Graphic Novels, Super-Heroes: Recommendations – FAQ

trinity 02 - Helden, Ikonen, Stützpfeiler - Superman, Batman und Wonder Woman sind die großen Drei im DC-Verlag.

Over on Reddit, I sometimes give personal graphic novel recommendations, make reading lists or post links about individual heroes (mostly: DC). Here are some of my – helpful – questions and answers:

Graphic Novels, Super-Heroes, Reading Lists!

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What are your 10 favorite graphic novels? Stuff I should read…?

01) Fabio Moon, Gabrial Ba: “Daytripper” (Vertigo)

02) Jeph Loeb: “Batman: The Long Halloween” (DC)

03) David Mazzucchelli: “Asterios Polyp” (Indie/Literary)

04) Alison Bechdel: “Fun Home” (Indie/Literary)

05) Kurt Busiek: “Superman: Secret Identity” (DC)

06) Grant Morrison: “We3″ (Vertigo)

07) Kiohiko Azuma: “Yotsuba!” (Manga)

08) Scott Snyder: “Batman: The Black Mirror” (DC)

09) Bret Meltzer: “Identity Crisis” (DC)

10) Greg Rucka: “Batman: No Man’s Land” (it’s a comic arc that was turned into a prose novel. If you’re not too fond of 90ies art, get this novelization: Rucka is an excellent author, and it’s a great story!)

also, please try “Locke & Key”: It’s “The Shining”, “Maniac Mansion” and a dash of “Harry Potter” (in the sense of: vast mythology, snarky character interactions, complex supernatural duels / conflicts). Twist galore!

…with super-heroes, there are also excellent runs.

  • James Morrison’s “Starman”
  • Greg Rucka’s & Ed Brubaker’s “Gotham Central”
  • Warren Ellis’ “Nextwave – Agents of HATE” (Marvel)
  • John Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad” (80ies version)
  • Peter Tomasi’s “Green Lantern Corps”
  • the year-long series “52″
  • Greg Rucka’s more political / diplomatic series “Wonder Woman”, “Checkmate” and “Queen & Country”
  • Ed Brubaker’s “Catwoman” [up to ca. issue 20]
  • Bryan Q. Miller’s (“Veronica Mars”-like) “Batgirl”
  • large parts of “Green Arrow” (Kevin Smith, Brad Meltzer, Judd Winick)

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Is there a canon? Things that are universally acclaimed?

There are classics and titles that mostly everyone likes: iconic works – and rightfully so. Recommendations that you’ll hear again and again, and from lots of different people:

  • Watchmen
  • The Dark Knight Returns
  • Batman: Year One
  • Batman: The Killing Joke
  • Batman: The Long Halloween (the spin-off/continuation “Catwoman: When in Rome”, is quite charming, too. But it doesn’t get much love.)
  • Bone
  • Maus
  • Fun Home
  • Reading Comics (and the even better sequel “Making Comics”)
  • Sandman
  • Superman: Whatever happened to the Man of Tomorrow
  • Superman for all Seasons
  • Superman: Red Son
  • We3
  • Blankets
  • Greg Rucka’s Gotham Central & Batwoman
  • Grant Morrison’s “JLA: Earth 2″ and his current “Action Comics” run
  • Scott Snyder’s “The Black Mirror” and his current “Batman” run
  • Jeff Lemire’s current “Animal Man” run

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Anything popular, but overrated / problematic, too?

There are some books that have BIG fandoms and get tons of acclaim… but to me, they turned out to be a little disappointing:

I’m well aware that I might be just about the only comic book fan on earth who did NOT enjoy the tone of Grant Morrison’s “All-Star Superman” or his “Batman: RIP” epic. Most people love it, so look into it. Chances are you won’t be disappointed. Personally, I was, though.

Other books that left me surprisingly cold:

  • Kingdom Come
  • Marvels
  • Arkham Asylum
  • Y: The Last Man
  • Ex Machina
  • the “Buffy: Season 8″ comic book
  • Barefoot Gen
  • Perspepolis
  • “I can’t believe it’s not the Justice League” and “Formerly known as the Justice League”
  • Judd Winnick’s “Outsiders”
  • Geoff Johns’ “Teen Titans”
  • Dennis O’Neill’s “The Question”
  • Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga
  • Geoff John’s (Wally-West centric) “Flash” run
  • large parts of Gail Simone’s “Birds of Prey” and “Secret Six”
  • “Green Lantern: Rebirth” and the first couple of collections after that: the spin-off “Green Lantern Corps” is awesome, and “The Sinestro Corps War” was great, and all in all, it’s a hell of a ride. But prepare to be slightly disappointed in the early stages – Hal Jordan is not an easy character to like.
  • Persepolis
  • Logicomix
  • Scott Pilgrim (super-charming, but very uneven narrative)
  • recent webcomic success “Friends with Boys”
  • Greg Rucka’s Whiteout

logicomix

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There are so many DC Comics books and characters. Where should I start? How did YOU start?

