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Four Comic Books That Matter

I feel so out of my element here.

Me telling you about comic books that matter is like Justin Bieber offering his take on rock and roll. I should probably stick to normal books and Justin should probably stick to bubble gum pop music. Sorry, that was a blatant shot on a 14-year-old boy. I’m awful.

But here I am, about to tell you four comic books that matter. Before I start, I’ll tell you that I did a little research on this one, as my first instinct was to simply list Batman, Superman, Spiderman, and….um, maybe Captain Universe?

Anyway, as I’ve repeatedly said since I started reading Watchmen, I’m pretty much an idiot when it comes to superhero knowledge. That said, here goes…

Superman: So this one is obvious right? Action Comics #1, featuring Superman, debuted in 1938. A clean-cut dude with gelled hair, blue tights, and a red cape throws cars around and makes life suck for criminals. Thanks to this comic, Dean Cain had a career.

The Yellow Kid: This comic goes back to 1896. The Yellow Kid is no superhero, nor is he a hero. He’s just a short, bald kid with big ears and a jacked-up smile in a yellow night shirt. I’m not sure why this was so interesting, but the Yellow Kid was the first commercially successful comic. The kid was featured on t-shirts, gum wrappers, etc.

Batman: I include Batman because he’s my favorite superhero. In fact, the Batman comic was the only one I ever really had much interest in as a kid. I love the fact that Batman doesn’t have any goofy powers. He’s a human with a propensity to make really cool gadgets. Maybe Batman was the first technology geek. And, yeah, Robin sucks.

Maus: Published in 1986, Maus was the first comic book to win the Pulitzer Prize. I read part of this story in college and remember how powerful it was. The story, written by Art Spiegelman, is based on the Nazi persecution of the Jews during the Holocaust. Jews are represented as mice, while Germans are represented as cats.

So these aren’t necessarily the “best” four comics, but they are four comics that made an impact.

Agree? Disagree? What’s a comic that you think had more of an impact?

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11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Anyone who is a literary nerd and can stomach comic books should give Neil Gaiman’s “The Sandman” a try. He draws from a variety of sources: Shakespeare, Greek myths, and even obscure DC Comic characters. Ultimately, the story is a tragedy, complete with tragic hero, heroic flaw, and all those other things I learned about in my high school literature classes. It is quite a bit longer than “Watchmen” and has a bit of a rough beginning as Gaiman tries to find the voice of the piece, but it is well worth a read.

    As for the comics in your post, I have only read “Maus” and Batman. When Batman has a good writer, it tends to be the best comic out there. Unfortunately, opinions vary as to what makes a good Batman story. I prefer the noir detective version of Batman who occasionally goes up against villains that represent psychological archetypes. I’m not that big on the Batman who goes up against demonic forces and supernatural beings or aliens. But my favorite Batman writer was Grant Morrison, and he embraces and deconstructs the latter, so I guess I will make exceptions if the writing is good.

    Like

    November 30, 2011
    • I’ve heard so much about Gaiman, and I still haven’t read him. Horrible, I know.

      Liked by 1 person

      November 30, 2011
  2. Although it was a very different era, when you consider the evolution of the comics, you have to include William Maxwell Gaines. For better or worse, Gains and EC Comics developed the more radical comic fictions such as Tales from the Crypt and effectively countered every known super-hero in the other comics with one single character—Alfred E. Newman.

    Of course Gaines also made enemies of all known religions and most governments, ushering in a new age of purity and daintiness in the comics. But along the way, and with the continued success of Mad Magazine, Gains was also criticized for exposing anti-semitism, racism, lynchings, corruption, police brutality, and was even told to alter a comic that showed a black man in a strong role.

    When Bill Gaines died in the early ’90s I cried. The only other person, other than my mother, that affected me so much when they died was Maria Callas. Actually, if you think about it, a pairing of Callas & Gaines might suggest comic books did, in fact, warp my mind.

    http://mdparker46.com

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    November 30, 2011
  3. These are good — I’d like to add two important comic artists to the list.

    Will Eisner (http://www.willeisner.com/) created many, perhaps most, of the comic conventions still used today. His comic book hero, “The Spirit,” which was made recently into a regrettable film, as well as his more literary works, such as “A Contract with God,” are among the most influential works in the history of comics. Basically, he set the standard, and the Eisner Award is the highest award a comic can receive today.

    Equally important for different reasons is Robert Crumb (http://www.crumbproducts.com/), who came out of the comics underground of the 1970s. As well as his groundbreaking adult comics, Crumb collaborated with Charles Bukowski, interpreted the works of Kafka and wrote a graphic novel version of The Book of Genesis.

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    November 30, 2011
    • The Spirit sounds interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

      November 30, 2011
      • Whatever you do, don’t watch the recent film adaptation of The Spirit. The book’s great, the movie … less so.

        Like

        December 8, 2011
  4. I’m not much of a superhero comic book fan so my taste in comic books may differ slightly. I personally favour The Adventures of Tintin and The Adventures of Asterix. They’re both wickedly clever – Asterix more so. I think these two comic books set a standard for me as to what I should look out for in a comic book. The characters in both comic books are so unique it’s difficult to find comparisons outside of it.

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    November 30, 2011
  5. I am with Geetanjali. I love Tintin and Asterix, but I hear they are not very popular in America…apart from that, for some strange reason, I like Phantom!

    Like

    December 1, 2011
  6. Not exactly comics, but have you read anything by Alan Moore or Frank Miller? Moore’s “From Hell” is one of the most chilling, most stomach-twisting things I’ve ever read. Miller’s “Sin City” is another great graphic novel.

    That said, the new DC take on Wonder Woman is pretty good. It’s got mythology thrown in for good measure.

    Like

    December 1, 2011
  7. The Dark Knight Returns (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dark_Knight_Returns) was also an amazingly influential comic. It’s the story of a bitter, broken down future Bruce Wayne who must don his Batman costume for one suicidal last stand against a world gone mad. It’s pretty good, although it and Watchmen unfortunately kicked off a fad for “grim and gritty” comics in the late ’80s early ’90s. Publishers saw the violence and tormented characters in those two works and tried to remake them, jettisoning the social commentary and good writing along the way, much to the industry’s detriment.

    Like

    December 8, 2011
  8. Reblogged this on .

    Like

    November 30, 2015

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