Longbox longboat
February 28, 2011 9:20 PM   Subscribe

Hit me with your favourite, most cherished, most exhilarating, and downright best comic book runs of the past 30 years (Preacher, Watchmen, Y, Invisibles, Dark Knight-free zone).

Oh, hello. You startled me.

*crosses legs*

I suppose you're here due to some strange compulsion you have to answer my question, possessed as you are of such breathtaking expertise and discrimination, with your strong sense of theology and geometry.

Very well.

I am looking to add to my expanding collection of materialistic, consumer-oriented objects, whilst simultaneously enhancing my knowledge of comic books and adding spice and enjoyment daily leisure time.

To this end, I want you to "drop on me", as the saying goes, examples of your absolute favourite comic book runs (any degree of justification you may care to furnish these opinions with would be highly considered). Now, before you say "OMG WATCHMEN! TEH SANDMAN!", please consider me a comic book reader of at least "intermediate" level. I am familiar with your Watchmans and your Dark Knights Returning, your Sandmans and your Preachers.

When I think of a "run" I think of a self-contained body of work within a larger series, so to me a "run" is the stellar work that Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle did on 'Detective Comics' and 'Batman' in the 90s, or Grant Morrison's work on 'Doom Patrol', or, okay, the Ostrander 'Suicide Squad' run, all 66 issues.

Now, ideally this will be material that can be easily sourced for a reasonable price (either in quarter bins, trades, or those lovely pulpy omnibus/phonebook editions).

As an example, I recently sent my comic book dealer an email requesting the following (so far they’ve had just about every 80s-90s back issue I've requested from them, at quite reasonable prices [compared to comic shops, certainly] - if you're in Brisbane, Queensland, or Australia in general, you can memail me if you'd like their details):

"As much of the apparently crazy-brilliant Giffen/DeMatteis run on Justice League as you can find me. (JL 1-6, JLI 7-25, JLA 26-60, JLE 1-8).

Excalibur 1-24 (Claremont/Davis)

X-Factor 70-90 (Peter David)"

I understand fully that there is a lot of good stuff coming out these days, but I have to say I'm less interested in paying $7 for an issue than I am in paying $1 for one, or thirty bucks for a trade. I'm already reading 'The Walking Dead', like everyone on earth, and 'Incorruptible'/'Irredeemable' as the 5-issue (wtf?) trades are gradually released, and I'll probably get the full slab of '100 Bullets' at some point, plus 'Secret Six' is a delightful romp, but it would be great if you could point me towards some other great comics from the 80s to early-2000s, that shouldn't be TOO hard for a person to track down.

TL;DR? - I want some quality comic book runs from the 80s to early-2000s, that will either be cheap in the back issue bins, or earily sourced in trades or omnibusii. Consider me a level or two above n00b, so I know about Preacher, Sandman, Y: The Last Man, Invisibles, everything Alan Moore has ever done, etc etc.

Provisio: I have zero interest in the psychotic breakdown of sprawling clusterfuckery that has become the forty-eight different Batman books in the last 15 years, but anything else is fair game.
posted by tumid dahlia to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (82 answers total) 80 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Ah, but have you read the collected Bone? Just getting that out of the way for you.
posted by Mizu at 9:22 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: On my list! You, madam, get a best answer badge!
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:23 PM on February 28, 2011

posted by Ad hominem at 9:28 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Cherry Poptart. Oh Mama pinch my toes and call me a jelly donut.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 9:32 PM on February 28, 2011

Peter Milligan's run on X-Force/Statix.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:40 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mentioning Suicide Squad immediately reminds me of the Ostrander/Mandrake run on The Spectre.
posted by rewil at 9:47 PM on February 28, 2011

Response by poster: Have read and enjoyed Planetary. Cheers, ad hominem.

Cherry Poptart looks very fun and very saucy, paint chips, I had never heard of it before, thanks for the tip!

