Comics & Graphic Novels, Science Fiction

8 of the Weirdest Sci-Fi Comics Ever Conceived

godhatesastrnautsThe graphic novel medium lends itself incredibly well to weirdness. Comics are frequently, wonderfully strange, in the very best sense of the word. From the very beginning, something about the format has welcomed unique sensibilities to tell stories that can’t (or won’t) be told elsewhere. Even the most mainstream material, from Superman to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is based on ideas that would scarcely work elsewhere. Something about the intimacy and pulpy roots of comics have made them a welcome home for outsiders, whether creators or readers. We could spend all day picking apart the graphic novel shelves to digest every offbeat, off-the-wall concept and story…but who has the time? Here are just a few of our most out-there, sci-fi flavored favorites, comics that positively sing to the weirdo inside of us all.

Kaptara Volume 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien

Kaptara Volume 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien

Paperback $9.98

Kaptara Volume 1: Fear Not, Tiny Alien

By Chip Zdarsky
Artist Kagan McLeod

In Stock Online

Paperback $9.98

Kaptara, by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod
If we start breaking weird down into sub-genres and sub-sub-genres, we’d have to name Zdarsky the modern master of weird-funny-sci-fi. He’s best known for working with Matt Fraction on Sex Criminals, a deeply strange series about a librarian and an actor who discover they can freeze time by having sex. It’s genius, but it says a lot that it’s not nearly as weird as Kaptara, Zdarsky’s new book with Kagan McLeod. Protagonist Keith Kanga is a less-than-selfless space traveller who finds himself on a strange new world when his ship is lost in a spatial anomaly. He didn’t like his crewmates that much anyway, but the world on which he finds himself seems as full of danger as it is opportunity. The world of Kaptara is a post-modern Wonderland, full of strange and mysterious beasts, as well as analogues to some of pop-culture’s most easily-parodied properties (as in the nearly nude “Dartor” who battles the villainous “Skullthor”). Zdarsky’s offbeat sense of humor and general shamelessness elevate what could be a mere pastiche into something magical.
See also: Sex Criminals. It’s a bit naughty, sure, but Fraction and Zdarsky make a great team.

Kaptara, by Chip Zdarsky and Kagan McLeod
If we start breaking weird down into sub-genres and sub-sub-genres, we’d have to name Zdarsky the modern master of weird-funny-sci-fi. He’s best known for working with Matt Fraction on Sex Criminals, a deeply strange series about a librarian and an actor who discover they can freeze time by having sex. It’s genius, but it says a lot that it’s not nearly as weird as Kaptara, Zdarsky’s new book with Kagan McLeod. Protagonist Keith Kanga is a less-than-selfless space traveller who finds himself on a strange new world when his ship is lost in a spatial anomaly. He didn’t like his crewmates that much anyway, but the world on which he finds himself seems as full of danger as it is opportunity. The world of Kaptara is a post-modern Wonderland, full of strange and mysterious beasts, as well as analogues to some of pop-culture’s most easily-parodied properties (as in the nearly nude “Dartor” who battles the villainous “Skullthor”). Zdarsky’s offbeat sense of humor and general shamelessness elevate what could be a mere pastiche into something magical.
See also: Sex Criminals. It’s a bit naughty, sure, but Fraction and Zdarsky make a great team.

ODY-C Volume 1: Off to Far Ithicaa

ODY-C Volume 1: Off to Far Ithicaa

Paperback $14.99

ODY-C Volume 1: Off to Far Ithicaa

By Matt Fraction
Artist Christian Ward

In Stock Online

Paperback $14.99

ODY-C, by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
Speaking of Matt Fraction, his ODY-C is a new take Homer’s famed epic poem, but more science fiction and less mythological fantasy. In some ways, it’s wildly different: the ultra-macho sea journey of Odysseus in the ancient story is instead a female-led trek through space. Gender-swapping a classic might be enough to put this on the list (with the reminder that we mean “weird” as a huge compliment), but Fraction and Ward’s ultra-stylized universe, with elements reminiscent of the 1960s, Hindu temples, and music videos, easily puts it over the top. Some might call it sacrilege, but ODY-C‘s transgressions aren’t limited to making Odysseus a lady space captain: Fraction tells the entire story in Homer’s own six-syllable dactylic hexameter, meaning that that the book’s weirdness cuts across centuries.
See also: Jonathan Hickman’s God is Dead takes on ancient tales with a much larger dose of blasphemy.

