Happy New Year everyone! To kick things off I thought I’d post the second half of the “My Favorite Comics” series of posts with my favorites from DC. Please remember like the Marvel one this is *not* a complete list and I am sure to have left out something. But, that’s what these things are supposed to be. I also included links to places where you can purchase these books. So here goes…
The New Teen Titans 38: Emotional writing and detailed art. Marv Wolfman and George Perez made sidekicks into superstars with character driven stories and nowhere is this more evident then in “Who Is Donna Troy?” Wonder Woman’s sister is getting married and wants to invite her birth parents. Problem is she has no idea who they are. Who do she and her fiancée turn to? Her best friend, Robin. A heartwarming detective story about a young woman discovering who she is and how far a friends go to help one another.
All Star Superman: Quite possibly the greatest Superman story ever written by one of the greatest writer/artist teams ever in Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. When mankind’s first mission to the sun is sabotaged it’s Superman to the rescue but not without a cost. Grant Morrison writes the ultimate Superman story that embraces every era of the character. From the day Superboy becomes a man, Superman’s observation of a world without a Superman, solving the riddle of the Ultra-Sphinx, and some of the most iconic imagery of the Man of Steel ever created, “All Star Superman” embraces everything that makes Superman great with a modern flavor. Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely show us why Superman is the great American hero and why being a “big blue boy scout” is badass without saying ass.
We3- Speaking of Morrison and Quietly, the “All Star Superman” team brings us one of the most human, emotional comics ever made, and the stars aren’t even human. A combination of “The Terminator” and “The Incredible Journey”, We3 follows a stray dog, cat, and bunny that have been turned into cybernetic assassins for the government, as they escape their captors and try to return home. Great experimental panel layouts by Quietly, but what makes me love this story is Morrison’s moving characterization of the non-human protagonists.
Batman: Year One- The inspiration for “Batman Begins”, Frank Miller and David Mazzuchelli tell the story of a young Bruce Wayne’s opening shots in his war on crime. See what inspired Bruce to become a bat and follow the rise of a legend and the start of his partnership with a young Police Captain named James Gordon.
Batman: The Killing Joke- Alan Moore weaves a tragic story about how one bad day can ruin a person’s life forever, firmly defining the Batman/Joker dynamic while Brian Bolland turns in some of the greatest pencils in the history of comics. So good was this story it served not only as inspiration for both Tim Burton’s “Batman” and Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight”, it was even parodied on “South Park” during the Mohammed trilogy.
Wonder Woman: God’s and Mortals: In 1986, DC Comics hit the reset button on their fictional universe by allowing the most popular creators to reinvent their top hero’s. After successful reboots of Superman and Batman, it was Wonder Woman’s turn and DC brought out the big guns with George Perez. A combination of Greek myth and a young woman leaving the nest to find her place in the world, Perez shows us why Wonder Woman is an American icon and the glue that holds the DC “trinity” together.
Action Comics 600- John Byrne and George Perez tell the story of Wonder Woman and Superman’s first date. Too bad Darkseid crashed it.
Sandman 75: “The Tempest”- The final issue of the legendary series is the culmination of William Shakespeare’s pact with the Dream King, Morpheus. That culmination is Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest” a story of a king giving up his kingdom and endings. Why does the Sandman want this tale? “Because I am the Prince of Stories yet has no story of his own.” A poignant ending that touches on all the themes of the series, Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess crafted a conclusion that may not be the end chronologically, but a graceful exit.
JLA: New World Order- A race of aliens called the Hyperclan, have come to Earth and are solving all our problems before they conquer us. Only seven people stand in their way: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Aquaman, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter. The World’s Greatest Super Heroes as chronicled by Grant Morrison with slick artwork from Howard Porter. Includes, perhaps the most badass Batman scene ever.
Sandman: Season of Mists- After a fight at a family dinner, Morpheus journey’s to hell to free a girl he condemned for spurring him, only to find that Lucifer has renounced his title as ruler of hell. Now, the Sandman must decide what to do with the realm he inherited.
Preacher: Until the End of the World- The book Kevin Smith called “more fun than going to the movies.” Jesse Custer’s search for God takes him back to his personal hell. Imagine being raised by your parent’s murderers and a grandmother so Puritanical she makes the Church Lady look like Madonna? And Batman thought his childhood was f’ed up.
Sandman 17: “Calliope”- All writers struggle with writer’s block, but everyone knows you never abuse your muse. A young writer, Richard Madoc, seeking inspiration is presented the muse, Calliope who was captured by an elder writer. Madoc becomes a successful writer at the expense of Calliope’s pain. Yearning for freedom, she calls on her ex-husband Morpheus (the Sandman or Dream) for aid. Morpheus grants Madoc so many ideas he is driven mad.
Y: The Last Man- Brian K Vaughn and Pia Guerra tell the story of Yorick Brown, the last man on Earth, and his monkey Ampersand. You’d think being the last man on Earth would be paradise? Think again. See how the balance of power shifts if only women ruled the world, all while Yorick desperate searches for his girlfriend, Beth. Just to let you know, this series landed Vaughn a writing gig on a little known show called “Lost”.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns- This guy is always showing up. Frank Miller tells the story of Batman’s “final” adventure as Bruce Wayne comes out of retirement to save his city from the apocalypse. What makes this series so great? It’s not Batman’s showdown with Superman or the political satire. It’s Frank Miller’s presentation of how people would react if there really were a Batman. From youth’s, law enforcement, liberals, conservatives, to the man on the street, see how the world would really react as Batman recruits a new female Robin, brutalizes a gang leader, and has his final confrontation with the Joker. A story that is both mythic and down to Earth, this is the story that shattered the perception of Batman as goofy and campy once and for all.
