BURGEONING LADS OF SCIENCE

I'm Benito. I write comics; for example: Tales from the Bully Pulpit, The Tick New Series, Guarding the Globe, Hector Plasm, and EVEN MORE. I will talk about these AND MORE. FOR FREE, on your very own personal computing device.

flikmage asked: Hey, I made an account just to ask for this, so I hope you don't pass me over. Could you please do a Flash For The Uninitiated? He's a character I always end up loving whenever he's present in a story, but all I've really read is the New 52 Flash and as enjoyable as it is, I'm craving more.

Well, since you made an account just for this, what else can I do but oblige you (after making you wait weeks for it)?

The Flash, perhaps more than any other character in DC’s stable, represents the strength of the legacy hero: the passing of the mantle from mentor to protege, with each successive version having their own strengths and weaknesses. So here’s a look at the different versions of the Flash.

(Full disclosure: all the Amazon links here are actually Amazon Smile links. Amazon rejected my application for an Amazon Associates account a while back because they hate Tumblr, so if I can’t benefit monetarily from making these posts, at least a few cents can go to a non-profit of my choosing. In this case, it is a local (to me) not-for-profit volunteer community band/arts educators. It doesn’t cost you any more, and 0.5% of money spent via those links goes to help. You can choose not to use these links if that’s a thing you’d rather do, but there you go.)

GOLDEN AGE FLASH

The original Flash was a guy named Jay Garrick. He breathed in some hard water fumes and then ran around with a bucket on his head. He is pretty cool.

The bad news is, as far as I can tell, there is no in-print collection of Golden Age Flash strips. The good news is, since—as I said—the Flash is all about legacy, he tends to show up plenty later on.

SILVER AGE FLASH

The popularity of superhero comics fizzled somewhat following World War II, and the Golden Age of the comics was over by the early 50s. However, by the mid-50s, a couple of enterprising editors decided to revamp the superhero concept by adding in various sci-fi elements for the atomic age.

The book widely considered to have kicked off this new age—the Silver Age of Comics—was Showcase #4, the first appearance of the second Flash, Barry Allen.

The Flash stories of the 50s and 60s were primarily created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, and while the early stories from their run can often be highly formulaic—even in comparison to contemporary comics—they introduce many of the key elements of the Flash mythos: the Rogues, Gorilla Grodd, Iris West, Wally West aka Kid Flash, the stretchy detective Elongated Man, and so on.

Furthermore, it is within the pages of the Flash that DC introduces the concept of its multiverse; the idea of Earth-2 being a plane of existence where all the Golden Age heroes lived and fought begins with Barry meeting up with Jay thanks to some savvy vibrating.

Plus, you eventually get awesome shit like this:

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If the silly inventiveness of the Silver Age is not to your taste, well, that’s your own cross to bear, I guess, but if you want to see the real roots of the modern Flash, there are a couple of ways to get these stories:

The Flash Omnibus collects the earliest adventures of the Flash from Showcase into his own title. This volume collects SHOWCASE #4, 8, 13 and 14 and THE FLASH #105-132 (the series resumed the numbering of the original Golden Age series) in color, in a big, fat harcover. Now, even with Amazon’s pretty deece discount here, you may not want to drop sixty-plus bones on the Flash. In that case, you can get:

Showcase Presents: The Flash This series of volumes contains the same material as the omnibus, but in black and white, on lower quality paper, but for way less money. While the omnibus (so far) only collects the first 30ish issues of Barry Allen’s adventures, there are four Showcase volumes of Silver Age Flash available (not technically in print as far as I can tell, but they’re all still available for decent prices on Amazon), which will altogether get you about 80-90 issues. These books are, in my estimation, the best value. But! If you really want to see this stuff in color, but don’t want to buy the Omnibus…

The Flash Chronicles collects, once again, the same material, but in smaller chunks than the Showcases, but in color.

You have options, is what I’m saying.

BUT WAIT

ONE LAST HURRAH (for now) WITH BARRY ALLEN

Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash by Cary Bates and Carmine Infantino is the last (at the time) story of Barry Allen. While most Showcase volumes reprint Silver Age stories, this one collects a tale from the very end of the Bronze Age. This massive tale (unusually long, especially for the time) represents the final two years of the Flash before Crisis on Infinite Earths. This is the tale of Barry going on trial for the manslaughter of one of his greatest foes, the Reverse Flash. The story-telling will probably read as super old-fashioned to a modern reader, but if you’re interested in one of the major sagas in the life of the Flash, well, here you go.

OKAY SO WHAT HAPPENS NEXT IS

Barry dies in Crisis on Infinite Earths. You will notice I did not link to that book. Don’t worry about it. There is literally no reaction that a new reader would have to Crisis other than “What the fuck am I reading and why the fuck am I reading it.”

Here’s what you need to know: Barry dies saving literally everyone. He’s a big damn hero.

So that leads us to

MODERN FLASH

Taking up the mantle after Barry’s death is Wally West, the nephew of Barry’s girlfriend and later wife Iris West. Way back in the 50s stories, he miraculously got Flash powers in the exact same way as Barry, so Barry reluctantly makes him his sidekick, Kid Flash, who goes on to be a founding member of the Teen Titans.

The best writer of the Wally West Flash is Mark Waid, who wrote the book for a long time, with various artists, including Salvador Larocca and most notably Mike Wieringo. Unfortunately, his run has been only sparsely collected.

