As a novice comic creator and lifelong comic reader, it's odd to me that there are so many people that don't read any comics at all. Over a few Facebook posts, I've started to do my little part to introduce an entire medium to those in my network who watch television, go to the movies, and read books. The limited character count of a wall post forced me to be brief in my review but I think that benefits a more impassioned pitch.
There's also been a recent push, including Eric Powell's video manifesto and Steve Niles' new spotlight column, to raise awareness of the diversity of material comics offer as well as the efforts and art by creators who generate the new ideas of today apart from the legacy of the Big 2 publishers. The following five examples could not be more different but they all top the list in terms of the sort of comics that engage me and inspire me to strive for this level of quality.
COMICS YOU SHOULD READ #1: SCALPED
If you like complex crime dramas like HBOs THE WIRE, you should read Vertigo's SCALPED by Jason Aaron and RM Guera. A new casino on an Indian reservation "third world nation in the heart of America" is where crime and family collide. Fed by the shared history Aaron crafts for these characters and Guera's art is an endless fount of distress and grace. THE greatest influence on my work today.
COMICS YOU SHOULD READ #2: BONE
If you like all-ages adventures like classic Disney (Mickey,Donald,Goofy) and THE LORD OF THE RINGS, you (and your kid) should read Jeff Smith's BONE. The story mixes both, casting three wayward cousins in an epic tale of exiled princesses, cynical dragons, and stupid quiche-loving Rat Creatures. Smith's cartooning is alive and forever charming. Essential comics that should be in every home, unless, you hate life.
COMICS YOU SHOULD READ #3: I KILL GIANTS
If you like coming-of-age fantasies like THE WIZARD OF OZ, you )and your kid) should read I KILL GIANTS by Joe Kelly and Ken Niumara. Barbara is smart, angry, friendless, and sees things no one else does. With art that evokes both the reality of her pain and the wonder of her apparent visions, the tale made me cry on a bus. Among the best of what comics can do in a way no other medium can.
COMICS YOU SHOULD READ #4: REID FLEMING: WORLD'S TOUGHEST MILKMAN
If you like Will Ferrell comedies then you should read REID FLEMING: WORLD'S TOUGHEST MILKMAN by Dave Boswell. A demented Canadian combo of slapstick and melodrama, follow Reid as he surmounts "grouchy managers, angry customers, hot-rodding hoodlums, and mad dogs - without once missing his favourite TV show!" I've formed lifelong friendships based on shared love of the chaos in this book.
COMICS YOU SHOULD READ #5: PREACHER
If you like the fractured Westerns of the Coen Bros. you should read PREACHER by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. Jesse Custer is an ex-preacher with a John Wayne complex setting out to kill God Himself for abandoning His responsibilities. No cardboard cowboy, he's a tough moral nut that made me want to be more of a man. The book is graphic, iconoclastic, and asks the Big Questions great novels should.