This is my list of the top 10 comic book series that have inspired me to get into creating comic books.
10. BLADE OF THE IMMORTAL
(Writer/Artist: Hiroaki Samura)
Blade of the Immortal is the definitive samurai story since Lone Wolf and Cub. It is a beautifully violent tale of revenge and redemption set in Japan. The artwork has bursts of meticulous detail that manages to capture every spec of blood from a flying severed limb. The color palette of black and white with washes of gray lends itself perfectly to the gritty world of roving samurai.
The characters are intricately crafted. They range from the sadistic (Shira) to the sarcastic (Manji) to the fiercely determined (Rin). While the story meanders a bit towards the end, the first 100 issues are some of the series best. In particular "The Gathering" story arc. One of the best fight scenes occurs in this arc that really defined Samura's talent and skill in portraying action. Despite the drawn out ending, Blade of the Immortal will always have a special place near and dear to my heart.
(Writer: ALAN Moore| Artist: Dave Gibbons)
Not much else can be said about Watchmen. The thing most impressive about Alan Moore is his gift for writing, which I know sounds like a stupid thing to say. However, he separates himself by being able to write not just write snappy dialogue, but full form poetic paragraphs. I can picture him being at home writing serious works of literature, not just comic books. The depth and detail that went into this series isn't really seen in modern comics. Reading Watchmen isn't quick, yet it so perfectly immerses the reader into the world that you savor the time it takes to get from start to finish.
Moore's character, Ozymandias, was richly layered and was an atypical villain. He was idealistic and believed in changing the world for the better despite the costly means to achieve it. In modern day television, Ozymandias would be right at home with complex antiheroes, such as Walter White and Nucky Thompson. And the film adaptation is one of my all time favorite movies to date.
8. 100 BULLETS
(Writer: Brian Azzarello| Artist: Eduardo Risso)
Clever premise coupled with sharp dialogue and moody artwork make 100 Bullets a classic of the crime genre. The morality question posed throughout the series of what someone would do if they were given the chance to kill a person "without consequence" was explored with sophistication through the eyes of criminals and those that try to control them.
The series got somewhat overly complicated and drawn out towards the end of it's run, however, arcs such as "Hang Up on the Hang Low" best exhibit what made this series brilliant.
7. The Losers
(Writer: Andy Diggle| Artist: Jock)
The Losers offers up some of the most bad ass action scenes captured in comics. Andy Diggle manages to create clever adrenaline filled heist after heist, keeping the pace of the series moving forward at a blistering rate. The rag tag band of characters is reminiscent of a Mission Impossible crew and rivals the same intensity of the films. If you're ever lost as to how to capture action in static form, then look no further.
6. Y: The Last Man
(Writer: Brian K. Vaughan| Artist: Pia Guerra, Goran Sudžuka, Paul Chadwick)
An ingenious concept combined with the humorous character of Yorick Brown make this series one of Vaughan's greatest works. Vaughan has a way to take a plot that can be a bit outlandish, yet always manages to inject an emotional human element that grounds the story in reality that many people can relate to. The scene towards the end of the series between Yorick and 355 was rendered so beautifully that I doubt few reading it didn't feel a tinge of heartbreak. And being able to illicit an emotion like that in comic books is an accomplishment in and of itself.
5. Sin City
(Writer/Artist: Frank Miller)
The entire Sin City catalog is highly recommended, but in this instance, the first in the series is one of my favorites. The thing that always stood out to me about Sin City and mainly Frank Miller's writing in general is how well he is able to capture the inner voice of his characters. When you read those thoughts it makes you feel like you've been thrown into a classic American noir film. And the black and white high contrast art only enhances that fact. Bogart would be proud.
4. Sweet Tooth
(Writer/Artist: Jeff Lemire)
I was skeptical of this series when I first read about it. I'd never heard of Lemire at the time and a main character who was a kid with antlers seemed kind of goofy. However, I was immediately shown the error of my assumptions though. I read this series front to back two times in row. Similar to Vaughan's work, Sweet Tooth is packed with emotion in a very simplified manner. It's stark and bleak, yet it's undertones of humanity and hope shine through. This series is as though John Steinbeck wrote a draft of Mad Max.
(Writer: Warren Ellis| Artist: Ben Templesmith)
A short, but superb series from Warren Ellis. A fine example of police drama writing. Two impressive aspects of Fell are the self contained stories as well as the tight panel structure implemented. Only complaint of this series is that I wish there were more of it.
(Writer: Brian Michael Bendis| Artist: Alex Maleev)
The Bendis/Maleev run on DareDevil, in my humble opinion, is one of the best superhero stories of the past 20 years. The saga of Matt Murdock and his identity was handled in such an ingenious manner that it helped revitalize the way in which superhero comics were written. Bendis was able to successfully merge the unrealistic side of superheroes with real world themes that made you forget half the time you were reading a story about a blind guy who can flip off of tall buildings. Bendis and Maleev define the highest of standards for creative team ups.
(Writer: Jason Aaron| Artist: R. M. Guéra)
Scalped takes a pretty straight forward theme of an undercover agent getting deeply involved with the criminals he was originally sent to investigate yet manages to make it feel unique. This is in part due to the setting of a Native American reservation and in part due to the lonely complexities of the main character, Dash Bad Horse.
Jason Aaron's blue collar dialogue speaks with a gruff realism that hasn't quite been captured in any of his later work, aside from his more recent Southern Bastards. The artwork has a loose and sometimes frenetic movement to it that further enhances the darkness of the story. The length of the series felt natural and had a satisfying ending.
Highly recommend this series to anyone who hasn't read it yet and if you've only been exposed to Jason Aaron's Marvel tenure, you won't regret picking up this whole series.
So that completes my top 10 influences.
What are your top favorite comic books of all time? What comics have inspired you?