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Top 100 Comic Book Runs #60-56

Here are the next five runs in a list of the Top 100 Comic Book Runs, as voted on by about 700 Comics Should Be Good readers, who voted on their favorite runs, I tabulated their votes, and now, here they are!

60. Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch’s Authority – 159 points (2 first place votes)

The Authority #1-12

The Authority is interesting, because the pedigree of the comic is based on so much happenstance. If Oscar Jiminez could only have hit his deadlines, the Authority likely would never have occurred.

Instead, Jiminez did have problems with deadlines while the artist for Stormwatch Vol. 2, so Bryan Hitch was brought in to fill-in for him. Do note that Bryan Hitch, at the time, was extremely disillusioned with comics due to the lack of good assignments, so Hitch had actually already planned on applying for film production work after his Stromwatch run finished. Seeing these issues as a chance to at least put together a nice resume, Hitch changed his art up a bit, trying a more detailed, “widescreen” style.

Writer Warren Ellis, who was also feeling a bit disillusioned with Stormwatch, was completely reinvigorated when paired with Hitch, and Hitch also enjoyed working with Ellis, as Ellis had a great ability to work with his artists.

Now refreshed by an engaging working relationship, the two huddled up and came up with the idea for The Authority, which would be a comic based around Hitch’s new style of artwork. By this time, Grant Morrison and Howard Porter had already sorta done the whole “widescreen” approach to action in comics, but not to the scale Hitch and Ellis were about to do with The Authority.

This was completely “summer blockbuster within a comic book,” and readers ate it up. People often forget that the whole political aspects of The Authority really did not come about until Mark Millar took over. Ellis and Hitch were more about wowing the audience with over-the-top, dynamic stories (with nice character work still, of course).

It’s a shame they only did a years worth of stories together.

59. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ Green Lantern (co-starring Green Arrow)- 162 points (1 first place votes)

Green Lantern #76-87, 89, Flash #217-219 (as a backup story)

It’s pretty much industry lore by now, about how Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ classic run on Green Lantern/Green Arrow was critically acclaimed, but did not sell that well, but what’s interesting is that, from a historical perspective, that probably helped us readers out a bit, as the relative poor sales resulted in the book remaining bi-monthly, which allowed Adams to hit his deadlines, which allowed Adams to draw the whole run, which likely would have been impossible if the book was popular enough to make the book a monthly title. See? Silver linings, people!! Silver linings!!

Justice League writer Denny O’Neil was inspired by the new costume Neal Adams gave Green Arrow in the pages of the Brave and the Bold, so O’Neil decided to give Green Arrow a new personality to match his new duds, having the archer lose his fortune and become socially conscious.

Figuring they landed on an interesting idea, O’Neil and Adams teamed up to add Green Arrow to the pages of Green Lantern’s title, teaming the social conscious Green Arrow with the more conservative Green Lantern, then sending the pair on a trip around America, where O’Neil and Adams were able to come up with a number of topical discussions (or, at least, more topical than a typical comic book of the day).

The comic was unlike anything else attempted at the time, and has been the basis for a number of stories ever since, especially the storyline where Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy is revealed to be using drugs.

The book did not sell that well (by the by, an urban legend I’ve never been able to prove one way or the other is that the book DID sell well, but DC didn’t realize it, or something like that – maybe the book’s sales had boomed towards the end, but it was too late as the book had already been canceled? Something like that), and the stories ended up being backups in Flash for a time before ending period.

A few years later, O’Neil picked the series up again, with artist Mike Grell, but this time the stories were standard superhero stuff.

58. Roger Stern’s Avengers – 164 points (3 first place votes)

Avengers #227-279, 281-288

I actually did not remember that Roger Stern’s first issue of Avengers was also the first issue with Captain Marvel, I thought he was on the book already when he added her. Huh. Interesting.

In any event, when Avengers writer Jim Shooter stepped down, Roger Stern picked the book up and finished Shooter’s Hank Pym storyline, then began a long and eventful run on the book himself.

Perhaps Stern’s most notable achievement was the introduction of Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), where Stern really made her one of the bigger characters in the Marvel universe.

Stern also introduced the West Coast Avengers during his run.

The most notable artist working with Stern on his Avengers run was John Buscema, who took over penciling chores around #250 or so, and stayed on for the rest of Stern’s run (and beyond). In #256, Tom Palmer began inking the book, and Palmer stayed on as Avengers inker until the book ended in #402.

