10 Must-read Graphic Novels not by Alan Moore
While Mookychick could never show the entirety of rich story telling that is available from non manga-based graphic novels, our guide will help you dip your toe into what the medium has to offer. So, in no real order, here are ten graphic novels you should read.
OK, this is a difficult list to compile, because one name would, if you let it, tower over the rest and the list would have to be renamed ’10 Graphic Novels by Alan Moore which you must read’. So I’ve decided to not include any of his work, which means no Watchmen here..Especially since there already is a Watchmen reader’s guide on Mookychick. (For the record, however, the 10 Graphic Novels by Alan Moore you must read are: Watchmen, V For Vendetta, The Ballad of Halo Jones, From Hell, The Complete Bojefferies Saga, Swamp Thing, Top Ten, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Killing Joke and Skizz.)
Instead, here’s a different list. Of 10 graphic novels you should read that aren’t by Alan Moore.
The Sandman, by Neil Gaiman
Originally a (mostly) monthly comic that ran for 75 issues and one special that told the story of Morpheus, the lord of Dreams, who sprinkles sand in our eyes whilst we sleep. From rather humble beginnings, over the course of the run, we are introduced to Dream’s siblings, Death, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium and the long lost brother. Dream is captured in error when a 1920s Satanist tries to ensnare Death. Upon his release he regains his kingdom, sets up his own destruction, is given the keys to Hell, when Lucifer gives them up and inspires Shakespeare. Along the way, myths, legends and theology are woven into the tales that, eventually, become a meditation on story telling. The first, and only, comic to win a Hugo award. It’s collected in ten volumes (with two follow ups which add little and two spin offs, featuring Death, which add much) and truly brought adult themed comics into the mainstream.
Further reading by Neil Gaiman: The Books of Magic, Black Orchid and Violent Cases.
Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison
Doom Patrol was a minor comic, based on a bunch of misfit heroes, who felt like the cast offs of the cast offs from the super-hero world. Then, with issue 19, Scottish writer Grant Morrison took over and lead the series down truly surrealistic avenues. He took a disjointed look at already disjointed heroes and made them work. He introduced their base, a moving transvestite street called Danny, and decapitated their leader, though his head still survived, and eventually took the team to another dimension. He introduced the Brotherhood of Dada, Red Jack and the quite frightening Scissormen, who reduce everything to its lexiconic origin. Yet, despite all the totally head screwing ideas, the series is just an amazing amount of fun.
Further reading by Grant Morrison: Oui3, Kill Your Boyfriend, Animal Man, The Invisibles, Kid Eternity.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller
At much the same time that Alan Moore was watching the Watchmen, Frank Miller had moved on from Daredevil to take on D.C. Comic’s second most iconic figure, Batman. In a four issue mini series, he took a look at the future of Batman, and where his particular world view would lead him. Bruce Wayne has long since hung up his cowl and cape, his rage having grown into a death wish and the world has devolved into a violent and dark place. Harvey Dent has seemingly been cured, the Joker is sedated in captivity and Superman is little more than a foot soldier for Reagan’s Government. Until then, quite simply, Batman returns. The huge impact of this is explored through vox pops and news casts and the reactions of the various criminals he has faced. The book’s conclusion is astounding and this has tale has inspired all of the really good Batman films.
Further reading by Frank Miller: Sin City, Daredevil: Born Again, Give Me Liberty and Ronin.
Preacher by Garth Ennis
This is a deeper series than a you would think. Naturally it has a humour that borders on the school boy and sometimes delights a little too much in just swearing and gross out comedy. However, at its heart is a wonderful look at theology and Christianity. Jesse Custer, a preacher whose sense of duty is inspired in equal parts by Bill Hicks and John Wayne is possessed by the off spring of a Demon and an Angel. He sets off to find God and ask him to answer for this, accompanied by his ex-girlfriend Tulip and an Irish vampire called Cassidy. in his wake follows The Saint of Killers and a mysterious organisation, and their agent, the vicious and much mutilated, Starr, who are protecting a very important child. A blood spattered, darkly humoured road trip across America, that asks whether God really is still in charge.
