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)
51. THE INFINITY GAUNTLET
First published: The Infinity Gauntlet #1-6 (Marvel, 1991)
Why read? “The Infinity Gauntlet sees the mad titan Thanos in possession of the six Infinity Gems, forming the titular Infinity Gauntlet. Needless to say, this gauntlet makes Thanos a near-undefeatable threat, ensuing an all-out galactic war for possession of the gauntlet. The arc lets fanboys to see their favorite Marvel superheroes in the throes of a war more epic than anything the heroes have ever faced.”
Lesson for men: Issue #4, Captain America: “As long as one man stands against you, Thanos, you’ll never be able to claim victory.” Damn straight.
52. MARVEL SUPER HEROES SECRET WARS
First published: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1-12 (Marvel, 1984)
Why read? “A keystone Marvel crossover event, Secret Wars follows the extraction of the heroes and villains from the Marvel universe onto a planet called Battleworld. Other than seeing your favorite heroes and villains team up and fight, the story features several significant events including the introduction of Spider-Man’s symbiote suit. (If you don’t know what this is, we have some serious issues.) It’s a great look into Marvel’s history with fun storytelling.”
Lesson for men: There are going to be times when you’ll have to put past grievances aside and team up with others to work against a greater threat. Real men are mature enough to do that. Also? Never trust an alien tailor.
53. ANIMAL MAN: THE HUNT
First published: Animal Man #1-6 (DC, 2011)
Why read? “DC’s Buddy Baker has the ability to tap into the ‘morphogenetic field,’ which allows him to access and assume the attributes of any living creature. This includes his favorite ‘action hero cocktail’ comprised of the strength of an elephant, the reflexes of a fly, the speed of a cheetah, and the bark of a dog. Odd yes, but a daring mix of supernatural abilities, dark humor and a plot filled with oddities. It’s a tastefully graphic book with beautiful but jarring artwork by Travel Foreman with a character who demands your attention on every page.”
Lesson for men: I dunno, be kind of animals? That one seems obvious.
54. MARVEL FAIRY TALES
First published: In three four-issue mini-series published by Marvel between 2006 and 2008
Why read? “A re-imagining of popular children’s fables, Marvel Fairy Tales plucks characters from the Avengers, X-Men and Spider-Man and weaves them into the whimsical worlds of Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pinocchio and The Wizard of Oz. It’s an adorable assortment of whimsy characters, illustrated by Ricardo Tercio and several other artists, resulting in an imaginative read.”
Lesson for men: Real men take a break from the Xbox once in a while and read a bit of classic literature. Because it’s classic for a reason, that’s why.
55. FABLES: LEGENDS IN EXILE
First published: Fables #1-5 (DC, 2002)
Why read? “After the conquest of their home country, a group of fairy tale characters find themselves exiled to the cold streets of New York City. Despite the collection of princesses, big bad wolves and fairies, the characters are gritty and unapologetic in nature. They make mistakes, and not-so-great choices, but the storytelling is all unbearably human, which make it all the more relatable.”
Lesson for men: We are all defined by the tribes to which we belong, and we don’t always control how those tribes and alliances form. What we can control is how we respond when an outside threat endangers the people in our care.
56. INVINCIBLE: FAMILY MATTERS
First published: Invincible #1-4 (Image, 2003)
Why read? “Walking Dead writer Robert Kirkman tackled superheroes before zombies came into the picture. The protagonist is a teenage super hero, who inherits the superpowers of the world’s greatest alien-born superhero, Omni-Man. It’s clear Invincible pulls inspiration from others in the superhero genre, but Kirkman does an exceptional job of crafting a golden coming-of-age story with a character who’s more than a teenage sidekick. It’s a fun, new addition to classic superhero storytelling.”
Lesson for men: There are few tougher moments in life than the realization your parents are not the people you thought they were.
57. MS. MARVEL: NO NORMAL
First published: Ms. Marvel #1-5 (Marvel, 2014)
Why read? “Marvel’s first Muslim character to headline her own series, Ms. Marvel is the story of 16-year-old Pakistani-American Kamala Khan. When she is suddenly imbued with shape-shifting abilities, Kamala struggles with new villains as much as she does her faith and home practices.”
Lesson for men: It’s right there in the title: there’s no such thing as “normal” anymore. Real men understand this and learn to adapt rather than insist on everything being the way it “should” be.
First published: Midnighter #1-12 (DC, 2015)
Why read? “Though he’s gay, Midnighter’s sexuality isn’t the focus of his book. Rather, it’s his trigger-happy vigilante antics. He’s the quintessential anti-hero, unabashed in all his endeavors with an arsenal of impressive abilities including a supercomputer as a mind. Midnighter is a testament that queer heroes can kick just as much ass as your standard caped crusader.”
Lesson for men: Seems kind of silly to think a person’s sex life has any relevance to whether they can kick your ass, doesn’t it? Real men don’t distract themselves with irrelevancies when they’re deciding whether someone is capable of doing the job.
