Friday, May 17, 2019

Panelathon TBR + Recommendations

I’ve never done a readathon. Lately, I’ve been focusing on reading newer books to review and my personal TBR stack is through the roof. Not to mention it takes me a month to read a decent sized book because I’m busy reading and reviewing comics. So a readathon based on comics? Yeah, I can do that.

Disclaimer: This post is gonna be chock full of affiliate ads. That means if you click one of these links and buy something I'll get money that pretty much just goes toward renewing my domain name.

Panelathon is hosted by three YouTubers: Shae from Shaegeeksout, Jesse from Bowties & Books, and Natalie from Pages and Panels. I was introduced to it by Natalie - she’s the only manga YouTuber I follow and she’s just delightful. At first, I watched her Panelathon announcement video just because I had a few minutes to spare. I wasn’t planning on reading along until I heard the challenges.

Most of the challenges are things I already do through my usual comic reviews. I could probably read like four things and cross half of them off my list. But in the interest in trying new things and introducing you guys to more comics, I will try to read as diverse of a selection as possible. That’s 15 comics in one week. I can do it!

Below is the full list of challenges as well as what I will probably be reading and a few other recommendations for you. If you’re looking for any more suggestions my blog is chock full of them. Ask me in the comments or hit me up on Twitter if you want a more personal recommendation.

Challenge #1. Read at least one graphic novel, one comic, and one manga

Pretty easy there. This will definitely be taken care of by other challenges and probably by my usual weekly reviews. For clarification, in Natalie’s video she defines a “comic” as a traditional Western comic such as a single issue or a trade paperback from a longer series while a “graphic novel” is a more stand-alone, self-contained story. Manga is a Japanese comic usually collected in a small volume of on average seven to ten chapters, but individual chapters are available digitally these days.

Challenge #2. Read a comic from any publisher other than from the Big Three (DC, Marvel, Image)

Another easy one for me since I don’t review for the Big Two - not for lack of trying of course. BOOM! Studios and IDW are probably the most popular publishers outside of the Big Three, although a lot of their titles are licensed properties like Power Rangers and Steven Universe and since the readathon is really about branching out I’d suggest reading something from Mad Cave Studios, Vault Comics, or Oni Press to name a few.

The Big Three don’t really publish manga but a lot of the bigger manga publishers like Viz Media and Kodansha still feel very “Big Three” since a lot of their titles are fairly mainstream and follow the usual tropes. Although there honestly aren’t that many other publishers out there, so I’d suggest looking for something at Viz that isn’t from the Shonen Jump imprint. Viz Signature, for example, has a few great ones like Fire Punch.

Challenge #3. Read a graphic memoir or comic inspired by real events

This is probably going to be the hardest one for a lot of people. I found a copy of Smile by Raina Telgemeier at a thrift store a while ago so this is as good a time as any to give it a read. I’m not sure if it’s 100% a true story, but it’s definitely at least semi-autobiographical

It’s actually just pure luck that I have that lying around - off the top of my I couldn’t name a single comic that would fit this category. And a lot of the ones I’ve found through research a kinda “too real” for my tastes. But that’s part of the point of readathons, right? To discover new things? I’d say my best advice to you would be to just Google “autobiographical comics” and find one that follows a topic you’re interested in.

I do have some more fun, geeky suggestions if you don’t want to get all sad while reading a comic. Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible by Stan Lee tells the entire story of the Marvel universe from the point of view of the man himself. Rise of the Dungeon Master tells the story of Gary Gygax, co-creator of Dungeons & Dragons.

Challenge # 4. Read a comic with LGBT+ characters

Oh momma this is a challenge? It seems like every mainstream series has a gay BFF sidekick these days. A lot of them are black lesbians for some reason. The Long Con and Crowded are recent examples. But a lot of them have LGBT+ characters in an “it’s no big deal” sorta way. Which is great. Representation doesn’t always need to be a big rainbow spotlight.

I hate to say “just Google it” again but there really is a lot. LGBT+ isn’t a genre so you’re certain to find representation in superheroes and fantasy and sci-fi and horror.

Challenge # 5. Read a comic where a character goes on a fantastical journey

This is another one that probably any comic could qualify for, although you’re probably going to want something more road trip-y than Spider-Man getting on a plane one page and then just being in Korea the next. You want a real adventure story where characters travel throughout and visit all kinds of areas. And not just any journey - a fantastical one.

