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Top Comic Books-Trendsetters

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Top Comic Books-Trendsetters

A copy of the Spider-Man comic book was sold at auction for $3.36m. Amazing Fantasy became the most expensive copy of the graphic novel ever sold. On September 9, 2021, after the Heritage Auctions the new owner spent a lot of money in exchange for a copy of the iconic Amazing Fantasy #15.

Without exaggeration, this comic book has influenced generations of people all over the world. After all, it was in Amazing Fantasy in 1962 that the legendary hero Spider-Man first appeared. In the last issue of Amazing Fantasy, Stan Lee persuaded the publisher to let him try out a new hero – a teenager he had created with Steve Ditko. The issue became Marvel’s best-selling book and Spider-Man got his own series.

The artistic and creative ideas that the creators of the graphic novel put into practice in 1962 are still shaping the visual and creative codes of the entertainment industry today, more than 60 years after their creation. Who else is on the list of stylish trendsetters?

Action Comics #1

The graphic novel Action Comics #1, published by DC Comics in 1938, is considered the “holy grail” that launched the “golden age of comics”. Before it appeared, graphic stories were not a genre in their own right.

The main version of comics appearance is connected with the so-called strips – short stories on the last pages of newspapers or magazines. The publications tried to entertain the public after reading the news and supplemented the strips with unpretentious illustrated stories for a wide audience. These tended to be humor, criticism and, later, science fiction, e.g. in magazines such as Amazing Stories and Weird Tales.

However, the debut of Superman, a character created by the American  Jerry Siegel and the Canadian of Ukrainian descent Joe Shuster, brought “captioned story cartoons” into the big leagues of graphic art. 

Jerry and Shuster were classmates who made up stories for the school newspaper and went on to create a legend. It was these two who conceived the basis of the Man of Steel mythos: the origin story of Superman, his hometown of Metropolis, and the supporting characters of Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Jor-El and Lex Luthor. Siegel was the writer, Schuster the artist.

Not only have the Superman stories become one of the most iconic comic books of all time, they have also spawned a whole genre of superhero comics. You probably know many of these noble fighters with paranormal powers – Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, Shazam and many more.

Among the Sheep “Khermen”

Publishing house Vovkulaka is considered a mastodon of Ukrainian comics. Oleksander Koreshkov’s graphic novel Among the Sheep has been a traditional bestseller for several years in a row. In contrast to the world of Marvel and DC superheroes, Ukrainian stories are realistically noir and aim to provoke readers to discuss deep social issues. Among the Sheep is the story of a white-furred wolf immersed in the setting of Orwell’s novels.

The utopian world of Among the Sheep is filled with an unwilling and accepting population – the sheep. The protagonist, a white-furred wolf, is lost in a herd that does not overburden itself with critical thinking. In a world of total fear, lies and greed, the hero asks himself life changing questions – “What is humanity? What does it mean to ‘see injustice and keep silent’? When do we become our own executioners?”

The success of Among the Sheep created a niche. At the beginning of 2023, Vovkulaka Publishing House released a painting called “Khermen” by the author Denys Zadoienyi and the artist Oleksii Kutko. This time, the protagonist is also surrounded by a passive human mass.

The events that take place in the near future seem intuitively familiar – the grim neon city of New Man City, its joyless inhabitants prone to overeating and indifference.

Kherman is a simple guy who makes hot dogs with a fried bun. The hero's world is destroyed when brutal bandits kidnap the only light in his life – his beloved, and Kherman himself is left to die in a ditch with a fractured skull. The boy survives and gets a mission – to defeat his enemies in a vicious world.

The comic's cover refers to Frank Miller's iconic Sin City. The vibe of Kherman is the same – bold, brutal, scandalous and action-packed.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood 

This is the first work by the French-Iranian Marjan Satrapi about the Islamic Revolution, the Shah's regime in Iran and the war in Iraq.

In bright black and white comics, Satrapi tells the story of her childhood in Tehran. The comic is a powerful graphic memoir of a six-year-old girl who grows up witnessing the fall of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution and the devastating consequences of the war with Iraq.

At the age of 14, Satrapi’s parents sent her to Austria to study, where she was unable to adapt and socialize. Later, she returned to her homeland and was struck by the dramatic changes that followed the Islamic revolution. Freedom and human rights had been severely curtailed and Satrapi left for France, this time for good.

The graphic novel Persepolis was published in four volumes and won many awards at the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Angoulême Comic Book Festival. The comic was made into a film in 2007.

The comic book has been honored by the New York Times. Wise, funny and touching, Persepolis is a strikingly accurate description of dramatic events through the eyes of a child. A charming little girl, intelligent and outspoken, the only child of principled capitalists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjan lives a childhood uniquely intertwined with the history of her country.

“An unforgettable and original result... Satrapi recalls herself and her classmates growing up in a world of protests and disappearances... A harsh, shocking impact.” - The New York Times: The 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years.

Persepolis depicts everyday life in Iran and the striking contradictions between communication at home and in society in an unforgettable way. Marjan's reflections on deposed emperors, state-sanctioned whipping and perceptions of revolutionary heroes provide a first-person perspective on Iranian history and the private story of an extraordinary family.

It is very personal, deeply political and completely original. Along with coming of age, the novel does not avoid the subject of human victims of war and political repression. As a result, Persepolis reminds us of the amazing human capacity to live through the darkest times of absurdity and danger with tears and laughter.

There has been a long-running debate in academic circles about whether comics can be considered art. It was difficult to evaluate the graphic novel within the framework of literature, painting or cinema. However, the trends in the development of this genre and the phenomenal impact that graphic novels are capable of having have pulled the rug out from under the most demanding critics. Obviously, over the course of its history, comics have evolved from unpretentious entertainment to a tool for shaping social trends around the world. Isn't that one of the characteristic functions of contemporary art?

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