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CSBG Archive

Top 100 Comic Book Runs #85-81

Here are the next five results via our vote of almost 700 blog readers!

Remember, if you want to share the reason you voted for your top pick, just e-mail me your reason.l

85. Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier’s Groo – 110 points (1 first place vote)

Groo #1-8 (Pacific), Groo Special #1 (Eclipse), Groo #1-120 (Epic/Marvel), Groo #1-12 (Image), Groo #1-4, Groo and Rufferto #1-4, Groo: Mightier Than the Sword #1-4, Groo: Hell on Earth #1-4 (Dark Horse)

Groo might very well be the best comic book that is based on essentially one joke – Groo the Wanderer is a Conan the Barbarian parody who wanders the world and constantly getting into trouble due to his stupidity. That’s the plot of basically every issue of Groo.

Groo wanders in to a situation, and because of his stupidity, hilarity ensues.

But Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier are so talented that they make that one joke seem totally different in each issue.

Perhaps the biggest treat in every issue of Groo is Aragonés’ artwork, which is so detailed that it is like you are viewing an actual cartoon world in each issue. And Aragonés and Evanier fill that cartoon world with so many interesting characters for Groo to interact with, most notably being Rufferto (Groo’s dog) and the Sage (who says the smart things the reader is likely thinking).

The book has a ton of gags that it has repeated on and off for over twenty-five years, but the stories are so fun, that Groo seems as fresh today as it did when it began in 1982.

Twenty-five years of hilarity is quite a feat!!

83. Lee and Kirby’s Thor/Tales of Asgard – 112 points (1 first place vote)

Journey Into Mystery #97-125, Thor #126-177,179

As great of a creator as Jack Kirby was, he was that much better when he actually felt a specific interest in the work he was doing, so readers of Journey Into Mystery and Thor were quite lucky that Kirby definitely seemed to be into the idea of the gods of Asgard!

Neither Lee nor Kirby even worked on the original Thor stories in Journey Into Mystery, but both slowly worked their way into the comic, and starting in #97, they worked on every issue together for about eighty issues, all told.

In their very first issue together, they began what they are probably most known for during their run, their classic “Tales of Asgard” backup, which allowed them to expand the mythology of Thor and Asgard. All the work Walt Simonson did on Thor would have been for naught if Lee and Kirby had not established all the great characters and situations they did during their run. And that’s just counting the Asgardian characters! When you factor in the characters they introduced when they began working on the superhero stories of Thor as well as the Tales of Asgard and the results are legendary.

Here’s a sampling of some of the characters Lee and Kirby introduced during this run –

Sif, The Warriors Three, Hercules, Surtur, The Enchantress, The Destroyer, The Wrecker, The Absorbing Man, The Grey Gargoyle

And that’s just the main guys!!

The run ended when Kirby left to lay the groundwork for a whole NEW generation of gods, the New Gods of the Fourth World.

83. Warren Ellis’ Stormwatch – 112 points (1 first place vote)

Stormwatch Vol. 1 #37-51, Stormwatch Vol. 2 #1-10, WildC.A.T.S / Aliens #1

Talk about a turnaround!!

When Warren Ellis took over Stormwatch with 1996’s #37, the book was by no means a disaster. In fact, it was one of the few Wildstorm books to make it as far as #37. However, the book was pretty standard fare (I did like both Jeff Mariotte and Ron Marz’s runs on the title) until Warren Ellis became the book’s writer, and in one of the more compelling in-continuity turnarounds of a comic book, totally revamped the style of the comic book.

The book was still a superhero book, but it was darker and edgier, and the characters had a great deal more depth to them.

What I was impressed with when this run debuted was how well Ellis worked with past Stormwatch continuity. I figured he’d jettison all the established characters and just use new characters, but instead, he used the established characters beautifully, particularly Winter, Battalion and Henry Bendix.

Of course, towards the end of his run, Bendix became the main villain of the piece, and then, after a faltered beginning to Volume 2 (where the book was definitely hurt by the planned series artist not coming out on time), Ellis decided to scrap the book and go for a brand new title, so he…well…he jettisoned all the established characters in WildC.A.T.S/Aliens #1 (by having most of them be murdered by aliens) and started over with the new characters he had introduced in Stormwatch (plus one character from before his run, Swift) in a new book called The Authority.

