When Superman made its debut back in 1983, costumed crime fighters became a widespread phenomenon that took over many publishing houses and blockbuster top spots. Comic books used to be light hearted comical strips for kids, until creative geniuses like Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Alan Moore, and Brian K. Vaughan revolutionized the industry. There are many film adaptations of these brilliant comic series, but most have failed to capture the true essence of the plot and characters like the graphic novels did. Whether you are an avid comic book collector, or just curious to find out more about your favorite superhero, here are the top five must-read comic books of all time.
The Dark Knight Returns, Batman 1986
Most people are familiar with the Dark Knight trilogy film adaptation, but it was the novel that altered the comic world forever. This 1986 comic features Batman, who is a few decades older with new vulnerabilities that must be overcome. This iconic comic series changed how many perceived superheroes – from funny books for kids to a creative masterpiece that reveals a darker side of both the hero and the city’s villains.
The Dark Phoenix Saga, The Uncanny X-Men 1976
The Dark Phoenix Saga is an extension of the X-Men storyline. This series of comics features the story of Jean Grey and how she came to be the feared Phoenix. You may remember Jean’s appearance in the X-Men: The Last Stand movie as her alter ego, but it is a loose adaptation of this saga. This comic saga is an emotionally raw read that focuses on corruption, love, power, and of course the fall of the Phoenix.
If you haven’t watched the film adaption, Watchmen, which is set in a fictional reality, mirrors events that were happening in the 20th century. The comic shows how different the outcome of each event would be if these costumed heroes really existed. Much like the Dark Knight Returns, Watchmen was a revolutionary comic that redefined superheroes and has held a top position on many “best graphic novel” lists.
The Final Chapter, The Amazing Spider-Man, 1966
The Final Chapter is one of Stan Lee’s finest creations. This edition of the Amazing Spider-Man sagas manages to capture one of Spider Man’s greatest weaknesses – being human. Peter Parker is facing something more challenging than any supervillain, which is the difficulties in his personal life. The emotions portrayed in The Final Chapter and the hardships Peter Parker has to deal with resonated with many of Marvel’s readers in a way that no other comic storyline could. The outstanding artwork and gripping plot are what put this comic ahead of others at the time.
Another DC comic to make it on the list is Sandman. The Sandman is an alias for many other existing characters in the DC universe. The original character to feature in Sandman is Wesley Dodds, a masked vigilante who uses sleeping gas to put criminals to sleep, hence the name Sandman. The storyline and creative graphics seamlessly tie surrealism, horror, and fantasy together into one gripping series.
There are a thousand more comics that deserve high ranking on this list, but these five are just a few of our favorites.