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Dara Berkey’s Top 10 Comic Books

Written by Dara Berkey

Comic books are very important to me. Even though many people used to think of them as throwaway garbage, not even worth the paper they were printed on, comic books and superheroes in general are great ways to tell a story. There is a long history in my family of being comic book nerds. My dad was a kid in the 1970s and he read Spider-Man religiously. My great-aunt was a teenager during World War II but she recalls even the origin story of the original Captain Marvel. 

Therefore, it’s no surprise that I read a lot. Like, I’m not joking. I usually read 3-5 regular books a week. Then I also read manga and comic books that I follow. Not to mention the massive amounts of e-books and articles that I can read. If I had to make a list of my top ten books, I would never get it done.

Here’s my countdown of my top 10 comics!

10. Batman:  Li’l Gotham

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I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but I enjoy the artwork in Batman:  Li’l Gotham.  It’s a cute series, which includes all the Batman family and villains. This is best if you like Bat-dad with an adorable Damian Wayne as Robin and the rest of the Batfamily hanging out, fighting baddies. Bat-dad is a super important aspect of Batman that many people tend to ignore, for drama. For all intensive purposes, Bruce Wayne is the father of at least seven kids and a father-figure to a bunch more. The fact also about Li’l Gotham has Red Hood, Red Robin, Nightwing, and Robin all hanging out and acting like real brothers is awesome.

I also like that there are characters that we normally don’t see anymore appear–like Damian’s friend, Colin (Abuse), Katana, Helena Bertanelli the Huntress (not the new Spyral version). Also I like that they treat Talia pretty well. She’s gotten a lot a stupid storylines over the years. I like to think that Talia loves her son, Damian, and will do everything in her power to keep him safe, but also successful. Talia and Bruce act more like a divorced couple in this.

The family aspect of superhero comics tend to be forgotten, though they are getting better with Superman and the new Superboy, Jon. Li’l Gotham is awesome on so many levels.

9. Kimi Ni Todoke

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I do not read much romance stuff, but Kimi Ni Todoke is an adorable coming-of-age story about a super shy and quiet but very awkward Japanese teenage girl who unfortunately resembles the girl from The Ring and her classmates are afraid of her due to that. The main love interest is a nice guy which is refreshing to see, too.

I read the original one-shot, not really thinking much of it. But I really liked the concept. The girl Sawako is a sweetheart but so awkward and shy. But she tries so hard. It is what endears her to the class tomboy/loudmouth Chizu and the “mature” Yano. I like that the story is just as much about Sawako’s young love with class popular boy/nice-guy Kazehaya, but also about her friendship with Yano and Chizu.

Thus far, it’s reached their second year in high school (in the US, they’re juniors), but I think that’s going straight to graduation because of the talk of careers and universities. It’s silly, sweet, heartbreaking, and heartwarming in all aspects. Even if it’s not your kind of thing, I totally recommend it.

8. Bleach

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I read Bleach to the bitter end. (The ending was kind of suckish, I admit). The manga was good until the ultimate bad guy Sousuke Aizen was defeated. I kind of almost wish that the creator ended it there instead of continuing. Bleach has a great mythology to it. There are loads and loads of characters that everyone could enjoy. Friendship is the centre of the story.

Ichigo’s determination to protect everyone was so strong. I admire him as a character. But he’s not the only character that I loved. I loved his friends in Karakura Town, like Orihime, Chad, and Uryuu. The best part of Bleach was the characters. The shinigami (death reapers) were all characters into themselves. Characters like Rukia, Byakuya, Renji, Histugaya, and Matsumoto were just amazing.

7. Naruto

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I also read Naruto to the bitter end. (Naruto’s ending at least tied up most of the loose ends and then there was the continuing Naruto Project to continue doing that for the series). Sometimes it dragged. The main hero Naruto and the main rival Sasuke, Goku, Vegeta—surpassing everyone else and leaving them in the dust. But I’m a sucker for the underdog character that achieves his/her dreams.

