Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The Big League part 2

Hey, who wants to hear more of my opinions regarding which heroes we'll be seeing in the JLA film? You're in luck. 'cos they start in the next sentence.

Red Tornado (Ulthoon / John Smith)
Joined: Justice League of America #106

Red Tornado is one of those characters who has quite a complicated origin. Originally created by League villain T. O. Morrow, the android was supposed to infiltrate the League on his behalf and take them down from the inside. Once the android was completed, it was merged with two other beings, Ulthoon, the Tornado Tyrant of Rann and the Tornado Champion. But we can ignore most of that. Reddy's origin, despite these complications, is easy to boil down. He's an android merged with an elemental being which gives him power over and the ability to create, yes, tornadoes. However, this isn't the most interesting thing about Red Tornado. Reddy is another of those characters who falls under the umbrella of a synthetic man seeking to become more human, but where Reddy differs from many of the others with the same goal, is how close he comes. He even marries a human woman and adopts a daughter, Traya, who he cares for deeply. Sadly, there probably wouldn't be much room for this in a League movie, and while Reddy has been a favourite of mine for a while (since his appearances in Young Justice where he helped guide the young heroes of the DCU), I think it's unlikely that he'll appear in the first League movie. But don't be surprised if he pops up in a sequel.

Hawkgirl (Shayera Hol / Shiera Hall)
Joined: Justice League of America #146

Remember what we said last time out, about Hawkman being a continuity nightmare? Yeah, well, no Hawkman, no Hawkgirl. Sure, the Justice League cartoon got around this easily enough, but they had five seasons to explore Hawkgirl's character. She won't be in the movie.

Zatanna (Zatanna Zatara)
Joined: Justice League of America #161

The daughter of golden age magician Giovanni Zatara, Zatanna followed in her father's footsteps to become a powerful practitioner of magic in her own right. An interesting facet to Zatanna's powers is that most of her spells require her to speak magic words aloud. These magic words, for the most part, are simply her saying what she wants in English, but backwards. It's an interesting quirk, which may be quite difficult to show properly on screen without being laughed at, but there are ways around it. Zatanna's a popular League member, who also has strong connections to Batman, and it would be a shame if she didn't appear in the film. This has absolutely nothing to do with her costume. Honest.

Firestorm (Ronnie Raymond and Professor Martin Stein)
Joined: Justice League of America #179

Okay, Firestorm, the Nuclear man, is actually two people. Ronnie Raymond was merged with Professor Stein, and gained power over the elements. Raymond guides Firestorm's body, with Stein mostly existing within his mind, but it's Stein who guides Raymond in the best use of Firestorm's powers, advising which elements will work best in which situations, which ones to combine for a variety of effects, and so on and so forth. Firestorm's powers, and his very nature as two separate people in one body, would be a bit complex to go into in the Justice League movie, so I wouldn't expect to see him, though an eventual sequel dealing with the nuclear man isn't out of the question.

Steel (Hank Heyward III)
Joined: Justice League of America Annual #2

Steel was a member of the League when a fair few of its members were, well, a bit rubbish. Seriously, we've got Gypsy and Vibe coming up soon. In fairness, Steel isn't actually a bad character, he's just... Well, when you're strong and invulnerable, but not as strong or invulnerable as Superman, Wonder Woman or the Martian Manhunter, is there any point in you being on the League? We won't be seeing Steel in the film.

Vixen (Mari McCabe)
Joined: Justice League of America Annual #2

Vixen is basically a female version of Animal Man (more on him later), who uses a mystical amulet to tap into the powers of various animals on Earth. There was a time when you would've said that there is no way she'll be appearing in the film, but her appearances in the Justice League cartoon (where she was voiced by Gina Torres), and her subsequent membership in the League when Brad Meltzer relaunched the book, have lifted her out of obscurity and arguably into the second tier of DC heroes, alongside such characters as Elongated Man and Doctor Fate. Don't be too surprised if there's some kind of an appearance in the film, but it won't be a starring role.