Let me be clear: if you buy only from one section of this list, make this that section. Waid’s Flash is the best Flash, period.

Here’s what’s available, roughly in order:

Born to Run by Waid, Greg Larocque, et al. Great intro to Wally and his history as Kid Flash.

The Return of Barry Allen by Waid, Larocque, et al. I believe this was just certified on War Rocket Ajax as the best Flash story ever, so there you go.

Impulse: Reckless Youth by Waid, Humberto Ramos, et al. Impulse is Bart Allen, grandson of Barry Allen from the distant future, come back to annoy Wally. This collection includes—I think—his introduction in the Flash, plus the first few issues of his solo series, which would include what Chris Sims has boldly claimed is the greatest single issue of all time. This is, as far as I know, the only available collection of the Impulse solo series.

Terminal Velocity by Waid, Wieringo, et al. This is the story that introduces the idea of the Speed Force, the source of the Flashes’ powers. It has one millions speedsters in it and is pretty awesome.

Dead Heat by Waid, Ramos, et al.

Race Against Time by Brian Augustyn, Waid, et al.

As far as I am aware, these are the only collections of Waid’s Flash run, and they’re all technically out of print, but Amazon has them all for decent prices if you don’t mind owning a used copy.

Here are some other cool Wally stories:

Emergency Stop by Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, and Paul Ryan. This is the first half of superstars Morrison and Millar’s work on the Flash. Plenty of cool stuff here.

The Human Race by Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, and Paul Ryan. This collection is pretty awesome. It features a story of the Flash racing Sonic the Hedgehog (basically) across the universe and then introduces the Black Flash aka the Grim Reaper for fast people.

The next major writer on the Flash is Geoff Johns. This run is notable for its work fleshing out the characters of the Rogues. His run, with art primarily by Scott Kolins, is collected in three omnibus volumes.

Volume one

Volume two

Volume three

You might also want to get Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge by Johns and Kollins. It is pretty good.

OKAY BUT THEN WHAT HAPPENED

Since you said that you’ve read the New 52 Flash, you might know that Wally isn’t the Flash anymore. Barry is.

WELL

Due to the events of Infinite Crisis (not linked for reasons), Wally and his family go to an alternate reality. Bart becomes the new Flash. Then Bart gets killed. These stories are terrible.

Barry returns in Final Crisis (which is not very Flash-centric, but is awesome and I’ve already put it on like three of these For the Uninitiated lists, so you should have it by now). Then even though there is still a perfectly good and way more interesting Flash still available in Wally (who has come back from that other dimension, obvs), someone decided that Barry should be the Flash again.

If you are the kind of person who likes their comics “important” rather than good, here are some books you can buy:

Flash: Rebirth by Johns and Ethan Van Sciver.

Dastardly Death of the Rogues by Johns and Francis Manapul.

The Road to Flashpoint by Johns and Manapul.

Flashpoint by Johns and Andy Kubert.

And this literally leads us to the New 52, which happened (in-canon) as a result of Flashpoint. The good news is, the New 52 Flash stories are actually pretty good, and the art is beautiful. Those stories are collected in these volumes:

Move Forward by Manapul and Brian Buccellato.

Rogues Revolution by Manapul and Buccellato.

Gorilla Warfare by Manapul and Buccellato.

Reverse by Manapul and Buccellato.

and I guess there’s a forthcoming volume 5.

My suggestion for after that?

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Stop.

Anonymous asked: Hi there! I've always been interested in x-men comics, but I really have no clue on where to start reading because there's just so much of them. I was wondering if you could recommend some arcs that would be a good starting point. Thank you :)

Okay

http://comicsalliance.com/x-men-comics-where-to-start/

onmarsonmarsonmars asked: I'm sure that you're getting spammed with For The Uninitiated requests at the moment, but that's just because they're so good. I'm just getting into Spider-Man, so I'd like to register a vote for one for him. Thanks!

I do have quite a few requests in my inbox at the moment, for a number of different characters, but that’s all right. I don’t mind doing them, because I just want to help people find comics they like, which can be really difficult if you’re just starting out. The downside is that they can take a really long time, so I can’t do them that often.

That said, let’s do Spider-Man. Sounds like a good basic one a lot of people might be wondering about.

If you want to read a bunch of Spider-Man comics, you have two options (though you can of course do both; no one is stopping you from reading more comics). Here’s the easy one:

  • Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Bagley, et al. Marvel books with the word “Ultimate” in their title are a separate continuity from the main Marvel Universe (but the same continuity as each other, if that makes sense), which were designed to be more accessible to new readers with more modern takes free of the burden of decades of history. The downside, of course, is that that line is fifteen years old now and has its own burdensome continuity. HOWEVER! My point is, it’s really easy to pick up Ultimate Spider-Man vol 1 and then just keep reading that. You don’t have to read anything else. There are literally 200 issues’ worth of stories. Now, they have their ups and downs, as any 200 anythings by the same person would, but it’s a straight line through, and averages out to pretty good (the art gets better after the first 100 or so issues). Some people would say what’s happening now is the best Spider-Man there is. But you should read the rest to get there.

