100 Comic Stories Every Man Should Read, According to Someone Else’s List (With Notes On the Lessons in Manliness That One Might Gleam From Them)
First published: Saga #1-6 (Image, 2012)
Why read? “The fantasy/sci-fi epic focuses on an extraterrestrial interracial couple who are the product of long-warring extraterrestrial races. The couple is on the run, fighting to protect their newborn daughter from the both sides of the galactic war. It’s an intricate mix of a Star Wars-like galactic fantasy and a romance akin to Romeo & Juliet.”
Lesson for men: Real men will do anything for the ones they love, and they aren’t afraid to show it.
26. AVENGERS: THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE
First published: Avengers: The Children’s Crusade #1-9 (Marvel, 2010)
Why read? “Focusing primarily on the Young Avengers and the team’s quest to find Scarlet Witch, The Children’s Crusade presents her triumphant return in the destructive aftermath of House of M. It’s the perfect mix of your favorite Marvel superheroes that adds another layer of perspective from the eyes of the younger heroes of the YA roster.”
Lesson for men: Dealing with family is always complicated, but real men don’t let that stop them from doing right by the people who count on them.
27. MYSTIC ARCANA
First published: Four Mystic Arcana one-shots (Marvel, 2007)
Why read? “Magic typically doesn’t get it’s due credit in comic books, but Mystic Arcana crafts a believable and intricate story embedded in fantasy lore. Taking four mystical figures in the Marvel comics roster and giving them all unique and expansive backstories, it’s a testament to the complexities of magic and those who use it.”
Lesson for men: Real men are willing to entertain ideas that challenge their view of the universe, like the idea that magic exists.
28. THE UNCANNY X-MEN: THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA
First published: X-Men #129-138 (Marvel, 1980)
Why read? “One of the most famous X-Men stories of all time, The Dark Phoenix Saga chronicles the transformation of timid telepath Jean Grey into a formidable ally possessed by the galactic Phoenix force. Jean later takes an evil turn as the Phoenix force consumes her, transforming her into the Dark Phoenix. It’s one of the first times readers get to see a woman of power become a near-indestructible force. The transformation not only made Jean Grey a fan favorite, but forever changed the narratives of women in comic books.”
Lesson for men: Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So don’t do that.
29. SANDMAN: PRELUDES AND NOCTURNES
First published: Sandman #1-8 (DC, 1989)
Why read? “Written by Neil Gaiman, Sandman follows Morpheus, The Lord of Dreams, and his interactions with the dream world and its inhabitants. The series is one that uses horror and fantasy as an allegory for traditional life lessons and one of the best parts of the series is Gaiman’s use of anthropomorphic personalities of various entities. It’s an odd but effective mix of mythos and reality, with an expansive world that’s practically indescribable. It’s complicated, but worth your time.”
Lesson for men: When a pale-looking fellow approaches you in a bar and asks if the two of you can meet again in 100 years, this is one of those moments in life where you say in no uncertain terms, “Absolutely!”
30. UNCANNY X-FORCE: DARK ANGEL SAGA
First published: Uncanny X-Force #8-19 (Marvel, 2011)
Why read? “The X-Force works as a sanctioned team of mutant assassins led by Wolverine on covert missions. It’s a dirty, cutthroat clan that gets the job done. But things shift when the job becomes stopping one of their own as team member Archangel is influenced by the sinister mutant Apocalypse. You won’t find any yellow spandex outfits here, but you will find a heart-racing plot and a lineup of lovable sketchy characters that prove being a bad guy isn’t so bad.”
Lesson for men: Sometimes, a man has to get his hands dirty to get the job done. As long as you can look yourself in the mirror after it’s over, you should be fine.
31. PRIDE OF BAGHDAD
First published: Pride of Baghdad GN (DC, 2006)
Why read? “Pride of Baghdad is the fictionalized account of the true story of four African lions that escaped from the Baghdad Zoo after an American bombing in 2003. Another fictional tale using anthropomorphic animals, the core of the story focuses on freedom and what it truly means, challenging the reader to a series of thought-provoking questions that you won’t find in most books.”
Lesson for men: War is stupid, people who send other people’s children off to die in war are stupid, and real men do whatever they can to avoid war because they know the ones who suffer the most in war are the innocents.
32. GREEN LANTERN: THE SINESTRO CORPS WAR
First published: Various Green Lantern issues plus four “Tales of the Sinestro Corps” specials (DC, 2007)
Why read? “The former Green Lantern member Sinestro starts a corrupted Yellow Lantern Corps hellbent on spreading fear throughout the galaxy, so naturally it’s up to the Green Lantern Corps to stop them! It’s one of the few cosmic scaled books that packs a lot of action but has amazing character development. Sinestro, the villain, is oddly captivating and has arguably more conviction than most of the Green Lantern Corps.”
Lesson for men: No matter how righteous your cause may be, you can guarantee the guy on the other side feels equally righteous about his. Real men know the hardest part of any battle is trying to understand the other person’s perspective.