Further reading by Garth Ennis: True Faith, Troubled Souls
Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis
Spider Jerusalem is an ex journalist, who went to live on a mountain to get away from the world. Unfortunately he still owes a publisher two books, to prevent any legal action, he returns to the City to write a regular column for The Word. With his two faced, chain smoking cat, a bowel disruptor gun and his two filthy assistants, he declares war on mediocrity. Based very heavily on Hunter S. Thompson, Spider soon makes it his mission to bring down the President of the USA. Transmetropolitan is an excellent satire of politics, big business and journalism from a very, very bitter writer.
Further reading by Warren Ellis: Planetary, Lazaurus Churchyard
The Compleat Moonshadow by J.M. Dematteis
Once upon a time a little boy was born to hippy parents. His mother always told him his father was actually one of an alien race called the G’I-Doses. Moonshadow relates his life in almost poetic tones, a writing styled equally matched by beautiful water colour artwork by Jon J. Muth. After the death of his mother, the young Moonshadow is placed in an orphanage with various alien races. Once he becomes a teenager and too old for the orphanage, he is thrown out and so, with his flute and very hairy ‘friend’ Ira, grows to manhood, goes to war and finally meets his father. An epic tale of one man’s spectacular life.
Further reading by J.M. Dematteis: Blood: A Tale, Brooklyn Dreams
Lenore by Roman Dirge
Lenore is dead. But that will not stop her. Beginning life as a short series of strips, Lenore, the little dead girl, became a comic in her own right, from the sporadic output of magician and taxidermist enthusiast, Roman Dirge. Drawn in a cunningly simple looking style, the breadth of humour shown in his pages is is matched only by his exquisite timing. The best example of this is in the story ‘A New Toy’ and the gruesome fate of those hamsters. This is not deep or meaningful, just incredibly funny.
Further reading by Roman Dirge: Something t the Window is Scratching, It Ate Billy at Christmas.
Enigma by Peter Milligan
Michael Smith is a telephone engineer, with a normal life. Then, the Brain Eater comes to town, a serial killer with a difference, pursued by a masked man. A comic book character, The Enigma, has come to life, amid petrified lizards and chaos and death. Michael seeks out The Enigma’s burnt out creature, whilst his girlfriend lies in a coma. As with all of these journeys, he discovers much about his past and his own nature. A surreal, twisting, turning story, with the ultimate sucker punch coming when you discover the identity of the narrator. A classic.
Further reading by Peter Milligan: Shade, the Changing Man, Skreemer, Skins, Rogan Gosh
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot
Inspired by Michael Moorcock, Bryan Talbot set about telling an epic tale of the mysterious Luther Arkwright. The story begins in a present, in a Hyde Park. Already letting you know that this isn’t our world, but one of many. Arkwright is an agent for W.O.T.A.N., an extra dimensional agency that tries to maintain a balance between all the possible realities and Arkwright travels between them all. his mission to maintain order in an important parallel universe. This novel not only evokes a Victoriana cyber punk, but Regency cyber punk, in a world where the reformation never happened. Full of inspired characters and rich, textured art work. All made more impressive as Talbot becomes increasingly more confident in his growing story telling and artistic skills.
Further reading by Bryan Talbot: Luther Arkwright: Heart of Empire, A Tale of One Bad Rat
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Many artists have created biographical comics, run through with blunt, almost painful honesty. None of them come close to Art Spiegelman’s Maus. Drawn in a bleak and heavy, angular style, the story is both that of the attempt to bridge the distance between Art and his father, and the suffering of his parents in Auschwitz. He casts the Jews as mice and the Nazis as cats, which both distances you from the horrors, whilst simultaneously, geniously, making them bleaker and starker. It’s harrowing and uplifting, a true work of art.