Today’s Read Harder task is number eight: Read a graphic novel/comic/manga if you haven’t before; or read one in a different genre than you usually read. The comics medium covers a broad array of types and topics, and obviously I can’t cover them all in this brief newsletter. So instead, I’ve pulled together a smattering across various types, genres, and nations of origin.
Within the comics medium, you can find almost any kind of story. You can pick up a Marvel or DC comic and read about familiar superheroes and their associates, or you can pick up something from a niche publisher and read about…literally anything else. Romance? Yep. Detective stories? Of course. Fantasy? Oh yeah. Science fiction? Definitely. Memoir? You got it. Comedy? Absolutely. Anything you want in a story, you can find it in a comic book.
For the most part, if you’re reading western comics, it’s easiest to find trade paperbacks in a bookstore or online, but you can also take this time to wander into a comics shop and explore what stories are currently being released in issues. Both traditional bookstores and comics shops are also great places to check out what’s happening in the manga world, and to really test your own feelings about how long a manga series you want to read. (It’s really something, seeing all nine hundred thousand issues of One Piece on the shelf.)
If you’re a digital reader, you can also check out Comixology, which is now owned by Amazon and as such is a little more streamlined with Amazon’s site. You might be able to try first issues for free, or things that are exclusively available. If you’re interested in more options, it’s definitely the place to be.
Like I said at the top, it’s hard to recommend something in every category in this brief amount of space, but here are some recommendations of comics and manga — some the first in a series, some standalone — that will draw in even the most reluctant of comics readers.
The Way of the Househusband by Kousuke Oono
If you have never picked up manga in your life, this might be the one to turn you into a manga fanatic. Told in vignettes, this series follows the escapades of a former crime boss who has become a house husband. And the only thing The Immortal Dragon loves more than a good deal at the grocer is his wife.
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings
With the new series out from FX, now is as good a time as any to explore yet another imagining of Octavia E. Butler’s horrifying, heartbreaking, incredible story of a woman lost between two time periods.
Harley Quinn The Animated Series: The Eat Bang Kill Tour Volume 1 by Tee Franklin et al
And then when you’re done with that, because you’re going to need a heckuva pick up, read this giant ball of cotton candy masquerading as a book about villains. Sure, it’s good to know what’s going on in Harley Quinn: The Animated Series, but it’s almost more fun to have absolutely no idea what’s going on beyond the pages of the book.
This Place: 150 Years Retold by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm
This collection of comics highlights the history of what is now called Canada, but in stories that invoke magic and science fiction. All of the creators are Indigenous.
I Married My Best Friend to Shut My Parents Up by Naoko Kodama
This is very much what it says on the tin! An adorable, single-volume story about two women who already live together and just…go ahead and get married. It’s sweet and fun, and also there might be a little bit of nudity.
In Love and Pajamas by Catana Chetwynd
Chetwynd has published a few volumes collecting her one- and two-page comics, but this one is probably my favorite. Usually in three or four black and white panels, she highlights an element of her life in funny or poignant ways.
Patience & Esther by SM Searle
How often do we get to read comics about lesbian Edwardian maids? (Well, technically, I think Esther is an assistant housekeeper or some such.) This sweet story follows two domestic workers through the evolution of the industrial period and their own understanding of themselves, each other, and the world. I’ll give another heads up for nudity in this one.
La Voz de M.A.Y.O.: Tata Rambo by Henry Barajas
In this slim volume, Barajas writes himself into the comic highlighting the story of his great-grandfather, who spearheaded the development of an Arizona Indigenous organization and helped pave the way for federal recognition of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe.
Everything is OK by Debbie Tung
Debbie Tung is a graphic memoirist who knows exactly how to punch you in the chest with her art, and Everything is OK is yet another example of this. Detailing her own experiences with depression and anxiety, Tung pulls the reader in with her simple art style and emotional journey.
SLAM! By Pamela Ribon
I didn’t think a graphic novel about roller derby would make me cry, but leave it to Pamela Ribon (whose graphic novel My Boyfriend is a Bear ALSO made me cry). But the thing is this story is more than about roller derby; it’s about friendship and platonic love and finding joy in something. I bet you’ll cry, too.
America Volume 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez by Gabby Rivera
You’ll notice there aren’t many superhero comics on here, and that’s in part because there are just so many, and you can always pick one up and see what you think. But since I included a DC Comics one, I thought I should at least offer one Marvel recommendation. America Chavez had a small role in the most recent Dr. Strange movie, but hopefully we’ll be seeing more of her in the future.
Goldie Vance Vol 1 by Hope Larson et al
Finally, if you’re interested in solving a mystery or two, Goldie Vance is your girl. She lives in a hotel in the 1950s, and gets into all kinds of trouble.
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