We’re a couple of weeks into 2022 now, and while I took a little while off over the holiday period, I’m back to the grindstone now.
The thing about the end of years is that everyone and their dog does a ‘Best of’ list for the year.
I’m not going to do that. Or at least…not like that.
I figured that I’m going to draw a line in the sand as regards my favorite things. Then every year, I’ll revisit the list and see if anything that year has cracked my list. I figured that this week I’d start with my all-time favorite Graphic Novels.
First up, a little word on my criteria regarding what a Graphic Novel is. I’ve been a collector of comic books for a long time now. I’ve previously talked about how my first comic book was a copy of the Spectacular Spiderman.
It was issue #66 in 1982, and I was a lad of eleven years old.
I turned fifty last year, so you can work out how long I’ve been a collector. In the last decade or so, my collecting moved from individual comic books, to Graphic Novels.
Sometimes a Graphic Novel is created as just that. A story that is self-contained within its own pages. However nine times out of ten, a graphic novel is actually a collection of a run of comic books. Some of the biggest names in Graphic Novels are this format.
So, for this list, everything is fair game.
So, with that established, let’s start the countdown of my top 12 graphic novels. These books are my favorite reads from the past forty-odd years.
Written by Simon Furman, Art by Geoff Senior, Jeff Anderson, Will Simpson – First published 1986
I’m starting off with a guilty pleasure.
I’m allowed! It’s my list. 😛
When Jon was a little lad, one of the first regular comic books I used to collect was the Marvel UK run of ‘Transformers’. While the US books were pretty much a run of advertisements for the toy line, the UK operation took the universe more seriously.
In 1986, Simon Furman wrote a complex interwoven storyline that tied very cleverly into Transformers: The Movie (the animated one, which to this day is still the best Transformers movie ever made!)
The book is notable for introducing the bounty hunter Deaths Head, who is one of my all-time favorite characters. It also gives real depth to the character of Ultra Magnus and his inferiority complex.
If you like Transformers, then this is the book for you!
Written by Jim Starlin, Art by George Perez & Ron Lim – First published 1991
So, by now everyone in the world has seen the MCU films take on the Infinity Saga. But this is the OG. Where it all started.
While I do adore the MCU take on the tale of the Infinity Gems, the comic book is so much more…crazy. Written by Jim Starlin, and with fantastic art by the legendary George Perez. It’s filled with a thousand different characters from all over the Marvel universe, far more than the MCU version had.
Just imagine if the MCU had access to the X-Men, Fantastic Four, the Silver Surfer, and everyone else. Imagine Thanos facing off with the Celestials. He even faces off his new godhood against the very concepts of the universe.The key player here is Adam Warlock, a character that was teased at the end of Guardians of the Galaxy 2. It was maybe a little late to get Adam into the Infinity War movie saga, but I’ve always wondered…
Written by Kurtis J Weibe, Art by Stjepan Sejic (amongst others) – First published 2014
A Necromancer (Hannah), a Dwarf (Violet), a High Priestess of a monster cult (Dee), a Smidgen (Betty), and a one-eyed transgender Orc (Braga).
Set in a kind of medieval fantasy setting, the Rat Queens are a party of adventurers who love nothing more but to eat, drunk, have sex, and slay monsters.
It’s a dark, witty, and fast-paced adventure series that was originally recommended to my wife. But as it was in the house, I had to give it a read…and it’s excellent.
I was ultimately hooked in by the art on issues 9-10 by Stjepan Sejic, whose name will appear twice more on this list.
If you like a little DnD with a modern twist, then I urge you to pick this up. It’s a lot of fun!
Story and Art by Stjepan Sejic – First published 2014
I love the work of Stjepan Sejic. I love his art and I love his storytelling. You’ll see that when you get to the top of the list. While he does a lot of high-profile work for the big two, it’s his own work that really sets the standard.
I was late coming to Death Vigil, but it is fantastic. It was first released way back in 2014, but due to slow sales all we have so far is volume 1 (though 2 is apparently on the way!) It’s a shame because this is an amazing book. (And why aren’t more people cosplaying their leader Bernie – pictured right and below!)
The Death Vigil is a group comprised of people who, at the moment of their deaths, were given a choice. Pass on, or become recruits in the fight against the forces of evil. Reapers. Each is bestowed with a unique weapon, or veil-ripper, to help them in their mission.
Like all Sejic’s work, it’s the art and the humor that shine the brightest.
Written by Greg Rucka, Art by Michael Lark, Color by Santi Arcas – First published 2013
I’m a big fan of books and TV shows that are…complex. Things like Game of Thrones, or The Expanse. I love the moving parts, the complicated politics, and the shifting allegiances of the characters. It’s one of the things that’s influenced my own book series.
Anyway, Lazarus is a series set in a dystopian future where the world is controlled by 16 rival families who have split the globe into territories that are run in a kind of feudal fashion. Each family has a ‘Lazarus’, a chosen warrior who is genetically engineered and trained and nurtured in the strengths of the family.
The series follows Forever Carlyle, who is the Lazarus for the Carlyle family that controls much of North America. The story is a kind of coming-of-age story as Forever starts to question who she really is and where her loyalties should truly lie. The story also very much investigates the ‘nature vs nurture’ question, and what the word ‘family’ means.
Actually, thinking about it, the book kind of has some parallels to the themes of the latest TV sensation ‘Succession’.
Written by Warren Ellis, Art by Bryan Hitch – First published 1999
Think Justice League…but more R Rated.
The Authority is a superteam that gets the job done by any means necessary. The characters are diverse and interesting, from ‘spirit of the 20th Century’ Jenny Sparks, to the Superman-esque Apollo (the Sun God) and the Batman-esque Midnighter.
With its very adult take on the superhero story, the book has less in common with the MCU and more in common with The Boys, which it preceded by about 7 years.
Interestingly, it featured the first gay relationship I think I ever read in a comic book series between the Midnighter and Apollo.
Later runs of the comic would introduce new characters and new creative teams. Names such as Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Brian Azzarello, Glenn Fabry, and Frank Quitely, worked on the books. However, for me, the original run is still my favorite.
So there’s your first six.
You may not have heard of some of the books from this week, and even I admit that Transformers is a very niche read that probably really applies only to me. But, tune in next week, for my TOP six where there are some of the big names you’re probably used to seeing on a list like this.
So I’ll see you back here for that in seven days!
Love and (Comic) Books