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CSBG Archive

Top 100 Comic Book Runs #9-7

Here are the next three runs!

Enjoy!

9. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League – 742 points (13 first place votes)

Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7-25, Justice League America #26-60, Justice League Europe #1-8, Justice League International Quarterly #1 plus some Annuals.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When DC gives you a Justice League book, but won’t let you use almost any of the most popular heroes, you make due with the heroes you WERE allowed to use, and write them to the best of your ability.

That is what Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis did with their run on Justice League, and the end result was one of DC’s biggest hits of the late 1980s. Originally intended to be an “All-Star cast,” due to various reboots and such, the only MAJOR hero available was Batman, although Captain Marvel was there in the beginning (and lasted one story before HE was taken away – Black Canary lasted about a year before SHE was taken away). The other heroes who were made available were low-level characters with their own titles that didn’t sell a bunch (Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Captain Atom), Mister Miracle (who hadn’t appeared regularly in about a decade at the time), one fairly notable League member (Martian Manhunter) and a pretty popular Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, from Steve Englehart’s popular Green Lantern Corps title.

Without the major heroes, Giffen and DeMatteis instead attempted to really develop the personalities of the heroes they WERE given, particularly once Beetle and Booster’s series were each canceled, giving them free reign with how to write them. They also spotlighted the League liaison, Maxwell Lord, who formed the team for fairly nefarious reasons but soon turned out to be a good guy. Later on, due to a lack of female characters on the team (and notable female heroes available period) when Canary was taken from them, Giffen and DeMatteis added two obscure members of the Global Guardians who soon became stalwart members of the team, Fire and Ice.

The book is most known for the humor of the title, which was a major aspect of the book – it really was a situation comedy. Helping the writers in this journey was Al (okay, I won’t use that one again, but damned, I really want to) was Kevin Maguire, whose ability to depict facial expressions was extremely key to the early issues of the series, and Ty Templeton, while using a more cartoonish style, was an able successor. Adam Hughes was the next regular artist, in his first, and most likely LAST regular series.

Here are TWO explanations for why they had this run #1 on their list!

First, Anthony…

Justice League International is not only my all-time favorite comic book run; it’s also one of my all-time favorite sitcoms. This doesn’t just mean that it’s funny, although it certainly is. The series is full of laugh-out-loud moments. Booster Gold strides away to work his charm on French women, confidently telling Blue Beetle to “give Superman my spot in the league if I’m not back in an hour,” only to return, embarrassed, after forty-six seconds. A tired J’onn J’onnz telepathically picking up and repeating Blue Beetle’s bad jokes. Big Barda’s pitch-perfect reaction to the destruction of her house. These are just a few examples among many, as the run overflowing with good comedy.

If it was just funny, though, there’s no way JLI would be the greatest comic book run of all time. So what is it that raises it above other funny series like Dan Slott’s She-Hulk and Kyle Baker’s Plastic Man? As I mentioned, JLI works in exactly the same way as the best TV comedies. Just like M*A*S*H, NewsRadio, or Arrested Development, it’s never content to just put its characters in funny situation. It thrives on the *relationships* between those characters.

Every team member reacts differently to every other member. Blue Beetle doesn’t talk to Oberon the same way he talks to Booster Gold. Captain Atom is more confident when J’onn J’onnz isn’t around, because J’onn makes him feel inadequate. Guy Gardner is ever-so-slightly less cocky when Ice is in the room. Frequently, Giffen and DeMatteis have characters off-panel while they’re talking, and there’s never any doubt as to who’s talking. The striking voices of each character – and the way they bounce off one another – have never been equaled in comic books, and certainly not in “funny” ones.

That’s not to say that JLI didn’t have its share of exciting and dramatic moments, because it certainly did. It’s full of them – Blue Beetle’s possession, Despero’s attacks on former Justice Leaguers, and the rescue of Mister Miracle from Apokolips, to name just a few. But these moments work so well because we’ve come to care about the people involved. In just about any other Big Two comic book, the characters would be generic chess pieces playing their role in the plot. Here, the big moments grow out of who the team members are – J’onn sees himself as the “protector” of the League, Blue Beetle feels like he can’t live up to the standards of his predecessor Dan Garrett, Mister Miracle wants to be a regular Earthman, but he can’t escape his Apokoliptian past.

I would be remiss to not mention the series’ greatest “director” – Kevin Maguire. His pencils helped sell the personalities of each character just as well as any words written by Giffen and DeMatteis. In any Maguire-drawn panel, you can tell exactly what a character is thinking just by looking at his or her face. His two immediate successors – Ty Templeton and Adam Hughes – did a great job of following his lead, but Maguire will always own the JLI characters.

Like many of the classic sitcoms, JLI spun-off a lesser-but-still-entertaining sister series, Justice League Europe. The Giffen era of the two ended together in grand style with the sixteen-part “Breakdowns” series. Is it a little bit too long? Yeah, probably. But after all they’ve been through, these superheroes have earned it and, appropriately, it’s a storyline all about the characters and how they’re reacting to the team being torn apart. In another sitcom-style move, the team would be reunited fifteen years later for a couple of reunion specials. Unlike most reunions, though, “Formerly Known as the Justice League” and “I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League” are every bit as good as the original series.