Stitcherbeast, that little run sounds like a great romp. Listed!
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:48 PM on February 28, 2011

Strangers in Paradise - Terry Moore
posted by ljesse at 9:49 PM on February 28, 2011

I quite enjoyed Northwest Passage by Scott Chantler. Especially good if you're a Canadian history nerd.
posted by sarastro at 9:50 PM on February 28, 2011

What about Love and Rockets and Strangers in Paradise? Too obvious?
posted by moons in june at 9:51 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I kind of assume you know it, but since it hasn't been mentioned: Transmetropolitan.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:53 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: What about Love and Rockets and Strangers in Paradise? Too obvious?

Not too obvious, no. I admit to being aware of them and have read a bunch of issues of each, and enjoyed them, but they are difficult to find and extremely overpriced here in Australia, even with parity.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:54 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

A few personal favorites: Artesia (!!!--it's amazing), Astro City, Flaming Carrot Comics, Mouse Guard, and Concrete.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:57 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I very much enjoyed The Light Brigade by Peter J. Tomasi/Peter Snejbjerg and Arrowsmith by Kurt Busiek and Carlos Pacheco.

(And I do hope you have already read Alan Moore's Top Ten, because it's awesome)
posted by gemmy at 9:58 PM on February 28, 2011

The original Runaways series (up until issue 18) is nothing short of amazing. The next few stories are good but the original is a classic.
posted by catwash at 10:06 PM on February 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

Denny O'Neil and Denys Cowan, The Question.
posted by MrBadExample at 10:13 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

A few of my favorites are Jack of Fables , Dork, Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman, Too Much Coffee Man, and Weirdo (after I take an Exacto knife and remove all the Peter Bagge pages).
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 10:16 PM on February 28, 2011

A few more I just thought of: Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz on New Mutants, starting with issue #18.

Frank Miller's run on Daredevil, available in a couple of "Visionaries" TPBs.

Walt Simonson on Thor, also available in some "Visionaries" collections.

I also have fond memories of Mark Gruenwald's run as writer on Captain America, though I don't know whether there are any collections or reprints available.
posted by MrBadExample at 10:35 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Alan Moore's Top Ten, if by some small chance you haven't already read it.
posted by itsjustanalias at 10:37 PM on February 28, 2011

Ghost in the Shell and Man Machine Interface.
posted by Brocktoon at 10:53 PM on February 28, 2011

Tomer & Asaf Hanuka's Bipolar
posted by Sara Anne at 10:57 PM on February 28, 2011

Jason Lutes: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Berlin_%28comic%29 and https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Jar_of_Fools
posted by Sara Anne at 11:01 PM on February 28, 2011

Joe Sacco's Palestine
posted by Sara Anne at 11:02 PM on February 28, 2011

You need The Boys.
posted by daysocks at 11:08 PM on February 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

The Astonishing X-Men stuff written by Joss Whedon is pretty good if you're a fan of Whedon's writing style. If you dig X-Men and you dig any of Whedon's shows you should definitely check it out. I'll note that I'm a huge Whedon fan so I tend to love everything he does; if you're so/so on the style of banter and dialog he does on his shows you're probably not gonna enjoy the X-Men stuff.
posted by NoraReed at 11:14 PM on February 28, 2011

Otomo's translated and colorized Akira on Epic. The last ten or so books are hard to find, but the early books are relatively cheap and easy to locate.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:15 PM on February 28, 2011

The original first 20 issues of Elfquest are very, very good.
posted by Brainy at 11:32 PM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's a comic book adaptation of Paul Auster's City of Glass. Very good.

You haven't mentioned anything Robert Kirkman so I'm going to recommend Invincible.

Dan Slott did two She-Hulk series which you should like if you enjoyed JLI and X-Factor.

Sleeper is the story of a superhero who goes into deep cover. By Ed Brubaker and Sean Philips who have since worked together on Criminal and Incognito (also both worth checking out).

Joe Casey had a run on WildCats which was just great. Really, if you start with v2 #1 (for the pretty, pretty art) and keep going it will be well worth your while.

The Books of Magic starts with a young boy being told that he will be the greatest magician of his age and then goes about showing him exactly what this will cost him. Spotty at times but a great set of series.

