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Question #52034 posted on 06/03/2009 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear Humble Master (and anyone else who know comics/graphic novels),

I love The Umbrella Academy, I'm about to start reading League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and I also recently discovered Girl Genius (http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php). Are there any other comic series or graphic novels that you would recommend that are set in that Victorian-era/steampunk style? (For me Hellboy and the BPRD also kind of fit into this, as well as the Nausicaa comics by Hayao Miyazaki) I'm looking for comics that aren't superhero (standard Marvel/DC) or fantasy (Sandman or Fable), but are more to do with airships, Victorian-style clothes, gears, steam, and mad science.

If you don't have any of those to recommend, any suggestions of fun, relatively clean, a little out-of-the ordinary ones would be great. Recently I've been reading things like Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Sandman, and Fable, and while I did like them, I'm looking for something a little less explicit for my next readings.

Thanks so much for all your help! You guys are the best. :)

- Lorenji Jusu

A: Dear Lorenji Jusu

You're asking for a very specific genre, and it's one that I'm not incredibly familiar with. But I think I can point you towards a few different titles. However, I haven't read most of the titles I'm going to be telling you about, so I can't say whether or not they are "less explicit" than Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Sandman, or Fables. Like you, I've read and enjoyed Hellboy, The Umbrella Academy, and The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, but you're already familiar with those. Some of the titles I'll discuss below I've wanted to read, but I've never gotten around to.

One title which I recall reading some reviews of when it was first released and which sounded delightful, but that I've never gotten my hands on to read is The Five Fists of Science. The concept of this series is amazing. Here's the Wikipedia plot summary:
Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain and Bertha von Suttner combine forces to try to bring about world peace through superior firepower. The comic's introduction shows Twain explaining that the story does not concern itself very much with historical accuracy, and this assertion is borne out by the story: Twain and Tesla use scientific know-how, general trickery and media manipulation techniques to try to scare world leaders into following their noble path. In the company of several allies, the two are soon confronted by dark forces led by the dastardly Thomas Edison, John Pierpont Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and Guglielmo Marconi. The inventors and financiers are collaborating on a bizarre new skyscraper, the Innsmouth Tower, on whose building site many construction workers have already died in mysterious accidents.
I would also recommend Ignition City by Warren Ellis. Here's the Wikipedia plot summary for this title:
Ignition City is set in a steampunk alternate history, by the year of 1956, where World War II was interrupted by a Martian invasion. As a result, space travel became commonplace. Ignition City itself is a circular island spaceport, the interior of which is populated by former spacemen. The story follows Mary Raven, a young woman who travels to Ignition City after her father, a formerly famous spaceman named Rock Raven, is killed there
Ellis seems to visit the steampunk theme somewhat regularly, even creating a steampunk version of the X-Men in an alternate Marvel Universe (that brief story can be found in the graphic novel Astonishing X-Men: Ghost Box). He also wrote Aetheric Mechanics which is (according to its Wikipedia page)
set in an alternate history March 1907, where steampunk technology is advanced far beyond the technology of the modern real world, including two-way television communications, air- and spacecraft powered by reactionless drives, and large combat mecha. The British Empire (which in this setting, includes realms on other planets) is engaged in a war against Ruritania. The war is not going favorably for Britain; however, the British government is covering up just how badly the war is going, including the fact that Ruritania is preparing an invasion of Britain.
I'm not too familiar with either the original book series or the adaptation, but my Humble Brother said that Marvel's adaptation of Stephen King's <I>The Dark Tower series may fall along the lines of what you're looking for.

If you're willing to dabble in the superhero side of steampunk I have three solid recommendations for you. I've read these and enjoyed them all.

First, and this is probably my highest recommendation for you, is Neil Gaiman's Marvel mini-series 1602. Neil Gaiman wrote the Sandman series you already mentioned, and his work is always fantastic in my opinion. 1602 is definitely less explicit than Sandman. In the series, the Marvel universe characters start popping up four centuries too early. Versions of Dr. Strange, Spider-Man, Nick Fury, Daredevil, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, and many other Marvel characters exist in Elizabethan England and the New World. Some have powers, some don't, some have variations of their normal Marvel universe powers. I highly recommend this series. There are also a few sequels which were not written by Neil Gaiman, but that play with the world he established in 1602.

Joss Whedon, who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer, wrote a story arc in the Marvel comics series Runaways in which the heroes travel back to 1907 and encounter early superheroes in a vaguely steampunk-style New York City.

And finally, as a fan of Hellboy, you'll appreciate Mike Mignola's Elseworld version of Batman called Gotham by Gaslight. The Wikipedia plot summary:
The book features Batman in 1889, fighting Jack the Ripper when the serial killer comes to Gotham City. Unfortunately one of the main suspects is Bruce Wayne himself. The cast includes Commissioner Gordon, Alfred Pennyworth, and Princess Julie Madison. The Joker makes a cameo appearance as a bluebeard who tries to kill himself with strychnine poison, but is left with a paralyzed rictus grin.
And, though I've never really dabbled in Manga, I know that some series, such as Full Metal Alchemist are very much in the steampunk genre. As are some Japanese anime films, such as the film Steam Boy.

-Humble Master