I don’t usually buy graphic novels that are not wrapped in transparent plastic for one reason. If it is open, it means that other people have already scanned or browsed it. And if a lot of people have already touched it, chances are that the graphic novel will have creases and folds due to mishandling. Every comic book geek knows that a value of a comic book diminishes once it has undesirable “scars”. And I have adapted this rule in buying books too.
But there’s always an exception to every rule.
And this book is that exception: 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die. When I first saw this book, there was only one opened copy of it left in the shelf. I browsed through it and saw a big list of comic books.
The series of books: 1001 somethings you must do before you die isn’t really a total stranger to me. I’ve already crossed upon 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, and 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I’ve scanned all of these books before.
And I wasn’t completely sold to the idea.
So, I left the book there. I dismissed it as another one of those compilations that tells you to read everything on their list just because the writers said so. But when I got home, I looked it up on the internet. I was curious how they came up with the list. And saw that the book was compiled with a help of a team across the world. The members of the team are experts about comic books. Paul Gravett, the general editor is also comic book expert and historian. So I read on a few reviews. And when I finished reading I found myself wanting to buy the book.
When I went back to the bookstore to look at the book again, I can’t find it anymore. I asked the person on the customer service area and the attendant said that they don’t have any more stocks of the book.
I tried to look for it in another book store and finally saw one. Again, there was only one copy left. For the second time, I scanned the book and got overwhelmed on the rich history of comics the book presented. The book offered a myriad of the comics genre in a chronological order, from pre 1930s up to the present time. With a wide selection and meaning of the word comics, it is indeed an ultimate guide to anything comics: comic strips, manga, bande dessinée, underground comics, graphic novels, and more, across the globe. The diversity of the recommendations also spans from stand-alone graphic novels, one-shots, individual issues of a comic series, certain story arcs within a series or entire runs.
So okay, I’m completely sold now.
This isn’t just a simple list or guide. This is like the history of comics and a comprehensive one. So I bought the book even though it is not wrapped in plastic.
There are a lot of familiar books mentioned from writers and artists such as Alan Moore, Frank Miller, Herge, Osamu Tezuka, John Byrne, Paul Chadwick, Milo Manara, Hugo Pratt, Steve Ditko, Will Eisner, Warren Ellis, John Goldwater, Matt Groening, Kazuo Koike, Stan Lee, Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Marjane Satrapi, Craig Thompson, and many more. But there are also a lot of others that I haven’t heard of.
One thing I noticed and was also admitted by Paul Gravett himself, in his foreword, is the quantity of comics that came from US, Japan, and Europe. No complains here, seems like these three are really the “global centers” in terms of producing comics. But thanks to a team of writers scattered across the planet, the book also recommended comics from other countries such as China, Korea, India, Australia, etc. And hey, even one of our country’s comics was recommended!
Francisco V. Coching’s El Indio made it to the book and I’m happy to see that the foremost Filipino comics creator got a world-wide recognition. An entire page was even given to a cover of the El Indio series. And no one else can do the write-up better than Gerry Alanguilan, who played a major role in digitally restoring the 1952 comic strips and compiling and publishing it in one volume in 2009.
All in all, I would recommend the book to anyone who would like to re/discover the world of comics, from long time fanboys to newbies. Whether it is adventure, drama, action, biography, scifi, comedy, horror, or what-have-yous, you’ll definitely find something for your taste in the growing medium that is comics. After all, comics ain’t just for kids.
PS. And just to satisfy my curiosity of my “coolness factor” as a fanboy, I took note of the number of comics I’ve already read in the book. I got 41 out of 1001. That’s only 4%, not so cool after all. So excuse me, I have 960 more to hunt down.