I'm a big fan of the Bendis/Maleev run on Daredevil. Before the whole Shadowland clusterfuck this was a good title and this run is what made it so.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:32 PM on February 28, 2011

Also the elfquest series is self contained. There are sequels but it's a consise, well-plotted story.

And the first three trades of Dark Horses Aliens (Outbreak, Nightmare Asylum, and Female War) are 1 long arc that's very well written and gorgeous (well, at least 2/3rds of it—then Sam Kieth shows up)
posted by Brainy at 11:36 PM on February 28, 2011

Mike Mignola and Richard Corben, Hellboy: The Crooked Man.
Andy Diggle and Jock, Green Arrow: Year One
Brian Wood and Rob G, The Couriers, The Couriers: Dirtbike Manifesto, The Couriers: The Ballad of Johnny Funwrecker.
Brian Wood and Bret Weldele, Couscous Express (Couriers-related)
Andrew Dabb and Boussourir, Vaistron
Ann Nocenti and Art Adams, Longshot

I am a big fan of the X-Men Asgardian Wars arc (in TPB somewhere), and Claremont's Fantastic Four vs. the X-Men. If you don't own the original 1980s Marvel GI Joe issues #21 ("Silent Interlude"), and 26 and 27 (the two-part origin of Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes), you should; they are brilliant examples of Hama going above and beyond work-for-hire plug-these-toys comics storytelling. Matt Fraction's run on Punisher War Journal is fantastic, ludicrous stuff; if you haven't read his Casanova, you need that.

I rather liked Garth Ennis's .303 from Avatar Press, too.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:37 PM on February 28, 2011

posted by dchrssyr at 11:49 PM on February 28, 2011

It's on a long hiatus, but Gary Millidge's Strangehaven is wonderful and unusual, and still worth getting it in its unfinished state.

I heard there have begun to publish in translated and collected volumes Torpedo, an old Spanish work by Abulí and Bernet that is superb. Mix of very grim noir, farce, and a pretty bonkers attitude to gun violence and broads.

- I Kill Giants by Joe Kelly and Nimura is very good and odd, though quite recent so it falls out of your year range.
- many of the miniseries under the Grendel Tales banner, particularly Four Devils, One Hell by James Robinson.
- the deservedly legendary Lone Wolf and Cub, by Koike/Gojima, though it's so long that it may give you pause about the investment.
- Marshall Law by Mills and O'Neill, absolutely insane and over-the-top "fuck you" to the whole superhero genre.
- Bratpack by Veitch, extraordinarily nasty and grim humored turn on the superhero sidekicks trope.
- Breathtaker by Whitley/Hempel, one of the few perfect little things to come out of the chaotic morass that the Vertigo miniseries tended to be.
posted by Iosephus at 11:50 PM on February 28, 2011

Not. Enough. Milligan. Love.

Shade the Changing Man is 75 issues, and well worth your time. Enigma & The Extremist are two of the best things Vertigo's ever published in short form. I also got a huge kick out of Face & The Eaters, if you can track those down. Odds are good that all these books are in back-issue bins. X-Force/Statix as mentioned too is great stuff, but those old Milligan Vertigo books are the bestest.

Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips' Sleeper is 4 trades (24 issues) and is great dark espionage against a superpowered backdrop. Premise: Holden Carver is a deep cover agent embedded in a superpowered terrorist organization. Except the only person who knows he's actually on the good guys' side just got put into a coma.

You've read The Authority, right? At least Ellis' run. And if you want a longer run, you can do the Ellis' Stormwatch (5 trades) and then his Authority (2 trades).

