For yours truly comics have been a huge part of growing up and now at the spring chicken age of a very young 42 laps around the sun, I’m still reading them today. But while I’ve potentially read upwards of thousands of the things across the decade both good and bad, today we’re taking a look at the ones that still stick out in my mind – either for a killer story, incredible visuals or a powerhouse moment that’s hard to forget.
And yes, there is at least one in the list that’s there for all the wrong reasons..
And in no particular order, those memorable comics are:
SPIDER MAN AND DOCTOR OCTOPUS SWAPS BODIES – DYING WISH, SPIDER MAN #700
Cards on the table, I wasn’t a big spider man fan growing up. Peter Parker in all his guises didn’t really ignite much fandom in my impressionable mind back when I was a kid, possibly because there were far cooler, bigger and edgier options available than a teenager trying to be a teenager and a superhero at roughly the same time.
Yes the movies were okay but mostly anything with Peter Parker in it I read where he wasn’t in the suit and went back to his meek and mild ways had me thinking ‘Seriously, could you please grow a back bone already?’ Maybe pretend to be in the suit in reality and stop hanging off the hope of doing something with MJ, I’ve seen the future and it doesn’t usually go well for you two depending on who’s telling the story anyway.
Likewise Doctor Octopus was never a villain that filled my ‘kick ass bad guy’ dance card. The metal arms were novel but the haircut was not and the fact that he’d turn up hassling ole Spidey more than anyone else meant I really saw him do much other than trying to render a fellow nerd unconscious. Arthur Molina tried in the movie, credit where credit is due but ultimately Doc Ock’s character is just a mad scientist bolted into a cybernetic rig with arms and in my mind there’s someone who plays a far better villain in this mould than Octavious could ever be.
So why if I have a fair bit of disinterest in both of these Marvel mainstays has this particular comic made the memorable comics cut? Because in this one Spider Man and Doc Oc swap bodies and Peter Parker dies, leaving the Octopus One as the new Superior Spiderman and this new version of ‘I’ve been bitten by a radioactive spider’ is a far more entertaining one. Along with his new body, Ock retains all of Peter’s memories and decides that with all of this heroic influence, he’s a bit disgusted about the man he once was and sets about to rectify that by playing the hero, even though he’s not really used to that.
Which means now in everything read from here on in with the Superior version, it’s Spider Man with a snarky attitude, far more confidence in everything and no tolerance for idiots (at his intellectual level every one is pretty much an idiot in his mind). He’s still fighting crime (and ends up sacrificing himself ultimately) but with a wiser, sharper head on his shoulders.
And who ever thought they’d kill off the original Peter Parker, albeit temporarily?
THE JOKER GETS DARKER AND MADDER THAN YOU THOUGHT POSSIBLE – BATMAN: THE KILLING JOKE 1988
I’ve mentioned before (and undoubtedly will plenty more times in the future) how when it comes to parties, I’m rarely late. But when it comes to getting into good things, yeah usually I’m a few generations or years behind. Like this one, a 1988 story I finally got to just last year (2021). And interestingly it’s a story line I’ve read many many times up until this point, it’s just that this retelling hasn’t just got me thinking it’s in the memorable comics list because it’s probably the best telling of the story. Nay, there’s a lot of people that love this one too.
It’s the birth of the joker from the point of a family man who is having the worst day of his life. He quits his job and tries to become a stand up comedian but dies on stage (not literally) and now he’s got to find another way to support his pregnant wife. Only she and the child die and he still has to go through with the plan to help some criminals with a break in that would’ve scored him some much needed cash before the accident took her away. Batman shows up to foil the crime and the family man leaps into the vat of chemicals to escape, becoming the Joker through the exposure and the crushing weight of losing everything. Which by itself is a heavy enough story line but wait, there’s more.
Joker kidnaps and tries to drive Jim Gordon insane, he cripples and does terrible things to Jim’s daughter and reveals in a showdown with Batman that he sees life is one big joke and even though Bat’s is trying, it’s too late for him to come back from this. They share a joke at the end and even Batman laughs (which is a rarity in itself) and then there’s an off camera couple of panels to end it that people still debate the outcome of to this day. (I won’t try to explain it, it’s best appreciated and analysed in comic form.)
