You’ll have to be living under a rock if you don’t know 2016 is the year superheroes will finally take over the silver screen — six superhero films will be releasing this year: Deadpool (which just released in India, with several cuts); X Men: Apocalypse (27 May); Suicide Squad (5 August); Doctor Strange (4 November); and the two heavy-hitters, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice (25 March) and Captain America: Civil War (29 April). But if you’re confused by the proliferation of capes on the screen, fear not. We’ve a list of the five essential superhero comics to introduce you to this world:
The Dark Knight Returns: The one comic that redefined superheroes and their gimmicky ways. Written in the late 80s, this is the story of a retired Caped Crusader who returns to Gotham, despite his ageing body, a rotten and corrupt government, and a Superman now fiercely on the side of the government. I will argue that this is the book that transformed the whole superhero experience, making them prone to human errors like the rest of us.
Superman: Birthright: There have been many variations on Superman’s origin story, but our favourite is this Mark Waid classic that introduces a Superman we can all relate to, despite his god-like powers. Waid’s Superman is, in essence, a refugee who has lost his homeland, and now sees his new home through that experience. A powerful revisionist story!
Civil War: The basis for the upcoming film, Civil War introduces the Superhuman Registration Act, forcing every super-powered being to register and work for the US government. Captain America refuses to support the Act, while Iron Man sides with the government — setting the scene for some epic battles, but the very-real dilemma of security vs. freedom lingers in the background.
Watchmen: The only comic book to be included in Time magazine’s 100 Best Novels in English, Alan Moore’s dystopic superhero tale is a meditation on power and the accompanying moral ambiguities, set in the background of an alternate world where Nixon is still President in 1985. Accompanied by some of the finest art in comic history, Watchmen made superheroes real, if there could ever be such a term.
The Long Halloween: Okay, I cheated: this is the second Batman book in this list, and not just because I am a Batman fan. But no essential superhero comics list is complete without The Long Halloween, which is, quite simply, a crime noir tale masquerading as a superhero comic. A gritty serial-killer tale, Nolan based his Batman on this book. Tim Sale’s artwork is a magnificent accompaniment to one of the best superhero stories ever.
Do you think we missed any? Tell us!