Dark "Superhero" comics

I have a confession to make - I find most superhero comics boring. As heck. I’m looking for darker comics where the standard formulae are discarded.
There’s a couple - one I was just introduced to - which are great, though, and I’d like to ask if people can similar, “dark” comics.

The one I’ve liked for ages is The Authority. Over the top violence and taking the ends to justify the means, taking over America as a rogue state, the Apollo/Midnighter couple (complete with adopted baby)…
The one I was just introduced to is Wanted. In a world where all the Superheros were killed off or turned into parodies of themselves, Supervillians control organised crime. The formerly mundane son of a murdered Supervillian…

(I also like Soon I Will Be Invincible for how it reconstructed the villian’s mindset.)

What other comics or books like that would people recommend?

I think Wanted has a pretty bad reputation. I’ve never read the comic, and I thought the movie was kinda cool, but the movie wasn’t that well received, and the consensus I remember was the comic was even worse.

And I can confirm that another of Mark Millar’s “dark” comics, Nemesis, is awful. So don’t read that.

Sorry I only have un-recommendations.

Runaways (first arc)
The Boys

Also, it’s kind of obvious, but Watchmen

I can see why. But as a 6-issue run, I like the premise and the basic arc enough to overlook that.

(The Authority is scarcely issue-free, in it’s later incarnations either, but…)

Do you specifically want recommendations about superhero comics that are darker, or do you just want alternatives to boring superhero books?

Fear Agent is sci-fi, nothing super hero-y about it, and it’s got some dark themes, but it’s not specifically about “bad guys” the way some of the other recommendations are. But it’s really pretty great. I’d recommend that if you just want a good super hero alternative.

I’m guilty of frequently making bad generalizations and assumptions about the non-hero books; I assume they’re going to be some totally artsy/experimental thing, even though there are countless examples of that not being the case, and just as many examples of the artsy/experimental stuff being excellent too.

Fear Agent is the former—there’s nobody running around in capes, but it doesn’t feel like a big departure in tone from the world of most super heros. Except it’s excellent.

Alan Moore`s Miracleman is the ur-text of dark revisionist superhero comics. See issue 15 especially.

Marvel has apparently cleared up all the lawsuits around this comic and has just started reprinting them, which is great, since the old issues and trades have been impossible to find since the 1990s.

Most of the stuff I’ve like is at least a little dark, honestly, but I’ll check Fear Agent out anyway.

Sleeper, by Ed Brubaker. Undercover superpowered agent in a supercriminal’s organization whose one contact with his former identity is murdered. Brubaker’s stuff is great in general and he’s got plenty of noir/crime fiction influenced titles.

Also, Warren Ellis is fond of doing dark takes on superhero stuff - see for example Supergod, the early Authority you cite above, Black Summer, etc.

I would like to make a recommendation out of left field here. Over the past month or so, I’ve read Worm, a web serial featuring characters with superpowers. The story is complete as of December 2013. The author worked on it for about two and a half years, posting at least two chapters per week. The final product clocks in at over 1.6 million words. That’s a crazy amount of dedication and hard work. There are plans for an ebook version and maybe a paper version some time down the road. Based on the quality of the work and its popularity, I suspect that this might hit it big one day. This is currently free to read of course but I made a voluntary donation to the author. Many others did too.

The story starts out a bit slow and maybe bland, resembling a typical Young Adult novel. But trust me, it doesn’t stay there for long. The protagonist is a 16 year old high school girl named Taylor Herbert who gains the power to control insects. But the scope of the story widens pretty quickly. This is a story that is all escalating the stakes again and again and again. I put this in this Dark Superhero thread because the story’s tagline is “Doing the wrong things for the right reasons”. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but here are some highlights:

[li]Inventive superpowers and characters who are intelligent enough to use them creatively. This includes superpower combos.
[/li][li]Characters who are willing to do anything to win when the stakes are high enough. Anything.
[/li][li]Team fights against stupidly overpowered enemies which do not devolve into silly raw power vs. raw power contests.
[/li][li]The final confrontation is easily the most epic superhero fight I have ever encountered in any medium, excepting the silly ones that involve godlike beings destroying galaxies with a casual wave of a hand.
[/li][li]A very large supporting cast with very satisfying narrative arcs for many of them. The main story is always told from the perspective of Taylor Herbert but each arc has two or three interlude chapters which tell the story from the perspectives of other characters and these make for very decent short stories in their own right.

