Top 100 Comic Book Runs #90-86
Here are the next five! As always, if anyone wants to send me the reasons they chose their picks, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
90. Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr’s X-Men – 106 points (1 first place vote)
Uncanny X-Men #175(partial), #176-197, 199-200, 202-203, 206-211
As was the case for the X-Men juggernaut of the 80s, whoever an artist replaced was seen as impossible. Replace Byrne and Cockrum with Paul Smith? Impossible!
And yet when it came time for Smith to leave the book, it was “Replace Paul Smith? Impossible!”
And yet that was the task for John Romita, Jr., the young budding superstar that was coming off a popular run on another one of Marvel’s major titles, Amazing Spider-Man.
Matched with inker Dan Green, Romita produced artwork that was a bit grittier than previous X-artists, and it matched writer Chris Claremont’s slightly darker stories of the mid-80s.
This was the run where Kitty calls the guy the N-word, where Professor X is almost beaten to death, where Magneto ends up taking over the team, where Wolverine stabs Rachel in the chest to keep her from killing – it was not the funnest of times for the X-Men, and Romita left the book just as one of their darkest periods period came up, the Mutant Massacre.
By the time Romita left, it was once again “Replace John Romita Jr.? Impossible!”
89. Mark Gruenwald’s Captain America – 107 points (3 first place votes)
Captain America #307-422, 424-443, Captain America Annual #8
Mark Gruenwald came to Captain America in an interesting way. Mike Carlin was writing the book and Gruenwald was editing the title. Then The Thing needed an editor. So Gruenwald took over editing The Thing, and brought Carlin over to write the Thing, leaving Captain America available.
So Gruenwald then had Carlin take over as editor of Captain America, with Gruenwald writing the title.
Gruenwald then stayed on the book for about eight years, writing well over a hundred issues of the title.
During his tenure, Gruenwald worked with a number of artists, most notably Paul Neary, Tom Morgan, (a young) Kieron Dwyer, Ron Lim, Rik Levins and Dave Hoover.
His run included the introduction of a number of new supporting characters, such as Diamondback, USAGent and Demolition Man.
A big part of Gruenwald’s “manifesto,” as it were, for his run on Cap was to introduce new villains for Captain America, and while the Serpent Society really has not lasted that much past Gruenwald’s own run, his introduction of Crossbones has been successful, with Crossbones still having an important role in the Captain America title today.
Gruenwald also wrote a story where Steve Rogers was replaced as Captain America by John Walker, who would later become USAgent.
Diamondback became Captain America’s girlfriend. Gruenwald ended his run by having Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum turn against him, and he appeared to have died in Gruenwald’s last issue.
88. Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Doctor Strange – 108 points (2 first place votes)
Strange Tales #110-111, 114-146
In Strange Tales #110, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee introduced one of the best characters the two worked on together, Doctor Strange. The initial story introduced the basics of the story really quickly, and what basics they were!
A jerkish surgeon whose recklessness led to his hands damaged, Strange searched for a cure, until he ended up becoming the apprentice to the Ancient One, and his life was totally turned around for the better. No longer a jerk, Strange began to use his newfound mystical powers for the good of the universe.
After a short break, the feature returned to Strange Tales where Ditko and Lee produced a number of classic issues, introducing many new characters that are still used to this day, like Baron Mordo, Dormammu, Eternity, Nightmare and more.
The comic was a nice counterpoint to Ditko’s more grounded work in Amazing Spider-Man, as this series allowed Ditko to cut loose with bizarre and trippy concepts.
It was a tremendous work, and it gave such a great foundation to future writers (Note – towards the end, Denny O’Neil did some scripting on the book).
86 (tie). Roy Thomas’ Avengers – 109 points (2 first place votes)
The Avengers #35-104
Roy Thomas took over from original writer Stan Lee, and proceeded to write the title for the next seventy or so issues, working most notably with artists John Buscema (hey, how do you pronounce Buscema?) and Neal Adams.
During this run, Avengers readers were treated to the introduction of Ultron, the introduction of the Vision (who starred in one of Thomas’ most notable stories of his run – Even an Android Can Cry), the introduction of Yellowjacket, the marriage of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, Hawkeye becoming Goliath, Vision and the Scarlet Witch beginning to date, and probably the most notable part of Thomas’ run on the book, the epic Kree Skrull War, where Neal Adams did some dynamite work (on the issues he actually drew).
Sal Buscema and Barry Windsor Smith also drew some notable issues during this run.
Thomas’ run was marked by an interesting blend of character drama with grand adventures – the reaction to Jarvis betraying the team was treated just as it was just as important as whatever villain they were fighting that week.
Thomas laid a great foundation for Steve Englehart’s excellent follow-up run.
86 (tie). Jim Starlin’s Warlock – 109 points (1 first place vote)
Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-15, The Avengers Annual #7 and Marvel Two-in-One Annual #2
Jim Starlin had already established himself as a tremendous cosmic writer with his work on Captain Marvel, but his run on Warlock (spanning FOUR different titles) really cemented that reputation, with his back-to-back classic arcs, The Magus Saga and then whatever you call the story with Thanos.
Starlin had Adam Warlock face off against an evil religious empire, also Magus, his evil future self, not to mention Thanos, who is, as you know, an evil guy who loves him some death.
Starlin introduced some notable supporting characters, too, with Pip the Troll and Gamora, the “deadliest woman in the universe.”
Sadly, the books didn’t sell that well, so Starlin had to use other comics to finish his story, with the two Annuals, which ended with, well, everyone dying.
Starlin would later revive all these characters for future fun stories.
The next five will be up later tonight!!