Year of Comics Challenge! How many of our challenges will you complete?
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The Comic Years’ Year of Comics Challenge!

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BY December 26, 2020

Every year, I try and accomplish as many challenges on the Book Riot and Reading Women challenge. I haven’t yet got 100%, but that’s not entirely the point. The great thing about these challenges is that they help you discover books you might not have ever read before. So, while looking at the 2021 lists, I started thinking: why not a challenge entirely for comics and graphic novels? Well, here it is! The Comic Years’ Year of Comics 2021 Challenge.

A Year to Celebrate the Superheroes We Love…and Hate

Year of Comics Challenge, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Divserity in Comics, Gene Luen Yang, Political Comics, People of Color in Comics, Indigenous Comics, Educational Comics, YA comics, Middle-grade comics, graphic novels, memoir graphic novels Green Lantern Jessica Cruz, a fearless warrior, suffers from anxiety. (Image: Green Lanterns #15, DC Comics)

Read a comic or graphic novel…

1)    Featuring a white superhero written by a Person of Color

Seem like a weird requirement? Well, it is, and yet it shouldn’t be. Since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby debuted Black Panther, we’ve seen countless White creators tell stories featuring People of Color. So, let’s flip the script.

Year of Comic Challenge Suggestions:

  • Captain America, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Deathstroke, by Christopher Priest
  • Damage Control, by Dwayne McDuffie

 

2)    About a neurodiverse superhero

Obviously, 2020 was a crap year for mental health. As a result, everyone should be in therapy right now. But just because they have lasers coming from their eyes or billion-dollar suits and vehicles doesn’t mean that they don’t also suffer from mental illnesses. Some much more than others. It’s kind of cathartic seeing them go through the same crap we do even.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Any Daredevil. Just…seriously, any of them
  • Mister Miracle by Tom King
  • Green Lanterns by Sam Humphries (or anything with GL Jessica Cruz)

 

3)    Starring a superhero you generally hate.

For every ten superheroes we love, there’s one we hate. Or, at the very least, find annoying. For me, it’s Hal Jordan, Clint Barton, and Fantomex. But for the longest time, the superhero I hated most was Superman. However, that ended when Man of Steel came out (the Superman movie for people who hate Superman). So,  I looked up some of his “best” stories and got reading. Now, I kind of like the boy scout. But really, give those characters a second (hundred) chance!

More Superhero Challenges:

DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Diversity in Comics, Gene Luen Yang, Political Comics, People of Color in Comics, Indigenous Comics, Educational Comics, YA comics, Middle-grade comics, graphic novels, memoir graphic novels A Superhero Graphic Novel. (Image: Court of Owls, DC Comics)

4)    Read a major comic book event you’ve never read before

Without a doubt, event comics are always fun. Even the bad ones are fun to read. This challenge could also bump up your reading numbers if you chose to read everything in the event. For instance, the event War of the Realms has about 10 graphic novels when you include the tie-ins.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Secret Invasion, Marvel Comics
  • Blackest Night, DC Comics
  • Infinity Gauntlet, Marvel Comics

 

5)    Read a prose novel from Marvel or DC

Wait…this isn’t a comic or graphic novel. So why is it on this list? Well, because some of the best superheroes aren’t in comics or on screen. It’s in books. Words without pictures. Surely, this is Crazy, right? It’s also a growing genre, so people are catching on. Therefore, you should too.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

 

6)    Read the debut issue of a character you love.

We made you read about a character you hate, now let’s flip that. With services like DC Universe, Marvel Unlimited, and Comixology, you don’t need to spend a few hundreds of thousands of dollars for the first appearance of Batman or Superman. Or whoever your favorite character is. Find that issue and read it.

Challenge Yourself With Thought-Provoking Comics, Graphic Novels, and Creators

Year of Comics Challenge, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Diversity in Comics, Gene Luen Yang, Political Comics, People of Color in Comics, Indigenous Comics, Educational Comics, YA comics, Middle-grade comics, graphic novels, memoir graphic novels In Soviet Russia, comic book read you! (Image: Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution, Microcosm Publishing)

Read a comic or graphic novel…

7)    About “real” life.

Yes, we usually read comics to escape real life, but they can also help us process real life. More than that, though, when we read, we develop empathy. And we could all use a lot more of that, lately.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • This One Summer, by Mariko Tamaki
  • Blankets, by Craig Thompson
  • My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, by Emil Ferris

 

8)    By a queer person of color (author, artist, or both)

Representation in comics is, of course, essential. However, it’s not anywhere near the level it should be. As a result, if we just pick up comics and don’t think about the creators, 90% of the creators will be white, straight, men. So, let’s start seeking out these remarkably talented people the industry underrepresents.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • The Banks, by Roxane Gay
  • The Wilds, by Vita Ayala
  • Far Sector, by N.K. Jemison

 

9)    By an indigenous author, artist, or both

Representation, Part 2, albeit, but just as important.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Redbone: The True Story of a Native American Rock Band, by Christian Staebler and Sonia Paoloni
  • MOONSHOT: The Indigenous Comics Collection
  • Werewolf by Night, by Taboo (of the Black-eyes Peas)

 

10) That takes place in the past of a non-western country

We’re a part of the world, whether we like it or not. Generally, the best way to understand other cultures is through literature and history. And we have plenty of graphic novels to help.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Soviet Daughter: A Graphic Revolution, by Julia Alekseyeva
  • Aya of Yop City, by Marguerite Abouet and Clément Oubrerie
  • Boxers and Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

 

11) That takes place in an Afrofuturist setting

Afrofuturist stories make for some of the best sci-fi ever written. And most of us already love it, even if you might not realize it. Black Panther? That’s Afrofuturism. But there are so many awesome comics exploring this genre, we don’t even have to mention T’Challa…but we will.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Black Panther: The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Deathlok: Souls of Cyber-Folk, by Dwayne McDuffie
  • Excellence, by Brandon Thomas and Khary Randolph

