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CSBG Archive

Top 100 Comic Book Runs #35-31

Here are the next five runs!

35. Los Bros Hernandez’s Love and Rockets – 236 points (5 first place votes)

Love and Rockets #1-50, Love and Rockets Vol. 2 #1-current (#20, which is it for the regular series – now they’re going to do Annuals instead of individual issues)

Love and Rockets is one of the greatest comic book anthologies ever, and it’s quite impressive to note that it is an anthology that is made up of just one family – the Hernandez brothers, primarily Gilbert and Jaime, although brother Mario occasionally chips in, as well.

Each brother primarily tells their own epic tale, while occasionally peppering in one-off stories.

Gilbert’s was Palomar, which was the goings-on of a fictional South American village. Gilbert later used one of the characters from Palomar, Luba, exclusively.

Jaimes was Hoppers 13 (which, when the stories were collected, was titled Locas), about two women, Maggie and Hopey, and their developing friendship.

As you can tell, both brothers are known for the work they do with strong female characters, but they’re mostly known for their ability to tell stories about realistic characters, while using a seemingly simplistic art style to do so, sort of sneaking the deep stuff past you with the simple artwork.

The second Love and Rockets series was a good deal of time after the first one, so it probably shouldn’t count, but eh, if you’re interested in these characters, you might as well know that there is a current comic book series with them coming out.

34. Stan Lee and John Romita’s Spider-Man – 270 points (3 first place votes)

Amazing Spider-Man #39-71, 74-75, 81 (as inker), 82-88, 89-92 (as inker), 93-95, 96 (as inker)

When John Romita took over from Steve Ditko, he was clearly trying not to change too much of what was, at the time, quite a winning formula, but soon, Romita had changed the book’s visuals dramatically, specifically his depiction of Peter Parker. Gone was the skinny, goofy looking kid of Ditko’s run – Romita’s Peter was quite handsome.

Tying in with Romita’s ability to draw attractive people, Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane Watson became major characters during this time, as Romita sure did love to draw pretty girls. His depiction of Peter’s first meeting with Mary Jane has become the stuff of comic book legend.

Meanwhile, Romita was also quite fluent in the world of superhero action, so the book was filled with a lot of action, as well. What Romita did differently from Ditko was to both make the book a bit more colorful, and most importantly, open up the book a bit more – Ditko was all about economy – Ditko liked to tell a long story through extensive panel usage. Romita used less panels, and opened up the look of the comic – much more expansive.

During his tenure with Stan Lee, the book saw the introduction of the Kingpin, who has become one of the most notable Marvel villains of all time, as well as the famous storyline where Peter decides to quit becoming Spider-Man.

John Romita’s run opened up with the cover you see above, which has become an iconic drawing, and continued with more iconic drawings than you could shake a stick at, if you wanted to shake a stick at iconic drawings, that is.

“Face it, Tiger…” and the shot of Spider-Man walking away from his costume in the trash are just two of many.

As he was preparing to leave the book, Romita even inked incoming artist, Gil Kane, so that the transition would go smoothly. Romita would do this for later artists, as well, so Romita’s influence on the comic lasted for quite a long time.

33. Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona’s Runaways – 307 points (3 first place votes)

Runaways #1-18, Runaways Vol. 2 #1-24

Part of a new line of Marvel comics, Runaways is the only one still coming out, and that has all to do with the ability of Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona to create likable characters that people want to see more of.

The concept of Runaways was a clever one – a group of teens (and one pre-teen) meet each other every year when their parents have some sort of meeting. When they decide to snoop around, they discover the unthinkable – their parents are supervillains!!! With this knowledge in mind, the kids decide to (wait for it..) run away, each taking something with them from their parents, whether it be Nico Minoru (Sister Grimm)’s magical powers, Karolina Dean (Lucy in the Sky)’s alien abilities, Gertrude Yorkes (Arsenic)’s pet dinosaur, Chase Stein (Talkback)’s gadgets, Molly Hayes (Bruiser/Princess Powerful)’s mutant strength or Alex Wilder’s cunning and tactical abilities.

On the run, they try to both foil their parents’ schemes while also trying to do some good.

The key to this series, like most great series, is the character interaction between the group. Vaughan created some in-depth intriguing personalities here, whether it be Karolina struggling with her sexual identity, Chase and Gert’s burgeoning relationship, Nico and Alex’s flirtation, or Molly’s amusing comments (as the youngest, Molly was the comic relief of the series, although she often had serious moments, too).

The first volume ended with tragedy, and in the second volume, the group added two new members, a Skrull (Xavin) who was engaged to Karolina (via her parents, of course) and Victor, who was sort of the son of Ultron.

Vaughan and Alphona (who was a wonder to see on the comic, as he just got better and better and better as the series progressed) left the book to Joss Whedon and Michael Ryan after #24 of the current series.

32. Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s Ultimates – 315 points (5 first place votes)

Ultimates #1-13, Ultimates 2 #1-13

The Ultimates is essentially a post-modern take on the Avengers, with all of the characters filled with all sorts of neuroses, while the realistic artwork of Bryan Hitch helps to show what it would look like if there were actual superheroes in the world.

Captain America is recovered at the end of the first issue, and he is brought in to lead a team of superheroes, consisting of Iron Man, Giant Man and the Wasp.

Nick Fury, head of SHIELD, is also involved.

The book is noted for its widescreen action, courtesy of Bryan Hitch (taking the same style he used to such great effect on The Authority), and the soap opera drama that occurs throughout the series, such as when Giant Man physically abuses his wife, the Wasp, and is thrown off the team. When Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk and goes on a rampage in New York, the team is forces to go into action for the first time against one of their own colleagues! This is when Thor joins the team, although through odd means.

The rest of the series involves an alien invasion, and the addition of new members, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver.

Writer Mark Millar ramps up the drama in the second volume, doubts have been raised as to whether Thor is a real god, or if he is just insane. Meanwhile, there is a traitor in the Ultimates’ midsts, and another invasion is coming – this time from other countries on Earth.

The finale ended with some beautiful Bryan Hitch artwork. The two are currently working on Fantastic Four together.

31. Jeff Smith’s Bone – 321 points (7 first place votes)

Bone #1-55

Jeff Smith’s Bone is the epic tale of three cousins, Fone Bone, Smiley Bone and Phoney Bone, and their adventures when they are thrown out of their hometown of Boneville, and end up in The Valley. The series is filled with drama and fantasy, but with a great deal of humor involved. It is one of the best All Ages comic book series that there is in the comic book world.

Smith’s cartoonish artwork is inspired by the work of the great Walt Kelly, and certainly, Bone owes a visual heritage to Kelly’s Pogo, but Bone is a worthy successor to Pogo in more than just great artwork, for Bone is filled with the same sense of humanity that made Pogo such an amazing series.

In the Valley, the Bones interact mostly with Thorne, a young woman, and her grandmother. They mostly try not to run up against the evil giant rat creatures who wish to kill them.

Phoney Bone is a bit of a con man, so a lot of Bone stories involve one of his get rich schemes. Smiley Bone is a dumb galoot who ends up going along with Phoney’s schemes.

Fone, on the other hand, is a virtuous, romantic figure, who tries to do good in the world, while also staying true to his cousins.

While there is a great deal of fantasy, adventure and humor, like Kelly’s work, there is also a great deal of social commentary, but it’s not over-the-top, and it’s never preachy.