Would it be fun to start with big crossover events like “Infinite Crisis”, “Final Crisis”, “Blackest Night” and “Flashpoint”?

Until 2007, I was familiar with some DC characters and concepts, and I spent some time on Wikipedia. But I only started reading trades that winter, with “Infinite Crisis”. It’s packed with references, baroque art and HUNDREDS of characters. So… you could start with one of these big crossover events or crises. I did, too. And I found it rather engaging – even if I didn’t understand lots of the backstory.

I don’t know if it’s FUN (or: a good preperation for post-reboot “New 52″ comics) to just read all the massive crossovers from the last five years, though.

What helped me find my way through the DCU was that I found specific characters that I could start with – and follow through their series, cameos and crossovers. I liked “Nightwing” – so I explored large parts of the batbooks by following / reading up on the Nightwing character.

In the same way, “Infinite Crisis” made me care about “Power Girl”. “52″ (one of the best BIG crossovers / universe-spanning stories) made me care about Renee Montoya, Booster Gold, Black Adam, Adam Strange, Animal Man etc.

So generally: Solo titles are less convoluted than team books. And second-string characters are easier to follow than people like Wonder Woman or Hal Jordan.

Find your favorites. Or start with showcase / anthology-like books like “52″ and “Brightest Day”: They have multiple storylines, and they will introduce you to lots of different heroes.

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I still don’t really know where to start…

For “The Flash”, “Green Lantern”, “Batwoman” and Renee Montoya and “Superman”, I gave some more specific recommendations HERE:

https://stefanmesch.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/dc-super-hero-comics-where-to-start-guide-index/

https://stefanmesch.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/green-lantern-timeline-reading-order/

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Are there current, ongoing DC Comics series that are worth checking out?

  • Scott Snyder’s “Batman”
  • Jeff Lemire’s “Sweet Tooth”
  • Jeff Lemire’s “Animal Man”
  • Brian Azzarello’s “Wonder Woman”
  • Grant Morrison’s “Action Comics”
  • Peter Tomasi’s “Batman and Robin”
  • and, to a lesser degree (they’re good – but not everyone’s taste), “Batwoman”, “Supergirl”, “Swamp Thing”, “Birds of Prey”, “All-Star Western”, “Aquaman”.

“Aquaman” is a good, high-octane (and VERY simple / starter-friendly) “blockbuster” like comic.

scott pilgrim avatar.

What’s “Birds of Prey”? Is it good?

“Birds of Prey” is a concept that started in the mid-90ies. It’s a female-centric book about a team of martial artists, vigilantes, hackers and/or detectives who fight crime… mostly in Gotham City.

The tone is… suspense, brawls, big (but mostly street-level) action scenes and lots of friendship/humor/banter between (smart!) women.

Before the reboot, the core team featured Barbara Gordon – Commissioner Gordon’s daughter -as intel expert “Oracle”, martial artist Black Canary and vigilante The Huntress. After the reboot, the team features (some) other, quite surprising characters and a new dynamic. Plus: great art.

A cool, not very spoilery review of issue 5: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=user_review&id=4285

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Any DC books that you, personally, want to read soon?

I’m debating whether I should catch up on some classic runs next year: Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad”, Moore’s “Swamp Thing”, Grell’s “Green Arrow”, Morrison’s “Animal Man”, Giffen’s “Justice League International”, Juergen’s “Booster Gold”…

From what I’ve read of the Mark Waid run of “The Flash”, it’s absolutely worth it.

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I want to read DARK graphic novels. Recommendations?

  • “Sweet Tooth” (Survival Horror, Jeff Lemire)
  • “We3″ (anti-war / Cyberpunk (?), Grant Morrison)
  • “Stitches” (autobiographical memoir, David Small)
  • “Animal Man” and “Swamp Thing” (superhero / horror, ongoing DC series, Jeff Lemire and Scott Snyder)
  • “Batwoman: Elegy” (beautiful, haunting, urban; Greg Rucka)
  • “Batman: No Man’s Land” (excellent urban/dark story-arc… read the novelization by Greg Rucka)
  • “Batman: Night Cries” (Batman meets “Law & Order: SVU”; great art, Archie Goodwin)

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I’ve recently read a few “dramatic” comics that I really quite enjoyed: Blankets, Daytripper, Essex Country. Do you recommend any other titles / series?

my favorites, so far:

