I love comic books. With their intricate illustrations, complex storylines and highly developed characters, readers are riveted from page one on. Hollywood exposed many of the major costumed heroes: Batman, Spider Man, Super Man, Cat Woman and Hellboy and his crew. Now, with the release of “The Watchmen” – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s DC masterpiece commonly hailed as the best comic book of all time – it’s time for people to search beyond the common super heroes, even beyond “the Watchmen.” Without mentioning all the other great comics that have already become films (“Sin City,” V for Vendetta,” “300,” “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), here are four comics not to be missed. In no particular order:
1) “The Walking Dead,” written by Robert Kirkman with the first six issues illustrated by Tony Moore and issues seven and on by Charlie Adlard. The series began in October of 2003 and is released monthly by Image Comics. It’s also sold in trade paperbacks that don’t come out nearly often enough. There are 10 to date. “The Walking Dead” tells the story of America post-zombie apocalypse. It focuses around a small town police officer in the South and his family as they try to survive in a world overrun by vicious zombies. They meet other groups of survivors and, as a group, they all try to stay alive. They must adapt, cope with loss and protect themselves. Every moment they’re in danger and every page of the series is filled with suspense.
2) “Fables,” written and created by Bill Willingham, penciled by Mark Buckingham, Lan Medina, Steve Leialoha and Craig Hamilton. “Fables” is a monthly series started in 2002 published by Vertigo Comics. It has 81 issues, 11 trades and has won six Eisner Awards to date. It tells the story of our favorite storybook characters in a very different world. In “Fables,” the characters we know and love like Snow White, Boy Blue, King Cole, Jack (from the Bean Stalk), Big Bad Wolf (reformed, now able to shift into human form and renamed Bigby Wolf) and more have a society together. They once lived together in harmony, but an evil adversary forced them out of their native lands. Now all the “Fables” that can pass as people live together in New York City and the rest live on a farm in the country. Unfortunately for these fables, nothing seems to end happily ever after.
3) “Swamp Thing,” written by Alan Moore. The character of the Swamp Thing can be traced back to early 1970’s DC comic books. Scientist Alec Holland is working on a special formula that could make forests grow just about anywhere. A competitor wants the formula, so he bombs the laboratory. Holland gets covered in burning chemicals so he runs into the swamp. He’s transformed into the Swamp Thing. In the mid-80’s, DC gave Alan Moore permission to make over the series and he wrote the best six trade paperbacks of the “Swamp Thing.” Moore made the pivotal decision to change the Swamp Thing to a monster, taking all the humanness out of the character. Instead of a man plastered in swamp, he’s “a plant that thought it was Alec Holland, a plant that was trying at its level best to be Alec Holland.” Moore’s story is infused with horror. You can take the man out of the swamp, but you can’t take the swamp out of the man.
4) “Batman: The Killing Joke,” written by Alan Moore and drawn by Brian Bolland. This is the best Batman ever written and it’s only one trade. Never released in issues, this one shot 1988 DC comic is the most sophisticated and terrifying depiction of these old familiar characters (only rivaled by Frank Miller’s Batman). The story chronicles the Joker, recently escaped from an asylum, as he attempts to drive the police commissioner crazy (literally) and psychologically beat Batman. The trade is filled with flashbacks of the Joker’s life, giving context to the man behind the supervillain. Moore gives depth and understanding to the Joker, explaining that perhaps people aren’t born evil, but life can make them evil.