Best Comic Books / Graphic Novels for National Comic Book Day

Crossover indie comics
(picture comics)

Happy National Comic Day! While comic book movies and shows dominate theaters and streaming services, it’s important to note that the medium itself is even less mainstream and in need of support. I know some people mistake comics for kids or nerds, but chances are if you enjoy any type of genre fiction you will find a comic you enjoy. Many genre films and TV shows (Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gravity Falls, etc.) have continued in comic form. It is also a medium full of experimentation and independent authors/publishers.

So, without further ado, here are some of the best introductory comic book stories for those who want to see what all the fuss is about.

Superman: For the man who has everything by Alan Moore (Author) and Dave Gibbons (Artist)

Superman, Mongul, Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman in Superman for the man who has everything
About DC Comics

This is probably the seminal Superman standalone story. In an attempt to incapacitate the Man of Steel forever, Mongul imprisons Superman in a dream world where he has everything he ever wanted: Krypton is unscathed, he lives on one with his wife and son Farm, and he doesn’t need to be Superman. It’s a beautiful character study and a wonderfully bittersweet story adapted Justice League Unlimited and super girl.

Whatever happened to the Caped Crusader by Neil Gaiman (writer), Andy Kubert (pencil) and Scott Williams (ink)

Cover of Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader
About DC Comics

A Neil Gaiman classic that follows the funeral of Batman as many different characters tell their own stories of how they died, showing the many possible fates of Batman, how his loved ones and enemies view him and how the endless cycle of death and the Rebirth for the Batman is his own reward.

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Batman: Year One by Frank Miller (Author) and David Mazzucchelli (Artist)

Batman Year One cover
DC comics

For those looking to get into Batman comics specifically, Batman: Year One is an excellent starting point and shows a very green light. This is one of the series that Batman begins and The Batman (2022) drew inspiration.

Hawkeye 11 Pizza is my business by Matt Fraction (Author), David Aja (Illustrator)

Lucky the Pizza Dog in Hawkeye 11 Pizza is my business
About Marvel Comics

This follows Lucky the Pizza Dog and is told from his perspective as he meets Hawkeye. Warning: This story is about animal cruelty after Lucky the Pizza Dog was beaten by the Tracksuit Mafia for defending Hawkeye.

Red Lanterns: With blood and fury by Peter Milligan

Dex-Starr, the red Landert cat, mourns the loss of her owner
About DC Comics

Another story about a “heroic” (anti-heroic?) pet, this one is Dex-Starr the Red Lantern. Beware, this story is about animal cruelty, including the attempted drowning of a cat, but don’t worry, the cat will bite back.

Sandman: Men of Fortune by Neil Gaiman (Author)

Morpheus and Hob Gadling meet in the 1980s
About DC Comics

Another Neil Gaiman classic, The Whole Sandman is amazing, but this one-off comic deserves a highlight. Recently adapted into episode 4 of the Netflix show, Sandman: Men of Fortune follows the life of Hob Gadling, an Englishman given eternal life to answer the question of whether it is a gift or a curse.

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crossing by Donny Cates (Author) and Geoff Shaw (Illustrator) (Image Comics)

What happens when comic worlds collide in Image Comics crossovers
About Image Comics

Basically a META love letter to comics and their fans, it follows the aftermath of the clash of the “real” and “fictional” worlds and the consequences caused by fictional characters living in our world. Also highlights the fact that despite being often associated with superheroes

The Evil + The Divine by Kieron Gillen (Author) and Jamie McKelvie (Illustrator) (Image Comics)

About Image Comics

Something for the mythology fans out there, The Evil + The Divine is about the Pantheon, a group of reincarnated deities who attain fabulous fame and glorious power, but are also burdened with the knowledge that they will die within a few years of discovering their identity.

Y: The last man written by Brian K. Vaughan, illustrated by Pia Guerra and Jose Marzan Jr. (Vertigo Comics)

Yorick Brown and his monkey accidentally reveal his identity
About Vertigo Comics

Another series recently converted to live-action television by Hulu (only to be canceled too soon), Y: The last man is about Yorick Brown, the last man alive who is desperately trying to find his girlfriend. It’s an interesting twist on the often male-dominated dystopias, while also featuring many complex female characters. If you enjoyed the show and want to see how it ends, I would suggest taking a look at the comic.

fables by Bill Willingham (Author), illustrated by Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha, Craig Hamilton and James Jean (Vertigo Comics)

a bunch of fairytale characters stuffed into a subway car;  Cover for fables comic
About Vertigo Comics

For fairytale fans I would suggest fables, where fairy tale characters secretly live in New York. The big bad wolf is now the sheriff and interacts with Snow White, Prince Charming and all sorts of popular fairy tale characters.

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Suggestions from your local comic book store

Perhaps the best way is to go to your local comic book store and ask for recommendations, or just see what they have. I found out that in the current installment of the Darth Vader comics he faces Sabé, Padme Amidala’s bodyguard and bait queen The Phantom Menace.

web toons

Miss Sunshine and Mad Spade from My Sweet Archenemy
About web toons

There are a lot of interesting comics on Webtoons, both from independent authors and from big publishers. My current favorite is My sweet nemesis, about superheroine Miss Sunshine and her nemesis Mad Spade and the friendship their civilian identities build. It offers all manner of explorations of queer identity (both gender and sexuality) and discussions of asexuality, race, beauty standards, the pressures of social media and public life, told in a colourful, entertaining way that is very reminiscent of the golden age reminds comics. Think The young but done in a lighter, almost Powerpuff Girls Style.

Thanks to Sarah Lawrence Comic Book Club, Ash Avenue Comics, and PantherNow for recommendations.

(Selected Image: Image Comics)

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