It's that time of year, again– the first weekend in May, which happens to be when Free Comic Book Day occurs. And as FCBD gets bigger each year, we've decided to help out all the newcomers by making ten suggestions of titles to pick up with– more importantly– suggestions of where to go next, because as fun as it is to get all that free stuff, it's even more fun to add to your library, find some new favorites and help your local comic book store in the process.
2000 A.D. FCBD 2013 Special
Why We Recommend It: 2000 A.D. isn’t just one of the longest running comics anthologies, it’s one of the best, still going strong after nearly four decades of existence. 2000 A.D. typically has fantastic FCBD issues that serve as great samplers of what the magazine does and why it matters and this year’s crop looks excellent, with a story about some Dredd impersonators trying to hack it in Meg City One, as well as some classic Indigo Prime and Dr & Quinch stories to show off the lighter side of the mag. If you’re into sci-fi along the lines of Dark Star, Heavy Metal and the Aliens franchise, or want to see the roots of comic legends like Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Brian Bolland and Garth Ennis, then you need to pick this up.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: If you want some hard sci-fi with brilliant ideas that still has humor, then 2000 A.D. has a full library of stories for you, most of which are priced well and are easy to get into. Nikolai Dante is a great starting point in particular, because it’s less dire than some of the other 2000 A.D. stories, focusing on a kind of sci-fi swashbuckling anti-hero and features excellent writing from Robbie Morrison and gorgeous art from the likes of Chris Weston, Simon Fraser and Charlie Adlard. But you also can’t go wrong with the Dredd collections that are available, since the character is 2000 A.D.’s best known for a reason. Here’s a primer our own Zack Davisson did on the character if you want to find out where to start with him. And as an extra bonus, Rob Williams of 2000 A.D. actually put together a primer of his own with his recommendations for five titles that you can pick up to start your 2000 A.D. explorations.
– Nick Hanover
(Action Lab Comics)
Why We Recommend It: Jamal Igle, whom we all know and love from his run on Supergirl as well as many other comics on pretty much every publisher you could think of, Kickstarted a graphic novel series last year for his new original character, Molly Danger. Molly is a 10-year-old girl who ends up becoming the strongest and most powerful tween on the planet. While we have yet to see much from Molly Danger outside of a Kickstarter intro, Jamal Igle’s past work with strong, empowered female characters speaks for itself and leaves us wanting to see more from Igle’s wheelhouse. As for Jeremy Whitley’s Princeless, if you have yet to pick up an issue from this series, you certainly need to rectify that incontrovertible error. Princeless is not only one of the best series out there to give to kids, it may very well be one of the best titles out there. It has action, adventure, swords, dragons and the strongest of female characters I’ve seen in a comic in quite a long time. Heck, it’s won Eisners!
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: Beside picking up more Princeless, I’d recommend taking a look at both Wonder Woman and Supergirl over on DC. If you like superheroes, at least. There is also the Buffy the Vampire: Season 9 run on Dark Horse. The Finder collection by Carla Speed McNeil over on Dark Horse would definitely be something to look at.
– Nick Boisson
Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man Flipbook
Why We Recommend It: As a huge video game nerd, I cannot help but recommend a comic based on my two favorite video game characters, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man! This issue acts as a prelude to the upcoming storyline for the two series called “Worlds Collide”, wherein Sonic and Mega Man meet. Yes, that’s right: SEGA’s fastest thing alive crosses paths with Capcom’s blue bomber! Ian Flynn, who writes both series for Archie, has been killing it on both titles making them fun, action-packed books that make me remember why I enjoy the comics medium.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: Well, since this double-issue will act as a prelude to the “Worlds Collide” crossover story, be sure to pick up both Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man from Archie Comics. I’d also recommend Atomic Robo on Red 5 Comics as well as the Adventure Time series from BOOM!
Top Shelf Kids Club
Why We Recommend It: Top Shelf has one of the best series of kids books on the block! Not only do they have James Kochalka with Johnny Boo and American Elf, but Owly by Andy Runton is just adorable fun and Korgi by Chris Slade is a fantastic adventure comic, also with a strong female character. This issue will also be the debut of Rob Harrell’s upcoming all-ages comic, Monster of the Hill. If you are bringing a kid with you for their first time experiencing what comics have to offer, you could do far worse than Top Shelf Kids Club.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: Anything from Top Shelf’s kids lineup would be great for the young reader in your life. I’d also recommend Art Baltazar and Franco’s two DC comics, Tiny Titans and Superman Family Adventures, as well as Li’l Gotham. Gladstone’s School for World Conquerors over on Image Comics is one of my all time favorite all-ages comics. I’d also recommend picking up BOOM!’s Adventure Time series including the two spin-offs (two reccs from me only because I love it so) as well as the upcoming Regular Show comic that will debut the Wednesday after Free Comic Book Day, May 8th. Last but not least, Jeff Smith’s Bone is not just one of the best kids comics ever put on the page, but just one of the best graphic novels you could ever hope to read.
