Essential Graphic Novels

WatchmenDC Comics has posted a list of 30 Essential Graphic Novels (that are published by DC or one of their imprints).

I’ve read:

  • Watchmen
  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol. 1 & 2
  • V for Vendetta
  • Sandman vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes
  • Sandman: Endless Nights
  • Fables vol.1: Legends in Exile
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum
  • Batman: The Long Halloween
  • Batman: Dark Victory
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again
  • Kingdom Come
  • Identity Crisis
  • JLA vol.1: New World Order
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • Transmetropolitan vol.1: Back on the Street

I haven’t read:

  • Superman for All Seasons
  • Superman: Birthright (but it’s on my to-read list)
  • Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
  • Batman: Year One
  • Batman: Hush vol.1 & vol.2
  • Green Lantern: Rebirth
  • The Quitter
  • Hellblazer: Original Sins
  • Y: The Last Man vol.1: Unmanned
  • Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne
  • Sword of the Dark Ones
  • Ex Machina vol.1: The First Hundred Days

The list is a bit heavy on Batman at a full 25% of the titles. And since it’s roughly 50/50 super-hero stuff and, well, other stuff, that means half their “essential” super-hero books are Batman. Come on, DC, show people a few more facets of your line!

On the plus side, they’ve chosen just one volume each for series like Transmetropolitan, Fables, etc.—so they can recommend as many different series as possible—and it’s the first volume. Unlike the well-known super-hero books, where the average potential reader probably knows enough to hit the ground running, it helps to start at the beginning, with a book that’s specifically designed to introduce each concept. And many of them are big, long stories. You wouldn’t recommend starting Lord of the Rings with The Two Towers, you’d tell someone to start with Fellowship of the Ring or get a combined edition.

Personally, I’d drop The Dark Knight Strikes Again (does anyone really consider it a “must read?”) and possibly the second volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Maybe even Endless Nights, though I suppose it represents the overall tone of Sandman better than the first book does. Maybe Dark Victory, since it’s essentially a continuation of The Long Halloween. With the Justice League, I might replace New World Order with Rock of Ages.

I’d add the first Astro City book, no questions asked. For the other space(s), I’d plug in something less well-known, but highly regarded. Maybe some more WildStorm, like Planetary
or The Authority Or how about a another DC hero, like Wonder Woman, Starman, or the Flash?

3 thoughts on “Essential Graphic Novels

  1. Loki

    I find the absence of Starman puzzling, especially with DC about to give it the absolute treatment – and they are drastically over-estimating the importance of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.

    It seems odd to me that there’s no Garth Ennis titles anywhere on this list – I wasn’t expecting Hitman, but his Hellblazer collections drastically outsold Original Sins. And the complete absence of Preacher is even more peculiar.

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  2. Kelson Post author

    I don’t know enough about Superman/Batman to have any clue how “important” the book is, though it could simply be a matter of pushing their big team-up book. It looks like “Public Enemies” is the first arc, so they’re probably following the same pattern of picking a series and pushing book 1 (rather than picking a book and pushing it individually), but seriously: does anyone need an introduction to a book whose primary concept is “Superman and Batman team up?”

    I was going to suggest Preacher as well, but my I-can’t-believe-it’s-one-in-the-morning brain didn’t quite get to the point of typing it. Though given the subject matter, I can imagine some busybody deciding it’s the last straw, they could deal with Hellblazer, but how dare DC include this!

    It occurs to me that I have no idea when they actually made this list. I spotted it on the home page, and hadn’t noticed it before, but the newest book on there is The Quitter, which came out in late 2006. For all I know they could have put it together a year ago.

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