ODY-C, by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
Speaking of Matt Fraction, his ODY-C is a new take Homer’s famed epic poem, but more science fiction and less mythological fantasy. In some ways, it’s wildly different: the ultra-macho sea journey of Odysseus in the ancient story is instead a female-led trek through space. Gender-swapping a classic might be enough to put this on the list (with the reminder that we mean “weird” as a huge compliment), but Fraction and Ward’s ultra-stylized universe, with elements reminiscent of the 1960s, Hindu temples, and music videos, easily puts it over the top. Some might call it sacrilege, but ODY-C‘s transgressions aren’t limited to making Odysseus a lady space captain: Fraction tells the entire story in Homer’s own six-syllable dactylic hexameter, meaning that that the book’s weirdness cuts across centuries.
See also: Jonathan Hickman’s God is Dead takes on ancient tales with a much larger dose of blasphemy.

God Hates Astronauts Volume 1: The Head That Wouldn't Die!

God Hates Astronauts Volume 1: The Head That Wouldn't Die!

Paperback $14.99

God Hates Astronauts Volume 1: The Head That Wouldn't Die!

By Ryan Browne
Artist Ryan Browne

Paperback $14.99

God Hates Astronauts, by Ryan Browne
They are the Power Persons 5 (PPL), a team of super-beings tasked with preventing homegrown astronauts from launching themselves into space. Under the leadership of Sir Hippothesis (part-hippo, part-human) and Dr. Professor (part-rhino, part-human), they occasionally battle threats like an army of fighting bears, or the villainy of King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger. They also spend a lot of time bickering and going to counseling. It’s whacky and jokey and walks the line of being way too silly without ever (mostly without ever) crossing over. The zaniness is aided and abetted by Browne’s cartoony, colorful, and incredibly detailed artwork.
See also: For a way more adult, violent, but still funny take on half-hearted heroes, try Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys.

God Hates Astronauts, by Ryan Browne
They are the Power Persons 5 (PPL), a team of super-beings tasked with preventing homegrown astronauts from launching themselves into space. Under the leadership of Sir Hippothesis (part-hippo, part-human) and Dr. Professor (part-rhino, part-human), they occasionally battle threats like an army of fighting bears, or the villainy of King Tiger Eating a Cheeseburger. They also spend a lot of time bickering and going to counseling. It’s whacky and jokey and walks the line of being way too silly without ever (mostly without ever) crossing over. The zaniness is aided and abetted by Browne’s cartoony, colorful, and incredibly detailed artwork.
See also: For a way more adult, violent, but still funny take on half-hearted heroes, try Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson’s The Boys.

Nameless

Nameless

Hardcover $24.99

Nameless

By Grant Morrison
Artist Chris Burnham , Nathan Fairbairn

Hardcover $24.99

Nameless, by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
Morrison is a mainstream writer whose work tends to run from mildly weird to borderline incomprehensible. I lurve him. He’s written little that wouldn’t fit nicely on this list (I’m ignoring things like Seaguy, the story of an earnest sea-going superhero who plays chess with Death and whose best friend is a floating tuna named Chubby). His latest, the ski-fi-horror Nameless, is a new take on Morrison’s recurring, overarching themes: the mystical, and the long-shadow of ancient history on mankind. A giant asteroid called Xibabla (not coincidentally, the fearful name for the Mayan underworld) is on course to strike Earth, and symbols reveal the rock to be a fragment of Marduk, a planet destroyed tens of millions of years ago as the result of a primal battle between indifferent gods. The horror comes from the asteroid’s effect our states of mind, as well as from the general hopelessness of defiance in the face of such powerful forces.
See also: Happy, about a hard-bitten cop with an imaginary friend, is another slice of weirdness from Morrison. More on him later.

Nameless, by Grant Morrison and Chris Burnham
Morrison is a mainstream writer whose work tends to run from mildly weird to borderline incomprehensible. I lurve him. He’s written little that wouldn’t fit nicely on this list (I’m ignoring things like Seaguy, the story of an earnest sea-going superhero who plays chess with Death and whose best friend is a floating tuna named Chubby). His latest, the ski-fi-horror Nameless, is a new take on Morrison’s recurring, overarching themes: the mystical, and the long-shadow of ancient history on mankind. A giant asteroid called Xibabla (not coincidentally, the fearful name for the Mayan underworld) is on course to strike Earth, and symbols reveal the rock to be a fragment of Marduk, a planet destroyed tens of millions of years ago as the result of a primal battle between indifferent gods. The horror comes from the asteroid’s effect our states of mind, as well as from the general hopelessness of defiance in the face of such powerful forces.
See also: Happy, about a hard-bitten cop with an imaginary friend, is another slice of weirdness from Morrison. More on him later.

