(aka) Madman, Vol. 1: The Oddity Odyssey is one of the comics that changed the way I read/saw comics forever. It's zany, weird, perverse, and also full of heart. This first arc is still my favorite of all of Allred's work.
2. Frank Miller's Sin City
The first is still by far the best. You can rename it "The Hard Goodbye" all you want (weak title) but to me it will always be just SIN CITY. The artwork in this was a revelation to me. I still reference it when I want to achieve that high-contrast graphic look in my own work.
When I first read this series I didn't like it at all. I found it boring both in terms of story and art and I skipped over all that weird "extra content" at the end of each chapter. I don't know why I gave it a second go. I'm glad I did. I read this once a year and fins something new each and every time.
4. Batman: The Killing Joke
I prefer this to Miller's DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. I have never really cared for Miller's characterization of Batman and company while I feel Alan Moore really hits it on the head here. Add in Bolland's amazing art and the "death" of Batgirl...one of my favorite comics of all time.
5. The Sandman: Season of Mists
This books was my introduction to Mr. Gaiman and the world of DC/VERTIGO and therefore holds a special place in my heart.
Great concept story about the beginning of the MARVEL Universe as seen through the eyes of a photojournalist. I really enjoy the "real world" perspective here without the dreary, dire hopelessness "realism" trend that over-saturates current comics.
A sheer pleasure from start to finish especially during the Great Cow Race. I remember laying on a friends couch reading through issue after issue -- I couldn't get enough of this comic -- and finding myself actually laughing out loud more than once! Today I read BONE in the form of my cherished black & white one volume edition.
8. Hellboy: Seed of Destruction
I'd always had a love/hate relationship with Mike Mignola up until I picked up the first issue of this series back in the day. He won me over in just a few pages and I've never looked back.
9. The Spirit
I was given these two over-sized hardcover SPIRIT books (by Kitchen Sink???) by my Government professor in college who was also into comics. This was my first real introduction to Eisner's work.
10. Essential Fantastic Four
The FF were some of the first superheroes I recognized and remembered as a kid and therefore will always hold a near and dear place in my heart, but as an adult it's Jack Kirby's artwork that makes these first few FF issues stand out. I love these "essential" collections not only because they're affordable but also for the ability to see these legendary artists without color. Kirby's work is just as dramatic and powerful if not more so in b&w!