Want to try reading comics? Don’t know where to start? Want to try something different?
Wednesday is New Comics Day! Each week, The Comics Observer spotlights up to three brand new releases worthy of your consideration. All of these have been carefully selected as best bets for someone who has never read comic books, graphic novels or manga before. They each highlight the variety and creativity being produced today. These are also great for those that haven’t read comics in awhile or regular readers looking to try something new.
While we can’t guarantee you’ll like what we’ve picked, we truly believe there’s a comic for everyone. If you like the images and descriptions below, click the links to see previews and learn more about them. You can often buy straight from the publishers or creators. If not, head over to your local comic book store, check out online retailers like Things From Another World and Amazon, or download a copy at comiXology, or the comics and graphic novels sections of the Kindle Store or NOOK store. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook.
(Please note these aren’t reviews. Recommendations are based on pre-release buzz, previews, and The Comics Observer‘s patented crystal ball. Product descriptions provided by publisher.)
“MERMIN the MERMAN from MER!?” That’s the question Pete and his friends ask after finding the fish-boy washed up on the beach!
Mermin just escaped the undersea kingdom of Mer, and is ready to have some fun on dry land! But why would this aquatic kid be afraid to swim? Perhaps it has something to do with the fishy pursuers who have followed him from the depths below!
Resident Alien Volume 1: Welcome to Earth!
Written by Peter Hogan
Illustrated by Steve Parkhouse
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Genre: Science-fiction, Crime
A stranded alien seeks refuge in the small town of Patience, USA, where he hides undercover as a retired doctor. All the alien wants is to be left alone until he’s rescued. However, when the town’s real doctor dies, “Dr. Harry” is pulled into medical service—and finds himself smack dab in the middle of a murder mystery!
* From the writer of Tom Strong and the artist for Alan Moore’s The Bojeffries Saga!
“A pitch-perfect narrative from two of my favourite creators.” – Alan Moore
Follow your host Hilary Tremayne on eight surreal journeys into the unknown.
Discover the truth behind the mysteries of spontaneous human combustion, the Bermuda Triangle, the lost 13th month, and the real reason men have nipples.
Drawn by Rian Hughes and written by a Rogue’s Gallery of Britain’s finest comic writers that includes Mark Millar (Kick Ass, Wanted), Alan McKenzie (The Harrison Ford Story) and John Smith (Devin Waugh), this volume collects the complete series.
Honorable mentions for two new soft cover editions of two favorites:
A Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book
There’s lots to do before Little Mouse is ready to go visit the barn. Will he master all the intricacies of getting dressed, from snaps and buttons to Velcro and tail holes?
Eisner Award-winning cartoonist Jeff Smith and his determined Little Mouse reveal all the smallest pleasures of this daily task.
Opening a few years after the end of World War II and covering almost a quarter-century, here is comics master Osamu Tezuka’s most direct and sustained critique of Japan’s fate in the aftermath of total defeat. Unusually devoid of cartoon premises yet shot through with dark voyeuristic humor, Ayako looms as a pinnacle of Naturalist literature in Japan with few peers even in prose, the striking heroine a potent emblem of things left unseen following the war.
The year is 1949. Crushed by the Allied Powers, occupied by General MacArthur’s armies, Japan has been experiencing massive change. Agricultural reform is dissolving large estates and redistributing plots to tenant farmers—terrible news, if you’re landowners like the archconservative Tenge family. For patriarch Sakuemon, the chagrin of one of his sons coming home alive from a P.O.W. camp instead of having died for the Emperor is topped only by the revelation that another of his is consorting with “the reds.” What solace does he have but his youngest Ayako, apple of his eye, at once daughter and granddaughter?
Delving into some of the period’s true mysteries, which remain murky to this day, Tezuka’s Zolaesque tapestry delivers thrill and satisfaction in spades. Another page-turning classic from an irreplaceable artist who was as astute an admirer of the Russian masters and Nordic playwrights as of Walt Disney, Ayako is a must-read for comics connoisseurs and curious literati.
I’ve recently been struck with the reality that some people really and truly don’t know how to read comics. This is a real and true hurdle for plenty of people in accepting and even trying a comic book or graphic novel.
For people like me who feel we were born holding a copy of Amazing Spider-Man, it’s hard to believe. But this shouldn’t be dismissed as nonsense. It doesn’t mean the people having trouble reading them are stupid. In fact, I think scoffing this reason is the equivalent of calling comics simple kids stuff for dummies.
But both of these assumptions are fallacies. From my experience, usually the struggling reader is a big book reader and they’re usually quite bright. They simply haven’t had much if any experience with the language of comics.
And comics are far from simple. They are a language all their own, and just like anything else, it takes time to learn the language. There’s more going on than just looking at little cartoon drawings and reading the words. The words and images play off each other and interact with each other, and other images on the page, and the reader, in a way unlike any other medium. Just as we must learn how to read non-verbal cues in face-to-face conversations with people, there are non-word cues that readers must learn to incorporate into the entire message. The artwork is doing much more than just providing a visual representation of the words. Frequently they’re providing information not found in the text, information about how the artist interprets and feels about that the text or the world that’s been created, visual clues about how characters feel, information about environment and setting, aesthetic information that informs tone or mood, as well as stylistic choices that reflect the artist and the prism through which he sees the world. And there’s even more than that. In every panel.
That’s a lot of work. The brain can figure all or most of it out, but it can take time to adjust to receiving information in a new way.
The best way to get used to it is to read comics at a young age when we’re still extremely adaptable. One of the best publishers for first time and young readers is Toon Books. I linked to them yesterday in my Comics News Roundup, but I’m sure it’s easy to miss. I also wanted to feature this video they have on their front page. It’s narrated by Editorial Director Françoise Mouly (so prepare your ears for a French accent). She does a great summary of what they’re about and also has some great information on how comics are great for kids just learning to read.
Toon Books has their books split up into three levels: Grades K-1, Grades 1-2 and Grades 2-3. But to be honest, they’re so delightful and charming that grown-up readers will probably get a smile from reading them too. There’s a reason many of their books, like Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith, Benny and Penny by Geoffrey Hayes, and Stinky by Eleanor Davis, have received awards, made best-of lists, and gotten other praise and recognition. There’s also a teacher’s guide with lesson plans, an online literacy tool, and other free resources for the classroom.
A lot of publishers are adding material for new readers to their catalog. Top Shelf Productions has the Kids Club with the adorable Owly by Andy Runton (who has a great teaching section on his site), Johnny Boo by James Kochalka and more coming in 2011. Traditional book publishers have also opened up to this. Scholastic Books now has the Graphix imprint, which has published material for slightly older readers (Grades 5-7) like Smile and Ann M. Martin’s The Baby-Sitter’s Club series of adaptations by Raina Telgemeier. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. More to come, for sure.
But what about older people who haven’t learned how to read comics? Like I said, more to come…