Let me first start off by saying that this is by not at all a complete list of comics and graphic novels. So don’t send me angry letters about “you forgot such and such book.”
With the Holidays approaching this list can be valuable to help find that perfect gift for the comic book reader on your list. They are also not in any order so numbers 1 thru 10 are not necessarily the top ten books. I just am breaking the list down into 10 books per post. There are also some books that are lumped together for various reasons that will be explained in the listing. I tried to have a mix of old and new, mainstream and indy books. Over time I will come out with more library list. My preference is always a hardcover edition of a book. There are going to be some books that may not be currently in print so you may have to hunt for some of them. So without further ado here is the first 10 books on the list.
40) Scud the Disposable Assassin: The Whole Shebang!
The premiss is very simple. You walk up to scud unit vending machine to pay for a unit to assassinate whom every you like. One the contract is fulfilled the unit will self destruct. Scud is hired and instead of killing his victim he blows off it’s arms and legs and is on permanent life support for the first month then scud must now work to pay for the ongoing life support. Of course mayhem ensues. My favorite character is Drywall who is a hired sidekick that on the outside is covered in zippers and is able to pull almost anything out of his infinite internal body. The book is very goofy and strange at the same time. Scud cases are some of the strangest stories that you will every read. But I’m sure that you will fall in love with his as I did.
I usually not a big manga fan but the little dinosaur created by Masashi Tanaka is the big exception. The book has no dialogue so there is no translation needed. Tanaka’s art is truly breathtaking. Gon is story of a little dinosaur that does and goes wherever he wants and does whatever he wants. The stories are simple but enthralling nonetheless. Each panel is so detailed it’s no wonder that new material is very slow in coming out. The other great thing is that it’s a great all ages book. Thankfully Kodansha Comics has brought these great books back into print.
38) Walking Dead
OK so everybody has seen the show but I still wonder of those millions of viewers how many have read the comics. Not as many as you think. I love the show but the comic has so much more textures than a TV show can allow. I still miss Tony Moore’s artwork from the first few issues but Charlie Adlard has taken the reigns quite well. The thing that I love about the book is the way that it deals with the human emotions of dealing with the zombie apocalypse is the real meat of the story. I also love how the book and the TV show are similar but very different at the same time.
This book was a bold experiment for DC comics. Masterminded by Mark Chiarello each issue was 16 pages and folded out like a newspaper to 14×20. There were 15 one page stories per issue and originally ran for 12 weekly issues. Mark pulled together a real who’s who of the comics industry to work on the book. Some of the creators were Neil Gaiman, Walt Simonson, Joe Kubert, Kurt Busiek, Ryan Sook, Jose Garcia-Lopez, Mike Allred, Amanda Conner and so many more. Some stories were better than others but every week when the book came out made you feel like a kid again looking at the Sunday funnies from the newspapers. The hardcover is the way to go because of the better paper (the original issues used newsprint) and the inclusion of 2 one page strips that were set in advance for back up in case anyone missed a deadline. Plastic Man by Evan Dorkin and Stephen DeStefano and Beware the Creeper by Keith Giffen and Eric Canete it also contains behind the scenes by some of the artist on how they did the artwork. I will admit not all the stories hit a home run, but they all are well above the average comic that is published currently. The stories are also presented in there complete story instead of one page a week of the original release.
36) Absolute Watchmen
Face it if you don’t own this book then you cannot call yourself a comic book fan. This book truly revolutionized the comic book industry in 1986. Originally developed using Charlton Comics characters and originally titled “Who Killed the Peacemaker”, co-creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons fleshed out the story creating “original” characters (The final characters still have a resemblance to the Charlton Comics) created a ground breaking 12 issue mini series that redefined what comics can be. It asked a very simple what if superheroes actually existed and how would the world deal with it? If you only own the trade paperback version of this consider moving up to the absolute version. It was restored and recolored by original series colorist John Higgins and approved by Gibbons to appear as originally intended. It also include 48 pages of supplemental material produced exclusively for the Graphitti Designs WATCHMEN hardcover edition and not seen since their original publication. It’s well worth the price.
