The Comics You Didn't Even KNOW You Loved!
Call me perverted, but I have a habit of liking the stuff that nobody else does. It's the same with movies too. Sure, I love The Godfather flicks, Jaws, Superman The Movie, Close Encounters, Schindler's List and all that other stuff which always makes EVERYONE'S top ten movies, but I also buy up all the bargain DVDs like there's no tomorrow, too. It's not just because I'm Scottish and therefore cheap, it's also because I like The Last Temptation of Christ as much as I like Taxi Driver. I just think that, for whatever reasons, it had an unlucky time at the box-office and never quite got the glory it deserved.
My top ten must-see movies you probably haven't got are, in no particular order, The Wicker-Man, Witch-finder General, Bedazzled (the original with Peter Cook and Dudley Moore), Galaxy Quest, Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky (which was brilliant), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Quick and the Dead, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Princess Bride and Exorcist 3. The top ten must-find COMICS you might have missed are as follows…
10/ SKREEMER by Pete Milligan, Brett Ewins and Steve Dillon. Okay, it might have had one of the least-catchy advertising slogans in living memory (BUY OUR RETRO-FUTURISTIC GANGSTER EPIC!), but first US-published work of these three English gents raised the bar on gangster comics and set the tone for every sadistic little bastard like me, Warren and Garth. Skreemer is a punch in the balls from a big man wearing spiky gloves and you just feel worse and worse with each subsequent chapter, but it's a classic and has a happy ending and, if memory serves me right, actually had Big Arnie attached as the lead at one time. In fact, this is so good I'm going to dig it out and re-read tonight.
9/ BATMAN ANNUAL by Mike W Barr and Michael Golden. I haven't read much of his other stuff, but Mike Barr writes a great Batman. It's a shame he isn't held up beside Miller, Englehart, O'Neil and the other great Batman writers because this (and his brilliant, brief run with Alan Davis in my final year of high school) is just really, really good comics.
8/ ELSEWORLD'S GIANT by Tom Peyer, Ariel Olivetti and various. Yeah, I know this is too expensive for you to pick up if you don't already have one like I have (hee hee), but they reprinted the wrong stuff, dude!! Of course, Kyle's Superbaby story was really nice, but my mind still reels from Tom Peyer's brilliant Superman and Batman: World's Finest Dinner-Theatre story at the end. Tom is truly the Editor-In-Chief of ten page stories. He makes every SYLLABLE funny on these things and he's still the best-kept secret in comic-books. My other chums, Mark Waid and Ty Templeton, did what was, for conspiracy theorists, the REAL reason that book was pulped; their wonderful, fictionalized TEN UN-PUBLISHED DC COVERS. A nude Batman in the Garden of Eden? Why can't the regular books be more like this?
7/ KID ETERNITY by Grant Morrison and Duncan Fegrado. This might be trickier to find because, as far as I know, there aren't any plans to collect this which is tragic because it's probably Morrison's finest hour and Fegrado has never looked better than when he's colouring himself (Oh, shut up. You know what I mean). It kind of got lost on the tail end of Morrison's late eighties peak and before he returned with both Invisibles and, a little later, JLA, but it's the most intricately structured and human characters he's written to date. His particular mesh of grit and absurdism really works brilliantly when applied to the horror market and Fegrado's twelve months-a-book paintings just create something magical here. The back-issues shouldn't cost much so just don't feed the cat for a few days and treat yourself for a change, true believer.
6/ VIOLENT CASES by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. It's almost hard to remember these guys not being superstars. It was a little before my time, but I remember hearing that they were so keen to impress DC and get a regular series of assignments that they did this book for very little money as a means of showcasing their considerable talents. And, by fuck, it's clear why DC signed them up. It's kind of heart-breaking to think that this was one of Neil's first scripts. The say the first couple of years should just be used to get the crap out of your system and find your feet. These English toffs found their feet immediately and won the gig that would go on to make them famous. McKean is so quiet and low-profile in comics at the moment that it's easy to forget just how brilliantly inventive he is and Neil is the one guy alive who probably DESERVES the preposterous amount of money he's making at the moment. If they wanted to sway that jury against McFarlane a couple of weeks back, all they had to do was give them free copies of this.
