10. Deathlok special #3 1991
The year is 1991 and I am ten years old when I walk into Seven Eleven and get my first comic book. I can’t see above the counter. So I was more than likely considering steeling it, but I am pretty sure I convinced my Dad to buy it for me.
I saw this pissed off cyborg ripping the robotic brains out of a giant ant. I was all about the cover! So badass! Looking back the character of Deathlok was the blue print for the kind of comics I would later make: stories of a tormented underdog mistakenly thrown into the role of a hero.
9. Milk and Cheese
These comics have a punk rock mentality that only a person comfortable in their own filth can appreciate, which says a lot about me. Reading this book is like meeting up with my old neighborhood buddies and waking up the next morning on a roof covered in blood and wearing a pirate costume.
8. Bill the Clown: Death and Clown White
A ridiculous book about a crazed homicidal clown with an arsenal of one liners. I remember having to ride the short bus with the other inter-district transfers in junior high and telling an older kid that liked to mess with me: “sit on this cue ball!” as I flipped him off. Seemed funny at the time, but it was out of context and only made the teasing worse.
7. Evil Ernie #1
I think the first Evil Ernie I ever purchased was number three, but once I found out that this comic existed I went crazy and had to have it. It looked so grizzled compared to all those tightly cross-hatched Marvel titles. It was the anti comic and Lady Death was its manipulative flirt that could get Evil Ernie to do anything. It was then that I realized I could make a comic that normal people found disgusting.
6. Hellshock: Volume #1
This is a wonderful story that deals with one my favorite problem subjects…mental health. Hiding somewhere between the actual printed ink and the thin glossy paper was something “real.” I could feel the creator Jae Lee reaching out to me. More importantly it was my favorite artist of all time taking 100% creative control of his comic. I was in heaven and Jae Lee was Jesus.
5. Rai: #0
In the 90’s Rai #0 was a game changing cover that has come under some controversy for its questionable originality. Regardless, the cover is more of a monument to the internal aesthetics of Valiant Comics in general. To me this was the greatest comic publisher that never was. Well, it was, but not for very long. Every book was on point: Solar, Xo-Manowar, Harbinger, Magnus: Robot hunter, Turok, and Bloodshot!! They were retro with a modern twist. Not in the way they are remaking “Total Recall,” but more like an old retired sign painter that suddenly found a roll of LSD lick and sticks. Valiant was a company full of great artists taking their talents to the farthest realms of their imagination. Maybe that’s why they went out of business.
4. Kabuki: The Alchemy
I went to SDCC around 2005 and walked around with my buddy Chester looking for something to inspire me. Immediately, I noticed this super hot Japanese chick! She was with David Mack and I remembered the book Kabuki but something was different. The style of the art was changing as the subject of the story changed. It was totally erratic and beautiful and David was a charmer. I forgot all about his hot girlfriend and fell head over heals for his book.
Can’t remember if I found this one or if it found me. The art reminded me of one of my favorite artists, R. Crumb, so it immediately made a strong impression on me. Palestine and the work of Joe Sacco looked very honest and very personal. Sacco was doing socially relevant journalism in the form of a comic book. It turned out that this was a graphic novel and I was maturing!
2. Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such
If I could take all of my interests and project them into a single comic it would materialize into the character Jonah Hex. The first one I got into was the lesser admired series “Riders of the Worm and Such,” but it made enough of an impact to really get me into everything that Jonah Hex was in, with exception to the recent film. Sometimes I think if I had been born forty years earlier, I would have created Jonah.
1. ShadowHawk: #1 Volume 1
I once met Jim Valentino at a signing and I couldn’t even muster up enough air in my chest to weeze out a hello. ShadowHawk #1 use to taunt me with it’s gleaming foil cover while it hung on the wall of my comic shop like an unobtainable masterpiece in a museum. Eventually, I got it for Christmas and it is still by far the most important comic I have ever touched. Jim Valentino was designing a small press superhero and putting him in the mainstream, which broke through the stereotypes of what a superhero should be. For some reason, I am always attracted to these misunderstood personalities. I like characters that are prisoners of their own past and I like books that defy creative gravity. ShadowHawk and Jim Valentino put me on a life long journey to find a way to put those sentiments into my own works.
John Lupo Avanti is Creator / illustrator of Monster Myths