This is a great work that is fun for the whole family, and the entire series is available in one over-sized black and white book!

Buy it already!!

Okay, that’s it!! More runs later!!

69 Comments

Oh, one of my choices.

3. THE ULTIMATES (1 & 2) — Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch.

Definitely a few good examples here to have had a weighting dependent on publication date.

Love and Rockets, so low?

Runaways, so high? Yikes.

Doug M.

Bone so low? blimey. I loved Runaways volume one, but volume two.. never got into it. Now Whedon is writing it, I guess I never will.

Only one thing in this batch that I’ve read, but boy, have I. Bone was my #3 choice, and it’s one of my favorite novels of all time. It’s great at the beginning when it’s character-driven and goofy, and it the quality never goes down as it becomes more plot-driven. In the “what makes a superhero comic?” thread, the point was made that fantasy is often about the quest rather than the characters. What makes Bone so great is that it hooks us with funny character stuff, which then gives us a reason to care about their quest. But it never forgets about its cast – even in the final book, Smiley Bone is up to his old tricks, and it’s very funny.

It’s just an amazing book. I thought it’d be higher, but that was probably my own bias coming through.

I really liked your synopses for these books, Brian. Good stuff.

I’m happy to see Runaways so high up… Bone should be higher but it is an indy after all, so how much higher could I expect?

With Promethea and Concrete, Bone makes 3 of my top 10 that made it in.

So, Romita’s Spidey is down, and only 30 to go… I’m beginning to worry we won’t see DeMatteis’ Spider-Man on here! That just barely missed my list – would’ve been 11 or 12 – but it’d be a shame for it to be overlooked altogether.

ULTIMATES beating Romita Spidey? Jeez…

I…. still don’t have a single book on the list.

Bone was one of my nearest near misses. I went with Thieves and Kings instead (and I stick with it, even if no one else has read it). Runaways is good, but it’s not this good. I think so much of what Vaughan does well is that he manages to write six issue decompressed arcs where you still feel like you’re getting your money’s worth as well as anyone. I think that’s his greatest strength as a writer and Runaways really showed that off.

Ultimates is sensationalist dreck. If Millar’s wretched Authority run is higher than this I’ll be annoyed too. Ellis’ run is much, much better anyway.

I like the Romita Spider-Man a lot more than the Ditko one. Honestly, if anything would have made my list from the 60s, it would have been this. Nothing did, but if anything did, it would be this.

I didn’t have Cerebus on my list, because really I only wanted to vote for High Society and Church and State I and that was impossible given the way things were set up, BUT, I’m really curious to see if we’re going to see it or not now.

To be shamefully honest, I’m not sure I’ve ever held a Love and Rockets comic in my hand, let alone read one.

Patrick Joseph

April 18, 2008 at 5:38 am

Love and Rockets was my number 2. On a different week, it would have been number 1. It’s hard to not take the best continuing series for 25 years running for granted. I was a late comer, picking up issue 17 during my junior year in high school in 1986. It changed my life in a way that only one other series has.

I was socially awkward, I disliked pop culture, and had just moved back to Louisville, Kentucky after a miserable 5 years in a rural Kentucky town. Love and Rockets #17 was like a roadmap of what I wanted my teenage life to be like. Relaxed, interesting, filled with conversations about music and embedded in some kind of social network that wasn’t based in high school. It lead me directly to falling in with Louisville’s “punk” scene, and my life was forever better for it. I can’t image what I would have been like without it.

In 1992 I was working as a features producer at Louisville’s NRP affiliate, and was able to interview the brothers for their 10th Anniversary signing tour. When they got to town we hung out after their signing, drinking beer and talking for hours. All I had to offer them was their first taste of White Castles. It’s not much, but I like to think I gave something back.

I would consider the just concluded new Love and Rockets run to be an extension of the first 50 issues. Jamie Hernandez once said “everything we do is Love & Rockets.” I wouldn’t argue with that.

The latest Jamie collection, The Education Of Hopey Glass, just came out last week. It contains his work from L&R series 2 11-19. The Brothers are moving to an annual oversized format with the next issue of the series.

I have a vague impression that many years ago I looked at some “Love & Rockets” material, but I’m not even sure. I could be getting confused with some other comic with “Love” in the title; it’s been a long, long time.

I’m definitely quite familiar with each of the other 4 runs in this installment, however, but once again, none of my own votes are represented here. (As I’ve said before: 3 of my picks have already made it, and I’m virtually certain 2 more will becoming along any day now . . . and beyond that, one or two of my other 5 might surprise me, but it grows less likely each time another installment of winners is posted without them!)

I can understand the urge to vote for any of the 4 runs I’m very familiar with here, and I knew “Love & Rockets” had plenty of popularity, so I’m not really surprised by these results. I remember toying with the idea of voting for “Bone,” but decided I don’t go back and reread the TPB collections often enough to be able to say with a straight face that it’s proved itself to be one of my “Top Ten Favorites.” If we were talking about my “Top 50″ or “Top 100″ favorites, it could be a very different story, but the competition (inside my brain) for “Top Ten” status was ferocious! :)

I presume my vote for Beto’s “Heartbreak Soup/ Palomar” stories was folded into the overall Love & Rockets vote. That makes four of my choices to show up thus far.

Some people love the Romita Spider-Man, and I can see why, but I feel he is an almost completely different character than the Ditko Spidey. The Ditko Spider-Man has to redeem himself for the death of his uncle. He is beset by all sides by people trying to break, expose, exploit, and destroy him. When he does good, he is not lauded for it, and when he messes up, everybody knows it. The Ditko Spider-Man is a very internalized character, who can win only by conquering his inner demons, and never giving in to the temptation. The Romita Spider-Man doesn’t have the same intensity, and he reacts more to outside threats than internal difficulties. Peter Parker is allowed more external successes. As much as I like Ditko’s work, Romita’s art is prettier by far. I think Stan Lee had more fun dialoguing Romita’s work.

Two of mine. I had Ultimates at #10 and Bone at #7. Kinda surprised Lee/Romita Spidey is so low on the list.

I used to read Love & Rockets and really enjoy it, and I keep meaning to go back and re-read it all.

Tried the first trade of Ultimates. I just didn’t have enough testosterone to enjoy it. It has too much of the ‘We’ll prove comics aren’t kid stuff by being super edgy and grim and gory. Respect us!!!’ Which really just makes them for teens. Still not adults. It’s like saying slash flicks are for grown-ups. There’s ‘for mature audiences’ and there’s for mature people, and rarely do the two overlap.

Anyway, I went back and forth on including Runaways. I finally did, although I don’t remember where. I don’t know how much of an enduring reputation it will end up with, especially with all the pop culture references eventually getting obscure (that will be a problem with Nextwave too). But I just have too much of an emotional connection to leave it off. Not least the way Gus and I saw ourselves in Gert and Chase. (Yeah, that was a fun day.) And since this list was personal visceral favorites rather than overall subjective greatest (that was Alex’s project, after all), I went with them.

Have never read Spidey titles (except for in the newspaper when I was little) so no opinion there.

Bone is awesome of course. Something for every niece and nephew.

Whoops. I wasn’t trying to be anonymous there. Not sure why it didn’t recognize me this time.