Vibe (Paco Ramone)
Joined: Justice League of America Annual #2

Whoo! Racial stereotyping a-go-go! No. Unless Michael Bay directs the Justice League movie, Vibe will be nowhere near it.

Gypsy (Cindy Reynolds)
Joined: Justice League of America #236

For when one racial stereotype on your team just isn't enough! In fairness to Gypsy, she has transcended her origins and become so much more in recent years, especially when compared to Vibe, but you still won't see her in the movie.

Blue Beetle (Ted Kord)
Joined: Legends #6

The original basis for Owlman in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon's seminal Watchmen, Blue Beetle was a scientist who invented gadgets to help him in his crime fighting career. To be honest, you kind of have to hope that Blue Beetle won't appear in the Justice League movie, not because he isn't a good character, but because it would be better to see him and his colleagues from Justice League International in their own spin off movie. Base it on the I Can't Believe It's Not The Justice League / Formerly Known as the Justice League comics by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire, and, if done properly, you have yourself a cracking superhero comedy movie. This should definitely happen.

Captain Marvel (Billy Batson)
Joined: Legends #6

When young Billy Batson shouts the magic word "Shazam!" he is transformed into Captain Marvel, the world's mightiest mortal, with the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. When Captain Marvel first appeared, published by Fawcett Comics, DC weren't too happy with what they saw as copyright infringement on Superman and sued Fawcett. DC later gained ownership of Captain Marvel (though were unable to promote him or his comic using the name Captain Marvel, due to Marvel copyrighting that name in the period when he wasn't being used), so he often appears in comics simply titled Shazam! Captain Marvel is an interesting character, as he's essentially a child in an adults body, with super powers which genuinely rival those of Superman. In fact, since his own powers are magic based, Captain Marvel once knocked Superman out with three punches, making him a real force to be reckoned with in the DCU. He won't be in the first Justice League film, but he's such an interesting character when handled properly that it wouldn't be a surprise if DC and Warner Bros give him a solo movie in the not too distant future, before moving him over to the JLA.

Doctor Fate (Kent Nelson)
Joined: Legends #6

Doctor Fate is essentially the DCU's Doctor Strange (although he appeared first, Strange seems to be more well known), filling a very similar role of the go to guy for any DC heroes dealing with a mystical threat they don't quite understand. Back in part six of my Avengers blog, I covered Doctor Strange, saying that his powers made him difficult to write well, just by the very nature of them. The exact same thing applies to Doctor Fate as well. It should be pointed out, the two characters are actually quite different once you get beneath the surface, but for the very same reasons that Doctor Strange won't be in the Avengers, we're also not likely to see Doctor Fate in the Justice League, at least for a while.

Green Lantern / Guy Gardner / Warrior (Guy Gardner)
Joined: Legends #6

When the dying Abin Sur crash landed on Earth, his Green Lantern ring found two possible candidates to become the new Green Lantern of Sector 2814, Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner. Jordan was chosen, simply because he was physically closest. However, Gardner was eventually drafted into the Green Lantern Corps as Hal's back up, which eventually lead, quite naturally, to Gardner becoming Sector 2814's Green Lantern when Hal was out of action for a while. When Hal did return, Gardner challenged him to a fight to see who would be Earth's Green Lantern. The loser would leave the Corps. Of course, the loser was Gardner, but that was far from the end. Gardner gained possession of Sinestro's yellow ring, and began a new superhero career as Guy Gardner. However, this too came to an end and (here's where it gets a little complicated) Gardner, who now discovered that he had alien DNA within him that was seeded a thousand years ago, then drank some alien water which... Um... Look, the how doesn't matter. He became Warrior instead, with a completely new power set. But, to be honest, it was kind of a rubbish power set and he looked pretty bad too. So, thankfully, when the Green Lantern Corps returned during after Green Lantern: Rebirth Gardner was invited to rejoin, becoming a Green Lantern once again. Gardner won't be in the first Justice League movie. Expect him to appear in a future Green Lantern sequel though.

To be continued...

