50 Best Books for the Comic Book Crowd

No, this intro won't start off with anything along the lines of "POW! ZAP! Comics aren't just for kids anymore!" Mostly because, for those just now tuning in, this perception was never really true in the first place. Also because it's a stupid cliche. One needs no literature degree to conclude that comic books and graphic novels encompass just as many genres as poetry, prose, dramas and screenplays — not to mention reflecting a plethora of artistic styles. Because of this diversity, found largely outside the lamentably homogenous DC and Marvel juggernauts, fans of the misunderstood medium spread across numerous demographics. No matter the age, proficiency or professional goals of a comic book fan, there exists a guide or a book to help supplement his or her reading. Pick up a few and learn more about the process, art, literary merit, history cultural impact and other subjects relating to comics' not-so-surprisingly rich legacy.

Business and Process

  1. Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud

    The ascent of digital media undeniably left an impact on the comics business, with many professionals struggling to figure out its place. While many ideas failed, endearing author Scott McCloud offers up some possible solutions that may very well stick.

  2. Panel One edited by Nat Gertler

    Whether harboring aspirations to write for Marvel or DC or simply wanting to know more about how comics come together, this volume of scripts from the business' top writers — like Kurt Busiek and the late Dwayne McDuffie — makes for an highly informative read.

  3. How to Self-Publish Your Own Comic Book by Tony Caputo

    Some of the comic book world's most beloved works, such as Terry Moore's Strangers in Paradise, completely bypassed mainstream and independent publishers to shine. Anyone curious about the ins and outs of self-publishing would do well to pick up this guide.

  4. The Business of Comics by Lurene Haines

    Though mostly aimed at artists, the 40 interviews and instruction guides found here will greatly benefit aspirant comic professionals of all types.

  5. The Insider's Guide to Creating Comics and Graphic Novels by Andy Schmidt

    A former Marvel editor pulls from his considerable experience — and calls in a few friends — to talk about the business.

  6. Comic Wars by Dan Raviv

    Part history, part economic exploration, Dan Raviv's chronicle of how Marvel went from bankruptcy to booming reminds everyone that comics are (for better or worse) a business first, a creative venue second.

  7. Manga Pro Superstar Workshop by Colleen Doran

    One of the most beloved artists in the comics industry offers up advice on everything from writing, drawing and submitting to how the finished product comes together. And no, this book does not focus exclusively on manga.

  8. The Economics of Webcomics by Todd Allen

    Not every webcomic will prove an Axe Cop or Penny Arcade, but anyone hoping to break into or study this relatively new industry might find this guide exceptionally useful.

  9. Creating Comics from Start to Finish by Buddy Scalera

    Whether an artist, a writer or both, Buddy Scalera's informative read will walk different audiences through the process of creating and printing a comic book or graphic novel.

  10. Graphic Novels: Everything You Need to Know by Paul Gravett

    The best thing anyone hoping to break into the comic book industry can do for her- or himself is read as many of the best (and worst!) works available. Paul Gravett outlines graphic novels and comic series particularly helpful to this undertaking.

Drawing

  1. Making Comics by Scott McCloud

    This book should sit on the shelves of all hopeful comic artists, as it breaks down pretty much everything they need to know in clear, concise and thoroughly accessible lessons.

  2. How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way by Stan Lee and John Buscema

    Two of the comic industry's most legendary names team up to bring artists a comprehensive resource on what they need to know to (hopefully) succeed in the business.

  3. Vanishing Point by Jason Cheeseman-Meyer

    Without perspective, comics would universally appear flat, lifeless and utterly dull. Use this guide when learning how to add dynamism and movement to a project.

  4. Comics and Sequential Art by Will Eisner

    Will Eisner undoubtedly impacted and influenced the comic book industry for the better, making him a more than apt teacher from whom to pick up excellent art lessons.

  5. The How to Draw Manga series by The Society for the Study of Manga Technique

    Artists wanting to work in a more Japanese-inspired style will greatly appreciate this comprehensive series outlining how to draw everything from epic battle scenes to mewling little catgirls.

  6. Figure It Out! by Christopher Hart

    Christopher Hart has published many a book on drawing for comics and graphic novels, but Figure It Out!'s people drawing lessons are broad enough to appeal to artists outside the industry as well.

  7. The DC Comics Guide to Digitally Drawing Comics by Freddie E. Williams III

    By this point, a flair for digital media is a requirement for many aspirant comic book artists, so take the time to master as many ins and outs as possible.

  8. Hi-Fi Color for Comics by Brian Miller and Kristy Miller

    Whether working as a colorist or going fully DIY with a personal project, this book provides amazing advice on digital coloring.

  9. Framed Ink by Marcos Mateau-Mestre

    Although animators comprise the target audience, comic book artists can learn plenty from its frank discussions of creating compelling, sequential narratives.

  10. How to Draw Noir Comics by Shawn Martinbrough

    The noir genre greatly benefits from the heavy inks and grim imagery concocted by artists, hence why detective and private investigator comics still attract an audience today.

History and Culture

  1. Was Superman a Spy? by Brian Cronin

    Fun facts and dispelled myths about the bizarre, drama-filled history of comic books come to life in this delightful read.

  2. Stan's Soapbox Stan Lee

    This volume collects all the "Stan's Soapbox" columns written between 1967 and 1980 for the benefit of anyone wanting to delve deeply into the social, political and creative climate surrounding the comic book scene.

  3. Men of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones

    Superhero comics are by no means the only genre covered by the comics medium, but they certainly exist as one of the most prolific. Learn about the history of Superman and how his creation changed American literature forever.

