13. CEREBUS THE AARDVARK
Cerebus was the first black-and-white comic book that I bought on a regular basis, and it was the first comic book I got involved with that made me feel special. Like I was reading something for “adults” or something “of quality.” Also, I got printed in the letters page on a regular basis having a back-and-forth insult battle with creator Dave Sim.
Cerebus was also the first comic book that had a finite plan: It was supposed to run for 300 issues and then end. The problem was, Dave lost his mind at around issue #200 and became a religious fanatic, misogynist, and all around creep. Even worse, he stopped being able to write interesting comics. (In fact, artist Gerhard has stated that the series really ended with #200 and the stuff that came later wasn’t part of the originally planned storyline.) But before the series went off the rails, Cerebus earned a reputation as being a book of pure genius. It incorporated satire, politics, intrigue, mysticism, faith … And Jaka was hot as hell. It also proved that non-Marvel/DC, self-printed books could sell well and make money.
- High Society
- Jaka’s Story
12. THE FLASH
Dude runs fast. Who wouldn’t want to be able to do that?
Seriously, though, there have been a ton of Flashes and there’s a whole Flash family and Flash is apparently the instigator for the entire newly rebranded DC Universe. So he’s gotta be important.
But I have to confess: His comics have pretty much always sucked to me.
Suggested reading: For his team work, check out Crisis on Infinite Earths–the most important Flash story other than the current, ongoing Flashpoint. Other reading:
- Flash: Year One
- The Flash: The Return of Barry Allen
- The Flash: Rogues War
11. HANK PYM (a.k.a. just about every Marvel size-changer)
Ant-Man. Giant Man. Goliath. Yellowjacket. The Wasp. Hank Pym is not important because he’s been more superheroes than anyone else I can think of. That just heightens his cool factor. He’s important because he was an early Avenger. He’s the first superhero wife beater. (Although according to writer Jim Shooter, he was supposed to be pushing Jan, not hitting her, but the artist screwed it up. But then again, isn’t that what all the wife beaters say when they get caught?!) He created one of the best, most enduring Marvel villains: Ultron. He was the first Avenger to be court-martialed. And during his trial, he manufactured yet another robot (because it worked out so well for him the first time) to attack the Avengers during his trial, hoping that he could be a hero and save them all, but, of course, his plan backfired.
He’s also, currently, one of the few people in mainstream comic books to not be able to get over the death of his wife, and to continue searching for her through dimensions and time. I know, I know, lots of heroes are inspired to their vocation by death, from Batman to Punisher. But that’s not Hank. He’s still madly in love with a woman he really wasn’t ever very nice to. He’s like Reed Richards, if Reed’s relationship with Sue was even close to being realistic: Obsessed, irritable, ego-maniacal, and helpless and hopeless without his woman.
Hank Pym is possibly the most insecure, tragic character in the Marvel Universe. And by far one of the most influential and interesting as well.
Some cool books with Hank in ’em:
- The Avengers #213-240 (not reprinted anywhere, but great books and probably available cheap at conventions)
- Avengers Academy (current title, not serialized yet)