Here’s Bill…

I recently treated myself to as complete a rereading as my collection allows of the Giffen era JL/A/I/E (including annuals, JLIQ, etc) up to the end of Breakdowns (JLE #35, JLA #60), and was frankly surprised at how much better it was than I thought it was going to be – I only thought it was going to be fantastic.

The fact that so many of the jokes were only half-submerged in my memory (as opposed to fully submerged and so, forgotten) didn’t lessen my enjoyment of them at all – while the surprise that can result in extra hilarity on a first reading was lacking, the solid construction and the flair of execution allowed a deeper, richer appreciation for the second, or tenth exposure to the jokes. (Much the same way that, say, the rat episode of Fawlty Towers can be watched once a year and STILL be brilliantly funny even though you know what’s coming next.)

Plus there were many wonderful comic moments and funny sequences that I HAD forgotten, and so got to re-experience as new: the isolated, instantaneous moments (single panels or even single speech balloons, say) remaining unremembered until read, while the beginnings of longer sequences (a page or so, say) raised flickers of partial recognition that led to keen anticipation and fuzzy half-remembrances of the approaching pay-offs.

An example of the former: the Beefeater, wearing one of the most ridiculous, silliest, maximally ludicrous costumes of all times – to look at him is to laugh! – in response to the observation “a glass of champagne would really hit the spot right now”, declares “Indeed it would. But I must warn you, I get a trifle silly when I drink”.

An example of the latter: J’onn, in gumby-form, trying to meditate and gradually failing while 21 frantic offstage “quack”s are heard in 4 panels, before his voice floats out the window to L-Ron, in a pond…

“Leave”

“the”

“ducks”

“ALONE!”

I know these examples (“bleeding chunks”) aren’t amusing to people who haven’t read the books, or can’t remember the scenes, or just don’t like Giffen JL*. But for people who have read them, and liked them, I hope (sparking a memory if need be of the scenes) they can flash back on them for a moment and smile and be reminded of how entertaining these books were. For those who (at least half-) remember and enjoy, here’s a few reminders of some of my other favourite BWAH-HAH-HAHs:

G’nort. Mr Nebula. Guy Gardner on ice. Batman vs Guy Gardner (“one punch!”). The Mr Miracle robot (“No problem. No problem. No problem.” “I think there’s a problem.”). Maximum Force (with tubing to catch the blood from his nose). Club JLI. J’onn’s ancient Martian meditation technique (“It’s called screaming”). I could add dozens more and i’m sure you could too.

But the humour aside (funnier though it was than I remembered, I was at least expecting it), there was a lot more to JLI than that – as I guess people who have read it all won’t be surprised to hear me say. I found a large number of very poignant and emotional moments and scenes I had completely forgotten about – and some that I don’t think I ever fully appreciated until now.

Take for instance the funeral issue for the Mr Miracle robot – there’s a page afterwards where Guy goes into Ice’s room and “comforts” her, as a letter writer later said. It was only reading this scene the other day (panel by panel it reads like this):

G: Um .. ahh .. Ice?
I: Guy?
G: Ah.. yeah. It’s me. You got a minute?
I: Of course I do. Come in, sit down. Are you alright? You look awful.
G: Me? Nah, nah… I’m fine. I was just…uh… worried about you…I mean, I know you’re the sensitive type an’ all. Y’know… I figured you might wanna… I dunno…talk.
I: About Scott?
G: Yeah. I really wasn’t that close to him. I mean, we worked together for a long time, but, y’know… we never really connected.
I: No, of course you didn’t.
G: But I know how much you liked ‘im. I mean, you really thought he was a good guy, huh?
I: Yes, I did.
G: An’ I bet you really feel lousy about all this. Kinda sick to your stomach. Kinda like you wanna punch a hole in the wall or scream or somethin’.
I: Something like that.

I realized that Guy was, as best he was able, and with as good a smokescreen as he was able to construct, expressing his *own* sense of grief and loss, and that he was as much trying to console himself as Ice. And Ice, sitting there, holding his arm, head resting on his shoulder, understands and even in her own grief can offer as much comfort to Guy as he can bring himself to accept. Read the issue (JLA #40), I think you’ll find it rather more moving than my pale description of it could be, lacking the body language and facial expressions and so much more…

And yet, another hallmark of JLI, there is humour blended with sorrow in this scene in a way (as action and boredom and whimsy and tragedy and farce are blended throughout the collection) – they are unknowingly mourning only a robot. There are scenes of intense joy and happiness in the collection as well (a different thing from being amusing or hilarious), such as Mr Miracle’s return from the Miracle Mister tour, or Fire hugging J’onn suddenly with a fervent “It’s so good to SEE YOU!” in the middle of Breakdowns. (And L-Ron brings tears of laughter to my eyes in that same panel as he reminds J’onn “Remember, sir: Gruff! Gruff!”, no less than Fire’s joy and J’onn’s surprise brings a warm and happy smile to my lips.)