59. Y: THE LAST MAN: UNMANNED
First published: Y: The Last Man #1-5 (DC, 2002)
Why read? ” The only two male species left after a mysterious plague kills all Y-chromosome carriers on earth, Yorick and Ampersand embark on a quest to find the answer while encountering various Amazon wannabees and other terrors. It’s a hilarious take on the apocalypse, playing up the ‘I wouldn’t hook up with you if you were the last guy on Earth’ scenario.”
Lesson for men: Real men don’t waste time wishing for some terrible event to happen so they can prove their manliness. Real men know a person’s manliness is measured by how hard they fight to keep terrible events from happening.
60. YOUNG AVENGERS: OMNIBUS
First published: Young Avengers #1-15 (Marvel, 2013)
Why read? “Jamie McKelvie and Kieron Gillen perfect youth and pop culture, so it’s no surprise the Young Avengers book is filled with Tumblr references and Game of Thrones Easter eggs. That aside, the characters are likeable in the never-ending quest to help save the world. Because of course, The Avengers, Spider-Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four are never enough.”
Lesson for men: No, for real — the kids are all right. Real men are okay with stepping aside and letting the younger generation prove themselves.
First published: Wytches #1-6 (Image, 2014)
Why read? “Batman alum Scott Snyder takes the lore behind witches and crafts a chilling horror tale. Wytches follows the Rock family, in particular their daughter, Taylor, after the family moves to another town, to escape a haunting memory. Effectively scary and daunting of a read, Wytches slowly unravels to be more than a mere horror book, but a metaphor for the darkest parts of our childhoods.”
Lesson for men: Real men don’t get too bent out of shape over bad spelling if it’s for a good cause.
62. ASTRO CITY: LIFE IN THE BIG CITY
First published: Astro City #1-6 (image, 1995)
Why read? “Taking ‘a day in the life’ style to the central hero Samaritan’s adventures, Astro City is a golden age depiction of original and vibrant heroes in the 1950s. Presented with a sense of wonder, artwork from Alex Ross elevates it tremendously, the book focuses on both the heroes of Astro City and the civilians, tying them together and creating a fun quintessential read of the superhero genre.”
Lesson for men: Real men know the larger-than-life heroes are just people like them, with their own lives to deal with and everything, and don’t expect them to clean up everyone else’s shit just because they’re there.
63. THE AVENGERS: AVENGERS DISASSEMBLED
First published: Avengers #500-503, plus various tie-ins (Marvel, 2004)
Why read? “The Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four all suffer brutal physical and psychological attacks from an unknown assailant. Predominantly centered on the Avengers, readers see team morale broken and a series of intimate moments from vulnerable team members. It’s a heart-filled but darker book for the Avengers, which makes it a standout addition.”
Lesson for men: Whether it’s your team falling apart or the world’s worst possible choice for president getting elected, real men find a way to pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and prepare to fight another day.
64. THE WALKING DEAD: SOMETHING TO FEAR
First published: The Walking Dead #97-102 (Image, 2012)
Why read? “The Walking Dead comics are legendary, rightfully so, helping to shape one of the biggest TV fandoms in small screen history. These comics aren’t lacking in essential reads. One of the best arcs happens when Rick and the Atlanta clan cross a far more dangerous threat than zombies. To avoid spoilers for both show fans and fans of the comic, it’s safe to say Rick truly meets his match, and I’m not referring to the Governor.”
Lesson for men: Real men walk softly and carry a big stick. Metaphorically speaking, that is; the ones who do this literally are overcompensating assholes.
65. THE MIGHTY THOR: THE SURTUR SAGA
First published: The Mighty Thor #340-353 (Marvel, 1984)
Why read? “Walt Simonson’s Thor run is the definition of epic. Introducing galactic mysticism and extraterrestrial beings, Simonson ushered in a new age for the Asgardian. But perhaps one of his biggest comic book moments is forming a temporary alliance between Thor, Odin and Loki to bring down mega-demon Surtur. Needless to say, Loki returned to his old tricks afterwards, but seeing the three Asgardian warriors running towards a foe in unison is enough to make any fanboy squeal.”
Lesson for men: You want to see a god walk among men? Walt Simonson, people. ‘Nuff said.
66. THE AVENGERS: THE KREE-SKRULL WAR
First published: The Avengers #89-97 (Marvel, 1971)
Why read? “An intergalactic war between the warrior Kree race and the shape-shifting Skrulls aliens spills onto Earth, and it’s up to the Avengers to stop them! Unlike most Marvel galactic wars, this one hits home, literally, placing the Avengers members in some hard-hitting spots. It’s packed with absurd amounts of action, staying consistent with a high-octane narrative filled with all-or-nothing stakes. This is an essential read, as you’ll more than likely see both alien races resurface in Marvel books on numerous occasions.”
Lesson for men: Before you get all excited about all those wars and “police actions” your government is engaged in somewhere else, take a minute to think about what it would feel like if, say, two warring forces started using your own backyard as their battleground. Sucks, right?
67. SIN CITY: THE HARD GOODBYE
First published: Dark Horse Presents #51-62, Dark Horse Presents: Fifth Anniversary Special (Dark Horse, 1991)
Why read? “Chances are you’ve seen the film of the same name, but the comic is so much grittier (if you can believe that!). The crime noir book reads as a pulp fiction piece from the ‘60s, taking violent panels and stylizing them in a way that rings with suspense and dread. Frank Miller truly crafts a masterpiece out of Sin City, one that’s rarely seen in today’s comic scene.”
