Here's the drill: This Saturday, May 3rd, is Free Comic Book Day. Walk into a comics shop (you can find the one nearest you at www.freecomicbookday.com/storelocator), and they will hand you some free comics.
Not any comics in the store, mind you, but a selection of comics specifically produced for Free Comic Book Day, which is now an annual event. There are a whopping 57 such books this year – some of them samplers, with excerpts from various titles, while others reprint the first chapters of ongoing series. Not every store will have every selection – many will stock only a few. Some stores will let you choose as many as you want, others will hand you a pre-packaged stack of comics. But hey: free comics, right?
The idea, of course, is not simply to get you into the store, but to pique your interest, and turn you into a customer. The marketing principle in question – which is taught to students at the Wharton Business School on their first day, and hangs in a place of honor in the boardrooms of every Fortune 500 company: "The first taste is always free."
As I've done for the past five years, I've prepared a handy guide to those Free Comic Book Day offerings you'll find in stores on Saturday. It's ... admittedly a little less handy than usual, inasmuch as 57 books is a lot of comics to review – but please use it help pick books for you and your kids. In return, I ask only three things:
1. Buy something. Buy something. Stores shell out a lot of money to stock Free Comic Book Day comics, and they're counting on you to do more than skulk off with your booty like a thief in the night.
2. Talk to the staff. The sheer number of comics on the shelves can seem overwhelming, but the good news is you don't have to wing it. Tell a staffer the movies, TV shows, and books you like, and that your kids like. They're trained to recommend comics you've got a good chance of enjoying.
3. Report back here and tell us how it went in the comments – especially if you've never set foot inside a comics shop before.
Here then, grouped according to genre/interest, is NPR's 5th Annual Guide to Free Comic Book Day.
For Kids Who Get Really Stoked About the Leveraging of Intellectual Property via Cross-Platform Synergy
Look, you know your kids. They love the stuff they love, and they're not much interested in branching out from it. Also, they WILL. NOT. SHUT. UP. about brand licensing opportunities and strategy implementation for multimedia content distribution.
So we're talking licensed properties, then: comics based on existing TV shows, games, whatever – the stuff they already know, and thus will probably actually read. Fair warning: As a rule, licensed comics are cynical, joyless affairs churned out because Keith in Marketing remembered to mention it at a staff meeting. (Thanks, KEITH). Luckily, however, this year includes some gems.
KABOOM! SUMMER BLAST! (Recommended)
Excerpts from several Kaboom! books, including Mike Kunkel's wonderful Herobear and the Kid and the Adventure Time comic. Standouts: an Uncle Grandpa story about Pizza Steve getting good/bad news, and an Adventure Time tale involving, as do all of life's truly important moments, a twenty-sided die.
MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS
"... in the 17th and 18th episodes of the 2nd season of MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS ... a little bit of business happened off-stage ... After defeating the Scarlet Sentinel, the Rangers had to send the imprisoned-in-her-Dumpster Rita Repulsa back into deep space. Up until now, most MMPR fans may have assumed nothing remarkable occurred during the execution of that particular task. Well, prepare to be surprised! .... Fasten your seatbelts – it's going to be a bumpy ride!"
So, there's that. An all-new tale about ... that. CONSUMER WARNING: Although the above blurb paraphrases Margo Channing, readers expecting Bette Davis to show up and morph into White Tiger Tigerzord and go all "DRAGON DAGGER!" on Addison DeWitt will come away bitterly, bitterly disappointed. Bitterly.
Gargamel does drag, Annoying Orange is both annoying and orange, Ariol the Little Donkey gets lost at a comics convention, and a bunch of dinosaurs dispense dino-facts.
BONGO COMICS FREE FOR ALL (Recommended)
An anthology of Simpsons stories that captures the show's flavor and tosses in plenty of in-jokes about the show – and about comics (highlight: A visit to a distinctly Steve Ditko-esque limbo dimension).