Some voters felt that Stormwatch and The Authority are the same run – I don’t see that at all (and most voters didn’t, either, as I mostly got votes for either Stormwatch or Authority), so if someone said “Stormwatch/The Authority,” I split the points between both titles.

81. Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Force/X-Statix – 113 points (2 first place votes)

X-Force #116-129, X-Statix #1-26 (Allred

Talk about a turnaround!

X-Force came about from the work of Rob Liefeld, but Liefeld had long departed the scene by the time X-Force #115 came out, which was part of a short “X-Revolution” revamp that involved Warren Ellis revamping titles and having other writers follow him up on the book. X-Force had Ian Edgington follow Ellis on a Black Ops take on X-Force that ended in #115 with all the team supposedly dying.

On that cheery note, Peter Milligan and Mike Allred entered the scene with #116 with an X-Force that no one had ever seen before, and it was good.

X-Force was now a bunch of publicity-seeking mutant heroes who were looking to cash in on their fame before they inevitably died during battle. The first issue’s team was almost all killed, including team leader, Zeitgeist, who secretly planned for the rest of the team to be killed.

The only two surviving members were Anarchist and U-Go-Girl. Along with incoming team leader, The Orphan (Mister Sensitive), these three members would become the nucleus upon which X-Force would revolve upon, although one of the three would die before the book was relaunched under the new name, X-Statix.

X-Statix was a lot more satirical than X-Force (and, heck, most comics, period), and as they say, “Satire is what closes on Saturday night,” so it should come as no surprise that this run ended prematurely with issue #26.

81. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Sleeper – 113 points (2 first place votes)

Sleeper #1-12, Sleeper: Season Two #1-12

Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips turned the concept of superheroes and supervillains upside down with their two volumes of Sleeper, which is about a government operative who is a “sleeper” undercover operative in a supervillain group. The only problem is that the only guy who knows that he IS an undercover agent is in a coma!

So Holden Carver has to make his way in the world of supervillainy while questioning what exactly is the difference between being a “good guy” and a “bad guy”?

The main villain is named Tao, who was introduced during Alan Moore’s Wildcats run. During the series, Brubaker introduced many different supervillains, often going out of his way to come up with more and more bizarre powers (like the villain who gained powers if she was near gay men), but one of the strange powers characters became one of the best characters in the book, Miss Misery, a villain who became a villain because of her particular constitution – if she is “good,” she becomes weak, and could die – she gains strength by doing bad things.

Sean Phillips’ art is a perfect accentuation to Brubaker’s grimy world of supervillains, as the noir feel of Phillips’ artwork fits this style of story to a tee. It is not at all surprising to note that both men are doing wonderful current work in this exact field – the world of criminals, in their Icon title, Criminal.

That’s it for today!

Check back tomorrow for the next ten!!

44 Comments

Both Groo and X-Force just missed my top 10, and Lee/Kirby Tales of Asgard probably would have made except I’ve only read a handful of issues. It’s been an interesting first 20 picks, so far.

Wait until you see what two runs tied for #71.

It is absolutely bizarre that they tied each other, and one of them I am absolutely astonished got this much support – a lot of people all wrote stuff like “Everyone else says ____ (which includes the other #71 run), but I say ____,” but the joke was that they were ALL saying that, to the point where the run ended up at #71!!! :)

Josh Alexander

April 9, 2008 at 1:06 am

I’m still 0 for 10, I’ve only read a few issues of Journey into Mystery also, very fun stuff.

I’ve been dying to read Sleeper, so now that can be added to my trade list.

Sleeper and Stormwatch are the first two books from my list to make it in. Groo and X-Force/Statix are both great too.

The sad thing here is that Stormwatch being so low almost certainly means The Authority placed higher, which is a crime. Still I suspect that’s largely because more people read The Authority and not because those who read both preferred it.

X-Statix is in my top 50, but none of these were in my 10. Haven’t read Groo or Stormwatch.