Sunday, 17 April 2011

The Big League part 1

Remember last summer, when I spent ten blogs running through every single member of the Avengers, plus their enemies and supporting cast, in an effort to determine who would and wouldn't appear in the upcoming movie, as well as that one post where I discussed what we definitely wouldn't see? Well, I've been looking for an excuse to try the same thing with DC's Justice League of America, and with the recent announcement that the JLA will be getting a film at some point in the next few years means I finally have one! What's interesting here, is that Christopher Nolan, the man who brought us two sublime Batman films, with a third in the works, and is producing the upcoming new Superman film, seems to be overseeing the whole thing in a producer capacity. Rumour is, he'll supervise most of the solo films which come out before hand, then bring the team together in a JLA film. Chris Nolan, the custodian of DC Comics superheroes on the big screen? Sounds like a plan to me.

Now, while the format of this blog will be identical to my Avengers series (lots of pictures to pad it out and make it look like I worked harder on it than I did), it is a little trickier for me to write. First of all, DC's continuity isn't as straightforward as Marvel's (which at times, is saying something). DC have this habit of rebooting everything when it gets complicated, but, in my opinion, it only leads to more complications, as certain characters who were members suddenly aren't and never have been, others were, but not when they said they were, and some never even existed. It's hard to make sense of. This is one (quite small) reason why I don't read as many DC comics as I do Marvel comics. As such, while I'm by no means dumb when it comes to the JLA, my knowledge of the team isn't nearly as great as my knowledge of the Avengers.

Still, lets give it a go, eh? On with the show! We'll start with one of the more obscure members...

Superman (Kal-El / Clark Kent)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

When the JLA first appeared, in 1960's The Brave and the Bold #28, they were actually already a team. It wasn't until later, in 1962's Justice League of America #9, that the origins of the team were revealed. However, it was swiftly established that the seven founding members (later known as The Big Seven) were DC's seven biggest selling superheroes of the time. Which, quite naturally, included Superman. That being said though, Superman's presence in the book, certainly for the first few years, was fleeting. Writer Gardner Fox didn't want the League to just become another vehicle for Superman and Batman, characters who had been selling well for a good couple of decades already, instead wanting to showcase DC's newer characters (although these were largely revamps of their classic 1940's superheroes, who themselves formed the JSA, or Justice Society of America. But more on them later). Of course, as time went on, Superman became more important to the League, to the point where he was seen as the defacto team leader (a position occupied by the Flash originally). Warner Bros have already announced a new Superman film, produced by Chris Nolan, directed by Zach Snyder and starring Henry Caville as the Man of Steel. His presence in the League movie is a given.

Batman (Bruce Wayne)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

For Batman's early history with the League, see the above for Superman. It's the exact same situation. What's interesting, is that when DC first revamped continuity after 1985's Crisis On Infinite Earths, Superman and Batman were no longer counted among the Leagues founding members (neither was Wonder Woman, but that's a whole other story). They were basically written out of the Leagues first year or so of missions, and in fact were said to have joined the team after both Green Arrow and the Atom. But then, only a few years ago, DC gave us Infinite Crisis and 52, both of which changed continuity again. Suddenly, Bats and Supes were both founding members of the JLA again. Though in Batman's case, he's often on the team grudgingly, or to keep the rest of them in line. Batman is the member of the League all the others respect and fear, because he's not just a man. He's the Batman. However, when it comes to the film version of the League, how is this going to play? Well, it won't be Christian Bale playing Batman. This is a good thing, because good as they are, the current Batman films version of the Dark Knight just wouldn't fit in with the rest of the League. So what's the plan? Apparently, once Nolan finishes the third in his current trilogy of Batman films, the franchise will reboot. Again. Nolan will still be running things, but there'll be a new Batman, who will be designed specifically to tie in a little better to the League films. I'm not sold on whether this is a good idea or not, but then there's that fanboy part of me which says "Batman and Superman. On screen. Together. Live action. OHMYGODPLEASEGIVETHISTOMENOWINEEDIT!!!!!!" He's got a point.

