Argh! Shiver me timbers! And other pirate clichés! Before you head off on Stranger Tides this weekend, you may want to snag a good book to read along the way. So might we suggest one of these great pirate comic books? From superheroes, to space pirates, these are the ten best pirate stories in comics:
10. The Pirates of Coney Island
A modern mish-mash of pirate clichés and hipster rhythms, writer Rick Spears and artist Vasillis Lolos did something radical with this eight issue mini-series from Image: they took the pirates out of the water. Instead, we’ve got a good old pirate story set on land – Coney Island, to be precise – with a one-eyed rascal, a gang who rams and boards cars rather than boats, and even the stray parrot or two. Only six of the eight issues have been released, but if you’re looking for a more up-to-date telling of the pirate legend, look no further.
9. Sea of Red
Marco Esperaza, a pirate in 1533 is keelhauled and left for dead on the bottom of the ocean. Except, Marco is no ordinary pirate… In Rick Remender and Kieron Dwyer’s satirical horror comic, Marco turns out to be a vampire. A vampirate, if you will. And he’s left for dead, until 2005, when a James Cameron type fishes him out of the water, and then decides to make a movie about him. If only it wasn’t for all the horrible, horrible evil vampire pirates and zombies who keep attacking them…
We’ve always had a soft spot for Marvel’s fuzzy blue elf mutant, but the mid-80’s mini-series by Dave Cockrum sealed the deal. After experimenting with his teleportation powers, Nightcrawler gets sucked into an alternate dimension entirely populated by alien pirates. The swashbuckling aspect of the story brought the best out in the dashing, Errol Flynn-esque Nightcrawler, and despite being, like, way old, is well worth revisiting.
7. The Starjammers
Though we’d be hard pressed to call out the definitive Starjammers story, we also have a soft spot for the X-Men’s resident space pirates. With a ship piloted by Scott Summers’ (Cyclops) absentee father, and some of the weirdest characters in Marvel’s cosmic universe, The Starjammers make us happy that the Universe is a small enough place that they can literally show up in almost any space-set story. Oh, and who created them? Dave Cockrum (with Chris Claremont). Dude liked his pirates.
6. One Piece
Monkey D. Luffy was a regular kid who at a cursed piece of fruit, turning his whole body into rubber. So naturally, he went on a quest to become the best pirate the world has ever seen. The immensely popular manga has sold millions of copies worldwide, is hugely critically acclaimed as a great all-ages read, and is only growing in popularity, so why should I even bother telling you guys about it? Because it would look weird if it wasn’t on this list, that’s why.
5. Hawks of The Sea
Created by the grandfather of all comic books, Will Eisner, Hawks of the Sea was a weekly comic strip serial about a roguish but honorable pirate (but aren’t they all?) named Hawk. This strip, in fact, was the training ground that gave Eisner his start in comics, before he went on to create seminal works like A Contract With God, and The Spirit, both of which suffer from a distinct lack of pirates.
4. Terry and the Pirates
One of the most long running and influential comic strips ever, Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates – like Hawks of the Sea – created a visual language for comics that didn’t exist before. An American named Terry Lee heads to China, only to encounter the titular pirates, matching wits, and outsmarting even the most dastardly among them. Caniff left the strip long before it ended (and long before the mid-90’s reboot), but his legacy stands the test of time.
3. Tales of The Black Freighter
“I don’t get it, I was reading Watchmen, which is this cool, subversive superhero story, when suddenly they start cutting back to this pirate comic some kid is reading for no reason. It’s boring, and it doesn’t make any sense! Why don’t they just cut it out of there, like they did in the movie?” – Everybody Who’s Ever Read Watchmen. But seriously, folks, the Tales of the Black Freighter stories in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons groundbreaking Watchmen serve as a counterpoint – both in tone and content – to the heightened superhero story going on in the main book, as well as illuminating some of the main characters’ inner desires.
2. Fantastic Four #5
The first ever Doctor Doom story, Latveria’s ruler sends the Fantastic Four back in time in order to get them to steal Blackbeard’s treasure. Yes, Dr. Doom’s main motivation used to be that he wanted gold. Anyway, Reed Richards puts The Thing in an eye patch and beard to disguise him, so they can infiltrate Blackbeards’ crew… Until it becomes clear that the Thing is, and has always been… Blackbeard! This story came out in 1962, and I still totally geeked out about it as a kid. Note: I was born in 1963 JUST KIDDING.
1. Polly and the Pirates
Ted Naifeh’s exhilarating, hilarious, and touching story about a young sheltered blonde girl who becomes the most feared pirate ever is easily our favorite pirate comic ever. Not only is it a wholly original pirate story, but its great for every member of the family, mixing Naifeh’s patented dark humor with cartoonish pirates that manage to be both side-splitting and scary at the same time. You know, a perfect pirate story? Yeah.