GQ Magazine's "20 Graphic Novels You Should Read (After Watchmen)"

When I quit my last job, I had about 10 billion frequent flyer miles racked up that eventually expire if you don't use them. American Airlines did a pretty cool thing and offered me the chance to trade them in on (why this, I don't know) free magazine subscriptions. I didn't have any travel planned that I could book and rather than just lose them, I plunked down my AA dollars and got about 100 magazine subscriptions. Really, it's crazy. The house is inundated with half read magazines strewn about. In any case, this caught my eye in this month's issue of GQ.

Nestled in between the articles on Robert Pattinson, Emma Roberts, and $1,200 Prada and Burberry trenchoats was this wonderful 4 page spread, complete with spiffy spot illustrations by Becky Cloonan. The way the title is structured one could construe that the article would somehow have a direct or thematic connection with Alan Moore's work, but that's not really the case. It simply means, after you've read Watchmen, assumably because a) you've seen the movie, and b) you've already read the book - here are 20 other, completely different, but equally great books to read.

Now, I don't want to nitpick the list to death and completely rewrite it. I'm sure that everyone would probably have their very own unique 20 to put in front of civilians, so I'm just going to suggest a few tweaks based on what's already presented here. I think it's certainly become more acceptable, even de rigeur, in the past few years to be doing lists of Graphic Novels in "mainstream" publications, but nevertheless kudos to writers Alex Pappademas and Kevin Sintumuang (Greek and Filipino, I'm guessing? Wow, what a Marvel Team Up!), along with GQ Editorial for pulling this off. It really is a great list to begin with. Original GQ picks in black, my comments in dark blue.

1) Madman by Michael Allred (not a huge fan personally, but an ok choice, I recognize the importance)

2) The Invisibles: Say You Want a Revolution by Grant Morrison et al (great pick)

3) All-Star Superman: Volume 1 by Grant Morrison & Frank Quitely (great pick, would have been on my list)

4) The Nightly News by Jonathan Hickman (a good and interesting pick, though I personally feel Pax Romana is far superior, but it's still a good gateway to his divergent style)

5) Alias: Volume 1 by Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Gaydos (great pick, best BMB book in my opinion, might’ve been on my list as a sort of token "let's see something different with ostensible superheroes" choice)

6) Black Hole by Charles Burns (great pick)

7) The Girl from H.O.P.P.E.R.S.: A Love and Rockets Book by Jaime Hernandez (this will sound like blasphemy, but I'm not a huge fan, it's becoming standard and expected to include something from Los Bros on lists like these)

8) Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine (great pick, I like seeing something from Tomine on this list, probably the best "collection" of his material)

9) Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra (BKV, check. I think he should have something on the list, though I would have definitely gone with Ex Machina instead, would have been on my list)

10) Concrete by Paul Chadwick (a respectable choice and I understand the logic behind it, but I would have probably gone with Zot! by Scott McCloud in this category - and while we're at it, how about putting Understanding Comics on the list?)

11) Criminal: Bad Night by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips (Yes, Criminal is done very well, but it's not personally my thing, I would have definitely, without a doubt, every day of the week and twice on Sundays, gone with Scalped here as my "crime" slot book, nice to see Bill Hader mention it in one of the sidebar pieces)

12) Pyongyang by Guy Delisle (a fine choice and certainly a gateway to Delisle's other books, but I might have gone with Craig Thompson's Carnet de Voyage as part travelogue, part journal, and part sketchbook ruminating on life that pushes the bounds of the medium)

13) Heavy Liquid by Paul Pope (great choice and no argument here, would have certainly been on my wholly original list)

14) La Perdida by Jessica Abel (great choice, might have been on my list)

15) Safe Area Gorazde by Joe Sacco (great pick, love the inclusion of Sacco, would have definitely put him on my own list, but probably would have gone with Palestine as a more timely and accessible example of his work)

16) Fell: Volume 1 by Warren Ellis & Ben Templesmith (great pick, good gateway to the style of both the writer and artist, plenty of other offerings from both to explore)

17) It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken by Seth (not a huge fan personally, but good choice)

18) Super Spy by Matt Kindt (great pick, another good gateway to a different style of storytelling and unique aesthetic)

19) Bottomless Belly Button by Dash Shaw (great pick, nice showcasing of an "underground" creator, plenty of other work to track down)

20) Tekkonkinkreet: Black & White by Taiyo Matsumoto (Tekkon appears to be the token manga selection for this list, it is indeed a good book, for me, I would have probably gone with something from Osamu Tezuka, maybe a classic like Lone Wolf & Cub, Blade of the Immortal, or even something from Yoshihiro Tatsumi)

Misc. Thoughts: I was pleased to see that I either own or have read every single book on the list, that's either a testament to my voracious and encyclopedic reading appetite, umm, or the rather pedestrian nature of the list. Heh. Just a couple other books that popped into my head...

In one of the sidebar pieces, Greg Rucka & Steve Lieber's Whiteout is mentioned, no doubt because of the impending film and the magazine's love for Kate Beckinsale. Me? I would have certainly included something about Queen & Country, for all of the rabid Bond fans out there.

