3. Sandman (DC/Vertigo)
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Comic books haven't always been embraced by the mainstream. Back in the ‘80s, they were the horrible secret youngsters kept underneath their mattresses and away from parents. Then, as companies began experimenting with different genres and making these books more mature, comics slowly started getting noticed by a larger section of society. Eventually in some circles, they were hailed as fine modern literature. And the book that led this charge was Neil Gaiman’s Sandman.
Focusing on Morpheus, the god-like master of dreams, Sandman presented audiences with complex narratives and characters that were simultaneously divine and tangible. Along with his siblings, known as The Endless (which included Death, Delirium, Destruction, Destiny, Despair, and Desire), Dream (Morpheus' alias) travels to different dimensions and time periods as his struggles often find him exploring the relationship between humans and reality.
Gaiman made sure that no two tales were alike. One story could feature a run-in with Shakespeare while the next could take place in the heart of hell. And with literary allusions and rhythmic poetry filling every page, Sandman was unlike anything that the comic book medium has seen before or since. It's high-art conceived by a man who positively shattered an entire medium.