Surprised (pleasantly) that Runaways placed so high. I voted for it, and was figuring at this point, it wouldn’t show. I consider it one of the best new character creations at Marvel in at least the last ten years. Like Brian said, one of those books where th plot doesn’t matter as much, because you just want to hang out with the characters (gotta say, though, I’m glad they dropped those lame “code names”). I really hope the now-erratic schedule doesn’t kill the book, though I know it does fairly well on the book store market.

Ultimates? Read it, had fun, moved on.

Romita’s Spidey is definitely a different beast than Ditko’s (and I voted for Ditko’s) but still pretty awesome. One of the things that Brian mentioned that you miss when reading the Essentials is the explosion of color he brought to the book. I wonder if Marvel will ever put out a Romita Omnibus?

Have never read Love and Rockets.

I have the mammoth over-sized Bone book; I just have to get around to reading it…

Wow. Like I said last run, I’d given up hope on Love and Rockets. Glad to see it so high. (And it makes my second pick in the top 100.)

Nice.

And now for the quibbles: Love and Rockets (2cd series) is up to # 20, and I believe it’s no longer “current.” I think the annuals are going to be relaunched with a new # 1.

And, since Luba, Luba Comics and Stories, Penny Century, the Maggie and Hopey Color Fun Special, and part of Measles (am I missing anything?) were all anthologized under the collected “Love and Rockets” banner, I’d count them as part of Love and Rockets proper. It’s the same artists with the same characters – And if we’re counting the Man-Thing stories as part of Howard the Duck, I’d say there’s precedent. :)

Likewise, I believe Romita did layouts for Amazing Spider-man annual # 3.

Good bunch of runs all around, this time. All of these would be in my top sixty or seventy.

Allen N. Swords

April 18, 2008 at 7:55 am

Ultimates (all volumes) is horrific, needlessly crass, and unmitigated tripe. No, I don’t dislike Millar or Hitch. They are both able, intelligent, and artful creators. I love this countdown and all the debate it has sparked. And even as a regular comics lover, reader, and sampler since 1984 (9 years old, but of course had exposure to them before), I still don’t “get” what makes anything but Ultimate Spider-Man “special” in the “Ultimate” Marvel Universe.

What makes Ultimates work is the sense of scope. Hitch makes everything he draws look Big and Important. as well as any comics artist I’ve ever seen, save Kirby.

I was surprised that by the time I narrowed my picks down to ten, I had included no X-Men or Spider-Man. If they’d have made the cut, the Lee / Romita Spider-Man would have gotten my vote.

So far, only two of my votes have made the Top 100. I’m starting to get worried for the rest of my favourites.

Theno

Bernard the Poet

April 18, 2008 at 8:16 am

I have never understood how Lee and Romita’s Spiderman got as much respect as it did. It starts well enough, revealing Green Goblin’s identity, but, by and large, the best stories on their run are reheated Dikto, and the innovations – a confident, handsome Peter Parker with two gorgeous girlfriends – dilutes the initial premise. It is significant that the only new villain you mention is the Kingpin, that’s because there is no one else worth mentioning – and even the Kingpin, didn’t become the character we know and love until Frank Miller got his hands on him.

Brian, I see that you have combined the votes for Palomar and Hopey into one entry for Love and Rockets. Is there any chance of you telling us how the stories would have done individually? I preferred Gilbert’s work to Jaime’s by quite a large margin.

I’m also surprised to see Lee/Romita Spider-Man below the Ultimates and Runaways, but there’s probably some “published recently” bias in the poll, just because people tend to remember what they’ve read recently that’s good.

“The Ultimates” is the most fun I’ve had reading a new comic book in the last ten years, but it’s definitely a guilty, guilty pleasure. The next morning, I would feel guilty not only about the cringe-inducing moments (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) but also about the “Hell, yeah” moments (“Do you think this ‘A’ on my forehead stands for France?”). Still, I give Millar a lot of points for cramming so much political content into a “popcorn movie” narrative, and I really respect his attempt to create an ensemble cast in which different political viewpoints are each presented respectfully.

I’m reading Bone for the first time in the color Scholastic editions, and I’m loving it, but I don’t know how it ends yet, so I couldn’t vote for it until I do.

I’m seriously beginning to suspect that Mantlo’s Hulk won’t make the list. That would make little baby Jesus cry.

Love & Rockets is the first from my list to make it. I had it at #3. It’s a true accomplishment of 25 years of steadily unfolding stories from Gilbert and Jaimie in which the caractures actaully age in the process. How many awards has this book won? True storytelling genius.

Davey Boy Smith

April 18, 2008 at 8:36 am

Ultimates was an excellent, original take on Marvel’s Avengers. It aspired to a level of realism not before seen in mainstream titles by the Big 2, and achieved said goal admirably. Hitch’s widescreen art further heightened the reading experience.

If Runaways’ high showing is in part due to the likeability of the characters, then perhaps the many negative reactions at the high placing of Ultimates stem from the fact that these versions of our childhood heroes are often downright despicable. But that shouldn’t obscure its standing as one of the best runs of the last decade.

Re: Romita Spider-Man:

I think one of the most frustrating misconceptions/mindsets in comics is that the original creator/original “storytelling device” for the book is intrinsically the best, or that if you get away from the creators’ vision, then the stories must be worse.

I think it ought to be the other way around. It often isn’t, but it should be. Each arc should be able to build on what came before to create superior, more developed and fleshed out stories.

I’m not sure that entirely applies here, but it’s something that bugs me in general.

Josh Alexander

April 18, 2008 at 8:51 am

I am going to be honest, up until this point on the countdown I had heard of or read at least one of the issues of the books that made the Top 100, but Love and Rockets was completely under my radar.

It’s cool that this batch has 5 comics that are all so very different from one another.

Still, only Miracleman made it from my list, so far.

Ultimates is the kind of comic you either love or hate. I’m in the “love” camp, and I almost put it on my list in the #9 or #10 spot, but turned out there was plenty of stuff I loved more than Ultimates.

I’ve never read Runaways or Bone, but someday I will.

Love and Rockets, I read the very first issue, the one pictured, and I particularly liked the Gilbert Hernandez’s story, but it’s a hard comic to find here in my country.

And Ultimates is the only title of the Ultimate Universe that I read. Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men are so not for me, since they’re essentialy the same characters from the mainstream Marvel Universe, only younger and hipper, and I have no desire to re-live what I’ve read already. Ultimates at least is very different from its “parent” title.

Hey, one of my picks finally made it with Bone.

I imagine I wasn’t the only one trying to decide between Romita and Ditko Spider-man. To me it wasn’t even a matter of deciding who the better artist was, but rather the fact Stan’s writing took a dip in the later run, especially with Gwen Stacy turning in to such a weak character by the end of it.

Still no Kanigher? Still no Haney? ~sigh~

I didn’t even vote for Bone, even though I think it’s a significantly better body of work than a lot of the stuff that did make my list. It’s just that I have a ridiculously hard time thinking of the book as “a run.” To me, it seems, that a run should describe a particular creators work on a book that stands within a larger body of work crafted by a plurality of creators.

For example: Brian K. Vaughan’s work on Runaways can be considered a run because the series has had a plurality of creators, but Vaughan’s work on Y: The Last Man shouldn’t be considered a run because the entire thing, from start to finish, could only be him.

For that reason, I didn’t vote for many of my favourite creators’ works simply because I couldn’t justify calling it a run. So no Bone from me. No Heartbreak Soup. No Mister Blank. No Age of Bronze. No Powers, no Hellboy, no Deathnote, no Sparks, no Naruto. No Lutes. No Tezuka. No Otomo. No Craig Thompson, no Chynna Clugston, no Sergio Aragones and Mark Evanier. Not that I would have voted for all of those (as I can count and that’s far more than ten), but each of those were immediately discluded for me on the basis that I couldn’t count their work as being runs.