Stern’s most famous storyline was Under Siege, where a large group of the Masters of Evil systematically took the Avengers down, including taking control of Avengers Mansion. A lot of Kurt Busiek’s Thunderbolts run had its roots in the Masters of Evil during this storyline (as Stern heavily featured a character he created during his run on Hulk, Moonstone).

Sadly, due to a difference of opinion over how to handle the book, Stern was fired from the title, and left Marvel to work for DC for the rest of the 1980s.

56 (tie). Alan Moore’s Supreme – 168 points (2 first place votes)

Supreme #41-56, Supreme: The Return #1-5

One of Alan Moore’s most famous works in Watchmen, where Moore helped launch the “Grim and gritty” movement of comic book superhero deconstruction. Moore, himself, was aware of what he had spawned, so his run on Supreme was designed as a sort of counter to the work he, himself, had done.

In Supreme, Moore took over a Superman analogue, and told basically all of his favorite Superman stories.

The book was a delightful exercise in comic book fun (and I believe you can get it for free on Wowio), and it was a nice breath of fresh air for those readers who enjoy their superheroes with a touch of the Silver Age mixed in.

The comic ignored all the previous stories of Supreme (who was also sort of a Superman analog, but not a particularly interesting one), but also acknowledged them, in a metafiction tactic by Moore to show that this Supreme (Moore’s Supreme, that is) was just the latest in a series of iterations of Supreme.

It was a clever move, which also matched the story of Supreme’s secret identity, comic book creator Ethan Crane, who worked on a comic called Omniman, who was ALSO going through a revamp at the same time.

Sadly, after relaunching the book with Supreme: The Return, the comic company publishing Supreme fell apart, leaving Moore’s story unfinished.

Checker Books has a collection of all the stories that did make it into print, and like I said, Wowio has them up, online, too!

56 (tie). Geoff Johns’ Flash – 168 points (2 first place votes)

Flash #164-225

It’s rare to see a writer follow up an immensely popular run on a title with an immensely popular run of their own, but that’s exactly what Geoff Johns did after Mark Waid finished his run on the Flash.

Johns opened up with a storyline that was only supposed to bridge the gap between the end of Waid’s run and whoever took over the book after Waid. Instead, the storyline was so well received that Johns himself was given the assignment, along with artist Scott Kolins (who had developed a new art style at the time just for this new run).

Johns set out to do two things with his run. The first was to really establish Flash’s city of Keystone City as an actual city with its own personality, and the second was to re-establish Flash’s Rogues Galley, which Waid had mostly left alone (save for Abra Kadabra, boy did Waid love Abra Kadabra), while also introducing a number of new Rogues himself.

Johns definitely achieved his goals on both fronts, particularly with the Rogues. Perhaps Johns’ best issue of his run was a spotlight on Captain Cold. Spot on characterization work. As for new Rogues, Johns best addition was Zoom, who originally began as a friend of Wally’s, a police profiler named Hunter Zolomon, but whose mind became totally twisted, and decided that he would help Wally by giving him a personal tragedy. That has been his MO ever since, “helping” Wally by making him a stronger person via torture.

After Zoom caused Wally’s wife to miscarriage, Wally asked the Spectre to erase his secret identity from the minds of the world. A Brand New Day began for Wally and his wife, Linda.

At the end of Johns’ run, Linda’s miscarriage was reversed, and she gave birth to twins (a boy and a girl).

31 Comments

Hey, Stern’s Avengers might be the first of my run that made it.

For what it’s worth I prefer Moore’s Supreme to Morrison’s All Star Superman too.

And Flash was a consistantly good DC or Marvel superhero comic for ten years.

(Weirdly enough, I think that Cable’s got that distinction now, what with Robinson/Casey/Weinberg/Tischmann/Nicieza).

Wait, no. I went with Stern’s Superman instead. So nope, forget it.

Almost halfway through the process, and finally one of my own picks has made it into the Top 100 Runs!

I voted for Alan Moore’s Supreme (although it wasn’t my “first place” vote). And I’m reasonably familiar with each of the other 4 runs mentioned here, and I can at least understand why other people might put them in the “Top Ten Favorites” category.

GL/GA was a close runner-up for me. It was painful to cut it out of the top ten. Simply great comics that I re-read every year. You would think that the “topical” stories would become dated and lame, but they never do. To bring that level or writing (and that level of art!) to two characters who had been so unsophisticated up until that time, it’s downright heroic. ALL comics today in which adults act like adults and interact with real world problems in a believable way owe their genesis to this comic.

