From their first appearance in the pages of newspapers to their own dedicated publications, super heroes have enthralled the world for nearly a century. Today, graphic novels offer one of the simplest means of getting to know the origins and intricacies of your favourite heroes.
With a superhero graphic novel, you'll be able to enjoy storylines in one convenient collection, instead of having to hunt down old issues. But with so many masterpieces from just the likes of Marvel and DC, it can be difficult to know where to start. In this article, we're here to help you hunt down your next read with a ranking of the top 10 best superhero graphic novels and trade paperbacks in the UK on Amazon and eBay!
With hundreds of heroes and nearly a century of works to choose from, finding a new graphic novel can be quite a daunting prospect. There are ways of narrowing things down, however, and locating a new superhero story that you can get truly excited about diving into needn't be an arduous task!
Like comic books, a graphic novel uses words and images to tell its story. The difference between graphic novels and regular comics, is that they usually feature a self-contained story arc with a clear beginning and end. You'll almost always be able to pick up a graphic novel and enjoy it without needing too much background knowledge.
However, the term has been expanded to encompass compilations, often known as 'trade paperbacks' (or TPBs), which compile several individual comic issues into one edition. While these usually feature recognisable story arcs, they don't always have a clearly defined beginning and end.
For example, X-Men, Days of Future Past compiles seven issues, only two of which actually cover the storyline of the title. So, If you want to enjoy your story in isolation, opt for graphic novels and avoid anything with 'TPB' or 'Vol' in the title.
Superhero stories are just as varied as the colourful characters whose lives they depict, and one of the biggest issues that those new to comic books face is knowing where to start. We can't claim to be able to sort every graphic novel into neat little categories, but we can outline some key narratives that you may wish to look into when shopping for your next superhero graphic novel.
Every superhero's story begins with their origin - the unlikely event that turns them from regular Joe into crime-fighting superhuman. Not only do they offer a great introduction to a superhero, they're pretty much essential reading, as they inform every choice the hero makes from that point onwards.
In the wonderful world of world of comics where storylines can be retconned, deleted and rebooted, origin stories aren't only to be found in the pages of issues that are decades old. They can, of course, be found collected in trade paperback, but origin stories are often retold in graphic novels years later. If you're beginning your journey with a superhero, these are a great place to start.
One of the reasons that superhero narratives, and comic books in general, present such an appealing prospect for writers is that they offer endless scope for imagination. Characters can be killed off, reborn, transported to entirely different universes and endlessly reinterpreted.
It's for this reason that the same character can be at the centre of hundreds of storylines. You might think, that after 82 years the well of Batman stories might finally be running dry, but a truly great writer is able to place a hero in a completely novel situation, using it to bring out essential truths about the character.
If you already have a favourite superhero, there's no reason why you shouldn't pick a graphic novel with them at its centre. Unless the character is a relatively new, one or you're an extremely voracious comic book reader, chances are there'll be plenty of stories to explore that'll allow you to discover various sides to a hero as you watch them deal with different situations.
It may not be the individual psyche of a superhero that intrigues you, but how multiple heroes interact within a wider world. From two heroes working side by side, to the building of entire superhero teams, there are plenty of graphic novels that feature several of these larger than life characters.
What you lose in personal insight, you'll usually gain in scale. Graphic novels featuring several heroes often centre around huge, world-changing events that a single hero couldn't handle on their own - think the Infinity Gauntlet Saga. Other times, writers will take the common thread and weave together storylines that explore what it means to be a hero, or offer an objective perspective on superhuman abilities.
From 1938 to the present, every superhero comic can be divided into one of four ages: The Golden Age (1938-1956), The Silver Age (1956-1970), The Bronze Age (1970-1985), and the Modern Age (1985-Present). Comic books have changed quite significantly over the years, meaning earlier comics have quite a different feel to more modern ones.
If you're looking for something old-school, then Golden Age comics might be your bag. Considering the time in which they were written, these comics often used superheroes to encourage patriotism and give readers a little bit of a morale boost. In fact, it's not unusual to see a superhero fighting the Nazis! Colours are vivid, and illustrations are cartoony - much in the vein of what might be considered a traditional 'comic book' style.
Over the years, as comics moved through the Silver and Bronze Ages, these patriotic tales gave way to grittier storylines, featuring real-world issues such as loss and drug use, favouring more realistic artwork. If you're looking for something a little darker, focusing more on a superhero's struggle rather than their indefatigable efforts to thwart their enemy, you may wish to stick to more recent comics.
Unlike many fans, comic book writers don't stick exclusively with one superhero, and often dot about between different series, even moving between publishing houses. Sticking exclusively to storylines centring around one hero can lead to a rather uneven reading experience, so if you really love a graphic novel by a particular author, it makes sense to check out more of their work.
