It’s been a while since I could get back to this project, mostly because summer. I haven’t gotten a lot of reaction to it, but what little I have gotten has been interesting, so I’ll definitely continue. I’m sure once I get to the superhero list, that more people will share and comment. In the meantime, let me know what I got wrong:
60. Age Of Bronze by Eric Shanhower (Image, 1998)
Shanhower seems to have all but abandoned this minute-by-minute retelling of the Trojan War, considering that it’s taken him 16 years to finish 32 issues. Even if he never actually completes it, he’ll have left behind an immaculately researched, wholly engrossing piece of historical epic storytelling. Shanhower is a stunning draftsman, with a level of detail to his artwork that seems to be rare these days. Combine that with the amount of research that must go into each page, and you can (almost) forgive him the time between issues.
59. Box Office Poison by Alex Robinson (Top Shelf, 1997)
I like to think that I’m fairly objective about the subject matter of the comics I read. I don’t have to drink blood to like a good vampire comic, and I don’t have to be a 14 year old girl to appreciate a good romance comics. But Box Office Poison was a book that spoke to me specifically BECAUSE of the subject matter. As someone who spent most of the 90s and 2000s working in various music and movie retail stores, the bookstore microcosm that is the setting for BOP, was particularly appealing. That High Fidelity-like backdrop, and the 90s angsty melodrama, makes this a nice snapshot of the era.
58. Scalped by Jason Aaron & R.M. Guera (Vertigo, 2007)
Scalped was possibly the last great Vertigo epic that we’ll ever see (though fans of Unwritten & Fables might disagree). A South Dakotan crime opera set on an Indian reservation, this deftly written masterpiece was largely inspired by the real story of Leonard Pelletier. I wouldn’t argue too much against someone that wanted to position Scalped as the greatest crime comic book of all time, and I’m sure this will make it’s way to our TV screens sooner rather than later.
57. Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor (Drawn & Quarterly, 2012)
I was originally going to use Piskor’s Wizzywig for this list, but as I’m a sucker for well made comic books about music, and as HHFT is an exceptional comic book about music, it gets the nod. Essentially an oral history of the early days of hip hop, in comic form, HHFT shows the highs and lows of everyone from Grandmaster Flash, to Sylvia Robinson, to Debbie Harry, to KRS 1. Originally published as one-pagers on BoingBoing.net, Drawn & Quarterly has been collecting these in handsome, oversized volumes that are a must for all music lovers.
56. Xenozoic Tales by Mark Schultz (Flesk Publications, 1986)
XT (often known by it’s other handle, Cadillacs & Dinosaurs) is a post-apocalyptic pulp that marries the episodic melodrama of old Tarzan & Flash Gordon serials with a modern ecological mission statement. How Mark Schultz isn’t considered one of the greatest artists of all time is beyond me, but he keeps himself busy as the writer of Prince Valiant and other modern strips. Fans of Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer, or Dark Horse’s Indiana Jones comic books, will probably find lots to love here.
55. Torpedo by Enrique Sánchez Aulí and drawn by Jordi Bernet (IDW, 1981)
Originally published in Spanish horror comics in the early 1980s, Torpedo has become internationally known as one of the all-time great crime comic books. Every story stars Luca, an Italian American hitman in 1920’s mob controlled Manhattan. He’s a douche, and does douchie things. Sometimes he’s just a dick to women, and sometimes he’s a vicious killer. But he’s always entertaining, with levels and levels of subtext hidden deep. There’s lots of other Jordi Benet books good enough for a list like this, but it’s this particular pairing of craftsmen that makes this one special. With Torpedo, these two masters show how to tell short, concise stories that still pack a whallop.
54. Black Hole by Charles Burns (Pantheon, 1995)
Fresh from a cameo in Dawn of the Planet Of The Apes, it’s the weirdest comic you’ve never read. You’ll see this as the lone graphic novel on the bookshelf of many a grad student circa 2005, but it’s essentially timeless, and still engenders a visceral reaction in new readers that’s almost physical. The concept? An STD that triggers mutations in 1970’s Seattle. That’s it, but it’s a juicy one. Burns’ unflinching gaze at the realities of teenage adolescence is widely considered one of the great graphic novels of the last 20 years.
53. Queen & Country by Greg Rucka & various artists (Oni Press, 2001)
Soon to be a major motion picture! Soonish, at least? Greg Rucka’s espionage magnum opus still holds up well decades after publication. The geopolitical situations may have changed, but dumb people still do dumb stuff all over the world, so it’s fairly easy to imagine Tara Chase in a more contemporary setting. Tara Chase is one of the great female characters in adventure comic history, with flaws so big you could drive a truck through them.
52. Lucifer by Mike Carey & various artists (Vertigo, 2000)
I have a secret. It’s one that very few people know. People usually get mad when I tell them, so you have to keep it a secret. Ok?
Here goes: I like Lucifer more than Sandman.
Phew. That was hard. Especially considering that Sandman is actually higher on this list than Lucifer. Why? Because although I personally think Lucifer is a better read, it literally wouldn’t exist without Sandman. So much of the narrative, pacing, and conceptual approach to story that Lucifer comes from Neil Gaiman’s work on Sandman, that to rank it higher seems disrespectful, in a way. But Carey is doing some great work here, with wonderful character development set in front of a cosmologically epic backdrop. This is premium dark fantasy.
51. Daytripper by Fabio Moon & Gabriel Ba (Vertigo, 2008)
This Brazillian team of brothers has been producing A+ work since pretty much the day they started in the business. Daytripper remains the crown jewel in their creative resume, at least for now. Each issue features the same character, or at least a version of the same character: Bras de Oliva Demingo. In some issues he’s married. In some, he’s single. In some, he’s old. And in others he’s young. The only thing all of these different Bras have in common, is that they die at the end of their story. The art is really stunning here, and is the perfect compliment to this beautiful exploration of alternate realities.