Valentine’s Day falls on Wednesday this year, which, of course is also new comic book day. So I figure, what better time to discuss something I suspect all comic fans think about from time to time: how do I get the person I love to also love my hobby?
I know I think about this. In fact, last year I bought my wife a trade in hopes she’d start to read comics. And guess what? I had some success! I went with the first trade of Snotgirl, which I’ve described as Clueless for the Instagram generation with a sinister twist.
Now, my wife is a reporter at one of the three biggest newspapers in the United States, and she spends quite a bit of time contemplating personal branding, audience trust of media personalities, and just generally how one presents themselves online. She’s also quite stylish and moderately obsessed with Instagram fashion models who wear her type of clothes.
I suspected she’d appreciate Bryan Lee O’Malley’s scripts and thematic interest, and she did! What surprised me, though, was she also absolutely LOVED Leslie Hung’s art. Now, I’m a fan myself, but it never occurred to me someone who’d never read an entire comic book would be drawn more to art than to text.
While my wife didn’t run down to our local shop and start her own pull list (she’s content trade-waiting for Snotgirl) she did gain a new appreciation for the medium and for my hobby, which, aside from her and my day job, takes up most of my time. Ultimately, this understanding brought us closer together, making us stronger as a couple. Aren’t comics wonderful?
I hope you find a book from my suggested list that will wow your loved one, too. Oh, and happy Valentine’s!
Comics to Buy Your Significant Other
This list is in alphabetical order, and, if you’ll notice, there’s no Batman, Superman, Spider-Man. In other words, it eschews the mainstays of comics. It’s not that I don’t love those characters (ahem, what’s the name of this site), or that I think it’s impossible to use stories like The Long Halloween or All-Star Superman or Ultimate Spider-Man to show the brilliance of comics. I just think they are a bit too highly stigmatized and obvious to be illustrative of the medium’s nuances. Simply put, if your significant other was going to get hooked based on one of these three, chances are it would have already happened, as they’ve likely known their core stories since they were a kid.
It should go without saying that I LOVE every book on this list, by the way.
Hawkeye by Matt Fraction & David Aja
This is a story about humanity more than anything else, about a guy who has a job and an apartment and plenty of flaws and bad habits, but still wants to do right anyway. Oh yeah, and he also happens to be an Avenger but in this story that’s secondary.
For: The significant other who loves PBR, black-rimmed glasses, and acting like comics aren’t hip enough for their time (this is all a nice way of saying buy this book if you’re dating a hipster).
Monstress by Marjorie Liu & Sana Takeda
I met Marjorie Liu at a comic book store in Austin soon after this book launched, and I remember her saying this series grew from a vision she had of a young woman that was absolutely furious. Monstress is a great choice because it starts with a first issue that’s among the best debuts in recent memory, and while yes, the fury that inspired it does cool down, Lie and Takeda replace it with some of the best world-building in any medium.
For: The significant other who likes Final Fantasy, anime, Kill Bill, Empire Strikes Back, revenge, or any story the puts strong female protagonists and antagonists alike front and center.
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
This is my favorite comic book, to be blunt, and its title is as simple and effective as its plot. Two lovers from species that have been at war with each other for generations fall in love and have a child. This is the story of their family.
For: The significant other who loves both Shakespeare and Star Wars, or maybe even just Star Wars and Game of Thrones.
Sandman by Neil Gaiman & Various
Sandman is steeped in dark mythology that spans history and our modern day, ultimately creating an effect that delves deep into the human mind.
For: The significant other who majored in philosophy and also likes to meditate (or to expand their mind in less wholesome ways).
Sex Criminals by Matt Fraction & Chip Zdarsky
For: Oh, don’t act like you don’t know what this one would be for, you dirty dog (this book is more about relationships than it is about a couple getting raunchy, although it is also about a couple getting raunchy).
Snotgirl by Bryan Lee O’Malley & Leslie Hung
Lottie Person is an Instagram model with a large fan following, secretly severe allergies, and a pension for putting too much stock in appearances as well as for brushing up against the macabre.
For: The significant other who loved Clueless, takes pictures until they get the perfect shot for the ‘Gram, and is content to re-watch Scott Pilgrim over and over and over again.
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson
Billed as a cyberpunk transhumanist comic book (uh yeah, okay, let’s just go ahead pretending that’s a perfectly normal way to bill something) Transmetropolitan has a central protagonist named Spider Jerusalem, who is a renegade gonzo journalist in the future, navigating a dystopian world suffering from corruption and U.S. presidents who abuse their powers.
For: The significant other who shudders when politics come up and is still hurt and reeling from the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Warning, this is risky title to start with due to its density, probably best left to fans of political dramas and deep sci-fi.
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
A superhero deconstruction that doubles as a cautionary tale about mutually assured destruction, common threats, and the Cold War. It’s a great fit for the more literary set, requiring only a cursory knowledge of superheros to be appreciated.
For: The significant other who reads The New Yorker and is always bugging you to read their short stories.
X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills by Chris Claremont & Brent Anderson
This original graphic novel does the difficult work of encapsulating the X-Men with minimal need to know the characters’ long and convoluted back stories. The X-Men have one of the best central metaphors of any ongoing property in fiction, and this story makes it accessible.
For: The ‘90s kid who loved the animated series, or for anyone concerned with the equality inherent to the characters’ central metaphor.
The Ultimates by Mark Millar & Bryan Hitch
I recently re-read The Ultimates for years and was struck by how blatantly this story was a blueprint for the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. This didn’t come as a surprise, as so many folks in media love to point this out, but it was still fascinating to go back and read it now that we’re a bajillion movies in.
For: The significant other who loves Marvel movies but has always seen the comic books as too geeky or ridiculous to bother to read.
Zack Quaintance is a career journalist who also writes fiction and makes comics. Find him on Twitter at @zackquaintance. He lives in Sacramento, California.