HELLO KITTY AND FRIENDS/BRAVEST WARRIORS
Five short tales of everyone's favorite taciturn, be-bowed feline/aggressively cute backpack adornment, including some that permit the artists to go a bit off-model with interesting results. Plus several Where's Waldo-esque splash pages featuring characters from Pendleton Ward's web series, Bravest Warriors, which should keep the little pishers distracted long enough for you to yoink the last Atomic Robo.
SPONGEBOB FREESTYLE FUNNIES
Squidward relocates, some marine biology knowledge gets dropped, Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy save the day, and SpongeBob and Patrick make comics. (Best moment? Patrick steps out of Squidward's shower, yelling "I got the ink!" as a forlorn Squidward gazes into the middle distance, mourning his own lost innocence.)
MEGAMAN X/SONIC THE HEDGEHOG
The video game characters have adventures in worlds with ... sort of astonishingly deep backstories. Prrrrrobably should have seen that coming.
If you're anything like me, you'll get about 10 pages into this anthology of tales revolving around video game characters Chun-Li, Ken, Juri, and Akuma, and you'll think to yourself, "Ok geez come on already SOMEbody better say 'Round One! Fight!' pretty dang soon or I'll... well I'll probably keep reading but it will be UNDER PROTEST."
If that's the case, hang in there. Page 18. They got you covered.
AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER (Recommended)
In a terrific Avatar story by Gene Luen Yang and Faith Erin Hicks, a couple of obnoxious fanboy jerkfaces get what's coming to them and a geeky girl finds the strength to like the things she likes, dammit. Itty Bitty Hellboy life-coaches (death-coaches) a ghost, and David Lapham's Juice Squeezers – a really grossly-named team of kids who secretly defend their town from giant insects – exact revenge on a school bully. I wasn't at the pitch meeting for this series, but I'd be surprised if "Goonies meets Starship Troopers" wasn't said, at some point, by somebody.
THE TICK (Recommended)
It's a battle of wills – or emotional disorders, anyway – as The Tick and Arthur square off against an evil alien who wants to add them to his collection. It's a cosmic grudge match between Arthur's OCD vs. The Hoarder's, um, hoarding behavior! "Arthur, look!" says the Tick at one point. "It's a huge stack of comic books from the 1990s! These must be WORTH A FORTUNE!"
TRANSFORMERS VS. GI JOE (Not reviewed)
Didn't get a review copy of this toyetic tome, but the preview art on the FCBD site is channeling the great Jack Kirby like it's Whoopi in Ghost.
For Kids Who Make Their Own Kind of Music, Sing Their Own Special Song, Etc.
Your kids don't need any pre-digested pabulum! No familiar licensed properties for them! They want original characters! New situations! The thrill of discovery! Face it: Your kids are just better than anyone else's kids, which is why they deserve fresh ground-breaking outside-the-box content like:
OK HEAR ME OUT. Riverdale's favorite sweater-vested, polyamorous, tic-tac-toe-headed teen ginger isn't exactly a bold new creation. But he's no cynical, let's-quick-make-a-comic-while-we're-at-it cash grab, either. The kid's been sucking down malteds since 1941, and has managed to hang tenaciously on to his berth in the grocery checkout aisle while his flashier super-powered competitors fled to comics shops in the '80s. That, in fact, is how he managed to weather the comics boom and bust of the '90s; so a little respect, please, for this battle-hardened veteran. His FCBD offering – a digest comic clocking in at nearly 100 pages - would be the best deal for the money, if it cost anything. Which is doesn't. That's kind of the whole point. I'm sorry, have you not been listening?
UNCLE SCROOGE & DONALD DUCK: A MATTER OF SOME GRAVITY (Recommended)
Sure, Donald Duck is a movie star, but his Uncle Scrooge was created for the comics page. Fantagraphics is reprinting the great Don Rosa's duck stories in a ten-volume collection, and the series editor has picked two his favorites to reprint here, "A Matter of Gravity" and "The Sign of the Triple Distelfink." They're both great, bright, funny, gorgeous stories, but "Gravity" – which involves Italian duck-witch Magica De Spell breaking some basic laws of physics –will have kids turning the comic upside down to follow the action.