When Mitch Whacky, two inches tall, slips and falls on THE Button, setting off the nuclear devastation of Angor he was trying so desperately to avoid, it is both hilarious and heart-breaking. Like life. Shaw’s comment about life not stopping being funny when someone dies any more than it stops being serious when someone laughs is quoted by Helfer in a letter column, and applies to the JLI collection more than its USEnet “legend” (“silly sitcom”) might suggest.

There is something about work, serially created over a length of time, that is amplified when read in a collection – the broad sweeps, the interconnections, the thematic evolution that is difficult to focus on reading 22 pages once a month when it is being published, all become much easier to appreciate when you can sit down years later and read 2000 pages in a week.

It is in this sort of context that one can most easily see the irony of Max Lord being the mind-controlled murderer of the Silver Sorceress and half the population of Kooeykooeykooey – the man who, after explaining his mental “push” power and vowing to take it more seriously and use it wisely, ethically and morally, and only when he really has to, to boot, then convinces his driver that his, the driver’s, name, is really Rudolpho… on the very same page!

It is in this sort of context that one can see how many threads in the collection are twined together for Breakdowns – Manga Khan, Despero, Lobo, the Extremists, Kooeykooeykooey, United Nations control, Bialya, Queen Bee, the Global Guardians, Mitch Whacky, mind control (one of the most oft recurring notions), family, rebuilding, tradition, humour as relief or as coping mechanism, contrast of ethics and actions, the nature of determination and fear and heroism…

Silly sitcom?

No, a magnificent and sustained achievement that stands the test of time, a fresh spring of delight and wonder even today, and a heady concoction of humour, horror, life, love and death perhaps even more potent now than when first released. If you own it, dig it out and re-read it; if not, it’s out there waiting for you in quarter-bins, go get it; either way, you’ll be glad you did.

Or not.

And that’s why it’s the one of the all-time greats.

Thanks to Anthony and Bill!!

8. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher – 857 points (21 first place votes)

Preacher #1-66, plus some mini-series and one-shots (almost all of the one-shots and minis were not by Dillon)

Small-town Preacher is given the Word of God, so goes off to search America for God, along with his ex-girlfriend (who has since become an erstwhile assassin) and a hard-drinking 100-year-old Irish vampire.

Come on, how awesome is that?

Luckily, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon deliver on the promise of that description, and THEN some, with their epic run together on Preacher.

Before reading this series, do note that not only is this book filled with horrifically violent images, but it also has some extremely disturbing NON-violent aspects, of which I won’t get into right here, but do note that if you are easily offended by stuff, then Preacher is not the book for you. That being said, as outlandish and disgusting as some of the parts of Preacher are, at the heart of the story is three well-crafted, complex characters, particularly the Irish vampire, Cassidy.

The book is designed like a Western, and a lot of famous Western locales are used in the comic, from Monument Valley to the Alamo. Heck, John Wayne is even a spiritual adviser to Jesse Custer (the nominal Preacher of this book). A great deal of this comic is based on Jesse and his ideas of honor.

While the three main characters are, well, the main characters, Preacher is known for its colorful cast of supporting characters, all so good that almost all of them had spin-offs during the series run, from the Saint of Killers, who is sent after Jesse by some scared Angels, to the evil Herr Star, the head of the Grail – a group that wants to control Jesse to bring about Armageddon, to Arseface, a young teen who tried to kill himself after Kurt Cobain shot himself, only he lived – just with a face that, even after plastic surgery, looks like, well, you know, to Jody and TC, two extremely disturbing “Good ol’ Boys” from Jesse’s past – all of these memorable characters ended up with their own spin-offs, all written by Ennis, and all collected in the trades that make up this series.

Steve Dillon’s gritty and humanistic artwork could not be any more appropriate for this series if you had asked a Magic Mirror who would be the fairest artist for this book in all the land.

By the time this series ends, you’ll be so attached to the characters that you will be quite disappointed to know this will be the last you’ll see of them, but Ennis comes up with a tremendous farewell to them all.

7. James Robinson’s Starman – 921 points (35 first place votes)

Starman #1-80, plus a #1,000,000 and two Annuals

One of the few good things to spin out of Zero Hour, Starman begins with Ted Knight (the Golden Age Starman) passing the torch (or, in this case, his cosmic energy staff) to his son David. Sadly, in the very first issue, David is murdered, leaving the family title to Ted’s OTHER son, Jack Knight, who was wholly uninterested in becoming a hero.

Jack owns an antiques and collectibles store, and is quite happy to just do that – but with his brother dead, Jack feels the need to take up the Starman name, but only if his father would agree to use his research that led to the cosmic staff’s creation for the good of mankind.

Jack then began one of the stranger superhero tenures, as the whole time he’s doing it, even as he grows more and more as a hero, he still does not exactly fit in with other typical heroes.

