Steampunk Comics: A Reading List
by Chriss Cornish,
of the more Vikings book blog
Does your comic book reading need a hefty does of retro-futurism? Could your graphic novel collection use a dash of far future etherpunk western? Are your webcomic choices woefully bereft of Victorian scientists toting ray guns and having adventures?
Boy-howdy are you in luck, then!
There's quite a bit of steampunk fiction available in the good 'ol sequential media these days (as I found when last I assembled a steampunk reading list); from webcomics full of moody engineers in goggles to steampunk manga westerns set on alien planets.
Steampunk Comics Recommended Reading ListHere find a list of 20 highly recommended comics of various and sundry sort all disporting in that delightful retro-furturist speculative fiction genre we like to call...STEAMPUNK.
presented for your amusement & edification by moreVikings
The Amazing Screw-On Head by Mike Mignola
Amazing Screw-on Head was briefly an animated TV show and is now available on DVD.
When Mike Mignola tires (however briefly) of a steady diet of Hellboy, he turns to diversions such as creating The Amazing Screw-On Head.
When Emperor Zombie threatens the safety of all life on Earth, President Abraham Lincoln enlists the aid of a mechanical head. With Screw-On Head and Mr. Groin on the job, you just know there will be flying machines to be piloted, tombs to be robbed, and weird alien menaces to be thwarted -- all that and talking dogs, too! It's pure mayhem -- and pure Mignola!
- Review at Comic Vine
|Author(s): Mike Mignola||Publisher(s): Dark Horse|
The Adventures of Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot
Ever wanted to see the Bayeux Tapestry destroyed by ray guns? Are you in luck, than!
Across a multitude of parallel universes, dark forces operate in the shadows, manipulating mankind's histories throughout countless timelines. The agents of these Disruptors all work with a single purpose - the recovery and activation of Firefrost, a long-hidden doomsday device whose unspeakable power is capable of consuming the galaxy in all its incarnations.
Standing in the way of the Disruptors is Luther Arkwright, a human anomaly who exists only in a single universe, a man of vast psychic powers and capable of traveling between the parallel realities to counter the Disruptor's influence.
This dark science fiction, published in 1982, is a forerunner of what we call steampunk today. I first discovered this great British comic through an audio book Big Finish made of it in the '90s.
- Review at Grovel.org.uk
|Author(s): Bryan Talbot||Publisher(s): Dark Horse|
|ISBN#: 9781593077259||Copyright: 2007, 1997, 1982|
Calamity Jack by Shannon & Dean Hale w/Nathan Hale (illustrator)
This YA graphic novel is a steampunk western re-telling of Jack and the Beanstalk, with assistance from heroine Rapunzel who uses her hair as a lasso and whip.
One day, Jack chooses a target a little more ...'giant' than the usual, and as one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk, his troubles really begin. But with help from Rapunzel and other eccentric friends, Jack just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of the people who live there ...
- Review at Graphic Novel Reporter
|Author(s): Shannon & Dean Hale with Nathan Hale (illustrator)||Publisher(s): Bloomsbury Publishing PLC|
|ISBN#: 9781599900766||Copyright: 2010|
Captain Swing & the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island by Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres (illustrator)
NOTE: Warren Ellis doesn't call this comic steampunk, I DO (as do others). So, while Mr. Ellis may not be writing Victorian fantasy, Captain Swing IS solid retro-futurism (if you're puzzling over the distinction, see my steampunk intro.)
This comic book is set in London, 1830, where newly-minted copper Charlie Gravel keeps seeing things he's not supposed to. A crooked Bow Street Runner with a flintlock revolver, flying things that are not supposed to fly, and the violent Scientific Phantasmagoria that is christened Spring-Heeled Jack, but is known by other names.
It is the time of Captain Swing and his Electrical Pirates, and history will never be the same.