Starstruck

Starstruck

Paperback $34.99

Starstruck

By Elaine Lee
Illustrator Michael William Kaluta , Lee Moyer

In Stock Online

Paperback $34.99

Starstruck, by Elaine Lee and Michael Kalutaa
Though I might be wrong, I doubt that many graphic novels are based on off-Broadway plays. That, perhaps, gives one a sense of the offbeat origin of this series from the ’80s. In the future, Galatia 9 and Brucilla the Muscle negotiate a chaotic universe in which opposing factions run things through literal and figurative games of chess.  The plot is a bit less important than the style: two years before Alan Moore’s seminal Watchmen, writer Elaine Lee and artist Kaluta were expanding the boundaries of graphic art by bringing together a large and diverse cast and telling their stories through series of interconnected, but nonlinear, storylines, and with a strong sense for the absurd. Kaluza’s art spans various styles, and the result is a woman-lead masterpiece that deserves a spot in the canon of groundbreaking works.
See also: Though they’re very different stories, Watchmen does some things with superheroes that are very weird, indeed, and employs some of the same complex narrative tricks that work so well in Starstruck.

Starstruck, by Elaine Lee and Michael Kalutaa
Though I might be wrong, I doubt that many graphic novels are based on off-Broadway plays. That, perhaps, gives one a sense of the offbeat origin of this series from the ’80s. In the future, Galatia 9 and Brucilla the Muscle negotiate a chaotic universe in which opposing factions run things through literal and figurative games of chess.  The plot is a bit less important than the style: two years before Alan Moore’s seminal Watchmen, writer Elaine Lee and artist Kaluta were expanding the boundaries of graphic art by bringing together a large and diverse cast and telling their stories through series of interconnected, but nonlinear, storylines, and with a strong sense for the absurd. Kaluza’s art spans various styles, and the result is a woman-lead masterpiece that deserves a spot in the canon of groundbreaking works.
See also: Though they’re very different stories, Watchmen does some things with superheroes that are very weird, indeed, and employs some of the same complex narrative tricks that work so well in Starstruck.

The Doom Patrol Omnibus

The Doom Patrol Omnibus

Hardcover $150.00

The Doom Patrol Omnibus

By Grant Morrison
Illustrator Various

In Stock Online

Hardcover $150.00

The Doom Patrol, by Grant Morrison
If anyone deserves two spots on this list, it’s comics’ very own king of weird, Mr. Morrison. Doom Patrol is one of his earliest American works, and stands as one of his very best. He took on a directionless book that was already a reboot of a team from the ’60s, and made it into something magical. Morrison frequently walks the weird-for-the-sake-of-weird line, and many would say that he stumbles over it, but what sets something like Doom Patrol apart is its emotional power. The main characters include a young girl whose imaginary friends come to life; a woman with multiple personality disorder whose personas each have their own powers; Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery; and Danny the Street, a male transvestite who also happens to be an actual, literal street, communicating via street signs using gay slang. For all of the wackiness, his tragic characters have real resonance, and the whole thing builds to a powerful emotional climax.
See also: Pretty much anything by Morrison. Rachel Pollack’s follow-up run on the book, while not currently in print, is worth seeking out as well (if you don’t mind Jewish mysticism and sex ghosts [Editor’s note: Sex ghosts you say?]).

The Doom Patrol, by Grant Morrison
If anyone deserves two spots on this list, it’s comics’ very own king of weird, Mr. Morrison. Doom Patrol is one of his earliest American works, and stands as one of his very best. He took on a directionless book that was already a reboot of a team from the ’60s, and made it into something magical. Morrison frequently walks the weird-for-the-sake-of-weird line, and many would say that he stumbles over it, but what sets something like Doom Patrol apart is its emotional power. The main characters include a young girl whose imaginary friends come to life; a woman with multiple personality disorder whose personas each have their own powers; Flex Mentallo, Man of Muscle Mystery; and Danny the Street, a male transvestite who also happens to be an actual, literal street, communicating via street signs using gay slang. For all of the wackiness, his tragic characters have real resonance, and the whole thing builds to a powerful emotional climax.
See also: Pretty much anything by Morrison. Rachel Pollack’s follow-up run on the book, while not currently in print, is worth seeking out as well (if you don’t mind Jewish mysticism and sex ghosts [Editor’s note: Sex ghosts you say?]).

Promethea, Book 1

Promethea, Book 1

Paperback $17.99

Promethea, Book 1

By Alan Moore
Illustrator J.H. Williams III

Paperback $17.99

Promethea, by Alan Moore
While his work is often less overtly weird than Morrison’s, Alan Moore is another writer whose entire oeuvre could fit on this list. His mid-’80s Swamp Thing run would be a natural choice for the way that it uses a mainstream horror-esque hero character to create a heady science-fiction parable. Promethea earns the slot, though, chalking up bonus points for being less well known. It’s also a more personal work for Moore, who uses the main character to voice his… let’s say offbeatphilosophical views. Sophie Bangs is destined to become a modern-day version of Promethea, a feminist and Kabbalistic figure who reappears throughout history. Once she invokes that power, she climbs the Hebrew Tree of Life in order to save her friend Barbara, who also happens to be the previous incarnation of the title character. It’s a deep dive into Alan Moore’s psyche, full of (sometimes) obscure illusions, with a wildly experimental art style from the great J.H. Williams.
See also: The aforementioned Swamp Thing, or almost anything from modern Moore. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles takes a similar dive into the world of modern mysticism.

