10 Great Examples of Comic Book Literature

August 20, 2008

So at the end of my last entry I mentioned that this article would be about comic books, a medium I feel is often overlooked by a lot of people in that it combines elements of literature, episodic televison, film, as well as high and pop art. It can be very derivative at times (but what genre can’t be?), and a lot of it only works for and appeals to certain demographics. But, I know that amidst the thousands upon thousands of comic books in print, both in graphic novel format and in single issue format, filed with back issues from years past as well as waiting along with the dozens of other new titles shipping each week, there are a lot of great books that can appeal to a lot of different types of people. A truly great comic works in ways that no other medium quite can. So, if you’re a reader but have never read many (or any) comics, I’ve compiled a list of what I feel are ten of the greatest comic books of all time. I realize that many great single issues of comics are too much for the casual reader to just jump into; so many books have ran for so many years with such a vast back catalogue of information that it’s hard to intstantly pick some of them up and truly understand what’s going on, never mind the fact that even if you did grasp the basic plot threads that some of those books won’t appeal to you unless you love the primary american vehicle of comics, the superhero story. My focus here is on completed stories; most comics that run in single issue form are later compiled into book versions, known as trade paperbacks, a term many interchangeably with graphic novel (to be technical, in case you’re wondering, a trade paperback (tpb) always consists of previously published material now collected in book form–a graphic novel is a single book never presented before in any different form). Many of the following titles are published by Vertigo, a DC imprint geared towards adult readers; Vertigo titles usually have a set issue span before they’re published. Whereas a title like Superman has been running for decades and has no definable end in the near future, most Vertigo titles are planned to end with a certain issue when the story finally reaches its natural end. Other books on this list are completely collected story arcs taken from ongoing series. Anyway, originally I was going to talk about each book and review it, explaining why it’s as great as I feel it is. I’m afraid that would make this article entirely too sprawling, so I’ll leave most reviews and descriptions to either be placed in upcoming blogs as they relate to them, or tacked on at the end of unrelated blogs in the future. So, here goes:

1)Watchmen by Alan Moore (art by Dave Gibbons)

the greatest comic of all time

the greatest comic of all time

2)Preacher by Garth Ennis (art by Steve Dillon)

3)Swamp Thing (vol 1-4) by Alan Moore (art by various)

4)Bone by Jeff Smith (art also by Jeff Smith

5)Batman: Year One by Frank Miller (art by Dave Mazuchelli)

6)Captain America: Omnibus volume One by Ed Brubaker (art by Steve Epting and various)

7)Y the Last Man by Brian K. Vaugh (art by Pia Guerrera and various)

8)Maus by Art Spiegelman (art also by Spegelman)

9)Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

10) Criminal by Ed Brubaker (art by Sean Williams)

These are ten books or series of books I feel that best showcase what comics are capable of doing. There are many others, and some of those others may be greater in their own right, but this is my opinion of the best starting place for a reader unfamiliar with the comic landscape.
All right. Coming up in my next post I’ll be discussing what I refer to as “The Batman Archetype,” and I’ll give my review of “Batman:Year One” and “Watchmen.” After that, the next article will be concentrating on the unfortunate curse of many from my generation, the gangster chic complex and talking about a recent comment by David Lapham (an excellent comic writer) in which he pondered the film Scarface‘s popularity; that article will also feature a review of “Criminal” and a push for readers to check out the ongoing series “Young Liars.” So, if I have any readers who like any of what I’ve had to say lately, stop back by soon.

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