What to Read When You're Over Men in Tights

I was going to respond to Eek!'s comment on my previous post in a follow-up comment, but I quickly realized it would turn to an epic-length somethingorother too long for the comments section...

Dan Clowes has done a lot more than "Ghost World," so that could be a good place to start. "Like a Velvet Glove Cast in Iron," "20th Century Eightball" and "David Boring" are pretty widely available and considered to be among his best work.

The basic "required reading" list for anyone interested in comics with a little more meat than super-hero slugfests includes...

1. The work of the legendary Will Eisner. "A Contract With God" is generally considered the first "graphic novel," and is out in a beautiful new hardcover collection of Eisner's "Dropsie Avenue Trilogy" along with "A Life Force" and "Dropsie Avenue - The Neighborhood," all of which are well worth reading.

2. "Maus" by Art Spiegelman, which I suppose a lot of people have read these days, but if you haven't, it's an absolute must. I think most people know the basics of it, but in case you don't, it's a two-volume autobiography/biography involving the story of the author's often rocky relationship with his Holocaust-survivor father and the father's own story of living in Poland during the years leading up to World War II and the absolutely amazing story of how he survived in Auschwitz. Spiegelman's "In the Shadow of No Towers" is also notable.

3. "Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. Yes, it is a super-hero story, but it's much more than that, too. It's a near-perfect synthesis of story and art, to begin with. Gibbons' page compositions and storytelling ability are staggering, all done with variations on the simple, classic 9-panel grid page layout. Moore's visionary deconstruction of the super-hero psyche (and psychoses) has influenced, in some way, pretty much every long-underwear story in the last twenty years.

"Blankets" is obviously the place to start with Craig Thompson, but his earlier "Goodbye, Chunky Rice" is excellent, as well. "Carnet de Voyage" is more informal, but is a lovely travel diary/sketchbook.

Jeff Smith's "Bone," available in the original glorious black-and-white in a monster one-volume edition or coming out now in colorized editions, is terrific if you're looking for "Lord of the Rings"-style fantasy.

"Black Hole" by Charles Burns, of which I posted a brief review here a few months back, is a terrific tale of high school alienation, though done in a more horror-movie kind of style than "Ghost World."

Frank Miller's "Sin City" books are trashy fun and gorgeous to look at (the movie, for all the hype about Robert Rodriguez's frame-by-frame film adaptation, the movie can't match the beauty of Miller's art), and his "300" is sort of a similar thing, only with the Spartan warriors at Thermopylae instead of crooks and lowlifes.