Must-read comic books and graphic novels for fantasy fans 

The popularity of Game of Thrones sparked a renewed fervor for the fantasy genre that goes beyond LARPers swinging foam swords in the park. Dads, hipsters, nerds and everyone else lost their nuggets after (spoiler alert!) the bloodbath at the Red Wedding. For those who've devoured George R.R. Martin's novels and the TV series they inspired and are thirsty for more fantasy reads, local experts recommend five fantasy comic books. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Mage by Matt Wagner:
Mage follows Kevin Matchstick, an alienated dude who meets a wizard named Mirth and discovers he possesses powers as well as a magical baseball bat that turns out to be Excalibur, the enchanted sword of King Arthur lore.

"I've always loved this comic," says Patrick Yurick, co-creator of the web comic American Boom! and co-owner of Little Fish Comic Book Studio in Ocean Beach. "I think I read that first when I was a kid. It has all these old references to King Arthur, only in our world, and all these magical elements creeping into it."

The series is available in trade paperbacks and in a hardcover book.

2. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman: You can't talk great graphic novels of otherworldly nature without mentioning Gaiman's brilliant Sandman series. It's listed among literary classics as one of the best books of all time. That's why Marilyn Goodman, owner of Hillcrest's On Comic Ground, gave it a hearty recommendation.

"The writing makes it so good," she says. "It's definitely something that I think anybody can check out."

The Sandman revolves around an anthropomorphic characterization of dreams, aptly named Dream, who's imprisoned for 70 years and later seeks revenge on his captors. It's a strange, mythological universe worth delving into.

There are 75 issues of The Sandman, with several collected editions available.

 3. Fables by Bill Willingham: Ever wonder what it would be like if the characters from beloved storybooks walked among us? Bill Willingham did, and he shared his imaginings in Fables.

"It's a really good read because it talks about your favorite fables, but now with them living in our society," says Chris Mitchell, manager at Villainous Lair Comics in Normal Heights. "You see how they influence our history, and you see how our society has influenced them, so it's kind of a cross-cultural examination of modern society."

There are 19 trade paperbacks of each volume in the series and eight deluxe editions featuring multiple issues.

4. Grimm Fairy Tales by various writers and artists: Similar to Fables, the Grimm Fairy Tales series takes on classic stories and gives them a dark makeover. That's why Comickaze Comics, Books and More owner Robert Scott recommends them to fantasy fans.

"They're entertaining stories, cool retellings, and the artwork is really dynamic," he says. "They're kind of breathing new life into stuff people have heard of but probably wouldn't be interested in reading again."

The publisher, Zenescope Entertainment, uses different writers and artists. There are currently 86 in publication with a new issue out every month.

5. Saga by Brian K. Vaughan: Fantasy and sci-fi literally make a baby in this series recommended by Frank Juliano, owner of San Diego Comics in the College Area. Saga revolves around an intergalactic couple who come from different alien races at war with one another. The lovers must flee from the galactic war with their newborn daughter to survive.

"It's very well-written and very impressively drawn" by Fiona Staples, Juliano says.

"The themes are very much about love and family and what people are willing to do to protect their family. It seems to resonate with people."

Single issues and collective editions of Saga are available. 

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