By Carroll B.
About ten or eleven years ago, I was browsing through my local comic shop, looking for something new to read. There were plenty of interesting looking books, but this was before trade paperbacks really took off and it was often hard to catch up with story lines if you didn’t have access to a large back issue collection. And there was no Wikipedia to provide character bios and story summaries. Basically, readers looking to jump on in the middle of a run were somewhat screwed. Therefore, I went looking for new series that were still in their beginning stages or just one-off issues, usually without luck. When I expressed my frustration, my friendly comic guy pointed out a pack of Evan Dorkin comics that were perfect little stories all nicely wrapped up without any continuity issues to deal with. On top of that, the art was fantastic and I began my love of Milk & Cheese and Dork comics.
What’s my point?
My point is, if you don’t or haven’t already, give indie comics a chance. While, yes, some do rely on continuity and can seem daunting to a new reader, many indie comics do a great job of catching the reader up. Invincible, for example, has released two cheap issues that were intended to attract new readers and get them caught up with the story so far. Look at Spawn (my high school sweetheart) – it recently changed directions in a way that new readers don’t need any of the previous 150 issues to understand current stories.
But Invincible and Spawn are only two high-profile indie books that are out there.
If you want something less superhero-y, look no further than the books that Top Shelf, Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, and First Second (all publishers we carry at Von’s) put out on a regular basis. You can find just about any genre, even superheros, from these publishers, and you almost never have to have prior knowledge to read one of their books. Two of the more famous examples are Blankets and Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth. Both books are nice, big graphic novels that are engaging and beautiful. And Jimmy Corrigan would appeal to many fans of superheros, with its main character who dreams of being a Superman-type guy (I think we can all relate to that notion).
At Von’s we carry many indie books, but we can only carry so many if no one buys them. So why not do yourself (and our store!) a favor and check out a book or two that’s not from the big two or three. (Heck, if your that unsure, the Tippecanoe County Library has an excellent graphic novel collection to help you get started.) There’s a lot of creators out there working hard to bring you well-written, superbly-drawn stories, but you may never see them unless you look past the Avengers and the X-Men to find it. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with mainstream superhero books – I read plenty of them every month – but I think everyone should be checking out some of the other, less well-known stuff that comes out every month, too.
Recommended Reading (a good place to start):
Box Office Poison
It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken
Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth
Love & Rockets
Milk & Cheese
Too Much Coffee Man