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Happy National Comic Day!

That’s right, fans of sequential art in all its forms! And in celebration, here is a post I wrote about five comics that writers should read. Enjoy!

Comics. I love comics. They really were what made childhood awesome. My dad and I would go to the comic shop every week and buy stacks and stacks of comics, and as a result, I’ve never stopped loving them.

You don’t have to write comics, but there is a lot you can learn as a writer from them: characterization through dialogue, the importance of a strong image, the power of silence. Don’t ever tell me comics aren’t literature. They can be as powerful as a novel – memorable, emotional, character-driven. So what if it has pictures?

So! This week we have 5 comics for writers. I’ve tried to avoid long-running series – it wouldn’t be fair to go, “Read Batman” would it? – but there may be one or two that was technically serialized or came in multiple parts. Whatever.

1. Blankets by Craig Thompson

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I started college with this graphic novel. It was the largest book I had ever owned, and it still dwarfs most of my collection (along with Thompson’s most recent work, Habibi, which is also worth reading). It is a beautiful story about growing up, falling in love, having it fall apart, and then putting your life together again. It’s Catcher in the Rye, Garden State and all those other teens-and-early-twenties-trying-to-make-sense-of-the-world movies and books altogether with beautiful dreamlike inkwork.

2. Watchmen by Alan Moore

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At the basest look, Watchmen is a story about super heroes. And that alone makes it awesome. But when you start taking apart the characters, looking at them as they peel apart throughout the story, you realize that it’s a story about human beings. Each person in this book represents all the things a hero can be, and what a hero can become for a world that may or may not deserve him.

Speaking of heroes…

3. The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

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This comic does pretty much the opposite of what Watchmen did. What we have here is a decoded, dissected look at a villain (a villain who plays the part of the narrator, at that). And then, as we think we know what is sanity and insanity, what is good and evil, the reader questions just how different the protagonist and antagonist are.

4. Maus by Art Spiegelman

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This was the first “non-super-hero, not-for-kids comic” I ever read. It is a metafictional plot in which a father recounts his experiences as a Jew during World War II to his son (who is a comic artist). With all races being represented by animals – Germans are cats, Jews are mice, etc. – it is left up to Spiegelman’s amazing storytelling to make each creature unique enough in voice and features that they can be told apart.

5. Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley

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I love Scott Pilgrim. I love this entire series so hard. When it was first pointed out to me at a local comic shop in Richmond, I had my doubts. But what started as this fantastical, video-game-esque surreal world became…well, it all became suddenly very real. Suddenly, you were seeing your own relationships, your own friendships, your own misconceptions of events.* It suddenly became this weird headtrip that put together every love you’ve ever had. It’s a lot of fun, and then it punches you in your heart-face.

*not in the movie. I liked the movie alright, but just…nope, everything was exactly as it seemed in the movie. Fuck.

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51 thoughts on “Happy National Comic Day!”

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