As the weather begins its inevitable yearly betrayal of us here in the Northern hemisphere, there is comfort to be found in our hobbies. Often neglected during the sweaty days of summer, autumn is a prime time for reading comics while drinking tea, buried in layers of thick blankets. Re-reading your favorite comics for their familiarity, or reading lighter fare are sure to warm your spirit. In no particular order, here are our go-to comfort comics to fill the short days and long nights of fall.
Before the many tragic events that visit the Spider-verse, Peter faced much simpler problems, like being romantic rivals with his alter ego. Told from the perspective of Mary Jane Watson, Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane delivers all of the drama of teen life that is overshadowed by Peter’s unique struggles in the original Spider-Man comics. It is heartwarming and relatable for anyone that survived high school, and a reassuring escape from the tragic events that riddle Peter and Mary Jane’s futures.
For myself and countless others, the X-Men were one of our early comic obsesions. The never-ending soap opera’s large and varied cast has something for everyone. Love triangles? Friends turned enemies? Persecuted individuals trying to overcome adversity? It’s all there, in classic tales like “The Phoenix Saga” and in more recent outings like “House of M”. Re-reading your favorite x-book is like throwing on your favorite film from high school. You probably won’t learn anything new, and it may not even be as good as you remember, but the love you had for it will be rekindled all the same.
Few adventure tales offer the unique experience Mouse Guard offers. In intricately detailed watercolor and ink, readers enjoy an epic tale in a medieval world that spans the space of a small forest. The fierce creatures that threaten the heroic members of Mouse Guard are small by human standards, yet owls and crabs are the stuff of legend, the dragons that must be slayed to protect mouse-kind. Seeing these adorable, brave mice fight for their kin is what you imagined as a child happened in the woods when you weren’t looking.
A long running web-series can be daunting to start; time and again fellow fans will recommend you read it, but it gets put off while you read books for which you have already paid. That website isn’t going anywhere, right? It’s getting cold out, so you’re staying put for a few months, too. Finder takes place in a dystopian world where its inhabitants rediscover their connections despite their vast differences determined by their unique and disparate home cities. Finder is a story that is secondary to the world it inhabits. There are recurring characters, their tales abandoned and revisited throughout, like a string partially buried on the path before you. It’s easier to see where it was going once you’re looking back.
You might read Fables for what you think you are getting — fairy tale characters transplanted into a modern-day New York. Yes, Prince Charming, the Big Bad Wolf, and Snow White are indeed characters you expect to see, but their journeys do not have the predictability of their fairy tale inspirations. Many heroes are revealed as truly monstrous, characters with enviable gifts are revealed to be cursed, and there are triumphs and tragedies in equal measure. This is Vertigo’s longest running series currently being published, so once you’re hooked there is plenty of reading to get you through the long winter.
Both sweet and sad, Harvey Pekar’s long-running comic comprised of his recollections on daily life isn’t exactly the escapist fantasy of other titles on this list, but there are few things that offer more comfort than knowing you are not alone in your feelings of apathy, discontent, and wonder of ordinary life. What is amazing about reading any of American Splendor is how compelling it is while focusing on the mundane. The notoriety of Pekar’s underground comic propelled him into stranger territory as the series continues, and the audience eventually joins him as part of the story.
Not all comfort comics are just warm and fuzzies. The classic Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon comic explores issues of morality, the power dynamics between mortals, heaven, and hell, and features an impressively large cast of humorously vulgar characters. After the titular character Jesse involuntarily becomes host to an entity that is half angel/half demon, he must cope with his new role as a demi-god while travelling with an untrustworthy vampire, Cassidy, and his lost love, Tulip. The relentless brutality can make it difficult to appreciate Preacher for its comforting aspects, the love story of Jesse Custer and Tulip O’Hare does indeed deliver the goods when it comes to sentimentality.
It was amazing to have read Scott Pilgrim at a time in my life when I was close to the age of the main characters. Shitty jobs! Feeling past my prime at 22! What does it all mean, I’m so broke! Scott Pilgrim spoke to me as I lived those problems. The lead has a far more exciting life fighting the evil exes of new girlfirend Ramona Flowers, but to paraphrase Joss Whedon, life is the big bad! The ridiculously overblown obstacles Scott faces (all of which are essentially caused by him, directly or indirectly) make it easy to look back on similar times in one’s own life where we were our own worst enemy. Getting past that stage? Achievement unlocked.
Craig Thompson’s autobiographical story of first love is like revisiting your own failed relationships from a distance; finding an old mix tape, coming across a photo, wondering for a brief moment why you carry these objects with you through life. With time it is easier to appreciate the best of something incredibly painful, and there is no question that the cliche “better to have loved and lost” means a great deal for whom we are as partners later in life. Thompson lays bare the emotional turmoil of reconciling his desire as a teen to love and be loved, the guilt shaped by his religious upbringing, and exploring painful memories of sexual abuse juxtaposed with his first consensual sexual relationship. This is not the reader’s heartache on display, but the dull ache of a love long gone will grip you.
Like comfort food, the comic you seek for solace depends greatly on personal associations and what one desires from their reading. This is by no means a definitive list! Tell us in the comments what books have been your cold weather consolation.