It is not really ranked according to a measurable rationale. A lot of simplistic reasons might be ahead of great art just because they came at the right time in my life. I hope you enjoy reading about them:
20. The Venture Bros.
Pure fun for nostalgic adults, showing sad versions of characters from DC, Marvel, Hanna-Barbera, VH1 Classic, pulp fiction and sci-fi films gone hilariously and pathetically wrong. The Venture Bros. made me realize that super beings are not black and white they are probably just losers trying to feel relevant. The characters, normally failures and shadows of what they used to be, go trough their existential crisis surrounded by a surreal remix of everything I watched on TV while growing up. They also save the day now and then, but that's mostly incidental.
Created by Jason Publick, a Tick alumnus, The Venture Bros. is like The Simpsons for geeks; every line is not only loaded with sarcasm and jokes but also a condensed of vintage pop cult references from the 70s and 80s (yes, even more than Famiy Guy). With so many Venture cosplay already happening in comic conventions, I can't wait to see how are mainsteam comics going to react to to it.
19. Identity Crisis, Hush, Batman/Superman and 52
After Batman: No Man's Land I was bored with DC Comics for a while. Understanding Comics reinfused me with love for comics, but not for DC. Our Worlds at War was so cloying, I gave up. What was Batman going to do next, anyway? Gotham was running out of disasters. But then, out of nowhere, everybody started to talk about the murder of Sue Dibny, and how great the mystery was, so I had to see what the fuss was all about. So I read it, and I loved it. It was a pull back, making the satellite era cool and relevant again. The characters that were most commonly associated with DC were at the front center again. To me, it looked like the actual DC Comics Super Friends facing their own secrets, fears and flaws.
they would reboot DC to make it a brighter place with a reset. That never happened (to his credit, VP Dan DiDio did try, but he was blocked by higher powers); it was done out of time, too little, too late, too half way with Flashpoint and "the new 52" and I ended angry and disappointed, but I had a nice run and that's hard to deny.
I wish I could say that I know the character through its comics, but I was actually among the wave of fans that met the character through the animated series, which was part of a hype of superheroes in other media. After the success of Batman: The Animated Series, X-men and comics events like the The Death of Superman, Knightfall, Maximum Carnage, there was an era in which superheroes took over Saturday morning cartoons, now with a more serious tone than the series of the syndicated era (Thundercats, He-man, etc.). And The Tick did the exact opposite, showing a metropolis overcrowded with guys in tights so tight that their butt cracks were actually visible, only they were all neurotic, delusional and utterly incompetent and impractical nutjobs. And among them, generic within their own diversity, the Tick, whose name and costume didn't even make sense, was king. He was a nice, overwhelming, bigger than life, blue block with a Quixote attitude and a really small brain concealed by a really small head.
This cartoon was the first to show me that even humor has a place within superhero comics. Ever since The Tick, I've always been a fan of comedy with superhumans, which is probably why I just fell in love with JLI.
It had it all: comedy, action, parodies, a terribly great rogues gallery, excellent art and even Henry Kissinger. What else could a kid want in a show? Laugh with me. Laugh with me!
15. Tim Burton's Batman
The 1989 Batman film directed by Tim Burton caused an epidemic wave of batmania among my generation. I got it and I got it pretty bad. I still remember the first time I saw it. I was siting a hammock with my brother and my cousin. My aunt, a good hearted spoiler by nature, was afraid that it might be too shocking for the three buggers, which is the reason we had to wait for the Betamax (it's a real thing, look it up) to come out. Along with Superman, Batman Returns, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Wayne's World any Star Wars and Back to the Future, it has to be one of the movies I watched the most.
Dark = cool. Although I still watched the wave of reruns of the 60s Batman show and Super Friends that came with the '89 batmania, anyway, but the lesson was pretty clear: the darker, the better. In the eyes of moviegoers, Burton's film lend credibility to superheroes. After it, both Batman and Superman had serious and acclaimed portrayals outside their original medium. Animation followed the example with Batman: The Animated Series and X-men, both of which inspires a lot of similar series. There were also the Batman film sequels and the similarly dark and serious (for the 90s) TV series of The Flash and Lois and Clark.
14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
13. Daredevil and Batman: Year One
I don't now if they are more "realistic", but the serious tone that Frank Miller added to classic vigilantes certainly increased their coolness and the sense of danger that we get from their adventures. Pulp fiction goes greatly with vigilantes. The Batman that I got when I started reading comics in the early 90s was mostly an echo of Year One. I didn't read the real deal (Year One, The Dark Knight Returns) until the late 90s and I just read Daredevil throughout the last decade, which is why I don't rank this higher.
