The Most Important Comic Books Of All Time ( Part One )
Origin and Influence
Ask any comic book fan what are the most important and influential comic books and comic book stories of all time and i would imagine you would get some very varied answers, i suspect many would choose subjectively picking their own particular favorite characters, artists or writers. It is very hard to be objective when making any sort of greatest list, so here i will attempt to list in no particular order what i believe to be the most important and influential comic book / graphic novel stories of all time.
Batman # 47 1948
Batman's origin had been briefly touched upon in Detective Comics # 33, in Batman # 47 his origin story is fleshed out, we learn how his parents are murdered by a hood named Joe Chill and how the young Bruce Wayne swears revenge, then spends many years honing his detective skills and training his body to physical and athletic perfection. The origin of Batman has been told many times since, not least in the movie Batman Begins, Batman continues to be one of if not THE most popular character in comic books, over 70 years after he made his first appearance.
One of the greatest graphic novels ever written Watchmen was originally published in single issue format by DC comics from September 1986 to October 1987. Telling the story of an alternative 1980s where super heroes have existed since the 1930s and have dramatically help alter the course of history, including helping the USA win the Vietnam war, Watchmen is a groundbreaking tale in a dystopian setting that combines science fiction with political satire and an ending that leaves the reader stunned. Written by the amazing Alan Moore with artwork by Dave Gibbons ,everybody should read this book and it is available in collected format.
The Galactus Trilogy
Told over 3 issues of the Fantastic Four, issues number 48, 49, 50, March to May 1966 , for its time the Galactus Trilogy was comic book storytelling on an epic scale. Worded by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby these issues tell how the Earth is about to be attacked by a giant planet eating entity named Galactus. Galactus was not your archetypal bad guy he was evil and powerful on a cosmic scale, issue 48 features the first ever appearance of the herald of Galactus the Silver Surfer. This storyline apparently became a big favorite of high school students and was probably responsible for introducing a slightly more mature audience to comic books than the traditional pre teen readership. The basic premise of this storyline was told ( very badly in my opinion ) in the movie Fantastic Four Rise of the Silver Surfer.
Amazing Fantasy # 15
Amazing Fantasy was a Marvel comics publication that was about to be dropped. As sales had been slow on the title, Stan Lee, then Marvel writer/ editor decided to give a new character a chance in what was to become the final issue of Amazing Fantasy, issue number 15. The new character was of course Spider-man and a few months down the line when Marvel saw the sales figures for this issue they were pleasantly surprised to find that it had been one of their best sellers of all time. Unfortunately this didn't prevent Amazing Fantasy from getting the chop but it did mean a solo series for its new popular character Spider-man. Spider-mans origin is told in this issue, it is hard to think of a more important comic book storyline than this one.
Action Comics # 1
Possibly the most well known and valuable comic book on the planet. Copies of this title have been sold for more than $2 million. Action Comics # 1 is the origin story and 1st appearance of Superman, the book tells how a youngster from a dying planet is sent into space in a capsule made by his father, the capsule lands on Earth in a field owned by Jonathon Kent and the rest is history. No important comic book list could be complete without this book.
Fantastic Four # 52 1966
This issue is the first appearance of the Black Panther, the first major black superhero character. The Black Panther proved to be very popular and has become a major character in the Marvel Universe. The fact that a major black character appears in a comic book may seem like nothing in today's more enlightened times but in 1966 when this issue was published, it was pretty radical.
Amazing Spider-man # 96
This issue and the next two Spider-man issues # 97 and #98 released in 1971 were to have a great influence on what we now know as the Bronze Age of comic books ( the 1970s ) and the comic book genre itself. Stan Lee then editor at Marvel was approached by the US government to do a storyline that was anti drugs, thinking that comic books had some influence on American youth, the government believed an anti drug story in a well known comic book could be a great help in the war on drugs. At this time all comic books had to pass the censure of the self censoring Comic Code Authority and a small label was printed on each comic book published to show the book had passed censorship, unfortunately any mention of drugs, even showing them in an unfavorable light was not allowed by the CCA. Stan Lee thought that the story matter was important enough and had been wriiten in the correct way and so decided to publish the comic without the approval of the CCA. Long term Stan's decision helped push back the boundaries in what could be shown in a comic book and led to darker more realistic story lines being allowed to be told.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
The Dark Knight Returns tells the story of how a 55 year old Bruce Wayne returns to the mantle as Gotham City's Batman. Originally printed in 5 different issues the stories were collected together and printed as a single graphic novel.This book written and drawn by Frank Miller, along with Alan Moores' Watchmen are benchmarks in modern comic book story telling, dark and gritty and aimed at a mature age group they showed that comic books were definitely no longer just for schoolchildren.
The Walking Dead # 1
I know that this may seem a surprising choice as an important comic book to some, however i believe that the importance of this book on the comic book industry in general is immeasurable. Every industry needs a big winner every now and again, the success of the Walking Dead has created no small amount of confidence in the ability of the comic book industry to create work that can be transformed into a large or small screen success. Look at the current comic books still in production that are now being mooted as possible films or television series, there are 4 or 5 from last year alone, the comic book industry cannot survive by just pumping out Batman or Spider-man movies every few years it needs fresh characters and story lines to keep the industry smack in the public's eye. The Walking Dead series has been a shot in the arm for the industry and its success will be felt for a long time yet.
Mad Comics #1
Mad comic has probably spawned more imitators than any other. Satirical and cynical this book taught Americans to distrust convention and to view the world through more skeptical eyes. With the nutty face of Alfred.E Neuman featuring on nearly every cover, Mad magazine is probably the best selling comic book of all time.
In part two i will look at more important and influential comic books.
More Comic Book Stuff
- The List of the Most Valuable Bronze Age Comic Books
Bronze age comics have become very collectable as being more affordable than key Silver Age comics. Characters from DC and Marvel still very popular 30+ years on.
- The Current List of the most valuable Silver Age Comics
The Silver Age of comic books, the most beloved and arguably important time in the history of comic books, the age of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee plus the welcome return of the Flash!