Legendary writers such as Frank Miller, who has written graphic novels centred around Daredevil and Batman, and Alan Moore who wrote two of the most critically acclaimed graphic novels of all time for Superman and Batman are held in very high esteem. Both of their bibliographies offer great places to start when looking for incredible superhero graphic novels.
No, most graphic novels don't take as long to read as traditional novels, but that doesn't mean that they don't get pretty lengthy! Whether you're a beginner, or simply someone with a little less time on their hands, you may want to avoid lengthy storylines that require you to remember crucial plot points and a wide cast of characters over numerous pages.
Choose a graphic novel under 200 pages for a self-contained story that you can enjoy in a shorter space of time. Page count won't give you everything as some longer graphic novels have less words and are therefore quicker to read, but it will give you a good estimation of how much of your time a graphic novel will occupy.
Narrowing down every superhero graphic novel into a top 10 list was something of a gargantuan task. There may be some noticeable omissions in our ranking, but we feel we've made up for it with a balanced selection covering a roster of different superheroes!
|Year of Original Publication||2006-07 (Modern Age)|
|Narrative Type||Origin Story/Solo Adventure|
|Featured Hero(es)||Wonder Woman|
|Year of Original Publication||2016 (Modern Age)|
|Featured Hero(es)||The X-Men, Doctor Strange|
|Year of Original Publication||1981 (Bronze Age)|
|Writer(s)||Chris Claremont and John Byrne|
|Narrative Type||Solo Adventure|
|Year of Original Publication||2005-08 (Modern Age)|
|Year of Original Publication||1996 (Modern Age)|
|Writer(s)||Mark Waid and Alex Ross|
|Narrative Type||Solo Adventure|
|Year of Original Publication||1986 (Modern Age)|
|Narrative Type||Solo Adventure|
|Year of Original Publication||1973 (Bronze Age)|
|Narrative Type||Solo Adventure|
|Year of Original Publication||1989 (Modern Age)|
|Year of Original Publication||1994 (Modern Age)|
|Narrative Type||Origin Story|
|Year of Original Publication||1988 (Modern Age)|
Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
Grant Morrison and Dave McKean
Stan Lee, et al.
Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Mark Waid and Alex Ross
Grant Morrison, et al.
Chris Claremont, et al.
Greg Rucka, et al.
Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
Batman: The Killing Joke (Deluxe Edition)
Marvels (The Remastered Edition)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Deluxe Edition)
Spider-Man: Death of the Stacys
Daredevil: Born Again (Artisan Edition)
X-Men: Days of Future Past
DC Universe Rebirth - Wonder Woman Vol. 1: The Lies
Witness the Disturbing Origin of the World's Favourite Villain
The Terrifying Glory of Our Favourite Heroes From a Unique Perspective
A Chilling Storyline and Disturbing Artwork Depict Batman's Descent Into Madness
A Revolutionary Storyline in Which the Hero Wasn't There to Save the Day
Witness Daredevil's Fall and Rebirth in This Densely Layered Story
Heroes of the Past Come Out of Retirement to Battle Issues of the Future
Explore Every Aspect of the Man of Steel
Travel Between Time Zones to Prevent a Dark Future
Discover the Truth and Lies Of Wonder Woman's Origins
Explore the Shattering Power of Opposing Beliefs
|Format||Graphic Novel||TPB||Graphic Novel||TPB||TPB||TPB||TPB||TPB||TPB||TPB|
|Narrative Type||Origin Story||Team-Up||Solo Adventure||Solo Adventure||Solo Adventure||Team-Up||Solo Adventure||Team-Up||Origin Story/Solo Adventure||Team-Up|
|Featured Hero(es)||Batman||Multiple||Batman||Spider-Man||Daredevil||Multiple||Superman||The X-Men, Doctor Strange||Wonder Woman||Multiple|
|Year of Original Publication||1988 (Modern Age)||1994 (Modern Age)||1989 (Modern Age)||1973 (Bronze Age)||1986 (Modern Age)||1996 (Modern Age)||2005-08 (Modern Age)||1981 (Bronze Age)||2016 (Modern Age)||2006-07 (Modern Age)|
|Writer(s)||Alan Moore||Kurt Busiek||Grant Morrison||Gerry Conway||Frank Miller||Mark Waid and Alex Ross||Grant Morrison||Chris Claremont and John Byrne||Greg Rucka||Mark Millar|
Whether you're looking to build up your own collection, or are searching for the perfect gift for a beloved comic book fan, we've got some top recommendations for fans both young and old. We've even ranked 10 of the best Sci-Fi books for those looking to expand their interests. Who knows, you may just end up finding a new genre full of wonderful worlds and impossible feats to sink your teeth into!
As we're sure you'll agree, graphic novels can more than hold their own against films and literature as an art form. Whether you're looking for an introduction to a new character, or want to get to know your favourite hero better, we hope our article has helped you find a truly unforgettable read!
Author: Ben Willimet
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