Ennis' Punisher MAX is probably the best long-form work he's done outside of Preacher.
posted by one.louder.ash! at 11:59 PM on February 28, 2011

The Goon (at least through Chinatown)
Atomic Robo (all of it)
Scalped (uneven, but worth it)
Unknown Soldier (the recent one)
American Vampire (what? I like it)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Really great stuff so far guys, I'm loving it. I won't go through and mark best answers individually because that would be the end of me. Here's my shopping list so far:

To-Get List:

Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic In One Volume
Cherry Poptart
X-Force #116-#129 / X-Statix #1-#26
The Spectre #1-#62
Light Brigade
The Question #1-#36
Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman
Thor Visionaries, Simonson vol. 1
She-Hulk #1-12 (v1), #1-#21 (v2)
Sleeper Season 1
Fantastic Four vs. The X Men #1-#4
The Punisher War Journal (v2) #1-#26
Enigma #1-#8
The Extremist #1-#4
Atomic Robo vol. 1

Recommended And Already Read:

Astro City
Flaming Carrot
Daredevil (Frank Miller)
Top 10
The Boys
Astonishing X-Men (Joss Whedon)
Aliens (all of it!)
Marshal Law (got most of the issues across the board, waiting for the alleged omnibus)
Punisher (Ennis)
Unknown Soldier (Vertigo)
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:04 AM on March 1, 2011

I'm a little intimidated by this question - so you're familiar with Y (and many more works I've never heard of!), but does that also mean you're familiar with Ex Machina, another great work by Brian K. Vaughn? Well, if perhaps you are not, you might like it if you liked Y.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 1:10 AM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Mr o'Donald o'Dell, I certainly am familiar with Ex Machina, quite enjoyable stuff. I was only really trying to preempt the usual chorus of the usual books (even though they're all good in their own way). I'm just hoping to move outside of the inner circle of Morrison/Ellis/Ennis/Moore etc. and find some other good creators.
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:51 AM on March 1, 2011

You've read Top Ten... have you read Tom Strong? They jostle back and forth at the top of my favorite comic book list. 1963 is also great. I like playful Alan Moore more than serious Alan Moore.

Brubaker and Fraction's Immortal Iron Fist was unexpectedly awesome.

I also thought both 1602 and Old Man Logan were really high quality, but lots of people feel otherwise... I guess I like What If story lines.
posted by painquale at 2:14 AM on March 1, 2011

Oh, also: Larry Marder's Beanworld.
posted by painquale at 2:16 AM on March 1, 2011

Bryan Talbot's The Advantures Of Luther Arkwright and it's sequal Heart Of Empire (originally comic series, now graphic novels), The Tale of One Bad Rat and the more recent Grandville and Grandvill Mon Amour (all graphic novels)

The various Garth Ennis' War Stories (especially 'Condors')
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 4:01 AM on March 1, 2011

Dave Sim - Cerebus
posted by jannw at 4:10 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ever read Mark Gruenwald's 1985 Squadron Supreme miniseries? I know, it seems kinda obvious, but there seems to be a specific age of comics readers who read that, and everyone since has utterly dismissed it, which isn't fair, because it was a really good deconstructionist parable, just ahead enough of its time that it got swallowed up in all the similar folderol around it, and this is a really long sentence, sorry.
posted by Etrigan at 4:56 AM on March 1, 2011

This seems very much of a piece with Transmetropolitan, Preacher, etc, but I see no one's mentioned Hellblazer yet. The collected trade "Dangerous Habits" is, for my money, the single best John Constantine story, so much so that I think they should've just relegated him to a background character forever after. It came out in '94, so you sould be able to find used copies for cheap pretty easily.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll second Elli's Stormwatch/Authority. Really good stuff, but most of Warren Ellis is good stuff. His run on Excalibur is also quite good, after you finish reading Transmet.

I'll throw in Bendis's Powers as well. Not so much a run, per se, but a great set of stories. As a more one-shot, take a look at Bendis's Torso.
posted by braz at 5:14 AM on March 1, 2011

I'll probably get the full slab of '100 Bullets' at some point

I wouldn't postpone this enjoyment for yourself. It features some of the best crime fiction writing I've ever read. The run is let down by a rushed and confused ending, but overall it is such a great series that you need to read it sooner rather than later.

Other than that, I would strongly recommend Fell and, perhaps less strongly, Global Frequency. 1 trade for Fell and 2 for Global Frequency.

Warning: both are extremely Warren Ellis and all that that entails.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:24 AM on March 1, 2011

Also, you need to read From Hell if you haven't already. It is on par with V for Vendetta and Watchmen.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:26 AM on March 1, 2011

Here is my '90s-flavored list of the unmissable:

Gaiman's Sandman should go without saying.

