I always enjoy a peek into another author or reader’s list, and I was recently chatting up some comics recommendations on Twitter, so it felt like a nice time to draw out this conversation more and share my comic books pull list.

Personally, I love stories that go big, with a bent toward the strange and absurd. It’s just what comics to do best, in my opinion.

I am also a big believer that comics are for everyone—it’s not just capes and mutants! No matter what you enjoy, there is a comic for you--beyond superheroes, there is also a lot of action, thriller, romance, and even literary graphic work out there.

I’ve never gotten into the biggest superheroes in comics (though I’m a sucker for them on screen). This is in large part because the universes of these stories, particularly DC and Marvel heroes, tend to be so massive I, a) don’t know where to start, and, b) am not sure I want to get sucked in to that level. So I’ll pick up the major cape graphic novels, but otherwise, I stick to the fringes a bit more.

Here are my current favorites.

Saga, Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

A classic Romeo and Juliet story, taken into an alternate universe space opera, where the lovers get married, start a family, and must learn to survive on the run while being pursued by agents on both sides of an ongoing war.

Every single character is given depth and shades of gray, with an eye toward heavier topics like the cost of war.

Also, the MOST amazing alien illustrations. THE MOST.

The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn

The comic book is just different enough from the TV show to keep you on your toes, but similar enough that if you love one, you’ll love the other.

Sometimes horrifying and other times cheesy in a “What About Beaver” sort of way, this comic explores the brightest and darkest corners of human nature.

Bitch Planet, Kelly Sue Deconnick and Valentine De Landro

First of all, I want to BE Kelly Sue Deconnick. Seriously. Look her up. But girl-crush aside, Bitch Planet is a revolution.

In this world, noncompliant women are shipped off to a prison planet where they are safely confined and can’t disrupt a heavily patriarchal society. Speaking your mind and breaking out from the norm condemned as acts of rebellion. And if you pick it up by single issues, each one comes with a feminist essay in the back.

This comic has meant so much to fans that the NC (noncompliant) mark has become a popular tattoo, and it’s definitely on my own list for future inking.

Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan (again), Cliff Chiang and Matt Wilson

Set in the 1980s and following the adventures of four pre-teen girls who are breaking the glass ceiling as the first female newspaper deliverers, a simple world is quickly twisted around in an absurd and delightful time-travel adventure. Get ready to be confused. You know, in a good way.

Beyond this, the coloring and illustration of this story is just too cool. Check out these covers. Also, more cool monsters.

Concluding note: Just now realizing how Image Comics-heavy my reading is. Promise, no one paid me to write this.

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One of the big questions I wrestle with as I continue to write the Chronicles of the Third Realm Wars series is, where the hell are the gods?

Much like in our real world, Terath's gods can often seem distant and even apathetic in the face of great danger, horrors and tragedy. Do they just not care? Are they even paying attention?

These questions are woven throughout the books because they are constantly within me.

Maybe this is why, as I suddenly realized a few weeks ago, so many of the books I love also put questions about the gods and their engagement with our world front and center.

Over at Book Riot, I've compiled a list of them. If you love American Gods and its strange tale of a deity-level power shift, you'll get as much theological wrangling from these tales as I have.

Read the article here.

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arrival

Last weekend I watched Arrival. (It's lovely and amazing, go see it.) Throughout the film, 12 alien spaceships hover over the Earth. Inside them, aliens wait behind protective glass for humans to come to them.

This in itself sends humanity into a terrified frenzy, exposing a variety of cracks and fractures within the goodness we like to believe is at humanity's core. Politics, secrets, and fear fuel a range of negative responses from the world's people and governments, while the the aliens wait patiently.

The worst monsters are the ones hiding inside us and the people around us. 

 

It's a message that hits hard right now, because I see its truth everywhere I look. I have tried to keep politics away from my author-ing this election year, and I don't want to break that now. So I'm going to skirt the politics itself and just say this: A big and very serious consequence of this election has been a normalization and emboldening of racism, sexism and bigotry. This frightens me to no end--and most of it is not even directed at me, because, white privilege.

This is a blog about monsters and speculative fiction. But if there is one thing that this genre tells us over and over again, it's that the worst monsters are not dragons, they are not AI, they are not hydras or demons or demogorgons. It's us.

The trouble with monsters within ourselves is, they are particularly difficult to fight. 

They cling deep into us with bias and determination. Often, we become so comfortable with them inside us, we do not even realize they are there.

How does one fight such a thing, in ourselves or in the people around us?

I actually found a pretty great answer in this Vox article, and I consider it the most important article I've read all month.

The article delves into a research study that used the issue of transgender rights to see if a simple conversation that calls on empathy could make a difference.

The canvassers, who could be trans or not, asked the voters to simply put themselves in the shoes of trans people — to understand their problems — through a 10-minute, nonconfrontational conversation. The hope was that the brief discussion could lead people to reevaluate their biases.

It worked. The trial found not only that voters’ anti-trans attitudes declined but that they remained lower three months later, showing an enduring result. And those voters’ support for laws that protect trans people from discrimination increased, even when they were presented with counterarguments for such laws.

The article goes on to say:

This is the direct opposite of the kind of culture the internet has fostered — typically focused on calling out racists and shaming them in public. This doesn’t work. And as much as it might seem like a lost cause to understand the perspectives of people who may qualify as racist, understanding where they come from is a needed step to being able to speak to them in a way that will help reduce the racial biases they hold.

I strongly encourage you to read the full article for yourself.

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ejwenstrom

Fall is here! Once you've consumed all things pumpkin-flavored, it's time to start looking to Halloween.

I love Halloween. It's a time when all the monsters and other strange creatures I adore are celebrated, and we can explore our darker sides a bit.

So to help us all get into the spirit, I created this like of 5 Graphic Novels to Read to Get Spooked. Enjoy!

What are your favorite Halloween reads? 

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