Best Comic Book Stories That aren’t DC Or Marvel: Part 1
This year’s Eisner award nominees were announced earlier this week which got me thinking.if you’re unfamiliar with what the Eisner awards are, think of them as the comic book version of the Oscars. Named after the great Will Eisner who famously wrote The Spirit for several years. Here is this year’s full list of nominees if you’re curious click here.
One thing I noticed is how much more quality comics material there is out there and how much more scarce it is to find A DC or Marvel comic among the major categories I guess, much like the Oscars, these awards are meant to honor lesser known books. I do remember a time when the Eisner awards were chock full of DC & Marvel representation. So I figured that this is a prime opportunity to list some of my favorite non Dc/Marvel stories so that you may seek them out. I will be listing several Vertigo books that I realize are owned by DC but I’m not counting them as DC. Let’s kick off with part one!
100 Bullets ( Vertigo) By Brian Azzarello & Eduardo Risso.
Winner of thee Eisner awards including Best ongoing series, Best Artist & Best Serialized Story.Instantly hooky and addictive. It’s crime noir meets Twilight Zone with a dash of government conspiracy in it. The premise is simple. What if you had the power to take your life back and get revenge on the person or persons who ruined your life, consequence free? Would you do it? What if a man showed up and knew your entire life’s story and gave you a suitcase with an unregistered gun and 100 untraceable bullets? How about then? That is how every new story begins. Intriguing isn’t it? That mysterious man is Agent Graves and the less you know about him the better. Brian Azzarello made his name with this project and eventually got to write in the DC and Marvel sandbox. Eduardo Risso was the primary artist and you might call him the modern day Alex Toth. The series ran, fittingly enough, for 100 issues.
Pride Of Baghdad ( Vertigo) By Brian K. Vaughn & Niko Henrichon
Gut wrenching and beautiful is how I would describe this one. Brian K . Vaughn is no stranger to the Eisner’s , having won multiple times for other things but I find that this tale often gets overlooked. It serves as a fictionalized account of a true story about a pride of Lions escaping a zoo in Baghdad. After a major bombing they must deal with their new surroundings and fight for their lives. It has wonderful character moments and it doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities. You can basically treat them as anthropomorphic animals who share their thoughts and feelings like any human would. Niko Henrichon exquisitely illustrates the hell out of this one. A real page turned that is impossible to put down once you start. Not for the faint of heart but a must read nonetheless.
The Maxx ( Image) By Sam Kieth & William Messner-Loebs
If you’re looking for something a little out there, then step right up to the Maxx. Weird is the appropriate word, but it’s the kind of weird you can’t help but be intrigued by. You want to know more and you constantly seek to try and comprehend this chaotic world. in a nutshell it’s a tale of two characters and two realities. The real world and the unconscious world known as The Outback. The Maxx and Julie are the two characters that share a link into both those worlds. I’m not quite sure “what” Maxx really is. They refer to him as a man but he doesn’t exactly share the traits of a typical man or human for that matter. It’s an intriguing book that looks wonderfully dark thanks to Sam Kieth’s unique art style. The subject matter can be intense at times dealing with things like rape trauma and repressed memories. A real head scratcher at times but well worth the journey. IDW is the current comic company reprinting these classic tales so you’re in luck!
Robocop – Revolution ( Dynamite) By Rob Williams & Fabiano Neves
If you’re looking for something more familiar, then look no further than this underrated gem. If you watched the cult classic film and loved it, you’ll like this. This story is the only version of any medium that does the original Robocop justice, as far as I’m concerned. It takes place directly after the end of the first film and it actually adds layers to the original story. Don’t worry, It keeps the satire and violence that made the film what it was as well,It reads very well and the art is thoughtfully done which begs the question as to why more people didn’t embrace this story more? Then again a lot of critcs and fans didn’t embrace Blade Runner when it dame out either. Robocop ran for only seven issues but it deserved much more. The great thing is that you can enjoy it without having to be a huge Robocop fan. Nevertheless,if you are looking for something that harkens back to the original then check this out.
Astro City ( Image) By Kurt Busiek, Brent Anderson & Alex Ross
Astro City started out at Image then bounced over to Wildstrom and now has resurrected in a new series for Vertigo. An Eisner Awards titan winning 12 awards including best writer, best cover artist, best new series, best ongoing series, best single issue story, & best serialized story. It’s also nominated this year for best single issue story. Clearly well respected in the industry. The unique thing about it is that it still exists in the superhero world and it relishes it. Busiek really sought out to explore other dimensions within that world and make the best out of it. It’s really about life around and among superheroes. The focus at first was on establishing the world and the characters in a single issue format. Eventually they had longer arcs which were fantastic as well. Busiek and Ross created what were essentially parodies of many of the most recognizable heroes we know. The Samaritan is essentially Superman, The Confessor being Batman and Winged Victory serving as a kind of Wonder Woman. That’s only the Trinity. We have several more. The first issue is a wonderful story that is simply about The Samaritan having the same dream every night where he is flying. Sure he flys all the time, but he does so in moments of extreme pressure and danger. He never really gets to enjoy this fantastical feat. Another great issue deals with a super villain pulling off the greatest heist ever but not receiving the credit for it. On top of great story telling we are treated with the lush beautiful covers of Alex Ross! I urge you to stop by Asto City and enjoy your stay.
This concludes part one. Stay tuned for part two!