While Jack is nominally the star of Starman, the REAL star is the city Jack and his father, Ted, live in – Opal City. Throughout the series, a message writer James Robinson gets across is an appreciation for the classics, and Opal City is a whole city that is BUILT around that notion – that the classic stories need a city, too, and that’s what Opal City. This leads to the Shade, a classic villain who Robinson re frames as an almost immortal man who just wants to enjoy his time in Opal City, the city he loves. The Shade even ended up getting his own series!

Artist Tony Harris co-created the book, and did the art for the first 45 issues or so. He was responsible for all of the design of both Jack, Jack’s tattoos (a notable style element of the book in the early days) and Opal City. Harris left the book after 45 issues or so, and was followed by Peter Snejbjerg, who stayed until the end of the book.

Starman was one of the most cultured superhero comics – you’d have stuff like thugs debating the works of Stephen Sondheim!!

In addition, Robinson revisited the past to find every past bearer of the name “Starman,” no matter how obscure. Other old heroes and villains kept popping up in the series, as well.

The book was such a massive critical success for DC that they allowed Robinson to end the story as he wished, which is a tremendous compliment in this day and age of “the show must go on, no matter how bad!” publishing.

Okay, that’s it until Monday, when I will reveal #6!!!

113 Comments

“Much the same way that, say, the rat episode of Fawlty Towers can be watched once a year and STILL be brilliantly funny even though you know what’s coming next.”

Is not rat. Is hamster.

I was SO hoping to see J.M. Dematteis honoured here! Sadly, I never read the JLI run he is honoured for here (take pity! I was raised a diehard Marvelite, and only recently learned to overcome my company prejudices to realize that good talent resides on both sides of the corporate divide), but I know from his Spectacular Spider-Man run both how deep and how hilarious he can be. His six part “The Child Within” storyline in said title, with it’s aftermath and comic conclusion (eight parts total), runs the gamut between heartbreaking and hilarious. I will be picking up some vintage JLI ASAP!

I’ve never read JLI, but I know I really must do so. It sounds like Peter David’s X-Factor, but much, much longer.

The great thing about this thread is that it gives me an opportunity to check out runs that I wasn’t aware of. I had only heard of Starman, I knew it was well liked but it wasn’t the type of series I thought I would be interested in. After seeing the write up I have to say that this is a series I will track down and take a look at.

This run of JLI/JLA/JLE was and still is one of my favorite comic runs….

After hearing about Identity Crisis, an the utter travesty inflicted on the characters of this comic, I had to fight off the urge to vomit….. I’m not sure had the writers of IC had been in the same room with me at the time, if they’d have lived to see the door.

Very happy about all these picks. I mean I think Preacher’s a little high honestly, but I’m not the least bit surprised.

Starman at number 7 makes a perfect match for me – that’s where it was on my list too!

Dalarsco – JLI is the prototype of all superhero team comedies, really. PAD’s X-Factor couldn’t have happened without it.

It’s been ages since I read those stories. I read them when they were on the racks, but tried to find trades years later, and only the first story arc was available. I know DiDio hasn’t honored that book very well, but has any of the rest of the run have been collected?

Starman I never saw what all the fuss was about…it’s ok, but it never wowed me. However, I do see why it is so popular, the craftmanship put into it, from the writing AND artwork, is high. Just not my taste.

JLI I did like. I wouldn’t put in my top 10, it would probably rank in the low 20s, to be honest…but it was a great run, and Kevin Mguire was a fantastic match for the writing. I know some people have mentioned that humor and the JLA shouldn’t be together, but with the line-up that Giffen et al were given, it was the only way to go. That’s why the post-Giffen, pre-Morrison JLA never worked, it was hard to take a team consisting of 1 or 2 of the Big Guns and a bunch of B and C listers and have it be taken so seriously…and why did Dido feel so compelled to piss all over this great series?

Preacher is prob one of the few Ennis series I can say I liked or even stand (not sure if it would make *my* top 100, but it’s still a decent series). I stopped about 2/3s of the way into the run, so I guess it’s about time I check out how it ended lol Glad to know the ending will be a satisfying one

I’ surprised, a a bit disappointed, that Preacher wasn’t even higher.

I must give Starman a try.

Oh gosh, three of my favorite books. The two essays on Justice League were particularly apt.

With these picks so high (while I agree they are quality, they just aren’t my cuppa), I am now concerned that Sandman is going to beat out the Kirby/Lee Fantastic Four.

Starman was my number 1.

I need to write the thing up at some point soon, but there just isn’t time now. I figured someone else would have done it already.

And now we watch as Marvel dominates the top 6. It might not be a sweep, but it’ll be close.

Miller’s Daredevil
Clairmont/Byrne’s X-Men
Lee/Kirby’s Fantastic Four
1 or 2 Spider-Man runs (I don’t remember if the Romita run made it yet)

That’s at least 4, maybe 5. I’m sure there’s something obvious I’m forgetting.

I just remembered –

DC’s lone top 6 will be Sandman.