Naruto was my favourite character, consistently. There was just something about how he tried so hard and managed to push through all the bad things that happened to him. The use of Shinto, Buddhist and Hindu mythology and themes gave a great impact to the story. Naruto was about history, too, surprisingly. But friendship and family were at the core of the story.

6. Fullmetal Alchemist

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Fullmetal Alchemist is a great manga. I much preferred it to the anime series. Set in something like Early Modern Europe where alchemy is rampant, it’s the story of two brothers who committed the greatest sin in alchemy—they tried to bring their mother back to life. Ed lost an arm and a leg but his little brother Al lost his entire body. Their quest to regain what they lost quickly got them involved in things bigger than themselves.

Fullmetal Alchemist had the same themes as Bleach and Naruto but it was done better—so much better, in my opinion. Maybe it’s because Fullmetal Alchemist was not a traditional manga and maybe it was the creator.

5. Superman: For All Seasons

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Classic Superman. Superman admittedly is not one of my favourite characters in the DC Universe. Superman is this ideal, this god in human form most of the time. I don’t like that interpretation of him. When it’s Clark Kent, a boy raised on a farm in Kansas by good people, who discovered that he’s different, special, being Superman, that’s more likeable than whatever DC tries to do with him. Superman: For All Seasons was written by the same people who wrote Batman: The Long Halloween. This comic makes me like Superman.

4. Batman: The Long Halloween

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Batman: The Long Halloween is a classic Batman story. It’s Batman the Detective. It’s reminds me of Batman: The Animated Series. It’s a classic murder mystery in Gotham City. Villains make cameos but it’s more about the Italian and Irish mobs in Gotham City, early in Batman’s career. It’s also the origin of Harvey Dent as super-villain Two-Face. The best part that Batman does not capture all the Holiday killers—he misses Harvey Dent’s wife as the third Holiday killer. Oh my, Batman’s not perfect. Who knew? Apparently no one at DC after this came out.

3. DC Bombshells

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Female superheroes fighting in WWII with a few male heroes in sight, I’m so there. Batwoman, Mera, Supergirl, Stargirl, Wonder Woman, Batgirls and Batboys, and so on, finally get the spotlight. You better believe that this is one of the best things that I have read recently. Batwoman and Batgirl (Bette Kane) were actually softball players on two opposing teams. We have Wonder Woman’s origin story with a more likeable Steve Trevor. Mera is always awesome. And Diana and Mera had a thing so that’s pretty neat. Supergirl and Stargirl were adopted sisters, stuck in the Soviet Union. It’s such an awesome storyline (though I could do without poor Jason dying again).

2. Justice League: The New Frontier

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I loved the movie, but the comic is far better. It had more characters and more in-depth look at the things going on. It had Billy Batson/Captain Marvel/Shazam in it in his classic glory. The best part of it was the history of superheroes in our time met the great storytelling. The art was amazing.

The progression of time and the inclusive of historical events and how they could have impacted the superhero community (like the JSA during the McCarthy-era) is important to me as a historian. The graphic novel brings out many questions that are being explored in the comics set in the modern day–like the role of the superhero in the international community, pitting the morals of superheroes against each other (like Superman and Wonder Woman in Korea). Love the story. I like when history mixes with superheroes.

1. One Piece

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It’s no surprise that One Piece is my favourite running manga series. One Piece is one of the best adventure stories out there. It has pirates, good characters, great fights, amazing and silly powers, heart and friendship and family. All things that I like. It’s also about history, which is an important thing to me. One Piece is very philosophical about history. Nico Robin, the historian and archaeologist of the Straw Hat crew is my favourite character, after Monkey D. Luffy that is. Even my dad (who doesn’t care for cartoons too much) likes the insanity and fighting in One Piece.

The comics and manga that I like are varied, for sure. I’m sure that eventually I will get some new favourites with how much I read.

What are your favourite comic books?  What do you think of this monster list? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Dara Berkey

Superhero nerd. History nerd. Favorite personal hero--Shazam/The Original Captain Marvel. Favorite female hero--Any of the Batgirls. Favorite male hero, other than Shazam--Any of the Robins.

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