That’s track one. Let’s say you want to read the “real,” mainline Spider-Man who DOES have fifty years of history. Cool. Here are some highlights (again, these are just to get you started. This list is by no means exhaustive. Sorry to anyone whose favorite I “forgot.”):

  • Amazing Spider-Man Omnibus by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. I’ve really been breaking my “rule” lately about not recommending books older than thirty years to new readers, but the fact is, Spider-Man is never better than when Steve Ditko is drawing him. Every issue by Lee and Ditko is contained in this volume (you might be able to find this material for cheaper if you can find used Essentials; shop around), which includes the Master Planner saga, currently holding the number one position for best story of all time on War Rocket Ajax’s Every Story Ever feature.
  • Untold Tales of Spider-Man Omnibus by Kurt Busiek, Pat Oliffe, et al. This book came out at a time when the main Spider-Man titles were just awful. Meanwhile, this one was fucking awesome. These stories are set around the time of the stories in that Lee/Ditko volume, but kind of filling in the gaps around them. These are great stories, beautifully told.
  • Spider-Man and the Human Torch by Dan Slott and Ty Templeton. This is a fantastic story outlining the history of one of the earliest friendships/rivalries in Marvel history. Each issue is set in a different era of Spidey history, from the 60s to the early 2000s, and gives you a feel of what Spider-Man comics were like in those times. Bonus: this book is fucking hilarious.
  • Spider-Man Blue by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. As long as we’re talking about books set in previous eras of Spider-Man history, here’s one that approaches a key element of Spidey’s past: how he fell in love with Gwen Stacy. This book is done more like a romance than an action adventure, but there are still plenty of villains. This book is worth getting for the art alone.
  • Spider-Man by Roger Stern Omnibus by Roger Stern et al. This is a big fat book, but it is worth it. For my money, once you get outside of Lee/Ditko, Roger Stern is the best writer Spider-Man has ever had. This book contains all the stories he did in the 80s, including the Hobgoblin saga, and my vote for best non-Lee/Ditko Spidey story, Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut.
  • Spider-Man: Kraven’s Last Hunt by JM DeMatteis and Mike Zeck. This story is considered by many to be the best Spider-Man story of all time. As I have mentioned, I don’t 100% agree, but it is a damn fine one. This story is quite a bit darker than the others on the list so far, focused on obsession and revenge, but beautifully told with great art.
  • Spider-Man: The Death of Jean DeWolff by Peter David, Rich Buckler, et al. This one is also a little darker, which the title kind of gives away. Spider-Man tries to help his friend, police captain Jean DeWolff, hunt down the serial killer known as the Sin Eater. It…doesn’t go well.
  • Spider-Man: The Birth of Venom by tons of people. The last couple of books feature Spider-Man in his black costume. Even if you don’t read comics, you probably know from cartoons and movies that this black costume leads to the creation of Venom, Spider-Man’s 90s-est foe. Well, this collection gives you the rundown on where that costume came from and how Spider-Man came to fight his underwear in a bell tower.
  • Spider-Man: Son of the Goblin by JM DeMatteis, Sal Buscema, et al. This collection isn’t perfect, and it’s maybe a little scattered, but it does contain an overview of how Peter Parker’s best friend became his greatest enemy. This book could probably benefit from containing a few more issues, but the ones in here by DeMatteis and Buscema are really, really something.
  • Spider-Man: Revenge of the Sinister Six by Erik Larsen. Okay, this is maybe a little bit of nostalgia talking, as this is one of the comics that made me crazy for Spider-Man when I was a kid, but I really do think this book has a lot going for it. It’s got some of Spidey’s toughest foes made even tougher when Doctor Octopus gets a hold of adamantium arms and then raids another dimension for powerful alien weapons, and then Spider-Man has to recruit all the friends he can—Hulk, the FF, Ghost Rider, and TONS more—to take them down. Great storytelling, funny quips, insane 90s moments, and Erik Larsen at the top of his art game. I love this shot.

Okay, that gets you some classic stuff. What if you want to get into current Spidey? No big deal.

  • Spider-Man: Brand New Day vol 1 by Dan Slott, Steve McNiven et al. A few years ago, Marvel did a soft reboot on Spider-Man continuity, starting with this volume. This is a good place to start with current Spidey stuff, with this caveat: for a while, the book had rotating creative teams, and so the quality could be up and down. If you decide to start with this volume and just plow ahead, you’ll probably find a story or two you don’t like. If you’re worried about that, here are some highlights.
  • New Ways to Die by Dan Slott and John Romita Jr.
  • Crime and Punisher by Zeb Wells, Paolo Rivera et al.
  • Death and Dating by Mark Waid, Marcos Martin et al.
  • The Gauntlet vol 5: The Lizard by Zeb Wells, Chris Bachalo et al. This is considered maybe the best Spidey story of the last decade or so.

As a rule of thumb, just look for ones written by Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente, Zeb Wells, Joe Kelly, or Mark Waid. You’ll be fine. Or just get them all, and be aware that they won’t all be winners.

Then eventually Slott takes over as the full time writer and you can go from there. It’s all at least pretty good.

Look, there’s a lot of stuff out there. Figure out which writers and artists you like and look for their names on the cover. Avoid anything that says “clone” or “J Michael Straczynski” on the cover.

Again, these are just starting points, focusing on what is currently available in print. Sorry if your favorite got left out.

saylr asked: Can you do Black Panther for the uninitiated?

Yeah, sure. I was thinking about doing another For the Uninitiated today after finishing the Doctor Doom one, but the other one in my inbox is pretty daunting, and this one just popped up and is much easier, so here we go.