Wonder Woman (Princess Diana of Themyscira / Diana Prince)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Right. When the League first formed, Wonder Woman was a founding member. Then Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, and suddenly, in DC continuity, the League formed before Diana ever left her island home of Themyscira and became Wonder Woman. This left the "original" League without any of DC's holy Trinity, and, crucially, without any female members. So, Wonder Woman was replaced with Black Canary. Yeah, why not. That'll do okay. But, oh, wait, here's Infinite Crisis and 52 again, and once more, Wonder Woman is a founding member, and Black Canary joined later on and... You know, I love these characters. Genuinely, I think they're brilliant. But this kind of thing just doesn't happen with the Avengers! Anyway, regardless, Wonder Woman needs to be in the League film. She's as powerful as Superman, and with her warrior training, she's probably more the League's muscle than anyone else. How she'll appear in said film though? Unsure. There's a live action TV series in production at the moment, starring Adrianne Palicki as Wonder Woman, but rumour is there'll be a big screen version as well, featuring a different Wonder Woman. It's going to be this version we see in the League film.

The Flash (Barry Allen)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Okay, things get a little simpler now. Phew. Barry Allen was a police forensics scientist who was always late. While working at the station one night, Barry was caught when a lightning bolt struck a shelf of chemicals, which connected him to the mythical Speed Force (no, really) and turned him into the Fastest Man Alive. From their very first appearance, the Flash was the team leader of the League, and was a prominent member right up until he died in Crisis On Infinite Earths #8. Flash's sidekick, Kid Flash, took up the mantle of the Flash, an unprecedented move for a superhero comic at the time, and it's only in the last couple of years that Barry has returned from the dead and rejoined the League. A Flash film has been in the works for a while (though there has already been a not half bad at all live action TV series), so expect this to suddenly get a new lease of life. Flash will be in the League film.

Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Basically, he's a space cop who wields a ring that can create anything he imagines, as long as he has the will power. Green Lantern is awesome, and another League mainstay from the beginning. The Green Lantern film is coming out this summer, with Ryan Reynolds in the title roll, but is this the first film of the DC shared universe, or the last one before that happens? To be honest, it kind of depends on how the film performs. If it does well, then chances are that it will be Ryan Reynolds playing GL in the League film. If the film bombs, expect a swift reboot. I hope it does well, but to be honest, I'm still not sold after the footage they've released so far. And the film costume still sucks.

Aquaman (Arthur Curry / Orin)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

Yes. Aquaman is the dude who can talk to fishes. He's also super strong and and breathe underwater. Oh, and he's the king of Atlantis. And these days, has a hand made of water. Look, lets be honest, Aquaman is kind of a joke in comics. This is a shame, as he is a character with real potential if used properly. Grant Morrison showed this during his run on JLA, and Mark Waid did some interesting things with him in his run after Morrison and JLA: Year One. The question is, will Aquaman be in a League film? If you are going to leave out any of the big seven, he would be the most likely to not appear. But I don't think that'll happen. I think the real question is whether he'll get a solo venture or not first. With a new series of comics due out soon, written by Geoff Johns, the man who has been doing wonders with Green Lantern for a few years now, don't be surprised if Aquaman has a sudden resurgence in popularity and his own film before Justice League. In which he'll converse with some tuna.

Martian Manhunter (J'onn J'onzz / John Jones)
Joined: The Brave and the Bold #28

The last of the Big Seven, J'onn J'onzz has been with the League more than anyone else. While he can no longer claim to have been a member of every incarnation, he's still logged more time as a Leaguer than the next hero. The last Martian, with powers comparable to Superman plus telepathy and shapeshifting, J'onn also works as a detective, combining some of the best elements of both Superman and Batman. He's a very interesting character, despite an inability to generate enough sales to carry on a solo series in the last two decades or so. I would expect him to appear in the League film, and then, if the reception is good, spin off into his own solo feature.