Hitman - Garth Ennis and John McCrea, and their best work together.
Batman Adventures - Best mainstream superhero book of the '90s.
Marvels - Busiek and Alex Ross. So, so good.
The Kents - Historical western by Ostrander - no supes at all - incredibly good.
Starman - Lush and lovely art, wistful and exciting story.
Transmetropolitain - Why people pay any attention to Warren Ellis.
Lazarus Churchyard - Better art and story than Transmet, which is saying something.
Akiko - (the regular series, which I liked better than the original miniseries.)
League of Extraordinary Gentlement - The first miniseries. Subsesquent series go downhill in a hurry.
Top Ten - The first two TPBs get you the best. I didn't like the Smax miniseries.
Girl Genius - Phil Pfoglio going to school on Steampunk.
Buck Godot - Pfoglio doing tongue-in-cheek scifi. Grab alll of these you can find.
Terminal City - Unsolved mysteries, gorgeous architecture, fascinating characters, painful puns.
Black Panther - The first Marvel Knights run with Christopher Priest.
Deadpool - the Joe Kelly and Ed McGuiness issues only. This is why this character is as big as Wolverine. Genius writing, awesome art.
Static - Milestone's iconic character. Get all of 'em.
Impulse - Just the Joe Kelly/Umberto Ramos issues.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:28 AM on March 1, 2011

Mark Evanier's two Eclipse series DNAgents and Crossfire are very underrated and cheap to pick up as back issues. Some other ideas:

Elementals (early Bill Willingham work from Comico)
Rick Veitch's miniseries The One
Invincible (right on the border of early 2000s, not cheap as back issues but easily obtainable through trades, but the early issues remind me a lot of the early issues of Amazing Spider-man)

Some other stuff springs to mind, but I haven't read it in so long that I'm not sure it holds up anymore:

Jon Sable Freelance
American Flagg
Longshot miniseries
The first Giffen run of Legion of Super-heroes
posted by MegoSteve at 5:29 AM on March 1, 2011

Planetary. Did I mention PLanetary? And, oh yeah, Planetary! Also, the All-Star Superman book.
posted by GilloD at 6:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

The initial run on Nexus by Baron & Rude, up until Horatio stops being Nexus (then it descends it to merely being terrific).
posted by yerfatma at 6:05 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh! Almost forgot!

Milk and Cheese - Whatever issues of this you can find.
Dork! - Evan Dorkin's anthology/sketch comedy indie comic.
Squee! - Better than JTHM, which is saying a lot.
Cerebus: High Society - These changed everything in comics.
Cerebus: Church and State - Ditto.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:28 AM on March 1, 2011

I'm pretty sure I've promoted the man in threads like this before, but fairytale of los angeles mentioned Larry Hama. 21, 26 and 27 of GI Joe are great, and focus on the story Hama was perhaps most interested in telling, but the whole series is remarkably above work-for-hire plug-a-product work.

So ...

GI Joe You could read issues 20 through 80 especially for the best stories, which have some pretty interesting twists and turns and don't at all give you the expected jingoistic perspective. FWIW, Hama was a tunnel rat in Vietnam, so his perspective on war is not as simplistic as the toy would lead you to believe. I partly love the book because it was my first comic, which then lead to New Mutants and Elfquest and Giffen comics and so on...
Elfquest I reread the first story recently and it still gives me chills at times. Some of that is probably nostalgia, but if you were a 70s/80s kid like me, it might work for you, too.
Sable and American Flagg are both part of the larger tapestry of either indy comics or indy companies in the 80s. There are definitely some pretty neat books out there to find (like Coyote or Nexus or Scout), but they rarely were able to mount too much of a long run, with the exception of Sable and Flagg. Sometimes the books were completely independent, like Cerberus or A Distant Soil. Cerberus gets mentioned on AskMe in these kinds of threads. It's certainly an interesting work, but Dave Sim really is a nutjob. A Distant Soil is probably an acquired taste (very Aubrey Beardsley), but I think what Colleen Doran did as an independent woman creator at that time was very interesting.
The Flash hasn't been mentioned, but the Bill Messner-Loebs run at the start of the Wally West series is really nice for the human touches he added, while the Geoff Johns run towards the middle and end is pretty sought after by in-the-know superhero readers. The first issues, say 1-80 can be had pretty cheap. The Mark Waid and Geoff Johns runs can sometimes be bid up on eBay, although not much more than $1 an issue.

