I don't get the anti-Whedon attitude either. I don't find his writing to be filled with angst or Easter eggs, at least compared to most comics. That said, I've been reading comics my entire life, so it's entirely possible I've developed a partial immunity to angst and continuity-heavy writing.
I will add that Punisher
comics tend to be filled with angst in my opinion, so I would not recommend the Punisher to you.
I don't really understand what you're looking for. Are you asking for recommendations for "good" superhero comics or are you looking for pulp adventures-inspired comics? Or do you just want recommendations for "good" comics, period?
If you're looking for pulp adventure comics, I recommend:The Rocketeer
by Dave Stevens: http://smile.amazon.com/Rocketeer-Compl ... 631402277/Xenozoic Tales
a.k.a. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
by Mark Schultz: http://smile.amazon.com/Xenozoic-Mark-S ... 933865318/The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill: http://smile.amazon.com/League-Extraord ... 401240836/
And if you like that the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, check out the spin-off Nemo
series by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill.
Mike Mignola's Hellboy
comics are great, and they take some inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft's pulp stories. If you like the Hellboy
movies, it's well worth reading the Hellboy
, and Abe Sapien
As for "good" superhero comics, based on your comments (no continuity to know), I would recommend:Planetary
by Warren Ellis: http://smile.amazon.com/Planetary-Omnib ... 401242383/Watchmen
by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: http://smile.amazon.com/Watchmen-Alan-M ... 401245250/Nexus
by Mike Baron and Steve Rude: http://smile.amazon.com/Nexus-Omnibus-1 ... 616550341/
If you're just looking for "good" comics, period, I recommend The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman, but it's long and expensive, so make sure you know what you're getting into before buying. It's very literary
Since you're a Saga
fan, I presume you've read Y: The Last Man
? If not, you should.Sex Criminals
is great, too. The writing in that reminds me of Brian K. Vaughn.
As for the inaccessibility of the DC and Marvel continuities, there's no easy solution. You either need to start with the classics or dive in when a specific character is rebooted. For example, let's say you like Superman. Instead of picking up the current issue of Superman at the comic book store, you need to track down John Byrne's Man of Steel
mini-series from the 1980s which rebooted Superman's continuity and then go forward from there. Batman: Year One
is a good entry point for Batman, but it doesn't sound like Batman is your thing. If you have an iPad or Android tablet, Marvel has a Netflix-like subscription model that allows you to dive into old comics via electronic versions. That's a great way to go. It's unfortunate that DC doesn't have something similar, as far as I know, but many of the classic DC comics are available separately as ebooks.
Are there particular mainstream superhero characters you're interested in reading?