Eric asks for some ideas about comics to check out. His basic parameters: burned out on the most prominent superheroes, interested in alternative stuff, likes insider digs at geek culture, maybe not susceptible to the more audacious Alan Moore aesthetic.
Few of my suggestions are going to come as any surprise to those who've been following comics closely for the last decade. But here are some of my favorites for the one-time fan who's ready to dive back into the pool:
Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid On Earth. Nothing in Eric's list of likes and dislikes really tells me whether he'll respond to Ware's architectural, nostalgic, melancholy sensibility. However, Ware is probably my favorite living cartoonist, and a genuine bona-fide certified dyed-in-the-wool genius -- one of those once-in-a-generation near-freaks. Nothing like starting at the top!
Kurt Busiek, Astro City. Even if you think you don't want any more superheroes, Busiek's bright, grounded reimagination of the genre has an invigorating spirit. Of all the superfolk-through-the-eyes-of-ordinary-folk experiments, this may be the most thoroughly entertaining and moving.
Dan Clowes, Caricature. "Caricature" is a story that rewards almost endless scrutiny, and Clowes' famous misanthropy perhaps reaches its artistic zenith in this collection -- just on the edge of disintegrating into postmodernism.
Craig Thompson, Blankets. Marrying the standard bittersweetness-of-adolescence autobiographical trope to outstanding draftsmanship and a deeply-felt religious angle, this massive graphic novel is compulsively readable.
Michel Rebagliati, Paul Has A Summer Job. Or any of the "Paul" books, beautiful and highly artistic pieces of storytelling with themes that sneak up on you -- about the awkward interlude between adulthood and real responsibility.
Guy Delisle, Pyongyang: A Journey In North Korea. A stunning travelogue by a gifted observer who spends time in the mysterious dictatorship supervising outsourced animators.
Rick Geary, The Fatal Bullet. Or any of his "Treasury of Victorian Murder" series (now shifting into the twentieth century with the upcoming volume on the Lindbergh baby). Geary's talents as an illustrator meet his perfect capacity for representing a romanticized past with a jaundiced eye, devoid of sentimentality, in this dissection of the assassination of President Garfield.
Frank King, Walt And Skeezix. Simply the most sublime experience reading comics I've had in the last five years. Nothing less than a celebration of life and humanity in the back alleys of the Roaring Twenties' gentler rural incarnation.