I'm not sure how to describe them, although Miller went over the top with DKR, these works made superheroes feel solid, grounded and badass; something that is really hard to get from other writers. Besides, without Miller, we wouldn't have so many great stuff: The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the Burton and Nolan Batman movies, the post-Crisis Batman, Batman: The Animated Series, and, I dare to say, the British invasion and Vertigo.
12. Angry comics of the early 90s.
After the first time they ran Batman: The Animated Series and X-men, somebody from my classroom showed up with the Knightfall and Death of Superman translated trades (none of us understood English back then). They were Batman and Superman, the guys from Super Friends but they were "serious stuff", the "official versions", not for kids anymore (ha, ha, ha, ha, ha); which was really cool and mind blowing for the pack of pre-teenagers taking turns to read it in the class room. Knightfall caught my eye a bit more, with the run against all the villain characters I knew from BTAS and the 60s show. Then there was Maximum Carnage, The Reign of the Supermen, Fatal Attractions, Emerald Twilight and a number of trading card series, describing cool, tragic and really violent events in the lives of DC and Marvel characters, most of them incredibly pumped with skin tight costumes with lots of utility belts and coats. Yes, most of those stories are better forgotten, but all in all, they are what introduced me to comics.
I have to be fair with Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Vincent Price and the rest of those guys. That show was my first impression of DC Comics and the only concept I had of Batman until I first watched the Burton film (when I was 8).
I know it seems really silly now, but to a 5 years old, it looked about as interesting as it gets. And we shouldn't be too harsh on it, if something was proven by Batman: the Brave and the Bold, is that every interpretation of Batman is equally valid. Batman wasn't that different from the comics or even other TV shows of the era and it was even done by some of the finest Hollywood talent of the late 60s!
I sustain that it was a great gateway to DC comics. Bizarre villains with flashy costumes, over the top fight scenes, mortal traps and lots of riddles, what else could a kid want from a live action TV show. I liked Hulk and Wonder Woman as well but, without the colorful antagonists, I used to fall asleep after the first 10 minutes. I for some reason really liked the later when I was 14, though...
The power of "As seen on TV".
18 years ago, this animated series introduced me to the world of comics. As I mentioned before, it came along with a wave of trading cards and comic events that got me hooked on DC and Marvel. Batman: The Animated Series reintroduced me to superheroes, but it was too alienated within its own gorgeous and timeless universe. X-men, on the other hand, benefited from adapting the vast and wonderful body of X-men stories from the books; consequently, it was more of a middle ground between TV animated series and comics. Its art, continuity, stories and even its season format was a lot like the X-men comics of the time, which is something that was never done before and, now that I think about it, was rarely done afterwards in another series. About every character I saw in that series had an almost identical story in the comics, so, once I fell in love with them, it made a great transition to comics, where I could get even more of that candy.
9. The Dark Knight
I must have seen this one like 5 times in theaters. Batman (1989) was great, but it missed something. I love Michael Keaton's "I'm Batman" Batman, but it wasn't quite the Batman from comics (for starters, he killed). Batman Begins captured the best aspects of the contemporary Batman mythos, but didn't cause much of an impact. Now, The Dark Knight, hat it all. It captured the best aspects from the comics, it had the perfect Batman (well, save for the voice thing), caused a huge deal of an impact and on top of that, gave superhero movies a lot of recognition. Unlike Batman Begins, to me, this sequel not only lived up to Batman: Year One, it as actually better!
Just like the DC-Vertigo characters make the DC Universe more exiting by having a really serious, surreal and eerie corner; the stories of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis do the same by adding a silly side. While guys like Moore or Miller deconstructed the superhero genre by grounding its world to realism, the JLI team kinda deconstructed it with the funny aspects of reality: our daily life comic situations, incompetency, gossip, vanity, bureaucracy, etc.
Also noteworthy is that when the average hero of the late 80s was pessimistic, violent and snarky, the Justice League, despite their flaws, were kind and, deep down, idealistic. They might joke about it, but in the end, even their sleazeball manipulative boss had a heart of gold. Ralph, Sue, Max, Ted, Michael, Tora, Bea, Guy, J'onn, Karen and Dmitri are some of the best characters DC has ever seen and Giffen and DeMatteis are geniuses for this take. It doesn't matter qhe other writers did with them, I'll always go back to those stories. (By the way, their recent Booster Gold run and Justice League Retroactive: the 90s, rocked just as much).