TOP SHELF KIDS CLUB – Recommended
Enticing excerpts from two Top Shelf graphic novels: Eric Orchard's upcoming Maddy Kettle and the Adventure of the Thimblewitch, about a headstrong girl determined to rescue her parents from the clutches of an (actually pretty dang creepy) witch, looks fantastic: every panel exudes quirky, gorgeous atmosphere. The excerpt from Rob Harrell's Monster on the Hill, a tale of a Victorian family and their village's resident monster, captures that story's sense of humor – and introduces the twist that drives the story.
THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER!
This excerpt from Jimmy Gownley's graphic memoir, in which his thirteen-year-old self attempts to improve his social status by making a comic book (heh), wears its big ol' heart on its sleeve, and provides a helpfully straightforward depiction of the joys and frustrations of the creative process.
THE ADVENTURES OF JELLABY (Recommended)
Kean Soo's charming stories about the friendship between a little girl and an expressive if less-than-terrifying silent monster began as a webcomic. If your kids like what they see – and they will – check out Soo's "Jellaby, The Lost Monster" and the upcoming "Jellaby, Monster in the City," coming in August.
SCRATCH 9/RUN & AMUK
Scratch is a cat with the power to summon any of his nine lives. Run and Amuk — a boy and his alien-enhanced ancient dog — travel the timestream righting wrongs and fighting giant fire-cows, because comics.
Beats Old Yeller all to hell, I tell you what.
For Fans of Robots, Aliens, and Alien Robots
Everyone's heard the old saw that science fiction and comics go together like Vulgorthians and cyberflorgs. This year's crop of FCBD offerings lean heavily toward things that go "pewpewpew" and "brakka brakka brakka" and "Vrrrroooomp."
ALL YOU NEED IS KILL/TERRA FORMARS
If the plot of "All You Need is Kill," based on the 2004 Japanese novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, seems familiar (soldier fights alien invaders, but keeps getting reborn to fight and die again), that's because you've seen the trailer for Edge of Tomorrow, the Tom Cruise film out next month, which is based on the same novel. This brief excerpt can't give more than a taste of the story, but what's here is intriguing. Likewise the excerpt from "Terra ForMars," a manga about an expedition to Mars that goes south remarkably quickly, ends before we get a real sense of what's at stake.
ATOMIC ROBO/BODIE TROLL/HAUNTED (Recommended)
If you have learned nothing else from me about Free Comic Book Day over these 5 years, remember at least this: always pick up the Atomic Robo. Funny, fast-paced, robot-punchy adventure. Dependably great comics, as is the Bodie Troll story, which finds our furry hero facing off against a scarecrow. The excerpt from "Haunted," however, doesn't provide enough story to get a bead on – a woman is chased by a creepy hooded beast-thing, I guess? Yay?
STEAM WARS - Recommended
Steampunk Star Wars. Yep. Look, I could go on, but we both know you've already made up your mind. Mm? You want more? Ok: "I'll need everything you can give me from the hyper-boiler!"
So. I mean.
GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
Brian Michael Bendis and Nick Bradshaw serve up a useful primer on the stars of Marvel's summer space opera, Jim Starlin offers a taste of his upcoming Thanos graphic novel, and a Shakespearean Spider-Man struts and frets his hour on the stage.
ROCKET RACCOON - Recommended
Marvel's second FCBD offering shines a whimsical spotlight on the Guardians of the Galaxy's blaster-packin' furry mammal with an attitude problem, while a second tale finds Spider-Man matching wits with a space-orthodontist on the moon. Comics, guys!