5. PREACHER — Garth Ennis/Steve Dillon

Many, many years ago, i bought, for cheap, a whole bunch of JLE… and didn’t like them. At all! They are now used to wrap up Christmas presents, such is the destiny of all my banished comics! JLI is much better. Not great, not even all that good, but enjoyable.

I have the two first trades of STARMAN, and without being wowed, i’m intrigued. I would buy the third one, if i could find it but if memory serves, they are all OOP as we speak.

Josh Alexander

April 26, 2008 at 6:09 am

And with the appearance of Starman, all ten of my runs have appeared on the list

All three of those runs were in my top 10. I think 7 or 8 of mine have shown up so far.

Rats. I guessed Starman would be in the top five.

There are two DC/Vertigo series still to come: Sandman and Moore’s Swamp Thing. Set that alongside the Lee/Ditko Spidey, Lee/Kirby FF, Claremont/Byrne X-Men, and, I suppose, Miller Daredevil.

Ennis isn’t my style, so I’ve not read much of Preacher; haven’t gotten to either of the others either, but the new series of collections DC is releasing has made it tempting.

Wow, a solid run of three DC books. I’m interested to see what this does to Rene’s statistics…

My guess for number 6 based on the master list would be Wonder Woman. We have 2/3′s of the trinity so far.

I’m a huge fan of George Perez’s Wonder Woman run, but there’s no way that it makes it this high (it would deserve to, in my opinion, but it wasn’t that popular, and it’s close to universally acknowledged as the finest work ever done with the character). Wonder Woman just isn’t that popular.

Even the most popular Wonder Woman run ever, wasn’t particularly popular by most comparable standards.

I’m pretty sure that the top six must be (in some order): Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men, Miller’s Daredevil, Gaiman’s Sandman, Kirby’s FF, Ditko’s Spidey, and Moore’s Swamp Thing.

Perez’s WW seems to me anyway to be a forgotten classic. Probably one of the best runs ever on that title. To be fair, he did have a certain freedom of starting from scratch, but it was still great. Too bad it won’t make this list, but here’s hoping a few people see our comments and become interested in checking it out…

All three are excellent in their way, but JLI was the one that scored my #1 vote. I had to piece the run together over years from the back issue bins of second hand book stores – and what a joy each “new” (to me) issue was to find! The first dozen issues have been collected in two trades, I believe, and most of the rest of the issues should still be available cheaply, especially in “reading copy” grade. Worth seeking out! :)

“A Date with Density II”, featuring Guy Gardner on Ice (no, really :) ) was one of the funniest comics I’ve ever seen. The comparison with MASH or Arrested Development is excellent, as reading it in the context of the run, with familiarity with the characters and their relationships and the histories of the characters and their relationships makes it orders of magnitude funnier.

And, is not hamster. Is rat!

JLI was number one on my list. Giffen and DeMatteis put together probably the greatest superhero team book ever. I’d go into detail, but Bill covered it considerably better than I could. I am glad to see that DC is rereleasing the two TPBs of this as hardcovers, and I hope they go on to release the rest of the series.

Starman is a book I’ve heard a lot of great things about, but haven’t read yet. I’m planning to get the new Omnibus editions that are coming out this year.

Preacher… again I’ve heard good things, but I’m not an Ennis fan.

I’m not a huge fan of any of these to be honest. Mostly I’m just disapointed that Roy Thomas’ Conan run isn’t going to make it.

Two series that might well have been in my top 5 (Preacher and Starman) now fall. My own no 1 (Hitman) fell long ago, and now I guess I’m hoping that the Lee/ Kirby Fantastic Four will win. I’m old enough to have read this fresh off the press, and it was certainly my no 1 as a kid. (I loved like the whacky touches, such as the 7 foot orange Ben Grimm putting on dark glasses and an overcoat whenever he felt like walking round New York unrecognised.)

No arguments about any of these – Starman was a wonderful piece of comics literature and Preacher’s the best thing Ennis has ever done – although it’s looking pretty unlikely that the excellent Tomb of Dracula or Thomas’s Conan will get what they deserve, as the top six will almost certainly be Moore’s Swamp Thing, Gaiman’s Sandman, Lee/Ditko Spidey, Lee/Kirby FF, Claremont/Byrne X-Men and Miller’s DD.

JLI was my number one pick. I won’t go into detail again, as the first essay was mine (although I don’t know why I bothered – Bill covered it all so much better. Great work, Bill!)

Starman would probably have made my top ten, but I’ve only read the first 48 issues and I don’t know for sure that it’ll keep up that level of quality. I won’t be surprised if it does, of course, as it’s been amazing thus far.

I haven’t read Preacher. In fact, I haven’t read much of anything by Ennis. Preacher and Hitman are on my to-read list, though.

Stephane Savoie

April 26, 2008 at 8:25 am

Avengers63: You’re wrong, DC will have 2 top 6: Sandman and Swamp Thing.

The others should be Claremont/Byrne X-Men, Lee/Ditko Spider-Man, Lee/Kirby FF, and Miller Daredevil. Anything else would be shocking.

I’m hard pressed to guess the order, though. In a normal readership, FF would place at #1, but given the love for Vertigo around here, Sandman might do it.

