by Fallon Bleich, Senior Assistant , INALJ Arkansas
How to Build a Fantastic Comic Book Collection
I’ve been reading a ton of comic books and graphic novels lately, the majority of which have come from my library. We’ve also recently done programming for Free Comic Book Day, as well as increased our comic collection quite a bit. And while I know money is tight for most libraries, there is something to graphic novels that draws in a new patronage. These people might not read anything else, or they could be like me and read a ton and love graphic novels too, or they could be somewhere in the middle. Regardless, with the advent of Marvel becoming a movie powerhouse and the quality of comics that publishers are putting out, now is the perfect time to be adding to your graphic novel selection.
You’re going to need superhero comics; this is just a given. As mentioned before, Marvel has really pushed out some amazing films (seriously, if you haven’t seen Guardians of the Galaxy, go now) in the past few years. And besides them, there are also the Batman, Spiderman, and X-Men films to also recognize. To start building your collection, I would definitely start with the graphic novels that inspired the movies:
–Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller: Inspired the first Christian Bale as Batman films, but it is also well known as the graphic novel that turned Batman around. It’s dark and gritty and by the man who also wrote the Sin City novels. Actually, I could probably build a whole collection around just Frank Miller novels, since he’s so prolific in his writing, but if you’re going to buy any of them, this is where I would start.
–X-Men: Days of Future Past by Chris Claremont & John Byrne: The original story is actually only a couple of issues long, and I wouldn’t normally say get an entire volume such as this for that, I really like how this one is organized. Kitty Pryde’s character is fully developed in this volume and it gives a little bit more back story to the movie. I loved the movie, don’t get me wrong, but I think reading this volume really helps the movie out.
–The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, Ron Lim, George Perez: Trust me, you’ll want this one. This is where the current Marvel phase is heading and your patrons will want to check this out. I won’t spoil for anybody, but if you don’t mind being somewhat spoiled (Marvel always modifies a little), then pick this up and read away!
-Any of the New 52 : A few years back, DC decided to overhaul their characters and started fresh. It was basically awesome for any newbies to the comic book world, because you didn’t have to worry about coming in on a weird story arc that you had to go hunt down past issues. This book collects all of the debut issues and might help you figure out which ones you want to invest more money into. They’re all pretty amazing, but I highly suggest both Wonder Woman and Batwoman to add to your collection. Wonder Woman, because it has some great art and Batwoman because she’s an openly gay crime fighter.
–Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson: First Muslim superhero, great art, fun back story and awesomely snarky teenage protagonist, what more could you ask for? The new Ms. Marvel storyline has been amazing so far and the first volume will be put out in October, so it’s a perfect time to add it to your collection!
–Watchmen by Alan Moore: Watchmen is one of my favorite novels of all time. The story is fantastic and the movie actually followed it pretty closely. Alan Moore is another one of those that I could build an entire collection around, because his works are amazing. He’s also won awards for this one and per Goodreads, it’s considered a “gateway title”.
The More Advanced (aka Yay! We got more money!)
Now we’re going to start digging into the more graphic novel part of the name. These are all great works that aren’t necessarily superhero based but still great additions to any comic collection.
–Fables by Bill Willingham: This is what Once Upon A Time should have been. Don’t get me wrong, I do like that show for its campiness, but Fables is far superior and has so many fantastic storylines. Basically all the fabled lands of the legends and fairy tales have been overtaken by the Adversary and the characters are forced to flee to our realm and live out their lives here. It’s a great addition for patrons who aren’t necessarily into the superhero comics.
–The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman: You knew this one would end up somewhere on the list and for good reason. It’s really good. And honestly, much better than the show! I think what Robert Kirkman has done with the show has been great, but the comics, like most things, will always hold a special place in my heart.
–Saga by Brian K. Vaughan: I love this series so hard. I may even lurve it. Saga is beautifully written, drawn, and just thought out. It’s a giant epic about two soldiers from opposite sides of a war who fall in love, have a baby, and do everything they can to protect her. There are also side stories about the people who are chasing after them, as well as the royalty in charge. You won’t regret this choice, I promise.
–Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi: I always recommend this one to younger people trying to make that transition to more adult work. This is Satrapi’s memoir of her life in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. There is also a movie where they animated the strips, but it wasn’t necessary. I love Satrapi’s black and white style and it’s an easy read.
–Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh: This one will seem like a weird choice, until you actually read it. Brosh is hilariously funny and poignant all at the same time, plus her description of depression is spot on. While it may not be the typical “graphic novel”, it is important in that it shows that you don’t necessarily have to use a comic book format to be a graphic novel. Plus, it will appeal to your 20-somethings in your library.
–Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Tony Cliff: Ok, so this one might actually be more teen oriented, but I don’t care. It’s so much fun! Delilah Dirk is the perfect amount of snarky, bad-ass female fighter, and lovable ne’er-do-well. You can’t help but love her and I think both adults and teens will love this book. It’s beautifully drawn and very well written.
The Ultimate Book Buyer
How’d you get so lucky!? You have unlimited funds to buy awesome new graphic novels and comics? Go nuts, but make sure you know your patrons. We’ve got a ton of people who show up for our Doctor Who events, so we buy some of those comics. We also have a huge amount on Free Comic Book Day, so we know that superhero basics are also key. The Walking Dead compendiums? Never on the shelf for very long, nor is the manga or the Scott Pilgrim volumes. I could go on and on and make a list here too, but there isn’t enough time or space to tell you all of my favorites. As always, feel free to hit me up in the comments below or on twitter for more suggestions, and definitely tell me yours, as I always love new reads!