Paul Pope’s Greatest Comic Books

Paul Pope is a comic writer like no other. He’s a writer capable of pushing pre-established stories and characters in new, exciting directions. As seen with his various well-known and lesser-known titles like Heavy Liquid, Batman: Year 100and 100%Pope is a comic writer of incredible originality and talent, writing award-winning, fast-paced, often surreal stories that comic books had never before imagined possible.

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Looking at his past bibliography so far, Pope’s body of work and artistic style seems almost to resemble that of an indie comic writer. He’s experimental, has unorthodox artistic preferences, and has numerous comic books that aren’t very well known among comic fandom. However, reading his various stories from him over the years, it’s easy to see why Pope remains such a critically-acclaimed talent in his field, presenting stories and comic books that are unlike any other.

9 Batman: Year 100


Arguably Paul Pope’s most famous story also happens to be one of the most famous modern Batman comics there is. In this four-issue miniseries, Pope imagines a dystopian version of Gotham City set in the near future, with police on a constant manhunt pursuing the city’s famous Dark Knight. Gotham City has a few fascist alternate worlds, but Pope’s remains one of the most genuinely frightening.

Though the story is populated by characters comic fans will recognize, Pope set out to create his own distinct, nightmarish version of Gotham City and Batman. In the past, Pope said of the story, “I wanted to present a new take on Batman, who is without a doubt a mythic figure in our pop-psyche. My Batman is not only science fiction; he’s also a very physical superhero: he bleeds, he sweats, he eats. He’s someone born into an overarching police state; someone with the body of David Beckham, the brain of Tesla, and the wealth of Howard Hughes… pretending to be Nosferatu.”

8 “BerlinBatman”

Image from Paul Pope's Berlin Batman

In 1998, nearly 10 years before he wrote Batman: Year 100Pope delivered another Batman story that most readers may not be altogether very familiar with, titled “Berlin Batman.”

Part of DC Elseworlds line set in alternative realities, “Berlin Batman” imagines a Germanic version of Batman operating in Berlin during the final days of the Weimar Republic, shortly before the Nazis took power in the country. Looking at Pope’s story here, it’s easy to see some slight indications of the directions that he wanted to push Batman towards, including an overarching theme of the Caped Crusader in a corrupt police state. There’s been plenty of memorable Elseworld comics by DC, but this is by far one of the most underrated.


7 Heavy Liquid

Image from Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid

One of Pope’s most well-known comics came in the late ’90s with Pope’s series, HeavyLiquid, a sci-fi story exploring both drugs and art in a strange, futuristic version of New York City.

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Heavy Liquid follows a private detective known only as “S,” who specializes in locating both people and objects. Eventually, S stumbles upon a substance known as “heavy liquid,” which acts as a both drug and a powerful artistic tool. In a journey that takes S from New York to Paris, Pope depicts the dangers of addiction and high art in this highly creative, dystopian sci-fi neo-noir story.

6 100%

Image of Paul Pope 100%

Pope has many thematic and genres interests he constantly explores in his work, including the portrayal of complicated, nuanced characters set within the framework of a genre story. Here, he fully invests himself in the interweaving story of six individuals who fall in love in a futuristic, sci-fi version of New York City in 2038.

In many ways, 100% is the closest Pope has ever come to writing a strictly romantic story, though it is also chock full of his numerous other interests as a writer (it’s set within the sci-fi genre and possesses a dystopian setting, yet is more focused on the nuanced, inner nature of the main characters). It’s equal parts Bladerunner, Cyberpunk, and the romantic films of Wong Kar-Wai, yet distinctly has Pope’s fingerprints all over it.

5 Battling Boy

The winner of the 2014 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Teens, Battling Boy is the closest Pope has come to writing with a younger audience in mind. However, the story still contains most of Pope’s signature themes and settings, focusing on a young, reluctant, teenage superhero trying to save a city from roaming gangs and monsters.

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The main narrative of Battling Boy begins when the titular hero arrives from another world to protect Arcopolis’s citizens after the city’s main hero is killed. Though taking up the mantle as the city’s new hero for himself, Battling Boy deals with the eponymous character’s reluctance, insecurities, and uncertain nature about his duties, pushed into his hero status by his overbearing parents. It’s a touching, complex exploration about a person trying to find their place in the world, perfect for younger comic books fans and older readers alike.

4 Adventure Time

Image from Paul Pope's Adventure Time

Paul Pope seems like the last writer someone would expect to write a story focusing on Cartoon Network’s animated cult TV series, adventuretime, following the show’s famous best friends, Finn and Jake. Reading Pope’s stories set within the fictional world of the series, however, proves that combination was a match made in heaven for comic fans.

As seen with his numerous past stories, Pope has always been able to work within surreal art styles and storytelling conventions, which Adventure Time has been known for. His work by him within the continuity of the show was unexpectedly fresh and original, with Pope utilizing the absurdist style of the show’s universe to his strengths as an artist.

3 The One-Trick Rip-Off

A fight from the One-Trick Rip-Off by Paul Pope

An earlier story by Pope, The One Trick Rip-Off tells the story of a young Los Angeles couple trying to flee their city and begin new lives for themselves. To accomplish this, they devised a plan to steal from a vicious LA street gang called the One Tricks.

The only thing about The One Trick Rip-Off is how it demonstrates his ability to master suspense in the context of a comic–a notoriously hard thing to accomplish. However, as seen here, Pope is more than able to pull off the suspenseful elements of the story, creating a fast-paced, nail-biting heist story in the process.

two Deep Cuts

Image from Deep Cuts by Paul Pope

Deep Cuts—included in the print version of Pope’s One Trick Rip-Off—is a collection of rare and previously unpublished work by Pope, including the short manga series, super troublehe wrote for Kodansha.

Pope’s super trouble was among the first published stories Pope ever produced, serving–like much of Pope’s earlier work–as a preacher for the kind of work Pope would explore later on, including an exploration of a sci-fi universe mixed with the hard crime genre , and more mature, adult-centric storylines. It’s also one of the most underrated manga series you’re likely to find.

one THB

Cover Image of THB by Paul Pope

Another early comic of Pope’s, THB follows a teenage girl named HR Watson living on Mars, accompanied by her super-powered companion, THB (a molecule that’s able to transform into a 7-foot tall superhero).

Like many of Pope’s stories, THB is a very experimental kind of comic, unlike most others. Additionally, the story also shows off Pope’s early talent and ability to create an entire fictional world from the ground up. It’s a fantastic hidden gem among Pope’s bibliography, one that is remarkably unique and endlessly full of storytelling and artistic possibilities.

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