#FourComics That Made Me Love The Art

comics_710Today, comics writer Jim Zub started the Twitter hashtag #fourcomics, where he asked anyone and everyone to post four covers from comics they were influenced by or loved as they were growing up. Being a longtime comics reader myself, I couldn’t help but fall into this beautiful nostalgia trap, and the end result is the post below, which ended up being a nice cross-section of my core fandom when it was all said and done. Follow me after the jump and enjoy!

Darkempire1Star Wars: Dark Empire: I’ve often said that Star Wars was my gateway drug to everything, including comics, and this was the comic I remember most from my childhood. It was my first real exposure to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and expanded on the scope and feel of the classic films much better than the Prequels ever did. While the major conceit of Dark Empire is kind of ridiculous (the Emperor resurrects himself in clone bodies), Tom Veitch still provided a rousing adventure that does some cool things with the characters and the world. But I think the biggest impact came from Cam Kennedy’s striking art. While the characters certainly resemble the actors that essayed them, and some ship designs stay the same, Kennedy provided my imagination with hundreds of new and exciting images to pour over. Kennedy’s distinctive art brings the Star Wars universe to life in a vibrant and epic fashion, and opened my eyes to the grand possibilities of the comics medium like they’d never been before.

FEB030154_1Superman: Red Son: This was probably the first Superman story I actually read, and it’s still my favorite. Mark Millar and his cadre of artists use an intriguing high concept (what if Superman landed in the Soviet Union instead of Kansas?) to explore the very nature of the Man of Steel himself. Even before I knew the ins and outs of Superman’s greater mythology, Red Son made for a fun and exciting read, and the more I’ve learned the deeper the fun goes. The alternate history of both the Cold War and the DCU is awesome and smart, all leading to Lex Luthor’s masterwork secret weapon and a mind-blowing twist. Red Son was my first exposure to the particularly zany storytelling that superhero comics can deliver, and how you can build a deep and meaningful story out of pretty much any concept, no matter how gimmicky it might be. It’s something that Millar has made a career out of (which is why so many of his original ideas have been developed for film) but this is still one of his best efforts.

Astonishing-X-Men-1Astonishing X-men: There was a point during my middle school years where I had stepped away from comics to some extent (outside of Star Wars, of course). Along with the likes of Red Son and some classic Batman, it was Joss Whedon’s Astonishing X-men that brought me back, and in the case of the latter it cemented my long-dormant enthusiasm for Marvel’s Merry Mutants and confirmed my fandom of Whedon beyond the realm of Firefly. Astonishing X-men is one of the best extended comics stories I’ve ever read, one that builds off of existing continuity and character arcs while telling largely its own story. Between Whedon’s sharp and knowing script and John Cassaday’s beautiful artwork, it was as well-crafted as it can get. Astonishing was chock-full of huge “fuck yeah!” moments and heartbreaking personal drama, with every member of the team getting their moments to shine and pout in equal measure. Most importantly, my man Cyclops got his balls back after years of being the boring straight man, and we got awesome new characters like Abigail Brand. This is still the high-water mark for the X-men as far as I’m concerned.

exmachina1(1)Ex Machina: As much as Marvel and DC define and shape the comics industry and the perception thereof, for the serious comics reader it’s all about original series that break free from the limitations and expectations of established continuities and pissy fanboys to sail uncharted waters. One of the best writers in this arena is Brian K Vaughan, and it was Ex Machina that first awakened me both to his talents and the non-denominational comics world. Ex Machina is a political thriller with real-world superheroics and science fiction mixed in for good measure, showing us how post-9/11 New York would look under the mayorship of a former superhero. Vaughan takes the series in some wild directions and makes some pointed political commentary of recent history throughout, aided greatly by the personable, grounded artwork of Tony Harris. While I’ve gone on to love the rest of Vaughan’s bibliography, and many more creator-owned series besides, Ex Machina will always hold a special place in my mind.

There are obviously many, many more comics that I have read over the years (and are still reading now) and these four are just the tip of the iceberg. But these stories laid the groundwork for my love of this medium, and remain major influences on my creative aspirations to this day. Hopefully some of you will give these books a shot as well, and maybe at least one of you will enjoy them as much as I did.

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