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Ever had a friend with no comic experience ask you for suggestions for books to read to get their foot into the genre? This is generally a very lofty thing to tackle since everyone’s taste in media is so vastly different, so it might seem hard to find a starting point. In general I have found that most non-comic people need something other than superheroes to get them through the door into the vast comic world. Even if you are not reading, you probably know that comics (for the most part) equals superheroes. A lot of people seem to have this stigma about superheroes being too childish, and not for adults. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth for today comics are more so, now than ever, marketed mostly to adults. This is a hard stereotype to get past, so that’s why (in my experience) it’s better to get someone to read non-capes and tights stuff first and then move them onto superheroes afterward.

All three of the books on my list are non-superhero books that I have read multiple times; they are also self-contained, stand-alone stories. Please be aware that these are suggestions for adults, not kids; these books deal with adult themes that would miss the mark on younger eyes. Also, I am well aware there are other books out there that should/could be on this list and I encourage you to seek them out. I would love to hear what you find. Perhaps this list will expand to five or even ten books someday, but until then we will start with three. Now, on with the list! *Note: All book information was taken from


  • The Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire (w/a)
    Published by Top Shelf Comics, 2012
    Size: 6.5 x 10 inches
    Pages: 224
    Description (From Booklist):
    Though his and Susan’s first baby is due within the month, Jack Joseph opts for another two weeks away at his welding job on the oil rig offshore from his Nova Scotia hometown. He feels compelled to be “down there”—his salvager father’s term for being in deep water—especially now, on Halloween, the day his dad disappeared more than 20 years earlier. On the first dive of his shift, however, Jack sees something and loses consciousness. After being hauled out and dry-docked, he insists on going back, surreptitiously. This time, he gets unstuck in time before, during, and, most portentously, after the dive. In an introductory note, TV producer Damon Lindelof (LOST) enthuses that The Underwater Welder is like a terrific Twilight Zone episode, but that’s just the half of it. Lemire combines his characteristic sketchy line work, deftly deployed small areas of pure black, plenty of moody watercolor shading (particularly when underwater), and a predominance of wider-than-high panels to realize a visually stunning analogue of the subtle, old-fashioned, black-and-white-movie creep show. —Ray Olson


  • Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan (w) and Niko Henrichson (a)
    Published by Vertigo Comics, 2008
    Size: 6.5 x 10 inches
    Pages: 136
    Description (From School Library Journal):
    A heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live in a war zone. Inspired by true events, this story tells of four lions that escape from the Baghdad Zoo during a bombing raid in 2003 and encounter other animals that offer unique perspectives, such as a tortoise that survived World War I. They begin to question the nature of freedom. Can it be achieved without being earned? What is its price? What do the lions owe the zookeepers who took care of them at the cost of keeping them in captivity? Where should they go? What should they eat? The four lions soon realize that a desert city is nothing like the grassy savannas of their memories. Their experiences mirror those of the Iraqi citizens displaced by the conflict. The book succeeds as a graphic novel and as an account of the current crisis. Henrichon’s full palette emphasizes browns and grays that evoke the sands of the country, while his long brushstrokes and careful attention to detail reflect the precise and minimalist dialogue that Vaughan uses. An allegorical tale with compelling and believable characters, Baghdad makes it clear that without self-determination, there can be no freedom. —Erin Dennington


  • I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly (w) and J.M. Ken Nimura (a)
    Published by Image Comics, 2009
    Size: 6.5 x 10 inches
    Pages: 184
    Description (From Booklist):
    Barbara Thorson, bullied and friendless, will not back down. She is smart, angry, won’t follow the rules, won’t let anyone close, and sees things no one else does. In short, she is a very disturbed girl, and the power of I Kill Giants is its ability to convey the reality of a frightened little girl’s pain along with the wonder of her apparent fantasies. Kelly’s portrayal of the material is nothing short of literary, echoing the similarly combined elements in Roald Dahl’s Mathilda (1988), just as the giants that Barbara describes to her tentative new friend Sophia recall Quentin Blake’s illustrations in The BFG (1982). Nimura’s line work also retains the jittery quality of the British illustrator’s style, creating a world of sharp tension. As Barbara begins to let people in, her insistence that the giants are coming threatens these intensely longed-for relationships. Whether or not they exist, the metaphor of giants to symbolize the vast terrors of a person’s inner life has never been better realized. Along with Storm in the Barn (the 2009 Booklist Top of the List winner for Youth Fiction), this is graphic storytelling at its zenith: employing fantasy to offer profound insight and take readers on a deeply emotional journey. —Jesse Karp

I don’t want to go in depth about my impressions of these books because all three of them are better left to each reader’s own interpretation. You can easily buy all three of them from online retailers like or in most comic shops; because these books and their creators are well-known in the comic scene, they shouldn’t be too hard to track down. Last, but not least, these writers also excel with their creator-owned material, and you’re in luck, because these are all creator-owned books. So, if you know someone looking to get into comics, or if you are looking for yourself please check out one of these books. You won’t regret it. I promise.

Happy reading.

About The Author Former Contributor

Former Contributor

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