Picking out the best Black Panther stories is easy; the hard part is that the very best Panther stuff is not in print OR available on Comixology. So. That’s difficult. That said, here—keeping in mind that, again, this is not meant to be exhaustive, so I’m sorry if your favorite thing got left off—are some rousing adventures of the king of Wakanda:

Essential Fantastic Four vol 3 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. As I said in the Doctor Doom post, a) these comics go farther back than I usually recommend and b) they contain a lot more than just the Black Panther, but these comics are so good, every superhero fan should own them. This volume contains Fantastic Four #52-53, the first appearance of the Black Panther.

Essential Black Panther by Don MacGregor, Rich Buckler, Jack Kirby et al. The good news: this volume contains Jungle Action #6-22, the stories that did the most to expand Black Panther’s supporting cast of friends and foes, and Black Panther #1-10, the first half of the fucking awesome Jack Kirby solo run on the series, which features T’Challa hopping all over the globe having solid-ass adventures. The bad news: this volume is out of print and costs a million dollars and none of these issues are on Comixology. So either a) try to find it for cheap on eBay or b) see if these issues are on Marvel Unlimited. The rest of the Kirby stuff, featuring T’Challa’s cousins protecting Wakanda as the Black Musketeers as T’Challa tries to get back home, is sadly also out of print.

Black Panther vol 1: The Client by Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira. Okay, so: the very best the Black Panther has ever been is in Christopher Priest’s run that starts with this book. He wrote the book for 62 issues and then followed it with a short-lived spin-off called The Crew. These books are all great. Funny, tightly plotted, full of characterization and action. BUT. They are not in print or available on Comixology. Most of the run has never been collected in paperback at all. It’s possible these issues are on Marvel Unlimited, but I’m afraid I don’t know. If you can find these issues in back issue bins at a comic shop or con or on eBay, grab them up.

Black Panther: Who Is the Black Panther? by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr. I recommend this one with something of a caveat, namely that it plays really loose with usual Marvel characterization and continuity, something that turned off a lot of readers when this series debuted. On the other hand, this story is a real back-to-basics-here’s-what’s-up kind of story for T’Challa and Wakanda, and the art by John Romita Jr is really nice to look at. Additionally, Hudlin’s run on Black Panther was pretty substantial, even leading to an eventual relaunch with a new number one. I can’t 100% recommend all of these stories as being good, but the events of this series do have an effect on Black Panther’s current status quo, and the Hudlin material is really the only BP series available on Comixology: here and here.

Secret Invasion: Black Panther by Jason Aaron and Jefte Palo. Shape-changing aliens the Skrulls are invading the earth, but apparently did not get the memo that no one invades Wakanda. T’Challa—who was at this time married to X-Man Storm—does what he does best, and it is awesome as hell. This book is awesome as hell.

The New Fantastic Four by Dwayne McDuffie and Paul Pelletier. Following the events of Marvel’s Civil War, Mr Fantastic and the Invisible Woman take some time off from the team to work on their marriage or whatever. During this time, T’Challa and Storm took their place on the team and then they had a bunch of badass adventures using elements from Kirby’s BP run and featuring the Silver Surfer. This is a super under-rated run worth your time and attention.

Black Panther: The Man Without Fear vol 1 by David Liss and Francesco Francavilla. The Black Panther’s most recent monthly series was this one, where he took over for Daredevil after the events of Shadowland (don’t look into this). This is a stripped down Panther, with no high tech weapons, no vibranium, just pulpy adventure in Hell’s Kitchen.

New Avengers vol 1: Everything Dies by Jonathan Hickman and Steve Epting. The place to currently see the Black Panther is as a member of Marvel’s Illuminati in this series, where T’Challa, together with a bunch of rich white men like Tony Stark and Reed Richards, secretly decide the fate of the world. While the focus is divided among the different members of the Illuminati, much attention is paid to T’Challa’s increasingly violent rivalry with/enmity toward Namor, prince of Atlantis.

And there you have it. These won’t be the easiest to find, but if you can find them, they’re worth it. Happy hunting!

poli-spy asked: Benito, I LOVE victor von doom. i have ever since i had his action figure when I was like 4. and yet....i've never read a doom story. Can you maybe do one of your world famous run downs on the most awesome and important runs in latverian history?

Well, Dr Doom, despite being possibly Marvel’s best antagonist is still just that: an antagonist. As a result, there are not a lot of Doom-starring vehicles, but he is featured as a villain in a lot of great stories, especially stories of the Fantastic Four, whom he hates more than anyone. Typically if you find a great Fantastic Four run, you’re going to find a good Doom story.

But to help you out, here are some starters. (Keep in mind, this is not intended to be exhaustive, but just a good starting place, focusing primarily on stuff that’s in print or inexpensive to obtain.)

Essential Fantastic Four vol 2 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. While I don’t usually recommend comics older than the mid-1980s to new comics readers, the fact is, Lee/Kirby FF is the best (with caveats) and most influential superhero comics run of all time. This volume contains two essential Doom stories: Doom’s origin in FF Annual #2, and FF 39-40, the Battle of the Baxter Building. Note that this collection of reprints is in black and white.

Essential Fantastic Four vol 3 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The cool thing about this book is, not only do you get the amazing tale of FF #57-60, “The Power and the Peril!” in which Doctor Doom steals Silver Surfer’s power cosmic, you also get Lee and Kirby at the height of their collaborative powers, with stories featuring the Inhumans, the coming of Galactus, the Silver Surfer, the Black Panther, and the first appearance of Adam Warlock. So, again, while these comics might read as a little dated to the modern eye, this specific volume collects the most fundamentally important run of Marvel comics ever. Again, this book is reprinted in black and white.

Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne vol 1 by John Byrne. John Byrne was one of the most prolific and influential creators of the 1980s. He worked on basically every book ever made during that decade, but the Fantastic Four is probably his most prominent contribution to Marvel (he was instrumental at revamping Superman for the 80s over at DC, but Doctor Doom doesn’t show up in those). While these stories are probably also going to feel a little dated, with captions packed with overwrought purple prose (and basically all of Byrne’s work is problematic in terms of gender politics, so be warned there), they are still beautifully drawn, exciting yarns. This volume collects the Doom tale “Terror in a Tiny Town.”

Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne vol 2 by John Byrne. Same caveats as the last volume, but the prose gets a little brisker as the series goes on. This volume collects FF #246-247, “This Land Is Mine!” in which Doom takes control back over Latveria after the events of the last volume. (This collection also has a really cool Galactus story, fwiw.)

Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne vol 4 by John Byrne. If you get only one of these John Byrne volumes, make it this one, as it contains FF #258, possibly the best look at Doom’s psyche ever. That whole issue focuses on him and his kingdom. But this volume also has some other cool Doom moments as well, such as him fighting Terrax, the herald of Galactus.

Fantastic Four Visionaries: Walter Simonson vol 3 by Walter Simonson et al. If I’m being fair, you should get all of the FF Visionaries volumes by Walter Simonson, because they are amazing, and probably the most underrated run on FF ever. But you’re looking for Doom stories, so you want volume 3, which features FF #350 and 352, the amazing battle through time between Doom and Reed Richards. Just awesome storytelling that could literally only be done in comics. Good news! This volume also includes the hilarious New Fantastic Four story in which the team is briefly replaced by Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk, and Ghost Rider, with awesome art by Art Adams.

Fantastic Four by Waid and Wieringo Ultimate Collection Book 2 by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo. Hey, uh, let’s all just agree to skip the rest of the 90s, okay? Cool. Anyway, Waid and Wieringo were responsible for reviving interest in Marvel’s First Family with their run. Feel free to pick up the rest, as it’s all pretty good, but this volume features the story Unthinkable, in which Doom does, well, the unthinkable.

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Omnibus vol 1 by Jonathan Hickman, Dale Eaglesham, et al. Hickman’s run on Fantastic Four is basically a towering achievement in long-form storytelling. He sets up stuff in his earliest issues that doesn’t pay off for years. As such, it would be irresponsible for me to recommend only one part of it. So even though Doom doesn’t play a HUGE role in this volume (though there is a solo Doom story collected here), he does come to play a big role later in things that are all set up in this volume. Second volume isn’t out yet, afaik.

Okay, now here’s some non-FF Doom stories:

Books of Doom by Ed Brubaker and Pablo Raimondi. I’m linking to this on Comixology because the book is out of print and selling for hell of dollars on Amazon. (I should point out that basically all of these issues should also be available on Comixology if you prefer digital to print.) Anyway, this mini-series is a modern retelling of Doom’s origin. Recommended.

Iron Man vs Doctor Doom: Doomquest by David Michelinie, Bob Layton, and John Romita Jr. This book collects two different clashes between Iron Man (good guy in armor) and Doctor Doom (bad guy in armor). Also they go back in time to King Arthur days. Doom teams up with Morgan Le Fay. These are pretty good, if fairly 80s.

Secret Wars by Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck. So here’s the thing: Secret Wars was a bullshit crossover designed to sell toys, no matter how fondly some grumpy old dudes might remember it through a veil of nostalgia. That said, the few issues of this 12-issue tale contain some of the coolest Doom moments ever, so if you’re looking for Doom, it’s worth it for that alone. (The story of Secret Wars isn’t BAD, per se. It’s just a bullshit crossover designed to sell toys.)

Dr Strange and Dr Doom: Triumph and Torment by Roger Stern and Mike Mignola. Doctor Doom and the Sorcerer Supreme team up to rescue Doom’s mother from Hell. I might not need to say more, but I will add that this is a story by one of the best superhero writers of the 1980s and the best comics artist currently alive, so my point is this one is worth getting.

Bonus:

Essential Luke Cage, Hero for Hire vol 1 by Roy Thomas, John Romita, et al. Has this panel:

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jzaag asked: Hi, I've been reading through Kirby's Fourth World omnibuses and I was wondering what other New God's related series you'd recommend? I'm definitely interested in Simonson's Orion series though, I just have to get my hands on some copies.

There have been a number of attempts to use the New Gods in a post-Kirby environment, and they haven’t all been successful. The better uses of them tend to be using the Fourth World stuff as a backdrop or supporting element rather than the main focus. Here are a few things I can recommend:

Cosmic Odyssey by Jim Starlin and Mike Mignola. This story features lots of Kirby bits, plus art by a young Mike Mignola, years before Hellboy.

The Legion of Super-Heroes: The Great Darkness Saga by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen. One of the best all-time Darkseid stories, and probably the most famous Legion story.

