I had the pleasure of sitting in on a class at Sheridan College the other night. I knew the instructor and when he told me that part of the course was using comic books, I couldn’t wait to get in there! One of the big pieces of the discussion was around graphic novels. I was surprised how many of the students said, “I’ve never read a comic book in my life.” WHAT??? I spoke with some of the students after class and told them I had a bit of an edge: I used to work in a comic store. So, in answer to that, here are a few choice graphic novels that I would suggest that they at least look at, even if they don’t choose any of them.
Batman vs. Dracula: Red Rain
This is one of the first ones that came to my mind when the discussion first started. Luckily, one of the students asked about the “traditional” comic books and I could put this out there. DC Comics produced this as one of their Elseworld series. They were hypothetical stories that took the heroes out of their usual environment and puts them into an alternate reality… or is it? Putting Batman against Dracula seems like an almost natural match. In this story, Batman is bitten and becomes part vampire himself. I’ll let you read the rest to find out what happens.
Watchmen by Alan Moore
Surprisingly, I didn’t read this one while working in the comic store. I waited until I took an English course at Ryerson University before picking this one up. I’m still not sure if I really liked it all that much compared to many of the others that I read. However, I appreciate that this is a groundbreaking piece of work and definitely one of, if not the most, recognized graphic novel of all time. The movie did it a great justice in my opinion, but I know of a number of others that have also done themselves well. The premise of the book is that superheroes that used to save the world are now outlaws. They are exiled and kept under cover. This was a commentary on the censorship of comic books that occurred in the 20th century, similar to the Black List in Hollywood. Even if you don’t pick this for the assignment, please pick it up at some point and read it, not just watch the movie.
The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
I have to admit that I felt very old when I asked the young women after the class if they knew about The Vampire Lestat. No? Interview with the Vampire? No? Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt? Still nothing? How about Queen of the Damned? Aaliyah? AHH! Now I’ve got it. Phew! I couldn’t believe that they had never heard of this. This is what the world has come to with respect to vampires? All they know is about “Twilight” and “Vampire Diaries”. Sad. /rant
Anne Rice wrote this trilogy and Innovation comics put them into twelve high quality comics, glossy pages and all. Each one could probably have been considered a graphic novel unto themselves. But only The Vampire Lestat was made into a single volume. It was first produced as a hardcover edition and then as a soft cover. I bought the hardcover as soon as it came in. Cost me about $120, but it is truly one of my pride and joys. The softcover is available for about $30-$40 according to Indigo. If you really want to read a GOOD vampire story, this is a must. It is quite close to the book, so it’s pretty damn close to the written word version.
The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
This is the story of Morpheus, the God of Dreams and the adventures he has. Every once in a while you might see an appearance of his sister, Death (who had a small series of her own) or one of the other Endless through his many adventures. For the God of Dreams, he is actually a very sad and lonely character and Death comes around to cheer him up occasionally. This is a series written by Neil Gaiman who is more an author than a comic book writer. But it’s great stuff! A character like Dream can transcend time and space, and he does. There are some really light-hearted books, like the one that takes place in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but don’t let that fool you. This series can get pretty dark. This was really the first of it’s kind that I read and I loved it. I even got a chance to meet Neil at Silver Snail in Toronto during my high school years. I tweeted him one of the photos that I scanned in years later and he even RT’d it and replied! Really cool stuff that you don’t even have to read start to finish. It helps, but if you have to pick just one, I recommend is Dream Country that has four unrelated stories, including the one of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Me, Ann and Neil Gaiman
As I mentioned in the class, there are a number of choices and you don’t even have to go to the comic store anymore. Places like Chapters & Indigo have sections now dedicated to this genre. I highly recommend you go and find one that suites you. It’s finally cool to read comics. Happy reading!