Sunday, 12 August 2012

Top 5 Graphic Novels

Back to culture and personal reviews. At this point in my life, I would like to make a desert island, all time favourite top 5 graphic novels ( comic series). I do not know if I should start by explaining first the value of graphic novels and their history. I think I will just remind that they used to be the stuff of the children and the working class for a very very longtime, after they were the invention of the print ( before that they were the stuff to educate as well but a fringe of the population). It is the twentieth century I think that they became the stuff of adults, when people who grew up with them got accustomed with them, as well as the ones with the development of pornographic graphic novels. They will never completely be lost, but they were quickly overcome by the internet and animated films, so I might be in the perfect generation to judge the perfect graphic novels for adults.
Well, now the I have quickly establish their history, that I have legitimised also my taste through my age ( which I'll agree is a shaky excuse, but not much of you will have better ones). I will present my top 5:

1 - Hellblazer.
2 - Sandman.
3 - Preacher.
4 – Transmetropolitan.
5 – Planetary.

Some have more than one writer and graphic artist, so the title of the series will be enough for now.

Hellblazer tells the story of John Constantine. He is an Englishman from Liverpool originally, but has been adopted by London. He comes from the working class, which gives him a leftist fibre I really appreciate. It is an ongoing comics, that will probably follow the fate of all the famous super-heroes, it will last and last and your children might read it as well, and then it will restart again and so on. The particularity though is that Constantine is not a super-hero. He does not have the stuff of heroes. He is a coward who feels oblige sometimes to save the world, but would rather let other people die, and only when cornered does he do something, or at least that what he was when I discovered him. Before that, he was an arrogant bastard who thought he could do good, but then ended up killing his friends. He is bitter because of his life and because of the world. He might have some powers, as a self-proclaimed magician. We do know though what are magicians, yet we keep going to their shows. It's now been almost 30 years that Hellblazer comes monthly out, and it goes in depth in defining the psyche of a man who has lost his twin at birth, like Philip K. Dick, and like the author has developed a lucid way to explain and distort reality.

Sandman is the acclaimed work of Neil Gaiman. Sandman tells the story of Dream, one of the 7 eternals ( Destiny, Destruction, Delight ( who became Delirium), Despair, Desire and Death are his siblings). Eternals have realm, which interact with reality, and actually give reality its movements. Neil Gaiman plays in these novels with the mythologies we had through our history and still the one we have nowadays. It is full of reference and it imagines the personal histories behind the myths and what are the emotions that gods have, towards humans and themselves. Sandman is a great creation on the subject of imagination, as it is what dreams are for.

Preacher was the comic book that got me to serious adult comic books. Before encountering preacher, I was a marvel super-hero follower and a Mad magazine reader. Preacher got me to believe that graphic novels can really be smart adult entertainment. Why ? Well Preacher is about a preacher with an alcohol problem, a hit-man girlfriend and has a drug addicted irish vampire as a best friend. It is a very smart graphic novels as I said... Preacher is a very american graphic novel, as our Preacher goes through the U.S.A. To find God and get this last one – very interesting minor caracter – to explain why he has quit on his creation. Preacher illustrates Bill Hicks perspective on the USA: it is a country filled with the worst of humanity, and yet keeps a good aspiration to be the best it can – even if it fails.

Transmetropolitan's protagonist has the best name in the history of fiction: “ Spider Jerusalem”. I don't know where the name came from. It is set in a not-too-distant future, in a big city. The city represents the world, or is the centre of the world. Well it only represents it, it is actually New-York as it was, so the lighthouse of the world. In this city, everybody is hyper-connected and Spider Jerusalem used to be a famous journalist. And after some years in the wild, he is back and the world is not better. Spider Jerusalem is moved by only one thing: the Truth. It is a hero who knows what he wants, and he will do anything – armed with a bowel setting movement gun – to get it. And people read him, so he gets enemies. He represents the fourth branch of power as it should be. He is the hero that societies could have.

Planetary, finally, is the comic book on comic books. Every parts of this story is an adaptation of another comics of the 20th century. I have not read enough comic books to know where does everything comes from, but it is impossible not to see that it is all about comic books. All the old ones appear, like Tarzan and the masked cowboy, the enemies are the Fantastic Four and every body appears, even the ones I've just mentioned ( and maybe that's why I've put it up in my top 5 – John Constantine is transformed into Spider Jerusalem). I'm still trying to get my head around it, as I do not yet have resolved everything, but if one day you think you have accumulated enough knowledge about this art, this is the last graphic novels to read.

For any adults ( over 16) ready to discover interesting graphic novels, other than these, try V for Vendetta, Watchmen, Promethea and Swanpthing ( all by Alan Moore if I remember correctly), Sin City, Goddess, Lucifer, The Sandman theatre, Hit-man, Y the last man, or go ask your local comic book store.  

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