If you use eBay, by the way, you can usually get quality 80s runs for less than a quarter a comic. I imagine the shipping might be harder for you in Australia, but still, I thought I would mention that.
posted by Slothrop at 6:32 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wanted to add -

I recently gave these to my sister to save space, but I still thought they were pretty good : the John Byrne run on Fantastic Four in the 80s. I think it was issues 220 to almost 300. It was quite a long run for Byrne, anyway. He wrote and drew the book and did give it a pretty singular voice. Next to Lee and Kirby's FF, Byrne's is the most iconic to me.

Byrne also wrote and drew She Hulk for approximately 30 issues, starting with #1. I kept those issues, for what it's worth! This was back before the Dan Slott version mentioned above. This series is much more lighthearted than FF was, and was consequently received with a mixed reaction by fans. I think it was pretty good satire and slapstick on superhero tropes while still being a decent action read.
posted by Slothrop at 6:41 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm here to second Powers. Bendis is a very strong writer. Also, it just got greenlit for a TV pilot. Start at the beginning, don't skip around.

If you decide you like Bendis, there's plenty more of his work to check out:

Alias (no relation to the TV series)
His run of Daredevil is fantastic, with excellent artwork by Alex Maleev.
He also did great work on Ultimate Spider-Man but it's not as gritty as everything else I've listed.
posted by castlebravo at 7:05 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Calvin and Hobbes" by Bill Watterson?
posted by sninctown at 7:21 AM on March 1, 2011

Logicomix is good if you like math, philosophy, Godel, P=NP?, ...
posted by hariya at 7:31 AM on March 1, 2011

There's a convoluted story where J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars #1 led to my marriage, but that's beside the point. The story is wonderful and epic. And lucky for you, it's all in one giant compendium now, as opposed to when I read it, six years past for all 24 issues to come out.

I'm going to be a jerk and suggest something that's a bit hard to get your hands on, Superman: Secret Identity by Kurt Busiek. Someone borrowed and subsequently lost my old tpb copy but I managed to buy one for $5 off some guy selling used books on a street corner.

Also, I recently fell in love with Daytripper by Gabirel Ba and Fabio Moon, which reminds me that I need to lead a brigade suggesting The Umbrella Academy to all we encounter. But these are newer stories.

According to a previous thread, I also suggest

Fantastic Four (Mark Waid's first story arc)
Mouse Guard

And 13 year old me would like to recommend the original Astonishing X-men storyline from the Age of Apocalypse crossover. but that's because she's a nostalgic fangirl.

Happy Reading!
posted by mrsshotglass at 7:32 AM on March 1, 2011

Err... let me clarify something:

"There's a convoluted story where J. Michael Straczynski's Rising Stars #1 led to my marriage, but that's beside the point. The story is wonderful and epic."

Rising Stars is wonderful and epic.
The story about how it got me hitched it mostly just wonderful, and epic only to those involved.
posted by mrsshotglass at 7:33 AM on March 1, 2011

Amazingly, no-one has mentioned the Nausicaä manga:
(Published in 7 parts. Also previously sold as a 4-volume trade paperback, smaller format. Check online for pre-owned.)

It's the only full-length manga Miyazaki's done, and entirely different from the anime version. It is one of the most powerful, beautiful and moving comics I've ever read (out of a large collection).

Above commenters have mainly covered the other things I'd mention. You said you've not read much Love & Rockets -- I'd recommend that highly, both Jaime and Beto. Never disappoints.

Osamu Tezuka's Phoenix series (1960s-70s) is also stunning, especially if you enjoy philosophy. Quite unique.

