We’re starting a new feature here at the Hero Complex called The Essential Shelf in which we invite some esteemed talents to tell us about their favorite graphic novels. Our first guest is Gerard Way, the lead singer of the rock band My Chemical Romance and the writer of “The Umbrella Academy,” the wonderfully surreal Dark Horse series that (we hear) may be coming to a theater near you in the next few years.
Here’s No.’s 8, 9 and 10 on the list of 10 that he e-mailed me, the rest will be posted here over the next few days.
“Hellboy: Seed of Destruction,” by Mike Mignola
This book was an inspiration in the format I chose to do ‘The Umbrella Academy’ in, as well as the publisher, Dark Horse. This comic is extremely pure, it is the opposite of pretentious, and an exercise in storytelling. Combining elements of old-school E.C. Comics horror, adventure, and the occasional history or mythology lesson, it also frees itself from the confines of continuity typically found in mainstream comics. It has a continuity but does not remain chained to it, hopping around the many years an[d] aspects of the main character’s life, telling the stories Mike Mignola wants to tell.
“Akira, Vol. 1,” by Katsuhiro Otomo
I do enjoy manga but would not consider myself a “super-fan,” only really connecting with certain works such as Lone Wolf and Cub, or Tekkon Kinkreet, the more breakthrough works, and Akira, to me, is the daddy of them all. This book collects the serialized comic originally found in ‘Young Magazine’ in Japan, which must have been very exciting coming out weekly and serialized, and also must have taken a lot of time, as the series is massive. It takes place in a futuristic version of Tokyo, which has rebuilt after another seemingly atomic explosion, and deals with a corrupt government, psychic children, and motorcycle gangs. Some of the best characters I have ever encountered in a comic.
“Wanted,” by Mark Millar
I love this book. It came out of nowhere for me, and literally forced me to read it in one sitting. It has a way of tapping into that nihilism of “Fight Club” without being redundant and is a great example of a great modern comic with original ideas. The concept is another brilliant one that makes you jealous you didn’t come up with it first, but in reading it you realize that Mark Millar is the only person that could have written it. I haven’t seen the film but I imagine, if they at least kept the narration intact, that it is probably an excellent translation, as the main character’s inner monologue is what really keeps you hooked, especially from the opening line.
- Geoff Boucher