Daytripper, Fun Home, Maus, We3, I kill Giants, Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, my Mother and me, Asterios Polyp, Petrograd (and Greg Rucka’s “Queen & Country” spy drama series), Pedro & Me, Stitches, Empire State: A Love Story (or not), Clumsy, Ghost World, Epileptic, Drawn Out (Don Nace, indie), A distant Neighborhood, Lost at Sea

underwhelming / not as great as I had hoped:

The Nobody, Zahra’s Paradise, Persepolis, Smile, Logicomix, American Widow, Pride of Baghdad, It’s a Bird, DC Comic’s 9/11 compilations/tributes, Barefoot Gen, The Arrival, American Born Chinese

traditional super-hero stuff with a high amount of “drama”, character development etc.:

  • Ed Brubaker’s “Catwoman”, especially the third trade, “Relentless”
  • Identity Crisis
  • Gotham Central, especially the second arc, “Half a Life”
  • Peter Tomasi’s “The Mighty”
  • Kurt Busiek’s “Superman: Secret Identity”
  • Mark Millar’s “Superman: Red Son”

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Are there any good romance(ish) graphic novels? Relationship stuff?

Hell, yes! Some indie comics about romance / relationships I’ve enjoyed:

  • Jason Shiga: Empire State. A Love Story (or not)
  • Jeffrey Brown: Clumsy
  • Gabriel Bà, Fabio Moon: Daytripper (more about family. But EPIC!)
  • David Mazzucchelli: Asterios Polyp (more academic / conceptual. It IS about romance, but it’s not particularly warm and fuzzy.)

I have never read “Heartbreak Soup” / “Love and Rockets” and/or “Strangers in Paradise”. But from what I’ve heard, both series have tons of interesting people in tons of interesting romantic constellations and conflicts.

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Are there good DRAMATIC, character-driven graphic novels?

I’m a sucker for these kind of books, so my list is rather long.

Let’s start with the mainstream, heroic stuff:

  • Greg Rucka’s “Gotham Central” (especially “Half a Life” and “Unresolved Targets”)
  • Ed Brubaker’s “Catwoman” (Vol. 1 starts kinda slow, but it all builds to a MAJOR traumatic event in Vol. 3)
  • James Robinson’s “Starman”
  • Kurt Busiek’s “Superman: Secret Identity”
  • Jeph Loeb’s “Superman for all Seasons”

other series:

  • Joe Hill’s “Locke & Key”
  • Jeff Lemire’s “Sweet Tooth”
  • Greg Rucka’s “Queen & Country”
  • Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” (big favorite: “The Kindly Ones”)
  • Kiohiko Azuma’s “Yotsuba&!” (not dark or dramatic)

I also enjoy the overall drama / tension of Peter Tomasi’s “Green Lantern Corps”, Scott Snider’s “Batman: The Black Mirror” and John Ostrander’s “Suicide Squad”.

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…and finally: Recommendations for Young Adult readers?

my goddaughter is 11. we like “Bakuman” (a manga about teenaged manga artists, by the creators of “Death Note”) a lot. also, “Avatar” / “The Legend of Korra” are perfect for that age group and Miyazaki’s “Nausicaa”.

Graphic Novels?

  • “Superman for all Seasons”
  • “Marvels”
  • I like the Dan Abnett / Andi Lanning era of “Legion” from ca. 1999 / 2002. “Legion Lost” (NOT the current series) is a good start.
  • Chuck Dixon’s “Batgirl: Year One” and Bryan Q. Miller’s “Batgirl” ongoing were fun and age-appropriate
  • the “Teen Titans: Year One” collection and/or the “Teen Titans” series by Wolfman and Perez. (I did not like the Geoff Johns run all too much.)
  • the 2006 “Blee Beetle” series is fun, too – but skip the first trade: too much continuity, changing artists, clunky exposition. it gets good with “Blue Beetle: Road Trip”.
  • New52 books? “Flash”, “Green Lantern: New Guardians” (a little old-school and simplistic, but fun for younger readers!). oh: “Demon Knights” is a lot of fun, too. it has graphic violence, but it seems like a 13-year-old’s RPG fever dream, and it’s easy to get invested in the characters.

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What is your favorite “Superman” graphic novel?

The much-beloved, but underwhelming “All-Star Superman” aside, here are my favorites:

  • “Superman for all Seasons”: great for beginners, charming, timeless.
  • “Superman: Secret Identity”: warm, fuzzy and nostalgic, but out of continuity.
  • “Superman: Birthright”: well-done origin story.
  • I like the whole classic “Death and Return of Superman” saga, too, and would recommend the competent and beginner-friendly novelization by Roger Stern.

Recent good “Superman” arcs have been “Last Son” (by Geoff Johns) and “Up, up and away” by Kurt Busiek.

HERE, I’ve listed some sub-par or disappointing books, too: https://stefanmesch.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/the-best-place-to-start-reading-superman/

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What are the best… “regular” “Superman” books – that are part of the main continuity?

