Although the purpose of this article isn’t to venture into the great Marvel-DC divide, it’s fair to say that America’s Burbank-bound publisher have hit out more than their fair share of seminal storylines over the years.
Time and again, writers, artists, colourists and inkers have set about refuting the notion that comics are nothing more than idle funny-books. In doing so, DC are able to boast an entire library of all-time greats – books that stand up and proclaim, with great dignity, that comics can be so much more than they’re often held to be.
And that’s no small feat, mind you. Of all the thousands of comics published the only one to make it onto Time’s 100 Greatest Novels of all time is a DC work. That, and when you think of the most iconic storylines of the medium – those that extend beyond the Marvel bullpen era – you think DC; you think of the Frank Millers, the Alan Moores, the Denny O’Neils. All of them, in some way, defined their careers at DC.
While this list can serve a purpose in definitively ranking the publisher’s greatest hits, it’s also worth noting that we’ve tried to include books that fans old and new should be able to seek out and appreciate. It’s a tricky medium out there, and while it can look a tad intimidating on the surface, we can all do our bit to help people find their footing, be it with DC, Marvel or otherwise.
10. The Question: Zen And Violence
Dennis O’Neil is an absolute legend of the comics medium. Not that you’d have to search far and wide to be reminded so.
Kicking things off with a stellar run on Batman that, in no small way, totally redefined the character, O’Neil would set his sites to a plethora of comic book icons. Green Arrow, Green Lantern and even Marvel’s Daredevil have all benefitted from the writer’s penmanship, but it is the Question who owes him the most.
Created by Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko for Charlton Comics in 1967, the character was originally envisioned as a hot-headed hero spearheaded by the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Time would pass, and the character was one of several to make the leap to DC in the eighties when Charlton was bought out. Alan Moore famously wanted to use him in his original concept for Watchmen, but DC held firm and, but a few years later, the character was given to O’Neil.
Together with artist Denys Cowan, O’Neil reinvented Ditko’s creation and turned him into an anti-corruptionist philosopher, one with a major internal struggle and a fierce demeanour to boot.
While Zen and Violence in no way represents the pinnacle of O’Neil’s run (that honour goes to Epitaph for a Hero), it does serve as a great jumping-on point for it and establishes many of the themes and philosophies the writer would approach in the series’ later stages.