Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Shopping for Comics

So, in the last post I wrote up a list of my 20 favorite graphic novels of all time. For someone who’s never read a comic before, lists like these are great. I took the time to read a ton of comics and picked out the very best just for you. Now all you have to do is pick the ones that sound interesting, get them and read them. But what happens when you’ve read all the books on the list, oh comic virgin? Where do you go? What do you read next?

Looking for new comics can be somewhat of a hassle. It’s a little like going to the video store and trying to pick out a movie you know nothing about. (Did I say “video store?” I mean Netflix!) Either you’re going to spend hours searching for something good, choose something random (chances are its crap), or follow these age-old rules.

Shop by Franchise:

There’s a reason why Hollywood keeps making Batman movies. It’s the same reason why there have always and will always be Batman comic books. Besides the fact that Batman is awesome, people like Batman and will continue reading/watching things that feature him as a character. Why? When you walk into a comic shop you might be overwhelmed by the many, many different choices. Why waste time and money looking for something new that you might not even like, when you could just pick up the latest Batman comic?

Ok. So what if you don’t like superheroes? If you love superheroes, that’s great, since the comic industry will continue writing about all of your favorite heroes from now until the end of time. The problem with not liking superheroes is that non-superhero comics tend to be self-contained and have a short life span. For example, Neil Gaiman’s Sandman lasted 75 issues over a ten-year span. That might seem like a long time, but let’s put it in perspective. Batman has been running non-stop since it was first published in 1939. There are also many different comics that include Batman as a main character. If you were reading Sandman when it was published you would get one issue per month. That’s about 20-25 pages per month! I don’t know about you, but I can read that in less than an hour. Sandman’s last issue was published in 1996, but lucky for you it was collected in nice paperback trade editions that you can read in less than a month (or a week if you’re me). So what do you do now? Sandman is over. There are no more Sandman comics. None. No more. Too bad for you. You can read them over or:

Check out the publisher:

If you like superheroes, you’ll probably be content with DC or Marvel comics. Don’t know the difference? Check out my post here:

If you don’t care about superheroes things get a little difficult. The two largest comic book publishers in America almost exclusively publish superhero comics. So here’s a couple of the smaller publishing companies to help get you on the right road.


Since we were discussing Sandman, I thought we should start with the company that published it. (Which also happens to be my favorite comic publisher). In the late 80s DC Comics published Animal Man, Doom Patrol, The Sandman, The Swamp Thing, Black Orchid, Shade the Changing Man, and Hellblazer, with a mature readers label. In 1993 editor Karen Berger took these seven comics and created Vertigo, an imprint of DC that, according to Berger was made to “do something different in comics and help the medium 'grow up.” Today Vertigo publishes some of the best comics for older readers. (Did you notice that most of my top 20 list was published by Vertigo?) As of 2010 it is also a strictly creator-owned imprint.


Image was started in 1992 by high profile Marvel artists who wanted to keep the copyrights to the characters they created, which makes Image, like Vertigo, a creator-owned publisher. Image’s canon includes, Spawn, Walking Dead, Invincible, and Witchblade, to name a few.

Dark Horse

Dark Horse, founded in 1986, is know mostly for comics based on licensed characters including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Aliens, and Predator. Not to be outdone, by the top two entries on this list, Dark Horse also publishes some of the most famous creator-owned titles including Sin City, Hell Boy, Usagi Yojimbo, and Akira.


According to THE comic distributor in the country, Diamond Comic Distributor, IDW, founded in 1999, is the fifth largest publisher of American comic books. Starting as a horror comics publisher, printing titles like 30 Days of Night and Dark Days, IDW has moved on to licensed properties such as Angel, Transformers, Star Trek, and Dr. Who.

Avatar Press

Avatar in an independent publisher founded in 1996. Originally publishing “bad girl” comics, Avator branched out and started publishing comics written by Alan Moore, Frank Millar, Warren Ellis, and Garth Ennis. Avatar also publishes licensed comics including Night of the Living Dead and Friday the 13th.


BOOM!, founded in 2005, is another comic publisher that deals in mostly licensed material. Their titles include Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Farscape. They also have a line of comic books geared at a younger audience incorporating classic Disney, Pixar, and Jim Henson characters.

Oni Press

Oni was started in 1997 by two guys in Portland, Oregon who wanted to publish comics that they themselves wanted to read. According to Wikipedia they have “built Oni Press into one of independent comics' most respected and innovative publishing houses by publishing one of the most eclectic and varied lines in the comic industry.” Titles include Scott Pilgrim, Queen and Country, and Jay and Silent Bob.


SLG or Slave Labor Graphics, started in 1986, is probably most famous for putting Jhonen Vasquez, creator of Nickelodeon’s Invader Zim on the map. If you’re a goth kid you’ll love SLG. Popular titles include Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, Squee!, Lenore, and Gloom Cookie. SLG also publishes licensed Disney titles including Tron, Haunted Mansion, Wonderland, and Gargoyles.

Top Shelf

Another creator known imprint, founded in 1995, Top Shelf publishes titles such as From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman III, Blankets, and Monkey vs. Robot.

The problem with looking at publishers sometimes is that, although they tend to publish similar types of material, their lines do vary, so there will always be a range of things to choose from. So how are you supposed to weed out the good from the terrible?

Find out next post on Beyond the Cape!

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