Are you looking for a list of the best comics of all time? You’ll be pressed to find one that doesn’t include at least some of the comics on mine.
When it comes to comic books, opinions on which ones are the absolute best are divided. That goes beyond simple DC vs. Marvel debate (to which I say, “Why even choose?”). However, although there’s a difference of opinion when it comes to most comics, some of them reign supreme no matter what.
Not that long ago, many people considered comics to be kids’ pastimes rather than the works of art they truly are. Not me, though. I always adored comics, which is why I kept coming back to those chosen few (hundred) of my favorites. Here are the top nine.
Best Comics of All Time
My absolute favorite comic book is Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. In my book, it will always be one of the best comics of all time (no matter what comes next).
Like most of Gaiman’s works, Sandman is so immersive and complex that I simply couldn’t put it down. To top it all off, it features my absolute favorite comic book characters — Lucifer and John Constantine.
The comic follows Morpheus, Death’s little brother, who has been kept prisoner for 70 years by a group of occultists. After breaking free, Morpheus is hellbent on revenge.
Gaiman beautifully summed up the entire comic in one sentence: “The Lord of Dreams learns that one must change or die, and makes his decision.”
If that’s not enough to tickle your fancy, I don’t know what will be.
#2. Civil War
Coming in at a close second place on my list of best comics of all time is Civil War, the comic that found its place on the silver screen not that long ago. The love baby of Mark Millar and Steve McNiven, Civil War is anything but ordinary.
I partly love it precisely because of that. It’s something Marvel had never done before, because it approached one story from two points of view. Those who have seen the movie already know what I’m talking about.
However, trust me, the schism between Tony Stark and Captain America runs much deeper in the comics, and you feel it deep within your soul on every page. The twist that this comic provides — the rule follower rebelling while the notorious playboy plays it by the book — is one of the most satisfying tropes for me, which is why Civil War ranks so high on my list of best comics of all time.
Everyone knows that Watchmen is a work of art that graciously towers over other works in the comic book realm. Things aren’t much different on my list, given that I’m a huge fan (just like everybody else).
The gritty comic from the 80s is one of the many brilliant works of Alan Moore, and it follows a group of ragtag superheroes and tackles sensitive subjects. Not only is this one of the best comics of all time, but it was also on Time Magazine’s list of best novels.
All characters in Watchmen are inspired by existing DC superheroes. So, those of you who are new to both can play the game of “Guess Who.”
#4. Sin City
Another gritty installment, Sin City is rough around the edges in all the best ways. Now, some of you might resent the fact that I included this graphic novel on my list. However, it’s my list, so deal with it.
Reminiscent of the film noir style that the movie was shot in, Sin City covers the stories of all characters from the movie and deepens the story for the reader’s pleasure. With lots of violence and a dark approach, the graphic novel is the perfect mix of that particular gangster feel and thriller mysteries.
#5. Batman: The Killing Joke
I’ll never forget the first time I read this comic. It stood out to me (and others) thanks to the in-depth characterization of Batman’s number one villain — the Joker.
I’m guessing that not many of you will be surprised to hear that this is another one of Alan Moore’s works. Moore paints a perfect picture of how the Joker came to be who he is today, and how society pushes us until we finally (and violently) break.
#6. Scott Pilgrim
You might notice that most of the comics on my list have been turned into movies or TV shows. In my opinion, that speaks for their popularity and complexity. Some people disagree about many of them, but never about Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is one of my favorite movies. Edgar Wright did a fantastic job of staying as true to the comics as he could, and for that, I applaud him. However, if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty of the one and only Scott Pilgrim, you really need to read the six-volume set of graphic novels.
#7. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen showcases that comic books are literary works as much as they are visual art. Tying together characters from world-famous books and pulp fiction, this comic has it all.
Really! Set in the Steampunk version of the already dark and industrial Victorian England, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen unites heroes from Stoker’s Dracula, Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, among others.
The familiar faces we see are brought to life (yet again) by the wit of Alan Moore, but now we see them as the superheroes that some of us long wished they were. Bridging the gap between classic literature and modern storytelling, Moore really created a masterpiece.
#8. V for Vendetta
You might think I’m overdoing it, but hear me when I say — Alan Moore is a gift to humankind. That’s why I included yet another one of his comics on my list.
If the Natalie Portman movie hasn’t made you read this comic yet, let me break down all the reasons it deserves your attention. First, it’s set in a futuristic version of a dystopian England. Second, it’s about a lone man’s fight against a regime that tyrannical and totalitarian. It’s about the fight for the little man, man!
Similarly to the stories about Joker, V for Vendetta speaks of the desperation of one man who’s battling an entire society. Now, more than ever, we need stories like these that highlight what we all should already know — everybody can be a hero.
V for Vendetta might seem dark and depressing, but it’s a story about rebelling and fighting for freedom and free will.
#9. Batman: Arkham Asylum
I saved my second favorite Batman comic for last. Although superbly executed, the idea behind Arkham Asylum still didn’t resonate with me as strongly as The Killing Joke has.
Still, Batman: Arkham Asylum tells the tale of Gotham City’s egregious facility. It’s full of suspense and time jumps and leaves the readers with the unnerving eerie feeling of dread. Also telling the story of Arkham Asylum’s founder and the darkest day of the institution’s history, this comic is grim and not for the faint of heart. Therefore, I recommend it wholeheartedly.
A Few Parting Words
Comic books are, and forever will be my first love. Making a list as short as this one was quite taxing and challenging. However, there’s no doubt in my mind that, when it comes to the best comics of all time, these nine take the cake (and so much more).