Here’s a chronological order of my favs:

  • Superman: Exile
  • Superman: Sacrifice (read Greg Rucka’s “Wonder Woman” run and “Infinite Crisis Companion” first)
  • Superman: Up, up and away
  • Superman and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Geoff Johns)
  • Superman: Last Son

Personally, I enjoyed “Superman: The Journey” and “Superman: Ruin Revealed”, too, but they were part of a larger storyline with some big clunkers, so I cannot recommend the WHOLE Greg Rucka/Mark Verheiden run.

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You dislike “All-Star Superman”? What’s wrong with you?

I love the art and the sweet melancholy of “All-Star Superman”, and I can appreciate how author Grant Morrison tries hard to create an old-fashioned, quirky sense of Silver Age wonder.

Unfortunately, I don’t think he really LIKES Clark (or, even worse: Lois) as characters, or has anything interesting to say about their humanity or their blessings.

Rather, it’s a meta-satire by (and for) people who think that Clark is a dork in an unfulfilling narrative / medium, and Lois is a shrew who has penis… erm… super-power envy.

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So you dislike Grant Morrison, as a writer? Seriously: What IS wrong with you?

I know that people love “All-Star Superman”, hard, and I don’t think Morrison is a bad author, per se. “Action Comics” runs more smoothly, so far.

I just couldn’t see much warmth / happiness in “All-Star Superman”. It seemed calculated, bored with the “Superman” concept and desperate to create WTF moments.

[I enjoyed Morrison’s “We3”, and I like him in interviews. But as a writer, he’s always trying soooo damn hard. It’s no fun. It’s pretentious, and rather catty / juvenile.]

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But Grant is a kind, fun guy. His ideas are original, and his books are challenging, fresh and full of love for the characters!

I had problems with Morrison’s too-clever-to-really-work-on-a-storytelling-level “JLA” storylines before. I found “Arkham Asylum” overblown and self-important. I was looking forward to read “Seven Soldiers of Victory”, but right in the first 10 pages, there’s another cascade of people telling each other that

a) to SOLVE this problem, you must be more powerful than a god

b) to UNDERSTAND this concept, you must be more knowledgeable than a god.

It feels like teasing, from Morrison’s side. I have no problem when an author forces me to work hard to understand what’s going on. But Morrison sometimes almost sounds like cult leader who talks every one else down. I feel… belittled, reading these stories. :-(

(Once more: Seeing his appearances on Youtube is so irritating, because he seems like a genuinely nice person. But his… tone seems incredibly mean-spirited / aloof / “I don’t like my characters, and I certainly don’t like my audience.”)

Is it just me? With “All-Star Superman”, I was expecting something very, very good. I read the book… and just felt sad, teased and played with.

I’m not angry, or trying to be a naysayer. I wish that the magic would have worked for me.

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At the moment, Superman is in a relationship with Wonder Woman – but many fans/readers seem to be annoyed with this. Why?

What’s the problem, here? I think it’s that…

Both these characters are strangers / outsiders / non-humans who still decided that they want to devote their lives to humanity / civilization / THIS world. Clark may be… mankind’s biggest fan. And Diana came to “man’s world” to be a fighter / symbol for equality.

If you show these two as a romantic couple… where does that lleave humans? Is there no “normal” man “strong enough” for Wonder Woman? is there no HUMAN woman “worthy” of Superman’s love? This… reminds me of eugenics, and some twisted form of breeding: The alpha-male gets the ultimate woman? Meh.

Plus: IF Wonder Woman gets shown to be some kind of trophy / exciting sexual “price”, it won’t be long before the fan-boys scream: “She should take Batman. He’s SO much cooler! I hope he steals her from Clark!”:-/

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You also like Clark Kent and Lois Lane, right?

They’re my favorite fictional couple, yes. In current “Superman” comics, though, she does not know his secret, they have not dated and they are hardly even friends.

Here’s what I wrote about the appeal of Lois Lane and the relationship:

“TV is full of courtships, “Will they or won’t they?” couples, love triangles and unresolved sexual tension: When I was 12, 13, 14, Lois (of “The Adventures of Lois & Clark”) showed me what it’s like to be a journalist, a reporter, a critical, independent, cosmopolitan writer.

She put a face to abstract (or alien) concepts / virtues / goals like “living in the big city”, “raising ones’ voice”, “journalistic integrity”, “fulfillment in professional work”…

…and to this day, my ideal co-worker and/or life partner and/or best friend has Lois’ passion. Lois’ snark. Lois’ humor. Lois’ energy.

We don’t see a lot of adult, full-grown relationships in fiction. Or long-term couples. Or people taking pride in their day jobs.

