My Comic Game Changers

I've enjoyed reading comic books since the mid-1980's. I just finished reading Neil Gaiman's Sandman Overture, a series which featured Gaiman returning to his most famous creation to tell the story of what transpired before the events of Sandman #1. It reminded me of how much Sandman shook up the market and made me think about some of the comics that had a big impact on me, that made me say "whoa" and reconsider what was possible. I'll focus on both comics and stories.

Daredevil: Born Again - I caught pieces of this when they first came out in 1985 and 1986 but didn't get the full story until it was collected in the late 80's, one of the first collections I acquired. It was an amazing story of a superhero who had everything stripped from him. Who had to figure out who he was again, not in the space of one issue but over several months of story. Whole issues would pass without Matt Murdock appearing as Daredevil to the point when he finally suited up again it was a major event.

Marvel's Mutant Massacre - Coming out in the summer of 1986, this was the first "mutant crossover" I followed. I remember the great tease as to whether or not the X-Men and X-Factor (consisting of the original five X-Men) would meet each other, with much mistrust between the groups. I miss those days of just three mutant comics coming from Marvel...

Star Brand - Around the same time as Born Again and the Mutant Massacre came out Star Brand. This was my chance to get in at the ground floor of a superhero universe. Marvel's New Universe was not successful but it had ideas which I believe found their way to shows like Heroes, dealing with what super-beings in our world would be like. Once everyone had stopped reading, the New Universe stories got awesome after some early missteps - Ken Connell, possessor of the Star Brand, tried to get rid of his power and destroyed Pittsburgh. Oops. Interestingly, Star Brand and other New Universe characters have finally found their way to the Avengers.

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - I was fascinated by this take on the character I was first exposed to through the Adam West series. One which I properly adopted disdain for as a teenager and have since gown to appreciate. I've not enjoyed Frank Miller's later work but his work here and on Daredevil were him at the top of his game. An aging Bruce Wayne, forced out of retirement by compulsions he can no longer ignore.

Watchmen - What if real people tried to be superheroes? How screwed up would they be? Alan Moore knew and shared. I notice so many of these books I feature came out in 1986. I think that was a great year for comics.

Sandman - I met the Lord of Dreams while an undergrad at UConn in the early 90's. Though it featured some crossover in the early issues with the main DC Universe, it was very much its own thing. To this day I find it hard to describe simply and I often fall short. The master of dreams returns to his kingdom after a long imprisonment doesn't do it justice. But being a tale about stories. About Dream, master of stories and fantasies, a moody, dedicated character. Contrasted by Death, his sister, a perky bubbly goth girl... About Dream defeating the forces of Hell with hope and the power of dreams of heaven.

Valiant Comics - Though I discovered Image Comics first, I loved the original Valiant Universe. It felt like Marvel's New Universe done right - not surprising, given how Jim Shooter was a major player at the genesis of both. Of course Valiant was also at the center of the 1990's comic boom and crash.

Maus - I'm listing this after Valiant primarily as a function of when I discovered it. A comic book tackling the Holocaust with Jews as mice and Germans as cats.

Ultimate Spider-Man - There had been previous attempts to revisit the origin of Spider-Man but this is the one that got it perfectly. Stretching out the story of Amazing Fantasy #15 to several issues without feeling like it was dragging, Ultimate Spider-Man was an incredibly well done modern take on Spider-Man. I don't think the other Ultimate Marvel titles have aged nearly as well as this one. And Miles Morales as the new Spider-Man was a fantastic story, one I'm glad is continuing.

Alias - Jessica Jones, washed out former superhero sidekick. Heavily drinking, prone to make bad decisions and use naughty language. I can't wait for the Netflix series.

The Walking Dead - Ongoing zombie series! No complaints.

DMZ - A new Civil War. An excellently timed series, reflective of the modern America but pushing those partisan divisions to the extreme and leaving us with a New York City that has become a no-man's land, our own Fallujah.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic - There had been (and have been) tons of licensed Star Wars comics. But I don't think there was one just as fun as this series was. A mediocre padawan with a truly good heart. It was like watching the adventures of a
D&D character who rolled up some mediocre stats but became the hero of the party.

I'm sure I'm missing some if not many and I'm deliberately stopping ten years ago.

Image Sources/Attributions

"Daredevil Born Again" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

"Star Brand 1" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

"Sandmanadsmall" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -

"Knights of the Old Republic Issue 1" by "Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic #1". Grand Comics Database Project. Retrieved 2008-09-25.. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia -


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