‘Ello guv’nahs (I’m sorry), it’s time for So You Want To Read Comics, our weekly feature where we focus on one topic, then suggest some comic books for new readers, based on that topic. Last week we took a look at some great graphic novels coming out of France and we’re keeping it European this week by taking a look at what the United Kingdom has to offer.
For the better part of the 20th century the UK struggled to have a comic book identity of its own. With the exception of a handful of strips appearing in newspapers, a majority of British comics were reprintings of older American comics. But, in the 70s this began to change. Favoring weekly anthologies or “magazines”, these collections feature some of the most challenging, iconoclastic, and unique comic book work out there at the time. By the end of the century, the British comic scene is a breeding ground for some of the greatest talent to ever hit the comic book industry as a whole.
So before I get into the “official” recommendations I wanted to address what some might consider a big omission. In 1977 a magazine called 2000 A. D. hits the stands and soon becomes perhaps the most iconic of the British science fiction magazines and it’s still being published today. While not only being the birthplace of some properties that would become globally enjoyed (more on that soon), it is also here where creators like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, and Garth Ennis cut their teeth. While this magazine is deserving of recognition, there isn’t a really convenient way to get your hands on some of the older issues, which hurts its accessibility.
Okay, on to the recommendations. Tally-ho!
Judge Dredd: The Complete Case Files
Writer: John Wagner
Artists: Mick McMahon & Brian Bolland
Publisher: 2000 A.D. Graphic Novels
It may come as a shock to some who know this name only because of a Sylvester Stallone movie or the crossover with Batman, but Judge Dredd originally comes from jolly old England. Starting off as a regular feature in the science fiction magazine 2000 A.DSet in a dystopian future where “judges” act as police officers and executioners, Judge Dredd became a standout and went on to be its own title. Judge Dredd is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to comic books. While having legitimately fun action and adventure, it also is deeply satirical (especially towards various aspects of American culture), while managing to continually feel fresh even after 40 years, but surprisingly not at the expense of consistency with its universe. Basically, Judge Dredd can be enjoyed as both an action comic but also as a political one, but it’s when these two aspects come together that this title really shines and with the sheer amount of Judge Dredd stories out there, there’re plenty of these moments to be found.
Writer: Alan Moore
Artist: Eddie Campbell
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Another product of the magazine scene, this time an anthology called Taboo, From Hell is Alan Moore’s retelling of the Jack The Ripper killings that plagued London during the 1800s. Moore utilized extensive research on the topic paired with an imaginative tale dripping with mysticism and Freemason mythology to produce a take on this subject that is wild, mind-boggling, and gripping. Through the course of this graphic novel, themes like working class exploitation, the nonlinear nature of time, even nuclear weapons are touched on. On top of the story, From Hell has art that lovingly recreates one of the most well-known time periods of British history, The Victorian Era. From Hell isn’t exactly the easiest of reads and as its themes expand it soon goes far beyond the story of just a murder. Yet, it’s a rewarding read and another example of the complexities that comic books can reach.
So, what did you think of these recommendations? Do you have suggestions of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.