I’ve read and seen various creation stories of the Joker but this by far has to be the most memorable one.
DEATH TURNS UP AND WRECKS HAVOC ON THE 2000 AD UNIVERSE – JUDGE DREDD
While I was growing up most of my heroes in comic book form were punching the bad guys with their super strength or stopping their evil ways with carefully aimed laser blasts. Judge Dredd just used to shoot holes in them with his lawgiver. Because that’s how the law worked in Mega-City One, judges made their decisions on the spot and it was either hard time or a bullet. For Dredd, I recalled a lot more bullets than time in the pen. Boy did the future look like a gritty and terrifying place for me (even in black and white) at 13!
Then all of a sudden a character called Judge Death turns up which for a long time I thought was an official horseman of the apocalypse but no, he’s from a parallel earth, the vicious son of a dentist who got to fry his own father in an electric chair and become a Judge in that world, deciding after a while that since crime was only committed by the living then everyone alive must be as guilty as sin so best they all die quick smart. Oh and this now powered being has three equally death loving friends that he loves to travel with being Mortis, Fear and Fire. Where they travel death quickly joins in for giggles and by the time Dredd arrived on the scene the body count was quite impressive.
I remember how terrifying he was, I remember the carnage and destruction he caused and amusingly I remember how his evil spirit was contained by cans of hairspray of all things. I can still remember the hissing way his speech was written, like it was coming from the grave. Now that for sure makes memorable comics.
EVERYONE BECOMES A ZOMBIE AND TRIES TO EAT THE WORLD – MARVEL ZOMBIES 2005
Spider Man beating his enemies…and then feasting on them. Drunk Iron Man purposely letting himself be eaten to spread a virus. The Living Planet being eaten by once clean cut and now zombified Marvel heroes. Hawkeye reduced to just to a crazed head.
Those images are pretty hard to forget.
Yeah there’s a lot going on in this five part series and a lot more that spawned from this brilliant idea. To have so many of the beloved Marvel universe committing hideous crimes (like eating the world and each other) to try and sake their uncontrollable hunger was something I’d never seen before and something I’m not going to forget in a hurry..
THE RAMIFICATIONS OF MIND WIPING – IDENTITY CRISIS
There’s so much going on in this one that me attempting to fumble my way through the events in blog form would just get messy so I suggest you read through the Wiki entry because I will miss a lot if I try to retell this story myself.
But at it’s base (well this is how I see it) it’s a murder mystery with masterful themes of manipulation and what can go wrong when you try to keep secrets. It carries some very heavy themes (like Heroes in Crisis coming up in a sec) and while I don’t remember the entire gist of it, there’s still plenty my mind retains of the major moments and how complicated everything got plot wise as it went on. DC seems very good at this, exploring the darker and more adult things where as marvel seems to prefer their good and evil with quite a few less shades.
WOLVERINE GETS STRIPPED OF HIS ADAMANTIUM – XMEN VOL 2 #2
I’ll be honest, I bought this one for the killer hologram of Gambit (not shown here) on the front cover because at the time both my brother Guy and I thought the raging cajun was simply the coolest Marvel character of all time. However that was just the tip of the iceberg for one of the most memorable comics I’ve ever read here, thanks to three major factors.
- Wolverine experiences one of the toughest moments in his comic life by having his metal that coats his skeleton literately torn out of him. Seriously, imagine having a surgical implant like a plate or surgical screw ripped out of you with great speed by magnetic force when you least expect it. Now multiply that by every single bone in your body. Yeah, you’re not coming back from that easily.
- Magneto proves by doing this just how dangerous he can be. Yes we know he’s mad, bad and dangerous to know, yes he can throw cars and crush metal with his mind. But this..this was a new one.
- Not to be outdone, Charles Xavier slams mags with a mind attack so powerful, it actually wipes Eric’s mind. Witnessing the absolute horror of adamantium exiting a mutant body like flexible pool noodles, Xavier doesn’t pull any punches and shows that when he’s pushed he’s just as dangerous as his counterpart.