*Note of disclosure: At the last minute, I got panicky, realizing that people would be voting for things that weren’t actually runs and threw Stan Sakai into my Top 10 – even though I don’t personally think that he’s had a run on Usagi Yojimbo—since when he stops, presumably, Usagi stops.

Oh yeah, I’m surprised that Mignola/Arcudi/Davis’s BPRD hasn’t hit yet. People must like it waaaaay more than I expected. Right?

Right?

I placed Lee/Ditko Spider-Man just ahead of Lee/Romita Spider-Man at the top of my list, I think 2nd & 3rd place respectively after Lee/Kirby FF. I can’t really remember now. The only reason I put Ditko ahead of Romita was because he was the original. I didn’t really dig into it and analyze it that much, because all of those comics just make me happy when I read them, unlike the current Spider-Man comics that read like a the comic book equivalent of a Beatles cover band.

New Totals.

We have 72 runs so far (and 11264 pts)

- 27 runs are set in the Marvel Universe (4156 pts)
- 9 runs are X-Titles (1422 pts)
- 1 run is an Ultimate title (315 pts)
- 28 runs if you get Marvel plus Ultimate Universe (4471 pts)

- 16 runs are set in the DC Universe (2699 pts)
- 3 runs are Bat-Titles (452 pts)
- 4 are Vertigo comics (507 pts)
- 20 runs if you get DC plus Vertigo sub-universe plus Plastic Man retcon (2919 pts)

- 4 runs are set in the Wildstorm Universe (501 pts)
- 5 runs have female protagonists (960 pts)

- 61 are superheroes or close enough (9625 pts)
- 11 are non-superhero (1639 pts)

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

- 1990s (19 runs – 3246 pts)
- 1980s (21 runs – 3036 pts)
- 2000s (18 runs – 2884 pts)
- 1970s (8 runs – 1200 pts)
- 1960s (4 runs – 599 pts)
- 1940s (2 runs – 299 pts)

Sorted by associated creator:

- Alan Moore (5 runs – 909 pts)
- Chris Claremont (5 runs – 638 pts)
- Geoff Johns (3 runs – 534 pts)
- Stan Lee (3 runs – 490 pts)
- Bryan Hitch (2 runs – 474 pts)
- Mark Waid (2 runs – 378 pts)
- Warren Ellis (3 runs – 374 pts)
- Roger Stern (2 runs – 334 pts)
- Garth Ennis (2 runs – 333 pts)
- Jeff Smith (321 pts)
- Mark Millar (315 pts)
- Brian K. Vaughan (307 pts)
- Adrian Alphona (307 pts)
- Jack Kirby (2 runs – 292 pts)
- John Romita Jr. (2 runs – 276 pts)
- John Romita (270 pts)
- Denny O’Neil (2 runs – 261 pts)
- Peter Milligan (2 runs – 255 pts)
- Brothers Hernandez (236 pts)
- Ed Brubaker (2 runs – 235 pts)
- Brian Michael Bendis (2 runs – 235 pts)
- John McCrea (232 pts)
- Joss Whedon (229 pts)
- John Cassaday (229 pts)
- Steve Gerber (218 pts)
- Kurt Busiek (218 pts)
- Frank Miller (211 pts)
- David Mazzucchelli (211 pts)
- Keith Giffen (208 pts)
- Tom and Mary Bierbaum (208 pts)
- John Ostrander (205 pts)
- Tom Mandrake (205 pts)
- Will Eisner (204 pts)
- Joe Kelly (202 pts)
- Steve Englehart (184 pts)
- Mike Mignola (179 pts)
- Grant Morrison (176 pts)
- Frank Quitely (176 pts)
- Mike Baron (174 pts)
- Steve Rude (174 pts)
- Neal Adams (162 pts)
- David Michelinie (152 pts)
- Bob Layton (152 pts)
- Mike Wieringo (150 pts)
- Brian Azzarello (150 pts)
- Eduardo Risso (150 pts)
- Kevin O’Neill (148 pts)
- Alan Grant (146 pts)
- Norm Breyfogle (146 pts)
- Peter David (140 pts)
- Michael Avon Oeming (134 pts)
- Paul Smith (133 pts)
- Marc Silvestri (133 pts)
- Christopher Priest (130 pts)
- Greg Rucka (122 pts)
- Alan Davis (122 pts)
- Paul Chadwick (120 pts)
- John Byrne (119 pts)
- Joe Casey (117 pts)
- Robert Kirkman (115 pts)
- Mike Carey (114 pts)
- Peter Gross (114 pts)
- Ryan Kelly (114 pts)
- Mike Allred (113 pts)
- Sean Phillips (113 pts)
- Sergio Aragonés (110 pts)
- Mark Evanier (110 pts)
- Roy Thomas (109 pts)
- Jim Starlin (109 pts)
- Steve Ditko (108 pts)
- Mark Gruenwald (107 pts)
- Mike Grell (104 pts)
- Stuart Immonen (103 pts)
- Michael Gaydos (101 pts)
- Kazuo Koike (100 pts)
- Goseki Kojima (100 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)

- 61 are superheroes or close enough (9625 pts)
- 32 are traditional superheroes (5128 pts)
- 29 are non-traditional superheroes (4487 pts)
- 10 are nonpowered superheroes (1289 pts)
- 7 are comedic superheroes (1007 pts)
- 23 are team books (3655 pts)
- 11 are non-superhero (1639 pts)

“Some people love the Romita Spider-Man, and I can see why, but I feel he is an almost completely different character than the Ditko Spidey. The Ditko Spider-Man has to redeem himself for the death of his uncle. He is beset by all sides by people trying to break, expose, exploit, and destroy him. When he does good, he is not lauded for it, and when he messes up, everybody knows it. The Ditko Spider-Man is a very internalized character, who can win only by conquering his inner demons, and never giving in to the temptation. The Romita Spider-Man doesn’t have the same intensity, and he reacts more to outside threats than internal difficulties. Peter Parker is allowed more external successes. As much as I like Ditko’s work, Romita’s art is prettier by far. I think Stan Lee had more fun dialoguing Romita’s work.”

I realize what you say here isn’t a criticism, but I wanted to add – and thereby address some of those that have been a tad critical of the changes that came during this run – that in a very real sense, the changes made when Romita took over make sense.

As is often the case in life, the pimply, nerdy teenager, begins to leave that shell behind and actually go through a kind of ‘ugly duckling’ metamorphasis.

Born in 1970, I obviously read these as Marvel Tales reprints – in the mid 1980′s Marvel Tales began reprinting Spider-man from Amazing Fantasy 15 onwards and well into Romita’s run -and I remember beings struck at how I saw parallels in my own life with Peter’s move towards some social acceptance and popularity.

Whereas Peter was bitten by a radioactive spider, I discovered cycling, and cycled everywhere (it was some 30 miles to the city from the smaller town that I lived in and I made the journey often) because my parents were reluctant to lend me the car, and as I had no money for my own, my racing bike became the ultimate freedom. I started off almost 200 pounds at the begining of grade 11, and ended up 130 pounds by the end of that school year. My last year of high-school I actually had attention of women, and that was it – I progressively came out of my shell and by the end of high-school was actually pretty popular.

