Graphic novels and comic books can be a mildly contentious issue for readers and lovers of literature. Are they ‘real books’? Should they be included in reading lists, or have their own separate genre as they’re considered such an alternative medium? Are they just a colourful distraction for children to pore over and then discard?
I believe comic books are a valid form of literature, and should be considered far more than pulp or just for children. According to Scott McCloud in his book Understanding Comics, the heady mix of stunning or often action-packed artworks and engaging story is a higher form of participatory reading.
They have evolved over the last 50 or so years to become something for everyone, if you have ever read Neil Gaiman’s Sandman Chronicles you have noticed what wonderfully dark and enticing pieces of artwork they have become. If you have had literarily-snobbish thoughts cross your mind when you are confronted with an adult who reads comics or graphic novels, take a moment to reflect on the idea that you may be missing out on something wonderful…
We asked our faithful Reading Addicts on Facebook for their ultimate favourite comic book or graphic novel anti-hero, but I was a little surprised at the apparent lack of comic book nerds in our midst… We collated the results nevertheless and here is what you told us. There are a couple of classic choices, however I have come away from this with a few new comic books to enjoy!
See if your favourite is here, and if not- let us know!
1. John Constantine
Occult detective John Constantine, is a con man with a scathing wit and a golden-tongue. His cynicism and cunning, and constant chain smoking, provides us with a perfectly roguish anti-hero.
2. Harley Quinn
Harleen Quinzel, former psychiatrist at Arkham Asylum, is strong, smart, psychotic, and the master (or mistress!) of disguise. While working in the asylum she treated an infamous patient, the Joker, who she eventually fell in love with, but don’t forget- she is far more than ‘just’ Joker’s girl…
3. Poison Ivy
Pamela Isley is a botanical biochemist, one of the best in her field, and the most zealous for her cause. She’s intensely passionate eco-terrorist out to save the world’s plant life, without a care for who gets in here way, including Batman. For a while she was a member of the Birds of Prey for a time but was not against betraying them for the sake of her personal convictions.
Wade Wilson, became a test subject of the Weapon X program after finding out he had an inoperable brain cancer. Deadpool became a wild and unpredictable mercenary with a dark sense of humour and a leaning towards suicidal tendencies.
6. Beta Ray Bill
Cyborg Beta Ray Bill was bestowed the powers of Thor after proving worthy to Mjolnir (Thor’s hammer) and since had his own forged for him- The Stormbreaker. Beta Ray is one character who seems monstrous but will prove himself worthy…
8. Queen Maeve
Described as the ‘Wonderwoman’ of The Seven, Maeve was grown in a laboratory, and as a result has some amazing super powers including flight and super strength. After a traumatic event she turns to alcohol (specifically gin) which makes her a sour and nasty personality at times.
9. The Female
Known as The Female of the Species, and part of The Boys team, don’t be fooled by her mutism. She is ultra-violent and kills without mercy after being used a weapon since she could stand. Super-strength and supreme agility give her advantages many don’t possess.
Cassidy is charming and witty but full of dark secrets, hiding them well behind his humour and lust for life. He does not, however, hide his vampirism, which gains him agility and healing powers, as well as a veracious appetite for blood.
An infant demon with a giant stone hand was discovered in 1944 by US soldiers and they named him Hellboy. He is the world’s best paranormal investigator, born to summon the apocalypse, but instead devoted his life to fighting evil.
13. Dark Phoenix
The Phoenix Force is a cosmic entity, occasionally choosing a host to live within and grating them superhuman powers. Jean Grey was one of these vessels… Phoenix was psychically seduced by the villain Mastermind but the power became too much for the human portion it assumed and she turned into Dark Phoenix.
Codename V is an enigma. A freedom fighter and terrorist, a hero and a villain, and the protagonist and antagonist for V for Vendetta series. Anarchy rules for V, although he does occasionally like to peruse art galleries and has a gift for languages… Charismatic and intelligent, but also dark and violent, V is not a simple hero or villain.
15. The Shadow
“Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” Kent Allard is a vigilante who started as a spy in WWI and is one of the original dark avenger characters in the comic book universe. He is highly intelligent, a master of disguise, and can mesmerise and manipulate to his heart’s content.
Selina Kyle’s alias is Catwoman- an apt name for a cat burglar, don’t you think? She has a sporadic romance with Batman, which at times proves useful… She is strong-willed, independent but morally dubious, great ingredients for an anti-hero.
17. Black Widow
One of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and a former KGB agent, Natasha Romanova became Black Widow after being bio- and psycho-technologically enhanced. She has been romantically involved with a few Marvel characters, including Daredevil.
18. Spider Jerusalem
Spider Jerusalem stars in Transmetropolitan, and is a notorious journalist in The City (the central of the comic’s USA-based world).One of his favourite pieces of journalism he wrote was a 8000-word article which solely consisted of the word ‘fuck’. He is cynical, foul-mouthed, and a heavy smoker- key features to many anti-heroes- and was heavily inspired by Hunter. S. Thompson.