Atomic Robo and Friends
(Red 5 Comics)
Why We Recommend It: Atomic Robo may be the easiest comic book for non comic book fans to get into. Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener make it a point to make sure each volume of this wonderful series can stand independent of its predecessors. Every issue is steeped in pulpy science fiction, from Robo’s creation by Nikola Tesla to him fending off Lovecraftian monsters. The series is dripping with wit and is funny as hell. There is plenty of action and robot smashing to be had. Brian and Scott consistently throw imaginative stories at you wrapped in accurate historical settings that quickly evolve into amazing science fiction stories that rival anything you’ll see on tv or the big screen these days. Robo is part detective, part action scientist and all ass kicking robot that is a genuinely fun read.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: Any Hellboy… seriously. Mike Mignola has very quietly been one of the comic book community’s super stars for years now. While he hasn’t done nearly as much at the Big Two (DC and Marvel) he has been writing up a storm over at Dark Horse, INC. Hellboy pre-dates Atomic Robo by a few years so there is a ton of back story involved but they’re so well done that you can enjoy just about any volume out of order (which I am currently doing). Hellboy is full of the same weird science fiction that graces the pages of Atomic Robo but takes a rather big step in a darker direction. The series focuses around Hellboy and his attempts to save the world from monsters; most often from the Hell he escaped from as a child. Death is abundant in this book but it is so smartly and amazingly written that you would be hard pressed not to enjoy it.
– Dylan Tano
Mouse Guard/Rust Flipbook
Why We Recommend It: It has mice… with swords. Part Redwall and part Grimm’s Fairy tales this adorable series pits mice against the forces of nature and animals bigger than themselves. Full of heroes and heroines, villains and scary wise creatures who serve no purpose but their own; this series is entirely kid friendly and serves up enough wonder for adults to enjoy as well. The artwork is beautiful and storybook-esque and compliments the story extremely well. You won’t just get Mouse Guard though you’ll also get Royden Lepp’s Rust which tells the story of rocket-boy Jet Jones learning some life lessons a la Aesop’s fables, a one shot from Sean Rubin’s dinosaur tale Bolivar, a tale from Jim Henson’s Labyrinth and Nate Cosby and Chris Eliopoulos’s boy hero book Cow Boy.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: Any of the Oz books by Scottie Young and Eric Shanower. They inhabit the world of Oz created by Frank L. Baum and between the two of them they mine every corner of the world they can to help shape this uniquely drawn story soaked in fairy tale elements. The first in the series, The Marvelous Land of Oz, centers around a boy named Tip who has been raised by a cruel witch named Mombi. What follows is a eccentrically and amazingly drawn story that ties in the characters you loved with new and wonderfully written characters that you’ll fall in love with anew.
(Drawn & Quartlerly)
Why We Recommend It: Marble Season is a semi-autobiographic all-ages title by one of comics’ greatest creators, Gilbert Hernandez, which automatically makes it a must have. But it’s also notable because it’s a kid-friendly work by the creator, making it an easy entrypoint for young fans and newcomers alike. Gilbert and his brother Jaime are the brains behind one of indie comics’ most important titles, Love and Rockets, but their history also makes them a little more intimidating to get into because they’re so prolific. Marble Season is a way of getting around that, since it f
eatures some of Gilbert’s smoothest art and is lighter in tone than some of his other material. If you’re a fan of autobio work by novelists like Roald Dahl, Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris, or films by directors like Wes Anderson, then this is a great comic for you and/or your kids.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: On the adult side, if you’re looking for more Hernandez material, then your best bet is some of the standalone collections they’ve done, whether it’s the ambitious, expertly plotted multi-perspective narrative of Love and Rockets X or Gilbert’s epic Palomar. You’d also probably like works like Jeff Lemire’s masterpiece Essex County or Underwater Welder and Nate Powell’s Any Empire. But on the kid friendly bio comics side, Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi’s Houdini: The Handcuff King is a great, unique pick, and though it’s not biographical, Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol is an easy recommendation.
Why We Recommend It: When it comes to dedicating yourself to improving the accessibility of comics, Chris Roberson is dead serious. The celebrated writer, who has written iZombie at Vertigo and Superman, made waves not too long ago when he announced he was going to focus on Monkeybrain Comics, his digital-first publishing entity that grew out of an existing publishing venture he started with his wife Allison Baker. We here at CB have loved what we’ve seen from Monkeybrain so far, but we also love Roberson’s work, which is why we’re excit
ed for his new Oni series The Strangers. The Strangers seems to be Roberson’s take on some mod espionage action in the vein of S.H.I.E.L.D. or The Mod Squad, but with a supernatural edge, and Scott Kowalchuk’s art seems like a perfect fit for Roberson’s style. If you’re already into things like Fringe, Alias and Joss Whedon’s work, then chances are you’ll be interested in what Roberson and Kowalchuk are up to with The Strangers.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: You’ve got a lot of options when it comes to team based covert ops with a supernatural edge in comics. For starters, there’s the Hellboy-spinoff BPRD, which has a ton of material at this point, but Being Human might be the best beginning point, as it’s four standalone series featuring each of the main BPRD agents. If you want something more scientific and historical, then you can’t beat Jonathan Hickman and Nick Pitarra’s incredible ongoing Image series Manhattan Projects, which is like a smarter, more sinister take on Fringe’s alternate timelines, complete with a deranged Einstein and a monstrous, serial killer Oppenheimer. Hickman’s work in general is a good fit, though, as his Secret Warriors, FF and Ultimates series have all been expertly crafted, gonzo sci-fi epics.
