I’m being a bit lazy this week in just doing a brief list, but I thought while I’m at it I’ll try and be helpful too. Everyone has someone in their family who’s interested in comics. You know, that guy (or gal) who asks you all the questions about the backstory to every superhero movie without ever bothering to go and read the backstory and save you the trouble of explaining who Thomas and Martha Wayne were over and over again. Don’t get mad. Comic books can be intimidating. We’re talking about eight decades or so of material here, after all, and every year more gets produced. It’s a lot to take in. So, if you’ve got a comics newbie in your life and you want to find the perfect gift, I’m here to lend a hand.
Here are 10 recommendations for you, comics that can safely be put into the hands of someone who’s never picked up a comic book before that they’ll hopefully enjoy. These are not the only choices by any means, nor are they all appropriate for any age, but hopefully they’ll be food for thought, and maybe some of them will even make it under your Christmas tree.
They’re in no particular order, and I’m only providing brief descriptions because Christmas festivities began a week early for me and I’m a bit tied up. Still, if you need more information, you can always consult Almighty Google for guidance. Happy reading.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Watchmen is perhaps the most-read comic of all-time. It’s got tremendous crossover appeal, loads of complexity that makes it highly re-readable and some of the best storytelling you’ll ever find in the medium. It’s legendary for a reason, and in the 25 years since it was released it’s become the first comic book for a lot of people.
Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Awesome though it may be, forget about The Dark Knight Returns for a second. Batman: Year One is the best Batman story Frank Miller ever told, and maybe the best Batman story of all time. It’s also an origin story, so it works perfectly for beginners.
Marvel Masterworks: The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 1 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
Stan Lee forever changed comics with his 1960s superheroes at Marvel, and Spider-Man has become the company’s flagship character after years of immense popular appeal. This volume collects the very earliest of the stories that launched Spidey into superstardom, and it’s a great primer for the Marvel way of doing things.
The Best of Simon and Kirby by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby
The late Jack Kirby and the recently late Joe Simon had one of the most powerful and important collaborations in the history of comics. It produced Captain America, the Boy Commandos and a number of other important titles. Authorized by Kirby’s estate and hand-picked by Simon himself, this outstanding collection proves why.
Superman Chronicles Volume 1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
No collection of beginner comics would be complete without Superman, and this collection is the place to start. Collecting the very earliest of Superman’s adventures by his original creators, this compiles in one volume the stories that launched the age of the superhero.
Fables: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham and Lan Medina
You will be hard-pressed to find any modern comics series better than Bill Willingham’s wonderful Fables, and this is the arc that starts the epic story of fairy tale characters alive and well and living in New York.
The Invincible Iron Man: The Five Nightmares by Matt Fraction and Salvado Larroca
Matt Fraction might be the best scripter Marvel has at the moment (that’s just me) and his Invincible Iron Man is Eisner-winning for a reason. Tony Stark’s world is given bold new life throughout, Fraction’s wit and storytelling flair never let, and Larroca’s art is…well, just killer.
Planetary: All Over the World and Other Stories by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
You guys know me. You know I wasn’t about to let this list go by without putting a Warren Ellis story in here someplace. The popular choice for a beginner Warren Ellis comic is Transmetropolitan, of course, but if you’ve got someone on the fence who may or may not be ready for major story commitment like that, you could go with Planetary. It’s still my favorite Ellis series, and it will change the way you look at superheroes.
The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg
Yeah, I just got done saying you shouldn’t start someone off with a long series if they’ll end up not liking it, but this is Sandman we’re talking about. So there.
Civil War by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
This one I might take some shit for, but I’ll just have to deal with that. There is a caveat here, though. If you have a reader who’s interested in major stories by the world’s biggest comics publisher, or how the Marvel universe came to be the way it is now, start them with Civil War. It’s big, it’s bold, and it’s Mark Millar. It might not be high art, but it’s a big moment in modern comics, so why not?