Given that I’m the editor of a fandom-centric website, co-host a weekly podcast about fandom, and work in the comics industry as my “day job,” it should be no surprise that I’ve been a huge comic book fan from the time I was but a wee lad. With it being Thanksgiving, it seems like a good time for me to give thanks to the comics that have been the most formative for me.
10) Sin City
Frank Miller’s greatest accomplishment is not his movie directing, 300, or All Star Batman and Robin. It’s the Sin City comic series, the one that launched his art style and storytelling voice into the popular consciousness. I first read Sin City only a few months before the movie adaptation premiered, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world and method of sequential art.
9) Astro City
Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is a classic series that pays homage to superhero comics of the Silver Age without overly dating itself. Busiek successfully creates his own superhero universe here, something many other writers and publishers have tried to do in recent years with little to no success. Astro City is an anthology series that provided me with a great dose of nostalgia and made me go back and read a lot of the old Marvel and DC titles decades after they hit newsstands.
8) The Authority
Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch created The Authority at a time when we were not used to seeing superheroes behaving like anything other than pinnacles of virtue. The Authority shunned the usual heroic trappings, opting for grittier, more brutal, and more real solutions to saving the world. There have been a million descendants and emulators since, but when The Authority premiered, it really was revolutionary stuff for me.
7) New X-Men
Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men is a highly controversial point in modern X-Men history. He tore down the X-Men, he had Wolverine behead a drug-crazed Magneto, and he killed Jean Grey (again, but this time it’s stuck for quite a while). This dark turn in the mutant story is full of surprising twists that do not feel contrived, and it set the tone for a new era. It’s just too bad that Marvel backed down from this gutsy storyline and allowed Chris Claremont to retcon away some of the hardest punches.
6) Y The Last Man
Brian K. Vaughan is the Joss Whedon of comics (and yes, I’m fully aware that Joss also writes some excellent comics). He’s able to completely sell his characters to me, get me invested in them and their fates, and then rip them away from me in ways that enrich his story but also leave me feeling completely distraught. When a comic book can evoke those kinds of emotions, you know you have a winner.
5) The Walking Dead
I’m a sucker for continuity and for ongoing series that give constant fans big payoffs. That’s what The Walking Dead is all about, and Robert Kirkman’s genius for storytelling shows through here more than anywhere else in his body of work. One huge, epic story about the people left over after the zombie apocalypse, The Walking Dead is more about the human condition and how we live with each other than it is about the horror of the undead.
It might not be the best comic ever created, but it’s the one that cemented my direction in life. I was into comics when I was little but fell out of the loop somewhere around middle school. It wasn’t until I wandered into a comic shop looking for a Han Solo action figure early in my college career that I rejoined my comic book fandom after falling in love with J. Scott Campbell’s art in Gen13.
I wasn’t really hugely a Daredevil fan until Kevin Smith brought Matt Murdock back into the Marvel Comics limelight with his run on the book. I’m normally not a Kevin Smith fan, but the tragedy and adventure he brought to Hell’s Kitchen touched me and ignited an interest that would have me going back to read everything I could about Daredevil and Elektra.
2) The Avengers
It would be impossible for me to make a list of comics that influenced my life without mentioning The Avengers. When I was little, the Avengers were the team I waited all month to read about. The adventures of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and their buddies are what drew me into superhero comic books and set me on my inevitable career path.
It’s brutal, nonconformist, crass, heartbreaking, and like nothing I’ve ever read before or since. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s pairing on this series from Vertigo produced a story with a solid beginning, middle, and end that would become the standard by which I would measure all comics from that point forward.
Honorable Mention: Watchmen
Touted by many as the greatest comic series ever written, Alan Moore’s Watchmen certainly is high on my comic list. It’s not in my top ten, but it definitely deserves a mention on the list of comic books I’m thankful for having read.