Paste's Favorite Comics of All Time: Contributor Steve Foxe

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This Thanksgiving season, the Paste comics crew is taking a deep, inquisitive gaze into our bookshelves, iPads and souls to pay thanks to the books that set us upon a lifelong love affair with an art form that gives so much more than it takes. What makes this medium so much more addictive to us? It could be the near-endless modern mythologies, the rotating cast of hyper-talented storytellers and artists, the sterling optimism of mainstream super heroics or the branching literary epiphanies from the indie library. (Also: it’s smarter. Comic books singularly engage both the visual and symbolic dimensions of our brains, leading to a far more complex, and arguably gratifying, deciphering process.)

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For the next two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, each member of the Paste Comics Team will be taking a reprieve from basting turkeys and hiding their parents’ Josh Groban holiday albums to dive into their favorite comics of all time. Today, more-than-a-contributor Steve Foxe divulges the heroes, villains and tear-jerking android animals that inspired his comic adoration.



Paste’s Favorite Comics of All Time
Jim Vorel, News Editor
Shea Hennum, Contributor
Barry Thompson, Contributor
Tobias Carroll, Contributor
Tini Howard, Contributor

10. Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth


Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Dave McKean
Publisher: DC Comics

There are more iconic Batman comics—ones that didn't kickstart the obnoxiously overplayed "Batman is the real crazy one!" trope—but A Serious House on Serious Earth is the one I can read over and over. Author Grant Morrison is in full literary Vertigo form here, playing fast and loose with established characterization to populate his nightmare funhouse, and Dave McKean's mixed-media painting is unlike anything done to the Caped Crusader before or since. This slot could just as easily go to Batman: The Killing Joke or Batman: Year One, but I might as well commit to my Morrison worship.

9. The Authority Vol. 1, #1 through #29


Writers: Warren Ellis, Mark Millar
Artists: Bryan Hitch, Frank Quitely, Others
Publisher: Wildstorm/ DC Comics

A Borders cashier begged my dad not to buy me the first few trades of this series when I was 11 or 12. While his heart was in the right place, I like to think his attempt to protect me from the comic that defined the first decade of the new millennium came back as the karma that eventually tanked the entire Borders franchise. Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch not only created the "widescreen" aesthetic, they blew the lid off the very nature of superheroes. The omni-powered, morally suspect individuals of The Authority were more 1984 than JLA, meting out lethal retribution from a reality-hopping ship that monitored everyone on the planet. And while neither Apollo nor Midnighter are really my type, I can't overstate the importance of seeing a loving gay couple kick extradimensional ass together.

8. Star Wars: Republic


Writers: John Ostrander, Haden Blackman, Timothy Truman, Others
Artists: Jan Duursema, Brian Ching, Others
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Primarily starring Quinlan Vos and Aayla Secura—characters George Lucas would later deem worthy of appearing on film—Star Wars: Republic dove deep into the ethics left unexplored on screen to truly address the tension between an ancient order of peacekeepers and the increasingly militaristic government they're sworn to serve. The series also introduced a huge cast of complex, interesting characters, and had no compunction about killing them off left and right ("The Battle of Jabiim" arc still wrecks me) since we knew they wouldn't live to see Luke and Leia anyway. Marvel's doing a great job with the license these days, but this run is still one of the best-ever examples of playing in a shared sandbox.

7. JSA


Writers: Geoff Johns, David Goyer, James Robinson
Artists: Stephen Sadowski, Don Kramer, Others
Publisher: DC Comics

DC's 2011 New 52 reboot was largely designed to "freshen up" the decades-old publishing line and jettison what corporate overlords viewed as insurmountable continuity. Flash back to 1999, though, and you'd find a 10-year-old kid picking up his very first ongoing DC comic, a book about legacy, family and heroism through the ages—the exact continuity that was supposed to repel new readers. I will never, ever care about Barry Allen or Hal Jordan, but Jay Garrick and Alan Scott (and Wildcat!) will forever be among my favorite DC characters.

