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31 Days of Comics – A Comic You’d Hate to Leave Off a List of Comics

Our pal Seth Hahne, of GoodOKBad fame, came up with this 31 Days of Comics challenge, one of those things where each day of the month you’re given a different category that you then make a choice of a comic to fill that category. I figured it would be a fun bit to do, so here we are! Click here to see each of the categories so far!

We conclude with Day 31, which is A Comic You’d Hate to Leave Off a List of Comics.

Read on for my pick and then you can share yours!

I’m going with Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen.

To give you an idea of how much of a game changer Watchmen was, note that the PROOFS for the issues were passed around the DC offices – that’s how much even the other DC employees were enthralled in the story that Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were producing. Everyone knew that this comic was special, and now nearly thirty years later, it remains a very special story.

A remarkable aspect of Watchmen is the fact that, past the fairly straightforward plot about an older superhero getting murdered, with his former teammates investigating his murder only to find out that it is all tied to a mysterious conspiracy, there is just so much detail and nuance.

Of course, most importantly, it opens with a Bob Dylan song lyric…

You can examine a single scene and get something new out of the scene practically every time you read it.

And that’s even counting all of the famous scenes that are awesome just on a straightforward reading of the book, like Ozymandias’ famous “I did it 35 minutes ago” line…

or Rorschach’s fight against the police…

or Rorschach’s first meeting with his prison shrink…

Dave Gibbons does not get enough credit for his amazing artwork in this series. There’s a sequence set in the past when the heroes were still all pretty naive (Rorschach was not even using his scary voice as of yet), and Gibbons gives us, ALL IN THE BACKGROUND, a beautiful depiction of Doctor Manhattan flirting with the Silk Spectre, all while his wife is right next to him. As the panels go by, not one doesn’t show some sort of interaction in the background of the panel – all of it is important to their characterizations, but none of it is central to the main story being delivered in those panels – so Gibbons basically was giving us two stories at once. The one Moore is telling with the speech balloons at the “front” of the panel, plus the one Gibbons is telling in the “back” of the panel through body language.

Granted, as great as Gibbons is, Moore DOES work full script, so while I am praising Gibbons, I have to make sure I do give Moore credit for the details, as well.

All in all, there is a reason that this was one of Time magazine’s Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century – it’s a masterpiece of comic book fiction, both in story and art – and decades later, it is STILL influencing comic book writers, so I wouldn’t feel right doing this 31 Days of Comics challenge and not working in Watchmen at some point.

34 Comments

I don’t know if there’s a single comic that I’m more sick of hearing about than Watchmen. It seems odd that it’d need to even be mentioned in any context that doesn’t directly relate to it since it’s being discussed literally hundreds of times each day across the internet (I’m not even disagreeing with you, I just think it’s redundant to even bring up Watchmen in a comics site at this point in time).

Now getting back to the topic, if I were going to name drop one single title that I haven’t seen mentioned yet in any of these posts it would probably have to be… I guess I’ll go with ROM: Spaceknight. I don’t know if there’s ever been a comic that better embodies the feeling you get as a kid that makes you want to read comics in the first place. I know that most readers these days start as adults, but back in the day nearly 100% of people started as kids and ROM did a nearly unrivaled job of tapping into the themes that little kids think are cool.