A long winded way of saying that while the tone of the series, undoubtedly changed, I think the change was actually fairly realistic.

Rumour has it that one of the things that caused Ditko to leave was that Lee wanted very much to start to age Peter – have him graduate and move on to college, etc – whereas Ditko wanted Peter to remain a teenager always (at least according to the documentary In Search of Steve Ditko).

I love Ditko – always will – but I actually think one more reason that Romita and Lee’s run on ASM is worth praising and noting, is that is one of the first times in mainstream comics where a character actually made some maturing progression of character and lifestyle.

Predictions and comments.

I think we’ll see many more non-Marvel/DC titles in the Top 30. Just see how high Love and Rockets scored, and think that there are lots of non-superhero comics that are far more well-known than Love and Rockets. o yeah, I’d not be surprised if at least 10 of the Top 30 are non-superhero.

Marvel will continue to dominate, though. It must be the one publisher that has always been present in every batch of runs. It’s not a stretch to say that at least 12 of the Top 30 will be Marvel. There are still several popular runs not accounted for.

DC’s Silver Age will be completely absent from the Top 100. No surprise. I predicted they’d not receive many votes, in the initial Top 100 thread, though even I didn’t expect it would be TOTALLY absent. DC’s Silver Age is like the Holy Bible – it inspires a lot of people, and many people think it’s the True Way of Superhero comics, but comparatively few people actually READ the stuff.

Yeah, Bill Mantlo. He deserved to be in this list somewhere. But it’s like what happened to Messner-Loebs’s Flash. Peter David’s Hulk has been so incredibly popular that it overshadowed completely the Mantlo/Buscema run, that I think is pretty damned good too and before Peter David was seen as the definitive Hulk. He was never Marvel’s best writer, but no one captures that maudlin Marvel melancholy better than Mantlo.

And will we see Nick Fury and the Silver Surfer somewhere on the list? And what about Roy Thomas’s Conan the Barbarian?

“Oh yeah, I’m surprised that Mignola/Arcudi/Davis’s BPRD hasn’t hit yet. People must like it waaaaay more than I expected. Right?

Right?”

It was on my list but I’m not expecting to see it.

“And what about Roy Thomas’s Conan the Barbarian?”

Gus and I both had Thomas runs, but we chose different artists. I certainly expect some version to show up, but it will be interesting to see whether they get combined.

“DC’s Silver Age will be completely absent from the Top 100. No surprise. I predicted they’d not receive many votes, in the initial Top 100 thread, though even I didn’t expect it would be TOTALLY absent. DC’s Silver Age is like the Holy Bible – it inspires a lot of people, and many people think it’s the True Way of Superhero comics, but comparatively few people actually READ the stuff.”

I think it’s also less identified with individual creators than Silver Age Marvel is. Unsurprisingly, since Marvel had credits where DC didn’t, and the Marvel creators (especially Lee) injected themselves into the books much more. Even with having read most of the Showcase Presents volumes that have come out so far, I could name people who wrote for DC in the Silver Age but would have a hard time saying exactly when they worked on which features. (With some exceptions, such as Shooter’s LSH, and by the late SA the identification of creators like Bob Haney with specific books is much clearer.)

I would not be surprised to see the Roy Thomas/ Barry Windsor-Smith Conans on the list, but I would be surprised to see the Buscema issues. I don’t think relative quality is an issue; the BWS Conans are legendary while the Buscema Conans are sort of taken for granted (even though they are very high quality).

Tariq Leslie- Seeing Romita’s Spider-Man as the nerd coming out of his shell works. I prefer the nerdy loner Spider-Man of the Ditko years, but that probably says more about me than the comics themselves :).

Didn’t the Rhino debut during Romita’s run?

Silver Age DC comics have their moments, and some are high-water marks in the super-hero genre (or sub-genre, whatever), but they don’t age well (mostly). The ideas in the scripts were often exciting, but the scripts themselves were often formulaic. I have a hard time reading more than one Silver Age DC super-hero comic in one sitting (not that they were ever meant to be read in huge chunks, Essentials/ Showcase-format). Sure, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Kubert were among the top artists to work in the medium. Sure, Jimmy Olsen comics are goofy, ironic fun. Still, a lot of readers who were too young for the Silver Age, like myself, have no emotional connection to the material.

The Marvels of the same period have a few things over the DCs: 1) the more visceral artwork of Kirby & Ditko;
2) Stan Lee’s scripting had less polish but more heart, and Kirby & Ditko were not hidebound by (repetitive) full scripts; 3) as much as I don’t care about continuity, the Marvels “counted” in the Marvel Universe, whereas DC didn’t have similar continuity for several years; 4) Marvel has done a much better job keeping their Silver Age material in print affordably; 5) Marvel’s tone and “house” art styles were derived from the original Kirby & Ditko/ Lee comics, making their ’70s & ’80s comics a tighter fit with their ’60s books; 6) adolescent angst and a greater emphasis on characterization.

The Ditko era is where most of the key pieces came from, but I enjoyed Romita’s stories more, I think; there was more charm, more lightness, more optimism about the place. Of course, that was Ditko’s whole point, I suppose.

There’s one run that I really wish had made the list, but almost certainly won’t at this point: George Perez’s run on Wonder Woman; the best stuff ever done with the character, with Perez (and some initial collaborators) giving interesting stories mixing mythology, superheroic, and human drama, all rendered with what remains, in my opinion, Perez’s best art.

“It’s just that I have a ridiculously hard time thinking of the book as “a run.” To me, it seems, that a run should describe a particular creators work on a book that stands within a larger body of work crafted by a plurality of creators.

For example: Brian K. Vaughan’s work on Runaways can be considered a run because the series has had a plurality of creators, but Vaughan’s work on Y: The Last Man shouldn’t be considered a run because the entire thing, from start to finish, could only be him.”

I felt the same way; even though the official rules allowed for them, I left out of consideration things like Powers, Preacher, Y, Noble Causes because to me, they weren’t runs because they were only written by one author in their entirety.

Not saying I’m against/disappointed in other people considering such runs, just nice to know I wasn’t the only one who felt that way.

“John Romita’s run opened up with the cover you see above, which has become an iconic drawing,”

It’s so iconic it’s on my childhood sleeping bag that I still have in my closet :)

“Still, a lot of readers who were too young for the Silver Age, like myself, have no emotional connection to the material.”

I’ve never been able to quite put my finger on it, but I think that manages to sum up my feelings regarding Silver Age DC and Marvel.

I mean, I love me the Silver Age DC stuff. I recognize its cultural significance, the quality of work (especially the art) on display. They are fun, and funny (sometimes intentionally, often times unintentionally) but they don’t resonate emotionally for me the same way Silver Age Marvel does.

I didn’t grow up reading either type of Silver Age book (I came to them later, after reading the current comics of my day for a few years), but I can read the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man now, and sure, some of the same unintentional silliness is there (apparently, all I need to do to get super powers is grab an animal and roll around in some radioactive waste) but I also care about Spider-Man. There’s a little bit of me in Spider-Man, I can understand his trials and tribulations. Superman, on the other hand, was just kind of a dick back then. Fun to read now, but I don’t care about Superman in his Silver Age stories the way I do Spider-Man.

Not trying to start up another Marvel vs. DC thing; I’m not saying one Silver Age is better than the other. I love them both, but for different reasons that I can now articulate better.

