Having worked in a comic store for more years than I care to consider, I’ve heard the question hundreds of times: What’s a good book to start getting into comics?  Often times, I find that the answer has a lot to do with the person asking, but I’m usually pretty confident pointing out Neil Gaiman’s ‘Sandman’, or for superhero enthusiasts, a little of Kurt Busiek’s ‘Astro City.’  But today, after new store employee Alex and I got to discussing comic books she enjoys, I actually got to go to the book that I like to recommend to the appropriate weirdos: Steve Gerber’s original run on ‘Howard The Duck’ from Marvel.  It’s a comic that I thoroughly enjoyed, and one that no one will ever give a chance thanks to the execrable George Lucas movie, but a book that deserves a few more fans aware of its 70s-style goodness, which leads to today’s referentially-minded query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) actually has multiple levels of ‘Check This Out’, based on age, gender, experience with comics and hair color specifications, asking: What’s the first thing you would offer if asked to recommend a gateway into your favorite pop culture?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. When it comes to superhero comics I would recommend Grant Morrisons run on JLA. It brings everything you need to know aber the DC-Characters and explains the overall rules to the DCU pretty well. I might not like the art by Howard Porter a lot, but I love Morrison’s and Waid’s wrinting in this issues.

  2. For comics it depends, if the person likes Westerns, Jonah Hex: No Way Back. Something more urban fantasy either Fables. Horror: Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, Hellblazer Dangerous Habits, or Hellboy. Superheroes: All-Star Superman (warning them of Quitely’s art) or the Giffen Demattis League.

  3. Hannah Jones on

    I find that Chew(for certain people) or Hellboy usually do the trick. Fables is good too as well as Lone Wolf and Cub.

    And of course I have a metric buttload of web-comics too. The first on the list is always Manly Guys Doing Manly Things at thepunchlineismachismo.com It’s great humor for fans of nerd-dom across the board. At this point I’m to in love with Minor Acts of Heroism to not recommend it to everybody and Lackadaisy is in the same boat.

    As far as video games? Portal, every time. I really enjoyed Brutal Legend as well, and of course Minecraft. All good ways to get into gaming.

  4. Since most people IRL know I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, I get asked quite often where is a good place to start reading the novels. For the most part, I usually suggest Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising and The Last Command). With some people, though, I suggest single novel stories to get their feet wet, such as “Shadows of the Empire” (since it was created to fill the gap between ESB and RotJ and would be a familiar setting), “Outbound Flight” (another Zahn novel, not quite a prequel to the Thrawn trilogy but it does reveal the history of some things from it, including a younger Thrawn) or “Yoda: Dark Rendezvous” (because Yoda is awesome).

  5. The book I most commonly find myself recommending to people is Runaways. In addition to being one of my favorite series, it gets you in the Marvel universe without requiring any prior Marvel based knowledge. I’ve found it to be one of the best “gateway drugs” for comics in general and Marvel in particular.

  6. Asterois Polyp is my go-to recommendation for non superhero stuff. It is as close as I have ever seen to a perfect portrayal of sequential art. From the layouts, to the colours, and even the lettering, every detail works together to tell an amazing story. I wish beyond wish that you guys would cover it sometime on the podcast. It is sublime.

  7. Oldcomicfan on

    First off, this is a bit like asking “If you want to introduce somebody to sand, which beach will you take them to?” There’s so much out there, it really depends of the person and their particular tastes. And, it really doesn’t really matter as much as it used to – since DC and Marvel keep “resetting” their universes, the fact that there are 50-70 years worth of backstory is no longer a barrier to jumping on board. They’ve unmarried Mary Jane and Peter – disentangled Lois Lane and Superman, and done away with more Robins that a hungry cat perched under a bird feeder.

    What’s more of an issue, in my opinion, than the long backstory of Marvel and DC’s flagship titles is how many series there are. At last count, there were at least 5 Avengers series, and back in the 80s there were nearly a dozen X-men titles being excreted every month, and not too long ago there were between six and eight Batman books being vomited up every month. The fact that one story was often scattered between various series made it difficult to follow and was the greatest barrier to entry. Marvel was particularly guilty of this, even as far back in the 70s, with the penultimate events leading up to the climax of an Amazing SpiderMan story being inserted into a FF story or an Inedible Hulk story, and the climax appearing in a completely different book altogether, which was why I eventually quit buying Marvel books. Well, that, and the Peter Parker Clone Saga.

    However, if somebody wants to good comic story, I suggest “Starstruck” or “Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind”, and if they want good comic art, anything by Marshall Rogers, or if they want humor, “Groo the Wanderer”. If they want something quirky, there’s “Lenore” and “Courtney Crumrin”. If they want something mature, anything drawn by Howard Chaykin, or if they want the best art around bar none, anything drawn by Kaluta. If they want Superheroes I tend to recommend “God Loves, Man Kills” and “The Death of Captain Marvel”. For All Ages, I recommend the Marvel OZ series.

    You’ll notice that most of my recommendations are 10-20 years old. That’s partially because the comics coming out of the Second Golden Age (the Uprise of the Indie Comics) of the early 80s were far superior in story, if not in art, than today’s comics. And also the fact that the nearest comic book store in 150 trip away, so I’m no longer able to keep abreast of the latest development, and only buy exceptional comics via Amazon when I become aware of them.

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