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)
75. RUNAWAYS: THE GOOD DIE YOUNG
First published: Runaways #13-17 (Marvel, 2004)
Why read? “A group of half-baked, fledgling teenage heroes, the Runaways are predominantly children of a superhero crime organization. Once learning their parents are the dangerous villains, the Runaways prove their worth as a superhero group and work endlessly to thwart the plans of their evil parents. The roster is filled with a blood mage, a genetically crafted dinosaur, an alien and a resident telepath, but as different as their backgrounds are, they form an incredible bond that’s laced with social commentary about how we as humans bond with people of different backgrounds/cultures.”
Lesson for men: There’s the family you’re born into and the family you build with others. Sometimes they’re the same, sometimes they’re not. A real man understands where his loyalties lie.
First published: Wolverine #1-4 (Marvel, 1982)
Why read? “The story that trademarks the ‘I’m the best at what I do’ catchphrase sets Logan on his journey to Japan. The story gives a great introspective arc to Logan while adding new characters, such as Wolverine’s nemesis Silver Samurai, and his former love, Mariko. Logan’s biggest battle, however, is internally, raging a one-man war against his own animalistic nature. It’s an unfiltered, raw Wolverine that fearlessly explores this schism in Wolverine’s psyche.”
Lesson for men: A temper and a willingness to stab people isn’t what makes you a man. Not giving in to your anger and rage does.
77. SHE-HULK: LAW & DISORDER
First published: She-Hulk #1-6 (Marvel, 2014)
Why read? “Being an Avenger Alum and Fantastic Four honorary member makes She-Hulk a busy woman. Add that to her active law practice where her latest client happens to be the son of Victor Von Doom, and things get problematic. She-Hulk takes one of the most misused female characters in Marvel and gives her a new voice, and an infectious personality. Finally stepping out of her cousin’s shadow, it’s hard not to love her more than her angry, green counterpart. Also, Kevin Wada’s chic pencils make She-Hulk one of the most stylish women in the Marvel universe.”
Lesson for men: One of the bravest things you can do in life is strike out on your own and be your own boss. Don’t be afraid to do it when the time is right.
78. MAGNETO: INFAMOUS
First published: Magneto #1-6 (Marvel, 2014)
Why read? “The deadliest mutant mastermind is back with a vengeance. No longer a pawn to Cyclop’s agenda, Magneto has set his sights on destroying all obstacles preventing mutant prosperity. But it’s not such an easy task when he’s on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D. Magneto’s conviction has always made him a remarkable character, providing social commentary on injustice in the form of a mutant rights-centered agenda.”
Lesson for men: Conviction is not a bad thing. It’s when your conviction turns into fanaticism — and you start losing sight of your ideals — that you become an asshole annoying the rest of us.
79. GHOST WORLD
First published: Eightball #11-18 (Fantagraphics, 1993)
Why read? “Ghost World follows the lives of two cynical, pre-hipster girls, Rebecca and Enid, after their recent graduation from high school. The girls, cynical in nature (think Daria), spend their days in a sombre reality showing an indifference to others, while figuring out what to ultimately do with themselves post-graduation. The comic picks up on the elitist vibes of hipster geek culture. It’s a tale we’re all familiar with: that awkward path of self-discovery before we arrive at adulthood.”
Lesson for men: Ironic detachment is fun when you’re young, but it gets old fast. Real men understand sooner or later you’ve got to get emotionally invested in this crazy world we’re living in.
80. ESSEX COUNTY
First published: as three graphic short stories (Tales From the Farm, Ghost Stories, The Country Nurse) by Top Shelf Comics between 2008 and 2011
Why read? “Far from the worlds of superheroes and fantasy, Essex County is a drama focusing on a series of intimate moments on a small community in Canada. The visuals read like more of an indie film than a comic book, resulting in fluid, emotional storytelling. Sure to overwhelm you with sadness as well as empathy, the story hones in on human relations, sibling rivalry, a boy with daddy issues and a nurse struggling with her middle-aged status. It’s the angst most of us experience in life, vividly drawn and fleshed out to create something relatable and beautiful.”
Lesson for men: Everyone comes from somewhere, and a lot of those somewheres aren’t like the place where you grew up. But people live there, just like people live in the place where you are now, and they deal with the same struggles and emotional moments that you do. Real men look for those commonalities.
81. GHOST RIDER: HEARTS OF DARKNESS
First published: Hearts of Darkness GN (Marvel, 1991)
Why read? “A team of Marvel’s best anti-heroes (Wolverine, Ghost Rider and Punisher), the trio works together to stop the demon Blackheart from doing what dark forces do best: destroy in a flurry of total carnage. While this book was an obvious marketing ploy for Marvel at the time, every fanboy’s dream is to see his favorites fighting side-by-side. Considering these men aren’t exactly team players, it’s a treat to see them all do their thing.”