From the Europeans, you can't go wrong with Joann Sfar's books. His Dungeon series is an addictive, enjoyable lark (humourous fantasy), but for masterpieces try The Rabbi's Cat (2 volumes so far) and Vampire Loves.
posted by snarfois at 8:05 AM on March 1, 2011

Being from Australia, you've surely read Eddie Campbell's Bacchus right? If not, hurry up and do so!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:25 AM on March 1, 2011

Gregg Rucka did a run about a British secret agent called Queen & Country. Less super-hero, more James Bond. About twelve volumes, each done by a different awesome artist. Really really good stuff. There were also a couple of text-only novels Rucka did as well.
posted by nushustu at 8:39 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding Daytripper. It's really something very special.
posted by Kafkaesque at 9:16 AM on March 1, 2011

Seconding Lone Wolf and Cub, though the retail of $10 USD per book x 28 volumes is a bit costly. You can probably find used copies for half that, or maybe someone has a run of them for a bulk cost, but it's definitely worth finding. There was also a short-lived "update" titled Lone Wolf 2100, wrapped up into three tpb volumes, each re-selling in some form or another at less than $1 USD. It's not the original, but I enjoyed it.

The Red Star is a fun series, set in "mythic Soviet Russia," where epic battles include magic and spirits.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:58 AM on March 1, 2011

The Trouble With Girls by Jacobs and Jones. Also, Harvey Pekar's American Splendor.
posted by Rash at 10:00 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Johnny the Homicidal Maniac
Cerebus -- Church and State
Sandman -- The Kindly Ones
posted by freshwater at 10:36 AM on March 1, 2011

Seconding The Goon.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 10:50 AM on March 1, 2011

There's a lot of good suggestions in this thread that I agree with, but I'm a huge fan of Box Office Poison and would have to add that to the list.
posted by jaybeans at 11:07 AM on March 1, 2011

Runaways, if you don't mind a cast of teenage characters, YA (but quite mature) tone, and ample superhero references.

Fables, if you love your classic fairy tales rebooted, modernized, and trying to wage war on each other.
posted by ninjakins at 11:16 AM on March 1, 2011

Christopher Priest's Black Panther
Christopher Priest's Quantum & Woody
Dan Slott's She-Hulk
Dan Slott's Great Lakes Avengers
Bill Willingham's Fables
Adam Warren's Gen13
Alan Moore's Supreme
Grant Morrison's JLA and DC 1,000,000
Mark Waid's JLA
Larry Marder's Beanworld
Judd Winick and Tony Bedard's eXiles
Frank Miller's Daredevil, esp. Marvel Visionaries vol. 2 and Born Again, but not The Man Without Fear (a re-telling of DD's origin)
Mike Carey's Lucifer
George Perez' Wonder Woman
Kurt Busiek's Avengers
Kurt Busiek's Astro City
Phil & Kaja Foglio's Girl Genius
Tony Harris' Starman
Giffen & DeMatteis' Hero Squared
Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman's Miracleman
posted by Zed at 12:01 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: slimepuppy: [100 Bullets]...The run is let down by a rushed and confused ending

Is it? It's told over 100 issues exactly last I heard, which is a stretch for any run of any quality...did he really botch the ending?
posted by tumid dahlia at 1:20 PM on March 1, 2011

Re: 100 Bullets. Yeah, the ending sucks. The series keeps up momentum and quality for an impressive amount of time but the ending feels rushed and deliberately vague. Shame.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:55 PM on March 1, 2011

I got very excited about Peter Milligan in the recent Shade the Changing Man thread on the blue. #20-#60 are very good. and it is good that Enigma and The Extremist have made your list; Girl should be added to it. it will likely be harder to track down but is well worth doing, as is Grant Morrison's Kill Your Boyfriend.

and you mentioned Excalibur #1-#24. #43-#50 is when Alan Davis returned to finish that particular storyline. because it would be wrong for you to read the beginning without also reading the end.
posted by spindle at 4:39 PM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Managed to pick up a bunch of issues of The Kents, Excalibur, and the first four issues of Enigma bagged and boarded (two bucks for the four, whoo) today, so not a bad start on the journey!
posted by tumid dahlia at 7:27 PM on March 1, 2011

I can't believe no one mentioned "Scud - The Disposable Assasin"
posted by j03 at 11:02 PM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

The first 30 issues of Cheval Noir have some of the best story runs I've ever seen in comics, you can usually find them for $1-3 per issue, sometimes better in lots.