VALIANT UNIVERSE: HANDBOOK 2014
Comics publisher Valiant offers a Who's Who and What's What resource for 18 of the characters and teams across their line. Pretty dry on its own, but you're gonna need to keep it handy if you hope to make any sense whatsoever of Valiant's other FCBD offering....
Brief, largely bewildering excerpts from various Valiant books, many of which seem to deal with people wanting to find, steal and/or keep a set of space-armor, for reasons that are too complicated to go into here (read: that I couldn't understand).
BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY A.D. (Recommended)
Bold, exciting reprints of Russell Keaton's 1930s Buck Rogers full-color Sunday strips – which starred Buck's little brother Buddy. Also features a sample of artist Murphy Anderson's Buck Rogers strips from the 1940s. Gorgeous stuff.
In "Tesla," Nikolai Tesla goes to Paris and gets embroiled in a kidnapping plot. In "Wayward Sons," two young people with super-powers begin to learn of their greater destiny that, if I'm reading the story's heavily dropped hints correctly, leads back to Mount Olympus. (If you like the Tesla story, pick up Matt Fraction and Steven Sanders' 2006 graphic novel Five Fists of Science, which is funny, gorgeous, and deeply weird, while this Tesla series seems – at least so far – comparatively paint-by-numbers.)
WORLDS OF ASPEN 2014
Some publishers have their fingers on the pulse of today. Aspen Comics is a publisher with a white-knuckled grip on 1993, in that it still stuffs its well-endowed warrior-women into corsets and/or bikini-armor. This year's offering includes a few cheesecake pin-ups (because a leopard can't change its bra size) but the stories seem like things that might actually have been written by and for someone outside Aspen's "horny 13-year-old boy" target demo. In "The Zoohunters," an alien tracker strikes an odd bargain with a dealer in exotic animals. And "Damsels in Excess" introduces us to the princesses of the Five Kingdoms, a realm where the men have vanished and – ok, yes, sure, fine, all the women have boobs bigger than their heads. But the setup's intriguing enough to offer real hope that Aspen might find an actual story amid the cleavage.
For Fans of Magic, Swords, and Magic Swords
Lots of Fantasy-tinged offerings in this year's batch of free comics. Whole lotta heroes heeding the call to adventure, and proceeding to get their respective monomyths on:
RISE OF THE MAGI (Recommended)
Writer Marc Silvestri manages to pack a lot of humor and world-building into this 11-page tale of a young rug-repair boy, his magic frog and his quest to see the dangerous world of magic for himself. Sumeyye Kesgin's charming art brings home the story's fun, ingratiating tone. A series to watch.
FINDING GOSSAMYR/PAST THE LAST MOUNTAIN
In "Finding Gossamyr," a boy chafes against his dull life as a farmer's son and hungers for adventure. In "Past the Last Mountain," an ogre, a centaur and a dragon escape their human imprisonment and set out for ... something. Both excerpts are too brief to get anything but a faint sense of them, but Thomas Boatwright's rich, expressive art on "Past the Last Mountain" has convinced me to keep an eye out for the series this fall.
COURTNEY CRUMRIN (Recommended)
Ted Naifah's story of a young witch navigating both treacherous magic and treacherous schoolmates is shot through with a sense of sardonic dread. She's smart, tough and can handle everything life throws at her – but we get the definite sense that things won't end well. Clever dialogue that never shades into archness. A great all-ages read.
In "Shadow Children," a boy and girl from our world come of age in an idyllic fantasy realm that may possibly hide a sinister purpose. I mean, I'm just going by the fact that the guy who runs the place looks like a cross between the Joker and Thulsa Doom. Call it a hunch. In "Darchon," a mentally unstable man finds deeper meanings – and perhaps his life's purpose – in the pages of a comic book about a powerful Sorcerer Supreme. Both books share a darker, more adult undercurrent than many of this year's other Fantasy-themed FCBD books.