Need to sit down with Thor one day soon.

Sleeper’s an awesome comic it’s nice to see support for.

Alias and Stormwatch are two of my runs to be ranked so far. I feel strongly that most of the rest are ahead of us.
Man, Miss Misery was an awesome character.

Graham Vingoe

April 9, 2008 at 3:22 am

can’t believe I missed Groo- didn’t give it a thought but it is a consistently excellent series.

None of mine have come up. In fact, I’ve read very little of 81-100.
That’s why I’ve been looking forward to this: I get to expand my reading list (not that it really needs expanding).

Two of my top ten have shown up.

Pre-Crisis, I was a die-hard Marvel Zombie. I only really had access to Marvel and DC, and I preferred Marvel to the extent that even if a DC book was awesome, I would try to borrow it from whomever recommended it and save my money for Marvel books.

The first title outside of Marvel’s continuity that I liked enough to bump other books out of my budget was Groo. I came in at issue 18, and loved it. By the time I found the back issues, the back issue boom was in full swing, and I ended up paying around $5 each for the ones I had missed. And, they were worth every penny.

Theno

I’ve really read only Lee/Kirby’s Thor of these five (and a few issues of Groo) and so far none of my pics have appeared yet. I’m realizing that I’m a much more conservative comics reader than I had assumed. I’ve read mostly the superheroes, particularly Marvel from 1960s-1980s, some DC heroes thrown in there too, and a few non-superhero comics that everyone has read (like Sandman).

And I thought Lee/Kirby Thor would at least make the Top 30! Apart from their FF, it’s their more critically acclaimed stuff. And Brian, I think Stan Lee indeed worked in all of those first, Kirby-less Thor stories, or at least his name is on the credits as plotter. Larry Lieber and others did the scripting. Some of them were awful and seemed to belong in the Marvel of the time (they felt more like poor man’s Silver Age DC), Kirby really made Thor a thousand times better.

Mike Loughlin

April 9, 2008 at 6:00 am

Just seeing that Stormwatch cover reminds me of the time in my life when I would find one writer and/or artist I liked, and track down everything I could find with their names on it. Warren Ellis was my new favorite writer following Hellstorm & Druid, and I remember how excited I was having a new series to devour. Stormwatch lived up to my expectations, and then some.

Sleeper remains a favorite, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Dark, clever, funny, and heartbreaking with suitably gritty art. Readers looking for the full story should start with the Point Blank trade, a great story starring Grifter (!), which introduced Holden and reintroduced Tao.

I meant, some of them were awful and seemed NOT to belong in the Marvel of the time… when refering to those early Kirby-less Thor stories.

thanks again for this column! i can’t wait for the next bunch…

Uh oh, just had a guess as to what to what Brian was talking about in Comment #2 up there. Is he saying that DeFalco/Frenz Thor somehow tied Simonson Thor for number #71? If he is, I intend to throw up a little bit in my mouth.

I agree with Mike. Shouldn’t Point Blank be considered part of Sleeper’s run? I can believe that people wouldn’t vote for it, but isn’t that when the High Arbiter steps in and, you know, just adds it on????

Continuing to sort out the data.

We have 22 runs so far (and 2284 pts)

– 10 runs are set in the Marvel Universe (1063 pts)
– 2 runs are set in the Wildstorm Universe (225 pts)
– 2 runs are set in the DC Universe (203 pts)
– 2 are manga (198 pts)
– 1 is a Vertigo comic (101 pts)
– 16 are superheroes or close enough (all the new ones except Groo – 1684 pts)
– 6 are non-superhero (600 pts)

Marvel dominates with almost half the total points. Almost no DC titles so far, but this isn’t necessarily bad for DC. It just means all the DC runs we all know are on this list are better positioned.
Clear domination of superhero titles too.

Sorted by decade the first issue in the run was published, we have:

– 1980s (7 runs – Groo – 722 pts)
– 2000s (4 runs – X-Force, Sleeper – 430 pts)
– 1990s (4 runs – Stormwatch – 404 pts)
– 1960s (3 runs – Thor – 329 pts)
– 1970s (3 runs – 304 pts)
– 1940s (1 run – 95 pts)

Sorted by associated creator (and we have only 1 Jack Kirby title so far).