35) Spy Vs. Spy Omnibus
I have many great memories of MAD Magazine from my childhood but the one that really stands out is Spy Vs. Spy created by Antonio Prohias. He was a very prominent political cartoonist in Cuba until Fidel Castro didn’t find them amusing. Prohias left Cuba in 1960 and when he came to New York he spoke very little English. This is the main reason that there was no dialogue in the strip so there were no language barriers to deal with. When I grew up I discovered Spy Vs. Spy by way of paperback books that were printed. I fell in love with this printed version of Tom and Jerry. It was amazing to see story telling through just visuals blew my mind when I was a kid. This book reprints every Prohias strip ever produced along with the history and some of the non strips produced by Peter Kuper and Bob Clarke. It also collects his non Spy Vs. Spy work from MAD and some of his Cuban work. This a great collection that celebrates a true humor master.
34) Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck (and Companion Book)
Used to be that there was only one man who could write and draw Scrooge McDuck and that was Carl Barks. Then Don Rosa came along and was able to capture that lighting in the bottle that Bark’s had done years before. Don had been doing Scrooge stories for a while and then started his magnum opus. The story covers 12 issues that tell the story of how Scrooge McDuck acquires his fortune and became the world’s richest duck. The story recounts his past that is firmly based in the Bark’s classic continuity. Not only is the story epic but Rosa’s artwork is just flat-out stunning. The detail in the work put most artist to shame. The companion book are stories that are related to the main story because they tell stories of a younger Scrooge. Sadly the current editions are out of print and hopefully someone will get this amazing work back in print.
33) Fables Deluxe Editions
This is one of the best books currently being published. If you have not read this book I cannot recommend it highly enough. The premise is that most of the fairy tales characters have been driven out of the fairy tale land and have come to the “real” world and live in a “hidden” neighborhood called Fabletown in New York. Bill Willingham takes a new spin on classic fairy tale characters and with Mark Buckingham and other artist bring us a new generation of Grimm fairy tales to love and cherish. I always tell people wouldn’t you want to read a story where Snow White is the Mayor and the Big Bad Wolf is the sheriff? I know I do.
32)Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle
I was never a big fan in my younger days of Iron Man. Oh sure he had a cool suit of armor but when your a billionaire you can pretty much build what ever you want. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the Demon in a Bottle storyline. To this day I don’t think that there has ever been a storyline in Iron Man that has ever come as close to being as good as this story. The premiss is very simple no matter how rich, smart or strong there is one thing that we all have to deal with, it’s ourselves. Meaning that we all have inner demons. Some of us are better at dealing with them than others. Tony Starks problem was that because of who he was there was nobody around him to tell him no. David Micheline and Bob Layton weave a story of Iron Man being framed for murder and the spiral downward leading Stark to drown his sorrow with alcohol. It make the hero behind the suit much more human.
31) Steve Ditko Omnibus 1 & 2 and The Creeper
Here is one of the first listings that is taking advantage of the lumping together clause. Steve Ditko is obviously known for his stunning work on the Amazing Spider-man and his Charlton Comics work (Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, The Question, etc.) But I really enjoyed his DC comics work that he did. DC has thankfully reprinted nearly all of his work in two Omnibus volumes and the Creeper volume. I am very fond of his Shade the Changing Man work from volume 1. It was a very science fiction heavy story that centered on Rac Shade’s quest to clear his name for a crime that he didn’t commit. Unfortunately the series was cancelled at issue 8 (part of the DC implosion another story for another day) but issue 9 was completed and is included here for the first time. It also includes the short-lived Stalker series that was inked by the legendary Wally Wood. Volume 1 contains the majority of his one shot stories in such books as House of Mystery, Polp! and Weird War Tales among others. Volume 2 covers his co-creations of Hawk and Dove and Starman, along with his issues of Legion of Super Heroes. Ditko co-created the Creeper with Dennis O’Neil and the Creeper volume collects all of his Creeper work including the story from Showcase #106 that was never printed. Ditko’s art style combines a cartoony and most times surreal style that is like no other. He created some of the most bizarre characters in comic history and his art influence is still felt today.