There is something unmistakably alluring about the cyberpunk genre. This vision of the future is gritty, edgy, and sometimes depressing – but it’s a future that many people wish they lived in. A dystopian vision of the future is always more interesting than a utopian one.
Some of the best conceptualizations of a cyberpunk future have come through the medium of graphic novels. Many of these have since been adapted into films or video games. If you want to dive headfirst into a cyberpunk universe, look no further than these comics books and mangas…
Published by Valiant comics, Rai explores futuristic vision of Japan in the 41st century. Rampant industrialization has consumed every square inch of the nation, and at a certain point, most of the country migrated to an orbital colony.
The inhabitants of this colony are still very much Japanese, and they’re ruled by an artificial intelligence known only as “Father.” The civilization itself has devolved back into something similar to feudal Japan, with very clearly defined social classes. Compliance is enforced by Rai, a cyborg with enhanced abilities and unparalleled fighting ability.
While Rai hasn’t appeared on the big screen yet, the recent acquisition of Valiant Comics by DMG Entertainment is a positive sign. Dan Mintz, DMG Entertainment Founder stated that characters like Rai would soon get their chance to shine in the film industry.
- Alita: Battle Angel
Another fine example of a strong cyberpunk narrative is Alita: Battle Angel. Most people today are familiar with the story because of its recent film adaptation, but it started off as a manga with much darker themes. Considered a masterpiece by most comic book fans, Alita explores a future where most people have shed their biological bodies for cybernetic implants, in some cases to the point where only the brain and spinal column remain. While many fans are clamoring for a film sequel, the chances of this happening look pretty slim (at least right now).
- Hard Boiled
Hard Boiled transports readers to a dystopian future set in Los Angeles where nothing is what it seems. The three-part series focuses on the exploits of a tax collector who becomes cybernetically enhanced after a collection goes wrong. When he wakes up after his surgery, neither he nor the reader knows who he really is.
The comic book is known for its extreme gore, its exploration of concepts like artificial intelligence, and its thoroughly bleak vision of the future. It was also written by Frank Miller. In other words, it has all the necessary ingredients of an awesome cyberpunk comic.
- Judge Dredd
Judge Dredd is a comic that most people are familiar with, as there have been a number of film adaptations in the past. Considered one of the most influential comics of recent memory, Judge Dredd portrays cops as brutal enforcers of the law in a future society where crime has reached an unbelievable level. This comic manages to make an authoritarian nightmare seem cool.
Many years in the future, the US government secretly creates a special operative with a very important skill set. He can hack into computers with his mind. Drawing on influences from William Gibson’s Neuromancer, this cyberpunk adventure ran from 1994 to 2000. This slightly rare comic book is definitely worth a read if you’re looking for some cyberpunk goodness.
Valiant Comics remain the most active publisher in this space, and their recent merging with DMG Entertainment means that we might even see some characters come to live in games, TV series of movies. DMG give hints of this now and then on the DMG Facebook page, so we will watch with keen interest what new comics will come to life next.