Green Arrow (Oliver Queen)
Joined: Justice League of America #4

I really hope Green Arrow appears in the League movie. Starting out as a very obvious Batman knock off (he's a billionaire playboy with no actual powers, and he had an Arrow Car and an Arrow Cave. Honest), Green Arrow has developed over the decades into a really fun character. Outspoken and opinionated, arguments are guaranteed when Green Arrow's around. Look at his portrayal in the Justice League Unlimited cartoon, in which he took center stage a lot of the time. That's what we want to see in a film. Will we see it? There's a chance. If anyone other than the Big Seven are going to appear, you have to say that Ollie's a likely candidate. Fingers crossed.

The Atom (Ray Palmer)
Joined: Justice League of America #14

The Atom is another mainstay of the League who joined in the early days. Like Green Arrow, it's difficult to say whether he'll appear or not, but you have to hope he will. Just 'cos it'd be cool to see him sit in a tiny floating chair above the meeting table, then cling tight to the Flash's shoulder as he runs off at super speed. Sounds fun, no?

Hawkman (Katar Hol / Carter Hall)
Joined: Justice League of America #31

Hawkman is... Well, quite frankly, he's a continuity nightmare. Yes, Geoff Johns has mostly fixed that in the comics now, but I'd still be very surprised if he showed up in a League film.

Black Canary (Dinah Laurel Lance)
Joined: Justice League of America #74

So, Black Canary was the eleventh person to join the League. Then she was a founder. Then she... Well, we pretty much covered this up there in the Wonder Woman entry. Still, Dinah is fairly key to the history of the Justice League, and has a long, romantic past with Oliver Queen. She won't be a prominent character, but expect her to put in some kind of appearance, especially if Green Arrow's in it. This is good, 'cos, ya know, fishnets.

The Phantom Stranger
Joined: Justice League of America #103

The Phantom Stranger is one of those shrouded in mystery types. Mainly brought out when there are supernatural forces which need fighting, he's usually more of a consultant to the League than anything else. He won't be in the first film, but if we ever get a League film featuring one of the DCU's more supernatural threats, then there's a strong chance the Stranger will appear. Let's hope that happens, 'cos quite frankly, his pulp look is pretty awesome.

Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny)
Joined: Justice League of America #105

He's a stretchy dude. Ya know, like Mister Fantastic of Fantastic Four fame. Elongated Man and his wife play a key part in Identity Crisis, one of the great League stories of modern times, but it's subject matter (a supervillain, Doctor Light, rapes Elongated Man's wife, so the League wipes his memory and turns him into a simpering idiot) isn't something we're likely to see in a League film. Expect a cameo at most.

To be continued...

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Top 10 Comics For People Who Don't Read Comics

(Note: This is actually an old blog pinched from my Myspace page. But I don't really have time to write anything new this weekend, and figured most of you on facebook haven't actually read it, so here it is, posted again, with some changes and revisions. Enjoy!)

I read comics. Shocking admition, huh? Bet none of you knew that one. But as a comic reader, I have a lot of friends (some of them are you!) who don't read them, and say they have no interest in doing so. BUT, most of my non comic reading friends have ended up reading the odd comic, and have enjoyed reading it. I mean, lets face it, how many movies over the last few years which you've enjoyed have been based on comics?

The fact is, like any other medium (books, films, TV shows, plays, etc.) there are so many different comics out there about so many different things, that I can guarantee you that there's at least one out there which you will enjoy, no matter what your feelings on comics are beforehand.

With this in mind, I am hear presenting my list of the 10 comics I think you should read if you DON'T read comics alread. Now this list is just a personal thing rather than a definitive list put together by professionals, and I'm certainly not saying that you have to go out and read them. But I am saying that if you give one or two of them a try, you may well find yourself enjoying a new medium you haven't tried before. Note that I have excluded spin-offs, such as the recent Buffy Season 8, and adaptations, such as Marvel's recent Dark Tower comic, excellent as they are.

