Welcome back to Waiting on the Trade, a comics book club for people who don’t have time for monthly comics!
In this special episode, guest host Simon Payne helps us answer a question that most fledgling comics readers have: How do you find good comics?
This month’s show notes are a cleaned-up version of my pre-discussion notes, with links to many of the resources we talked about during our discussion. I’ve added some resources and notes that Simon and Pat mentioned; any omissions/mistakes/etc. are my own.
First, Let’s Define Good Comics
So what kind of comics are we talking here? A lot of these “where to start with comics” things live solely in the realm of superhero comics. But I think we can do better than that. I want to help you find good romance, horror, comedy, mystery, etc. comics. Sci-fi, fantasy. Manga? Arthouse nonsense? We’ll help you find and purchase all those things. However, because of what our podcast is, our focus is going to stay largely within the realm of print trade paperbacks and graphic novels.
Where to Find Good Comic Recommendations
If you don’t have that one cool friend who is already into comic books, finding a good depth and breadth of comics recommendations can be hard. However, there are a LOT of good internet and IRL resources you can lean on. Here’s a list of some of those:
Good Comics Websites
Despite people claiming the comics blogosphere is “dead,” there are many really great comics-focused websites out there, discussing and recommending new comics all the time. Here are some of my faves:
- Comics Bookcase
- Multiversity Comics
- The Comics Journal
- Women Write About Comics
- Polygon’s Comics Coverage
- Comic Book Herald
Many of these outlets typically do “Best of the Year” lists at the end of each year. This is a great way to get a bunch of good recommendations at once. Here are some recent “Best of” lists from the sites above:
- TCJ Best Comics 2021
- Multiversity Best Concluded Series 2021
- Comics Bookcase Best Comics 2021
- WWAC 2020 Small Press, Indie, Webcomics
And here is that NPR 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels list Pat mentioned.
A final web resource: The podcast War Rocket Ajax does a segment called Every Story Ever, where they rank comic book stories sent in by listeners from best to worst. The top of that list is stacked (note that the list is pretty superhero focused). Here is a link to the Every Story Ever list.
Ask Your Local Bookstore Owner or Librarian
Most good indie bookstores now have at least a decent graphic novel selection. Some stores may have only a handful of titles, but typically those titles are all quite good. For example, Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul, one of my local bookstores, has a curated selection that is jawdroppingly cool. Indie bookstore owners who maintain good comics sections can likely provide great recommendations.
Library systems also now have an astonishing amount of trades, graphic novels, and manga. If your library has comics, the librarian who manages that section(s) likely has their pulse on what is both popular and good. Librarians also love talking about books (who knew?!) and should be able to tailor recommendations to your taste and previous reads.
As With Everything Else, Reddit Has Answers
Comics-related subreddits often have stickied recommendations of what books you should read. This is most prevalent in superhero-related subreddits, which feature both character-based recommendations and general recommendations. In my experience, most of these lists are at least alright, if not good. Here are a couple examples from r/DCcomics:
Where to Actually Buy Good Comics
So now that you’ve compiled this list of great comics you want to read, you’re going to need somewhere to actually buy them. Here are some of your better options:
When Possible, Always Start Local
If you have one, your local bookstore and/or comic shop is the best place to start when looking to buy comics. If your store doesn’t have the book(s) you’re looking for, they can likely order it in within a couple days or a couple weeks. When you buy from a local store, you will likely pay more than if you ordered a book off Amazon. But a) your book won’t arrive with damaged corners (every book I get from Amazon has damaged corners) and b) you’ll support a local bookstore instead of Jeff Bezos’s rocket side hustle.
If you’re on a budget, you should check out your local library and library system. Even if your specific library does not have a book, they may be able to request it via interlibrary loan. Again, your local librarian is your friend – they can walk you through this process if need be. And as comics sections are booming in most libraries, you may even be able to convince your librarian to purchase something if there’s enough demand.
Don’t Have Good Local Options? Here Are Your Best Print Solutions
If you don’t have good local options, and you want to read physical comic books you can hold in your hand, there are lots of great non-Amazon places from which to order comics online, including:
In our discussion about buying books on a budget, we talked about how comic conventions can be a good budget option, provided you’ve saved up enough money that you’re planning to buy a smorgasboard of books at once. The $20 or whatever you pay to get into a smallish convention can easily be made back on sale-priced trades and graphic novels. Another budget option Pat brought up was Goodwill’s auction-based website, which actually has some gems.
However, if you’re looking for something specific, that’s not the website for you; the five listed above will serve you better.
Don’t Have Good Local Options? Here Are Your Best Digital Solutions
If you don’t have good local options, and you are fine with purchasing or otherwise acquiring a device on which to read digital comics (an iPad or flip-style Chromebook are best for this, IMO), comiXology is still, despite recent mishaps, your best option for purchasing digital comics. ComiXology’s new main storefront is here.
However, if you’re an Amazon-avoider, or you just want to do a deep dive into one of the Big Two superhero universes, you could instead check out Marvel Unlimited or DC Universe Infinite, which are those publishers’ subscription-based digital comics libraries:
I’ve also heard good things about Viz’s digital Shonen Jump service.
The real big brain play here, though, is to check out digital comics via your library’s digital reading service. These services are absolutely free! Your library may use Hoopla, Overdrive, or some other service. But whatever service they use, that service likely has great digital comics available, including some that may not be available at your actual physical library. (For example, I recently used my library’s service to check out twelve volumes of Hellboy for an upcoming plane ride.)
That’s It, Except …
If you liked this episode, and you’d like to hear us discuss more topics like this in the future, please let us know! We enjoyed putting this episode together, but I’m curious to hear whether this breakdown was helpful. Also, I want to know if there are any other “high-level” comics topics you’d like us to tackle in future episodes.
New to the show? Waiting on the Trade is a monthly comics podcast, run by two gents who don’t have time for monthly comics. If you’d like to get in touch with us, you can email us at WaitingOnTheTrade@gmail.com.
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As always, thanks for listening!