Ten Postmodern Comics about Superheroes

15 mayo
Gleb Vorontsov, Senior Webmaster
Ten Postmodern Comics about Superheroes
The weekly Friday10 column from our internal Gazeta presents a list of 10 things that DataArt colleagues feel they can call themselves experts in. Comic books are one of the great passions of front-end developer Gleb Vorontsov, from our St. Petersburg office. He takes his hobby so seriously that’s it’s practically a science for him.

1 — Watchmen

DC Comics 1986–1987

Story: Alan Moore
Artist: Dave Gibbons

Watchmen is an earth-shaking comic book series by Alan Moore. It’s Moore’s most important work, in my opinion. This series has influenced not only the entire comics industry, but also all pop culture in general. Watchmen is placed at the top of many ratings of the best-ever comic books, and I decided to take this fact seriously. Whenever we speak about Watchmen, people love to mention that this is the only graphic novel included in Time’s “List of the 100 Best Novels” of the 20th century. So, if you consider yourself to be a person who loves to read, but you haven’t given comic books their due, you should be ashamed.

Following the obvious – at first glance – story about the murder of a superhero, the author gives a much more multi-layered plot. It has to be said that there’s no other way with Moore. Watchmen is full of metaphors, allegories, symbols, and references to real events and personalities. The more familiar you are with the world of comics, the more layers and references you notice. Watchmen is a deconstruction of the archetype of a superhero in a skin-tight costume. It’s an innovative adaptation of cinematic technique to the comic strip form, and it makes powerful use of symbolism.

As a bonus, take a look at long-read about the life and work of Alan Moore (in Russian): http://comicstrade.ru/2016/06/alan-moore-part01/.

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2 — New X-Men

Marvel 2001–2004

Story: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely, Ethan Van Sciver, Igor Kordej, John Paul Leon, Phil Jemenez, March Silvestri, Keron Grant

This run is the result of one of my favorite creative unions with yet more participant of the “British Invasion” Grant Morrison and the artist Frank quietly (who illustrated the majority of the comics in the run). Besides the New X-Men, Morrison and Quitely also collaborated together to make whole series of other comics, including We3, All-Star Superman, and Batman and Robin. We’ll tell more about these comics in upcoming Friday10 columns.

This X-Men series largely rethought the X-Men’s obsolete images for the 21st century and laid the foundation for those X-Men that we know from their current ongoings. This series not only collects and remakes the characters belonging to these heroes, but rather elevates them to the absolute, and executes them in a flawless way. The innovative dynamics in the relationships between characters, which are the first of their kind in comics, occupy no less place than the classic action scenes, and are perfectly complemented by innovative solutions in Frank’s drawings.

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3 — All Star Superman

DC Comics 2006–2008

Story: Grant Morrison
Рисунок: Frank Quitely

Frank and Grant are at it again! What can I do, I adore them both just as much as Russia’s state communications regulator Roskomnadzor likes to ban IP-addresses and subnetworks. Generally, all comics about the Man of Steel are incredibly boring, predictable, and pathetic, but what can the author do? Such is our impeccable hero, and there isn’t much room for drama. That said, Grant Morrison has managed to make a brilliant comic book which, in the opinion of Western critics, is “the only comics about Superman that you simply have to read.” The limited series consists of only 12 issues, but at the same time it contains the character’s whole essence, and gives readers a feeling of unexpected sympathy and anxiety for the hero.

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4 — The Umbrella Academy Vol. 1 & Vol. 2

Dark Horse 2007-2009

Story: Gerard Way
Artist: Gabriel Ba

The creator of the scenario is more known to the world as the front-man of the famous rock group My Chemical Romance.

Well, I like Gerard Way’s music, but I respect him more for his comic book work. Now Gerard is in charge of the Young Animal imprint of DC Comics, and is re-making the legacy of the book by Grant Morrison: do you find an homage to All Star Superman?

Forty-three women in different parts of the world simultaneously give birth to children with superpowers. A millionaire inventor becomes a foster father to seven of them, and trains them for battle with an unknown enemy. After his death, the grown-up heroes, despite all the internal conflicts between them, reunite and continue the uneasy work of saving the world.