Starman! I love Starman so much. It was my #3 pick. I just knew it would be on this list, and I’m so glad it made it so high. Starman was one of the series that got me back into comics, just like Preacher and Astro City. What Alan Moore did with Swamp Thing, taking a minor character and developing him in breathtaking ways? James Robinson did it with EVERY character he featured in Starman. Not only the various “Starmen” of the DC Universe, but also Solomon Grundy, the Shade, the JSA, and many more. And Jack Knight, I think, is one of the greatest identification characters of the DC Universe. “The hero that could be you” from the 90s. If no one of the 35 people that voted it #1 sends a write-up of the series, I’m willing to do so. There is so much gold in that series, and what about the way James Robinson worked on Opal City, the fictional home of Starman, gave it such character, and even told stories about the city in earlier periods of history? Genius.

Preacher I also think is a lovely series, and probably my favorite Garth Ennis work, and it makes sense that it’s his work that is mostly well-regarded in this list. Violence, humor, drama, fantasy, religion, sex, western, horror. It’s got everything. Above it all, it has well-realized characters. Garth Ennis just should NOT be writing about superheroes. I like Ennis when he is attacking religion or politics or the general hypocrisy you see in society. Those are worthy targets. Now, attacking superheroes is a bit like kicking a dead horse.

I don’t really like Giffen/deMatteis Justice League, but I knew it would be in the list too. Like I’ve said, it has the most loyal fans (TWO write-ups? Sheesh), I’ve seen many curmudgeon fanboys that hate everything suddenly start taking in gushing, loving tones when they speak of the JLI. It’s scary, man! It’s probably the only comic book I’ve been called names for not liking.

You gotta respect it. Giffen and deMatteis did something unique, even though they really appropriated the sit-com format from television, it had never been done in superhero comic books. And it worked too. Personally, I found it sometimes annoying, sometimes amusing, and I liked Justice League America more than the Europe version. Beetle, Booster, Guy Gardner, Fire & Ice, J’onn, all of them became charismatic, prominent characters due to Giffen/deMatteis efforts. With the JLE, not so much. I also didn’t like very much that characters that I liked in their own series (Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, Messner-Loebs’s Flash, Cary Bates’s Captain Atom) were so caricatural in the JLE.

So, it seems like Sin City is the one left out?

Stephane Savoie

April 26, 2008 at 8:29 am

Oh, and I think Starman was crap. The Harris art was a big draw at first, but the beginning of boring, drawn-out, modern “decompressed” storytelling was here. Robinson abused several characters (like Mary Marvel) needlessly here; was self-indulgent; and didn’t contribute anything interesting culturally, just used his characters to voice his own thoughts on art. (He would later use Sand to do the same in JSA.) It’s annoyingness disguised as intelligence.
I’ve been meaning to write a long argument on the flaws of this type of storytelling for a while. I wonder if the folks here at CSBG have room for a guest rant…

Perez’s WW was good but Rucka’s was leaps and bounds better.

It’s annoyingness disguised as intelligence.

Annoyingness?

really, JLI? Really? that’s just…wow…OK…up until the last six, I’ve sort of understood how and where these choices are coming from…but now I’m just starting the list of the missing. I understood that it would make the list, for the affection that people have for it…but here and higher than the achievements we’ve seen before it? Love the Starman’s usually positive attempt to place a counter-cultural focus on the DCU and found Preacher’s first two trades to be more focused on gratuity than on storytelling, but I understand the esteem people hold it. But JLI…whew.

I forgot about Moore’s Swamp Thing. I agree with the consensus so far. 4 Marvel & 2 DC.

New Totals.

DC and Marvel are very close right now, considering total points, not runs. Only 539 points separates them. It’s very likely that we’ll have 4 Marvels and 2 DCs in the Top 6, so we’ll probably end with Marvel “winning”, but it all depends on how many points each of these 6 runs gets.

Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men actually started in the 1970s, and we also probably will have 2 runs from the 60s, but I very much doubt it will change the predominance of modern comics. Swamp Thing, Sandman, and Miller’s DD all start in the 1980s…

We have 96 runs so far (and 23491 pts)

- 34 runs are set in the Marvel Universe (7736 pts)
- 10 runs are X-Titles (2123 pts)
- 2 runs are Ultimate titles (679 pts)
- 36 runs if you get Marvel plus Ultimate Universe (8415 pts)

- 24 runs are set in the DC Universe (7197 pts)
- 3 runs are Bat-Titles (452 pts)
- 9 are Vertigo comics (3106 pts)
- 28 runs if you get DC plus Vertigo sub-universe plus Plastic Man retcon (7417 pts)

- 5 runs are set in the Wildstorm Universe (994 pts)
- 5 runs have female protagonists (960 pts)

- 79 are superheroes or close enough (18883 pts)
- 17 are non-superhero (4608 pts)

