1.) The Dark Knight Returns: It is likely that even if you don't read comics that you have heard of this title because it is almost always mentioned whenever a new Batman film is released (most of the time anyway)... I remember back in 89 when they released Batman in theaters everyone was saying how dark the movie was and how Tim Burton was this huge fan of Frank MIller's The Dark Knight Returns comic/"graphic novel"( because we have to call it graphic novel to make it sound smart and adult:) The same thing happened during the Nolan franchise "Oh Batman is so dark, Nolan is such a Frank Miller fan. They hang out on weekends and listen to Depeche Mode." What I am getting at is that the Batman that we see in the comics and on screen today is dark, brooding and in some ways ruthless, but before that Bats was a bit more sunny due to the 60's tv show, he still had darkness after Denny O'neil and Neil Adams worked on him, but the bats we see today is largely due to The Dark Knight Returns. And it isn't just about Batman, it's about the way Miller approached the story... He included timely Politics, a world on the brink of Nuclear war and destruction and a world that didn't like masked heroes much. It wasn't Batman putting bad guys in Arkham... It was a commentary of what the world had come be and how Frank Miller saw the world he lived in. So basically... if you haven't read this book you should! PS: Not everyone loves Frank Miller's art work, but I am a huge fan of most of his stuff and the look of his book is way ahead of its time as well and still holds up strong today!
2.) Preacher: If you know me, then you know that if we start talking about comics at all I will eventually say " Have you read Preacher?" This is honestly probably my favorite comic series of all time... It would at least be in my top 5! It is written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon and both the writing and the art work are out of this world and compliment each other so well! In short it's about a Preacher who receives the voice of God... But the cool part is it really isn't about that at all... He barely ever uses it! It's about being a man and doing what's right. It's about love, revenge, forgiveness, faith, and acceptance. It is like this crazy mix between the films True Romance and Unforgiven and it is perfect, especially if you love westerns. This comic somehow manages to tell a completely unique story about god and the devil... and in the world of comics, stories involving those two guys are common to put it lightly. The main character Jesse Custer is one of my favorite characters ever written. I don't understand how anyone could not love this guy? He's no bull shit and he does what he says he's going to!!! Anyway, this is a Must Read for sure and it might be offensive to younger readers and possibly older readers too, but if you like stuff that is different and smartly done you will probably like it.
3.) Invincible: Robert Kirkman is hot right now! He has received a lot of praise over the years and more recently for The Walking Dead TV show, but if you don't read Invincible you are missing out. This comic actually reads " The Only Superhero comic book you will ever need" at the top of it's cover, and it is actually true. If you are a fan of superhero comics there is something in there for everyone. At times it parodies the genre, and at times it reinvents it w/ knew ideas, while reinventing old ones.(my head is exploding) The main character (Mark Grayson) is like a cross between Peter Parker and Clark Kent, but he isn't a genius and he isn't always the strongest, fastest, and most powerful of all Superheroes... He is more like just an average guy (but for real) who makes mistakes and draws lines in the sand w/ out fully examining all of the consequences. But he grows and changes constantly and he has been through so much already and we are only on issue 111. There's so many interesting supporting characters that many times, you get lost in their side stories and want to know more about them too! The tone is both light-hearted, intense and violent. It is so good that it is hard for me to get into any other superhero stories these days because the creative teams are always changing or it's confusing as to which issue follows which stories. (all these 1.1 and 1.2 issues w/ Amazing Spider-man are getting silly) And Ryan Ottley is my favorite artist in comics today... His story telling is clear and his pages are always interesting and he draws forced figure perspective better than anyone I have ever seen. He is like a modern day Jack Kirby w/ his explosive power in the panel, in my opinion and I love Jack Kirby. Just read the first few trades and you will fall in love!
4.) The Walking Dead: Since I brought up Kirkman I may as well add this comic to the list. If you are fans of the show and haven't read the comic then you are missing out. It actually is one of the best comics out today. It is such a smart concept that is so simple.... What happens after the end of all those cool zombie flicks we grew up watching... Well, we are finding out thanks to Mr. Kirkman! Each arc that he writes becomes more and more intense and every time it seems like things are going to get better and they are going to start to rebuild civilization something messed up happens... Characters you love die and people you can't stand keep living. The art of Charlie Adlard is an inspiration every time I see a knew book. In fact, this comic is so good I can't collect it as it comes out in single issues... I have to wait for the volumes because it is such a page turner. There is just too much stuff that happens and build ups to read this comic month to month. It sucks, but I wait. BUT you guys shouldn't wait to go out to your local comic store and pick up several volumes of The Walking Dead. (see how I brought that around. "no, but we see that you're an ass...ass" )
5.) Daredevil: Guardian Devil: I know what you're asking yourself... Of all the DD stories I could have picked why this one? Well, here's the thing... This arc came along at sort of a new beginning at Marvel comics.... Quesada started to do these comics w/ lesser known characters or characters who had once been A or B listers, but were now C. He called it Marvel Knights. DD was one of these characters and Quesada was smart enough to get a young Kevin Smith, a comic book fan and talented young film director/ writer to write DDs first new arc. Smith pulled from various eras of the DD mythology to make a more than solid story about DDs crisis of faith, ghosts from his past, and a surprising ending. It is funny, philosophical and gritty. AND it is some of Joe Quesada's best art work ever... you can tell both of these men love Daredevil and their passion is infectious... It is worth your time to read it if you are looking for a good starting place for comics and/or DD.