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5 — Hawkeye

Marvel 2012–2015

Story: Matt Fraction
Artist: David Aja, Javier Pulido, Steve Lieber, Jesse Hamm, Francesco Francavilla, Annie Wu, Chris Eliopoulos

Probably the best comic book, in my opinion, of the 2010s. Hawkeye became incredibly popular in the comic community immediately after its release. Hawkeye gives a fresh look at a secondary character without superpowers, and with only one skill – accurate marksmanship. It also features unexpected ideas from the artist, catchy covers, and a magnificent release from the character of a dog, without a single phrase.

This is a lively comic book about the life of one of the Avengers, without excessive gloom and drama. It’s down-to-earth, often cheerful, and very touching in places. It's hard to even say what’s most important here: is it the characters, the witty stories, the brilliant work of the colorist, or the many tricks with which David Aja makes the stories unusual and memorable?

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6 — Invincible

Image Comics 2003–2018

Story: Robert Kirkman
Artist: Cory Walker, Ryan Ottley

As they say in the comics’ slogan — this is probably the best comics in the Universe! This epic comic book, made by the creator of one of the most successful series — The Walking Dead — recently ended on its 144th issue. In the first 60 issues, Kirkman managed to lay the foundation for an outstanding series about one of the most powerful superheroes not included in the pantheon of the Big Two. Unfortunately, in the following issues, the series went noticeably downhill, as the author clearly lacked enough creative ideas. But in general, the Invincible comics are the synthesis of the best there is in the superhero genre: classical ease of presentation, modern “realism and gloominess”, postmodern references to the past of the genre, a dashing plot, and vivid, living characters.

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7 — X-Statix

Marvel 2001-2004

Story: Peter Milligan
Artists: Michael Allred, Darwyn Cooke

Here we have the strange and amazing adventures of a mutant team whose life is turned into an endless reality show. Adored by ordinary people, not accepted by other mutants from the classic X-Men — X-Statix are needed to perform dirty tasks that would spoil the reputation of the head team. All they want in return is fame, money, sex, and power. The drawing of Michael Allred, a master of psychedelic drawings, only emphasizes the complete absurdity of what’s happening.

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8 — Doom Patrol

DC Comics 1989-1993

Story: Grant Morrison
Artist: Richard Case

The Doom Patrol of the modern era of comics (to be honest, Gerard Way’s imprint mentioned above revived this series) by Grant Morrison is a team consisting of accident victims who confront absolutely incredible and absurd threats, who change reality, attack the imagination, and try to destroy eccentricity.

This is one of the most original and amazing comics about superheroes, and is not ashamed either by its roots, or by the use of concepts from the outside, such as the ideas of Albert Hoffman and the Surrealist movement.

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9 — Superior Foes of Spider-Man

Marvel 2013–2014

Story: Nick Spencer
Artist: Steve Lieber

The funny and idiotic adventures of misfits from the underworld who are, concurrently, the secondary enemies of Spider-Man. Funny comics about outsiders who dream of becoming the kings of the underworld. As always in postmodern comics, the usual heroes open up to us in unexpected ways.

Furthermore, considering that these are comics about secondary characters, they’re perfect for those who are don’t know much about the subject, and aren’t familiar with it, that is to say, for everyone in general.

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10 — Madman

Tundra Publishing, 1992–1993
Dark Horse, 1994–2000
AAA Pop Comics, 2000–2002
Oni Press, 2003
Image Comics, 2007–2010

Story: :Michael Allred
Artist: Michael Allred, Laura Allred

The character of Frank "Madman" Einstein (named after Sinatra, Einstein and Frankenstein) sticks out halfway between superheroes and independent comics, and something unexpected is always happening to him. There’s a place for fun adventures, and for searching for oneself, and for romance, but the main thing is the sense of novelty and surprise that these comic books bring. Mike Allred, one of the most recognizable American authors-artists, is constantly looking for new tricks and ways to tell stories about his beloved hero and his companions, so over time the series is turning into a series of amazing experiments.

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