– Warren Ellis (2 runs – 215 pts)
– Stan Lee (2 runs – 220 pts)
– Peter Milligan (113 pts)
– Mike Allred (113 pts)
– Ed Brubaker (113 pts)
– Sean Phillips (113 pts)
– Jack Kirby (112 pts)
РSergio Aragon̩s (110 pts)
– Mark Evanier (110 pts)
– Roy Thomas (109 pts)
– Jim Starlin (109 pts)
– Steve Ditko (108 pts)
– Mark Gruenwald (107 pts)
– Chris Claremont (106 pts)
– John Romita Jr. (106 pts)
– Mike Grell (104 pts)
– Stuart Immonen (103 pts)
– Garth Ennis (101 pts)
– Brian Michael Bendis (101 pts)
– Michael Gaydos (101 pts)
– Kazuo Koike (100 pts)
– Goseki Kojima (100 pts)
– Denny O’Neil (99 pts)
– Denys Cowan (99 pts)
– Matt Wagner (98 pts)
– Stan Sakai (98 pts)
– Terry Moore (96 pts)
– Chris Ware (95 pts)
– Doug Moench (95 pts)
– Jack Cole (95 pts)

Hmmm… Stan Lee should be higher than Warren Ellis, I made a mistake when I cut and pasted.

And no, I can’t believe deFalco’s Thor is anywhere on this list, or even in a top 500 list. I’ll change my name to Susan if I’m wrong.

Although I didn’t end up picking it Sleeper was one of the books that I seriously considered while making my top 10 list. As you mentioned, a big part of the fun was some of the great villain concepts they could come up with, and for my money, this is still the best thing Brubaker’s done. I reread a bunch of issues of it last night and was just blown away by how inspired it was, which makes the current state of Wildstorm all the more disappointing.

X-Statix is another really underrated book, and it even if Allred didn’t draw every issue, the fact that they got artists like Darwyn Cooke, Phillip Bond and Paul Pope to do the fill-ins makes it that much cooler.

I wouldn’t say X-Statix’s end was premature. Milligan and Allred had pretty much run through everything they wanted to say with the concept, and you could tell that after the abortive Princess Di storyline, a lot of wind had gone out of their sales. It was pretty much time to wrap things up.

I read the first Sleeper collection, and while I really like Brubaker and Phillips’ work on Criminal, Sleeper just didn’t do it for me. Am I missing out by not reading the rest of the series, or was the first collection a good example of what to expect?

Rene,

you mentioned that only 2 runs are set in the DC universe. I assume you mean Grell’s Green Arrow and O’Neils The Question. Even though Ennis’ Hellblazer was marked Vertigo, wasn’t it still set within the DC Universe (at least at that time?). And Jack Cole’s Plastic Man has been retconed in…but that may not count because it wasn’t originally.

Hello, Billy

My rule of thumb is whether the run was set in the shared universe when it was first published, so Plastic Man is out.

Hellblazer is kinda iffy. Technically, Garth Ennis started his run before the Vertigo imprint started appearing in the comic’s cover, but it just felt very separate from the beginning, and the separation was later made demi-official when Vertigo started, so… I made a personal call.

I’m not completely happy about it, Vertigo’s relationship with the DC Universe is messy.

Damn it . I’m love this list Brian but I’m going to be out of the country and away from any computers for most of the next two weeks! What will I do?

Point Blank seems like a different entity than Sleeper to me. They just have a different feel to them. One leads into the other, but they seem so distinct. Maybe it’s the art. Maybe it’s just that Sleeper’s better. I don’t see the need to combine them, but that’s just me.

SLEEPER and ALIAS were strongly considered for my list, but ended up being somewhere between 11-25 for me. Definitely amongst my favorite of recent times…

USAGI YOJIMBO was my first top ten to show up and now STORMWATCH. So far two of them.