Lesson for men: Don’t take advice about women from Frank Miller. Just trust me on this one. Seems like a nice guy, sure, but… yeah. Issues, man.
68. THE INHUMANS
First published: The Inhumans GN (Marvel, 1988)
Why read? “The Inhumans are a group of superhuman beings originally introduced in Fantastic Four. The book tells the personal story of Medusa as she deals with bearing the child of Black Bolt (king of the Inhumans and heir to the Inhuman empire) as the leaders of the Inhumans attempt to stop her from carrying through with it. The book deals greatly with their strict societal code, allowing for an exquisite view into one of the oldest superhero families in the Marvel canon.”
Lesson for men: Real men abide by the laws of the land, but they never shirk their duty to constantly question the fairness of those laws — especially when the laws appear to work against the people they’re supposed to protect.
69.WAR OF KINGS
First published: War of Kings #1-6, plus various tie-ins (Marvel, 2009)
Why read? “A collective space war between the Kree and the Shiar empires with multiple characters caught in the crossfire such as the X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy and Nova Corps. It’s nothing short of high-octane superpowered battles with some of the best in the Marvel roster, reminiscent of a Roman/Persian Empire galactic quest. Unlike most of the crossovers on this list, War of Kings, as its namesake suggests, deals heavily with politics and the conquests of multiple empires.”
Lesson for men: Real men know there’s always a price to pay for being the guy in charge, and they don’t treat leadership as a shiny prize to be won, Donald.
70. BLACK WIDOW: THE FINELY WOVEN THREAD
First published: Black Widow #1-6 (Marvel, 2014)
Why read? “If you’re a fan of Black Widow from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this is a great jumping point. The first in her collection from the Marvel NOW relaunch, Finely Woven Thread follows the world’s best assassin in the underbelly of Russia, only to find a new, unbeatable foe. It’s an up-close and personal view to see Natasha do what she does best. Phil Noto assists with the beautiful artwork that matches up perfectly to the cold, stealthy tone to the book.”
Lesson for men: We are all responsible for the choices we’ve made in our lives, and real men — and women — accept that.
71. JUSTICE LEAGUE: ORIGIN
First published: Justice League #1-6 (DC, 2011)
Why read? “For a perfect origin story, Jim Lee and Geoff Johns team up to construct an introduction to one of the world’s most famous super teams. The book’s candor rooted within multiple characters (like Aquaman’s refusal of acknowledging Batman as the team leader) gives an extra insight on the assorted hodgepodge personalities on this team. Events that create the character Cyborg subsequently makes him stand out as the clear nuclear of the team. Origin is funny, as in actual laugh-out-loud funny, but downright cool, too. Because no other word comes to mind when describing one of the best rosters of superheroes in comics.”
Lesson for men: Remember the scene where Green Lantern shouts at Aquaman “What can you do that we can’t?” and Aquaman demonstrates what he can do in dramatic fashion? Real men never write off a potential asset to their cause until they know what it can do.
72. SHAZAM! POWER OF HOPE
First published: Shazam! Power of Hope GN (DC, 2000)
Why read? “When Billy Batson (Captain Marvel’s alter ego) receives a letter from a terminally ill boy in a local children’s hospital, he uses his abilities to help the patients regain their spirits. Billy’s a true kid at heart, and it’s through these sincere and warm moments you learn how he is a pure soul, a rarity to those who consistently fight crime.”
Lesson for men: Real men never, ever give up hope. Or lose touch with their inner child.
73. WONDER WOMAN: WAR
First published: Wonder Woman #19-23 (DC, 2012)
Why read? “Wonder Woman’s New 52 iteration took what could be a stodgy tale of Amazonians and Greek gods and made it a creative and witty take on Diana Prince. In this tale, Wonder Woman becomes the new god of war. It’s a warrior’s blood-ridden ascension to godhood, and Wonder Woman does it flawlessly, taking down earthy and supernatural foes that stand in her way. It’s about time readers get to see Diana as a pure-breed fighter.”
Lesson for men: Real men make their own destiny. They also know there’s a price to pay for disrespecting the women in their lives.
74. THE NEW TEEN TITANS: THE JUDAS CONTRACT
First published: The New Teen Titans #42-44, Annual #3 (DC, 1984)
Why read? “One of the best stories from the Teen Titan canon, The Judas Contract is filled with action, suspense and like its namesake, betrayal. The Titans are slowly being picked off one-by-one by DC’s resident master assassin, Deathstroke. While Nightwing scrambles to save his team, things worsen as Deathstroke has a mole helping him inside the Teen Titans. The Judas Contract forces the teens to grow up and face their personal fears, making for a coming-of-age arc unlike any other. For a team so young, there’s much to learn from them.”
Lesson for men: As you go through life, you’re going to come up against people who will betray you, abuse your trust and break your heart. Real men know this, and they don’t let that keep them from believing the best in people.