In "Magika," Niko's a human boy in (geez, I should really make a macro) an idyllic fantasy realm, and gets up to some hijinks with trolls and whatnot. A breezy, all-ages adventure that sets up Niko as The One who can save the idyllic fantasy realm from CERTAIN DOOM, but you saw that coming because you've read books before. In "The First Daughter," Tasha is the daughter of the President of the United States, and as such is outfitted with hot pink alien nanotech armor to save the world a lot. In this exposition-heavy first chapter, Tasha fights a time-jumping dragon-creature and learns that the First Daughter program is hiding a grave secret, because duh.
MOUSE GUARD/LABYRINTH (Recommended)
Publisher Archaia offers excerpts from six of its all-ages books – including a tale of David Petersen's exquisitely-wrought Mouse Guard and a story focusing on Ludo, the fan-favorite beastie from Jim Henson's 1986 film Labyrinth. Also: A kid with a jet pack, a dinosaur in the Statue of Liberty, the peripatetic nocturnal adventures of a raccoon named Missy — what are you, made of stone?
FAR FROM WONDER (Recommended)
Based on a character from Frank Beddor's novel The Looking Glass Wars, Far From Wonder finds Hatter, a soldier of the Wonderland Millinery (its chapeau-themed military) arriving in 1859 Paris to track down Princess Alyss, who's gone missing. Beddor and Liz Cavalier's script moves along nicely, and gets in some good jokes, but Ben Templesmith's moody, surreal art is the reason to pick this up.
In this Western/Lovecraftian genre-splice of a tale, a Sioux Shaman teams up with Edgar Allen Poe in the Old West. Also there's a giant worm-beast that eats its victims bones but leaves their flesh. Also the main character has a shard of metal in his brain that allows him to see the future, though that doesn't really come up, here. Also, Mormons. (If you like this, do check out "The Sixth Gun" by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt, another Western/Dark Magic hybrid that's one of the best comics on the stands right now.)
GRIMM FAIRY TALES
Imagine the award-winning, critically acclaimed series Fables, about fairy tale characters in a modern setting. Good? You picturing it? Okay, now take away the awards and the acclaim. And replace 'em with boobies. And armor-garters. Mostly boobies though.
For Mature Readers. Well, You Know: Mature Readers Who Want to Read About Zombie Sex Workers, So We're Kind of Giving That Word "Mature" A Real Workout, Here
A higher-than usual number of FCBD offerings are serving up blood and/or guts and/or braaaaaaiiiins this year.
A hapless citizen is kidnapped by a pair of fugitives in this excerpt from the dystopic mini-series written by Davor Radoja, with art by Well Bee. Genre clichés abound, but there's a crudeness to the art (and, frankly, to the Croatian-to-English translation: "Try to lose them! Use the power of this machine!") that sets it apart from more polished FCBD offerings. Not a complaint.
This one-shot story spins off from SCAM, a series about super-powered crooks in Vegas. Here, the spotlight falls on that book's masked assassin as he takes out his next target ... by landing a plane on him. Another story stars Pint, a crook who gets stronger and stronger by consuming more and more alcohol. Comics: Not Known For Subtext!
This science fiction series throws a lot of balls in the air in its first issue – aliens living quietly on Earth suddenly depart, while a young man keeps hearing the same mysterious message, gains weird new abilities and begins to receive visions of a dude who looks a lot like Sean Penn, for reasons that I can only trust will become clear eventually.
The first chapter of a story set in a town on the US-Mexican border, where rival motorcycle gangs violently clash, and everyone bear suspiciously familiar names like Rob Hood, Padre Tuck, Little John ... yeah, you see where this is going. The FCBD offering drops us in the middle of the action, and the atmospherics, at least, seem promising. Also includes a brief story from Boondock Saints, the comic based on Troy Duffy's 1999 cult film about fraternal twins who become divinely-inspired vigilantes.
This is a comic about a zombie prostitute. Just to be clear. It's not, like, "aaah the rotting corpse of Charlie Chaplin waddles the earth once more!" Other kind of tramp.