  4. Kirby: King of Comics by Mark Evanier

    As the creator and co-creator of many iconic comic book stars, Jack Kirby and his stunning pen and ink work completely revolutionized the then-nascent medium.

  5. Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book by Jordan Raphael and Tom Spurgeon

    The co-creator of Spider-Man, The Incredible Hulk, The X-Men and Ant-Man (laugh for a second, then think about this) comes to even more life in this illuminating biography.

  6. The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu

    Fear-mongers such as Frederic Wertham played a direct part in stigmatizing the comics medium as a haven for deviant, violent behavior, which marked an interesting period in American history.

  7. Comic Book Nation by Bradford W. Wright

    Explore how comic books have come to impact youth culture in the United States in the early days and up until now.

  8. The Supergirls by Mike Madrid

    Even today, superheroines still don't enjoy the same amount of fair treatment and respect as their male counterparts, especially if former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada had anything to say about their narrative role. Mike Madrid explores why superheroines hold the potential to become feminist icons and gives their second-class status the attention it needs.

  9. From Girls to Grrlz by Trina Robbins

    While mainstream comics remains the near-exclusive domain of middle-aged, typically white men (yup, even in 2011), indie and/or underground outlets have allowed women to flourish and create a broad spectrum of seriously cool work.

  10. The Power of Comics by Randy Duncan and Matthew J. Smith

    One of the foremost guides to comic book and graphic novel studies, The Power of Comics dissects the medium from both cultural and artistic lenses.

Literary Criticism

  1. How to Read Superhero Comics and Why by Geoff Klock

    For fans of both Harold Bloom and Hal Jordon comes a book peering into the heady literary themes and philosophies found in the best superhero comics.

  2. Watchmen and Philosophy edited by Mark D. White

    Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' masterful comic series provides a diverse selection of literary critics and philosophers with amazing analytic opportunities. Volumes about Batman, The X-Men, Iron Man and superheroes in general exist in this series as well.

  3. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

    Readers and hopeful comics professionals alike should consult the always-appreciated Scott McCloud on how to get the most out of anything produced in the medium.

  4. This Book Contains Graphic Language by Rocco Versaci

    Pick up this book for some compelling arguments about why well-written, artistic comics and graphic novels should be held to the exact same standards and respect as traditional literature.

  5. Comics & Ideology by Ian Gordon, Matthew P. McAllister and Edward H. Sewell, Jr

    Both a work of literary and cultural criticism, Comics & Ideology proves the significance of comics and graphic novels in the canon.

  6. Seduction of the Innocent by Frederic Wertham

    The book that lunched a culture war against comics peered at various components (most famously, Batman and Robin's mentor-ward relationship) and used psychoanalytic criticism to analyze the violence and sexuality.

  7. Reading Comics by Douglas Wolk

    Douglas Wolk clearly loves the comics medium, and it shines through in his cogent arguments about how it deserves consideration by literary types.

  8. A Comics Studies Reader edited by Jeet Heer and Kent Worcester

    Soak up some essays on a wide range of different topics, typically pertaining to the role of graphic literature in culture and canon alike.

  9. The Aesthetics of Comics by David Carrier

    Anyone who enjoys waxing philosophical about comic books (and it can be done in many cases) will likely enjoy David Carrier's the connections between aesthetics, literature and thought to be found within their pages.

  10. The Language of Comics edited by Christina T. Gibbons and Robin Varnum

    Like all mediums, from poetry to prose, comics and graphic novels feature their own unique terminology and tropes readers need to know.

Must-Reads

  1. Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo

    This cyberpunk classic, chock-full of philosophy and technology, continues to influence manga and comic book writers from around the world.

  2. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

    One of the most critically-lauded comics ever printed, Watchmen uses superhero archetypes and deconstructions to comment on the Cold War and Thatcherism.

  3. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman and Various

    A rotating series of artists brings Neil Gaiman's sterling tales of mythology and mystery to vivid, oneiric life.

  4. All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quietly

    Modern audiences may see the Big Blue Boy Scout as wholly boring and perfect. Modern audiences will see the error of their ways after reading the pure joyous adventure in All-Star Superman.

  5. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

    Marjane Satrapi didn't invent the concept of a graphic memoir, but her autobiography about life in Iran during the deposition of the Shah, the subsequent installation of a militant Islamic regime and her expatriate experiences in an uncaring, often racist Europe almost singlehandedly brought the genre mainstream attention.

  6. Maus by Art Spiegelman

    The harrowing, bone-chilling depiction of Vladek Spiegelman's capture and incarceration in Auschwitz earned his son a Pulitzer Prize. Even beyond that, writer and artist Art Spiegelman used the work to explore relationships between Holocaust survivors and their children.

  7. The Spirit by Will Eisner

    Without Will Eisner, comics would still exist; there would just be fewer awesome ones. The Spirit is almost undoubtedly his masterpiece, whisking readers away on a crimefighting noir adventure.

  8. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

    One of the most celebrated cartoonists opens up about her erratic family life and coming to terms with her lesbian identity.

  9. Phoenix by Osamu Tezuka

    Japan rightfully considers Osamu Tezuka and his artistic and literary legacy a national treasure. Though Phoenix remained unfinished after the master's passing, the 12 surviving volumes stand independently of one another, but reflect the same themes of life, death, rebirth and existentialism.

  10. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra

    Following a mysterious event wiping out every organism with a Y chromosome, the last man alive and his trusty capuchin sidekick must maneuver a post-apocalyptic Earth in search of protection, answers and a lost girlfriend.

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