Comic books have never been bigger or more popular and there’s nothing bigger than the superhero. Whether it’s on the big screen, the TV or in the pages of the comic books that they started from, comic book heroes are big business and the kings of this business are Marvel and DC. Crossing all mediums, Marvel and DC have capitalized on the public’s growing love of all things comic book related. However, as Marvel enters their next phase of the MCU and DC get set to bring the Justice League together on the big screen for the first time, many people out there are starting to think that they have saturated the market.
Maybe the monopoly that Marvel and DC have had over this genre for so long could well be coming to an end. With that in mind, it could be time to get our comic book fix from elsewhere. So before everyone jumps ship from Marvel and DC, here are 15 comic books outside of their respective universes that are just as good, if not better.
15. Danger Girl
The first entry on our list is the female led Danger Girl series. Published by IDW Publishing, Danger Girl follows the adventures of a group of secret agent girls as they battle the evil group known as The Hammer. The comic book is in a similar style to that of TV show Charlie’s Angels and even has hints of super spy James Bond, with its action, fun adventure and wit.
The original run focused on new girl Abby Chase, an expert marksman and multilingual scholar, as she joins the group. Always being a loner, Abby struggled to play as part of a team at first but soon warmed up to her team mates and together the girls kicked some serious butt. This comic book is fun and never takes itself too seriously. For those looking for an easy, sexy and enjoyable read, Danger Girl is a good place to start.
Like a few entries on our list, Spawn was the unfortunate victim of a terrible movie that didn’t do the source material justice. Forgetting the 90s movie, Spawn is a gritty, dark and excellently illustrated piece of fiction.
Albert ‘Al’ Simmons quickly rose through the ranks in the marines, even foiling an assassination attempt on the President. This prompted his promotion into the CIA, specializing in black ops. Unfortunately for Simmons he was set up and killed and his soul was sent to Hell. Making a deal with an evil being known as Malebolgia, Simmons is sent back to Earth as the demonic anti-hero Spawn.
Starting out by taking on street gangs and thugs, Spawn soon became the ‘King of Rat City;’ the dark and dank under city where the lowlifes and the homeless live. However, Spawn soon caught the attention of the higher powers as his battles were elevated to the levels of good and evil.
13. Y: The Last Man
A dystopian apocalyptic crisis plagues the pages of this comic book. Y: The Last Man is set in modern 2002 and sees every living creature with a Y chromosome suddenly and mysteriously die. The consequences of every male dying has a great impact on the females that are left. Not only does the sudden demise of the males cause plane crashes and other disasters, but society itself spirals into chaos as the females learn to live without males.
After the dust settles, there is only one male left in the whole world. A young male escape artist named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey. Knowledge of his existence soon spreads and many factions and groups want to capture him and even kill him. Yorick must try to stay alive and find out what happened before the human race becomes extinct. Y: The Last Man is a new and refreshing take on the apocalyptic genre.
12. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Everyone will be familiar with these crime fighting turtles; whether it’s from the multiple animated TV shows, movies or video games, the TMNT have been a part of our culture for the past 20 years or so. However, before all of that, the crime fighting ninjas started life out as a comic book. Being the brainchild of comic book artists and writers Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the TMNT started life out as a parody of more well known superheroes. In particular Marvel’s Daredevil is often mentioned by the writers as being their inspiration for the ninja vigilantes. So much so that Splinter, the TMNT’s mentor and teacher, comes from Stick who taught a young Daredevil how to use his gifts. Even the TMNT’s enemies The Foot Clan are a play on Daredevil’s ninja clan foes The Hand.
Although their lives may have started out as a homage to those heroes that have come before them and were only meant to be a one shot comic book, the TMNT soon became popular and took a life of their own with a franchise to rival their predecessors. Even with all that, it’s still a nice pleasure to go back and revisit the TMNT ‘s humble beginnings.
Dark Horse comics have published some truly great comic books over the years and none more so than this little gem. Starting life out as part of their Comics Greatest World imprint, X soon stood out enough to get his own self-titled series. Originally running from 1994 – 1996, X got a re-launch in 2013 with an all new look and creative team.