FUBAR: THE ACE OF SPADES
The Iraq War and its aftermath, now with zombies! "Now with zombies!" is pretty much Fubar Press' organizing principle; they offer books about World War II with zombies, the Revolutionary War with zombies, the Cold War with zombies. Basically? If it involves military action and brain-eating? They are ON IT.
Look, vampires know you've moved on. You used to have a thing, but you like zombies now. They're cool with that. No, seriously: Walking Dead? Solid show. They can see the appeal. But they just want to know if, like, you can still be friends with them? You know, hang out or whatever?
Anyway, no pressure, but here's a comic that's basically World War Z but with vampires. An ancient virus gets released by a melting polar ice cap and triggers a dormant gene in the human population that causes vampirism. As the military attempts to quell outbreaks across the globe, scientists rush to seek a cure.
Anyway. The vampires want you to know you look good. They're just gonna leave this comic here. Read it or, you know, don't. Whatever, totally your call. Theyloveyoutheywillwaitforyou.
LES MISERABLES: THE FALL OF FANTINE
This manga adaptation of the Fantine chapters of Victor Hugo's sprawling novel moves along at a brisk trot the lugubrious musical would envy, but never quite manages to land on the reader with the emotional weight it needs to. I group it under "mature" not because it contains lots of adorable zombie street urchins or anything (more's the pity), but just as a heads-up to parents that it deals matter-of-factly with the lengths Fantine goes to send money to her daughter. Includes a preview of a manga Pride & Prejudice in which Mr. Darcy exudes all the raw sexual energy of Edward Scissorhands. If that's your thing.
Writer Kieron Gillen's indie series Phonogram (with art by Jamie McKelvie) was, for my money anyway, the best comic of the '00s, and his work for Marvel consistently surprises – and Odin knows surprise is something the hoary superhero genre can always use. Uber, his alternate history of World War II in which Nazi Germany unleashes super-powered soldiers across the European Theater, is as you might imagine much darker and bloodier than his other work. The FCBD offering isn't a comic, per se – it's more a prose dossier filled with interview transcripts and field reports, with occasional illustrations from the series by Caanan White. As a feat of world-building, it's impressive, and it does a nice job of setting up the series' chess pieces.
Britain's long-standing science-fiction anthology comic offers six different stories – three from the 2000 AD archives, and three brand-new stories. Whatever your science-fiction tastes – as long as said tastes involve rogue steamrollers, telekinesis-powered golems, sentient rifles, space vampires in bikini-armor, or Galactus parodies – they got you covered.
For Fans Of Spandex-Clad Doers of Good
You've perhaps heard me gassing on in this space about how FCBD offers an annual opportunity to demonstrate the wide range of stories the comics medium can tell, yet how each year, a lot of FCBD selections feature still more mesomorphs in brightly colored tights grimacing at one another over rubble and rebar. This year, however, the list of superhero-themed selections has shrunk a bit.
THE NEW 52: FUTURE'S END
In the future of the DC Universe, Superman, Wonder Woman and most other heroes have been brutally murdered, dismembered and transformed into cyborgs. This one dude even sews Black Canary's head into his torso. ... Hey kids! Comics!
TEEN TITANS GO (Recommended)
A mystery involving missing sandwiches is solved, and a game of mini-golf ... gets real. If you read that New 52 comic, this all-ages book will come as a much-needed breath of bright, goofy, deeply funny air.
In Midnight Tiger, a black kid in a city beset by rogue super-powered heroes and villains receives a super-blood transfusion and gains amazing new abilities, as you do. Skyward's a fantasy series about a boy and his dog whose world is shattered when an evil army invades his homeland. The Skyward excerpt doesn't allow us to get much of a read on the series, however, as it focuses on a tribe of berserkers who will soon encounter said boy and said dog. Cute pup, though.