- Review at Jimmy in the Garden
- Review at Comics Bulletin
- Review at Velcrocity Tourist Board
- Review at Comics Worth Reading
- Review at downthetubes.net
- Author(s): Bryan Talbot
- ISBN#: 9781595823977
- Publisher(s): Dark Horse
- Copyright: 2009
- Review at Numbmonkey
- Preview at Comic Vine
- Review at Comics Bulletin
- Review at The Steampunk Workshop
- Review at Geek Girls Network
- Review at my blog, moreVikings
- Review at War of The Worlds
|Author(s): Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres (illustrator)||Publisher(s): Avatar|
Daisy Kutter: The Last Train by Kazu Kibuishi
Daisy Kutter's bandit days are behind her. She and partner Tom have gone legit, and now she is a respectable small-town citizen, owner of the local general store--and bored out of her mind. Frustration with the tedium of normal life and her own discontents gets her into trouble after she loses the store in a poker game. Mr. Winters, the security mogul who won it, offers a proposition she can't refuse: to test the new security robots on his train. He is willing to pay.This trade paperback collects all four issues of the steampunky sci-fi western comic book Daisy Kutter
|Author(s): Kazu Kibuishi||Publisher(s): Viper Comics|
|ISBN#: 9780975419328||Copyright: 2005|
Doctor Grordbort's Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory by Greg Broadmore
By jingo, by crikey, and by all that's good in this world, he's done it! Dr. Grordbort has released his directory of scientific splendor. A catalogue of wondrous contraptions and wave weapons of unprecedented power, this book makes available a myriad of destructive and beneficial devices to any intergalactic explorer: Rayguns, Metal Men, Ironclads, and Rocketships are all presented. Also included is a sequential pictographic essay (also known as a "comic") on the exploits of world-famous naturalist and adventurer Lord Cockswain. See him uncover the natural mysteries of Venus with several big guns!Satirical steampunk graphic novel done up like a Victorian contraption catalog. The book is inspired by a WETA Limited brochure put out in 2007 that presented their ray gun 'statues' as the catalog of Doctor Grordbort.
|Author(s): Greg Broadmore||Publisher(s): Dark Horse|
|ISBN#: 9781593078768||Copyright: 2008|
The Five Fists Of Science by Matt Fraction & Steven Sanders (illustrator)
True story: in 1899, Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla decided to end war forever. With Twain's connections and Tesla's inventions, they went into business selling world peace. So, what happened? Only now can the tale be told - in which Twain and Tesla collided with Edison and Morgan, an evil science cabal merging the Black Arts and the Industrial Age. Turn of the century New York City sets the stage for a titanic battle over the very fate of mankind.A generally highly reviewed steampunk graphic novel, however, some people, including myself, have a difficult time with the artwork.
|Author(s): Matt Fraction & Steven Sanders (illustrator)||Publisher(s): Image Comics|
|ISBN#: 9781582406053||Copyright: 2006|
Girl Genius by Phil & Kaja Foglio
In a time when the Industrial Revolution has become an all-out war, Mad Science rules the World... with mixed success. At Transylvania Polygnostic University, Agatha Clay is a student with trouble concentrating and rotten luck. Dedicated to her studies but unable to build anything that actually works, she seems destined for a lackluster career as a minor lab assistant. But when the University is overthrown, a strange "clank" stalks the streets and it begins to look like Agatha might carry a spark of Mad Science after all.Collections of this steampunk webcomic are sold in volumes at many comic shops and bookstores.
|Webcomic URL: Girl Genius|
|Author(s): Phil & Kaja Foglio||Publisher(s): Studio Foglio|
|ISBN#: 9781890856199||Copyright: 2002|
Grandville: A Detective LeBrock Scientific Romance Thriller by Bryan Talbot
Two hundred years ago, Britain lost the Napoleonic War and fell under the thumb of French domination. Gaining independence after decades, the Socialist Republic of Britain is now a small, unimportant backwater connected by steam-powered dirigible and mutual suspicion of France. When a British diplomat is murdered to look like suicide, ferocious Detective-Inspector LeBrock of Scotland Yard stalks a ruthless murder squad through the heart of a Belle Epoque Paris, the center of the greatest empire in a world of steam-driven hansom cabs, automatons, and flying machines.Anthropomorphic steampunk police noir from the creator of The Adventures of Luther Arkwright and One Bad Rat.
Iron West by Doug TenNapel
Preston Struck is an incompetent outlaw with a heart of fool's gold. He discovers an army of metal men bent on destroying central California. While Struck avoids any form of heroism, he gets a little help from a magical old shaman and his sidekick Sasquatch. Struck is going to need all the help he can get because he's deputized just as the mechanical men have taken over the railroad and are mutating the train into a giant demonic iron monster.This graphic novel is a steampunk western from Image Comics.