One of the oldest “Superman” slogans / tag lines was “You will believe a man can fly”. Lois Lane made ME believe that loving and working with someone who’s your equal is an incredibly attractive, desirable, fulfilling romantic ideal: I want to rise up… to partners like her. Nothing less.”

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A “Cable” book by writer Jeph Loeb! That sounds very exciting, doesn’t it…? I’ve heard that Jeph Loeb is a well-beloved, interesting author!

I only read DC, and I loved the first couple of things that I’ve read by Loeb (“Long Halloween”, “Superman for all Season”, most of all “Catwoman: When in Rome”).

It’s weird, though, that an astounding number of his multi-issue stories follow the EXACT SAME formula:

A hero is on a wild goose chase or solving a mystery about his own identity… so he has ONE self-contained (and, most often: rather inconsequential) run-in with ONE villain / member of his supporting cast for 15 pages. Then, the book is done… and the NEXT “mystery guest” makes his appearance:

“The Long Halloween” “Hush” his first “Supergirl” arc most of his “Superman / Batman” arcs (most noticeably trades 3 and 4)

…it’s same formula, all the time.

So – not knowing Cable or the dynamics over at Marvel – to me, these covers look like something Loeb has done to death: ONE person… visiting / fighting with TONS OF OTHER individual persons, one at a time.:-/

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I’ve heard good things about Brian K. Vaughn and his series “Y: The Last Man” and “Ex Machina”. Would you recommend them?

Both “Y – the last Man” and “Ex Machina” had some slumps / narrative problems / sort-of-an-anti-climax. Don’t get me wrong: They’re still better than 90 percent of everything else that I know. But I left both series disappointed, asking myself where the author went wrong. So… read them like people watched “Lost” or “The X-Files”: Not for the big conclusion. But for the fun you’ll have along the way!

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But you say that Brian K. Vaughn is a good writer…?

I think Brian K. Vaughan is my favorite (comic book!) author. I like his high concept ideas, I like the banter, I like the random bits of trivia that permeates the dialogue AND I like how conceptually, all the names, places, twists in his storyarcs usually serve some bigger purpose. He IS pretty amazing, and I’d love to have a series of his that I could just pass on to every (comic AND non-comic-)reader I know.

Unfortunately, for all the planning, I feel like both “Y: The Last Man” and “Ex Machina” fell flat towards the end: Twists upon twists, and cliffhangers that might have seemed mind-blowing on paper, but struck me as stupid, underwhelming or damaging to the characters in execution.

It’s like calling “Lost” a masterpiece: There WAS a lot of brilliance there. But in the end, I still would not hand the box set to my friends and say “Here: You will enjoy this.” I did NOT enjoy “Y: The Last Man”. Instead, I just got increasingly frustrated and bored. Which is a shame, given Vaughan’s talents… so I’ll definitely read “Runaways” and “Saga”, soon. He WILL succeed. He’s freaking close EVERY TIME.

Superhelden Superschurken Bösewichter DC Comics Funkhaus Europa 3 WordPress.

You dislike Gail Simone, writer with of “Batgirl”, “Secret Six” and early “Birds of Prey”?

I don’t think Gail Simone is a very concise, careful writer. Most of her scripts change tones / ideas / concepts mid-story and trail off into weird and half-piped directions. I think she’s talented, and I’m super-happy that she’s making an effort (and that she blogs / comments / engages in discussions on Twitter). But overall, Gail Simone’s stories (“Wonder Woman”, “Birds of Prey”, some horrible “Superman” issues) had me scratching my head more often than Grant Morrison.

The first book of hers that I completely loved / enjoyed was the “Night of the Owls” standalone issue of “Batgirl” in 2012.

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I like Dick Grayson, the first Robin, who later became Nightwing. Where should I start? Chuck Dixon’s “Robin: Year One” looks like a good point, right?

“Robin: Year One” has good art, but some pretty generic Chuck Dixon writing, too: It works as a simple story about a carefree, simpler Robin in a (slightly) more carefree age… but don’t expect much psychology (or Dick Grayson-awesomeness).

“Teen Titans: Year One” has excellent art and many sweet spots. If you’re into grown-up Grayson and his “Nightwing” persona, I’d recommend “Nightwing: Year One” instead. It’s not a masterpiece… but all the big steps / character moments are there, and you’ll get a very good first impression of Dick’s world.

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Any other fun or important Dick Grayson moments?

Specific scenes and important facts about Dick?

  • his relationship with Starfire and his friendship with Wonder Girl (try to read parts of “New Teen Titans: Who is Donna Troy?”).
  • his friendship and relationship with Barbara Gordon (try to read some issues of “Batgirl: Year One” for the early banter / rivalry)…
  • …as well as his wedding proposal to Barbara at the beginning of “Infinite Crisis”.
  • for more information, read THIS: “http://dcwomenkickingass.tumblr.com/post/12517405309/babs-dick” and / or search “scans_daily” for Nightwing-related character moments (he’s a fan favorite, so there are lots of scans / excerpts).
  • “Nightwing” 24 (from the 1990s) is a cute standalone issue where Tim and Dick spent some “brother”-like training time together. It really helped me understand their relationship (and differences). Recommended!

