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Today America celebrates its love for comics. Comic books are no longer associated with “geeks” and “nerds.” It’s an industry that is booming. How will you be celebrating? For National Comic Book Day, here are my picks for what you should be reading (or rereading) to commemorate the occasion, including graphic novels and trade paperbacks, which are essentially multiple issues of a comic series published in a few books so they are a little easier to read. The Dark Knight Returns (Frank Miller) This is pretty much the most important Batman story in comics history. It was responsible for the resurgence of Batman as the dark, mysterious guy we all know and love today. Without this, we wouldn’t have had any of the Christopher Nolan Batman films, as this was the primary basis for his version of Gotham and the Bat. It is a must-read for any Batman fan and a great place to start your comic book adventure. Watchmen (Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons) You may know this one, because they adapted it into a movie a few years ago (that I actually really like – I was so worried it wouldn’t be a good adaptation). This is a somewhat dark take on the world of “superheroes,” telling the story of masked crime fighters in New York City, both the original group (The Minutemen) and the group that followed (The Watchmen). Eventually, as you assume it probably would in the “real world,” crime-fighters become outlawed and that brings an entirely new kind of trouble. I love many things about this graphic novel, especially the way Moore made it feel incredibly realistic. The Watchmen affect real-life political happenings that were going on at the time it was written. The art is fantastic and even when it gets a bit philosophical, it’s still a very fun read. Maus (Art Spiegelman) Art Spiegelman (both author and artist) chronicles the story of his father’s time in Auschwitz with mice standing in for Jews and cats standing in for Nazis. It is poignant, deeply personal and wonderfully told. An absolute must-read. Y: The Last Man (Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra) My absolute, all-time favorite comic series. Brian K. Vaughan is one of the best comic writers in the business (although not as prolific as many others, much to my dismay). Y: The Last Man is a dystopic story about a young guy named Yorick who, after a cataclysmic plague kills off all the men of the world except him and his pet monkey, becomes the Last Man on Earth. How would the world change if it were entirely populated by women? How would women respond? What kind of role would the last male on Earth have? How would he cope with that? Would our world be better off or exactly the same if it were ruled by females? This comic asks and attempts to answer all these questions in a riveting and engrossing (and incredibly smart!) way. Oh, it’s also really funny. Batman: The Killing Joke (Alan Moore, Brian Bolland) In one of Alan Moore’s most brilliant stories, The Joker and Batman face off in a truly terrifying manner, showing the reader just how thin the line between nobility and insanity can be. It’s extremely dark (most of Alan Moore’s stories are) and unnerving, but if you’ve seen any Batman films and have been a fan of The Joker character, this is a must read Ghost World (Daniel Clowes) If you’ve ever been a teenager (so, all of you) this is the graphic novel for you. Chronicling the day-to-day lives of two cynical, snarky teenager girls as they graduate from high school and enter “the real world” in the ’90s, Ghost World has really beautiful art and captures what it’s like to be in that in-between time when you’re not quite an adult, but not really a kid either. Extra Credit: Fables (Bill Willingham) The only reason this is extra credit is because even though they’ve condensed these into trade paperbacks, reading through it all is still a bit of an undertaking. Fables is a dark fantasy comic that is a reinterpretation of classic fairytales and folklore. All the favorites are there: Snow White, Prince Charming, Cinderella, The Big Bad Wolf and so on. Basically, they all get exiled from their “Fableland” and have to live, in secret, in New York City. As you might imagine, craziness unfolds.