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Comics for Anti-Comic People

HippieVan at 12:00AM, Feb. 20, 2015

I'm a bit of a comic book proselytizer. When people tell me they don't like comics, I usually take that as a personal challenge. (I have the same reaction when people tell me they don't like cats, but that's another story for another time.) Generally I assume that the person isn't aware of how diverse and sophisticated graphic novels have become, and that I just need to get the right ones in their hands in order to convert them.

There are a few things I tend to stay away from - anything where the characters are wearing skin-tight costumes, anything too action-heavy. The goal is to convince the person that comics books aren't just goofy superheroes. Astro City or Watchmen probably aren't the best place to start unless your target has expressed an interest, as they may dismiss them right off the bat. I like to stick to narrative comics, or ones that I know appeal to the person's specific interests. Sometimes comics that are already popular work best, because the person may have heard positive things about them.

Here are some of my favourite comics for converting my loved ones!

Hark! A Vagrant!
This comic is universally adored in the history student community, and it's also got some great gags for lovers of literature. And it's available both online and in print, which is convenient - good for casual recommendations as well as formal gifts. The Cartoon History of the Universe is also a good one for people with a more casual interest in history.

Graphic Classics, and other books in graphic novel form
As long as the graphic novel isn't butchering the person's favourite book, I find these are usually well-received. There are some really good illustrated collections of work by Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury and Kafka, just to name a few. I also have a graphic novel version of Coraline that got my little sister hooked on comics, and would be great for younger readers.

Guy Delisle's travelogues
I've had more luck with Guy Delisle's books than any others, actually. I even got my 80-year-old grandfather into graphic novels with a copy of Shenzhen. Delisle's comics are simple and humorous, and provide an outsider's glimpse into some really interesting places. And they're about as far as you can get from the classic superhero comics.

Alan Moore
V for Vendetta and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen are both a good place to start. Moore's graphic novels also transition well into full fandom once you get someone hooked, with tons of movies and merchandise available.

Will Eisner's A Contract with God
This is a collection of short stories so it can be picked up by someone without a lot of time on their hands, but it will definitely leave an impression. I'm sure I don't have to tell you all how great Will Eisner is.

Art Spiegelman's Maus probably has enough publicity at this point that whoever you're giving it to will know about it, but sometimes it just takes that extra push of getting it into the person's hands so they'll give it a go.

Do you guys do the same thing? What are your tried-and-true comics you use to convert your friends and family into comic book lovers?

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Abt_Nihil at 12:39PM, Feb. 23, 2015

If I enjoy a good thing, I want others to enjoy it too (including jazz). When I was younger, I found it absolutely inconceivable that most people are completely disinterested in some of the best things the world has to offer - including comics. Anyway, if we're dealing with a younger person, Carl Barks' or Don Rosa's Disney comics are probably a good place to start, or some frankobelgian ones like Tintin or Spirou. If they're older and a bit sophisticated, perhaps I'd give them Moebius' "The Incal". If they're just in it for the fun, perhaps "Skydoll". Some of Naoki Urasawa's books probably qualify too, such as "Monster" or "20th Century Boys". Or "Empowered" by Adam Warren, the recent Conan series from Dark Horse... the list goes on and on.

KimLuster at 5:28AM, Feb. 22, 2015

That's a perspective I've never thought of, Ironscarf... I can relate to an extent... I can think of several things that I love that'd be less 'special' if the whole world loved them...! I'm glad lots of people like superhero comics, though - I don't read them but I love the movies that are made by people that do!!

Ironscarf at 5:00PM, Feb. 21, 2015

I have to say no, I never try to convert anyone to the cause of comics. I tend to put them in the same category as jazz - you either get it or you don't. What's more, I don't want everyone to get it. It would be terrible to go to a jazz gig where you had to pay a huge amount to stand in a sweaty crowd, so far back you could only see the artists on a big screen, but what you mostly heard and saw was the people around you singing along with the sax solos and recording the whole thing on their smart phones. No, let's keep the comics for the cool kids please!

HippieVan at 10:13AM, Feb. 20, 2015

@tupapayon: Yep, that's a surprisingly common response still to comics! It seems really strange to me considering sophisticated comics have been around for a really long time - but I guess Spider Man always got more publicity/a wider audience, so that's what people associate comics with. I do think that's starting to change with some of the more publicized serious comics like Persepolis that have come out. I actually had an English prof who was researching Shakespeare as interpreted in comic books, which I thought was super cool.

HippieVan at 10:11AM, Feb. 20, 2015

I haven't read Habibi yet, KimLuster! I keep meaning to!

tupapayon at 7:14AM, Feb. 20, 2015

This is a personal experience: I was reading in the library a nice book: why I Killed Peter… a guy who knew me saw me and walked towards me. What are you reading? I showed him the book and immediately dismissed it: those are for little children… I remember looking at him, and as I was smiling I told him: I doubt this one is for children… I could see in his expression that he could not understand that there could be "picture books" for adults… some other times I describe a fantastic story I read, but when I add that it was a comic or a graphic novel, it kind of shock my friends…

KimLuster at 6:19AM, Feb. 20, 2015

I see that you have 'Blankets' by Craig Thompson in the pic! I recommend 'Habibi' by the same author. Habibi means 'My Beloved' in Arabic. Set in a sort of 'timeless' middle-eastern Kingdom (combining elements of modern technology and strange fantasy), the story is about a man and a woman, who start out as slave children, escape, grow up together, get separated, go through excruciating tribulations, and then eventually are reunited... If you have a heart at all, you'll be close to tears at times reading this. The characters are relatively simply drawn, but my how Thompson draws out the emotions with them. And some pages have intricate, painstakingly, gorgeous swirling Arabic calligraphy...! My only reservation about suggesting it to someone is it is HUGE (over 600 pages I think), but that's actually a selling point for me - it's an expensive book but you certainly get your money's worth! Go to to check it out!!

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