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.

Transformers – Target: 2006

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!


Infinity Gauntlet

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…

What if?


Rat Queens

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!


Death Vigil

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.


Lazarus

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’.


The Authority

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!

Until then…

Love and (Comic) Books

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8 Comments

  1. Ben

    Reply

    True! I’ve never heard of any of those. Rat Queens looks like something I would read. Thanks for a new list. I can’t wait to see the next list, maybe I’ll know one.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      That’s EXACTLY how I started on this journey, Ben. I was getting a little bored of the usual Marvel/DC fare so started to branch out. I sought recommendations for books outside the Big Two that were worth a read. I didn’t regret it. Most of the books I picked up were awesome, jumping straight into my top reads. Not all of them did, but the ones on the list were awesome.
      Rat Queens is really good. It’s steeped in fantasy DnD sort of lore, but it’s adult in theme and hilarious.
      Actually, I think it’s the adult themes I like in the independent books. They can go to places that Marvel and DC generally can’t. Books like Sunstone, Saga, Rat Queens, Powers, etc. would NEVER see the light on either the Marvel or DC labels. In the past I know both companies have tried adult lines (Vertigo and Max). I actually really enjoyed the Alias title (Jessica Jones) on the Marvel Max imprint, so much so it almost made my list.

  2. Perry

    Reply

    I love the Transformer book. I too love Marvel, I’m actually watching them all again. This time I am watching them in chronological order. I’m up to Thor, Dark World.
    Do you have a favorite one?
    I have not heard of the other books.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I was brought up on Transformers. The toys, the cartoons, the comics. I wept when they (spoilers!) killed Optimus Prime in the original animated movie!
      Fave MCU movie?
      Hmmm. I have to admit, I LOVE an Infinity War/Endgame double bill. They were an awesome way to end the Infinity arc in the movies. I don’t know if we’ll ever see anything like them again.

  3. Scribble Me This

    Reply

    I thought Rat Queens was too weird. I powered through it, but I felt a lot of the story was shocking, just to be shocking. Infinity Gauntlet looks interesting. Is that Skeletor?

    • Acro

      Reply

      It looks like him, doesn’t it? I think George Perez might’ve been poking fun at Skeletor and the Masters of the Universe franchise. I disagree with you about Rat Queens. It’s hilarious. The humor pops out when you least expect it. I find that engaging. I hope you’ll keep trying more graphic novels. They’re fantastic for escaping the daily grind.

      • Jon Ford

        Reply

        My number one must-have in a book is humor. I don’t need a book to be wildly funny, but I do need it to have some humor to take the edge off a little. It’s a philosophy that I’ve tried to put into my own books.
        For instance, in HUNTERS I really enjoyed the few little funny chapters. Like Allyson’s drunken phone call (Spoilers – sorry!).
        Rat Queens takes all those DnD or RPG tropes and spins them in a fresh and funny direction. Sunstone takes two characters and puts them through scenarios that I can relate to, even if I’m not a twenty-year-old lesbian woman. LOL It’s just that the affairs of the heart and the anxieties that go with falling in love are familiar to everyone.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      Nooooo. THat’s Death I think you’re referring too.
      I have to admit, Rat Queens was a book my wife picked up. I read it out of interest after she’d bought it, and I really enjoyed it. I like the humor. LOL

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