5 Must Read DC Comics

batman killing.jpg5. V for Vendetta

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: David Lloyd

Since its publishing date V for Vendetta has been adapted into a motion picture in 2005 and served as the symbol of the Occupy Wall Street Movement. I would describe V for Vendetta as 1984 meets Batman.  As usual Alan Moore brings sharp observation and dense literary allusions to this story. Although V is a “superhero”, this novel never devolves into action set pieces. V for Vendetta reads as well as any other mainstream novel.

4. Preacher

Writer: Garth Ennis

Artist: Steve Dillon

Vertigo Comics (an imprint of DC comics) is responsible for some of the most daring comics to ever make it in the mainstream. Preacher balances social commentary and violence in perhaps the most original and subversive way possible. I really can’t imagine anything like this ever hitting shelves again, considering how corporate friendly most comic book publishers have become. This comic has also been adapted into a new AMC series.

3. The Dark Knight Returns

Writer/Artist Frank Miller

Prior to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns most of the general public associated the caped crusader with the campy 60’s Adam West TV show. Although there had been some darker and grittier Batman comics prior to The Dark Knight Returns, none had remotely as much of an impact. Frank Miller said it was his job to “give Batman his balls back” and he does in a big way. Like Miller has done throughout his career, he looks at the caped crusader through a lens informed by violence and political corruption. There’s nothing friendly or comforting about this book, yet somehow it’s currently the blueprint for all new-age Batman stories.

2. Sandman

Writer: Neil Gaiman

Artist: Various

Believe it or not comic books haven’t always been accepted by the mainstream.  Comic books began experimenting with different genres trying to reach a larger section of American society. Sandman is a perfect example of that. Sandman focuses on Morpheus, the god-like master of dreams.  Gaiman made sure no two stories were alike. One story could feature a run-in with Shakespeare while the next could take place in the heart of hell. With literary allusions and rhythmic poetry filling every page, Sandman is unlike anything the comic medium has ever seen.

1. Watchmen

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: Dave Gibbons

At this point in time most people are familiar with the Watchmen because of the 2009 film.  When Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons launched this twelve issue series over at DC in 1986, no one in the mainstream had attempted a story so complex and brutal before.  This graphic novel changed the superhero genre forever. Moore’s masterwork is filled with metaphors, symbolism, and literary technique that elevate this novel above a simple superhero story. In 2005, Time rated Watchmen as one of the 100 greatest English-language novels of the 20th century.

Honorable Mention: Batman: The Killing Joke

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: Brian Bolland

Alan Moore was one of the most prolific writers during the 80s. While Moore made a name for himself for his original work, he occasionally dabbled in established properties.  In The Killing Joke, Moore explores the relationship between Batman and the Joker. This story is both intense and psychological.

Honorable Mention: Swamp Thing

Writer: Alan Moore

Artist: Stephen Bissette

Moore put his mark on Swampy by introducing ideas that are part existential, part post-modern, and wholly unique to American mainstream comics. Moore replaced overlong exposition and eye-popping action scenes with metaphors and deep introspection. Stephen Bissette and the other artist working under him were completely up to the task of bringing Moore’s nightmarish world to life.

 

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