6.) Son of Origins: This comic is my first real intro into the world of comics... I have talked about this comic in the past and I still love to read it. It is one of the first "trade paperbacks' ever made... and it is a collection of some of Stan Lee's greatest comics and characters along w/ a cast of all star Artists including (the sorely underrated) Jack Kirby and John Romita SR!!! I always liked it because I felt like Stan Lee (and his artists) didn't treat me like a kid... he wrote stories he wanted to write and they were both kid and adult friendly. This comic covers the origins of characters like DD, Ironman and even the Watcher! I enjoyed the fact that these characters at the time were not widely known like they are today and that they were a little secret I could share w/ my friends or talk about w/ my dad.(He actually bought me the book) I think that this is a great intro book for anyone interested in reading comics or anyone reading today who just wants to read something that is from a different era in comics history and still influences today's creators.
7.) The Amazing Spider-Man (original run): I have managed to read some of the early issues of this comic and I love them for so many reasons... I have always identified w/ Peter Parker on a personal level like millions of other guys like me. He's weak and gets nervous and says and does stupid things around girls. He has bad luck and deals w/ tragedy. One of the best issues I have ever read is issue 33 of the original run. Peter has to get this serum to his Aunt May that might cure her of some illness she had, but he gets trapped under all this heavy metal equipment.... Now this is tons of metal that he is trapped under and the whole time he is having this internal dialogue w/ himself about how he can't give up and that Aunt May counts on him and his guilt about Uncle Ben dying because of him, and somehow he raises tons of metal off of himself... It literally make me cry whenever I read it because it is so moving. He won't give up and somehow he overcomes this great adversity! This to me is what Spider-Man is about. He has this overwhelming burden of will and responsibility to do the right thing and to never give up hope even during his darkest moments. Lee and Ditko created this character who won't go away and who continues to endure and grow w/ every passing year. But their run will always be special and I only wish that there was a way that I could go back in time to a corner drug store and buy one of those early issues, just to share in the experience of meeting, this (then) new and strange hero, known as, Spider-Man!
8.) Punk Rock Jesus: This comic is still pretty new but it will be an instant classic. I read it recently and loved it. It's about a girl who is picked for this reality show called J2... Basically, she is charged w/ the task of carrying cloned DNA found on the Shroud of Turin, that is believed to be Jesus Christ! The kid is raised in this bubble and all this crazy stuff happens. It is beautifully drawn and written by Sean Murphy and I can't say enough great things about it. It is very out there and uniquely original, which is rare in a world where everything has been done to death! Read this book whether you read comics or not! It's a great exploration of the human condition:) I know that made me sound like a dick, but it's actually true even though it sounded super pretentious and hipster-college-professorish. Look, just read it and stop judging me! :)
9.) The Killing Joke: It literally took me years to read this, and it was more than worth it. It is one of the best Joker stories ever written. And it is a Joker story... This story shows us that the scariest thing about the Joker is that he actually knows exactly what he's doing. And he sets up this whole string of events to prove a point to Batman. I can't give anymore away than that, but this is a must freaking read! This is Alan Moore at his best! Brian Bollard is an incredible artist and story teller as well! You will enjoy this one for sure!
10.) The Saga of the Swamp Thing: Okay, another Alan Moore written book... It is one of the coolest comics I have ever read. It is so out there and weird and it really plays to Moore's strength as a writer! He basically takes Swamp-Thing, a character that wasn't and isn't always the most interesting or protagonists and made him freaking cool as hell. He has these weird villains in the books and the art is beautiful! If you just want to read something that is trippy, weird, asks questions about the soul and is completely zen at same time, then read this book. It really asks what makes us human over and over throughout the series. I really think this is a special read!
11.) Watchmen: I hate to say this, but I am not a huge fan of this comic... It is great and deserves the praise that it gets and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are incredible talents, but I have read it a few time and I never really enjoy it. The content is great and I loved the new and interesting Heroes Moore and Gibbons created, but at times I find it hard to follow...(most likely because I'm an idiot) I know I am not in the majority. It is just too wordy and a bit slow for anything to happen and also a bit pretentious at times (sorry)... That being said... every comic fan should read it once and so should any person off the street. It is a great examination of the superhero genre. It opened the door for comics like Preacher, Invincible, The Boys, and the Authority and more recently Jupiter's Legacy, in my opinion... BUT It just isn't my taste. (PS: I normally like wordy books... I myself am wordy!!!)
So to me these are must reads... There are many comics I did not name of course... So Please share some w/ me is you think there are some I should have added on here. And please remember this isn't a best of list.(Although some of them would make my best of list) These are just great comics people need to read for the various reasons I have expressed. Some are more mainstream than others and some are less. I tried to cover something for everyone, hopefully. I am always looking for new stuff to read so let me know if you have suggestions! As always thanks for reading my ramblings! Hope you enjoy these blogs a little:)