Be a Mental Organism Designed Only for Comics! Our best picks for comics that inspired the 2021 MCU shows

With 2020 firmly in hindsight, the Marvel Cinematic Universe can continue apace as new films and television series expand the ever-growing stable of characters and worlds. In 2021, we’ve had The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, MODOK, Loki, and the upcoming Black Widow and Eternals. But before these characters hit the small and silver screens, all of their stories came from the comics, which tend to be far wilder and crazier than most cinematic budgets allow.

Did you know that the reason Sam Wilson became Captain America was because Steve Rogers was rapidly aged to be 80 years old? Or that before MODOK became a stop-motion sitcom patriarch, he ran his own Ocean’s Eleven heist crew and built a gun made of mushrooms for SHIELD as a Secret Avenger? Or that the Winter Soldier once went to space and romanced an telepathic alien princess from a planet named after a Japanese noise musician, and fought Loki, who was also fighting a younger version of himself at the time, and went to the moon with Black Widow to shake down a newly omniscient Nick Fury?

Whether you’re a True Believer following your favourite MCU characters or just need something to tide you over before the next series hits, check out our recommendations below. And if you wanted to do the same for WandaVision, you can read Monty’s recommendation blog here.

All-new Captain America [1] : Hydra ascendant / Remender, Rick
All-new Captain America is the first series where Sam Wilson takes on the role of Captain America, combining his winged Falcon suit with a slick new red, white and blue update. Writer Rick Remender uses the opportunity to reintroduce the weirder and pulpier science-fiction enemies that defined the franchise in the 70s and 80s, and Stuart Immonen is one of the best comic artists for style and action, which makes Sam Wilson’s debut as Captain America a high-flying, HYDRA-punching thrill-ride.

Bucky Barnes, the winter soldier. 1, The man on the wall / Kot, Ales
After Nick Fury becomes the Watcher (long story), Bucky Barnes takes over his position as ‘The Man on the Wall’, the only espionage agent protecting Earth from extra-terrestrial threats. Only once he gets to space, Bucky doesn’t find threats, but peace, love, and mind-expanding telepathic conversations with alien princesses. Writer Ales Kot is one of the best at subverting the bleak and world-weary tropes of modern spy fiction, and artist Marco Rudy makes the whole series look like a 50s sci-fi paperback novel cover.

Super-villain team-up : MODOK’s 11 / Van Lente, Fred
Ever wanted to see a heist movie where all the thieves have superpowers? Fred Van Lente and Francis Portela give you the best version of that idea in MODOK’s 11. The titular Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing is ousted from his position as the head of the science-terrorist group AIM, and in revenge, he assembles a team of C-list villains to steal an absurdly powerful energy source from under AIM’s nose. Snappy one-liners, double-crosses, and explosions ensue in the Merry Marvel Manner. The comic also gets a fun reference in the MODOK TV show (although in that version, he can only manage a mere MODOK’s 6).

Secret Avengers [1] : let’s have a problem / Kot, Ales
Run the Mission. Don’t Get Seen. Save the World. This is the credo of the Secret Avengers, a clandestine team made up of the Marvel heroes best suited for spy work. This time however, they’re joined by MODOK, who’s been put to work making weapons for SHIELD in exchange for immunity. Ales Kot and Michael Walsh deliver high-stakes superhero wackiness paired with some surprisingly deep character drama, as MODOK falls in love, sentient bombs are talked out of exploding, and the team confronts their individual traumas through the power of friendship and Argentinian magical realism. If you’ve ever wanted to see Jorge Luis Borges explained by Deadpool, then this is the book for you.

Loki : agent of Asgard [1] : trust me / Ewing, Al
After a stint in the Young Avengers, Loki goes solo and discovers that trying to keep on the straight and narrow is harder than it seems. Especially when you have a) a living lie detector for a friend, b) an older version of yourself hunting you down, and c) your morality flipped so you can only be good, just in the same overly complicated and circuitous way you were when you were bad, so either way no-one trusts you. Created by Lee Garbett and Al Ewing (of Immortal Hulk fame), Agent of Asgard is considered the best modern take on Loki, so if you’re a fan, it’s well worth your time.

Black Widow : the complete collection / Waid, Mark
Writer Mark Waid, artist Chris Samnee and colourist Matt Wilson, who worked together on a critically beloved and fan-favourite run on Daredevil, team up again for this Black Widow miniseries in which the Avenger’s premier spy must go on the run from SHIELD after they declare her an enemy. Featuring some of the best visual action storytelling I’ve ever seen in a comic (Samnee dictated the story more than Waid, a rarity in comics where the writer normally takes the lead) and a creatively versatile use of a sparse colour palette by Wilson, this series is a great primer for Black Widow that will get you psyched for the movie.