Moore’s Supreme and Stern’s Avengers are pretty damn great, too. (Stern got a slow start, though. It really got great when it was Stern/Buscema)

I’ve always loved that Under Siege story in Stern’s Avengers. As a kid, I read whatever I had of that arc (probably one issue) and would always wonder how, or even if, the Avengers ever got out of that one.

Johns’ Flash is the first from my list to show up, but I always figured the stuff on my list would either be pretty popular or not show up at all.

I’m surprised Supreme is so far back on the list, as it is a perfect example of a good run: taking a lacklaster property and making it sublime.

I’m surprised Supreme is so far back on the list, as it is a perfect example of a good run: taking a lacklaster property and making it sublime. Moore proved here that not only can you polish a turd, you can turn it into gold.

Supreme is one of my all-time favorite comics. It just missed making my Top Ten. It’s the perfect mixture of Silver Age craziness and post-modern mind-blowing, um, ness.

And not to nitpick, but there are 6 issues of Supreme: The Return.

I don’t think GL/GA holds up well at all. It’s just issue after issue of Ollie preaching at Hal, who plays the role of the biggest straw man ever and just takes it. I get why it’s important, and I don’t quibble with its placement on the list, but I didn’t get much enjoyment out of it.

I need to read more of Stern’s Avengers.

I’ve read a few issues of Johns’ Flash and enjoyed them, but nothing dissuades me from picking up a superhero comic like ‘the supervillain’s evil plot caused a miscarriage.’ Ugh.

Glad to see Stern’s Avengers show up; that was one of my two Avengers’ votes (I’m pretty sure my other one won’t show up on the list). As awesome and re-readable as Under Siege is, I also really enjoy the follow up story (which I believe was Stern’s last) with the Avengers being held accountable for Hercules’ injuries by Zeus and they end up fighting the Greek gods. But then, I’ve always been a sucker for Greek mythology.

Definitely prefer Ellis’ Authority to Millar’s.

Agree w/Anthony e.g GL/GA; it doesn’t seem to have aged all that well. While I recognize how important it was and how awesome the art still is, and while I don’t at all quibble with it making the list, I just couldn’t bring myself to consider it one of my favorite runs.

Almost voted for Johns’ Flash, but I think I missed a few of his early issues and didn’t want to vote for a run I hadn’t read in its entirety.

Supreme is another one long on the “to be read, but haven’t yet” list…

I’m surprised to see Supreme so far up on the list. I thought they were good, fun comics, but I thought it was more pastiche (clever pastiche, admittedly) than substance. I think Rick Veitch’s contributions should be mentioned in the write-up, however- he managed to ape the styles of Golden & Silver Age Superman artists, EC horror artists, Mad magazine, Jim Starlin, Jack Kirby, Mike Sekowsky, etc. and make it all look good.

“Under Siege” remains my favorite Avengers story. I haven’t read the rest of Stern’s run (are any other issues collected in trade?), but I could see voting for his run on Avengers based on that one story.

I’m a big Denny O’Neil fan, but I agree the writing on GL/GA has dated. That’s not all bad– I mean, it’s kind of neat, in an historical way, that it gives us such a clear snapshot of what comics and their culture were like in the early 70s– but it does make for painful speechifying at times. The Neal Adams art, however, holds up beautifully– the covers are some of his best ever, and the work inside the book is extraordinarily dynamic and exciting. If O’Neil’s preachy scripts insipired that kind of work, then they’re totally worth it.

That Stern run was the only time I ever really enjoyed Avengers (I was a DC kid) until the Busiek run.

I’ve never really understood the love for GJ’s Flash. Maybe that’s because Waid convinced me that Wally should be a fundamentally happy hero, one who thinks he’s got the coolest power in the world, a wife he adores, and lots of heroic friends (speedsters, the Titans, the JLA). The Zoom/ miscarriage/ Spectre/ secret ID story and the darkening (and, for some, the de-reforming) of the Rogues, especially in the Top story and Rogue War, made Wally’s world a much uglier place, and while they might have had the skill and talent GJ usually brings, I kept failing to enjoy them at all.

See: The Wasp take a lunch!

GL/GA was my “Oh crap, I forgot!” non-pick. I’m surprised it’s not higher.

I totally want to read that lunch story.

Halfway through the run and the first title from my list makes the cut (O’Neil and Adams ‘Green Lantern/Green Arrow’). Makes me think that some of my, shall we say, more obscure choices did not make the cut. We’ll wait and see, I guess.