Seven Soldiers by Grant Morrison et al. There’s not a TON of New Gods content in this, but it plays an important role and Shilo Norman is one of the titular seven, plus, this story (which, incidentally, is one of the best superhero joints EVER in my opinion) leads into…

Final Crisis by Grant Morrison, JG Jones, Doug Mahnke et al. This story picks up some threads and has a considerably higher amount of New Gods-related content. The battle between Darkseid and Orion is over. Darkseid won. What’s next?

[sidenote: I really try not to go neg in these recommendations posts, but you might see the books Countdown and Death of the New Gods touting themselves as tie-ins to Final Crisis and relevant New Gods material. Don’t be fooled. Do not buy these books, no matter how much Orion or Forager is on the cover.]

JLA by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter. As long as I’m linking Grant Morrison jams, his seminal run on JLA featured Orion and Big Barda as members, as well as one of the all-time great Darkseid stories.

Justice League International by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, and Kevin Maguire. And as long as I’m talking Justice League, I should mention Mister Miracle and Oberon are used to good effect in this more comedic take on the Justice League that dominated the 80s and early 90s.

That’s about all the really good stuff I can think of that’s in print as collections, but there’s stuff you may want to look for if you’re already hunting down the (awesome) Simonson Orion series. Generally speaking, if you see Simonson’s name on it, it will at least be worth a flip through. Same with JM DeMatteis, who did a Mister Miracle series at one point that I admittedly have not read, but which I can imagine has at least a few bright points in it. If you see Steve Rude’s name, you are at least guaranteed some great Kirby-inspired art.

The one underrated book from the back issue bins that I can recommend that has a surprisingly high amount of Fourth World (especially Jimmy Olsen stuff) and other Kirby content is the 1999s Superboy series by Karl Kesel and Tom Grummet. The Guardian, the Newsboy Legion, Project Cadmus, Kamandi riffs, OMAC homages, and even Count Dragorin make their way into this series eventually. Underrated, worth checking out, especially out of a quarter bin.

If we’re lucky, someone like bigredrobot or calamityjon will add some additional recommendations in the notes, so keep an eye out just in case.

goblin-crusher asked: Would you happen to know a good origin story for Doctor Strange, maybe along the lines DCs Year One stuff (Like Green Arrow: Year One)? In fact, any good recommendations for origin retellings of kind-of non-mainstream superheroes would be swell :D

For Doctor Strange, for sure your best bet is Doctor Strange Season One by Greg Pak and Emma Rios. That is a solid-ass team.

In fact, most of the Marvel Season One books have at least one really solid creator to recommend them. Notably, X-Men has art by Jamie McKelvie, Tumblr-famous for Young Avengers.

But the one I would recommend most strongly is Hulk Season One, written by the note-perfect team of Fred Van Lente and tomfowlerstuff.

Pretty much all the major Marvel heroes get one: Spidey, the FF, Daredevil, Thor, and so on. From this line of books, the only one you might call kind-of non-mainstream is Ant-Man. Still, I’d say check those out and see if you find one that interests you.

As far as DC characters go, again it’s going to tend to be the big heroes who get origin retellings (Superman has enough to go around for everyone), but there are a few worth checking out.

You mentioned Green Arrow: Year One, which is awesome.

There is a Huntress: Year One, but I know completely zero percent about either the story or the creative team, so caveat lector. Plus, this is 100% no longer canon. Huntress got a pretty major overhaul origin-wise in the New 52.

There’s also JLA: Year One, which is actually like three universe reboots behind, but is still a solid early Justice League story that features some non-Trinity Justice League characters.

Batgirl: Year One and Robin: Year One are both super worth getting, and good news! They are both collected in one volume together!

Metamorpho: Year One features my number one favorite chemical freak! Plus it has art by professional cool guy Mike Norton.

And then there’s Green Lantern: Secret Origin which I am assuming is an origin based on the name.

I hope that at least gives you a good starting point!

franzferdinand2 asked: I've never read Excalibur, but I know both you and Rachel Edidin are fans. What makes it good, and what's a good place to start with it?

Excalibur, at its best, is exactly what I want out of a superhero comic: it’s weird, it’s funny, it’s touching, it’s exciting, it’s suspenseful, it’s beautiful to look at, it makes the world seem like it might just be cooler than it seems. It’s not just a British X-Men; it’s really its own thing altogether, but, again, at its best, it has a very British tenor to it. I mean, I’m not British so maybe someone will correct me, but the really good stuff feels like classic Doctor Who or Hitchhiker’s Guide, but with Nightcrawler in it. Big ideas, big laughs, big action, and interesting, well-defined characters. Plus, when Alan Davis is drawing it, there’s no beating it for beauty.

(Sidenote: here’s something I don’t think Alan Davis gets enough credit for. Look at this cover:

image

Look at Kitty, Rachel and Meggan on this cover. Yes, all three are drawn as beautiful, superheroic women, but they have three very distinct body types. It’s maybe not as evident from just this cover, but if you read the book, you’ll see, you could identify the three female leads of this book from silhouette alone. Hell, this is true of the men, too.)

Here’s what I would recommend to get the most out of it:

Pre-Excalbur:

Captain Britain by Alan Moore and Alan Davis: This is actually out of print, but Amazon has new and used copies for reasonable prices. This is very early Alan Moore, busting out big ideas early, with a few concepts that foreshadow some of his later work. There is some Cap stuff before this, but it’s a little harder to get (I don’t have it sadly), and I’m not 100% sure on how worth the effort or expense it would be. But this collection introduces ideas that will be paying off throughout many storylines later, such as the Captain Britain Corps, Saturnyne, the Technet, Mad Jim Jaspers, and the Fury, among others.