Don't bother with the tiny manga versions of Lone Wolf and Cub, look for the full-sized editions from First Publishing, I just got the first 20 issues for less than $1 apiece.

It was the War of the Trenches by Tardi is great, but fairly depressing.

I liked Sacco's Safe Area Goražde better than Palestine...

Everything I've read by Osamu Tezuka has been great, currently obsessed with the Buddha books. Sometimes you can find his books for cheap in the used manga section with all the crap...but oh man none of that stuff is even comparable.

What about indie books? Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Charles Burns, Dan Clowes here's a freebie There are some decently priced collections for all these guys.
posted by Locobot at 12:48 AM on March 2, 2011

Oh! Two more...

1) Steve Purcell's Sam and Max
2) Mark Waid and Andy Kubert's reboot of Ka-Zar.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:41 AM on March 2, 2011

Let me add:

Adam Warren's Livewire and Iron Man: Hypervelocity. His 3-issue run on the Fantastic Four, #57-59, from 2002 was good, too.
Gail Simone's Secret Six and Welcome to Tranquility. (And Birds of Prey is high on my list of graphic novels to get, but I haven't read it yet.)
Steve Engelhart's West Coast Avengers
Joe Casey's Mr. Majestic (Dan Abnett's Majestic was pretty good, too.)
Doug Moench's Aztec Ace (Electric Warrior had its moments, too)
"Pedro Henry"'s (Steve Moore's) Laser Eraser and Pressbutton
Scott McCloud's Zot!
Ditto Simonson's Thor.
Ditto Ellis' Stormwatch/Authority. Quit before the Millar Authority.
Strange Detective Tales

I'd ditto Bendis' Powers, but my reaction to how many Bendis Marvel comics I have when I was recently bagging and sorting my last ten years of comics was: what was I thinking? I find I have no temptation to reread them, and they're going to be first up against the auction block when my personal Ebay comics revolution comes.

I'll ditto the early Cerebus, but quit before #186 when he puts his misogyny at the forefront of the comic.
posted by Zed at 8:46 AM on March 2, 2011

I loved Walt Simonson's run on Fantastic Four so much that I had to stop reading it when he left. He RUINED it for me :)

I think it was #334 - #354.
posted by halfguard at 11:50 AM on March 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I can't believe no one mentioned "Scud - The Disposable Assasin"

the problem with Scud is that it starts out as the brilliantly good sort of crazy and then drifts into the bad, bad crazy. the first story arc, #1-#4, indisputably great. the next three issues, also good. and at some point after that things go sour and there is a long, slow and painful decline into blah. (Rob Schrab, Scud's creator, admits as much.) there's a graphic novel of the first few issues -- I'd recommend that as solidly good reading without reservation, and if you like it then keep going forward cautiously.
posted by spindle at 12:42 PM on March 2, 2011

Want something wild and crazy and consigned to back-issue bin Hell for all eternity? I recommend Casey & Wood's Automatic Kafka. Published by Wildstorm when they were trying out their Mature Readers line (Eye of the Storm), Kafka is a surreal, strung-out savage book that rarely makes any sense and doesn't really have anything else on the market that compares much to it. Not for everyone, but everyone I know who likes the book loves it.
posted by one.louder.ash! at 1:02 PM on March 2, 2011

Stormwatch: Team Achilles volume one was surprisingly good. Unpowered humans vs. Superhumans has been done before, but rarely with such dark humor. The citizen soldier storyline was great, especially the sequence with citizen soldier reincarnated as Smedley Butler in the 20's.
posted by benzenedream at 2:52 AM on March 4, 2011

I think that Warren Ellis' run on Excalibur is often overlooked. It is really brilliant stuff.
posted by jaybeans at 9:06 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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