Must Read: I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets

Must-read graphic novels are futuristic classics that shouldn't be missed. Of course, not every must-see is perfect. That's why we've rated them 1-5 on the patented "crunchy goodness" scale.


Title: I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets
Date: 1939-1941

Vitals: A collection of third-string comics by the influential Fletcher Hanks, featuring Stardust The Super Wizard and Fantomah the Jungle Girl. These stories come from roughly the same era as the birth of Superman and Batman, but they're a million times more bizarre and fantastical. Where the Superman of that era fights the occasional lone war profiteer, Stardust will fight an army of 300,000 crooks with a plot to depopulate D.C.

Famous names: Fletcher Hanks, Paul Karasik

Crunchy goodness: 2

Sights you'll never unsee: Stardust comes up with weird and vaguely poetic punishments for his foes. He shrinks one bad guy's body until he's just a head and then flings the head through space to be devoured by a headless body. Another set of crooks, he strands on a planet of gold and precious jewels, which are all too heavy for them to lift.

Disturbing backstory: The anthology includes an afterword in comics form, in which Karasik looks for Fletcher Hanks and finds Hanks' son, who tells hair-raising stories of his father being an abusive drunk. The cartoonist, we're told, broke his wife's face and refused to let her go to the doctor, preferring to let the bones knit on their own. It gives a new and horrifying spin to the cartoony way that Stardust bullies the criminals who are powerless midgets compared to him.

Design breakthrough: Hanks' art manages to be cartoony, ugly and gorgeously vibrant all at once. One scene in which criminals cause all the people on Earth to float up into space is one of the most memorable visuals in comics.

Fletcher Hanks: I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets - Official Site