33. ALL STAR SUPERMAN
First published: All Star Superman #1-12 (DC, 2006)
Why read? “Written by comic legend Grant Morrison, All Star Superman is a character-driven book that strips down the Man of Steel, resulting in a straightforward, beautifully designed tale. It’s Superman at his finest, with a series of quiet, but impressionable moments rather than endless butt-kicking. Even if you’re not a Superman fan, it’s a classic that every comic lover should read.”
Lesson for men: Real men know you don’t have to sweep aside everything that has gone before to create your own vision. You want to do something new, start by studying what made the older versions so timeless in the first place.
34. SCOTT PILGRIM: PRECIOUS LITTLE LIFE
First published: Scott Pilgrim: Precious Little Life (Oni Press, 2004)
Why read? “You may be familiar with the movie starring Michael Cera, and the comic follows suit. Canadian part-time band member Scott Pilgrim falls for an American delivery girl, Ramona Flowers, but must defeat her seven deadly exes to date her. It’s an indie book with heart, humor and memorable characters.”
Lesson for men: Life doesn’t just come to you; if you want something, you’ve got to be an adult and get out there and work for it — even if that means battling your girlfriend’s exes video-game style.
35. BATMAN:THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS
First published: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #1-4 (DC, 1986)
Why read? “A Frank Miller classic, The Dark Knight Returns sees a 55-year-old Bruce Wayne return to the Batman persona after retiring. It’s a testament to the never-ending antics of Gotham, and Batman’s adaptability to deal with them. Hard-hitting, quintessential Batman, filled with crime-fighting, scandal and Batman’s definitive rogues gallery — what more could you want from The Dark Knight?”
Lesson for men: Just keep fighting. That’s it. Don’t let anything — your age, your broken body, your general weariness with what the world has become — keep you from fighting the good fight.
36. WORLD WAR HULK
First published: World War Hulk #1-5, plus various tie-ins (Marvel, 2007)
Why read? “Banished from earth by Marvel’s Illuminati, the Hulk embarks on a vengeful space-quest to return home on a warpath against the aforementioned group. It’s a great homage to the brute archetype in fiction such as Conan, Tarzan and He-Man. You get to see a savage, but compassionate, monster fight to survive, and it’s full of awe.”
Lesson for men: You might think you can make your problems go away by shooting them into space, but you would be wrong if you thought that. So very, very wrong.
37. DOCTOR STRANGE: INTO SHAMBALLA
First published: Doctor Strange: Into Shamballa GN (Marvel, 1986)
Why read? “Doctor Strange has always been a puzzling character, but Into Shamballa explores his depths and some of his mystic origins. It’s a trippy fall into the arcane, so be prepared for oddities and mysticisms. Into Shamballa is a daring look at the supernatural and self exploration that’s rarely seen in superhero books.”
Lesson for men: It’s about the journey, not the destination.
38. X-MEN: AGE OF APOCALYPSE
First published: In many, many X-Men-related titles and mini-series (Marvel, 1995-96)
Why read? “Taking an entire era and spreading it across multiple X-books, Age of Apocalypse is the dystopian future due to the death of Charles Xavier where Magneto takes it upon himself to lead the X-Men. The core of this arc takes the adversity the X-Men are used to and amplifies it tremendously. As a result, most of the team are seasoned battled-hardened vets, while others work for the villain Apocalypse. Its a great what-if story if you want to see the X-Men in an unfiltered light.”
Lesson for men: It doesn’t take a lot of finangling with the space-time continuum to turn any of us into completely different versions of ourselves. Or to put it another way: real men are grateful for the events and circumstances that made them who they are today.
39. X-MEN: MESSIAH COMPLEX
First published: X-Men: Messiah Complex #1, plus various tie-ins and one-shots (Marvel, 2007)
Why read? “Set after the events of House of M that lead to the depowering of all the mutants in the Marvel universe, Messiah Complex promptly picks up with the birth of the first mutant child bearing an active X-gene. It’s a race between the X-Men and several groups of adversaries to find the mutant child, Hope, now labeled the Mutant Messiah. The tone and the pace captures the angst of the X-Men and conveys that nothing will ever be the same for them.”
Lesson for men: There is no bigger or tougher job for a man than raising a child and protecting it from the bad things in the world. Real men take that job seriously.
First published: Phonogram #1-6 (Image, 2006)
Why read? “In a world where music is magic, Phonomancer David Kohl searches endlessly for his lost Mod-British pop goddess, Brittania. Phonogram is a blend of modern fantasy and realistic musical influences, tying pop culture’s need for music to life and mythology. It’s a mind-bending read that’s inspiring, owning its credentials as a gold star indie comic.”
Lesson for men: It won’t kill you to learn how to dance. Because your mother was right; someday you’ll be happy someone made you learn it.
First published: Flashpoint #1-5, plus various tie-ins (DC, 2011)
Why read? “Flashpoint chronicles Barry Allen’s (The Flash) awareness and saga in an alternate DC universe. The comic received multiple accolades for its reinterpretation of key characters such as Batman, who is Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s father) instead of Bruce Wayne and has a prominent violent streak. Flashpoint reshapes the characters we know by throwing in a heightened ‘what if’ scenario, creating a cataclysmic hero-on-hero war that’s unmatched in the DC canon.”