I have to say that one thing that gives me some pleasure is to see that the Image founders are so poorly represented on the list. Only Marc Silvestri so far, and that is for his Marvel work. I sorta expected to see Savage Dragon, but now I think it’s too late (I also hear that it’s actually a good comic).

I wouldn’t be surprised if Perez’s Wonder Woman managed to make the Top 30. It can’t have made less than 95 pts, it just can’t.

They are fun, and funny (sometimes intentionally, often times unintentionally)

Y’know… I hear this A LOT in regard to Silver Age DC. That whole Superman is a Dick Site being the most prominent example.

And, honestly, I think it’s pretty damn condescending to think that the adults who were working on these books didn’t KNOW they were trying to be funny.

Basically, I think it’s bad faith criticism based on a false sense of superiority to assume the creators of ANY work don’t know what they’re doing. Silver Age DC books have a lot of humor in them. Gardner Fox books, for instance, are FULL of site gags – The fact that this style of visual play has completely fallen out of favor in the current SERIOUSCONTINUITYANGST”REALISM” modern storytelling doesn’t mean that he was unaware of what he was doing.

Man, it’s hard for me to type “realism” in relation to superhero books without laughing.

Here’s a project: Compare Haney or Kannigher’s superhero work to their war comics. Wonder Woman is goofy, sure, but Enemy Ace is cool as a new razorblade. (To quote Leonard Cohen.) It’s a completely different approach to the material.

Silver Age DC comics have their moments, and some are high-water marks in the super-hero genre (or sub-genre, whatever), but they don’t age well (mostly). The ideas in the scripts were often exciting, but the scripts themselves were often formulaic. I have a hard time reading more than one Silver Age DC super-hero comic in one sitting (not that they were ever meant to be read in huge chunks, Essentials/ Showcase-format). Sure, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Kubert were among the top artists to work in the medium. Sure, Jimmy Olsen comics are goofy, ironic fun. Still, a lot of readers who were too young for the Silver Age, like myself, have no emotional connection to the material.

Well put – and i think that another reason that this is the case, is that the writing at DC in the Silver Age tended to be pretty darn generic in feel.

Pick up an Aquaman, Green Lantern, or Flash from the 1960′s and it sure feels to me that apart from their powers and costumes and supporting cast(s) these guys all talked with the same ‘voice’.

Not so with Marvel. The Fantastic Four, Spider-man, and others tended to all have at least some measure – if not a great deal – of difference to their character and ‘voice’. The only exception to this, I think, is SOME of Lee’s later writing on Daredevil. By the upper ‘teens’ and into the ‘twenties’ of Lee’s run on Daredevil, I think he was running out of any ideas that made DD unique. DD began to seem like a clone of Spider-man, with a slightly more sophistocated Peter Parker.

Over at DC, even some of the earliest JSA/JLA team ups from the 1960′s, there is little to distinguish the voices from one another – contrast that with The Avengers of the same era, and there is no contest – in terms of writing for me.

I’ll never understand why Romita’s run on Spider-Man isn’t the one people remember over Ditko’s. There’s a fine line between stylized and fugly that I think Ditko crossed too often.

Well boo on the low placing of Romita’s Spider-Man. I knew I should’ve waited to guess my top 5.

“Ultimates was an excellent, original take on Marvel’s Avengers. It aspired to a level of realism not before seen in mainstream titles by the Big 2, and achieved said goal admirably.”

Not sure how you can say that when DC did Watchmen some 20-plus years earlier.

And while I’m at it (and at the risk of re-opening a can of worms): How is it, Brian, that Ultimates (clearly two separate mini-series) qualifies as a run, but Watchmen does not?

Romita’s Spider-Man was my #4. Love & Rockets I’m still in the middle of reading. Loving it so far.

Ultimates and Runaways both seem too new, but I’d have Runaways in my top 50 anyway. I like Ultimates, but love it less than most. And it loses points for being written by Millar, though it stands above a lot of his work.

Bone I dearly love and wish I’d found room for in my top 10. I didn’t but it was darned close (as were many things)

“How is it, Brian, that Ultimates (clearly two separate mini-series) qualifies as a run, but Watchmen does not?”

Series of miniseries were counted as runs under the rules. Hence League of Extraordinary Gentlemen etc.

Which makes sense. Ultimates 2 reads like a continuation of the series rather than a sequel. It’s just for practical publishing reasons that it got referred to as two miniseries.

Whereas I’d be more skeptical if say Dark Knight Returns were counted as a run because of Dark Knight Strikes Again, clearly a separate miniseries.

“Well boo on the low placing of Romita’s Spider-Man. I knew I should’ve waited to guess my top 5.”

I had my 5 guesses prepared in advance, but just to be sure I waited until the last day to send them, just in case one of them appeared in the list “too early”, but none of them did.

I think the Top 5 runs must be those HUGE names that have lots of recognition among almost all comic book fans. Romita’s Spidey I think fall just a bit short of this, likewise for Mark Waid’s Flash, that another fellow had in his guesses.

Still, I had 8 runs that I think fit the criteria, but having to guess which of them would get the Top 5, and in what order… damned hard.

And while I’m at it (and at the risk of re-opening a can of worms): How is it, Brian, that Ultimates (clearly two separate mini-series) qualifies as a run, but Watchmen does not?

I don’t believe Ultimates was conceived as that; it was an ongoing volume, which they rebooted because of publishing concerns; or else, like Sleeper and LOEG, series of miniseries count.

Yes! Love and Rockets!
My number one pick broke the Top 40! Wow, nice to see others with impecible taste

The third of my votes shows up (Ultimates), cool. It was on my Top 5.

Silver Age DC comics have their moments, and some are high-water marks in the super-hero genre (or sub-genre, whatever), but they don’t age well (mostly). The ideas in the scripts were often exciting, but the scripts themselves were often formulaic. I have a hard time reading more than one Silver Age DC super-hero comic in one sitting (not that they were ever meant to be read in huge chunks, Essentials/ Showcase-format). Sure, Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino, and Joe Kubert were among the top artists to work in the medium. Sure, Jimmy Olsen comics are goofy, ironic fun. Still, a lot of readers who were too young for the Silver Age, like myself, have no emotional connection to the material.

I think that the challenge of the DC Silver Age is that it is hard to figure out how to vote for them. For example, I actually prefer reading the Silver Age Superman to the current stuff, but for whom would I vote? There really is not a “run” by a particular writer and/or artist to really there. Marvel really created that idea, which DC adapted to more than a decade later. The ‘voice’ of the title was really the editor. However, I would be stunned if Julie Schwartz’s “Green Lantern” got a single vote.

Alternately, folks could have voted for artists. Gil Kane’s “Green Lantern” might have garnered support, as would have Infantino’s “Flash” and Kubert’s “Hawkman” However, that does not seem to have been the approach people took. There has yet to be an artist only run in the Top 100, but a lot of writer only runs.

I didn’t even vote for Bone, even though I think it’s a significantly better body of work than a lot of the stuff that did make my list. It’s just that I have a ridiculously hard time thinking of the book as “a run.” To me, it seems, that a run should describe a particular creators work on a book that stands within a larger body of work crafted by a plurality of creators.

Dane, I could not agree more.

I would take it a step further and define a run as a series of contiguous (or very nearly contiguous) issues of a title by a specific writer AND artist within a larger body of work. The problem with this definition is that it creates an even bigger bias toward the Big Two, in general, and Marvel, in particular. However, I think it creates a more direct apples-to-apples comparison.