I highly recommend dungeon crawling comics that feel like old school RPG type stories with adventuring parties fighting monsters and finding treasure all over a beautiful fantasy world. A lot of traditional shonen manga follow this trope as well, with each massive arc taking place in one location before characters move on to the next. My absolute favorite would have to be Astra Lost In Space.

Challenge # 6. Read the first issue in a new series

You’re automatically going to pass this challenge no matter what. If you read a trade paperback, the first twenty to thirty pages is the first issue. But maybe you’re just looking to get your feet wet in a different series while reading as many different things as possible. Plus the title specifies a “new” series. I’m not sure if that means new to you or if there is a cut off date, but I’ll see what I can recommend.

The Comic Stacks subscription box includes 5 recently new #1s each month. It might be too late to order one in time for the readathon, but you can check out my unboxings here and here.

Local comic shops have all of their new comics on sale Wednesday, usually in the front. So you can easily find a newer series that interest you and check out their first issues. There is almost always a new #1 every single week so there is no shortage.

Vault Comics has the #1s for all of their comics available for free on their website. I highly recommend Wasted Space!

Hands down the best first issue I’ve read in my time reviewing comics is Self/Made #1. I can’t even tell you the premise because even that’s a spoiler, but I promise the first issue will make you want to read the whole thing. Check out my review of the first issue here.

Challenge # 7. Read from a new to you creator

I don’t know the reading history of everyone reading this blog post, so it’s hard for me to make a recommendation. But hey there are thousands of comic creators out there so I guarantee there is at least one you’ve never read from.

I’ll probably end up gravitating toward whatever is new the week of the readathon, but if I don’t find anything interesting I guess I’ve never actually read something by Frank Miller? Always a good time to give The Dark Knight Returns a try.

Challenge # 8. Read at least 5 chapters from a webcomic of your choice

Webcomics aren’t usually my cup of tea just because I hate reading comics on a computer and apps specifically for webcomics weren’t a thing until I got too busy reading other things.

Homestuck just ended so I might give that a try? Although I’ve tried reading it before and found it a bit too weird. As a kid, the only webcomic I remember ever getting into was Order of the Stick which is still going on. I also picked up a print edition of Awkward Zombie when I went to Philly, so now’s a good time to get it off my TBR cart.

Challenge #9. Read a comic from your favorite genre

I think comics is my favorite genre? I’ve honestly never thought about this before. My favorite genre of comics or my favorite genre in general?

This is obviously going to be specific to you and your personal tastes. Technically you can reread your favorite comic - no one said every comic in this readathon had to be brand new, but I think that’s the best way to get the most out of the experience.

Maybe I’ll try to read something with transforming superheroes like Power Rangers or monster partners like Digimon.

Obviously, this challenge is specific to you. I can’t give you specific recommendations for your favorite genre.

Challenge # 10. Read a host's comic pick

Natalie’s pick is Volume 1 of Space Boy by Stephen McCranie, a sci-fi webcomic published in paperback by Dark Horse., Shae's pick is the first volume of Honey So Sweet, a manga published by Viz Media under their Shojo Beat imprint. Jesse's pick is Vol. 1 of Blackbird, a new fantasy series by Sam Humphries and Jen Bartel.


But what readathon would be complete without bonus challenges? There isn’t much I can say about them. The first and second are to read the rest of the hosts’ picks. The third is to read from a genre you don't typically read from. I guess I might track down a horror, but your answer is going to be unique to you.

The fourth bonus challenge is to read a comic that is over 300 pages. Watchmen, the highest selling comic ever, is just over 400 and always goes highly recommended. However, most comics are serialized and easily clear 300 pages in a year or so, they’re just rarely collected in a single volume that large. Pretty much any 3 trade paperbacks or any two tankobons will cover this challenge.

The fifth is a comic that was recommended at your local comic shop. Stop in and ask anyone working there - or contact them on social media if there isn’t one super close. If you love really way out in the middle of nowhere, just tweet at any local shop until you get a suggestion. My local shop, Phantom of the Attic, posts staff picks every week.

And there you have it. Panelathon runs from May 20 through May 27. Be sure to share your updates with #PanelAThon and tag the hosts @pagesandpanels, @shaegeeksout, and @BowtiesBooks. And go ahead and tag me @themoderngafa if you use any recommendations from this post or anywhere on the blog or if you just want to ask me for last minute recommendations. I am always online and always reading comics.