If you think about it, comics aren’t much of a departure from the earliest forms of writing—they use pictures to relay information. Obviously with the evolution of language we now have tools like dialogue and narration to further develop the ideas being presented, but at their core, comics stem from an ancient and deep-rooted need to communicate our thoughts about the world around us1. Basically, the format has proven its endurance and evolved appropriately over time, which is why we are still able to enjoy it today.
The immutability of the format and the fact that it lends itself to so many styles and genres is, to me, the greatest part about comics in general. If you prefer, it’s the “infinite variety”—the sheer quantity of different comics available. Superheroes and true stories and high fantasy epics and biographical works and science fiction and adaptations of films and television shows, the list goes on forever. Of course I have some favorite genres, and I’ll tell you about them, but it’s just as exciting to find something completely new and different. I actually keep a ‘To Read’ list of new releases and even older books I find out about via the Internet or word-of-mouth or randomly seeing them in the stacks at comic shops. While there might be some consistency to the types of books I’m drawn to, every so often I’ll encounter something that’s a complete departure from my norm, and that’s extra exciting.
When I first got into comics it was via Gail Simone’s run on Birds of Prey for DC, in which Zinda Blake (Lady Blackhawk) quickly became my favorite character. I went searching for more on Zinda which led me to the old Blackhawk comics, and then from Blackhawk, I was sent down the rabbit hole of war comics, and history comics in general. My personal era of interest is the Cold War, but since the outcomes of World Wars I and II so heavily influenced the course of the Cold War, comics and graphic novels set in or stemming from those conflicts are also intensely interesting to me. I’m not married to verisimilitude insofar as war comics are concerned—factual is great, but so is historical fiction.
I’m also a big fan of spy thrillers (especially if they’re Cold War-esque,) and anything that comes under the category of ‘zany madcap’, and it’s even more fun when a book is a mish-mash of any of those things. I discovered a book the other week that has a spy in it who works for Britain’s MI-6, who also happens to be a seal. The animal, not the elite US Navy team. A seal who is a spy. A seal. Because why not? I recently discovered that there is a Noir comic in which all the characters are anthropomorphized animals—that went straight on the list. I adore I Hate Fairyland, Rat Queens, and Albert Einstein: Time Mason, all of which are quirky but still full of heart. I’m looking forward to the DC/Looney Tunes crossovers I have sitting on my ‘To Read’ pile.
Monstress is a beautifully crafted fantasy adventure, and I can’t get enough of it.
I also appreciate self-referential work and satire, so books like Brad Guigar’s Tales From The Con, John Kovalic’s Dork Tower, and Gail Simone’s You’ll All Be Sorry! are favorites.
Variety is, without a doubt, what keeps me reading comics. There is always something new to try. Sometimes I’ll pick up a book because it’s been recommended or I’ve seen a blurb on it, and sometimes I’ll just grab something on a whim because it’s got an interesting cover. As with anything in life, finding comics you like can be hit-and-miss, but for every book that ‘strikes out’, there are twelve more that come along with the potential to be perfect for you, and finding them is a fantastic reward for perseverance.
1*So look that up in your Funk & Wagnalls, “comics aren’t real books” people! If it hadn’t been for people drawing on cave walls we never would have arrived at the written word and you wouldn’t have anything to be snooty about. So there.