May 3: Free Comic Book Day

As we approach Free Comic Book Day (the first Saturday in May), I find it appropriate to take a moment and recognize the wonderful world that is comics. However this article will not include the wonderful world of Marvel, because I don’t particularly care for Marvel. Or traditional superheroes, unless we’re talking about Matt Fraction’s “Hawkeye.” But he’s not really a superherojust your basic hero. A lot of comics actually go beyond traditional superhero narratives. They’re filled with science fiction, feminism, sex, etc. That being said, there are probably some comics out there for you. With this article, I will suggest a few comics for the nontraditional comic book reader.

During the transition (from not-comic reader to comic reader), it would be wise to pick up a comic that is a bit older. If you are an avid novel reader and tend to plow through books, one small comic will not satisfy your need-to-read. Given that, might I suggest Brian K. Vaughn (he’ll come up again), who wrote one of the greatest comic book stories: “Y the Last Man.” Essentially, it’s about the last guy on earth, roaming the world and trying to find his girlfriend. Although all of the men have been wiped out from a virus, all of the women still exist. And they are running the world. The cool thing about this particular story is that Vaughn studied feminism for about a year. He did this so that he would be able to write about women in a supportive, powerful, screw-the-glass-ceiling kind of way. It’s denser than other comics, making it a good transition from novel reader to comic reader. You’ll get hooked. And then it will be devastating when it is over. But read it anyways.

After finishing “Y the Last Man,” you may want to take a look at Jeff Lemire’s “Sweet Tooth.” It’s another futuristic scenario, except instead of a world run by women, it’s about hybrid children (half-animal, half-human) and the war against them after much of the human race was wiped out due to a virus. If you enjoy watching or reading science fiction, there is a good chance you will like this. Lemire’s “Trillium” that came out this past year is also a wonderful read, and fits into the science-fiction genre. Instead of hybrid children, this one is about a woman and a man who come from different time periods but seem to have a connection and consistently get flipped around into each other’s worlds. I would argue that the artwork is much better in “Trillium” than “Sweet Tooth,” and that alone is worth checking out.

If you aren’t into futuristic reads, then “Sex Criminals” by Matt Fraction may be the comic for you. It is the comic for everyone. This comic has gained a much bigger audience than both Fraction and the artist (Chip Zdarsky) ever imagined because it’s all about orgasms. Essentially this girl is able to stop time when she has an orgasm. She’s trying to save her library. She ends up meeting a guy who can also stop time when he orgasms. And the two begin to rob banks, until a group of orgasmic police interfere with their theft. It’s great in the sense that it normalizes discussion about sex, masturbation, and relationships, and then adds a comedic twist. Besides “Y the Last Man,” if you’re going to try out any comic book, pick up the first volume of “Sex Criminals.”

As stated above, Brian K. Vaughn would appear again, and here he is with his most recent comic “Saga,” arguably one of the most popular comics to have come out in recent years. It’s the very first comic I ever read. Vaughn again writes about a futuristic world that includes three different planets of species fighting a war against one another. A woman from one side gets together with a guy from another, they have a baby (the story is told through the kid’s perspective), and then all the planets end up running after them to assassinate their horrifying relationship because it is a threat to the planets. Because this comic has been out for a while, you can pick it up in volumes, making it a lengthier, time consuming read.

Honorable mentions include: “Velvet” by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting, “Nowhere Men” by Eric Stephenson, “Scott Pilgrim” (actually a graphic novel) by Bryan Lee O’Malley, “Black Science” and “Deadly Class” by Rick Remender. “Deadly Class,” by the way, is very similar to “Harry Potter” in the sense that it’s about a boy who has nothing and is sought out and brought to a secret, underground school. Except instead of a school for wizardry, it’s a school to train assassins.

Please feel free to share comics that you’ve come across and enjoyed! The comic book industry is booming with loads of creative work that’s attracting a lot of nontraditional comic book readers like myself. A lot of popular comics are going beyond traditional superhero, Marvel-esque stories and offering a variety of genres, artwork and narratives.

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