Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Top 10 Comics you should've read...if not...read them please

So I promised a long while ago that I was going to write a blog about the top 10 comics every one should read.
Well that idea went down the tubes when I realized that there is no way in hell I could limit so many great comics to just ten.
There are so many great stories and too see those stories come to life with some of the best artists ever to put brush, pen, and pencil to paper.
I've been reading and collecting comics since I was a kid, and i honestly can not see how I could pigeon hole so many works of art. These windows of super feats would drive me to keep walking in the oppressive Miami sun just to see if the next Dark Horse Presents. Waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the bus to show up so I could take a hour ride to the other side of town just to rummage through the endless rows of boxes in hopes to finding some more undiscovered 2D worlds of heroes and villains. Every title a new universe of good vs evil, another cog on the gears of moral dilemma that moved the machine of conflict.
These worlds held names of faces that live so close to our hearts like the very Gods that most people worship in real life.
I could go on for days about the subject of graphic novels and comic books but it's time to get to the list.
There is a clause to this list. This list will be an open ended list, because for every comic I mention I know that I'm completely leaving out a really important one. So as I grow with more reading and appreciating I'll keep adding, but for now here is what I got so far.
PS This list is not in order of better and best. This is just a list of what i feel everyone should enjoy. Let's begin.

1. The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
The Dark Knight Returns is one of the two comics that not only changed the way I looked at Batman but in comics in general. It was a growing pain from the campy and safe comics of my youth. Frank Miller took Batman and made him old, forgotten, and even more cynical than a Chuck Palahniuk story. The old image of Batman was gone. No more "ole chum" or Super friend anecdotes. This was a very brutal and angry cop doing what ever it took to tame the chaotic jungle of Gotham City. This, to me, was the first of Batman's transitions to the very earnest hero he has become.

2.Arkham Asylum by Dave McKean and Grant Morrison
Since, I'm still stuck on the Batman. I'll have to talk about the second comic that changed, but also ruined comics for me. Now understand when i say ruined, I don't mean I hated comics after reading Arkham. What I mean is that I couldn't settle anymore. Thanks to Dave McKean, comic books could be art pieces. I finally read a book that i could frame one of the pages and hang it on the wall and be taken seriously as work of art.
The story really picks at the fragile psyche of the man who wears a bat costume to a battle that he lost years ago. The scene in which Batman is having a word association exerciser that reveals some of the many weaknesses of The Dark Knight. Batman may have muscles and gadgets but the thin line between sanity and insanity is pushed farther and farther with every turn of the page.

3. The Push Man and Other Stories by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
Yoshihiro Tatsumi takes the under belly of post-war Japan and exposes it like a back alley abortion performed on Broadway. These tales of debasement have saturated every part of this collection. Stories of humanity, not only at its worse but at its most indifferent. This book will make you question the true worth of the human race and if there are any redeemable traits to be found at all. I couldn't recommend this graphic novel more. It will disturb you, but in a horrible way.

4.Lone Wolf and Cub by Kasuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
I'll stay on the island of the rising sun and meditate on the Lone Wolf and Cub. This long lasting series is in revenge. This story of a disgraced executioner of the Shogun who, along with his young son, must travel across the the nation of Japan to find and destroy the Yagyu clan. The long road in which Ogami Itto trudges through is soaked in blood and bodies and nothing can stop this stoic figure from his goal even it costs his or his son's life. This comic really changed the face of Japanese comics for me.
I always thought that all comics from Japan were Anime or something equivalent. When I first heard of this was actually through the movies that were made in the 70's. This story really touched on a side of Japanese "Manga" that is often forgotten behind of a curtain of doe eyed school girls and cat/Pamela Anderson hybrids.

5.Ghost in the Shell by Masamune Shirow
Now, I know that this graphic novel is more Manga that the previous two, but I feel the story transcends the silly of most Manga comics. The story is about a Major Kusinagi who is employed buy a CIA type anti-terrorist government organization that secures Japan from hidden menaces that threaten the Japanese way of life. Now, yes this graphic novel has a doe eyed,very voluptuous scantly-clad heroine, but the subplot of the story has become an obsession for me lately. Even TIME magazine called the eventual convergence of the human mind and computers as the "singularity". I was completely blown away by the dialogue between two cyborgs trying to define what humanity is and the fundamental difference between organic and inorganic based life. What is sentient life? If something, regardless if it is human or machine, becomes self aware can its life and thoughts be equal to a human even though it is artificial intelligence. This is a must. It has the action, sexual undertones, and in depth philosophy that isn't watered down by the guns and the boobs...well, maybe a little.

6.Hard Boiled by Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow
Now I a good Frank Miller Story, but these books are all Geoff Darrow. The art work in this book is a testament to the say that the "devil is in the details". To this day I'm still finding little tid-bits in every panel. I couldn't recommend this more if I could. Agoraphobia never had so much talent.

7. Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Daniel Clowes is an incredible observer of the human condition. Ghost world is an incredible example of teenage angst with out it devolving into a mainstream homogenized Hannah Montana nightmare. Instead it really touches on sincere subjects that all of had to trudge through. Then moment when High School dies and adulthood comes a clawing.

8.Black Hole by Charles Burns
Charles Burns takes puberty and those awkward changes to a higher more disturbing level. A young woman coming to terms with boys, school, and life. The only difference is, teens are mutating. So growing into young adult has gotten even tougher and uglier, and life waits for no one no matter how deformed you are.

9 Cerebus, High Society by Dave Sim
I always considered Cerebus my highbrow, dry humor books. I've never got into the whole "fantasy" comics but Cerebus has a different approach. Out of all the books my favorite has to be High Society. High Society really gets the dishonest shady side of politics. Now I know the idea of a barbarian aardvark running for Prime Minister may sound a bit unconventional but there is nothing out of the ordinary when it comes to the corruption that comes with money, women, power, and hard ale. These read really does help with the Napoleon complex.

10.The Contract with God Trilogy by Will Eisner
There is a good reason why there is an Eisner award. Will Eisner is the best storyteller in comics ever. With stories like Dropsie Ave. that is a fast forward through s micro history of a street in New York. Dropsie Ave. is a racial, social and economical testament to the changing times in this small New York neighborhood. Will Eisner pulls no punches. The city is an uncaring and yet nurturing background that exposes the human condition in all its self destructive imperfections. Eisner embraces the fact that people can be equally cruel as well as benevolent. The Contract with God is another feature of the time honored near death practice of bargaining with God. Then A Life Force which is what it is. A cruel and relentless barrage of very harsh lessons of life. This is life, this is what Aliens will study about us. A fucked mammal with its never game of Russian roulette. This graphic novel from a master of his craft is not only an inspiration but proof that comics are not just for kids and should never taken taken for granted in any artistic and literary capacity.

So in this opened list of the Top 10 Comics You Should've Read. These are what i have so far. Now I know I left out a ton of really good books but I'll get to them and the best thing about this list. I have to keep collecting and reading until I get this definitive list done.
Cross I have to bare.

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