5/ SWAMP THING #165 by Mark Millar and Curt Swan. C'mon, did you really think I'd go to the bother of writing this without actually forcing one of MY books down your throat. Of course, I'd recommend you all rush out and buy the entire run Phil Hester and I slaved over a few years back, but if you've only got ten cents to spend in that back-issue bin then I recommend you pick up this. It's the work of which I'm most proud- even if I have a horrible feeling that it killed Curt Swan. Oh God, I'm too ashamed to even tell you what this one's about. Please, please, PLEASE tell me that this wasn't Curt Swan's last-published work.
4/ SUPERMAN #400 by Eliot S! Maggin and Various is, quite simply, the best Superman story ever published. Yeah, I know that bearded chap from Northampton was very, very good and Byrne's revamp is actually a lot more fun than it seemed at the time, but this one really kicks both their arses. The story starts in the present day and snakes its way forward to the end of time as we watch the legend of Superman dissolve into a distant memory. It's such a brilliant piece of writing and was my single, biggest inspiration when I was writing 2003's Superman: Red Son. Anniversary comics come and go, but they all suck Iraqi cock when they're compared to this baby. Chaykin on the cover, Frank Miller, Jim Steranko, Al Williamson, Klaus Jansen, Moebius, Wrightson, Brian Bolland, Will Eisner and Marshall Rogers on interiors. With an introduction by Ray Bradbury? Fuck, it's so good they put poor Frank Miller on the BACK cover. The more I think about this one, the more I'm happy that America stayed out of the war for a while and let Seigel and Shuster concentrate on getting the ball rolling.
3/ LCD by Keiron Dwyer. It takes a lot to shock me, it really does. I can sit through any movie, read any comic, snigger away at any horror novel. Piss Christ didn't shock me. Damien Hirst didn't shock me. Gilbert and George didn't come close. LCD did. Keiron Dwyer scares the shit out of me because he puts down on paper things people shouldn't even be thinking. He self-publishes stuff I'm sure people are in jail for. I picked one of these up in San Diego a couple of years ago and was too scared to even try to bring it home through airport security. Believe me, they're really THAT BAD! I've never read one of his superhero comics, but I somehow can't imagine Captain America saying "you wanna see what I found in this dead bum's ass?"
2/ THE ENIGMA by Pete Milligan and Duncan Fegrado. Hey, how did Duncan manage to get two bloody books in here? The best-ever work by one of the best writers in the industry. When he's on, Milligan is really on and it doesn't get much better than this.
1/ HARD-BOILED by Frank Miller and Geoff Darrow. Now, before anyone reaches for their asthma inhaler and starts forming a complaint, I am not saying this as a Frank Miller fan. I like his stuff (and loved Dark Knight, Born Again and Year One), but I really, really didn't like Sin City (it just seemed too S&M gay) and Give Me Liberty just left me cold (despite some wonderful art by Gibbo). I thought so little of Hard-Boiled at the time that I didn't even bother buying the third issue, but I moved house recently and used this as an opportunity to read lots of old books I hadn't seen in ages while everyone else did all the work. Hard-Boiled is not just great; it's FUCKING BRILLIANT. I phoned Hitchy as soon as I finished it and told him this book was ten years ahead of it's time and we were idiots for ignoring it and he sniffily replied that he'd been into it all along. And it shows. You know Warren and Hitch's decompressed story-telling from The Authority? Well, here it is while I was still dancing to WHAM! My jaw dropped when I saw how similar thing looked to Frank Quitely and I on The Authority (particularly the first arc). They even juxtaposed detailed, violent imagery with goofy, almost silver-age lines like we did for dramatic effect. I couldn't BELIEVE how much I enjoyed this. Buy the book! Buy the book! Buy the book!
Shit! Out of space! My top ten list must have been a Top Eleven because the one recommendation I wanted to finish on was the complete run of Mills and O'Neill's Marshall Law. This is, by far, the funniest, sickest, most imaginative, most dangerous, most brilliantly-conceived, must poorly-marketed, most sadly-missed comic out there. Again, if you want to see the loins from which me, Garth and Warren sprung from, please do yourself a favor and pick up the trade at the very least.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Glancing back over this list, I realize how expensive some of these books are and how some of my readers are actually quite poor. Fortunately, shop-lifting costs nothing at all so get into your biggest, baggiest coat and make EVERY DAY Free Comic-Book Day!
Visit Mark Millar on the Web at www.millarworld.biz.