|Author(s): Doug TenNapel||Publisher(s): Image Comics|
|ISBN#: 9780575600294||Copyright: 1990, 1996|
Lady Mechanika by Joe Benitez
The tabloids dubbed her "Lady Mechanika", the sole survivor of a psychotic serial killer's three-year rampage through London. Authorities found her locked in an abandoned laboratory amidst an undeterminable number of corpses and body parts, her own limbs having been amputated and replaced with mechanical components. With no memory of her captivity or her former life, Mechanika eventually built a new life for herself as a private detective, using her unique abilities to solve cases the police couldn't or wouldn't handle. But she never stopped searching for the answers to her own past. Set in turn of the century England, a time when magic and superstition clashed with new scientific discoveries and inventions.This steampunk comic book comes out November 2010 (and I've been on tenterhooks since Comic-Con)
|Author(s): Joe Benitez||Publisher(s): Aspen Comics|
|Copyright: November 2010|
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore & O'Neill (illustrator)
In this amazingly imaginative tale, literary figures from throughout time and various bodies of work are brought together to face any and all threats to Britain; Allan Quartermain, Mina Murray, Captain Nemo, Dr. Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde and Hawley Griffin, the Invisible Man, form a remarkable legion of intellectual aptitude and physical prowess.WARNING: The actual comics are more graphic than the family friendly movie based on this series. For instance, the Invisible Man is anally raped in volume 2. When we call this a graphic novel, we're NOT just talking about a story told in pictures. Just a heads up. This adventure mashup comic stars some of the most famous characters from Victorian literature and is one of the most commonly mentioned steampunk graphic novels after Girl Genius. It also features a lot of little literary easter eggs for the readers.
|Author(s): Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill (illustrator)||Publisher(s): Wildstorm / DC comics|
|ISBN#: 9781563898587||Copyright: 2002|
Lovelace & Babbage by Sydney Padua
Adda Lovelace: mathematician extraordinaire and only legitimate child of poet Lord Byron. Charles Babbage: inventor of the difference engine and hater of street music. Together they build the first computer in the mid 1830s, giving humanity the technology to repel the alien invasion of 1898. They use their combined powers to fight crime and have adventures in this exciting webcomic.This fun and witty steampunk webcomic stars real historical figures Adda Byron (a.k.a Lady Lovelace) and Charles Babbage, inventors and programmers of the first mechanical computer. In this much more exciting world the alien invasion of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds novel actually did happen and it led to the difference engine actually being built.
|Author(s): Sydney Padua||Webcomic URL: 2D-Goggles: The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage|
Monster Commute by Daniel Davis
A free steampunk webcomic about the endless daily commute of a robot and a beast, stuck on a monster highway in a world ruled by The Authority; Lincolnstein (Abraham Lincoln's living head preserved in a etherpunky contraption) and his gestapo of giant steam-powered crowbot minions.Collections of this steampunk webcomic are available in books from the Steam Crow store
|Author(s): Daniel Davis||Webcomic URL: Steam Crow Monster Commute|
Robotika by Alex Sheikman
Niko, the Steampunk Samurai, is in her Majesty's service. But is he a faithful royal bodyguard, or a for-hire yojimbo? A perfect warrior, or a soulless weapon? Follow Niko on his journey of self-discovery with Uri Bronski and Cherokee Geisha, as the Three Yojimbo discover a world populated by silent samurai, fast talking geisha, deadly mechabetsushikime, digital djihits and morphing butterflies.I LOVE this far future etherpunk western. This trade paperback (TPB) volume is the first of, so far, two books collecting the retro-futurist comic book Robotika
|Author(s): Alex Sheikman||Publisher(s): Archaia|
|ISBN#: 1932386211||Copyright: 2006|
Scarlet Traces by Ian Edginton & D'Israeli (illustrator)
A decade after the Martians' abortive assault on Earth & their attempt to establish a bridgehead in Britain, the Victorians have assimilated the Martian technologies into everyday life. Hansom cabs now scuttle along on multi-limbed crab legs & the Martian heat-ray has assured the dominance of the British Empire over two thirds of the Earth's surface. However, there is something rotten at the heart of empire. When the bodies of several young women are found washed up on the Thames, drained of blood, enter Captain Robert Autumn (retired soldier turned gentleman-adventurer) and his former Sergeant Major-now manservant Archie Currie. Together they're drawn into the mystery, which leads them to Whitehall's corridor's of power and the very Hall of the Martian King!This steampunk comic is a murder mystery sequel to H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. TPB is one of two volumes collecting the comic book Scarlet Traces into graphic novel form.