And, honestly, I think it’s pretty damn condescending to think that the adults who were working on these books didn’t KNOW they were trying to be funny.

Basically, I think it’s bad faith criticism based on a false sense of superiority to assume the creators of ANY work don’t know what they’re doing. Silver Age DC books have a lot of humor in them. Gardner Fox books, for instance, are FULL of site gags – The fact that this style of visual play has completely fallen out of favor in the current SERIOUSCONTINUITYANGST”REALISM” modern storytelling doesn’t mean that he was unaware of what he was doing.

MarkAndrew, I pretty much agree. The dominant mode of superhero comics has been in one direction for a very long time now. It is called “realism”, but it really just as stylized as the Silver Age stuff in its way. It focuses on violence and takes a very cynical view of human motivations. They are pretty much the post-Vietnam era action movies in tights.

The biggest innovation in this sub-genre (well … since “The Watchmen” opened the door) has been the move to “Widescreen Comics” in superhero teams. Some of these stories have been well worth reading, but “The Ultimates” really showed the limits of that space. The fact of the matter is that a lot of great characters just do not translate well into that type of story. “The Ultimates” started really strong, but flagged as more Avengers were brought into the story. It really should not have come as a surprise that the Kirby characters worked great Widescreen. However, Roy Thomas, Don Heck and John Buschema were not working on that scale. Sadly, Millar and Hitch only had the one trick up their sleeve. The Ultimate versions of Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and etc were pale imitations of the originals.

What that told me was that there are different modes of telling stories that work better (or worse) for different characters.

Some concepts, like the JLA, work almost exclusively Widescreen. When creators are allowed scope (i.e. Morrisons’ run, “The New Frontier”, “Kingdom Come”), the JLA is the coolest concept going. Scaling the stories down is the problem. Other characters lose something when you scale them up, or make them more violent and/or angst-y.

As you suggest, Superman is the classic example of the later problem. He works great in big stories, but ultra-violence and suffering ill become him. This isn’t because Superman is less “realistic” than, say, Thor. It is because Superman is about a different part of the human condition, namely love. In his best stories, the Man of Steel is constantly balancing his love (or compassion) for one person with another. Think of the scene in “Superman the Movie” in which he has to choose between two missiles headed in opposite directions, or the Donner cut of the sequel when he has to choose between his love for Lois and his duty to humanity. In classical terms, this makes Superman a comedy. The humor is a pretty natural out-growth of the “love triangle for two” that Lois, Clark an Superman are in.

That does not mean there are not mature themes to be looked at in Superman. Mort Weisinger injected a lot of his own Freudian analysis into the Silver Age version of the character. There are a lot of rich metaphors to unpack and explore. However, those metaphors are not about anger and, by extension, violence in the manner of Batman. They are metaphors about love and sex. Like many marriage delaying bachelors, Clark Kent piled a LOT of love interests: Lois Lane, Lana Lang and the rest of ladies with LLs in their name. There were even issues that explored the prospect of romance between the Superman and Supergirl, who were the male and female last survivors of an entire race after all.

For whatever reason, no one writes those types of stories for modern audiences. The same phenomenon has hurt Spider-Man for slightly different reasons. Lee-Romita was a bold move forward in TIME for Peter Parker. The guy matured at very nearly a natural rate, which gave all the soap opera some weight. The power of the various monsters that became his rogue’s gallery was in turn from the soap opera. Stan Lee got this in a way that Marvel seems to have forgotten.

@Dean – I could almost see that. I don’t really think requiring same writer/author combo is a bad idea in defining a run—as the tone of a book generally changes a lot with a different writer.

For instances:
• I can’t really get behind the first collection of Fables, but once Mark Buckingham joins Bill Willmingham, the book is piles of awesome.
• The difference between a Tony Harris Starman and a Harris-less Starman was not subtle, despite Robinson’s continuity throughout.

As for making it further lop-sided toward the Big Two. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing. Just sort of the nature of the question. If it had been Top 100 Grapic Novels/Done-in-One Volume Books (so things like Marvels and Watchmen could count), the numbers would obviously favour Off-Two publishers (as a whole, if not individually). With the current question, creator-owneds are far less likely to be interested in the option of a run, so we shouldn’t feel the need to shoehorn them into the definition or contest just because we like their work so much.

Dean,

There are degrees of realism, I think. It isn’t all-or-nothing. A world where the government uses superior assets to invade other countries (The Ultimates) feels closer to our reality than a world where a benevolent god-on-Earth helps out everyone (All-Star Superman).

I like diversity. I like it that I can read Millar’s Ultimates one day, and Busiek’s Avengers on the other day. All-Star Superman appeals to my imagination and sense of wonder. Ultimates appeals to a different kind of imagination, the “what if” kind that asks what would happen if me and the people around me, with all their foibles, lusts, and pecadillos, gained superpowers.

I do think we’d act more like the Ultimates than like All-Star Superman, if given superpowers. I do think my family life has had more of the unhappiness and co-dependence of Hank and Janet Pym than the paradisiac joy of Martha and Jonathan Kent. I do think the repression and emotional abuse suffered by Bruce Banner are closer to my experience than the flawless, upstanding morality of Clark Kent. In that sense, the Ultimates feel more “realistic” to me than All-Star Superman.

Obviously, Millar magnifies the foibles. Hank and Janet Pym aren’t only unhappy, they’re spectacularly unhappy. Bruce Banner isn’t only repressed, he is spectacularly so. Grant Morrison also magnifies Superman’s nobility in All-Star Superman. Most fiction does this. You magnify certain traits to make your point or create a certain mood.

I like both, and I’m not offended by either. The one thing that truly offends me is the idea that superhero comics must be all a certain way. I didn’t like it when Image started and suddenly everything had to be dark and edgy. I also don’t like very much some fans’ rethoric that everything superheroic must be Silver Age-y. The subgenre is already very limited, why limit it further? There is room for everyone.

The comics also represent different mindsets and ages. Ultimates is the bitter, cynical teenager, All-Star Superman is the nostalgic middle-ager. Depending on my mood a certain day, I’d prefer to read one or the other.

Also, the big-Two seems to funcion in cycles. There are periods of pessimism followed by upbeat periods. We’re sorta in a pessimistic period for the last 5 years or so, but I don’t think it will last forever, and there is always upbeat stuff being published simultaneously.

There are degrees of realism, I think. It isn’t all-or-nothing. A world where the government uses superior assets to invade other countries (The Ultimates) feels closer to our reality than a world where a benevolent god-on-Earth helps out everyone (All-Star Superman).

Rene, you make several very good points, but rather than focusing on degrees of realism I’d say “types”. Virtually every superhero you can name is built upon a “magical exception” from the reality. I mean, even highly trained blind people aren’t doing Parkour-style maneuvers. Building a universe of superheroes almost requires adding dozens of these exemptions on top of each other. The odds of the end result being within a million miles of our reality are very long indeed.

But that is not the type of realism that I think you are talking about.

Your focus appears to be on character. As an adult, I certainly agree that reading fully realized characters are a lot more interesting than two dimensional ones. Where you and I disagree is in what constitutes good characterization. While I read and enjoyed “The Ultimates” in its early going, it was very clear that Millar was borrowing types from spy novels and putting them in superhero garb. The neurotic scientist and the hard-nosed soldier are just as off-the-shelf as the prior depictions of Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers. It is just that the shelf is a more recent vintage.

