Welcome back. Like a lot of comic book fans, I have a bookshelf full of trade paperbacks and graphic novels. I’ve been having fun writing about the books on my shelf- why I bought them, why I liked them, and whatever other thoughts pop into my head. I hope you’re having fun reading about them, too.
Swamp Thing Vol. 1-6
You might have noticed in the first two articles that I collected a lot of series from the ‘70s and ‘80s in trade. These are series that started before I was born or came out when I was too young to buy them. But I’m not regretful. As an adult, it’s been great to go back and buy them as trades. I get to pick and choose, bringing home only the best. I’ve even been fortunate to buy a few series of books as they’ve been released. One of the first series I collected this way was Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing. A new printing of Saga of the Swamp Thing was released in July of 2000. I bought it and was blown away, much as I suspect happened to the readers who bought the original issues back in 1982. I followed the series through the end of the Alan Moore run.
Sandman: Endless Nights
Neil Gaiman wrote seven different stories, drawn by seven stellar artists for this prestige original graphic novel. Each story focuses on an individual member of the Endless. It was a truly incredible piece of work. And it’s the book that changed my mind about Frank Quitely, who I hadn’t liked before.
Wonder Woman: Amazonia
This is an average Elseworlds story featuring Wonder Woman as a circus performer. It’s also oversized which is why it’s out of alphabetical order. I stuck it between a couple of hardcovers (Sandman and Spirit) so it wouldn’t be bent as easily.
Spirit Archives Vol. 1-8
Some day this will be complete. I’ve loved every volume I’ve bought, even the ones drawn by fill-in artists while Will Eisner was away during World War II. After all, the fill-in artists are guys like Lou Fine. But I’m way behind because it’s not often that I have an extra $50 lying around for buying a single book.
Spirit Vol. 1-2
This is the Darwyn Cooke series from a couple of years ago. It’s actually one of the first new series that I decided to buy in trade rather than as individual issues. We even splurged for the hardcover collections instead of waiting for the inevitable softcovers. That’s because Ana is a big Darwyn Cooke fan and she’s the one who brought home the first volume shortly after it was released.
Starman: Sins of the Father
Once again, this is a pretty typical entry on my DC shelf. I honestly prefer single issues to trades for most series. But sometimes the early issues are too scarce or too expensive.
So I fill in my collection with a trade for the opening arc. I did that for Fables, Justice League and Starman. I started collecting Starman around issue 29. It quickly became one of my favorite titles and is still at the top of my all-time list. I find that I have a lot in common with Jack Knight. He was right there beside me, struggling with the same questions of career and family that I was. He loved life and odd little artifacts. I co-opted some of his personal philosophy as my own. We even share an on-again, off-again goatee. But, unlike Jack, I don’t have any tattoos.
Superman: World of Krypton, Death of Superman, Superman/Batman Vol. 1
The next time I prune my trade paperbacks, I expect this section will shrink. I recently read and enjoyed John Byrne’s Man of Steel and early Superman stories. So I thought I’d take a shot at the World of Krypton mini-series that came out around the same time. I still like Byrne’s depiction of Krypton as a science-dominated yet sterile society. I especially like the fashions, which seem suitably alien. But the story was not good at all.
And the back-up stories from the late ‘70s were just as bad.
I didn’t dislike Superman/Batman Vol. 1. I even bought the series for a little while. I just don’t see myself reading it again.
The one keeper in this bunch is the Death of Superman. I loved DC’s early ‘90s epics, such as Knightfall and the Death of Superman. They had great scope and emotion. They were suitably grandiose. They earned the name “epic.” And I re-read this story every couple of years.
No comic book bookshelf is complete without Watchmen (unless you have the original issues sitting in a longbox somewhere). It is truly one of the best comic book series ever. Though, truthfully, I re-read the Death of Superman more often than I re-read the Watchmen. It may be great, but it’s sometimes oppressively pessimistic.
Wonder Woman: The Contest, Second Genesis, Lifelines and Hiketeia
I noticed something when I did a similar set of articles about the comics in my longboxes a couple of years ago: I have more Wonder Woman comics than Batman comics or Superman comics. That’s true of my bookshelf as well. There are two Batman trades, three Superman trades (two which I’ll probably get rid of) and four Wonder Woman trades. The first trade collects the William Messner-Loebs story in which Diana loses her role as Wonder Woman to Artemis. The next two collect the first year or so of John Byrne’s run on the title. The fourth is the best of the bunch, and one of my favorite stories for any superhero. It’s an original graphic novel by Greg Rucka, with Batman and Wonder Woman on opposite sides. It’s well worth checking out.
Y: The Last Man Vol. 1-3
These were a gift from Captain Comics. I don’t remember the exact details- whether I did him a favor or won a contest or something- but I do know that these came in the mail courtesy of Andrew Smith. He was convinced that I would like them. And he was right. I read this shortly before going on a family vacation and spent small parts of that subsequent vacation buying back issues from Calgary to Vancouver until I was all caught up. I’m not a huge Vertigo fan. I find that the imprint is sometimes too dark and, in its own way, as unrepresentative of reality as Pollyanna. Yet there are a few Vertigo series that rise above the rest of comics. Y: The Last Man is one of those.
Alan Moore’s Wild Worlds
Collecting Alan Moore’s Wildstorm work. It’s a real haphazard affair. It has
some of Alan Moore’s worst work (the Spawn/Wildcats crossover). And it has
some stories that rank right there with his best, like Majestic at the end of universe.
Astro City: Life in the Big City
It’s amazing how many of my favorite series fit this profile. I hear about them a year or so late, pick up the first trade, buy the rest in back issues and continue collecting the singles. You can add Astro City to that list. The last couple years of Astro City haven’t been up to standard but these first issues are among the finest ever made. They introduce us to the Samaritan, Winged Victory and the city itself. They teach us to dream and to inspire others to dream. They renew a sense of wonder- of beauty and awe.
Danger Girl: Odd Jobs
I bought the original Danger Girl series as it came out. When it came out. But I missed these odd jobs- specials published outside of the main title. It’s a surprisingly good volume, featuring stories by Phil Noto.
Yes, I like Gen 13. I like Wildcats and Wildstorm and J. Scott Campbell and Jim Lee. This might even be the first series where I bought the initial trade before switching to individual issues.
Top Ten: The Forty-Niners
I’ve mentioned it before but it keeps coming up as I peruse my bookshelf: I miss the days when you could count on DC for several high quality original graphic novels every year. There’d be a great superhero story, like JLA/JSA Virtue & Vice. And there’d be a great Vertigo book like Sandman: Endless Nights. And, right around the same time, there was this excellent story set in the past of Alan Moore’s Top Ten. The story was about the heroes returning from World War II and the new city that was built as their home (the government wanted some separation between superheroes and the normal populace). We read of their struggles, their triumphs and their loves. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read.
Wildcats: A Gathering of Eagles and Nemesis
This is a mismatched pair. The first volume is Chris Claremont’s arc on Wildcats. The individual issues were hard to find and expensive so I grabbed this very early trade instead. The second volume is a mini-series from this past decade that introduced a new character, Nemesis, to Wildcats. It was really well done and it told two simultaneous stories: Nemesis’ introduction to the team in the present and her shared history with Majestic throughout the past.
Whew! That’s it for the DC shelf and part three. But there’s more to come. I still have all of Marvel to go plus quite a few miscellaneous series.