Runner ups (that have also not been mentioned yet) would include U.S.1 (seriously, Brian, you should just do like a whole jumbo article on this series because it’s the most playfully and unapologetically batshit thing that ever came out of The House of Ideas), The ‘Nam (in particular the original writer run), a number of Art Adams illustrated one-shots (namely: Creature From the Black Lagoon, Godzilla Color Special, Gumby Summer Fun Special, and Gumby Winter Fun Special), Fawcett’s Captain Marvel and related titles (still the overall best work ever produced in the superhero genre), the nightmare inducing sci-fi/horror work of Basil Wolverton (in particular The Brain Bats of Venus), John Ostrander’s run on Manhunter (for being a largely unrecognized borderline-masterpiece), the entire Dell/Gold Key/DC era/volume of Tarzan (arguably the overall greatest non-superhero related adventure series in comics history), National Lampoon’s Foto Funnies (photo comics need to make a comeback post haste), The Marvel Fumetti Book (ditto), The Marvel No-Prize Book (a by-product of Jim Shooter’s drive-the-competition-out-of-business-by-taking-up-their-space-on-the-shelves strategy), Generic Comic Book #1 (same), Mike Allred’s bafflingly obscure Spaceman one-shot, Steve Rude’s slightly less obscure Space Ghost one-shot, the entirety of Big Bang Comics including the one-shots and miniseries (the best meta-fictional retro comics series that no one has read), The Adventures of the Big Boy promotional comics that they used to give out to kids at their restaurants (believe it or not both Stan Lee and Dan DeCarlo worked on the title at one point!), Valiant’s “Nintendo Comics System” line of video game based titles (so very easy to dismiss, but surprisingly well done for a licensed kid’s comic), and those awesome He-Man mini comics that came with the old toys.

Thaaaaaaat’s… actually way more than I intended to type up, and like half of it is superfluous, but I’ll leave it unedited because those are really some awesome comics and they could always use more exposure.

Hmm, I’m not sure about this one.

I suppose off the top of my head, since I read them last year again for the first time in awhile (and one of them the first time ever), I’d say the works of Alex Robinson. Box Office Poison is such a good book, Tricked is a really nice piece, and Too Cool To Be Forgotten is marvelous stuff. And that dungeon barbarian lady comic, the name of which I’m forgetting right now, was fun enough too.

And I realize now I mentioned BOP in an earlier post, so dangit, I dunno.

So imagine my surprise when I’m at the local chain bookstore, looking at magazines, and I see a mag with Astro Boy on the cover, and it’s not a comics related mag. Astro Boy covers the mag name, so I dunno what it is, but I open to the table of contents, and what do I see but our pal Seth has an article about manga! Neato!

It was Christian Research Journal, I believe. Very neat piece.

But yeah, it was very weird to go “wait a sec, I know who that guy is!”

The Light Brigade. Tomasi and Snejbjerg. Horrible. Uplifting. Tragic. Hopeful. And really funny as well.

Love & Rockets: that comic has everything. Los Bros can do it all. I’m a recent L&R reader- I only started when they released the hardcover reprints a few years ago- but now I can’t miss an issue.

I’ll go with Deep Sleeper by Phil Hester and Mike Huddleston.

It gets very little mention on must-read lists, but it is easily the most impressive miniseries I’ve read in the last ten years: original, gripping, scary, mind-blowing and very moving.

Highly recommended.

Jeff Smith’s Bone. It’s a good read, but I think it also has tremendous historic value in that it helped get comics back into the mainstream and in the hands of kids. It’s now a staple comic in bookstores and libraries, and kids are still reading it well after publication wrapped up.

Robinson’s Starman. I think a big part of why I can’t bring myself to care about the “New 52″ is that none of this can possibly be in continuity anymore, since it all relies on the Golden Age DC stuff. This is by far my favorite comic series of all time. Jack Knight is a character I relate to in a very personal way, especially with regards to his relationship with his father and brother. All the characters just feel so real to me, and the use of history (both DC and real world) is always stunning.

I haven’t said Young Justice this month, so Young Justice.

@Dalarsco,

I agree, and add that Robinson & co embraced DC’s history at a time when it was drastically unfashionable to do so. I went from not caring about the Justice Society to wanting to know more about Hourman, Dr. Midnite, et al. Additionally, Jack Knight was a unique super-hero at the time, eschewing both traditional and ’90s costumes and personality traits. I’ve read and heard opinions that the series doesn’t hold up or lost its way after Harris left. I respectfully disagree with such notions.

I’ll go with Bill Willingham’s endlessly enjoyable Fables. Willingham never allows his readers to get too comfortable and is always willing to kill his darlings which gives us a book that is always fresh and compelling. See the recent cubs in toyland storyline that was an emotional punch to the gut.