Promethea, by Alan Moore
While his work is often less overtly weird than Morrison’s, Alan Moore is another writer whose entire oeuvre could fit on this list. His mid-’80s Swamp Thing run would be a natural choice for the way that it uses a mainstream horror-esque hero character to create a heady science-fiction parable. Promethea earns the slot, though, chalking up bonus points for being less well known. It’s also a more personal work for Moore, who uses the main character to voice his… let’s say offbeatphilosophical views. Sophie Bangs is destined to become a modern-day version of Promethea, a feminist and Kabbalistic figure who reappears throughout history. Once she invokes that power, she climbs the Hebrew Tree of Life in order to save her friend Barbara, who also happens to be the previous incarnation of the title character. It’s a deep dive into Alan Moore’s psyche, full of (sometimes) obscure illusions, with a wildly experimental art style from the great J.H. Williams.
See also: The aforementioned Swamp Thing, or almost anything from modern Moore. Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles takes a similar dive into the world of modern mysticism.

Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World's Greatest Comic Magazine

Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World's Greatest Comic Magazine

Paperback $34.99

Fantastic Four Epic Collection: The World's Greatest Comic Magazine

Text by Stan Lee
Illustrator Jack Kirby

Paperback $34.99

The Fantastic Four, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Let’s go way back: Lee & Kirby’s run on the FF not only kicked off the modern Marvel universe, it started a pop culture revolution and made comics cool and relevant in a way that they hadn’t been for decades. And man, were the stories weird. Everyone assumed that large quantities of ’60s-era psychedelics were the only way that the sometimes-contentious duo could have produced the trippy, action-filled stories of the early days. Every single issue is packed with plot and incident, and each panel is a piece of pop art. The second issue has the team defeating the Skrulls by (50-year-old spoiler alert) hypnotizing them into believing that they’re cows (it’s implied that they lived happily ever after, though I’m unconvinced). Doctor Doom’s very first appearance has him using a helicopter to lower a net over the Baxter building, capturing the Invisible Girl and holding her hostage to force the team to travel back to pirate times to recover Blackbeard’s treasure. Pirate times. This is, apparently, the cleverest thing that he can think to do with his time machine.
Oh, and Doom’s appearance is revealed to have been the result of a seance gone wrong. Later, the team is forced to disband when they can’t come up with the rent money. It all works thanks to Kirby’s art and Lee’s complete lack of pretense. With a wink and a nod to the audience, the two men offer up five or more of the weirdest things that you’ve ever seen per issue. Comics get stranger than this, absolutely, but nothing as influential as the FF has ever been this weird.
See also: There is nothing like the early FF. Nothing. But for modern Fantastic action, Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo had a phenomenal run on the book a few years back. It’s not Lee and Kirby-level weird, but it’s still fun.
What’s the weirdest graphic novel that you’ve read?

The Fantastic Four, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Let’s go way back: Lee & Kirby’s run on the FF not only kicked off the modern Marvel universe, it started a pop culture revolution and made comics cool and relevant in a way that they hadn’t been for decades. And man, were the stories weird. Everyone assumed that large quantities of ’60s-era psychedelics were the only way that the sometimes-contentious duo could have produced the trippy, action-filled stories of the early days. Every single issue is packed with plot and incident, and each panel is a piece of pop art. The second issue has the team defeating the Skrulls by (50-year-old spoiler alert) hypnotizing them into believing that they’re cows (it’s implied that they lived happily ever after, though I’m unconvinced). Doctor Doom’s very first appearance has him using a helicopter to lower a net over the Baxter building, capturing the Invisible Girl and holding her hostage to force the team to travel back to pirate times to recover Blackbeard’s treasure. Pirate times. This is, apparently, the cleverest thing that he can think to do with his time machine.
Oh, and Doom’s appearance is revealed to have been the result of a seance gone wrong. Later, the team is forced to disband when they can’t come up with the rent money. It all works thanks to Kirby’s art and Lee’s complete lack of pretense. With a wink and a nod to the audience, the two men offer up five or more of the weirdest things that you’ve ever seen per issue. Comics get stranger than this, absolutely, but nothing as influential as the FF has ever been this weird.
See also: There is nothing like the early FF. Nothing. But for modern Fantastic action, Mark Waid & Mike Wieringo had a phenomenal run on the book a few years back. It’s not Lee and Kirby-level weird, but it’s still fun.
What’s the weirdest graphic novel that you’ve read?