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

- 1980s (30 runs – 7545 pts)
- 1990s (26 runs – 7181 pts)
- 2000s (25 runs – 6297 pts)
- 1970s (9 runs – 1570 pts)
- 1960s (4 runs – 599 pts)
- 1940s (2 runs – 299 pts)

Sorted by associated creator:

- Grant Morrison (6 runs – 2754 pts)
- Garth Ennis (4 runs – 1579 pts)
- Warren Ellis (5 runs – 1285 pts)
- Keith Giffen (3 runs – 1278 pts)
- Brian Michael Bendis (4 runs – 1079 pts)
- James Robinson (921 pts)
- Alan Moore (5 runs – 909 pts)
- Brian K. Vaughan (2 runs – 854 pts)
- J. M. de Matteis (742 pts)
- Ed Brubaker (3 runs – 739 pts)
- John Cassaday (2 runs – 722 pts)
- Marv Wolfman (643 pts)
- George Perez (643 pts)
- Chris Claremont (5 runs – 638 pts)
- John Byrne (2 runs – 627 pts)
- Peter David (2 runs – 624 pts)
- Howard Porter (574 pts)
- Pia Guerra (547 pts)
- Kurt Busiek (2 runs – 541 pts)
- John Ostrander (2 runs – 541 pts)
- Geoff Johns (3 runs – 534 pts)
- Walt Simonson (514 pts)
- Stan Lee (3 runs – 490 pts)
- Alex Maleev (480 pts)
- Bryan Hitch (2 runs – 474 pts)
- Bill Willimgham (428 pts)
- Darick Robertson (418 pts)
- Mark Waid (2 runs – 378 pts)
- Dave Sim (370 pts)
- Gerhard (370 pts)
- Mark Bagley (364 pts)
- Roger Stern (2 runs – 334 pts)
- Paul Levitz (328 pts)
- Brent Anderson (323 pts)
- Jeff Smith (321 pts)
- Mark Millar (315 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)
- John McCrea (232 pts)
- Joss Whedon (229 pts)
- Steve Gerber (218 pts)
- Frank Miller (211 pts)
- David Mazzucchelli (211 pts)
- Tom and Mary Bierbaum (208 pts)
- Tom Mandrake (205 pts)
- Will Eisner (204 pts)
- Joe Kelly (202 pts)
- Steve Englehart (184 pts)
- Mike Mignola (179 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)
- 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)
- 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)

- 79 are superheroes or close enough (18883 pts)
- 44 are traditional superheroes (11293 pts)
- 35 are non-traditional superheroes (7580 pts)
- 12 are nonpowered superheroes (2182 pts)
- 8 are comedic superheroes (1749 pts)
- 33 are team books (8853 pts)
- 17 are non-superhero (4608 pts)

“really, JLI? Really? that’s just…wow…OK…up until the last six, I’ve sort of understood how and where these choices are coming from…but now I’m just starting the list of the missing. I understood that it would make the list, for the affection that people have for it…but here and higher than the achievements we’ve seen before it?”

DWright, I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this…

Ever wondered why the humorous comic book runs are so beloved in the Internet? Comic book fans that frequent the Internet usually are smart curmudgeons with a lot of cynicism. But well-done humour bypasses cynicism, actually well-done humour somehow makes use of your cynicism and makes it work on its favour.

And JLI is the most humorous of all comic book runs. And it’s well-done too.

The same fan that can make snide comments about the soap opera of the X-Men, the continuity errors of Bendis, the smug ultra-violence of Ennis, the gratuity of Meltzer, the goth pretentions of Sandman, will find himself disarmed by the JLI. There is nothing to be snide there, because the comic itself is humorous and unpretentious.

At this point, the only person capable of beating Morrison’s point total is Stan Lee, and his upcoming two runs would need to average 1132 points each to do it. Now, Starman got 921 points, so we’re approaching the needed numbers, but I’m uncertain if even he can do it.

When I came back to comics after a long absence, three books signaled my time and made me stay: JLI, 5 years later Legion and Messner Loebs Flash.

The often polarizing 5YL made it to the chart, JLI is Top 10, and even Flash has been shown the love in forum. I guess my work here is done.

This has been an amazing run here at Comics Should be Good and a wonderful conversation starter, let’s all give Brian a hand and show him the love ( although I guess the page view statistics must have done it for us already ).

Of course I’m eagerly awaiting the top 6 now!

Giffen’s League higher than Morrison’s? Obscene.

Stephane Savoie

April 26, 2008 at 10:52 am

JLI also got a lot of votes because people are pissed about DCs recent treatment of the arc, between throwing some of it out of continuity (including the Definitely Not and I Can’t Believe just a few years ago), and the tremendously insulting Maxwell Lord retcon.
While it’s an excellent run, it probably would only have placed in the 30s if not for this.
Yes, “annoyingness”! What would you prefer? Annoyingosity? Annoyability? :)

There goes my #1 vote: Preacher. Hoped that it will be much higher, but at leasy it’s on the Top 10.

JLI also got a lot of votes because people are pissed about DCs recent treatment of the arc, between throwing some of it out of continuity (including the Definitely Not and I Can’t Believe just a few years ago), and the tremendously insulting Maxwell Lord retcon.
While it’s an excellent run, it probably would only have placed in the 30s if not for this.