A dark vigilante who has a liking for the kill, X’s first mark is a warning to his victims and the second warning is death. Primarily performing hits on politicians, X also wants to clean up the streets and the government from the mob. As an expert swordsman and marksman, X also has regenerating powers making him one bad ass anti-hero to rival the better know Punisher or even Deadpool.
A flagship superhero in the Valiant comic book world; Shadowman debuted in 1992 and quickly became a popular comic book. So popular in fact that in its first year it was outselling its rivals such as Batman, Ironman, Hulk and even The Justice League. As well as this, Shadowman made his debut in the video game world and soon became a popular gaming series across the console platforms. With that in mind, many people will probably already be aware of this comic book, but for those who aren’t here is what makes Shadowman worth a read.
In New Orleans a young jazz musician goes home with a beautiful woman one night, only his drink is drugged and Jack Boniface passes out. He wakes the next day to find the woman gone and his life changed forever. With voodoo in the air, Boniface has been changed into the Shadowman. Soon it’s not just Boniface that’s changed as the dead bodies that have been piling up start to walk the Earth again as zombie-like creatures known as Bloodrunners. Shadowman is a brilliant take on the lone vigilante as well as the whole zombie genre.
Many sharp eyed comic book fans out there may be aware that Kick-Ass is published by an imprint of Marvel, Icon. But as Icon is a separate entity from Marvel we feel it deserves a place on our list.
In a society that is obsessed with all things superhero, why hasn’t anyone actually become one? That’s the question high school student Dave Lizewski asks himself until one day he decides to take the plunge and becomes the hero/vigilante known as Kick-Ass. As Lizewski gets deeper involved into this world he meets fellow vigilante Hit-Girl and Big Daddy as they try to take down gangster Genovese.
Kick-Ass is also one of those rare comic books in which a movie adaptation was made and was actually good. Staying close to its source material, the movie gained critical acclaim. Even with the movies out there, it’s still worth going back to read the original comic books.
8. The Darkness
Before mankind stumbled into existence, there lived the ancient power known as The Darkness. As the spirit of chaos, The Darkness is one of two universal primal forces, with its feminine counterpart being Angelus. When God allowed the light of Angelus to pierce the chaos, this ignited the eternal cosmic war between the two forces.
Trying to get an edge on the war, The Darkness infiltrates the Human world and possess them, granting them its power over the demons and the demonic worlds they possess. The current wielder of The Darkness is mafia hitman Jackie Estacado, who on his 21st birthday unwittingly gains control over The Darkness and all its power.
The comic book is dark, edgy and filled with all the bad things in life. It’s a great place to start if you’re looking to get away from the more colorful and often ‘whimsical’ Marvel and DC comic books.
Another great Dark Horse comic book here and a fairly new hero compared to its rivals. First being published in the early 1990s, Hellboy has gained great popularity and success due largely to the blockbuster movies depicting the demon hero.
As Nazi occultists try to shift the outcome of World War II, they bring forth the baby demon Anung Un Rama. Unfortunately for them, the allied forces find the baby and take it with them back to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence. Growing up under the wing of Professor Trevor Bruttenholm, Hellboy developed a well meaning persona and does what he can to help the world from the evil that inhabits it. As well meaning as Hellboy is, the fact that he is a giant red demon with horns and a tail means he can never fit in with humanity and will always be an outsider. Much like other dark heroes such as Batman and Wolverine, Hellboy’s past and isolation often has an effect on his mental state.
When Hellboy was in its concept stage it was actually offered to DC but they turned it down as they didn’t like the concept of Hell within the pages. We’re grateful they did, because Dark Horse granted more freedom for the writers and artists.
During the 1990s one of the biggest TV shows around was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The adventures of the vampire butt-kicking teenager had us all hooked as we tuned in each week to witness the trials and tribulations of high school life, as well as the occasional apocalypse. After three seasons Buffy’s true love Angel left Sunnydale for the bright lights of LA. Taking up the mantel of hero and private detective, Angel became one of those rare spin-off TV shows that was actually good and helped develop the vampire universe that Joss Whedon created.
While both shows were on the air, Dark Horse produced a number of comic books that ran alongside the shows. However, these books were separate from the shows and didn’t have a long run. It was actually after both shows ended that the comic books stepped up and ran full series. Continuing from the shows and carrying on the story lines, these comics are a must for any Buffy or Angel fans and all of them with Whedon himself overseeing the comic books.
5. Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd is one of those comic book characters that has had the unfortunate luck of having not one but two dreadful movies made about him. So if there is anyone out there who is only familiar with Dredd from the movies, then forget everything you’ve seen and come to the comic books with fresh eyes and an open mind and enjoy the true brilliance of Judge Dredd.
Mega City One is a North American dystopian city in which the law is swift and strict and the people are governed by the ‘Street Judge.’ Their job is to enforce the law, not only that but they are the judge, jury and executioners. The most famous, and ruthless, of the Street Judges is Judge Dredd. The comic books differ from the movies in many ways but mainly in tone and style as the world Dredd inhabits goes much deeper on the pages and Dredd himself is different. He’s not a hero and never tries to be. He is cold, calculated and does his job better than anyone.
4. The Boys
If anyone out there is after a comic book that is all about extreme violence and sex, then look no further than The Boys. This is a comic book that is definitely not for the younger audience.
The Boys depicts a world in which superheroes and super powered beings exist and protect the world. However, as the superheroes gain celebrity status, the fame corrupts them and they start engaging in reckless behaviour. Often resulting in putting the world at risk as they live out their desires and do whatever pleases them as there is no one that can stop them. Or is there? In steps the CIA who use a superpowered squad of mercenaries to monitor the heroes. This squad is known as ‘The Boys.’ Whenever there is trouble or someone steps out of line, then ‘The Boys’ are sent in to deal with the situation in the only way they can; as violently as possible.
The Boys has had a bit of a troubled past within the comic book genre as the series has had to change publisher and was even briefly canceled. However, that just makes this gem all the better as the writers are never held back by any guidelines and The Boys can get on and do what they do best.
3. The Walking Dead
Another newbie on the comic book block and another comic book to get the live action makeover. The Walking Dead TV show has arguably become one of the most popular shows around. Not only has the show become popular but it’s actually spawned a franchise by itself with its own spin-off show Fear the Walking Dead, several animated comic books, novels and video games which help make The Walking Dead brand a powerhouse for the moment.
However, with the popularity of The Walking Dead, we can’t forget the original source material and the great comic book that first started our interest in the zombie war. The comic book focuses on deputy Rick Grimes as he is shot in the line of duty. When he awakens from his coma a zombie apocalypse is in full swing and the war is on. Although the comic book and the TV show share the same general story, they do differ in story lines and content and they are definitely worth a read.
In the small town of Annville, Texas, Jesse Custer is a preacher. Not just any preacher, but one who is possessed by the supernatural creature known as Genesis. Since Genesis is the product of both demon and angel, it has no will of its own but it does have power. Power in fact that rivals God himself, and when bonded with Custer, makes him the most powerful being in the universe.
Custer, along with his ex girlfriend Tulip O’Hare and a vampire named Cassidy, journey across the US as he searches for God, who, as it happened, abandoned Heaven the moment Genesis came into being.
There have been several attempts over the years to get Preacher on both the big screen and the small, but none of them have ever made it to screen. That is until Seth Rogen and his team managed to persuade AMC to pick it up for a full season. So if anyone hasn’t caught the TV show, or even if you have, the Preacher comic book is still a great read and a great break from the slick and family friendly comic books from Marvel and DC.
If you are looking to move away from the Marvel and DC universe but still want to stick to the ‘classic’ superhero genre, then a great place to start is with the superhero Invincible.
Sticking with a traditional superhero story, Invincible tells the tale of teenager Mark Grayson as he comes to terms with his heritage and new found powers. Being the son of superhero Omni-Man, an extraterrestrial being from a race known as Viltrumite, Grayson inherits his father’s powers as well as his sworn duty to protect the Earth. Mirroring such other young heroes such as Spider-Man, Invincible shows the struggles that a young person can go through when they have a great destiny weighing on their shoulders.
So far adaptations of Invincible haven’t really gone anywhere. The only one to make it is a motion comic that is available to buy. However, the fact that there isn’t a load of adaptations of this story is one of the reasons why it tops our list, as it keeps the story pure and within the pages of the comic book where stories like this should stay.