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Top 50 Graphic Novels: #50-46

47. Blackmark by Gil Kane and Archie Goodwin (1971)

Blackmark was an attempt by Gil Kane to try to do a whole new approach to comic books that sadly did not work out. Had it been a hit, who knows how different the comic book marketplace would have looked like in the 1970s. Kane cut a deal with Bantam Books where he would deliver EIGHT books in a line of comic book paperbacks. 120 pages of art and story for 75 cents. The deadlines were brutal on Kane, who had to still fit in his regular comic book assignments to keep the proverbial lights on.

Kane came up with the idea for the comic, but Archie Goodwin scripted the book (also, Neal Adams and Harvey Kurtzman helped Kane hit the deadlines in the latter stages of the project). It is about a post apocalyptic Earth where a woman agrees to have her body altered so she becomes the host for the knowledge of a dying wizard-king. In exchange, he also alters her body so that she can bear children. Her son gained all of the knowledge she was implanted with, as well.

When he is a young boy, raiders murder his family and he vows revenge...

He ends up as a gladiator, known as Blackmark because of a black birth mark that he inherited from his mother. He shocks everyone by literally slaying a dragon...

He begins a revolt, and using the knowledge stuck in his head, he learns that he can pilot some amazing crafts...

He leads a successful revolt, but it sets up a sequel...

The sequel never came. The project was canceled while Kane was finished with Book Two and in the middle of Book Three. He later sold the story to Marvel for their magazine comics, and he later reprinted (in a reformatted way) the original Blackmark tale, as well.

(Thanks to my pal Edo Bosnar for sharing these scans online a while back - I've only read Blackmark in its later Marvel reprints, not the original trade paperback format).

46. Joker by Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo (2008)

In this striking graphic novel by Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo and Mick Gray, we follow the Joker on his first day out of Arkham Asylum, through the eyes of the driver assigned to take him around town (while secretly working for one of Joker's rivals, but will his driver be won over to the Joker's side by the end of the story?). Azzarello re-envisions the criminal world of Gotham City in this dark but enthralling tale. And Bermejo? Well, he delivers a visual masterpiece...

Bermejo's vision only coincidentally mirrored Heath Ledger's take on the Joker in The Dark Knight, released earlier that same year. Bermejo's design came first.

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