1. The Sandman: The Dream Hunters, by Neil Gaiman and Yoshitaka Amano

The Sandman is a seminal work by author Neil Gaiman which tells the story of Morpheus, the lord of the Dream world. Gaiman weaves a classic dark fantasy story over the series as only he can and fans of his prose fiction wil love it, but the whole thing lasts for 10 volumes of graphic novel collections. A little daunting for someone new to the world of comics. For newbies, my recommendation would be to go for "The Dream Hunters", a stand alone story Gaiman wrote which was illustrated by famed Japanese artist Yoshitaka Amano. The story itself is a retelling of a traditional Japanese fairy tale, but adapted to feature characters from the Sandman series, and as such, it requires no previous knowledge at all of the Sandman universe. The other thing that makes it instantly accessible to newbies is the fact that it isn't told in the traditional comic book style. Gaiman writes in prose accompanied by absolutely glorious illustrations from Amano. Some people would argue that technically, this doesn't make it a comic, but Amano's pictures are key to the story, moving it on just as much as Gaiman's prose, and at the end of the day, a comic is simply a story told with pictures. So yes, it is a comic which is instantly accessable to those who haven't touched a comic before. And Amano is one of the most interesting artists working today. There's a myspace page in my friends list which showcases some of his work. Check it out, then hunt down (or just borrow off me) "The Dream Hunters"

2. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear by Frank Miller and John Romita Jr.

In the 1980's, writer Frank Miller penned the seminal run on Marvel's Daredevil title, transforming a character who at the time was nothing more than a B-list character at best into one of their top selling titles. However, while Miller's original run is quite simply one of the finest superhero comics out there, to be honest, it's probably not the best starting point for someone new to comics. Instead, I'd offer up this retelling of Daredevils origin from the 1990's. Miller returned to the character with fan-favourite artist John Romita Jr. for DD's 30th anniversary. Miller offered up a dark, gritty story which combined elements of an urban crime tale with traditional martial arts action. And it's not your typical superhero story by any means. DD doesn't even appear in costume until the final page! Instead, what this gives us is a hardboiled vigilante taking on organised crime and a child prostitution ring that has more in common with movies like Taxi Driver rather than your average superhero comic!

3. Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazuchelli

Of course, DD wasn't the first time Miller had retooled a classic heroes origins. That honour went to Batman, whom Miller tackled soon after his first stint on Daredevil ended. Many will point to Millers "The Dark Knight Returns" as the seminal Batman story, and they're not wrong. But if you are new to comics, before you move on to his tale of a Batman returning to Gotham in his fifties and coming up against a corrupt American government, then it's best to start with his story of a much younger Batman, still new to the world of crime fighting and fumbling the ball on more than one occasion. Like "The Man Without Fear", "Year One" can easily be described as dark and gritty, also introducing us to a young Lieutenant James Gordon and Catwoman, and the art by David Mazuchelli captures this feel perfectly. "Year One" was largely the inspiration for much of the feel and story of the excellent "Batman Begins". If you enjoyed that movie, then it wouldn't hurt to check out its original inspiration.

4. Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

This tale of three lions who escaped from Baghdad zoo and were killed by American soldiers was based on true events taken straight from the newspapers, and Vaughan (who curently writes for "Lost" on TV) weaves a moving and tragic story around their plight. Accompanied by gorgeous art from Henrichon this is without a doubt one of the absolute best, if not the very best, comics of the last 10 years.

5. Preacher: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Read any "Preacher" comic, and immediately you'll notice that it's a little... different to any comic, hell, any book you've ever read before. The story of a small town preacher named Jesse Custer (note the initials) who becomes host to Genesis, the spawn of a demon and an angel, which gives him the power of the word of God (he uses it, people have to do what he says). Jesse discovers that God has buggered off somewhere with no explanation, so with his ex-girlfriend, Tulip, and a hard drinking Irish vampire named Cassidy, he resolves to find God and get some answers. But it gets much more twisted than that. Ennis is famed for pushing the boundaries of what's acceptable in comics, and Preacher is no different. In the first arc alone, we see the consequences of what happens when Jesse uses the word of God to tell someone to go fuck themselves, but rather than being revolted by it, you find yourself laughing and eager to turn the page. But Preacher isn't just funny. By turns it's a moving tale of friendship, a western, a romance and a comment on how stupid religion can be. Check out this first volume, and become addicted.