Lesson for men: Sometimes the world is messed up and it doesn’t matter what happened or who’s at fault. All that matters is that you do your best to fix it.
42. ULTIMATE COMICS: SPIDER-MAN
First published: Ulitmate Comics: Spider-Man #1-28 (Marvel, 2011)
Why read? “Miles Morales brings a new breath of life into the Spider-Man saga. The universality of Spidey has always been one that transcends race, and since Spider-Man is more of a mantle, Marvel creators added in a diverse character that truly speaks to the woes of Peter Parker. It’s intelligent, and witty, but most of all champions a hero of color whose everyday problems are relatable in just about every way.”
Lesson for men: Change is good. Really.
43. THE INVISIBLES: SAY YOU WANT A REVOLUTION
First published: The Invisibles #1-8 (DC, 1994)
Why read? “The Invisibles are a secret society who fight against a race of alien gods at work to repress the growth of humanity by enslaving it. Penned by legend Alan Moore [actually Grant Morrison – Ed.], The Invisibles takes inspiration from Aztec Mythology, Gnosticism, ’80s pop culture references, alien abductions, BDSM and Biblical parables. It’s one of the most abstract comics you’ll ever encounter, but it’s done with such a finesse and charm that you’ll be begging for the second volume.”
Lesson for men: The world is weird. Real men roll with it.
44. HELLBLAZER: THE FAMILY MAN
First published: Hellblazer #23-24, 28-33 (DC, 1989)
Why read? “A twist of fate sends loudmouth con mage John Constantine towards the path of a serial killer called the Family Man, and he’s not too thrilled about it. The story takes a while to unfold, but it when it does, it’s pulsating and sinister. Constantine is used to dealing with demons of the supernatural variety, but when faced with a threat rooted in reality (a serial killer), the typically nonchalant character is totally shaken up.”
Lesson for men: Real men know there’s no need to make up stories about scary monsters when there are plenty of real-life ones to scare the kiddies.
45. DC: THE NEW FRONTIER
First published: DC: The New Frontier #1-6 (DC, 2004)
Why read? “The New Frontier is a vibrant tale of DC’s Golden Age superheroes (Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman) and their interaction with the new heroes of the Silver Age (Flash, Green Lantern, Martian Manhunter), illustrated by the uber-talented Darwyn Cooke. It’s a great retelling of era-specific heroes which immerses within the pop cultural history of their time.”
Lesson for men: Darwyn Cooke rules. That is all.
46. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: THE DEATH OF GWEN STACY
First published: Amazing Spider-Man #121-122 (Marvel, 1973)
Why read? “As the undying love of Spider-Man, Gwen is captured by a maniacal Green Goblin and dies of the consequences. This is one of Spider-Man’s hallmark moments where he truly realizes the responsibility he bears as a superhero. It’s impactful, jarring and notably one of the most important comics of its time.”
Lesson for men: No matter how hard you try to do the right thing, bad things are going to happen. What matters is how you allow those bad things to shape you as a person.
First published: Thor #1-6 (Marvel, 2007)
Why read? “Thor awakes from a sleep to find his identity altered and Asgard relocated to Earth, but by far my favorite alteration is Loki’s sex change from villain to villainess. It’s a great jumping point for new fans and works as a fun introduction to the God of Thunder.”
Lesson for men: Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. That’s from one of those Shakespeare plays that a real man isn’t afraid to read.
48. THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN: DEMON IN A BOTTLE
First published: Iron Man #120-128 (Marvel, 1979)
Why read? “From the cover alone, it’s clear that this is one of Tony Stark’s lowest points in the Iron Man canon. Demon in a Bottle finally exposes his alcoholism, making even the invincible Iron Man subject to human addictions.”
Lesson for men: Even the mightiest among us can fall prey to our inner demons. Real men don’t judge, they help when they’re needed.
49. CALVIN & HOBBES: ATTACK OF THE DERANGED MUTANT KILLER MONSTER SNOW GOONS
First published: Calvin & Hobbes: Deranged Mutant Killer Monster Snow Goons (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1992)
Why read? “Retaining the fun, savvy and witty commentary the comic always does, its beauty is in its ability to remain childlike in essence, while confronting larger philosophical quandaries.”
Lesson for men: Real men see the world as magical and never miss a chance to go explore it with their faithful tiger companions.
50. BATWOMAN: HYDROLOGY
First published: Batwoman #0, 1-5 (DC, 2011)
Why read? “Batwoman emerged as one of the gems in the New 52 lineup… She is truly passionate, exceptionally trained and is one of the few mainstream lesbian characters with her own leading title. Batwoman reads as a beautiful watercolor masterpiece, with art by J.H. Williams, making it one of the most visual stimulating comics to come across.”
Lesson for men: Kidnapping children is so not cool. Real men don’t do that. They do, however, appreciate J. H. Williams’ art because my God this is some beautiful stuff.