Also: I was one of the people that voted Warren Ellis’ STORMWATCH/AUTHORITY as one run. Because to me, it is clearly ACT 1, ACT 2 and ACT 3. With the odd WILDCATS/ALIENS between 2 and 3. Its a complete story for almost all of the characters, especially Jenny and for me its the preferred way to re-read the series. In fact, its how I give it to people to read to (complete with WC/ALIENS).

When Millar and (the amazing) Quitely took over it became something different to me. Not just in content, but in publishing schedule when DC corporate started interfering and the Peyer arc was tossed in between. I love the first 9 issues of Millar/Quitely, but the end of the series definitely fizzled.

(Thinking out loud now: I wonder, if I had to split off Ellis’ two arcs, where the two tiles would have landed. Because they are stronger to me as a whole.)

JR

“I read the first Sleeper collection, and while I really like Brubaker and Phillips’ work on Criminal, Sleeper just didn’t do it for me. Am I missing out by not reading the rest of the series, or was the first collection a good example of what to expect?”

Sandy,

I love Sleeper (it’s the first of my top ten to chart) and have read it multiple times, but I’d have to say that any of the four trades are a pretty good indication of the other three. There’s a bit of a plot shift with the second season, but tonally it remains about the same.

That said, if you like Criminal, I’d try to give it another read if you can find it at a library or on the cheap. Phillips art really reaches a pinnacle here and, superpowers be damned, Brubaker wrote a classic noir tale.

“Point Blank seems like a different entity than Sleeper to me. They just have a different feel to them. One leads into the other, but they seem so distinct. Maybe it’s the art. Maybe it’s just that Sleeper’s better. I don’t see the need to combine them, but that’s just me.”

Chris,

I totally agree with you. For me, other than the art, it just feels more like a Grifter story, and therefore more “superhero-y” to me. I liked Point Blank, but didn’t love it the way I do Sleeper. Reading both adds a little richness to the whole tale, but Point Blank is in no way necessary to understanding or enjoying Sleeper.

— Sean

I’m kinda surprised Kirby / Lee Thor ranked so low. Those stories are mandatory.

I used to laugh myself stupid at Groo. Groo was the last comic to bear the Epic Comics imprint, if memory serves.

I’m afraid I’ve never read “Sleeper,” and knew almost nothing about it. I’m familiar with large chunks of the other runs in this installment, however — in the “Stormwatch” case, I think I’ve read every single issue mentioned as part of the Ellis run. I can’t say I was likely to vote for any of those 4 as being Top Ten Favorites, though. (I mean, sure, I’ve been known to get a good laugh out of Groo, but I don’t feel the urge to go back and reread the same stories about him every year or two.)

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 9, 2008 at 6:59 pm

X-Force rules!

Gotta say though Brian, I think it’s a shame you didn’t mention the fact that U-Go Girl was the greatest comic book character ever! EVER!
Also, I think the whole Di thing sucked a lot of momentum out of the book – that five issue storyline ended up making no sense what so ever.

The first volume of Stormwatch Ellis did is awesome – more writers should try and do as many good one issue stories as he pulled off in that. Volume 2 never clicked for me, especially the bringing Bendix back just to kill him again.

Sleeper was an excellent book as well, although I found the first volume to be much better – I think the second ‘season’ was too concerned with the bigger story, and so didn’t have as many nice small moments as the first.

fourthworlder

April 9, 2008 at 7:24 pm

Wow, add me to those shocked by the low placement of Kirby’ and Lee’s Thor. Anybody who hasn’t read these is really missing out on a “great moments in comics” moment. Kirby and Lee’s Fantastic Four always got the greater accolades and did introduce a longer list of memorable characters and villains, but at its peak Thor was just as good (well, almost). I especially recommend issues 128 – 130, where Thor goes to hades to fight for Hercules. It’s hard to imagine more a wildly creative mix of mythology, sci-fi, super-heroics and pure fun.

