Saturday is the first annual International Read a Comic in Public Day, a pseudo-holiday that combines celebration with social activism. Activism to what end? Why, to normalize the idea that comics are for more than sweaty, nerdy shut-ins. With that in mind, we’ve selected titles to suit whichever public locale you choose to let your geek-flag fly. As always, feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments.
If you’re at a park… If optimal visibility is your thing, there’s no better place to read than in the park. You’ll want reading material to match the sunny optimism of being outdoors, so look no further than
, a two-volume collection (originally published as 12 single-issue releases) written by arguably the best writer in the business today, Grant Morrison. Morrison makes Superman cool again with a take on the character that blends together digital age futurism with an almost irresponsibly giddy love for the panache and absurdity of Silver Age storytelling. It doesn’t hurt that the entire masterpiece is drawn by Frank Quitely in his own powerful, graceful, and ultimately inimitable style.
If you’re on the subway… With only a moment before the doors shut and the train moves on, subway readers need something starkly simple, yet strikingly beautiful to make an impression on potential converts. Pick up a copy (if you can find it) of
, written and illustrated by one of the greatest comic artists of all time, David Mazzuchelli. The comic is essentially a character piece about an unlikable, condescending professor who sees everything in dualities, but the central theme of the work — style as content — could only be explored by someone as aesthetically capable as Mazzuchelli. The end result is a sequence of deceptively simple illustrations, each one a visually arresting argument for the power of sequential art.
If you’re at a coffee shop… Coffee shops have a reputation, mostly undeserved, for being home to snooty, cooler-than-thou “creative-types.” This is not exactly the kind of crowd who goes for the masculinity-fetishizing power fantasies found in many mainstream superhero publications. Caffeine-loving comics advocates will need something hip and different to stand out. Try
, written and drawn by James Stokoe, which features the story of “One-Eye,” a lonely orc thief in a world overrun by his warmongering brethren. The art is also breathtaking — tight and hyper-detailed, with a punk sensibility that puts a welcome twist on the well-worn path of Tolkien-inspired fantasy fiction.
If you’re in a book store… Book stores are already the go-to venue for comic addicts trying to get their fix on the cheap. Where else can you set up shop, unbothered for hours while you read on the floor? (Well, besides the library. See below.) Although the comics section is normally ghettoized toward the back of the store — often regrettably next to the books about wizards and dragons — you can do us all a favor by grabbing a shiny, eye-catching volume and plunking yourself smack-dab in the middle of the new fiction aisle for all to see. We suggest the newly collected Batwoman story arc,
. Artist J.H. Williams III deftly maneuvers between multiple media to craft gorgeous works of art that appropriately reflect the tone and sensibilities of every page of the story. Writer Greg Rucka is also no slouch, deftly combining a deeply personal and realistic take on sexual politics with surreal, suspenseful action pieces and enough trippy, magical mysteries to stop you from flipping through the book just to look at the pretty pictures.
If you’re in a bar… A great dive bar should be dirty, dark, and filled with excessive smoke (unless you live in a police state, like Aspen or New York City), so your comic of choice should be the same. And
is just that: a love letter to America that tells the story of the hard-drinking, hard-fighting man-of-the-cloth, Jesse Custer, as he embarks on a mission to kill God after he’s possessed by the offspring of a devil and an angel. Custer’s journey takes him, his best friend, Cassidy (an Irish vampire who drinks like a fish), and his girlfriend, Tulip (one of the most badass female characters of any medium) through the back roads and byways of the US and abroad, with numerous stops along the way for darkly comic and often hyper-violent adventures. It’s considered by many to be writer Garth Ennis’s masterpiece, but don’t overlook the deceptively economical artwork of Ennis’s longtime collaborator, Steve Dillon.
If you’re at a library… If the day is all about reading in public, what better place to do it than an institution specifically built for that reason? There’s something perverse about bringing your own reading materials to a public library, but unfortunately very few libraries have a section set aside for comics. Make sure you ask if there is one — if there isn’t, your request might get the librarians thinking. In any case, you’ll need something dusty and bibliophilic. We suggest
, written by Neil Gaiman, the author of bestselling novel American Gods. It’s an epic meditation on the substance of dreams and stories, and like dreams themselves, the story meanders mistily along a less-than-linear, but always engaging path.