I don’t know, I’m kind of glad Starman isn’t in the new 52 continuity. That way Jack’s family won’t be killed to kick off an ultra gritty crossover event.

I was so paralyzed by this question that I still haven’t answered it on my own site (where I ran this game in October).

My real answer’s probably Duncan the Wonder Dog because I take every opportunity to talk that one up trying to get other people to join up and enjoy its magnificence (on the off chance that will inspire Adam Hines to work faster on bringing the next volume out). But I already mentioned it and I didn’t want to mention the same book twice.

So then I’m stuck with a pile of books that I want to receive mention but didn’t include in other categories: Children of the Sea, Daytripper, Mr Blank, No One Is Safe, Blankets, Nausicaa, Berlin. I don’t know. I’m just flat indecisive here.

Superman is one of the most recognizable characters on earth, and an important part of American mythology. The Silver Age of Superman did a lot to establish this. Just think of what the era brought to the mythos: Supergirl, Superboy, Krypto, Metallo, Titano, Bizarro, Kandor, Brainiac, Lana Lang, Lori Lemaris, Legion of Superheroes, Smallville, Fortress of Solitude. Phantom Zone,the rainbow of Kryptonite, etc. etc. And the stories! The Death of Superman, The Amazing Story of Superman Red & Superman Blue, Under a Red Sun, The Last Days of Superman, and, perhaps most impressive of all, The Romance of Superbaby and Baby Lois. There’s a reason The Silver Age of Superman has been mined so often by later creators. Outside of perhaps the Oz stories, it’s hard to think of an American fantasy world so rich in detail and possibility.

@Travis Pelkie – Hah, that’s great that you saw that. Yeah, I was totally surprised to be contacted by them for a piece. I’m an old acquaintance of their managing editor, so that’s probably how my name came up (also, she had seen and liked an article another religious organization had requested from me featuring 5 Comics From 2012 That Christians Should Read). Anyway, their pitch to me was that they were running a piece on whether Christian soccer moms should be frightened of the manga their daughters were bringing home (their answer would be something like Not Necessarily) and they wanted somebody for a sidebar article reviewing specific manga.

I wasn’t sure that it was so much my thing but I asked if I could write about good manga without saying anything negative about the books I chose to review. They said that was fine and that I should only keep in mind my audience. I thought, what would I most want Christian soccer moms to gain through an acquaintance with manga. My own answer was: empathy for people from subcultures and circumstances and ideologies different from their own. So that’s what I went with, seven fantastic books that (alongside being enjoyable reads) might help you better love your neighbour as yourself.

I’m glad you enjoyed it. I always have run recommending books.

Lone wolf and cub.

Too many people have not read it.
Major bookstores dont carry it
Most comic shops dont carry it

The Steve Parkhouse issue of the Invisibles. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr. The Fantastic Four #6 by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Criminal: Lawless by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips. Many more that escape me at the moment.

too many answers for this one some that others have already said though would throw v for vendetta into the mix also

I’m going to go with Peter Milligan’s short run of single issue stories in Detective Comics in around 1991/1992. Just a brilliant set of unshowy stories with Batman actually being a detective. It’s criminal that this run hasn’t been collected yet.

I haven’t read Watchmen, strangely. I’ve always meant to, but in the past when i’ve picked it up and flicked through it in the store, it always seemed to violent to me. Not superhero punchup violent, but nasty violent.
For that reason, i doubt I’ll ever read it.

Astro City. I’m so happy it’s back, but even if it had stayed away it’s the kind of book I’d hate to leave out because it’s been so good and done such a great job of storytelling about superheroes. It’s a complete package: great writing, terrific art, and wonderful covers. Astro City does so much with the humanity of heroes.

Fifth Beatle was the comic that gave me interest in the entire non-fiction graphic novel genre. Punk Rock Jesus, KIng CIty, Infinite Horizon, Phonogram:Singles Club, and Daytripper are all mini series that experiment with the comic genre. Scalped is the crime saga that I never knew that I wanted.