|Author(s): Ian Edginton & D'Israeli (illustrator)||Publisher(s): Dark Horse|
|ISBN#: 9781569719404||Copyright: 2003|
"Stars" by Donna Pesani
This charming tale follows a little girl who lives in the sky in a city full of steampunker 'angels'. Her parents have a very important job; every night they hang the stars in the sky. Tonight, after years of asking and waiting, our little heroine is finally big enough to go to work with her parents. Very sweet and cute.This steampunk comic is a short story and appears in the first volume of UK mangaka comics anthology Leek & Sushi's Manga Show. The other European manga in this book feature a range of stories, however this is the only one that is steampunk in theme.
|Author(s): Donna Pesani||Publisher(s): Itch Publishing|
Steampunk by Joe Kelly, Chris Bachalo (Illustrator), & Richard Friend (Illustrator)
Comatose for over a century, Cole Blaquesmith is awakened in a time he does not recognize, with a bizarre mechanical apparatus for an arm that he does not remember, in a world he does not know. Suddenly living in a high-tech Victorian-age London, Cole is thrust into the role of hero as he leads the London Underdwellers in a revolt against the evil despot, Lord Absinthe.Yes, this steampunk comic book has the least imaginative title possible. The story is non-linear, ends on a cliffhanger, and has great artwork. The full run is collected in one volume; Steampunk: Manimatron
|Author(s): Joe Kelly, Chris Bachalo (Illustrator), & Richard Friend (Illustrator)||Publisher(s): Cliffhanger|
|ISBN#: 9781563897627||Copyright: 2001|
Time Lincoln by Fred Perry
This etherpunk comic book stars everyone's favorite stove-pipe hat wearing United States President.
In his last hour, he lived a lifetime!
What happens when the Great Emancipator is suddenly freed from the bonds of time to right wrongs throughout history? On the night of his assassination, Abraham Lincoln's life is threatened not by an angry actor, but by Void Stalin, the man who is literally the greatest villain of all time!
Somehow, Lincoln is destined to wage war upon Void Stalin's forces of evil in the past, present and future, and the time-traveling tyrant is determined to make sure that never comes to pass!
- Review at Manga Life
|Author(s): Fred Perry||Publisher(s): Antarctic Press (AP Entertainment)|
Trigun by Yasuhiro Nightow
A great weird-west steampunk manga (graphic novel from Japan). It has that perfect blend of silly and serious that the Japanese do so well.
Vash the Stampede is the most infamous outlaw on the planet Gunsmoke and with a 60 billion double dollar price on his head the gun slinging pacifist can't seem to get away from money grabbing, itchy-trigger-finger citizenry.
And then there are the two insurance ladies dogging his steps to make sure he doesn't cause their company any further financial hardship.
Find out why Vash is worth so much dead!
There's also a great anime based on this series.
- Review at Manga Life
|Author(s): Yasuhiro Nightow||Publisher(s): Dark Horse|
|ISBN#: 9781593070526||Copyright: 2003 (that's for DH's English translation)|
Virtuoso by Jon Munger & Krista Brennan (illustrator)
I love that this steampunk webcomic is based in a non-European culture setting.
Alternate history webcomic about an Africa that never existed, one run by steel and springs, commanded by vast matriarchies and past the height of its culture.
Virtuoso is the story of Jnembi Osse, a professional weapons manufacturer for the most powerful empire in the world, and how her private rebellion becomes a full scale international incident.
- No reviews, per se, for Virtuoso but everyone from Warren Ellis to Steampunk Costume and The Steampunk Workshop have blogged about it.
|Author(s): Jon Munger & Krista Brennan (illustrator)||URL: Virtuoso|
ConclusionWhen the subject of good steampunk reads comes up comics rarely, if ever, get mentioned at all. So sad. *sniff*
There are many more titles out there in the world of steampunk comic books, graphic novels, manga, and webcomics; this brief list just highlighted a few that I've winnowed out as the best that 2010 has to offer.
I hope you now feel inclined to run out and add one of these books and webcomics to your to-read or buy lists.
Even more than that, though, I encourage you to start bringing up these great titles when next the subject of good steampunk books comes up.
This public service annoucement has been brought to you by moreVikings.com, courtesy of Mad Hatter. We now return you to your regularly scheduled reading.
You Might Also Like:
Steampunk: The Spirit of Time by Mark Hodder
Some Much Steampunk, So Little Time
Girl Genius novel is on the way from Phil & Kaja Foglio
Cover Unveiled for Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar