Just over a decade ago, comic books were as niche as you could get. Sure, French and Belgian titles like Tintin and Asterix have high nostalgic value for European crowds but beyond children’s entertainment, only very few titles had name recognition let alone a significant readership here. Now, with the mega-success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, comics have become the leading pop culture of the present. Yet, outside of the Marvel bubble, most people have not dipped their toes into the ocean of rich art this medium has to offer.
So we are going to get you excited for some very special long-running series whose qualities reach far beyond heroic people in capes, although those are inevitably going to be a part of this series.
Before we dive into our picks, let’s go through some terminology that might sound a bit alien to comic newcomers:
- Issue refers to a single comic book, usually published on a monthly basis, similar to magazines in format and publication.
- Graphic novel can be any curated or pre-existing comic content compiled in one book. It is a rather vague term that can apply to various kinds of collections, compilations, or self-contained storylines.
- Trade Paperback (TPB) is a collected reprint of several issues, usually between 5 and 8 issues. The lines between TPBs and graphic novels tend to blur with the latter often offering exclusive content while the former is always a collection of previous publications.
- Omnibus is a larger collection, usually bound in hardcover. Omnibuses can collect over 100 single issues and usually are not published before a title has at least 25 issues published.
To get your hands on these books, we recommend seeking out one of Leipzig’s independent comic book shops. To make it easier to find the one closest to you, we put together a map of Leipzig’s independent (comic) book shops. Let us know if we missed one.
Just in time for the recent Netflix adaptation, you can catch up on this very prescient pandemic-meets-ecology tale. this series occupies an odd spot in the ecosystem of comic books. It is neither a typical limited run, which usually comprises between 4 and 12 issues nor a huge ongoing series that spans over a hundred editions. That is due to the fact that, like many great works of the medium, it is a creator-owned property. The author and artist of the books, Jeff Lemire, could decide exactly how long and in which fashion he wanted to tell this story. That just happened to be in the span of 46 issues.
The journey of the human-deer hybrid Gus and his paternal figure and protector Jepperd across a mean and hostile post-pandemic US distinguishes itself from other post-apocalyptic fares with its abundance of empathy and complex characters. The odd couple at the center of the story is comprised of two polar opposites whose shared experience brings them closer along their path. Gus was brought up sheltered by a hermit ersatz-father and completely missed the ugliness of the outside world during the pandemic. Jepperd wears the pain and loss of humanity he had to encounter on his sleeve. Hulking, brooding, hurting, he places his hopes for salvation squarely on Gus’ innocence.
While this story frame might sound very dark, the tender and unique relationship that forms between the two shines brightly throughout the run.
Combined with its prophetic storyline, a one-of-a-kind art style by the writer himself, and beautifully fleshed-out locations building on Lemire’s own knowledge of the US heartland, Sweet Tooth will be the quickest and most enjoyable read of the year for you.
The other recommendation we have to share has also recently been adapted into a television show. However, this one is being produced as a cartoon in order to fully adhere and align with the style of the comic books. Invincible by Robert Kirkman, famous for The Walking Dead, is another independent, creator-owned comic series. It takes its inspiration from the rich history of superhero stories in the US golden and silver age of comics and weaves its own modern take based on this ubiquitous mythos.
Invincible finished its long run in 2018 with its 144th issue and, therefore, it is the perfect title if you want to experience the whole saga of a unique superhero tale from start to finish.
Our hero, the eponymous Invincible, or Mark Grayson, starts off as a typical US teenager. Only, his father is the equivalent of Superman in the world of the comics. As Mark starts to gain and, therefore also grapple with the difficulties of, his powers as part superhuman, he also has to decide what kind of person he wants to be and how his powers should be used in the human world. In this quest, his father plays a pivotal role but perhaps not the one Mark had hoped for. Meanwhile, author Kirkman has the time of his life playing the myriads of possibilities that a universe of superheroes he gets to populate offers him.
Invincible is not just the coming-of-age story of a Superman pendant. It is much more the playground of a superfan who lets his imagination reach wherever he wants and create a world wherein we get all the crazy, over-the-top characters and fights we could imagine without the constraints of a pre-existing universe. Here, new Avengers-like teams of incredible characters could be wiped off the earth in an instant any time. Invincible can be brutal in that way. Similar to Kirkman’s other long-running series The Walking Dead, no character is safe from being killed off. No storyline goes on forever and he is not afraid of making bold choices if the need be.
It is also incredibly violent. Be warned that some of your favorite characters might just be killed or maimed in some of the most brutal ways imaginable.
Because to Kirkman, this is part of the journey of Invincible. As the stakes are raised for our heroes, the brutality is, too. Invincible will always have the next gut punch set up for you. In a world where violence and strength are key to survive and save humanity many times over, brutality is inevitable and often hard to stomach.