6. Origin by Paul Jenkins and Andy Kubert

Who was your favourite character in the X-Men movies? It was Wolverine, wasn't it? Well, here, in Origin, writer Paul Jenkins gives us the definitive origin of the man named Logan. Set in nineteenth century Canada, during the first issue it doesn't even reveal which of the characters is Wolverine, but as the story unfolds, it is revealed that everyone's favourite feral X-Man has a deeply tragic background. It's no wonder he's an angry man. You won't find any sign of any other character from X-Men mythology. There's no Sabretooth, no Professor Xavier and no Magneto. Simply the story of a young man trying to come to terms with who and what he is. Coupled with Andy Kuberts art (beautifully coloured by Richard Isanove, probably the best colourest working in comics today), this story often feels more like a period drama than a superhero origin story. But then, can't superheroes come from any background?

7. Ultimate Spider-Man: Power and Responsibility by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley

The only ongoing title on this list, Ultimate Spider-Man is now over 100 issues in. A new take on the Spider-Man mythos told from the very beginning, this brings a modern update to the early life of high school student Peter Parker, who was bitten by a... well, you know the rest, right? This first volume collects the first story arc of the title, which tells us of the famed spider bite, the death of Peter's Uncle Ben, and Spidey's first battle with the Green Goblin. What impresses here though, is Bendis takes his time with it. Uncle Ben, killed off in Spidey's very first appearance in Amazing Fantasy 15 originally, here survives for the first few issues, giving you a chance to get to know him that much better, and really feel the loss when he does get killed. Bendis is one of the best writers of dialogue in the business, and Peter Parker comes across as what he is: a fifteen year old boy. Add to that, it's funny, with Bendis giving Spidey some of his best lines ever, bar none! And when it comes to Spider-Man artists, Bagley is up there with the best, capturing the movement and athleticism of Spider-Man, and the youth of Peter Parker perfectly. Check out this first volume, then read the rest.

8. 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

Vampires attack an Alaskan town at night. Simple enough. Except night in this town lasts a whole month. And all of a sudden, you've got a brilliantly simple idea which you wonder why you didn't think of first, and executed wonderfully. Steve Niles writes a dark story which actually manages something you don't find that often in comics: It scares you. This is horrror comics at their very best, and Templesmiths art only adds to the terror. If you like horror, you'll like this. Ignore the movie though. That sucked.

9. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

Forget the God awful film from a few years back. The original comic from legendary writer Alan Moore is brilliant. Alan Quartermain, Mina Harker, Dr Jekyll, Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man are brought together by Champion Bond working the mysterious M to fight the villainous Fu Manchu. It's a brilliant concept which Moore has plans to take even further. Volume two pitted the team against the Martians from "War of the Worlds", The Black Dossier pitted Quartermain and Harker agains James Bond and Emma Peel, and with volume four due out this year, now is the perfect time to brush up on you League history. League is clever, funny and just a bloody good adventure story in the traditional style. Check it out. You won't be sorry.

10. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

When I originally wrote this list, Watchmen didn't feature. Obviously, I'm aware that it is probably the greatest comic of all time, but I also felt that maybe it was a little too niche. Well, boy, was I wrong. Having read it again a couple of times (mostly as a refresher before the movie came out), I realised that there is no reason not to recommend it to a non comics reader. Many people find their way into comics because they started with Watchmen, and it constantly finds its way onto various lists of the greatest novels of all time. If you haven't seen the film, then please, do yourself a favour and read the comic first. It will defy all the expectations you'll have for a superhero comic, featuring flawed characters, real drama and tragedy, and simply some of the best storytelling you'll ever find. There has never been a better blend of script and art than this. And it's got an absolutely killer ending.

So there you have it. My picks for the 10 comics to read if you don't read comics. Any of you who do read comics, post some of your own suggestions. I own most of these, so if anyone does fancy giving them a go, just ask to borrow them. Then feel free to borrow more. And more. And more. Ooh, not that one though. It's quite valuable.