“People often forget that the whole political aspects of The Authority really did not come about until Mark Millar took over. Ellis and Hitch were more about wowing the audience with over-the-top, dynamic stories (with nice character work still, of course). ”

This is a disturbingly common misconcption. Millar’s take was blunt and upfront, but it’s all there in Ellis’s run, particularly in Jenny Sparks’s speeches. Ellis’s run also ends far better, without the backtracking stupitiy of Millar’s final issue that undermines the whole thing.

I don’t think that the GL/GA run has dated poorly at all. Naturally, Adams’ artwork is superlative, arguably the best of his career.

But O’Neil’s writing is top-rate too. His GA is a great character, while his GL is less a straw man than a thoughtful individual unsure of the right thing to do in a complicated & conflicted world. If you don’t see yourself in O’Neil’s Hal Jordan, it’s because you don’t read the news often enough. These stories have an urgency & emotion that hits you in the gut.

It’s not just that O’Neill brought modern politics into mainstream comics (setting a precedent for everything from Moore’s “Watchmen” to Millar’s “Authority”). It’s that they derive their conflicts from the political & social subjects, through dramatic metaphors & character conflict. It’s simply smart writing, far beyond the supervillainy & slugfests that are standard even forty years later.

Also, to claim that the issues have dated is simply ridiculous. Social problems like racism, sexism, drug abuse, corporate exploitation & pollution, and over-population are still very much with us. O’Neil & Adams point the way for comic books to be involved & informed by political activity & social work.

And don’t forget that this run not only raised Green Arrow’s & Black Canary’s profiles, it also introduced John Stewart. This is the real deal: superhero comics for adults.

This is a disturbingly common misconcption. Millar’s take was blunt and upfront, but it’s all there in Ellis’s run, particularly in Jenny Sparks’s speeches. Ellis’s run also ends far better, without the backtracking stupitiy of Millar’s final issue that undermines the whole thing.

Being more political did not make Millar’s run better or anything.

It’s not a value judgment to say Millar’s run focused on politics while Ellis’ did not. It’s just a description of their respective runs.

And the political aspect of the Authority that has become such a major aspect of the series was introduced by Millar, for the most part. Ellis let his characters, like Jenny, each have their own particular political beliefs, but it was not the driving force of the comic the way it was in later issues.

I love Stern’s Avengers. It didn’t make my list, but I really wanted it to. But then I love a lot of Avengers. I hope Micheline and Englehart still show up. But the low rankings of classic Marvel stuff makes me wonder. I assume Busiek’s will show up still, which is good.

Interesting batch.

I found Ellis’s run on The Authority to be a real let-down after his excellent run on Stormwatch. Not bad, but not that great. Hopefully this means that Millar’s run (which I much preferred) is still to come….

GL/GA is historic and all that, but both the writing and art date really badly (strangely considering neither dates badly from O’Neil + Adams’s Batman run)

Supreme was reasonably fun, but I wouldn’t put it in the top 100.

For My tastes, probably the only run here that I’d put in the top 100 is Geoff John’s Flash – which is strange considering O’Neil, Ellis and Moore are all much better writers than Geoff Johns.

But O’Neil’s writing is top-rate too. His GA is a great character, while his GL is less a straw man than a thoughtful individual unsure of the right thing to do in a complicated & conflicted world. If you don’t see yourself in O’Neil’s Hal Jordan, it’s because you don’t read the news often enough. These stories have an urgency & emotion that hits you in the gut.

It’s not just that O’Neill brought modern politics into mainstream comics (setting a precedent for everything from Moore’s “Watchmen” to Millar’s “Authority”). It’s that they derive their conflicts from the political & social subjects, through dramatic metaphors & character conflict. It’s simply smart writing, far beyond the supervillainy & slugfests that are standard even forty years later.

I’m with Mr. Strange. I had GL/GA in my list too because of much the same reasons. Any DC comic that will quote from Norman Mailer in 1969 is doing something right in my book.

But I think the characterisation is really what defines it for me. Hal and Ollie have such wonderful and distinctive voices. They felt to me real in ways that no comic character of its time ever felt. They were different politically and yet both very haunted people in different ways. I loved that aspect of it.

I think it’s honestly better than their Batman– O’Neil and Adams influenced each other and stretched each other creatively on this book in all sorts of ways. I think it’s dated insofar as the approach to the issues have dated but I think there’s something about it that’s still quite vital.