(New England Comics)
Why We Recommend it: The Tick is back! Our delightfully dimwitted hero has returned on free comic book day in the form of a full 32 page color spectacular! The Tick goes to the beach with his friends and crazy shenanigans occur! The Tick features delightful characters like Arthur and Bumble Bee who have come into the world of superhero-ing one way or the other. The Tick feels like Mr. Magoo meets Captain America. Burdened with a strong sense of right and wrong but not a whole lot upstairs, The Tick kind of stumbles into stopping crime as opposed to actively doing the right thing. It has always been a whole lot of fun to read and I don’t see that changing soon.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: Skullkickers! Written by Jim Zub this comic follows an gun toting human and his elven chick partner, this series focuses on their adventures throughout the world. Fast and fun; this series drawn by Edwin Huang, is full of laughs and talking gorillas. Wrapping fantasy trappings in subtly rude comedy and blazing action hasn’t be done quite this well in a long time. A shade different from The Tick but just as fun and funny of a read.
Valiant Masters Showcase
Why We’re Recommending It: Valiant is giving Marvel and DC a run for their money on the mainstream superhero front these days, and for good reason. The resurrected publisher has recruited top level talent that is also bold and daring, and they’ve done a phenomenal job bringing Valiant’s stable of iconic characters back to relevance, but it doesn’t hurt that they’re working with characters that were fondly remembered to begin with. One of Valiant’s two FCBD offerings this year is a showcase of the Valiant comics of the past, highlighting stories by current comics legends who worked for Valiant back then, like David Lapham, Joe Quesada and Barry Windsor-Smith. It’s a great way of letting new Valiant fans see where the publisher came from while also showing them that there’s plenty of fun older material that they can pick up. Likewise, new fans who have yet to catch on to the new Valiant can get a chance to explore some of their most iconic characters for free, and for anyone who’s looking to wade into the superhero waters but is tired of Batman, Superman, Spider-Man and the Avengers, this shows there’s a whole other universe out there to explore.
What Else You Should Pick Up While You’re There: Valiant isn’t the only indie publisher offering a superhero alternative to Marvel and DC. Image has been putting out some incredible superhero titles of its own over the past decade, and some of our recent favorites at CB have been Joe Keatinge and Ross Campbell’s gonzo Extreme Studios update Glory, Justin Jordan and Tradd Moore’s hyperviolent The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, and the vintage thrills of Landry Q. Walker and Eric Jones’ Danger Club. Image also has a great library of older superhero titles with a twist, whether it’s Joe Casey and Tom Scioli’s Jack Kirby remixing on Godland or Michael Allred’s Madman universe. But Image isn’t alone, as Dark Horse also has some wonderful titles available, like The Answer, and Boom! has Mark Waid’s epic anti-superhero series Irredeemable. And none of this is to say there’s anything wrong with the current crop of Marvel and DC titles, as both publishers are putting out good stuff. The Marvel Now material has rightly garnered a lot of buzz for its inventive creative rosters and nearly every series in the line is worth checking out, while DC’s Dial H in particular could use your love, as it’s an extremely unique, highly inventive take on superheroics that you won’t find anywhere else.
Pop culture geek, Nick Boisson, lives in front of his computer, where he is Section Editor of Comics Bulletin's video game appendage and shares his slushily obsessive love of video games, comics, television and film with the Internet masses. In the physical realm, he works in Guest Relations for Florida Supercon in Miami as well as a day-to-day job, which he refuses to identify to the public. We're thinking something in-between confidential informant and professional chum-scrubber.
Nick Hanover got his degree from Disneyland, but he's the last of the secret agents and he's your man. Which is to say you can find his particular style of espionage here at Comics Bulletin, where he reigns as the co-managing editor, or at Panel Panopticon, which he started as a joke and now takes semi-seriously. Or if you feel particularly adventurous, you can always witness his odd rants about his potentially psychopathic roommate on twitter @Nick_Hanover and explore the world of his musical alter ego at Fitness and Pontypool.
When Dylan Tano isn't floating amongst the clouds in his beautiful balloon, you can find him up to his ears in work at Comics Bulletin. As a fellow writer once said, if he gets paid in the morning, then he's drunk in the afternoon. He dwells in the realms of video games and comic books, writing about both till he is either drunk or delirious. He has yet to confuse the two but his editors are working on it. If he had it his way, all robots would have pain receptors.
You can follow him on Twitter as @BroSpider. You can join him on PSN at Blues_Doc and Steam at Frostbite21251. You can read some of his musings on Blogger and he keeps a list of short stories on his Tumblr.