Lesson for men: I dunno, maybe “sometimes it’s okay to sit back and enjoy goofy fanboy stuff”…? Seems appropriate here.
82. UNCANNY AVENGERS: RAGNORAK NOW
First published: Uncanny Avengers #12-17 (Marvel, 2014)
Why read? “The Uncanny Avengers are the government sanctioned team with both mutant and human heroes after the death of Charles Xavier. The roster includes some fan faves such as Rogue, Cyclops’s younger brother Havok and Scarlet Witch. Led by Havok, the team work as propaganda for mutant-human relations, as well as a stop for sizeable threats such as Red Skull and Kang the Conquerer. The characters, though joined by their peaceful mission don’t always cohabitate well, and things erupt internally as much as they do externally.”
Lesson for men: We either find a way to work together or we hang separately. Simple as that.
83. PREACHER: GONE TO TEXAS
First published: Preacher #1-6 (DC, 1995)
Why read? “One of the most controversial books on this list, Preacher focuses on Jesse Custer, who becomes possessed by the Genesis demon, giving him an ability called The Word, making those around him do whatever he wants when he vocalizes it. Filled with sex, angels, demons and drugs, the series follows Custer on a violent, but pious journey across the nation to find God after his disappearance. To date there hasn’t been anything so dark and fixated on religious culture, and that alone makes it a gem.”
Lesson for men: It’s not always easy to tell who’s a good guy or a bad guy by how they look or what they wear. For that matter, what does it mean to be “good” or “bad” anyway? Real men know you need more than a book or an ideology to find the answers to these kinds of questions.
84. HARBINGER: OMEGA RISING
First published: Harbinger #1-5 (Valiant, 2012)
Why read? “Another teenage hero series, Harbinger follows super-powered teen Peter Stancheck after he realizes he’s imbued with telepathic abilities. Finding himself at a school for gifted youngsters called the Harbinger Foundation, he meets the very powerful Psiot known as Harada, who also owns the school. Harada offers him all he ever wants, but Patrick slowly realizes that all of this comes with a heavy price. Omega Rising is a culmination of X-Men savvy and a Heroes-like narrative.”
Lesson for men: Good things don’t always happen to people who are ready for them, or who “deserve” them. Sometimes things just happen, and that’s okay.
85. NEXTWAVE, AGENTS OF H.A.T.E.: THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT
First published: Nextwave, Agents of H.A.T.E. #1-5 (Marvel, 2006)
Why read? “Playing off of the cynicism towards superheroes in the early 2000s, Agents of H.A.T.E is a satire which retains explosive action and lovable characters. The superhero team rebels against the government agency when they find out their former employer H.A.T.E. is controlled by a corporate front for a terrorist organization looking to test laughable weapons like broccoli-powered robots and man-eating teddy bears on unsuspecting civilians around the world.”
Lesson for men: Laughing at goofy stuff is a good thing. Honest.
86. GIANT-SIZE X-MEN: SECOND GENESIS
First published: Giant-Size X-Men #1 (Marvel, 1975)
Why read? “This hallmark X-comic introduces many comic book lovers’ favorite characters including Wolverine, Storm, Nightcrawler, Thunderbird, Banshee and Sunfire. Xavier recruits a new international roster to save the original five X-Men after they’ve disappeared on the living island of Krakoa. It’s one of the hardest books to get a hold of on this list, but it’s worth every penny to see the foundation of some of the world’s most renowned heroes in comics.”
Lesson for men: Okay, Wolverine and Storm I can get, but including Sunfire, Banshee and Thunderbird among “many comic book lovers’ favorite characters”…? Really? I guess the lesson here is everyone has their fans.
87. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN
First published: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen #1-6 (DC, 1999)
Why read? “Alan Moore crafts a wildly imaginative tale centering around various 19th-century literary characters, gathered to handle any threats to England. Featuring the likes of Captain Nemo, Jack the Ripper, Dr. Henry Jekyll, Edward Hyde and Hawley Griffin (the Invisible Man), the dysfunctional hodgepodge group forms the perfect mix of physical and intellectual prowess, creating a supernatural but dysfunctional A-Team.”
Lesson for men: Extraordinary things are possible when people with extraordinary talents are given the right direction. Also: laugh heartily at anyone who suggests a submarine chase through Venice sounds cool.