For something totally offbeat and different, with plenty of follow up material to track down, I would have considered including Billy Hazelnuts from Tony Millionaire.

I know the urge here was to stray away from pure superhero fare, and All-Star Superman was already included, but for an old school superhero kick done extremely well, I would have been tempted to include Darwyn Cooke's The New Frontier.

Is this list really complete without something from Chris Ware?

Considering the venue, I think Antony Johnston and Christopher Mitten's Wasteland would have been an easy sell for the rabid moviegoers that peruse GQ Magazine.

I noticed a pretty discernible lack of female leads, with the exception of Alias and La Perdida. How about Promethea to complete the reference to the Alan Moore helmed book in the title of the piece?



At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Y: The Last Man

I don't really see any reason to include Ex-Machina over Y: The Last Man on this list. Machina is still a work in progress, and is nowhere near the gateway that Y has proven to be in my social circles. Girls love it. Just a few weeks ago, the sister of a friend of mine (via its appearance on Lost) wonder what that as. Her first comic book. She read one, then read them all really fast and wants more.

On a personal choice note, Ex-Machina has not proven to be as good as Y. We'll see what happens as it closes though.


At 1:54 PM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

Hi JR,

Thanks for stopping by.

Fair points about your anecdotal evidence, but I can easily say the same about Ex Machina based on my corner of the world. For me personally, I believe the writing is stronger, just as (if not more) politically charged, Tony Harris artwork suits my taste more than Pia Guerra, and I've personally put many readers onto Ex Machina, who tried Y and weren't impressed (including women).

Overall though, I'm glad to see either of BKV's "opus" books on the list, I think either can function as a gateway to his many strong works. Our differences just come down to personal taste I think.

Thanks again!


At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the overly long post. I found the list really interesting and while I was writing the below it sort of developed a life of it's own :)

I see why they did not choose Ex Machina over Y. Besides the circumstance that it's not finished, it's a book with a superpowered main character and therefore automatically becomes sort of a super hero genre piece (I love it too and I know that the super power gimick isn't really important to the book, but in terms of perception it's a bad fit for the list with Alias already on there as the grounded super hero work). Besides I do think as well that is Y the more approachable book of the two.

Other stuff I would have chosen:

"Torso" from Bendis over criminal.
Great crime story and my favourite Bendis (I could never really warm up to Alias even though I see the quality of the book).

"Box Office Poison" from Alex Robinson and "Why I hate Saturn" from Kyle Baker.

While these two are rather different, they both really funny slice of life books. One of them would have been nice on the list.

Personally All-Star Super-Man didn't do that much for me (I'm probably all alone here..). If a second entry into the list by the same writer is possible I'd choose Seven Soldiers from Morrison or Planetary Warren Ellis instead. If one decides to limit every writer to one entry, I'd go with Dark Knight as the super hero entry (it's sort of a lame pick but it's still a great book. And having one Frank miller on the list doesn't hurt).

At least one more manga would have been nice. A worthy book may have been Naoki Urasawa's Monster in my opinion.

I couldn't spot any European comics on the list. The Nikopol Trilogy from Enki Bilal and maybe an Asterix book from René Goscinny would have been nice.

Replacing Concrete with Understanding Comics sounds like really good move to me.

Loved to see that Jonathan Hickman is included. While liked Pax Romana as well, the Nightly News did do more for me overall.

Other stuff that I missed:

Local from Brian Wood

Sandman (another lame pick after Dark Knight but kind of nescessary)

Bone from Jeff Smith

The Masterplan from Scott Mills (great Isaac Asimov-like scifi-in-space story, would have been a good addition to the list. Besides it's very funny :) )


At 8:54 AM, Blogger Justin Giampaoli said...

Hi Mark,

Great comments! Thanks for stopping by and no worries on length.

I very much agree with you on including something from Alex Robinson. For me, Tricked is his go-to book, but I know I'm probably in the minority here and most people would say BOP. Why I Hate Saturn is a great pick, as are Planetary and Local.

I was actually going to use Planetary, but thought maybe I'd get some flack because it relies heavily on some genre tropes and references other comic genres and styles that some civilians may not be familiar with.

Can't believe I missed including Local, I love that book! Self-contained, no superheroes, a beautiful hardcover editions, sort of meets the loose unstated criteria perfectly.

The European observation is a good one, definitely a list biased toward American comics. For me, I might go with a classic like Tintin or even something more contemporary like The Killer from ASP, which is a stellar example of the Franco-Belgian scene.

I also considered Bone, but thought may it was too kid-friendly for this particular list aimed at an older demographic. But, how about RASL (even though it's barely begun)?

Gaiman's Sandman is also a natural. It was actually included in a scroll at the bottom of some of the pages. I think the writers assumed (rightly, I'd say) that anyone interested enough in comics to read this list has already read the "classics," like Sandman, and of course Watchmen.

I really like the ideas this list has generated, keep them coming!




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