In today’s world, comics have become incredibly widespread, attracting the interest of people from all walks of life. However, with so many options available, it can be quite challenging to distinguish between the great ones and the not-so-great ones. The question arises: how can you determine which comics are worth your time and which ones might not be as appealing?
Comics have taken on various forms over the years, evolving from simple funny animals and superheroes to complex narratives that captivate audiences of all ages. While the comic book world boasts an immense array of titles, some have managed to stand out as truly exceptional.
In this exploration of the best comic books in history, we delve into ten iconic works that have left an indelible mark on the world of sequential art.
1. Jimbo by Gary Panter
Kicking off the list at number ten is “Jimbo” by Gary Panter. Gary Panter stands as a true creative powerhouse in the American art scene. “Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise” thrusts readers into the spirited life of Jimbo, Panter’s ever-optimistic punk protagonist. Set against the backdrop of a chaotic cityscape merging New York City’s worn streets with futuristic LA highways, Jimbo’s escapades include riotous crowd-surfing, unexpected encounters with Nancy, and daring rescues from monstrous cockroaches. Panter seamlessly navigates from crude to elegant, wise to humorous, showcasing his mastery of cartooning. “Jimbo: Adventures in Paradise” stands as a testament to Panter’s artistic genius, solidifying his position as a visionary ahead of his time.
2. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman – A Landmark in Graphic Novel Fantasy
Securing the ninth spot is the acclaimed graphic novel “The Sandman 1” by Neil Gaiman, a beloved favorite with a top-notch rating and recognition as a New York Times bestseller. This work stands tall as a benchmark in the realm of graphic storytelling, showing how deep, mature, and poetic fantasy can thrive within the pages of modern comics. Collaborating with a diverse team of talented artists, the series brings together contemporary stories, historical drama, and mythical tales, creating a rich and immersive experience. In this first volume, readers are introduced to a mesmerizing realm where dreams and nightmares take shape, ruled by Morpheus, the King of Dreams, and his mysterious siblings known as the Endless. As the story ventures into the mysteries beyond life and death, it unfolds through captivating storylines like “Preludes and Nocturnes,” “The Doll’s House,” and “Dream Country.”
3. Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore: An Unforgettable Exploration of Madness and Morality
Claiming the eighth position is “Batman: The Killing Joke”, penned by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland offers a thought-provoking dive into the delicate boundary that separates sanity from madness, heroism from villainy, and comedy from tragedy. In the backdrop of Gotham City’s dark alleys, The Joker weaves his malevolent plans, challenging the line that separates reason from madness. As the city’s very fabric is threatened by this notorious villain, Batman races against the clock to foil his dangerous plots, striving to protect Commissioner Jim Gordon and his daughter, Barbara, from a dire fate. Authored by the acclaimed mind behind classics like Watchmen and V for Vendetta, Alan Moore takes us on a journey into the roots of The Joker’s origin, reshaping Batman’s world and shaking the foundations of moral understanding.
4. The Complete Hate by Peter Bagge: A Grunge-infused Chronicle of Generation X
The seventh pick is “Hate” by Peter Bagge, a refreshing departure from self-indulgent narratives that plague the comic world. This collection brings together three volumes packed with the original comics that were a hit in the 1990s, along with more stories and artwork related to the series. The comics follow the adventures of Buddy Bradley, a character who reflects the grunge scene of 1990s Seattle. In the first volume, you’ll experience Buddy’s journey through the early ’90s, while the second volume shows his move back to New Jersey with his girlfriend Lisa Leavenworth. The third volume wraps up Buddy and Lisa’s story as they become parents. With a mix of colorful and black-and-white illustrations, new covers, and surprises, this collection captures the essence of that era’s culture and vibe.
5. All-Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely: A Fresh Spin on the Man of Steel
In the sixth slot, dive into the world of superheroes with “All-Star Superman” by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. In this series, the iconic Superman faces off against his quirky twin, Bizarro, and encounters a new character named Zibarro. The story also takes a thrilling turn as Superman confronts the ultimate revenge scheme by his arch-nemesis, Lex Luthor, which involves his own demise. This reimagined version of Superman’s story touches on his origins, his greatest adversaries, and even beyond. Written by Grant Morrison and illustrated by Frank Quitely, the comic brings a fresh and brilliant perspective to the Man of Steel. The collection gathers issues #1-12 of All-Star Superman, showcasing the creative synergy between the talented authors and artist. Featuring standalone stories about classic DC characters, this series is a must-read for fans of superheroes and engaging narratives.
