10 Comics That CHANGED History

The comics that prove we care more about superhero history than our own.

Marvels Avengers Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics/Alex Ross

History: It’s probably one of the single most important parts of the human experience. It is through examining history that we can reflect on the actions of the past, and determine the best ways to move towards a brighter future. As writer and philosopher George Santayana put it: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

At least, that’s one way of looking at it. You could also argue that history is simply old news, an assortment of arbitrary dates and boring biographies shelved away in dusty old books - most of which don’t even have any pictures of them! Even writer and philosopher George Santayana would have to agree that the history of the world suffers from one hugely significant problem: an immense lack of superhero hijinks.

While there are several comic books that tell real world history in engaging and entertaining ways - Persepolis and Maus being two of the best non-superhero graphic novels of all time - we do wonder why anyone would choose to suffer through the horror of our ancestors’ mistakes. Not while there are rich, imaginative, and frankly insane fictional universes out there whose vast histories rival our own! With that in mind, here are ten of the best comics that examine the history of these universes from new, exciting perspectives.

11. Marvel's Marvels

Marvels Avengers Marvel Comics
Marvel Comics

Naming a comic book “Marvel’s Marvels” was perhaps a bold move. Although making everybody say the name of your company twice in a row is great for brand recognition, it’s sure to irritate anyone who hates repetition. It’s akin to the moment you discover that the “DC” in “DC Comics” stands for “Detective Comics,” which means the imprint’s full name is “Detective Comics Comics,” and technically makes the proper title for their Detective Comics series “Detective Comics Comics’ Detective Comics.” And we thought Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was a mouthful!

If you happen to be one of those people who hates repetition, Marvel’s Marvels is probably not the book for you. The story is literally a retelling of all of the major events in the Marvel universe, from the late thirties to the mid-seventies. What makes this more interesting than simply reading every Marvel comic published from 1939 to 1974 (apart from being somewhat less time-consuming), is that the stories are all told from the point of view of Phil Sheldon, a decidedly non-super news photographer.

This lends the series a new perspective that still feels fresh, twenty-six years after it was originally published. The exploits of Namor the Sub-Mariner have never been more engaging than when you experience the damage and chaos he causes from a ground level. The plight of the X-Men has never been more sympathetic than when you see how easily ordinary people can get swept up in anti-mutant prejudice. And, with Alex Ross’s breathtaking artwork, Marvel heroes have never looked more simultaneously goofy AND majestic.


Jimmy Kavanagh is an Irish writer and co-founder of Club Valentine Comedy, a Dublin-based comedy collective. You can hear him talk to his favourite comedians about their favourite comics on his podcast, Comics Swapping Comics.