I’ve got to agree with Jamie Ramirez about Ellis’s “Stormwatch” and “Authority” being part of the same run–it’s obviously a three-part story with the second part acting as a reaction to the first and the third acting as a reaction to the second. It’s a cohesive story about the geopolitics of superheroes within a contemporary context and ignoring the natural result of the destruction of the Stormwatch group (the Authority) as being part of the same story seems like a partial reading, at best–and a gross misreading, at worse.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 9, 2008 at 11:10 pm

Stormwatch and The Authority are totally different books – the style and the stories are totally different.
It may work as part of a larger narrative (which I’d say was more chance than design – I think Ellis got the idea for The Authority during volume two of Stormwatch and then shifted what the book was about to prepare it), however they should count as separate runs as you don’t need to have read Stormwatch to enjoy The Authority and the tone change between the two is huge.

I wonder how much higher the Kirby Thor run would have ranked if not for the “help” of Vince Colletta on the inks.

FunkyGreenJerusalem: You don’t need to read volume one to understand “Stormwatch” volume 2, so I don’t see what that matters, necessarily. As well, the design/chance destinction is irrelevant as the final outcome is a cohesive narrative, as “The Authority” grew organically out of “Stormwatch” (the final issue of volume 2 acting as much as a conclusion to that book as a prologue to “The Authority”)–hell, the first run of “The Authority” is directly based out of events from “Stormwatch” and the group no longer existing. There’s also a marked change in tone and style between the two volumes of “Stormwatch”… does that make them part of different runs? I’m sorry, but it seems that changing the title is the main criteria for counting the books as different runs, because all of your arguments could be applied to different storylines within accepted runs–storylines where the tone and style alters for the sake of the story, or stories that can be read on their own, or stories that the writer didn’t necessarily plan to exist, but grew organically while writing and then fit into the larger narrative arc. Again, the main difference here seems to be a title change.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 10, 2008 at 5:06 pm

IF you want to call the end of Stormwatch Vol 2 organic, go for it, butt it’s really not.

I’ll definitely agree with the JIM vote, though it should be higher up on the list IMO. Groo’s cool but he wouldn’t make even my Top 100. X-Force was one of the freshest things to come out of Marvel in ages and I loved every bit of it. I picked up Authority but missed the original Stormwatch run but have been tempted to go back and get these. They’ve been at least partially collected methinks though I would prefer a complete collection as I’m sure lots of readers would. I started Sleeper but never finished it. It was good but just wasn’t moving quickly enough or I was missing something or something. Bru’s finally getting his due in the last year or so but this one didn’t grab me quick as much as his other works.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

April 10, 2008 at 10:32 pm

Ellis’ Stormwatch run is all collected in three or four tpb’s, and that includes the WildCATS/Aliens crossover.

X-force/X-statix I didn’t care for much when it first came out, but have come to like and appreciate it now. An example of the early 2000s when Marvel actually took chances and pushed the envelope. Even if you didn’t like all the titles or direction or the emphasis on decompression (and I didn’t love everything about that era), you have to admit it’s more preferable to the current era of BIG EVENTS & CROSSOVERS and star-writer-overhype.

Sergio Aragonés is a great artist. Sleeper was ok, got a bit boring at times tho.

I have tried so damn hard to get into “Sleeper” and it just won’t work. I just want that kind of story grounded more in reality and that’s why “Criminal” does work for me. It’s similar the problem I had with “Powers” (although I read that for the first 25 issues). Here’s this great crime writer (Bendis &/or Brubaker) who obviously knows how to tell great stories without any fantastic element and they for some reason feel the need to set this against the backdrop of a superhero universe. And yeah, I know Ed didn’t have a choice because this was a Wildstorm book, but Bendis has no excuse. Yeah, and before anyone attacks me about this let me say that “Alias” is exempt from this “problem” and ruled…

I have tried so damn hard to get into “Sleeper” and it just won’t work. I just want that kind of story grounded more in reality and that’s why “Criminal” does work for me.

Yeah. Completely agreed. I didn’t see the need for this comedy/superhero overlay on what would’ve worked perfectly well as a relatively true-to-life spy story.

groo shold be the best one!!! i wonder where is alan grant’s run in lobo? (over 200 comics!!!)

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta created an unusually powerful series with THOR. With the passage of time and some better reprinting techniques, this run will move up to the top of many lists like this one.

I had no idea that Tao was the main villain of “Sleeper”. I loved that character, and that WildCATS run. I now have extra reason to check that series out.

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