PROJECT BLACK SKY (Recommended)
Captain Midnight (yes, that Captain Midnight) and a smart-mouthed, nattily dressed telepath named Brain Boy head to Vegas to battle psychic cyborg gorillas fluent in ASL, while a sinister rogue government agency look you know what? I'm in. Sold. Done. Fred Van Lente's dialogue is sharp, Michael Broussard's art gets the job done – and considering the job in question involves getting us invested in the emotional health of a bunch of cyber-apes, yes please thank you.
Young Eric gets caught in one of those freak accidents that young nerdy men are forever getting caught in, gains super powers, slaps on a costume, and proceeds to attempt to save the day a lot. A bright, breezy sense of humor keeps the action bubbling, and this preview ends just Eric figures out his one, intriguing weakness. The first issue of the ongoing series arrives in stores next Wednesday; I'll definitely give it a shot.
THE INTRINSIC: SINGULARITY ZERO
A team of gifted men and women, led by wizard, scholar, and philosopher Dr. Ishmael Stone, defend reality from occult threat. The art of this FCBD offering has a distinctive, air-brushed quality that won't be to everyone's tastes, but do note that the ongoing series has a much more conventional look.
DUEL IDENTITY/PANDORA'S BLOGS
In Duel Identity, caped superhero Andromeda is the public, do-gooding face of trained assassin Artemis, which is about all I could glean from the preview. In Pandora's Blogs, a young girl moves to a Florida town and begins to chronicle its supernatural goings-on via social media, because kids today with twenty-three skiddoo and their phonebooth stuffing, right?
For Those Who Like a Little Non- With Their Fiction
SHIGERU MIZUKI'S SHOWA: A HISTORY OF JAPAN (Recommended)
In this memoir, legendary manga artist Mizuki draws an exaggerated, hyper-cartoony version of himself amid some of the grimmest realities of 20th Century Japan, and let's that tension work a sly, revelatory magic. The first two volumes cover the years 1926-1939 and 1939-1944 respectively. In this excerpt from the second volume, Mizuki is drafted and sees first-hand the vast distance stretching between the war his fellow soldiers are fighting, and the war presented in news broadcasts.
HIP HOP FAMILY TREE (Recommended)
A collection of chapters from cartoonist Ed Piskor's exhaustive, hugely informative and hugely entertaining two-volume history of Hip Hop. Piskor's infectious love for his subject, and for comics, radiates from every panel. So good, you guys.
For Fans of Comic Books Themselves
Previews is the comics industry's monthly catalog/bible, and this FCBD offering walks the reader through how awesome comics are, and how awesome Previews is, and what Previews is, and where to find Previews, and how to read Previews. Woo! Previews!
OVERSTREET'S COMIC BOOK MARKETPLACE
The company that produces the comics industry's go-to price guide packages several informative features on a range of topics—including a primer on the history of Marvel's Winter Soldier, a visual retrospective on Batman's 75 years, and a guided tour of the phenomenon known as the comics reboot.
The comics magazine and website offers several articles meant to generate excitement among new comics readers and FURIOUS DEBATE among longtime comics nerds: "Spider-Man's 10 Most Amazing Stories"; "Ten Comics to Turn Any Kid Into A Longtime Comics Fan Overnight"; "Ten of the Best Comics of the 21st Century"; "Ten Lists Of the Best Lists About Lists" ok no I made that last one up.
RAISING A READER! (Recommended)
The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting comics censorship on behalf of retailers, creators, publishers, and libraries. They've produced the useful Raising a Reader, a hands-on guide to the nuts and bolts of comics language, and how to use comics to encourage kids to read.
HELP THE CBLDF DEFEND COMICS (Recommended)
Several comics creators contribute to this anthology themed around the censorship of comics – from the chapter on Fredric Wertham in the excellent Comic Book History of Comics by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey to Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier's Tales of Comic Book Censorship, these stories are meant to get your dander up ... and your wallet out.