I would say a good 50% of the reading I do is made up of comic books. They offer a different reading experience than your average fiction novel, you rely less on imagination and more on an artists ability to convey a story through imagery and the writers use of dialogue to further push that story along. They are often looked at as being the child’s way of reading but I argue that just as much work and talent needs to go into a comic book as your average novel. So it’s time to appreciate the craft and look at some of my favourite comic books.
I think we will list 5, that seems like a good amount.
5. Batman: The Killing Joke
The killing joke is one of the best Batman stories written to date and is a must read for any fan of the character but equally a must read for fans of The Joker. The story of The Killing Joke is the classic Batman vs Joker but a lot darker than normal. Joker is posing the idea that all it takes is “one bad day” to send a man off the deep end and make them into something new, something like a psychopathic clown or maybe a fully grown man who dresses like a bat to fight crime at night. As both he and Batman are already at the stage of madness in his eyes he takes a fresh test subject, Commissioner James Gordon. The Commissioner is put through some truly horrifying things all within one day and obviously his pal Batsy comes to help but is it enough or is the whole series of events making Batman question his own beliefs too.
The visuals of the book are beautiful, Brian Bolland’s breath taking artwork is expertly coloured by the equally talented John Higgins. The masterful yet distressing story telling comes from legendary writer Allen Moore, though he no longer looks at this book very fondly, he clearly did something right as it continues to polarise it’s readers even today.
“All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy. That’s how far the world is from where I am. Just one bad day.”
― Alan Moore, Batman: The Killing Joke
4. Sandman volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes
Dream (Morpheus) had been kept captive by The Order of the Ancient Mysteries for 72 years. When he escapes imprisonment he is in a much weakened state and needs to recover his objects of power. On his quest he encounters a madman, an addict of his dream power and the legions of Hell. Intense right?
The writer of this book is one of my favourite authors in and out of the comic book world. Neil Gaiman pulls on ancient mythology, fairy tales and folklore to create a vibrant world of forces that live beyond life and death. This first volume acts as a great introduction to the world as Gaiman himself was setting out the rules and layout of the world he was building. The book has quite a bit of dialogue which I quite enjoy, it’s a change of pace to read a comic book that has so much text but still manages not to get bogged down by it all. So much of what Gaiman writes in this book is like poetry, he has an incredible way with words.
And for those of you who like a good crossover, though it may be a vertigo title, Some names from the DC universe branch over into the book which is fun.
“What power would hell have if those imprisoned here would not be able to dream of heaven?”
― Neil Gaiman, Preludes & Nocturnes
As we get into the top three line up, the entries become very different to your average list of best comic books. This list really is a personal thing which is why we go from two classics to utter nonsense pretty quickly. So yeah, expect a change in scenery now, no more classic ones.
Spider-Man/ Deadpool has been one of the most enjoyable ongoing series I have read. It’s a nice easy read and combines two of my favourite Marvel characters. The two quick lipped heroes bounce off each other really well as they have such conflicting personalities. Deadpool couldn’t care less if an enemy lives or dies and Spider-Man sees it as crucial to keep everyone alive. Throughout the series they both struggle with their moral compasses and change the way each of them looks at the world and how they fit into it. There is the additional aspect of Deadpool having always really looked up to Spider-Man, he fan boys a lot and constantly wants to know who is under the mask. The two of them make for a consistently funny comic and have some really compelling stories. For example, for a few issues, the duo adopt a cyborg as their own child and try to raise him to be a morally sound individual.
“A little help please!” – Spider-Man
“Nah, I’m good” – DeadpoolEvery issue in a nutshell
2. I Hate Fairyland
When little Gertrude wishes she could go to Fairyland her wish is granted, she is sucked into the floor and transported to a magical kingdom where she would spend the next 27 years trying to get home.
I Hate Fairyland is a truly hilarious series that follows a bitter middle aged woman (in the body of a child) that hates everything. She is accompanied by her sidekick, Larry the fly, that has fallen into what appears to be a deep depression after being stuck with Gert for so long. It is written and drawn by the genius Skottie Young. A large part of what I love about this series is the juxtaposition between playful child friendly artwork and horrifyingly violent, rude and mature story beats. From an aesthetic point, the whole book is very much Fairyland like, loose lines and vibrant colours really make it seem like the imagination of a child. Aside from the absurdity of the story, all the dialogue is also full to the brim with humour. Gertrude and Larry really play off each other well with how energetic and mad she is compared to his seemingly careless outlook. So whilst she is off slaughtering villagers, he hovers on the side lines puffing on his little cigarette.
This book is such a fun and easy read and I would suggest to anyone who has any interest in getting into comics.
“Larry, shut your maggoty mouth. I’m trying to slo-mo away from this explosion and you’re killing my vibe.”
– Skottie Young, I Hate Fairyland
1.The Walking Dead
Most people will know the Walking Dead through it’s silver screen adaptation by AMC. But before the likes of Rick Grimes and his merry band of survivors ever graced the screen, they graced the page.
The Walking Dead comic book series is an analysis of how we as a society would cope with the fall of order. In this case its due to the uprising of zombies. It constantly asks the questions how far would you go to protect the ones you love? And what things do we need to maintain in order to stay human rather than animals? The title may suggest that the story focuses on the dead but that couldn’t be further from the truth, this is very much a story about people. Throughout the course of story you see characters grown and thrive in new relationships but you also see them plummet to lows that you didn’t think possible. You really start to care about the individuals and it REALLY sucks when one of your favourites dies.
The story that Robert Kirkman has crafted is gripping and well paced, always leaving you wanting more. The first 6 issues were drawn by the Tony Moore which had a really clean feel. The following 187 issues were drawn and inked by Charlie Adlard who expertly established a tone and consistently manipulated shadows to his advantage.
“The pessimist looks down and hits his head. The optimist looks up and loses his footing. The realist looks forward and adjusts his path accordingly.”
― Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead earns itself the top spot on my list simply for the fact that it made me care. No other comic has elicited as much of an emotional response as this one. I sorely miss this title, I miss the excitement of getting it each month and reading it the second I returned home. But whilst almost all of these titles have now run their course, there are plenty more out there ready to be read. So if you don’t mind me I’m off to read some.
Thank you all for reading!
See ya later!
P.s I would be really interested in anybody else’s comic book favourites so sound off in the comments.