One of the things that I really like about doing these kinds of 30 day challenges is that when you read the question for the first time, you get your first instinct answer. And then as you go on and think about it a little bit more, you end up mulling the ideas, the value of it and sometimes tweak the question itself.
With the twelfth day of the challenge, the question is “A comic everyone should read.” That’s certainly a good question because introducing people to things can be a true make or break moment. And each person is so different that you really can’t go with a generic “read this” and know that it will work. My first instinct was that if there’s a must-read comic, I ended up with a limited series that should be read with Watchmen. It’s a powerful book, beautifully structured, masterfully written and illustrated in such a way that it really warrants full-on breakdowns to really delve into it. That’s the book that I tend to recommend the most to people as a kind of exposure as to what comics can be like, beyond preconceptions.
But at the same time, there’s that moment where you can give someone only one issue. And for me, that is always, instantly, the 19th issue of The Sandman. Written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Kelley Jones and Malcolm Jones III. One of the other stories in this collection was one that challenged several conventions back when it came out as it won the World Fantasy Award for best short fiction story – and caused the organization to change the rules the following year so comics were ineligible since many felt that the medium was not worthy.
The issue is a standalone story within the larger Dream Country collection of short stories called The Dream of a Thousand Cats. The tale of one little kitten who dreams of a world where the cats would rule, and the real potential for how they get there, is fascinating to watch unfold and it really does leave you looking at every cat differently after that. The stories told by cats, the dreams they have and the sense of just how far they’ve fallen in a way is beautifully told here and certainly goes beyond what people consider traditional comics with its lack of superheroes and the depth to which it speaks of dreams.