6. The Complete Eightball by Daniel Clowes: An Anthology of Iconic Comics
Landing in the fifth position is Daniel Clowes’ “Eightball” series, a vehicle for thought-provoking narratives and social commentary. This collection brings together the original installments of well-known works like Ghost World, which inspired the film Art School Confidential, and more. Clowes gained recognition with the Eightball series even before achieving fame as a bestselling graphic novelist and screenwriter. Spanning from 1989 to 1997, these 18 issues are a testament to Clowes’ creativity and influence in the comic book world. Fulfilling the anticipation, Fantagraphics introduces this eagerly awaited compilation in a paperback format, featuring more than 500 pages of Clowes’ vintage material, which includes serialized graphic novels, comic strips, and thought-provoking rants. With new covers by Clowes and annotations for each issue, this anthology provides a comprehensive look into the artistic evolution of one of the industry’s most celebrated creators. Full-color illustrations throughout enhance the experience of diving into Clowes’ unique and captivating stories.
7. Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus: Unveiling the Iconic Hero’s Adventures
At number four, we pay homage to the works of the legendary Jack “King” Kirby in the newly printed “Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus.” In the 1970s, Kirby, the co-creator of Captain America, made a triumphant return to the series, delivering a breathtaking encore marked by creativity and scope. Set against the backdrop of the American Bicentennial, these stories see Captain America and the Falcon facing the insidious Secret Empire’s plans to plunge the nation into chaos using the Madbomb. The omnibus also takes readers on a mind-bending journey through American history and introduces eccentric adversaries like Arnim Zola, the Bio-Fanatic. Kirby’s boundless imagination brings forth a parade of menaces including the Swine, Magneto and his evil mutants, all within the pages of this collection.
8. Batman: Year One Deluxe – Unmasking the Dark Knight’s Origins
Securing the third spot is a graphic novel crafted by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli. Released in 1986, this reimagining of Batman’s origin story delves into the raw and imperfect beginnings of the Dark Knight. Unlike the polished and flawless hero we know today, this Batman is a novice, stumbling through the crime-ridden streets of a grim Gotham City. Teaming up with Lieutenant James Gordon, he battles both the city’s criminal underworld and a corrupt police force. “Year One” is hailed alongside “The Dark Knight Returns” as one of the greatest Batman graphic novels ever created. This edition includes the full graphic novel, a new introduction by Frank Miller, and an illustrated afterword by David Mazzucchelli.
9. Batman: The Long Halloween – Unmasking the Holiday Killer
Taking the penultimate position, we delve into the chilling mystery of “Batman: The Long Halloween,” a graphic novel collaboration between Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. In the shadowy alleys of Gotham City, a ruthless murderer strikes fear into the hearts of its citizens by committing grisly crimes only on holidays. With Christmas, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter as mere preludes, the body count rises, and the Dark Knight must step in to put an end to the madness. Working alongside District Attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant James Gordon, Batman races against time to unveil the identity of the elusive Holiday Killer. As the story unfolds, readers are taken on a suspenseful journey where every page is a clue and every character a suspect. Set against the backdrop of Batman’s early days, this gripping narrative also explores the transformation of Harvey Dent into the infamous Two-Face. With its intricate plot and stunning visuals, “The Long Halloween” stands as one of the most captivating Batman tales ever written, showcasing the exceptional talents of Loeb and Sale.
10. Watchmen: Unmasking Superhero Complexities
Topping our list at number one is the revolutionary graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons that has captivated readers with its alternate reality where superheroes shift the course of history. Set in a world where American heroes alter global events like the Vietnam War, this Hugo Award-winning masterpiece delves into the complex lives of flawed superheroes as they grapple with their own human weaknesses. As an enigmatic assassin shadows these former champions, the very concept of superheroes is deconstructed, unraveling the layers of heroism and humanity. A bestseller in its own right and the inspiration for an acclaimed HBO series, “Watchmen” remains an iconic exploration of morality, power, and the cost of wearing a mask. This edition showcases Moore’s storytelling brilliance and Gibbons’ artistry, and introduces recolored pages from the “Absolute Edition,” making it an essential addition to any comic enthusiast’s collection.
In conclusion, these ten comics have transcended mere entertainment to become cultural touchstones, shaping the very fabric of the comic book world. Each work reflects the evolution of the medium, breaking barriers and pushing boundaries to captivate readers and creators alike. Whether through innovation, authenticity, or social commentary, these comics have earned their place in the pantheon of greatness.