Grant Morrison is a madman! Yes, I said it! The Scottish writer is, hands down, one of the greatest comic book writers this planet will ever see. Morrison’s work is heavy; don’t expect a walk in the park when you open that copy of Doom Patrol — Musclebound or any issue of The Invisibles. Grant Morrison will not hold your hand and walk you across the street — he’ll take you to the middle of the street, wait for the traffic light to turn green and leave you standing. His greatest work, in my very humble opinion, has to be the run with Doom Patrol. Of course, that in no way means you discount all the amazing one-shots he has done with DC Comics and in 2000AD. Pick up Arkham Asylum, Judge Dredd: Inferno, Kill Your Boyfriend and New Adventures of Hitler.
Then there is All-Star Superman. Superman has one year left to live, courtesy Lex Luthor as always, and there are 12 tasks that he… okay no spoilers.
I’m not even going to talk about the greatness of V for Vendetta or Watchmen here. Both were amazing series that led to killer movies and had a far greater impact in the real world (Guy Fawkes is the official face of the hacktivist group Anonymous). Moore’s work is, in one word, intelligent. There is no straight up action and the villains are not beaten into a pulp here. There is detail though, lots of detail. I’m going to be totally clichéd here and quote Killing Joke as the greatest story Moore has written. A window into the Joker’s past and the paralysis of Barbara Gordon, Moore sets the record straight on why the laughing madman is one of the vilest villians ever created. If you really want to dig in to his work, pick up From Hell, Swamp Thing and Miracle Man runs and, of course, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
Who is Bill Willingham and why is he on this list? Fables. That’s why. Fables is possibly one of the greatest comic book series of our times. Willingham writes a story of fairytale characters who have crossed into our world. Why? Because they were forced out of their homes by a villain known as Adversary. Nothing short of amazing, Fables features all the characters from childhood bedtime stories and poems thrown into a gritty real world setting. Hansel is the head of the inquisition, the Big Bad Wolf is a sheriff… and so on. You can also check out some of his Sandman Presents work.
I haven’t read much of Brian Vaughan’s work and I’ll be dead honest here: I don’t care much for it either. But Y: the Last Man is a must-read. And by must-read I do mean you go buy it right now! Another Vertigo series, Y is the story of Yorick Brown. Both Brown and his male monkey are the only ones left besides women after something kills anything with the Y chromosome.
The search for his mother leads him on a quest to look for a cloning expert, but then there is also the search for his girlfriend and so on… no spoilers here.
If I had the space, I’d write a 1,000 word essay on the awesomeness of Brian Wood. I was introduced to Wood’s work via DMZ. Manhattan is a demilitarised zone and the US government is at war with an entity known as the Free States. Matty Roth, an intern, is left stranded in Manhattan and he is the only news source inside the DMZ. You’re hooked once you start reading.
The series gives you a glimpse of what could possibly happen to a boiling-pot city like Karachi if things really go downhill. Now I’m a big fan of the Vikings, and that is one of the things Wood did really right. Northlanders was a 50-issue series set in the age of Vikings. If you like reading stories based on historical events, this is a good place to start.
This English author is best known for re-writing the Sandman series, from the gasmask-wearing superhero to one of the Endless, a pantheon of immortals. The series follows Morpheus (aka Dream) through multiple plots, including a visit to Hell, a search for his lost brother Destruction and then to his death. You’d want to pick up the collected works as soon as possible and go through them before the prequel comes out! Gaiman also created as bunch of characters for Tekno Comix, the most prominent one being Mr Hero. You might also want to check out Black Orchid and Marvel 1602 for some of his other work. Besides comic books, Gaiman has also written amazing books. I’m just going to go ahead and recommend American Gods to you.
Pissed off journalist in the future plans on taking the president down, and no it isn’t Hunter S Thompson. Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan has to be every aspiring journalist’s favourite comic book. Set in the future, Jerusalem is a journalist living in retirement. A wake-up call from his publisher forces him to return to the city and resume work as a journalist. Most people can only hope to be as ballsy, and as deranged, as Jerusalem. Pick up The Authority, Planetary and Ministry of Space for additional Ellis’ reading.
This man is brilliant beyond words. You need to go out right now and pick up Preacher! Jesse Custer is a preacher who is possessed by a being that makes him more powerful than God, who he just happens to be gunning for. Ennis’ work is like someone grabbed you by the hair and smashed your face on the sidewalk. Ennis also loves gun-toting vigilantes. Another essential read is The Punisher… and I’m talking the MAX series here. For those of you who aren’t aware, MAX is an imprint of Marvel that caters to an adult audience. The MAX run is more real world. Frank Castle deals with mafias, terrorists etc and even goes on a mission for Nick Fury (but bear in mind there are no superhero or supervillian appearances in this series). And if you don’t love Barracuda, there might just be something wrong with you…Also recommended reading: Adventures in the Rifle Brigade.
No list is complete without mentioning Frank Miller, the man behind The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again, Sin City AND 300! Quite an impressive portfolio, eh?
The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Strikes Again are both set in a dystopian future: an older Bruce Wayne who makes his return as the Batman, a new Robin and a dead Joker. And that’s just the first series. You can also catch the first part of an animated The Dark Knight Returns. The second is due next year. Sin City is more sex and violence, and if you dig that, you’ll dig the series for sure. I’m not going to talk about 300; it’s amazing. Plus I cringe every time someone goes, “THIS IS SPARTA!!!” Want more Miller? Pick up his Robocop run on Avatar.
Monumental is the best way to define some of Mark Waid’s work. And that work is Kingdom Come. The story is, as with most killer series, set in the future. The Justice League reforms, Batman hates Superman, Superman versus Captain Marvel… well, you should just read the rest. Waid is also the man behind JLA: Tower of Babel. Members of the Justice League, save Batman, are taken down by Ra’s al Ghul, courtesy of the Dark Knight. Batman had been keeping records of the superheroes’ strengths and weaknesses…in a just-in-case situation, and the Demon manages to steal the records from him. You might also want to read Superman: Birthright, a redone origin of the Man of Steel, and the Onslaught saga.
Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, November 18th, 2012.