Conversely, neither Morrison, nor the Silver Age writers of Superman, have the slightest interest in appealing fans of other currently popular genres. Their interest was in surrealism. Unlike Millar, Morrison is neither updating the types, nor unpacking the Freudian metaphors. He is going off on his own slightly surrealistic tangent and using the classic Superman as a point of departure. What I was saying earlier was not unfavorably comparing “The Ultimates” to “All-Star Superman”. I enjoy both on their own terms. I’d love to read an Ultimate style Superman that does update the borrowings from other genres and deconstruct the metaphors.

It is just that I do not think one is more “real” than the other.

Dean, while it may seem that Millar only borrowed stock types from other genres, I’d have to say that he did it in a way that truly resulted in more “realistic” versions of these characters. Let me explain.

I don’t think every superhero character can be made more realistic by turning them into lethal government operatives or something. For instance, there is nothing in Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, or Flash that lends to this kind of thing.

But several of the Avengers DO lend themselves very well to this sort of thing, and have concepts that invite some cynicism:

- Captain America. He IS a supersoldier. That is his basic concept. I think it’s realistic for Spider-Man to be reluctant to kill, since he is a everyman, and most every day people are reluctant to kill. But Captain America is his country’s greatest soldier. A supersoldier that kills when the mission calls for it is more realistic and logical than a supersoldier that never kills. It also follows that such a person would more likely have some conservative values, than the enlightened liberal values of the regular Captain America.

- The Hulk. He is one of the few superhuman characters in comics that really should be a killer. He is an irrational, absurdly strong, freaking berserker monster. Even if we use the childlike version of the Hulk that only wants to be left alone, lots of people would be killed by accident whenever the Hulk loses control. He too is more realistic as a killer.

- Hank Pym. He is another character that invites a lot of cynicism. I mean: “Hi, I’m Hank Pym, I’m a split personality with chronic low self-steem, and multiple nervous breakdowns, but I’m really nice and heroic. Really. Honest. Would I lie to you?” A guy with his medical history “realisticaly” would be far more dysfunctional than the regular version of Pym’s.

- The Black Widow and Nick Fury. They also already are superspies in the regular Marvel Universe. That superspies should be a bit ruthless and deceptive isn’t too big a stretch.

- Thor. Guy comes from nowhere, has more raw power even than most superheroes, says he is the Son of God. It’s realistic and logical that he would develop a cult following, and also realistic that most other people would think he is either a superpowered madman or a con-man.

- Iron Man. He is essentially the same from the regular Marvel Universe. Millar went easy on him. A alcoholic playboy that designs weapons for the government, Iron Man already has grim ‘n’ gritty all written over him. That Millar doesn’t make him a scumbag is even a bit “unrealistic”.

- Hawkeye. This one isn’t a concept that pratically invites cynicism, like the others. But it still makes some sense. He is superbly trained at weapons use, superbly skilled. That such a man would be the product of government training and a government operative makes a certain sense.

In short, I think most of the Avengers lend themselves well to this sort of story, and have concepts that not only can be turned to the “dark side” with little effort, some of their concepts already invite this sort of thing. In a way that, for instance, the Fantastic Four doesn’t. There is nothing in the Fantastic Four that makes them candidates to become more realistic by making them killers or more ruthless. Their concepts are not soldiers or spies or irrational monsters or weapons designers.

Didn’t care much for Ultimates or Runaways. Millar is a one trick pony if you ask me, and too cynical for my tastes. Too many “Look at me, I’m so clever moments!”. As for Runaways…I never ended up caring for any of the characters (well, I liked a couple…but not enough for me to love the series as a whole). But, both are very nice looking books, I will admit.

Bone was great. Loved it back in the day, and still holds up well.

The SL/JR run on Spider-man includes one of my favorite lines ever…”Face it, toger…” (too bad JQ decided to pimp-slap her out the current issues). JR version of Peter is a bit more handsome and manly, but I choose to see it a growth of the character. And Peter didn’t have it all that easy with MJ or Gwen, he still had money problems, juggling school, work, and being Spider-man, etc. And even by the standards of the universe he was in, he was never considered a ‘hunk’. Didn’t other characters think Gwen and MJ were lowering their standards when they hooked up with Peter?

Btw, is Love & Rockets a super-hero title, or that is just a mis-leading cover?

I don’t think every superhero character can be made more realistic by turning them into lethal government operatives or something. For instance, there is nothing in Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, or Flash that lends to this kind of thing.

Rene, I totally agree with you that nearly all the Avengers you mention are more consistent as characters in the Tom Clancy style that Millar created for the Ultimates than they are in the Marvel U. Cap, Iron Man, Thor, Nick Fury, the Hulk and Black Widow were a lot more fun for me to read about using that approach than they’d been in years. The Wasp was not really that much changed.

The problems with the approach started when they expanded the cast beyond the original (or “core”) Avengers, which were mostly Kirby characters. Hawkeye lost a lot of his charm in “The Ultimates”, since a quipster with some trick arrows makes very little sense in a realistic fire fight. The same is true for many of the second tier Avengers.

I thought that Millar and Hitch had an interesting and enjoyable approach on “The Ultimates”. It was just more limited in the directions it could go than the Roy Thomas-John Buschema version is all. It was fenced into the military/spy sub-genre within the broader superhero genre. That isn’t a bad thing. I mean, so was the utterly brilliant “Suicide Squad”. It is just limited.

love & rockets, lee / romita spidey, runaways, ultimates, bone

Limiting our votes to just 10 was incredibly hard. L & R didn’t make my list and I feel terrible about that. In fact, I just took the top 10 runs I could instantly associate with being favorites and wrote them down in a kind of stream of consciousness style. If I had examined it further, I think L & R would definitely have made this list.

Hey Brian, why not splinter this list and make sequels to help branch this out a little bit ? I appreciate all the work you do with this blog, as we all do I’m sure, and it’s highly entertaining, but drilling down further with some follow up lists is the next logical step and would give some of us more room to further clarify our feelings and help to alleviate some guilt, at least on my part.

How about favorite Marvel list ? fav DC list ? fav non-Big 2 list ? fav non-superhero list ? fav sci-fi run ? fav licensed properties ?

The Lee / Romita Spidey run was great, but doesn’t hold up to the purity of character and originality that the Lee / Ditko initial run had IMO. That’s not to short Johnny Romita by any means. I just prefer the Ditko version. The original is not always the best, but in this case, I think the original Lee / Ditko run, dated though it is, best captures the truest aspects of the character.

I’ve never read Runaways or Bone but have enjoyed BKV’s other works and though I haven’t read it yet, the tiny snippet that I did see previewed on the internet was wonderful that Jeff Smith did with his Captain Marvel mini.

The Ultimates is definitely the amped up version of The Avengers and I love it. The R-rated not for kiddies version. Captain America makes all the sense in the world, as does the Hulk. A lot of people knock Millar but I love his stuff and Hitch did some of his best work and left an indelible impression on the title.

Love and Rockets was, and still is, amazing. It is at the top of my Top 5 of all time:

1.) Love and Rockets.
2.) The Swamp Thing (Alan Moore run).
3.) The Sandman (by Neil Gaiman).
4.) The Flash (William Messner-Loebs run).
5.) Real Stuff (by Dennis P. Eichhorn).

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