@Fletch –

One word that will never be used to describe Watchmen is “fun”.

I’m probably whistling in the dark with this suggestion, but any chance we see a negative version of this list? I’m thinking along the lines of “A Comic with an Annoying Child Character,” “A Comic That THINKS It’s Truly Smart,” “A Comic You Would Burn,” etc. I’m being serious here. I’d get a kick out of seeing what comics and characters Brian and the other regulars can’t stand, and plus it’s always fun to vent.

I think that ideas for “least favorite” topics have been brought up before, but CBR really doesn’t like to encourage criticism, and especially not outright venom, toward much of ANYTHING. Just try saying how much [insert writer here] sucks in the comments section sometime and see how quickly the comment gets deleted.

It is fun to vent but I like that this whole month has been about people sharing loved comics. If I want negativity about comics there are a million places to find it.

Have been alerted to some stories and books I dint know about. It’s been fun.

Palmotti and Gray’s Jonah Hex. A fantastic series and one of the few that (mostly) isn’t serialized. Lots of great works by great artists, all sorts of different genres of story telling and overall just being great fun! I also like that the series has a morally complex character. He’s a character who can be loathsome in one story and respectable in another. If you haven’t had the pleasure, check out the pre-New 52 Jonah Hex game (nothing against the post-New 52 Jonah Hex, as I haven’t read it and cannot judge. I’ve heard people argue both for that one, so I may check it out eventually.

@Mike Loughlin: Yeah, Snebjerg’s stuff was just as good as Harris’. It was different, and the stories evolved to reflect it. I especially loved how Robinson wrote out Jack’s tattoos because they were identical to Harris’. Great little touch. My first exposure to the series was actually the trade for Grand Guignol in my high school’s library. I then bought the Omnibi when they started coming out, and tracked down that first JSA trade that featured Starman. Good observation on how Robinson reinvigorated interest in the Golden Age characters. JSA basically spun out of Starman as it came to a close, and I may never have gotten into DC without it. I started reading it when it was relaunched in I think 2006, and it was the first DC book I followed. I had always had a curiosity about the Golden Age DC heroes. The loss of the Golden Age is a big part of why the New 52 falls flat for me. Had they done Earth 2 properly they could have kept me (and, frankly, Robinson himself) around.

I think Y: The Last Man is the greatest comic series ever so I will be going with that. Brian K. Vaughn’s and Pia Guerra’s work shows the absolute possibilities of comics as a medium for other types of stories besides superhero stories.

@Dalarsco,

It’s funny how people come to certain series at different points, especially in the age of trades for *everything.* I bought the first 6 or 7 issues of Starman at a flea market. They were marked up to reflect Overstreet prices, but the guy was selling all his comics @ 75% off! I ended up getting them for cover price or less (as well as a complete run of Jae Lee Namors and a signed Green Lantern 50. Weird what details people remember about random things). It became my one of my favorite comics instantly.

I liked that bit with the tattoos, too. It’s crazy to me that Snejbjerg never got bigger. I liked his work on Books of Magic, and was surprised how smoothly he fit with a super-hero comic (even a highly stylized super-hero book like Starman). I haven’t seen too much work from him since, which is a shame.

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned All-Star Superman, which strikes me as hitting the right balance of accessability and creativity to fit here.

I’m surprised nobody has mentioned All-Star Superman, which strikes me as hitting the right balance of accessability and creativity to fit here.

I think it’s because people have all already mentioned it on their earlier choices.

Here’s another vote for Robinson’s Starman. Definitely one of my all time favorites (as is the JSA series that basically spun out of it). The New 52 doesn’t interest me at all not just for erasing characters and books like this but because DC has gone out of its way to make sure that there could NEVER be a New 52 with this kind of depth because they didn’t just change the history…they annhilated it. Even Earth 2 had to get a modern reboot. It’s the worst part of the 90s all over again…all flash (no pun intended) and no substance. That Rob Liefeld, the posterboy for that era, was front and center when this reboot started only proves it.

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