7. The DC-Vertigo characters.
When I was 20, it seemed to me that comics had nothing to offer. It was just Batman, Superman or Spider-man going over their rogues galleries over and over in adventures that every time seemed more dull to me. But then, I got a series of great tips that lead me to the works of Moore and the guys that followed in: Swamp Thing, Sandman, Animal Man, Doom Patrol, The Books of Magic, DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore, Hellblazer, Shade, etc. Along with the wave of new stories that followed Identity Crisis, these collections allowed me to keep enjoying DC Comics for many years.
6. The New Frontier
I actually hoped that after Final Crisis the DC Universe would be rebooted to be more like The New Frontier or the Diniverse.
5. Scott McCloud
At the same time, it's a homage to the possibilities of comics and its redemption. Its style is quite cartoony (they are all cute animals), which makes a high contrast with the harshnes and realism of the narration. Incidentally, this way it becomes the utter proof that comics and cartoons can be an effective vehicle for trascendency.
3. Super Friends, the pop art of José Luis García López and the Justice League of America.
When I was a kid, the Super-Powers Collection with José Luis' art was everywhere. In my shirts, in my lunch box, under my pants, everywhere. I knew Batman and Wonder Woman from their live-action shows and Superman from the movies, but then one day I saw this:
It was crazy! They were all there, in one single show (even the Joker!)! I loved it, a show about a team consisting of what, to my 7 years old self, seemed like every popular superhero there was! It was like a super TV crossover, which seemed even more relevant done as a cartoon (cartoons, of course, are more important to kids than boring stuff, like live action or the World events). I also loved the colection of muscled dudes and dudettes in tights.
However, I only caught a couple of episodes before they started with the reruns of regular Super Friends, which was painfully boring to a kid of the Transformers, Ghostbusters and Thundercats era. The ones without the Legion of Doom or even real supervillains were even worse (somehow, even then I was able to tell phony made up villains from the official ones). It got better with Firestorm. And then there it was again:
(Play it, just humor me).
And there it is again, the Joker! (instead of that lousy Riddler). It had Cyborg and his really cool bromance with Firestorm, and impressive episodes line The Fear, The Death of Superman, the one in which Mr. Mxyztlk makes more Bizarro duplicates or that one with the Penguin and Felix Faust stealing Superman's powers! Man! Those were good times to be a kid! And it got better: there was an action figure collection with most of those characters!
Later, when I started reading comics in the early 90s, I was disappointed that a number of things from this show, were not there, like Apache Chief, Samurai, the Justice League roster, even Firestorm was kind of absent. Luckily, I discovered back issues some time later. To me, the perfect image of the DC heroes is still a combination of José Luis' art, the Super Powers Collection and the satellite era of the Justice League of America. To me, DC is this (no, it's not the opening theme again):
2. The Elongated Man & Wife
|See what I mean?|
1. Batman: The Animated Series and the DC Animated Universe
(a.k.a. BTAS and the DCAU)
Can you believe that Bruce Timm was once rejected from DC comics? Yet, somehow, he managed to revolutionize aimation in a series that marries the Batman tradition with a sophisticated retro but fresh style. As far as I'm concerned, Bruce Timm, along with Paul Dini, Eric Radomski, Alan Burnett, Stan Berkowitz, Glen Murakami, Andrea Romano, Darwyn Cooke, Dwayne McDuffie and many others, created an universe that is actually better and more elegant than the regular DC Universe. Superhero cartoons were never taken seriously until this series came. The content of BTAS is not just for kids, but for all ages.
As I said before, Batman: The Animated Series, made me rediscover the DC characters and was my main reason to start collecting the comics; however, I never loved them as much. After the third episode I saw I was officially obessed. For over ten years I only drew imitating the style of Bruce Timm. I made tons of turnarounds trying to adapt classic DC characters to his style. A lot of people still do the same, and even DC decided to change characters like Metallo, Supergirl or the Parasite to look like Timm's designs. I only read comics because they were the best next thing after reruns.
Justice League Unlimited was like going out with a bang. It featured a really large cast that included almost all the DC characters I wanted to see, a lot that I'd have never expected and a bunch that I didn't even know. It was like a child fantasy come true. Like Super Friends, but with better art, better writing and a hundred times more characters.
One of the coolest aspects of the DCAU is that it actually had epilogues, unlike the reguar DC universe, it told the full story of a lot of its protagonists: Batman, Robin, Batgirl, Lex Luthor, Darkseid, the Joker, Harley Quinn, Superman, Grodd, John Stewart and Amanda Waller.
All this work was produced in 14 years, and all that time I kept returning and being further introduced to the characters of DC. BTAS could have been a fad, like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Ghostbusters before it, but it kepts returning with series lived up to the established quality, so, the DCAU kept me hooked, loving the wonderful world of DC.