Book Review: 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die (So kill me now because I wouldn’t be able to read all of them anyway)

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.

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176 thoughts on “Book Review: 1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die (So kill me now because I wouldn’t be able to read all of them anyway)

  1. Every once and a while i remember how much i loved reading graphic novels as a kid. Even tried downloading Marvels app to see if it would re-ignite my passion. Alas no.
    Will have to look out for this book though. I hope Akira has mde the list!?

    • I think it will re-ignite your passion because the book offers so much other than the mainstream ones like the superhero or the action genre. There are a lot of really good stuff featured in the book. But, that’s just my opinion. =) Anyway, Akira did make the list. I’m also a fan of the graphic novel as well as the anime.

  2. Pingback: 1000 Comics to Read Before You Die « informationanemone

  3. Now I assume when they say “1001 Comics”, they refer to everything from individual issues of an ongoing to entire series. I’d need to check out the book myself, but it seems like the safest bet to do both interchangably, given the situation.

    I like to think that, when I’ve read far more and developed my knowledge of the medium, I’ll be able to formulate my own list of comics that must be read before one dies. So until then, we’ll have a book that broadly catalogues many worthy additions to anyone’s list.

  4. It is so cool that you found a book that actually suggests you look into comics from other parts of the world as well. What a treasure trove of information. Thank you for sharing this with me. Well, with us all. 🙂

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    • Yup! I have all the issues so far, I’m looking forward for the next! I also read Skyworld by Melvin Ignacio and Kajo Baldisimo. It’s currently on its third issue. Actually there’s a lot to look out for. The local scene is quite booming. I also read Paolo Fabregas’ The Filipino Heroes League.

      • The Eisner nomination was last year for Elmer. It was really a big recognition for Sir Gerry and for the local comics scene. Now you know. I’ve read Wasted but I don’t own a copy too. I’ll try to get a copy of Where Bold Stars Go to Die.

        Skyworld?! Trese is there as predicted in the third volume. I want to grab copies. Sir Budjette is promoting that on Trese FB groupsite.

        I’m a newbie when it comes to comics, so I’ll be looking forward to your future posts especially when it comes to local comics. You are Freshly Pressed, congratulations! If you like, you might want to use this massive traffic you have now to promote our local comics like Trese and Elmer.

      • Wow thanks for the update. I wasn’t able to go to last year’s Komikon too. Yup, in Skyworld 3, Trese is a little bit older. I was happy to see her too in the third issue. Grab a cop of it if you can, it’s really a good read. You should also try the comic strips by Manix Abrera (Kiko Machine) and Lyndon Gregorio (Beerkada). And of course there’s always Pol Medina’s Pugad Baboy. These are just top of mind suggestions.

        And yup, I also plan to use the the traffic in introducing the readers to our very own. I’m a newbie to blogging so I’m also looking forward to your future posts and comments. Salamat Allen!

      • I’m regularly reading Beerkada on Philstar since high school. Oh, that makes me a non-newbie since I can recall that I’ve read an issue of Pugad Baboy comic book when I was in Elementary. I’m planning to get a copy of 12 by Manix Abrera. I’m a fan of his father’s work in PDI.

        If you don’t mind, I’ll give you a suggestion for your future post. Make a review of Trese. I’m planning to write one but I know I’ll make a crappy review. Neil Gaiman loves Trese. Article here:

        Let’s help in making it an international hit. 🙂

  6. Thanks for the review.

    I bought the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. It is a good reference point, however they are sometimes sloppy with their explanations of the novel (they get details wrong).

    They had 1 comic book in the whole thing – Watchmen. Although I love Watchmen, I remember feeling disgusted that they didn’t have any others.

    I’m so glad that they have decided to dedicate a whole book to this!

  7. Haven’t read all the comments, but my recommendation would be James Robinson’s run on Starman. Fantastic piece of work, which involves superheroes but is really about family, history and how they intersect with each other. Awesome book (and here’s my shameless plug for a review of one of the issues – ).

    Nice article too, congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  8. My comic books are in the attic. I only collected them for collecting sake. I never got that thrill from reading a comic book. Although my favorite was “The Amazing Spiderman”. Classic!

  9. Pingback: Items about books I want to read, #28 « Alchemical Thoughts

    • I have to say, a lot man. A lot of things are happening in the mainstream scene now. As well as the “indie” scene. I think the whole comics scene is “blooming” at the moment. There are a lot of sites that can help you get started again. I myself go to and almost everyday to check out what’s new. You can also go the publishing houses’ sites like Marvel and DC. =) Hope this helps.

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