10 Must Read Comics for People Who Don’t Read Comics

University English Professor are sometimes seen as gatekeepers for what is literary and worth reading, so people are often surprised when I mention my affinity for reading and teaching comics. In fact, many of my colleagues still dismiss comics as being childish and “too commercial.”

Conversely, I think there are many things going on in contemporary comics that they’d be surprised by. In fact, we’re entering  a new golden age of graphic story telling that’s layered, complex, significant, and every bit as worthy of discussion as many novels. But where to begin when recommending contemporary comics to the uninitiated?

There are always the usual suspects that have been given the literary and critical stamps of approval. Books like Maus, Persepolis, American Born Chinese, Fun Home, The Watchmen, and The Dark Knight Returns. These are books that I love to recommend and teach. However, for the purpose of this list, I want to focus on contemporary, main stream comics—the sort of pulp fiction comic books that are exactly what some of my colleagues fear. And that, upon closure inspection, are more complex, nuanced, engaging and culturally relevant than they might expect.

So here’s the list, ten contemporary comics that are doing some fairly amazing things for people who don’t read comics:

51uVCsd4UXL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_10) Y the Last Man—What happens when all the males on the planet suddenly die? This was my entrance back into contemporary comics, and an engaging social commentary.

51JltAaVmfL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_9) The Unwritten—A meta-textual exploration of writing, characters, with Harry Potter in an alternate universe.

518UR29Lr2L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_8) Morning Glories—The Lost of the comic book world. This series is full of twists, turns, and mythological layers.

41JDT-0QyyL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_7) Air—An engaging and surprising look at terrorism, politics, love, fantasy and mystery in our modern society.



6) Think Tank—Real Genius gone rogue in our increasingly technologically horrifying military-industrial complex.

51nEBlsSokL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_5) Pride of Bagdad—A look at the Iraq war through the eyes of escaped zoo animals. This seemingly simple tale, brilliantly crafted, becomes a powerful allegory for much larger struggles.

41KvdNVQUTL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_4) Wicked + Divine—Pop stars and gods are the same thing, right? The Wicked + Divine brings pop culture and the distant past together in an ingenious way.

41XiV2QNhxL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_3) Sex Criminals—Definitely for “adult” readers, this series is hilarious and brilliantly written. It’s also an engaging look at love and sex, as well as a commentary on super hero narratives with orgasms that stop time.

515jeiadAzL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_2) Saga—Also not for younger readers. Brian Vaughan referred to Saga in an interview as “Star Wars for perverts.” But I think that undersells one of the most popular series out today, with amazing, incredible, gorgeous art. It’s a Space Opera with a powerful emotional core focused on the struggles of parenting, and it gives a refreshingly complex look at relationships. If only movies were this good. Note: This is the third Brian Vaughan title up here (he also did Y the Last Man, and Pride of Bagdad, and in Saga he’s taking his skills to a new level).

517MlmZ7z2L._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_1) Sandman (new and old)—Sandman is where it all began for me: the art, the layouts, the complex, interwoven, mythic story lines. Neil Gaiman has written some incredible novels (The Ocean at the End of the Lane is one of my recent favorites), but Sandman is where Gaiman came into his own. And the new colors in the new version are brilliant.

That’s my list for now. Please note: many of these are very “adult” comics. I’m going to make another list of comics to use in the classroom. Stay tuned for updates.

And if you want to read a FREE COMIC, here you goBroken Saviors Issues 1 & 2

What about you? What am I missing here, and what makes your list?


  1. […] in for a treat. Right now, the comic book/graphic text world is exploding with possibilities (here’s a list of some traditional trade paperback comics that go way beyond the typical heroe…). Or you could just start here: Broken Saviors Issues 1 & […]

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