In just 8 issues, Joe the Barbarian became one of my favorite comics of all time. In it, Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy weave fantasy and reality in a book about a boy who transports to a dream world—or does he? This is a fairly standard concept–it’s been done famously by Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland—but Morrison uses this “standard” plot device to powerful effect. And the art is nothing short of breathtaking.
Check out this spread:
Morrison is often difficult to read. He can be nonlinear and can expect too much of his readers. But here, he brings us along fast enough that we don’t get bored, but not so fast as to leave us behind. It’s a risk, when dealing with an overused concept, that readers will dismiss the story as something they’ve seen before. Morrison avoids this by bringing in both the familiar (toys come to life, and we see cameos from Transformers to Star Trek) and the new (characters with mythical names and backstories that are only hinted at), proving that he is truly one of the greatest comic book writers of all time.
I bought the hardcover for all the comic fans I know–it’s a true “all ages” book that can be enjoyed by adults and kids without being simplistic for the grown-ups or condescending to the younger ones.
The book may not have sold that well, but for those of us who read it, it left a deep, powerful impression.