Captain Britain by Jamie Delano and Alan Davis:This is WAY out of print, but Amazon’s got some cheap copies in new condition, so I say snap it up. The stories aren’t quite as mind-twisting as in the previous volume, but this picks up where it left off and introduces some important ideas, such as Captain Britain’s brother, Jamie Braddock, and his sister, whom you might have heard of (she is on the X-Men [her name is Psylocke]).

Claremont/Davis Excalbur:

Ugh, it looks like these are basically all out of print, but available for affordable prices, so, uh, still get them.

Excalbur Classic vol 1: This run of trades collects the original Excalbur series by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis. It picks up a lot of elements from the Captain Britain series, but also introduces some X-Men elements, like a hilarious Juggernaut encounter and some weird Inferno shit. This is good Claremont.

Excalbur Classic vol 2: Yep, get this one too.

Excalbur Classic vol 3: This is the first part of the Cross-Time Caper, which is a story about Excalbur traveling through different dimensions on a train. It kind of goes off the rails (no pun), but kind of in a good way almost?

Excalbur Classic vol 4: This wraps up the Cross-Time Caper. There is another volume of Excalbur Classic after this. Do not get it. Instead, skip to…

~~~ALAN DAVIS EXCALIBUR~~~

Excalibur Visionaries Alan Davis vol 1: This, to me, is Excalbur at its Excaliburiest best. Alan Davis returns to the book on art AND takes over the writing. The book just boils over with charm and wit and swashbucklery in this era. Just so dear to my heart.

Excalibur Visionaries Alan Davis vol 2: Obviously you have to get this one too.

Excalibur Visionaries Alan Davis vol 3: And this wraps up Davis’s run. Unfortunately, this trade is also padded out with some non-Davis content. Boo.

Warren Ellis era:

Excalibur Visionaries Warren Ellis vol 1: So there was a period of a couple of years where Excalibur got SUPER 90s X-Men-y, unfortunately. So we will skip those years to the point where a young(er) Warren Ellis took over the book. The feel is completely different from Davis’s stuff, but it is still cool and interesting. He introduces Pete Wisdom, who is Ellis’s typical chain-smoking self-insert, but he uses him to tell some pretty exciting sci-fi-tinged stories. This run came out when X-Files was hot, and it shows.

Excalbur Visionaries Warren Ellis vol 2: The art in Ellis’s run can be hit or miss (though there is cool Sienkiewicz stuff here and there throughout), but I think this is the point when Carlos Pacheco takes over as regular artist, and his stuff looks great.

Excalibur Visionaries Warren Ellis vol 3: This wraps up the run and also includes the Pryde and Wisdom mini-series, which is like peak X-Files-Calibur.

Post-Excalibur:

Wisdom MAX mini-series by Paul Cornell and Trevor HairsineThis fun little series is not Excalibur per se, but it stars Pete Wisdom and does some work to expand the universe of Marvel’s Britain. At times it reads like the first comics work of a person coming from other media (which it is), but the highs outweigh the lows, in my opinion. Also, this series leads in a roundabout way to…

Captain Britain and MI:13 vol 1 by Cornell and Leonard Kirk: This is the spiritual successor to Excalibur, though many of the characters and elements that made that series great are replaced with characters and elements that are cool in different ways. This is probably one of the three or four best stories to come out of Secret Invasion, for what that’s worth.

Captain Britain and MI: 13 vol 2: Yep, get this one too.

Captain Britain and MI:13 vol 3: And this one wraps up the series, taken from us too soon. Yes, this is the famous “Dracula on the moon” story. Even though Dr McNinja wore it better, this is still a creative team going, “Fuck you, this is comics, we’re going to have some goddamn fun.”

Anyway, check those out and I guarantee you will have a cool fun time, pip pip cheerio.

jackshoegazer asked: I just read your Batman for the Uninitiated and thought it was fantastic. I was wondering if you've ever done something similar, or know someone who has, regarding Deadpool? Thanks!

Deadpool is an interesting case, because he’s only been around as a character for about twenty years, but has experienced a real surge in popularity in the last five years or so that peaked when he had like three or more different titles going on at once.

I have not read all the Deadpool material that exists, not by a long shot, but this should at least be enough to get you started:

Deadpool by Joe Kelly Omnibus by Joe Kelly, Ed McGuinness et al. True story: the only reason anyone gives a shit about Deadpool today is because of this series that launched in 1997. The stories are a great mix of pathos and humor, and the early issues feature great art by a young Ed McGuinness. Literally every Deadpool series since has been chasing this feeling.

HOWEVER

It looks like maybe this hardcover is already out of print? Or maybe you don’t want to drop $75 on a twenty pound book you’re not sure you’d like? Okay.

Deadpool Classic vol 1 by Fabian Nicieza, Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Joe Madureira, Ian Churchill, Ed McGuinness et al. Here’s the thing about this volume: it contains the first two Deadpool mini-series from the 90s that came before the ongoing Joe Kelly series in 97. They are perfectly serviceable little stories by good writers, and one gives you a peek at the art of Joe Madureira before he completely changed mainstream comics art in the mid-90s, but they’re not really the Deadpool you’re looking for. So, I would say skip this one, BUT—tricky devils—this volume includes the first—and only the first—issue of the Joe Kelly run. SO.

If you want to pick up the Kelly run in paperback rather than that big fat hardcover, his run continues through volume 5 of the Deadpool Classic series.

