Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Desert Island Comics

Marc Mason dropped a bit of a gauntlet on the blogosphere yesterday: Pick 5 series you'd want to have with you if stranded on a desert island. In the grand tradition of meme-stealing, here's my list:

1. Bone
by Jeff Smith
This one popped into my head immediately. Jeff Smith's imaginative and suspenseful fantasy opus is one of the crowning achievements of comics, a work to rival Tolkein, Lewis and Rowling as a highpoint in all-ages adventure lit. Sharp characterization, deftly woven humor, and a complex ongoing narrative that raises the stakes with every issue blend with Smith's masterful style (just as enchanting in color as it is in black and white) to create one of the most satisfying reads of the past decade. I could study issue 16 ("Eyes of the Storm") for hours; the entire series would last me years.

2. The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman and various
What Bone is to all-ages adventure/fantasy, Sandman is to adult horror/fantasy. Tracing the life and times of Dream of the Endless, sometimes called Morpheus, Gaiman and his collaborators (including Charles Vess, Sam Keith, Michael Zulli, Jill Thomspon, Colleen Doran, and more) paint a new cosmology for the DC Universe and beyond, exploring myth, family, sexuality, and more in a story that seems to spring forth from The Dreaming fully formed. Even the "worst" of Gaiman's scripts opens doors within the mind that the reader will never want to close. Unforgettable characters, enchanting and frightening concepts, art that transcends the page, and the stellar covers of Dave McKean make this series and undeniable must.

3. Amazing Fantasy 15, The Amazing Spider-Man 1-100
by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita, Sr., and Gil Kane
The definitive run on my favorite hero, by the men who built him into a legend. Peter Parker develops from the "timid teenager" into a man with a destiny, determined to meet the great reponsibility of his powers AND get the girl in the end. Surrounded by ruthless villains, a frightened public, his aunt's health problems, and the ever-present question of how to deal with the women in his life, Peter struggles to forge himself a life. The run doesn't hit 100% of the time, but its misses are few and slight, and it's certainly the foundation for all that followed. The ultimate comics bildungsroman, Spider-Man proves that it's not the powers that make a hero, but the heart.

4. The Carl Barks Library
by Carl Barks
The comics that made me fall in love with comics. Taking the character of Donald Duck, Barks built a living, breathing world where literally anything was possible, from seeded clouds creating an ice storm to the moon being made of gold. Adventure, family comedy, and one of the greatest characters to grace the page in Uncle Scrooge McDuck grace the pages of Barks' work. He often reuses themes and ideas (I read at age 8, one story which was a carbon copy of an earlier piece, the only difference being the addition of Uncle Scrooge), but you're too busy laughing or gasping to care. Pulp adventure at its absolute finest.

5. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill
Not Moore's absolute best work, but my personal favorite. Weaving toegether almost the entirety of fiction into a world where anything and everything did happen, Moore's love letter to the human imagination succeeds on several levels. As adventure ficiton (why yes, that is a theme with me), it's pulse-pounding; as a study of some of the most famous characters in literature, it's intriguing; as simple fanboy glee, it's enchanting. Matched by O'Neill's art, which would look right at home on a turn-of-the-century dime novel cover, and never missing an opportunity to lampoon all periods of human development, League is a joy to read and discover. If possible, I'd like to include Jess Nevins' meticulously researched companion volumes as part of the series; if not, I'll still have fun picking out the references I do get, and making up answers for the ones I don't.

That's my list. What's yours?

8 comments:

Ed Cunard said...

You saw mine already! I can't quibble with any of those choices (but I'd go to SPIDER-MAN #104 because, if I'm remembering correctly, that was my very first comic).

Joe Rice said...

1. Flex Mentallo. I love Grant Morrison. I love Frank Quitely. I love superheroes. I love fun. I love this book.

2. Love and Rockets. This is what comics can be.

3. Acme Novelty Library. No, no! THIS is what comics can be!

4. Preacher. It's worth rereading, and it causes joy and smilefaces.

5. Eightball. Cause it's so goddam good.

I'd say From Hell, but if I'm stuck on an island, I don't want to also be scared shitless.

Ha ha, I'm blog spamming.

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Woody! said...

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Off the top of my head, my list...

Peter David's Hulk run
Sandman (Yeah, I'm ripping you off.)
Giffen/Demattie's Justice League run
Roger Stern's Amazing Spider-Man run
New Warriors, volume 1.

I'm sure that's not definitive, but it's what I got right now.

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