Identity Crisis- The attitude toward secret identities was they were passé and had no place in modern comics, until this hit. When Elongated Man’s wife is murdered, DC’s heroes drop everything and set out on an obsessive quest to find out who did it and how they found out. Anymore information would spoil the story, but novelist and uber-fanboy Brad Meltzer crafted a story about how dangerous being associated with a super hero can be, the importance of secret identities, and how far heroes will go to protect the people they love, while turning some of DC’s lamer villains into some of the deadliest threats imaginable. You’re either lucky or unlucky this has been collected into a graphic novel. Lucky, because reading this as a graphic novel allow you to finish the story in one sitting, unlucky, because you’ve missed the fun of re-reading the issues and searching for clues while waiting for the next installment. Either way, this series is a roller coaster with new twists and turns in every chapter…including what many perceived to be a printing error as the farthest thing from it. Read it now.
Swamp Thing: Earth to Earth- Yes, you’re reading that right. Alan Moore’s turned Swamp Thing from a run of the mill muck monster into an elemental force of nature while telling mature stories that touched on what was at the time taboo subject matter. “Earth to Earth” is the height of Moore’s run. A tabloid has published photos of Swamp Thing and his girlfriend Abby Cable resulting in her arrest on obscenity charges. She posts bail and skips town to Gotham City where she is arrested again for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Swamp Thing wants his girlfriend back. Gotham City refuses to release her. Swamp Thing unleashes his full power on the city and guess who is called in to stop him? A beautiful story with beautiful artwork, culminating with the poetic, “My Blue Heaven.”
Green Lantern: Rebirth- The story that made Green Lantern into DC’s biggest franchise, Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver reinvented the Green Lantern mythology by putting Hal Jordan back into the title role and making the Green Lantern Corps the center piece of the DC Universe.
Superman: Exile in Space- The aftermath of a controversial Superman storyline where the Man of Steel killed three genocidal criminals, Superman decides he is not worthy to live on Earth and exiles himself from his home. On his journey in deep space he is captured, forced into slavery, and leads a revolution against the warlord Mongul all while battling his conscious. Why is this here? Because this story is the first storyline in comics I ever followed. I was five years old at the time and my father would bring me the next installment every week.
Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?- The final story of your father’s Superman. Alan Moore teams up with legendary Superman artist Curt Swan and the great George Perez to deliver Superman’s final adventure. With his greatest villains targeting his friends and family, Superman gathers everyone his loves and brings them to the Fortress of Solitude for once last stand against his greatest enemies. A sad (but warm sad), heartwarming, crowd roaring conclusion, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” closed the era of ‘your father’s Superman’, by having the Man of Steel face his greatest foe and ending his adventures with a wink.
Superman: Red Son- America’s worst nightmare. Instead of landing in Smallville, Kansas, Superman crash lands and is raised on a Soviet collective farm turning the DC Universe around 360 degrees. See the Cold War fought by the Soviet Champion Superman and America’s greatest mind, Lex Luthor along with a twist ending that makes M. Night Shmylean look like an amateur.
The Authority: Relentless and Under New Management- Along with Grant Morrison’s JLA, the grand daddy of all wide-screen super hero comics. Ultra-violence, gay versions of classic heroes, a take no prisoners attitude, political commentary, and humor, these two volumes showcased not only the greatness of writer Warren Ellis but introduced us to the art of Bryan Hitch and Frank Quietly. Not to mention the writing of one, Mark Millar.
Superman/Batman: Supergirl- After several convoluted attempts at a non-Kryptonian resurrection, DC Comic decided nothing beats the original and re-introduced Kara Zor-El, Superman’s cousin, to the DC Universe and a new generation. Gorgeous art by the late, great, Michael Turner.
Watchmen- No favorite list would be complete without this one. Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons did the impossible and turned comics into literature. Someone is murdering retired superheroes forcing the others to come out of retirement in a world where superheroes are outlawed. A series that revolutionized not only the content of comics but introduced new cinematic and rhythmic storytelling techniques to the medium.
Batman: Mad Love- I guess it’s true what they say; girls love bad guys. Take Harleen Quinzel, an aspiring, attractive, psychologist who has fallen in love with her patient, the Joker. (Talk about issues) From the head writer and character designer of “Batman: The Animated Series” this one shot captures everything that made the cartoon special while introducing a new character to the Batman canon.
Kingdom Come- Fresh off of Marvels, Alex Ross teams up with Mark Waid to tell the final story of the DC Universe as Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, and all of DC’s mainstays come out of retirement to teach a generational of out of control crime fighters a lesson in heroism.
52- They said it couldn’t be done but it was. Grant Morrison, Mark Waid, Greg Rucka, and Geoff Johns, and a slew of artists came together to tell a weekly, real time, series about a year without Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. But what really made this series a success was every issue was on time.
DC Comics Presents 47- Superman vs. He-Man. ‘Nuff Said.