The Eternals : monster-size / Kirby, Jack
Kirby’s Eternals revealed an entire new realm of heroes. Once worshipped as gods, this fantastic group left Earth to explore the stars after warring with the Greek, Roman and Norse pantheons for supremacy over humankind. But the Eternals are just one part of a cosmic mythology. Their opposites – the Deviants – also secretly populate Earth, and the towering cosmic entities that created both – the Celestials – are fated to return and judge us all.

Comics to Television – Graphic Novel showcase.

Television has long looked to other sources for creative inspiration for its programmes, the world of classic novels has been regularly plundered.  And there has also been a long standing tradition of adapting comic books. As far back as the 1950’s and 60’s the small screen created series featuring many famous comic creations such as Superman,  the archly camp Adam West’s  Batman and in the 1970’s Linda Carter made the role of Wonder woman her own . More recently there has been a whole raft of graphic novels that have been given the green light for small screen adaptation. And to celebrate both past and present we have created a graphic novel showcase to celebrate the rich and diverse contribution graphic works that are either showing, regarded as classics or are in development for the small screen . Below is just a small taster of this fabulous Graphic novel showcase to whet your appetite. Enjoy.

Now showing.

The Umbrella Academy. Volume 1, Apocalypse suite / Way, Gerard
“Way, of the East Coast rock band My Chemical Romance, makes his comics writing debut in this outrageous superhero epic that Grant Morrison calls “an ultraviolet psychedelic sherbet bomb of wit and ideas.” (Catalogue)

Doom Patrol. Vol. 1, Brick by brick / Way, Gerard
“Casey Brinke is a young EMT, working the graveyard shift and dealing with a past so bizarre, she’s not sure what’s real and what’s make-believe. With her partner, Sam Reynolds, she’s about to blaze a path through the darkest alleys and blackest hours of the city. The people she finds there–Robotman, Crazy Jane, Negative Man, and Flex Mentallo– will blow your mind. Together, these incredible beings have redefined what it means to be a superhero. Now their power rests in eager new hands.” (Catalogue)

Happy! / Morrison, Grant
Meet Nick Sax, a corrupt, intoxicated ex-cop turned hit-man, adrift in a stinking twilight world of casual murder, soulless sex, eczema, and betrayal. With a hit gone wrong, a bullet in his side, the cops and the mob on his tail, and a monstrous child killer in a Santa suit on the loose, Nick and his world will be changed forever this Christmas — by a tiny blue horse called Happy Collects issues #1-4 of the mini-series.” (Catalogue)

Coming soon.

Watchmen / Moore, Alan
“Exceptional graphic artwork brings to life the story of the Watchmen as they race against time to find a killer, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.” (Catalogue)

Y : the last man [1] : unmanned / Vaughan, Brian K
“This is the saga of Yorick Brown—the only human survivor of a planet-wide plague that instantly kills every mammal possessing a Y chromosome. Accompanied by a mysterious government agent, a brilliant young geneticist and his pet monkey, Ampersand, Yorick travels the world in search of his lost love and the answer to why he’s the last man on earth.” (adapted from Catalogue)

Invincible : ultimate collection, Volume 1 / Kirkman, Robert
“Mark Grayson is just like most everyone else his age. He’s a senior at a normal American high school. He has a crappy part time job after school and on weekends. He likes girls quite a bit but quite doesn’t understand them. He enjoys hanging out with his friends and sleeping late on Saturdays (at least until the good cartoons come on). The only difference between Mark and everyone else his age is that his father is the most powerful superhero on the planet, and as of late, he seems to be inheriting his father’s powers. But that’s only the beginning of Mark’s problems (Catalogue)

Classics. 

Batman ’66. Vol. 1 / Parker, Jeff
“Put on your go-go boots and get ready to “Batusi” back to the Swingin’ 60s as DC Comics reimagines the classic Batman TV series in comics form for the first time These all-new stories portray The Caped Crusader, The Boy Wonder and their fiendish rogues gallery just the way viewers remember them.” (Catalogue)

Astro Boy. Volume 6 / Tezuka, Osamu
“In the wake of the critical acclaim of the incredible Metropolis animated feature, interest in the work of Osamu Tezuka, creator of Metropolis and the godfather of Japanese comics and animation, has never been greater, and Astro Boy is the flame that ignited the modern manga and anime industries. Perhaps the most endearing, and enduring, character to emerge from Tezuka’s volcanic imagination, Astro Boy thrills, amuses, and warms the hearts of readers of all ages. ” (Catalogue)

Ghost in the shell : stand alone complex. Episode 1, Section 9 / Kinutani, Yū
“Stand Alone Complex takes place in the year 2030, in the fictional Japanese city of New Port. When a high-ranking government official is kidnapped, the Prime Minister must call in his top crime fighting force known as Section 9. Lead by the beautiful (and deadly) Major Kusanagi, the cybernetically enhanced squad must use all their skill to take down the kidnappers and rescue the hostages. But that’s only half of the mission; can Kusanagi and company find out who’s behind the kidnapping, and, more importantly, just what they’re after?” (adapted from Catalogue)