While Devin Greyson’s “Nightwing” run was not very good (too slow and gritty, depressing female characters, lots of pointless death scenes and destruction instead of world-building), it gave me some VERY good impressions of how Dick treats his neighbours, his friends, his mentors and his support system.

There are just tons of little character moments, and I think you’ll understand lots about him and his place in society: his flirts, his energy, his sense of civil duty, his detachment, his restlessness: find “Nightwing”, 70 to 100. If you’re bored with the first couple of issues, skip them and only read the final 10.

(as a side note: I don’t know Marvel’s “Daredevil” character too well… but psychologically, they seem to have a lot of similarities: energetic street-level vigilantes.)

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Any BAD “Nightwing” books / things you wouldn’t recommend?

things that I did not enjoy or that seemed out of character:

  • “Batman: The Gauntlet” won’t tell you much about Dick.
  • neither will the Bat-crossovers “War Games” or “No Man’s Land” (though that’s an excellent arc. If you have 8 to 10 hours, find Greg Rucka’s novelization and learn more about Barbara, Cass Cain, Two-Face, Huntress and the Batfamily dynamics).
  • “Bruce Wayne: Murderer?”, while not a very good story per se, has a couple of wonderful issues where the members of the Batfamily try to help Bruce and get locked out / pushed away. Everyone is very angry and frustrated, and you’ll get a good sense of the troubles and frustrations that Dick and Tim had to put up while working with Bruce. Don’t read the whole arc… but find the first trade collection.
  • Judd Winnick’s “Outsiders” featured Dick as a team leader, but had hardly any interesting characterization. Judd Winnick’s “Titans” run from 4 or 5 years ago had horrible reviews and didn’t do much for Dick, either.
  • “Nightwing” collections that were out of character and not very good: “Brothers in Blood”, “Mobbed up”, “Renegade”.
  • “Nightwing” collections that did Dick’s character justice, but didn’t work too well (boring plots, stilted art and/or no big character moments): “Love and War”, “Freefall”.
  • the current “Nightwing” run, started in September 2011, is serviceable, if nothing special: huge, important plot points / developments… but mediocre writing and art.

still unread, but lying here on my desk: a “Nightwing / Huntress” mini by Devin Greyson and a mid-90ies miniseries/collection named “Nightwing: A Knight in Bludhaven”. Both have pretty bad art.

Another mid-90ies moment that had good characterization and was a fan favorite featured Dick picking up the cowl after Bruce was wounded by Bane: The arc is called “Prodigal”, but it is out of print. Is has garnered high praise, though.

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Any recommendations for Tim Drake, the second Robin [and: “Red Robin” in the current, New 52 “Teen Titans” book]…?

  • Geoff Johns’ “Teen Titans: Titans of the Future” arc is pretty run-of-the-mill. But it helped me understand the Tim Drake character.
  • Brad Meltzer’s “Identity Crisis” has some poignant moments
  • Bill Willingham’s “Robin: Days of Fire and Madness” wasn’t very good. But it shed great light on how far Tim is willing to push himself.
  • Chuck Dixon’s “Nightwing” run had a great standalone story that shed light on the Tim / Dick dynamic (issue 25. highly recommended!)
  • …and even though “War Games” wasn’t very good, it’s fun to read up on the whole Tim & Stephanie Brown fiasco (start earlier, with Steph taking over Tim’s role as Robin). They’re great characters. But they really don’t do themselves any good.

I have never read the “Knightfall” saga – but I enjoyed Dennis O’Neills novelization of the arc. There are some fun Tim moments in there, and you get the understand his family dynamics. Overall, though, 90ies Tim seems to be a lot more hapless, boyish and insecure.

That isn’t a bad thing. I just prefer Tim’s pushy, disciplined, cold and overly zealous side: One of my favorite moments was written by Adam Beechen, in an otherwise pretty tired / boring run of the “Robin” series: Tim goes out on a date (issue 171) and falls asleep… on a roller coaster (!).

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I don’t know “Green Lantern”. But I’ve heard good things about the “Green Lantern” event / book “Blackest Night”. Should I read it?

I did a long interview with a Green Lantern fan this summer. She has been reading the comics for nearly 30 years, and both “The Sinestro Corps War” and “Blackest Night” are big favorites of her. If you don’t know much about the GL mythos, I’d highly recommend you’d look at the interview: We talk about nearly everything, and (relatively) spoiler-free: “https://stefanmesch.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/interview-sally-pascale-comic-reader-feminist-blogger-and-the-internets-most-outspoken-green-lantern-fan/

To prepare for the interview, I spent May, June and July reading all these trade paperbacks, too. I started with comics from the nineties… and when I arrived at “Blackest Night”, the events had their proper emotional punches / context. Here are my recommendations for the reading order: “https://stefanmesch.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/green-lantern-timeline-reading-order/

If you can, invest in this series… and enjoy the ride: These are some great characters, and an interesting cosmology. Recommended!

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You’re a fan of “Green Arrow”. Where should I start? Which books are good?

Oliver Queen / Green Arrow is one of my favorite characters, and I’ve read most of his trades/collections. Here are my recommendations:

  • Mike Grell’s “Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters” is a beautiful and well-written primer on the character (and the Black Canary/Green Arrow relationship).

…it also leads into a 1990ies “Green Arrow” series written by Grell that deals with martial arts, terrorism/militarism, the mob, philosophy and survivalism. It’s more down-to-earth than most super-hero tales. I haven’t read all of it – but there’s potential, and it aged pretty well.

  • Kevin Smith’s run (“Quiver”, “Sounds of Violence”) is fun, but especially “Quiver” is steeped in continuity, so it’s not the easiest start.
  • I’d recommend Brad Melzer’s “The Archer’s Quest” and the first two collections by Judd Winnick, “Straight Shooter” and “City Walls”. After that, the series kind of falters/stumbles/gets a little uninspired.
  • “Green Arrow/Black Canary: The Wedding Album” is fun, especially for the Amanda Conner art. The following series (ALL 20-something issues of “Green Arrow/Black Canary”) are pretty mediocre/stale/by-the-numbers. I didn’t enjoy them much.
  • “Cry for Justice” is loud, aggressive and crass. A blockbuster with some tasteless elements and inconsistencies. I haven’t read the Arrow-centric follow-up “Rise and Fall”… but heard pretty bad things about it.
  • “Identity Crisis”, on the other hand, has been equally dark and controversial… but gives Ollie a fun role / moral dilemma, and worked quite fine for me. Give it a try!
  • J.T. Krul’s 2010-2011 post “Brightest day”-run has good art, a nice energy and is VERY easy to follow and understand. It’s a little juvenile/trite, though – so don’t expect too much.
  • I cannot recommend the standalone collections ‘Connor Hawke: Dragon’s Blood’ and the 1990ies collection “The Ring, the Arrow and the Bat”.
  • And if you’re in a retro mood and are fine with didactic, anvilicious late-60ies-comics… try out Dennis O’Neills “Green Arrow/Green Lantern” collections. They’re dated… but iconic.
  • one last, personal favorite that made me appreciate/understand Black Canary (besides her “Birds of Prey” series, of course): Mark Waid’s 1999 (?) “Justice League: Year One”. There is SOME Ollie. But not a lot. Still: Might be worth a look.

In 2009, I wrote a long German article about Ollie, Dinah and the dynamics of the “Arrow-family”. It’s in German, though. For what it’s worth… here’s the link: “http://www.tagesspiegel.de/kultur/comics/superhelden-helden-auf-der-kuecheninsel/1570140.html

dkr 11.

You like Catwoman, too. What’s her story? Where should I start?

Here’s what I read so far:

  • “Batman: Year One” (4 of 5 stars)
  • “Batman: The Last Halloween” (4 of 5 stars)
  • “Catwoman: When in Rome” (5 of 5 stars)
  • “Selina’s big Score” (3 of 5 stars)
  • “Batman: Officer down” (3 of 5 stars)
  • “Catwoman: The Catfile” (90s, Chuck Dixon, 3 of 5 stars)
  • Ed Brubaker’s and Will Pfeifer’s “Catwoman” series (up to ca. issue 20: 4 of 5 stars, mostly: excellent characters, excellent arcs! The Pfeifer books are pretty meh / forgettable, though.)
  • “Batman: Hush” (3.5 of 5 stars)
  • “Batman: Hush Returns” (4 of 5 stars)
  • “Gotham City Sirens” (3.5 of 5 stars: surprisingly sweet, fun, entertaining!)

I’m aware of Judd Winick’s “New 52″ ‘Catwoman’ series, but I disliked the first collection, “Catwoman: The Game” (2 of 5 stars)

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Did you like “The Dark Knight Rises”? Did you like Catwoman’s role?

I wrote about the movie’s problems, failures and potential HERE:

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Are there any good stories about DC super-villains?

A lot, actually, yes. I made a list here. It’s in German, though:

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What about books with female heroes?