First published: Watchmen #1-12 (DC, 1986)
Why read? “Changing the superhero genre forever, Watchmen took a team of colorful superheroes and subjected them to the same moral mishaps and struggles that everyday people are subjected to. Each character represents a hero archetype; the anti-hero as seen in Rorschach and the god-like hero Dr. Manhattan are prime examples. The heroes prove to be just as dangerous as their nemesis, making at times questionable and dangerous decisions. But the beauty of this comic and what Alan Moore has done, is how he manages to make these battered cape crusaders more flawed and more human than most books ever dared to.”
Lesson for men: Putting on a costume doesn’t make you a hero. Being on “the winning side” doesn’t make you a hero. Having phenomenal powers or wealth doesn’t make you a hero, or your willingness to live (and die) by your own rigid moral code. What makes you a hero is doing right by others.
89. SWAMP THING: THE ANATOMY LESSON
First published: Swamp Thing #21 (DC, 1984)
Why read? “The mythology of the Swamp Thing was pretty basic in concept before Alan Moore took over. Moore took the drab origins of a scientist-turned-monster and rooted it in mythos, making the Swamp Thing the living embodiment of nature. This opened up narratives on socially conscious and mystical stories, aiding Swamp Thing’s wondrous transition from brute green monster to entity of enlightenment and understanding. The Anatomy Lesson marked the change of the book, when a performed autopsy finds that his sentient being is not comprised of human parts.”
Lesson for men: Don’t screw over your employees. Just trust me on this one.
90. THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: IN THE LAND OF THE SOVIETS
First published: in the weekly Belgian newspaper Le Petit Vingtième (10 January 1929 – 8 May 1930)
Why read? “Illustrated by Belgian artist Hergé, Tintin is a beautiful black and white comic exploring the adventures of the globetrotting young reporter on the run from Bolshevik agents who are preventing him from exposing the new Soviet regime. In the Land of the Soviets is a reflection on politics, specifically anti-communism, but coupled with Hergé’s smooth, clean drawing style it makes for a beautifully suspenseful book. It’s fascinating to see a book with so much childhood wonder and adventure be set against a politically charged backdrop of pre-World War II Europe.”
Lesson for men: Even the best reporters are prone to allowing their personal biases to colour their perceptions. Real men make the effort to get more than one perspective on current events.
91. BLACKEST NIGHT
First published: Blackest Night #1-8, plus many tie-ins (DC, 2010)
Why read? “Building its army from fallen soldiers, the Black Lantern Corps are the harbingers of death for the DC Universe. Epic in scope, the entire lantern corps led by Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps (formed of all colors of the rainbow) work together to defeat the Black Lanterns from fulfilling an ancient prophecy. The vibrant mix of lanterns make a gorgeous imprint on the pages that do not overpower the core narratives. It’s an explosive Green Lantern led crossover that still has fanboys buzzing.”
Lesson for men: Do not go gentle into that dark night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light…
92. STAR WARS
First published: Star Wars #1-107 (Marvel, 1977-86)
Why read? “Marvel’s Star Wars gave fans even more insight on their favorite intergalactic space opera. Adapting the events of the original trilogy, the Star Wars comics filled the in-between pockets separating the films following Luke, The Rebel Alliance as well as Vader and his dark forces. The series is filled with various intimate character moments (Chewie gets a lot of love) and provides an alternative perspective to some great moments from the films.”
Lesson for men: What, you watched a few movies and now you say you’re a Star Wars expert? That’s adorable. Real men crack open books.
93. X-MEN CHRIS CLAREMONT AND JIM LEE OMNIBUS
First published: Uncanny X-Men #244-280, X-Men (1991) #1-11, and a few other assorted issues (Marvel, 1989)
Why read? “X-Men has a pretty rich history, but one of the most memorable collections of X-Men stories came from the ‘90s, with all new costumes from the talented Jim Lee (like Storm’s all-white shoulder pad number) and exciting new stories from X-Men alum Chris Claremont. The bright costumes, the animated series and a plethora of X-men story arcs such as Age of Apocalypse, Operation Zero Tolerance and X-Cutioners Song were all incepted in this glorious era for the band of merry mutants.”
Lesson for men: The characters you love have gone through a lot of changes over the decades. Some of those changes you won’t like very much. Real men learn to count to ten.
94. BITCH PLANET: EXTRAORDINARY MACHINE
First published: Bitch Planet #1-5 (Image, 2014)
Why read? “Inspired by the exploitation of women and prison movies from the ’60s and ’70s, Bitch Planet is a dystopian comic where non-compliant women are sent to the titular prison for punishment. A satire of sci-fi and its various tropes, Bitch Planet has no qualms with blatantly discussing feminist views while retaining its sharp humor and even sharper plots. It’s Orange Is The New Black meets Mad Max: Fury Road; a delicious mix of digestible sci-fi for everyone.”