6. We3


Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Frank Quitely
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics

If I could, I'd just insert eight billion crying GIFs here instead of any coherent text write-up. Short of an ASPCA commercial overlaid with sad singer-songwriter music, We3 is the fastest way to make me sob uncontrollably. Yes, Quitely turned sequential art on its head to illustrate these three brief issues of Morrison's "Western Manga," but all I need to read is "IS GUD DOG?" and I start convulsing with tears. Morrison and Quitely are bastards for putting this out into the world. Brilliant, perfect, masterful bastards. Screw those guys.

5. X-Force Vol. 1 #116 through #129/ X-Statix #1 through #26


Writer: Peter Milligan
Artist: Mike Allred
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Journalists are fond of calling this series ahead of its time, but I'm not sure it'd get the love it deserves in any era. Launched alongside the line-wide X-reboot that gave us New X-Men, Milligan and Allred's pop-art 180-degree reimaging of X-Force blew up nearly its entire cast in the first issue and never slowed down. Examining race, fame, bigotry, sexuality and Princess Diana, X-Force and its sequel series, X-Statix, motored through its entire run with a death wish, treating its most beloved characters as expendable and embodying "die young and leave a good-looking corpse." If it weren't for Doop's continued presence in the Marvel U., I'd think this was all a fever dream, a third-party parody poking holes in the mutant mythos from afar.

4. Kingdom Come


Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Alex Ross
Publisher: DC Comics

I stand firm that reading Watchmen without a solid grasp of comic history is a huge mistake, but I didn't need to understand which era Magog was designed to parody to feel the emotions rising in my chest when Billy Batson cried "Shazam!" one final time. Like many of my favorite horror movies, Kingdom Come is a deeply conservative piece of work (The Greatest Generation vs. Gen X) that somehow still tugs right at my heartstrings—and it ended up being terribly prescient of the direction the DCU would take in the years following.

3. Animal Man Vol. 1, #1 through #26


Writer: Grant Morrison
Artist: Chas Truog
Publisher: DC Comics

I first picked up Animal Man as a preteen animal lover considering going vegan. Thanks to New X-Men, which was still in its early issues, Grant Morrison was one of the first creator names I recognized, but I wasn't super impressed with the serviceable, dated art or the nonsensical crossover in the opening issues, until BOOM, "The Coyote Gospel" comes out of nowhere in issue #5 and the book blows my undeveloped mind. I quickly followed Morrison to Doom Patrol, The Invisibles, The Filth, and all manner of books that fully seduced my innocence and made me the messed-up man I am today.

2. The Sandman


Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Sam Kieth, Charles Vess, Jill Thompson, P. Craig Russell, Others
Publisher: Vertigo/ DC Comics

Paste's own Sean Edgar said to me recently that The Sandman is the greatest comic of all time, and after a moment's consideration, I easily agreed. It seems absurd to finger one story in an absolutely immense medium as the best, but I can't put forward one serious contender to Neil Gaiman's sweeping dark fantasy epic. Every plot thread, every bit character, every one-off issue means something in the grand scheme of Morpheus' saga. The first time I ever cried reading a comic was the final volume of The Sandman, appropriately titled The Wake, in the early hours of the morning on a school night, in hurt disbelief that it was really over.

1. New X-Men #114 through #154


Writer: Grant Morrison
Artists: Frank Quitely, Phil Jimenez, Igor Kordey, Others
Publisher: Marvel Comics

I've loved the X-Men since discovering a used VHS of Pryde of the X-Men in the early '90s, but I've never been as thrilled by the franchise as when Morrison and Quitely burned it to the ground, slapped black leather on it and put it back together again. Across 41 issues, Morrison turned the mutant metaphor queer, making X-Gene carriers persecuted and desired, taboo but arousing. Xorn is one of the great modern long-form storytelling twists, and Marvel promptly shat on it and every other change that Morrison made as soon as the Scottish scribe left the book, but no amount of retconning can erase this epoch-defining mission statement. Bonus personal memory: I took #116 to school for a show-and-tell and no one seemed to mind a sixth-grader carrying around a comic with a barely-clad Emma Frost on the cover.