Wolverine going through hell is nothing new (Old Man Logan is also a great series full of pain for Wolvey both mental and physical) but he’d never been stripped of the force that made him utterly lethal before. And then you learn a little bit more about his actual bone structure in the very next issue that was also a big reveal..
THE PROPORTIONS GO ALL OUT OF PROPORTIONS.. – X FORCE #3 1991
As mentioned above, not all of the memorable comics listed here are for the right reasons. This one sticks in my mind simply because of how it’s drawn – like giants have grabbed everyone’s hands and feet and squeezed them tightly, pushing all the muscle further up the limb..
Spiderman’s Only Fan’s form there was even pointed out by one of the staff who worked at Minotaur Comics Melbourne when it was still somewhere on Collins Street. On the back issue plastic card you’d take to the counter to swap for a pristine copy of the comic, someone had written ‘The worlds most disproportionate Spider Man edition.’
And don’t get me started on Cable there who’s metal limb sheets start off as a size 12, terminating right down to a size 2.
This is the early 90’s work of artist Rob Liefield who the internet has pointed out really didn’t like drawing feet. No seriously, they’ve really gone to town on the whole foot thing because this cover wasn’t the only example. I’ll spare you the insides of this one because from memory the strangely disproportionate just kept dispropotioning right across the pages.
I probably still have it somewhere come to think of it.
THE KIDS AREN’T ALRIGHT – DV8 1996
Like the Rolling Stones were seen as the seedier, grimier, darker version of the Beatles back in the day, DV8 was everything the fairly squeaky clean teens of Gen 13 couldn’t be. At the heart of both comics all the teens were busy trying to find themselves while going on various missions etc but when it came to the crossroads of good and ‘Boy oh have things suddenly gotten a little murky and twisted all of a sudden’ path, team DV8 peeled right off the road and started doing burnouts on the dark side. And boy did the writers here made the waters as muddy as possible because in the team you had:
A wealthy spoiled brat, a constantly horny stoner dog who could morph into other animals, a girl with multiple personality disorder and occasional paranoid schizophrenia, loners, a crazed caretaker obsessed with a severed mannequin head, a sex addict and a boss who didn’t mind the odd bout of team member sacrifice and cradle snatching for good measure. Which sounds like an average Netflix series right now but in the late 90s, they’re pretty new themes for a teenager like I was punching on with puberty.
Oh and depending on who drew the characters (there were a few artists having a crack at this title), they either looked like normal (albeit fit and jacked up) teens or had cans the size of watermelons. Freestyle I’m looking at you – this isn’t a normal teenage girl at all, unless Gen-Factor turns you into a cross fit model with implants:
Still, I read it for the themes. Yes the themes. And I found myself relating to Evo on occasion, minus the weed so there was that I guess too.
DID HARLEY QUINN AND BOOSTER GOLD COMMIT MASS MURDER? – HEROES IN CRISIS 2018
Finally I’ll leave you with the latest of memorable comics that I’ve been lucky to read, getting into this one just last month courtesy of the local library (which if you’re reading library, more of this stuff on the shelves please!).
There’s been a massacre at a superhero rehabilitation centre and the race is on to work out who did it. Two of the patients are still standing – future hero Booster Gold believes serial nutter Harley Quinn did the foul dead, while Harley is convinced that it’s Booster behind the murders and needs to be put down post haste. Meanwhile the heroes that set up the centre to help other heroes deal with the heavy weight of what they do: Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman have to try and untangle the mystery before it gets worse.
Across the story you hear from the victims themselves, explaining how they ended up being there and the mental health issues they’re battling (or should I say battled in past tense given what happens to them) and like Identity Crisis above, there’s a lot more than meets the eye obviously and it’s what you don’t see but is revealed later and the heavy themes covered that makes this one stand out for me.
So there’s my nine most memorable comics so far (I’m sure that list will change soon enough reading even more as I do) but which comics stand out for you? Got your own list of comics really hard to forget for whatever reason? I’d love to hear them in a comment below!