 

A Couple More Mind-Expanding Comics and Graphic Novels

DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Diversity in Comics, Gene Luen Yang, Political Comics, People of Color in Comics, Indigenous Comics, Educational Comics, YA comics, Middle-grade comics, graphic novels, memoir graphic novels Educator’s Delight (Image, Hip Hop Family Tree, Fantagraphics)

12) Read a graphic memoir or biography

There are so many to choose from that we could make an entire list just on this topic. People of all backgrounds are realizing that there are benefits to a graphic memoir or biography that prose just doesn’t offer. It’s worth exploring more.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

 

13) Read an educational graphic novel

Let’s do some learnin’! Why not do it with comics? Yes, there are a lot of these for kids, but there are many for adults too. Of course, you can read either.

Year of Comics Suggestions:

  • Hip Hop Family Tree, by Ed Piskor
  • Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud
  • The United States Constitution, by Jonathan Hennessey

 

The Year of Comics Challenge Free-for-All: Superhero, Non-Superhero—as Long as It has Pages and Panels

DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Diversity in Comics, Gene Luen Yang, Political Comics, People of Color in Comics, Indigenous Comics, Educational Comics, YA comics, Middle-grade comics, graphic novels, memoir graphic novels A Transformers story that will make me sob? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! (Image: Transformers: The Wreckers Saga, IDW)

Read a comic or graphic novel…

14) From an author not known for comics

There are many top-notch comic creators, but several have never written a comic book but then dove in for one or two. Or, such as Ta-Nehisi Coates, became a name in the comic industry too. They’re like cameos for comics.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Identity Crisis, by Brad Meltzer
  • Shuri, by Nnedi Okorafor
  • Wonder Woman: Love and Murder by Jodi Picoult

 

15) By Stan Lee that doesn’t feature a superhero

It’s true. Though he co-created the Marvel Universe foundations, Stan Lee wrote horror, sci-fi, crime, romance, and war stories.

  • Fury and the Howling Commandos (might be a cheat, but they are great war stories)
  • Adventures into Fear
  • Tales of Suspense (Atlas Era)

 

16) Collection from before 1980.

Just look at the original publication date and have it!

17) About a future that isn’t a dystopia

After 2020, do we really want to read stories about a future that is somehow worse than the hell we just experienced?

  • On a Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden
  • Star Trek: Retrospect, by Peter David
  • Valérian and Laureline, by By Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières

 

18) Created through crowdfunding

There are two ways to go about this one: look for a comic on Kickstarter or another crowdfunding site that will publish this year, or find an older one. However, it’s better to support the ones that haven’t made it yet.

19) That started as a movie or tv show.

When people see comics adapted to movies or tv series, they generally think it’s a step up. But when the opposite happens, they roll their eyes. Well, jokes on them, because some of those comics are better than anything the film or tv franchises ever produced.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Blade Runner 2019 by Michael Green and Mike Johnson
  • Star Wars: Darth Vader, by Kieron Gillen
  • Transformers: The Wreckers Saga

 

You Like Comics? How Do You Like Them Comics?

Year of Comics Challenge, DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Diversity in Comics, Gene Luen Yang, Political Comics, People of Color in Comics, Indigenous Comics, Educational Comics, YA comics, Middle-grade comics, graphic novels, memoir graphic novels A haunting, beautiful, and kind of adorable manga. (Image: The Girl From the Other Side, Seven Seas Press)

20) Read a doorstopper-sized Omnibus(1000 pages or more)

Comics are epics. And nothing reminds us more of that than an Omnibus sitting in front of you. Don’t read these over your head in bed—you might squash your head if you drop them. And while these can be costly, look on InStockTrades to save a lot on them.

21) Read the first book of a manga series you haven’t read before

We Americans think that we have the best comics game in town. We don’t. In fact, we might not even be in the top three. There are countless European comics, and the comic shops in Europe are the size of Barnes and Nobles stores. Then there’s Japan. Let’s just say they win. So, if you haven’t read any Manga now, jump in. It doesn’t take long to get used to reading the book from right to left, I promise.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

  • Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin’s Road, by Kazuo Koike
  • The Girl From the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún Vol. 1, by Nagabe
  • One-Punch Man Vol 1, by ONE and Yûsuke Murata

 

22) Read a YA or Middle-Grade graphic novel

There are so many great YA and Middle-Grade graphic novels these days that we were tempted to turn this into two categories. But for now, we’ll just do one. And really, this is such a fast-growing genre, and you won’t run out anytime soon.

Year of Comics Challenge Suggestions:

 

Year of Comics Challange Final Entries….

Build some momentum, then keep going! Once you get a few volumes into a series, you’ll want to keep going until you’re out of them. It’s binge reading instead of watching. So…

23) Read Three volumes of a graphic novel/comics collection in consecutive Order: Book 1

24) Read Three volumes of a graphic novel/comics collection in consecutive Order: Book 2

25) Read Three volumes of a graphic novel/comics collection in consecutive Order: Book 3

Finally, have some fun. Not only do you have an entire year to finish, but also, for the first six months or so of 2021, we’ll still be stuck inside! Furthermore, don’t cheat. Sure, some books can fulfill multiple challenges, but where’s the fun in that? Nevertheless, happy reading, everyone.

(Featured Image: Infinity War Omnibus, Marvel Comics)

COMICS

Roman Colombo finished his MFA in 2010 and now teaches writing and graphic novel literature at various Philadelphia colleges. His first novel, Trading Saints for Sinners, was published in 2014. He's currently working on his next novel and hoping to find an agent soon.

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