What Are The Best Books To Read When Transitioning From Comics To Novels?
Posted on 21st of August, 2018


I'm seeing a lot of answers of people recommending novels based on comic books, which I don't think really answers your question. If I were an avid comic book reader, why would I give up the beautiful artwork just the read about the same stories and characters in novel format? To me that is just two different mediums for the same thing and say what you will, but comic books will always be the best way to tell these stories.

What I would instead recommend is a long running series of novels that are edited by George R. R. Martin, yes THAT George R. R. Martin. He's not the only one contributing stories, though, as over the years more than forty authors have left their stamp on the Wild Cards universe. The framework for the stories is an alien virus, called the Wild Card virus, that either kills people, mutates them into monstrous creatures called "Jokers" or gives the super powers. The very few lucky ones who gain super powers are known as "Aces" and they are basically the superheroes of the Wild Card universe, with names like Captain Trips, Fortunato, Kid Dinosaur, Peregrine, Popinjay and Modular Man. Since the stories are written by different authors, the quality tends to vary a lot, but overall it is a very enjoyable series and will definitely make comic book fans feel right at home. In fact, if you can, track down the Wild Cards limited series comic series from the nineties if you want to transition smoothly from comics to the novels.

The books all pack a lot of action, drama and imagination, which is exactly what you would expect from a series inspired by comic book heroes. Try to start from the beginning of the series as it explains a lot about the start of the outbreak and how the characters were changed while later books focus more on individual stories and characters. If you really want to be ahead of the curve, you should get started on the books before the rumored HBO television series is finally brought to life.
Comic books are dumb in general, but I have read a few novels based on comic book superheroes that are not all bad. My all-time favorite is Miles Morales: Spider-Man. It is a book by Jason Raynolds that deals with Spider-Man, but not the generic, boring Spider-Man of the comic books and movies. Instead, the focus is on Miles Morales, who is mixed race character with both Black and Latino heritage. This alone makes for a much more interesting character than Peter Parker or whatever his name is. The neat part is that Miles isn't afraid to tackle racial issues either, so we get a fresh perspective on a stale character along with relevant social commentary that is applicable for everyone in our current political climate.

The second novel that I urge you not to miss is a book by Leigh Bardugo called Wonder Woman: Warbringer. If you have watched the latest Wonder Woman movie you will already know what an amazing character she is and this book is imo even better than the movie. It features Wonder Woman when she was sixteen years old and still had to prove herself, but also introduces a kick-ass secondary character in the form of Alia Keralis. These two strong, independent women quickly become fast friends and overall it is a highly recommended book.

My last recommendation is a great novel by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale called The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World. I wasn't familiar with Squirrel Girl when I read this book, but I am glad I did as she has become somewhat of a feminist icon in the comic book world. The book has a somewhat Spider-Man feel to it as it deals with a teen who has super hero powers, but still has to deal with the tricky world of high school. Reading about how Doreen (Squirrel Girl) handles everything on her plate is great stuff.
I love comics and they generally contain much deeper story-lines than what people give them credit for, but they are still a whole different kettle of fish to fry compared to novels. You can ease the transition by reading a couple of novels that are based on comic books, but be careful as a lot of these are inferior to the comics in many ways. I have found that often the writing is the same as the comics, but since there is no art, it is like you are only getting half the experience. There are also a couple of novels where they basically created a novelization of an animated movie based on the superhero. Once again, these are generally inferior to watching the actual movie. Finally, there are the novels that are based on the movies that are based on the comic books. By the time you read these novels you'll find that they are so watered down compared to the source material that it is not even worth the effort.

It is not all bad, so if I haven't scared you away yet, some of these suggestions should be to your liking.
This is a recommendation that you are probably going to see a lot, but I don't think that The Death and Life of Superman has ever been surpassed in terms of novels based on comic books. I myself wasn't a very big fan of Superman, but I borrowed the book from a friend half out of curiosity and half out of boredom. I ended up being totally hooked by the story even if it still had that amateurish comic book feel to the writing. The whole concept of Superman, who everyone thinks is this unstoppable hero, actually dying is a very good one and the book wastes no time in killing him off. This is not the end of the story either as it then continues to focus on the events afterwards, where a group of characters who all claim to be Superman appear.

If you are not a fan of Superman, then you will almost certainly be a fan of the world's greatest detective, Batman. Batman: No Man's Land is a novel that takes the caped crusader and places him in a setting that isn't explored in any of the comics as far as I know. It starts with a huge earthquake that turns Gotham city into an almost post apocalyptic wasteland where law and order is something of the past. Batman has his hands full trying to stop an entire city from going crazy and it makes for a very entertaining story.

I'm sure that there are a couple of others, but these are the one that really stood out to me as worth reading even if you are not a fan of the characters or comic books. If you haven't done so already, I would say that reading a couple of graphic novels could also be a step up from ordinary comic books. What I really enjoy about graphic novels is that they tend to be self contained and you don't have to hunt down fifty different comics across five different series to get the full story. In most instances graphic novels are also a lot more complex than their comic book counterparts and tell better stories.

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