There are many titles starring female heroes that I personally like / recommend:

most things with Renee Montoya and Kate Kane (Batwoman), best places to start HERE: * https://stefanmesch.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/the-best-place-to-start-reading-batwoman-and-renee-montoya/

…as well as:

  • Greg Rucka’s “Wonder Woman” run
  • Ed Brubaker’s wonderful, noir-ish “Catwoman”
  • Bryan Q. Miller’s kick-ass and funny “Batgirl” run (Stephanie Brown)
  • Kelley Puckett’s inventive and dynamic “Batgirl” run (Cassandra Cain)
  • Jimmy Palmiotti’s amazing “Power Girl” run
  • Sterling Gate’s work on “Supergirl”

Personally, Mark Andreyko’s “Manhunter” and Gail Simone’s “Birds of Prey” and “Wonder Woman” have been hit-and-miss for me, although they both have BIG fans. (I found their tone uneven, and the violence often crass and self-serving.)

Current monthly DC titles with female title characters that are really good?

  • Batwoman
  • Wonder Woman
  • Birds of Prey

The “Supergirl” series and Gail Simone’s “Batgirl” have good moments, too.

dc comic trade paperback pile 2011 WordPress.

Did you like the “Buffy: Season 8″ comic?

“Buffy” did not excite me the way I had hoped: The cover art is excellent, and the interiors are solid, too. Also, there’s lots of great, snarky dialogue. I have read the whole of season 8 (collected in 6 trade paperbacks), and liked them okay.

The problems?

  • LOTS of cosmic, world-changing, big budget events (people flying like Superman, supernatural armies fighting each other, giants, tanks etc.)
  • ALL the characters are back… but with far less time (than 22 x 40 minutes per season), lots of them don’t get to do all that much. (Giles, Dawn and Willow, most notably, felt underserved. There’s also a great Harmony subplot that goes nowhere…)
  • The TV show’s “monster of the week” episodes did seem “small”, episodic and inconsequential, at times. But with ALL (supposedly) HUGE, cinematic, international action… you’ll miss Sunnydale and scenes with relatable, 20something, employed people, dealing with everyday stuff.
  • I didn’t HATE it. But it seemed like fanfiction at times: bombastic, shrill, overblown… and quite empty. :-(
  • With season 9, supposedly, there’ll be more everyday- and street-level-stuff. But I haven’t started yet, and what I’ve heard, the high stake craziness continues. :-(
  • tl;dr: It feels like fanfiction, and the plots would better fit a more “cosmic” and “military” show like… “Torchwood”, for example. It’s two steps removed from most of what has made the TV show relatable and fun.

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What do you think about DC’s “New 52″ relaunch? Are there good books I should read?

I’ve read 24 of the first 52 story-arcs (so… issue 1 to 6, sometimes issue 1 to 7 or 1 to 8 of 52 different, loosely connected series), and most of them were starter-friendly. http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/24662.DC_Comics_New_52_Collected_Editions_Volume_1#13227852

Here’s what I’d recommend:
“Batman”, “Swamp Thing” (and “Animal Man”), “Birds of Prey”, “Wonder Woman”, “Batwing”, “Aquaman”

“Green Lantern”, “Green Lantern Corps” and (to a lesser extent) “Green Lantern: New Guardians” are pretty good, but they’re not very newbie-friendly. “Batwoman” is great, but you should start with an earlier collection (“Elegy”). “The Flash” looks stunning, but there are some rather dull storytelling moments. And “Action Comics” is recommended if you like the weirdness and nonlinear storytelling of author Grant Morrison.

Series that disappointed me: “Justice League”, “Batgirl”, “Supergirl”, “I, Vampire” (good concept – might get better, eventually), “DC Universe Presents” (the Deadman story was okay, but the second story, “Challengers of the Unknown”, might be the dullest, most hackneyed story I’ve read all year.)

“Batman and Robin” has my favorite writer / artist team, and they’re doing an okay job… but my standards for them are pretty high, and their first storyarc was just… okay. So: This has huge potential.

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Overall, you seem unhappy with DC’s new direction…?

Yes.

DC thinks that their core audience consists of LONELY people, who don’t really enjoy seeing their heroes dealing with
*parental figures
*long-term partners
*workplace authorities and mentors that they have to answer to

The relationships that make everyday life complex are ignored or purposefully destroyed in favor of lonely, misunderstood, angry characters who have the whole world standing against them. Also, I don’t know if that means that DC thinks that their typical reader HAS things like long-term partners and steady jobs (and despises them)… or that he is too young and / or inexperienced to care about them.
tl;dr: Most New52 characters have no one to answer to – is that supposed to reflect a attractive, “secret desire” of their readers…?

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favorite graphic novels, 2012?

Wordpress Graphic Novels Best-of 2012.

further reading / interviews / recommendations:

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GERMAN: Journalismus / Comic-Artikel im Berliner Tagesspiegel:

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