[…] Moore’s Supreme — reissued by Checker on WOWIO — is voted among the Top 100 Comic Book RunsComics Should Be Good readers at leading online comics magazine CBR. […]

“I’m a big Denny O’Neil fan, but I agree the writing on GL/GA has dated. That’s not all bad– I mean, it’s kind of neat, in an historical way, that it gives us such a clear snapshot of what comics and their culture were like in the early 70s– but it does make for painful speechifying at times. The Neal Adams art, however, holds up beautifully– the covers are some of his best ever, and the work inside the book is extraordinarily dynamic and exciting. If O’Neil’s preachy scripts insipired that kind of work, then they’re totally worth it.”
——————————————-

I do agree that the writing is dated – and I know I am splitting hairs here, and feel you would probably agree with me – but what I found interesting when I re-read the run recently, and compared it to its contemporaries at both Marvel and DC, was that the writing was actually 10 to 15 years AHEAD of itself.

So, dated “yes” but in my opinion dated in the way that average comics of the 1980’s are. Head and shoulders less dated than most stuff published in the 1970’s.

GL/GA has definitely dated. And I think those issues are rather one-sided politically (maybe my memory is faulty here, but Hal didn’t come off all that conservative did he?). People really overstate the ‘bravery’ of the creators on that one. For 30 years now we’ve had leftist creators being praised by a leftist media and a mostly sympathetic fan base. Wow, way to go out on a limb there. Steve Ditko, inserting Objectivism theory in Mr. A seems more daring, but what do I know.

Ethan Van Sciver had the best line about this – When Lantern hangs his head in shame after being confronted by a black man (“You save the purple man, but what about the black man”) what he should have said was “Do you live on Earth? Then I’m pretty sure I’ve done something seeing as how I’ve saved the planet over a hundred times”

Yeah, if you actually go back and read the other stuff available in comics in the early seventies, there wasn’t anything that overtly leftist, believe me.

Van Sciver’s comment bears some agreement, and does take the world of DC comics into account, but not the climate of the early seventies.

Reading it now – even as the lefty that I am – I shudder at how lacking in nuance the arguments being made were, but if you consider the time they were written, things were unfortunately viewed pretty polemically by any mainstream media/entertainment.

I think that what tends to get missed because of the political aspect of these stories in GL/GA is that it was the first serious time that DC tried to give more of a defined – as opposed to generic – character to these two characters.

This has had both good and bad consequences for both of them.

In the case of GL, it too Johns to finally reconcile the aspects of character, so that Hal wasn’t JUST a navel-gazing and introspective whiner.

In the case of GA, I think that has started to happen to some extent only now.

My other problem with the writing is that it actually condescends (though I appreciate it does so unintentionally) towards left-leaning people as well as right-leaning people, by presenting caricatures of both. Though O’Neil was at times ‘fair and balanced’ – he did afterall write more than a few were Oliver got it wrong, and where his extremist tendencies actually created more problems.

However, it was a step in the right direction towards using the medium as a ptential tool for ideas beyond simple super-heroics.

Well put Tariq.

authority gl/ga stern avengers supreme johns flash

Warren Ellis & Bryan Hitch’s Authority – This run was huge for me. It didn’t make my list but would have definitely been in my Top 20. This run moved the bar up in a way that hasn’t happened since the New X-Men debuted. This was crazy good. If you dig spandex and are somewhat familiar with Ellis’ work, how could you not like this ? All this an The Bleed.

Denny O’Neil & Neal Adams’ Green Lantern / Green Arrow – Truly a ground breaking series, though O’Neil gets a little preachy and heavy handed and his dialogue is painful in spots, but Adams works is, once again, legendary and always a joy to behold. An essential part of any collection IMO but not overall making the cut for me.

Stern’s Avengers – Missed this run with art by Big John Buscema and Tom Palmer (nice). Sounds good but I haven’t read it.

Alan Moore’s Supremen – Don’t know how a Silver Age Superfan couldn’t love these. Definite keepers.

Johns’ Flash – I picked it up from the first issue and pretty much didn’t let it down until the end. Johns really got the character and his world, just like he did with JSA and GL. The only Johns stories I haven’t cared for are the latter Infinite Crisis. His fleshing out the Rogues Gallery was great and I liked how he tried to add some new dimension and characters. Solid reading.

I liked ‘Supreme’, but I liked every run ranked below it that I’ve read more. Especially shocked it beat ‘Top 10′.

It should be noted how poor the trade collections really look.

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