I have lots of little quibbles and complaints and the thing clearly needs a lot of editing and revisions. The author even notes places that need major rewriting and where a couple more arcs of story need to be inserted. I’m not happy with how easily Taylor manages to pull off some of her tricks and yes, I think it is very, very odd how the fate of the world somehow depends on some teenagers. But the story as a whole is so entertaining to read and so narratively satisfying that I am wholeheartedly recommending it to everyone I can reach. It’s not great literature and it’s not great writing, but I’d be damned if this isn’t one of the best superhero stories ever told (without being artsy and experimental).

Irredeemable by Mark Waid is kind of fun.

Actually, now that I think about it, Fraction’s Hawkeye fits the “dark superhero comic” label. It’s not particularly dark by objective standards, but for Marvel superheroes…

For something different:
I liked Lone Wolf and cub which was something different and was being published in the US a long time ago. Not superhero in one sense but was interesting and I know t watched one movie about it.

Chew: I would say is really, really different and maybe considered dark in the very ichy sense ;)

10: by Alan Moore I think might be something you should take a peek at.

Web Based strips:
JL8: the opposite of a dark comic but I get a real kick out of it.

PS238: you have to give this a chance because it takes awhile to get hooked, but it is about a school for elementary super kids. I really like one of the main characters who is a kid whose parents are immensely powerful so their egos say so is their kid, but in reality he has no powers. A lot of the plots revolve around him and it is interesting. I read it in spurts.

Chew is great. It’s too silly to be really dark, even though a lot of nasty stuff happens.

My head just exploded. I feared this day would never come (and no, I had no idea that this was now several years in the making).

The announcement that Gaiman will finish what he started is interesting, too.

Most of the common recs have been hit already, including the category I call “totally not Superman” stories, basically stories that were clearly intended to be written about Superman*, save for the pesky legal rights issue:
Mister Majestic
Samaritan (Astro City)
Squadron Supreme
The Authority

And Watchmen, of course, the grand-daddy of all the “totally not <characters>” stories.
There’s also Powers, which grounds superheroes in a slightly more realistic/darker universe.

Basically, take this basic set of authors (Morrison, Moore, Millar, Bendis, Busiek, Waid), and work your way out from there. There’s only a handful of guys who seem to be able to do this well with the big publishers (there are probably a lot of good indies out there I know nothing about).

Although not exactly what you’re looking for, along these lines I’d also generically mention Sandman (which plays only peripherally with Superheroes), Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and Grant Morrison’s Animal Man as touchstones of this kind of comic-making.

If you want things a little closer to the standard comics universes, I’ll mention Identity Crisis, Marvel’s Ultimates (very PG-13), and X-Statix (which I like to mention whenever possible). Also, Kingdom Come.

*maybe not literally. But they ask reasonable question about the Superman archetype that the big publishers usually won’t touch.

Animal Man isn’t so much dark as weird. And kinda preachy.

I’ll throw in “Planetary” – the heroes themselves aren’t spectacularly dark (though they do get that way here and there), but the deconstruction of many (Marvel) silver-age characters get pretty shaded.

I’d second the suggestion of Identity Crisis. It’s a Justice League story that goes into some pretty dark places, but stays firmly planted in the DC universe.

Also consider Gotham Central, about regular cops in Gotham City. Being a regular cop in Gotham City is not fun.

I will take this opportunity to pimp Warren Ellis’s “Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.” because I never miss a chance to pimp it. It’s not particularly dark, but it is a hilarious take on a classic super-team book, when a bunch of unlikely third-stringers are thrown together into an even more unlikely group of anti-heroes. Frankly, it’s what Agents of SHIELD should’ve been.

Whereas if you wanted a super-villain team book, it’s hard to go wrong with Gail Simone’s Secret Six series.

I was just flipping through Nextwave again last night. So great.