without needing more than my 2 hands. Obviously, these are just the ones I *know*…there are many women who work in this medium.

    Mouseculine? Lol, I love it!

    If you were going to look for some X-Men comics, I’d recommend the following:

    “God Loves, Man Kills”
    “The Dark Phoenix Saga”
    “House of M”
    “Messiah Complex”

    Oh, and “Days of Future Past”, especially since I hear it’s going to be bastardized in an upcoming movie. You should read the original beforehand! πŸ™‚

  6. I would so love to have a friend with a huge graphic novel collection lol >.< My younger brother collected comics and I enjoyed those, I also like Manga, some of those can be incredibly heart wrenching!

    I've heard of a few you mentioned, but never read them. Must get around to checking them out!

    Thanks for the recommendations πŸ™‚


  7. Well, then you would love me. I have 3 bookshelves full of my regular books, but both sides of my entertainment center, the bottom of my coffee table, and every available shelf in my closets are bursting with graphic novels. I sometimes wonder if my home is a fire hazard due to my bibliophilic tendencies… πŸ˜›

    I like certain manga as well, though that only takes up 1 closet shelf. In part 3 of this, I’ll do manga recommendations. πŸ™‚

  8. Hi there, LudvigSunstrom. Thanks for stopping by.

    Yeah, this is only part 1. Part 2 (and possibly 3) will certainly have more, including the Watchmen. πŸ™‚

  9. I recommend “Lone Wolf and Cub”. (author slips my mind after all these years)

    It’s the story of a Ronin who travels Edo-era Japan with his son, having adventures and finding interesting solutions to serious challenges. It also gives a bit of historical context to the events going on, thus a bit of insigh into the culture.

    It started out in the 80’s IIRC, so it may be hard to find, but well worth it.

  10. Hi Bringthereality. Thank you for your suggestion!

    As far as I know, this series is out of print, which is sad because I’ve always wanted to read it. I’ve seen copies of some volumes, and they are beautifully illustrated and well written. If I can find a copy of #1, I’ll read it and put it on an upcoming list.

  11. I certainly hope so! Going by the little bit I know about you, I’d recommend starting with “Midnight Nation”. It’s so good and deep-themed, it’s scary.

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