Are you looking for some of the most critically acclaimed (and frankly some of the most important) comic books of the 1980s? You're in the right spot! Here are ten comics from that decade that are absolutely worth your time.
"The Dark Knight Returns" (1986) by Frank Miller
Frank Miller's gritty and violent portrayal of Batman in his later years, as he comes out of retirement to take on a new wave of criminals.
The series explores themes of aging, nostalgia, and the role of the superhero in society. It's widely considered to be one of the greatest Batman stories ever told and has been highly influential in the Batman comics and other media. It also marked a departure from the more campy tone of previous Batman comics and helped pave the way for more darker and realistic interpretations of the character.
"Watchmen" (1986-1987) by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
Alan Moore's deconstruction of superheroes and their role in society, as a group of retired and marginalized heroes investigate the murder of one of their own.
The story is set in an alternate reality where superheroes exist and have impacted the United States' history since the 1940s. The series explores themes of power, morality and the nature of heroism. It's widely considered a masterpiece of the graphic novel medium and is known for its complex narrative, deconstruction of the superhero genre, and its use of non-linear storytelling. It has been highly influential in comics and other media and is widely considered one of the greatest comics of all time.
"Batman: Year One" (1987) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
The origin story of Batman, told from the perspectives of both Bruce Wayne and Jim Gordon as they become the iconic characters we know today.
It follows Bruce Wayne's return to Gotham after years of training and his attempts to fight corruption and crime as Batman, while also detailing the early days of Commissioner Gordon's career in Gotham City Police Department. The story explores themes of identity, morality, and the cost of justice. It's widely considered a seminal work in the Batman canon and is known for its realistic, gritty, and noir-inspired take on the character and his world. It has been highly influential in comics and is considered one of the greatest Batman stories ever told.
"Crisis on Infinite Earths" (1985) by Marv Wolfman and George Perez
Marv Wolfman's epic DC event that drastically alters the continuity of the DC universe and paves the way for a new era in DC comics.
This crossover event affects the entire DC Comics universe, spanning 12 issues. It focuses on the multiverse and the threat of the Anti-Monitor, a cosmic entity determined to destroy every universe. The story features the merging of multiple parallel Earths into one, resulting in the deaths of several beloved characters and the alteration of continuity for many others. The series also marks the first appearance of the DC Universe's first version of Superman, Supergirl and many other characters.
It is widely considered one of the most important and influential comic book events of all time, as it changed the DC Comics continuity and set the stage for many storylines that followed. The event was also instrumental in laying the foundation for the concept of a shared universe, which has become a staple of modern comics and superhero fiction. It was praised for its epic scale, its sense of finality, and the way it dealt with the end of an era.
"The New Teen Titans" (1980-1988) by Marv Wolfman and George Perez
Marv Wolfman and George Perez's popular run on the Teen Titans comic book series, featuring Robin, Kid Flash, and Wonder Girl, among others.
The series also introduced a number of new characters, including the villain Deathstroke, who would go on to become one of the most popular and enduring foes of the Titans. Classic Titans such as Beast Boy, Speedy and Aqualad also returned. The series was also known for its epic storylines, such as the multi-issue "Judas Contract" storyline, which is widely considered one of the greatest Teen Titans storylines ever written.
"Daredevil" (1981-1983) by Frank Miller
Frank Miller's influential run on the Daredevil comic book series, which redefined the character and popularized the use of noir elements in superhero comics.
Frank Miller introduced new characters such as Elektra, a skilled assassin, who becomes one of Daredevil's most deadly foes, but also one of his most important love interests. Miller brought back Bullseye too, a villain who had previously appeared in a few issues of the series, and turned him into one of Daredevil's most iconic and dangerous foes.
The series also dealt with darker themes such as drug abuse, corruption, and the psychological toll of being a vigilante. It explored the relationship between Matt Murdock (Daredevil) and his alter-ego, and how it affects his personal and professional life. The series was praised for its complex and realistic characterization, detailed and moody art and its ability to tackle mature themes.
"The Uncanny X-Men" (1981-1991) by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
Chris Claremont and John Byrne's acclaimed run on the X-Men comic book series, which introduced many iconic storylines and characters.
Chris Claremont and John Byrne took a relatively obscure title and turned it into one of Marvel's most popular and successful franchises. They introduced new characters such as Rogue, Psylocke, Jubilee, and expanded on the backgrounds of existing characters such as Wolverine. They also created iconic stories such as "Days of Future Past" which explores a dystopian future in which mutants are hunted and imprisoned, and "The Dark Phoenix Saga" which deals with Jean Grey's transformation into the powerful and dangerous Dark Phoenix.
The series dealt with themes such as prejudice, discrimination, and the struggle for acceptance. It also explored the complexities of power, responsibility and the consequences of actions. Claremont and Byrne's run on the series was praised for its strong character development, complex storylines, and its ability to tackle mature themes.
"Marvels" (1994) by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross's critically acclaimed limited series that provides a human perspective on the Marvel universe and its superheroes.
The series is a retelling of key events in the history of the Marvel Universe from the perspective of an ordinary human photographer named Phil Sheldon, who witnesses and records the rise of the Marvel heroes and their impact on society. The story covers events from the Golden Age of comics, up to the present day, including the first appearance of the Human Torch, Captain America's return from the ice, the debut of Spider-Man and the X-Men, and the coming of Galactus.
The series is known for its realistic and grounded approach to the Marvel Universe, as well as its emphasis on the human perspective and the impact of these extraordinary events on the world and its inhabitants. The series also explores themes such as the role of media, the changing nature of heroism, and the blurred lines between good and evil.
Alex Ross' art in the series is widely considered some of his best work, as he used a photorealistic painting style that gives a sense of realism to the comic and its characters. The series was a commercial and critical success and it won several awards, including the Eisner Award for Best Limited Series.
"The Killing Joke" (1988) by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland
Alan Moore's exploration of the relationship between Batman and the Joker, as well as the Joker's origin story.
The story is known for its darker and more mature tone, which is quite different from the typical comics of the time. It is also known for its controversial subject matter, which deals with issues such as violence, insanity, and the thin line between good and evil. It is widely considered one of the greatest Joker stories ever told and has had a profound impact on the character.
"The Sandman" (1989-1996) by Neil Gaiman and various artists
Neil Gaiman's critically acclaimed series that explores mythology, literature, and psychology through the lens of a supernatural being known as Dream or the Sandman.
He navigates through the realm of dreams and the different realms that exist within it. He also interacts with mortals and other supernatural entities, both in the dream world and in the real world. The series features a diverse cast of characters, including Lucifer, Death, Desire, Delirium, and many others.