PROTIP: Don’t buy volumes 5, 6, 7, or 8 of Deadpool Classic unless you are a mega-completist. Despite their best efforts, the next few writing teams—including the amazing Christopher Priest—couldn’t quite make the book click. So then move on to:

Deadpool Classic vol 9 by Gail Simone and Udon Studios. This is the next classic Deadpool run, featuring classic moments and cool supporting characters like Taskmaster. After a few issues of this run, Deadpool (the series) became a book called Agent X, which continued the story of Deadpool, but with added mysteries. The first six issues of this series are included in this volume. Presumably volume 10 of Deadpool Classic will collect the rest, but I do not think it exists yet.

The next series you want to look out for is Cable/Deadpool by writer Fabian Nicieza and various artists including Patrick Zircher and Reilly Brown.

Here’s the thing though: you can pick up the beginning of this series in regular paperback (which contains the first six issues of this series) or in the fatter Ultimate Collection (which contains the first eighteen issues), but the availability of these collections becomes really spotty after the first volume. (Although you could probably score them on eBay or in the Marvel Comics Unlimited digital service.)

The big thing after that was Daniel Way’s series, which lasted for a long time and led to spin-offs like Deadpool Team-Up, Deadpool: Merc With a Mouth, Deadpool Corps, and I don’t even know what else.

True story: I have barely read any of that stuff. Basically none. I cannot in good conscience recommend it. Decide how desperate you are for Deadpool before wading into these waters.

But definitely DO get the Marvel Now Deadpool vol 1 by Brian Posehn, Gerry Duggan and Tony Moore. This is the current series and is mega-good. Volume one is fun, but it kind of gets better from there. There are three volumes available in paperback right now, so it’s pretty easy to get caught up on what’s happening now.

ALSO MAYBE GET THESE

Fear Itself: Deadpool by Christopher Hastings and Bong Dazo. So this is a tie-in to the big Fear Itself crossover event from a few years ago, but basically here is what you need to know: magic hammers are falling from the sky and giving people super-powers. The story, by Dr McNinja creator Chris Hastings, is hilarious, but there are a couple of downsides: 1) it seems to only be available in print as a hardcover and 2) since it was only three issues, it comes packaged with some other short mini-series about which I know nothing. Maybe pick up this hidden gem digitally?

Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe by Cullen Bunn and Dalabor Talijic. If I’m completely honest, I haven’t read this series of mini-series, either, but they seem to be really popular and Cullen Bunn’s series The Sixth Gun is really awesome, so…? As far as I know, this is an alternate universe story in which Deadpool, well, does what it says in the title. It’s followed by Deadpool Killustrated, in which he kills Moby Dick et al, then Deadpool Kills Deadpool, in which he kills other Deadpools. I think the series that follows, which is currently running, is Night of the Living Deadpool, so who the fuck knows.

Deadpool: The Gauntlet by Gerry Duggan and Reilly Brown. This series, which is still currently running, is digital-native, i.e., it was designed to be read on a digital platform like Comixology. It uses cool effects like wipes and other transitions to enhance the story-telling. It’s about Deadpool fighting vampires! Also, the events of this series are going to have a big impact on the main series in the month to come.

Okay, that’s all

mattkeyz asked: though I love Morrison's Doom Patrol run, (And you've done this with other characters and such.) could you make your retrospective reading list for Doom Patrol?

The good news is, there’s much less Doom Patrol than there is, say, Batman, so it’s easier to make a comprehensive list.

The bad news is, very, very little Doom Patrol stuff is in print.

Here’s what you should get:

  • Showcase Presents Doom Patrol volume 1 and volume 2The entire original Drake/Premiani run is collected in these two volumes. These are essential. Unfortunately, they’re out of print, but looks like you can get new copies on the cheap from Amazon marketplace. 1000% get these.
  • Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison and Richard Case et al volume 1, volume 2, volume 3, volume 4, volume 5, volume 6Obviously you mention having already read this, but here are the links for those who haven’t. Fantastic comics as I have mentioned before, and a great primer for the weirder side of Morrison comics for those who want to venture beyond his Superman and Batman. If you don’t want the six volumes, it looks like an omnibus edition is coming out next year, if you like your mindblowing books fat as hell.
  • Flex Mentallo by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. This is a Doom Patrol spin-off more than a proper Doom Patrol story, but you should definitely get this.
  • Doom Patrol by Keith Giffen and Matthew Clark et al volume 1, volume 2This post-Infinite Crisis, pre-New 52 series combines elements of the original series with bits from the Morrison run (but toned down) and is supposed to be pretty good (I’m inclined to believe that it is good; it’s unintentional that I haven’t read it yet). It also adds Mal Duncan to the team, which I consider a plus. Unfortunately, the whole run is not collected, and these two volumes are all that exist. This is not likely to change any time soon.

And that’s all there is, trade paperback-wise, as far as I’m aware. If someone wants to school me and let me know that there are, in fact, in-print collections of the Kupperberg, Pollack, Arcudi, or Byrne runs, please go ahead.

But, like sex or pizza, even bad Doom Patrol is still pretty good. I haven’t really read the stuff that comes between Drake and Morrison, but Phil Hester tells me it’s good, and I always trust Uncle Comics. My point is: if you see a Doom Patrol back issue, pick it up. It’s probably at least decent.