Lesson for men: Did you know you can do more with sci-fi than make movies about blasters and fancy light-swords? That sometimes sci-fi can be used to provide commentary about current social conditions in a fun, non-preachy way? Real men are down with that.
95. ANGELA: ASGARD’S ASSASSIN
First published: Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1-7 (Marvel, 2014)
Why read? “Angela’s not your average assassin. An angelic (literally, she’s an angel) being, Angela comes from the Spawn Universe. Now brought into the Marvel Universe, it is revealed to Angela that she is the half-sister of Thor and the daughter of the almighty Odin. Stopping at nothing to get answers, Angela embarks on a quest to find Odin. She’s an incredible character, with a sense of conviction unparalleled to those in her realm as well as other realms she’s visited like the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy. She’s definitely someone to keep your eye on.”
Lesson for men: Real men who have no opinion about something they’ve never seen or heard about are okay admitting that, and will reserve judgment until they’ve had a chance to check it out.
96. FUN HOME: A FAMILY TRAGICOMIC
First published: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic GN (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
Why read? “A dark, and somewhat grim family memoir, Fun Home sees both of the story’s protagonists (a father and daughter) on separate but distinct emotional journeys. Allison is attempting to get closer to her father, who is notably distant, and happens to be a closeted gay man and a full-time funeral director. Though Allison longs for a relationship with her father, the only way they seem to bond is through a code of books they love. Fun Home is an emotionally intricate book, but retains humor and good spirits. At its core, it’s a family dramedy, one that you’ll rarely find in literature yet alone comic book panels.”
Lesson for men: Forget being a real man — a real person, one who is true to him- or herself, understands the people in your lives aren’t just bit players in a play starring you. This goes double for your parents, who have incredible inner lives you can’t even imagine.
97. JUDGE DREDD: THE CURSED EARTH SAGA
First published: 2000 AD #61-85 (IPC, 1978)
Why read? “Judge Dredd is charged with transporting medical supplies across the Cursed Earth, a radioactive province outside of Mega City One. What starts off as a simple journey slowly descends into a fight of survival and rogue encounters with mutants. The heroics displayed in this book are impressive, even for Dredd, as he’s reduced to crawling through the Cursed Earth with no intent of giving up.”
Lesson for men: Listen to the man, he just told you what the lesson is. You don’t give up. Ever.
98. HELLBOY: WOLVES OF SAINT AUGUST
First published: Dark Horse Comics Presents #88-91 (Dark Horse, 1994)
Why read? “Wolves of Saint August follows a string of mysterious murders in the town of Griart. Thought to be wild animal attacks, its later revealed that the town is under attack from monarchs who transform into werewolves every seven years. The characters, albeit werewolf or monster, are still remarkably human. Typically, all monsters meet their demise in the Hellboy books, but here the werewolves are sympathetic and not to blame for their current circumstances. It’s a classic Hellboy story with a fun, but emotional twist.”
Lesson for men: Books, covers, judgment — you get the idea.
99. GRANT MORRISON’S 18 DAYS
First published: Grant Morrison’s 18 Days GN (Dynamite, 2010)
Why read? “From comic legend Grant Morrison, 18 Days is the story of three generations of god-like warriors and the final battle of their age. A re-imagining of the popular Indian myth, The Mahabharata, the story follows the fall of the gods and the ascent of mankind. Storyline aside, 18 Days is illustrated in pure gravitas and mysticism. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen, combining beautiful and modern pencils with illustrations of every intricate detail of gods and monsters”
Lesson for men: Nothing bad can happen when you open yourself up to new cultural experiences.
100.VIXEN: RETURN OF THE LION
First published: Vixen: Return of the Lion #1-5 (DC, 2008)
Why read? “Vixen is gifted with an amulet that allows her to channel the gifts of the animal kingdom by tapping into the morphogenetic field (similar to Animal Man). A fierce protector of her native land, Vixen goes back to investigate. It’s not too often you find women of color leading their own books, with the exception of Storm. Vixen proves that she’s capable of getting the job without the need of her Justice League colleagues.”
Lesson for men: Yes, you can go home again — but if you do, make sure it’s for the right reasons.
And for anyone who’s wondering, here’s how this Top 100 list works out. Make of it what you will:
1930s – 1
1940s – 0
1950s – 0
1960s – 0
1970s – 6
1980s – 17
1990s – 16
2000s – 30
2010s – 30
Marvel – 45
DC – 33
Image – 9
Other – 13