Number 30 on the list got 320 votes. JLI got 740. I don’t think that there were 420 sympathy votes. That’s really insulting the run. Maybe people have different tastes than yours. Maybe they rewarded a consistently entertaining book by voting for it. Just because something is not canon does not make it more appealing. That argument makes no sense.

“JLI also got a lot of votes because people are pissed about DCs recent treatment of the arc, between throwing some of it out of continuity (including the Definitely Not and I Can’t Believe just a few years ago), and the tremendously insulting Maxwell Lord retcon.
While it’s an excellent run, it probably would only have placed in the 30s if not for this.”

Stephane, Number 30 on the list got 320 votes. JLI got 740. I don’t think that there were 420 sympathy votes. That’s really insulting the run. Maybe people have different tastes than yours. Maybe they rewarded a consistently entertaining book by voting for it. Just because something is not canon does not make it more appealing. That argument makes no sense.

a quick question? is the story complete with Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7-25, Justice League America #26-60, Justice League Europe #1-8, Justice League International Quarterly #1 plus some Annuals?
because i´ve seen that justice league quarterly is 17 issues, justice league europe is 50 issues and jli is 113 issues.
is breadowns story completE with that issues?
thanks for answering

Boooo. I was betting you people would put JLI in the top five. I’ve read most of all these runs so no complaints here, really. I’m a bit surprised that Starman ranked so high. Just didn’t so know other people liked it so much.

Jono, I also like Morrison’s JLA infinitely more than Giffen’s JLI, but that is comparing apples and oranges. They’re so utterly different. I’ll just be glad that Starman and Preacher made it so high, and I can tolerate JLI being #9.

The Giffen-DeMatties run on JLI was utterly amazing. I think that people tend to underestimate how difficult the Justice League is to write. When a writer takes over the X-Men, they pretty well “own” the cast that everyone cares about. Pick up a copy of Justice League and there is a pretty good chance that none of the “Big Seven” characters is to be found. Even if they are, Superman might be, say, blue as a result of events in his book that the writer has to explain (or not). Giffen was only allowed to use about a third of the ‘classic’ JLA cast and the two biggest names in the early going. He could have gone the Avengers route and rotated B and C listers against classic JLA villains, but the JLA Rogues Gallery is pretty limited. Giffen and DeMatties did the best Despero story ever (and DeMatties ushered out the JL-Detroit with under-rated Professor Ivo story), but for the most part they treated the dated JLA antagonists like the punch-lines they had become.

What they did instead turned on a key insight into any version of the Justice League: these people are co-workers.

In that sense, the nearest parallel to the JLI is “The Office”. A few of the characters have, or develop, relationships away from the workplace that lend some soap opera. The “job” is more interesting in the Justice League, but the basic story-telling engine is the same. These are very different people who are spending a TON of time together. As a result, almost everything comes out of character. This makes JLI an almost unique modern, mainstream superhero comic. That is what made it so difficult to follow. Max, Guy, Fire, Ice, Beetle and Booster were not chess pieces to move around. By the end, they were like the “big seven” in that there was stuff that should, and should not, be done with them.

That is what makes the fate of these characters at less talented hands so sad.

One more thing:

“Okay, that’s it until Monday, when I will reveal #6!!!”

Yeah, but we won’t be able to read it until Tuesday! How come these are dated as the day before I actually get them in my RSS :( This has only been happening for the past couple weeks or so (maybe since the site redesign). If you’re just busy and posting these really late, that’s cool. Just kinda want to know what’s up. And I’m in EST if that makes a difference.

James Robinson’s “Starman” was another awesome run.

Jack Knight is right up there with Wally West from the Baron and Messner-Loebs years as a “character with whom I could actually relate”. I guess Baby Boomers had that experience with Peter Parker, but I never did. He seemed like a member of a different generation. In contrast, Jack Knight could have been a peer.

As Brian mention, “Starman” is really about how Jack relates to Opal City. Opal is as fully formed a fictional place as you could ask for and its protector Starman plays an interesting role. Jack begins by resisting his new role, but his curiosity about history drives him to explore it a bit further. In the process, he becomes fully engaged and committed. It is an interesting and character-driven journey in much the same way of its contemporary “Sandman” was. However, it is vastly more hopeful.

Great views on the JL ala Giffen & DeMatteis. It was about the characters. I cared about them and enjoyed the interaction. That’s one of the reasons I seldom enjoyed previous & later versions of JLA.

And remember the early issues didn’t start out silly–it crept in gradually. So it was natural.
It wasn’t “The All New, All Whacky Justice League.” I had it at #1 (Nice to see I had 12 people agree with me.)

Now I’ve had 6 of my top 10 appear. I fully expect to see my #2 pick in the top 6. But my #7, 9 & 10 picks–I never expected to see in the top 100.

I also like Morrison’s JLA infinitely more than Giffen’s JLI, but that is comparing apples and oranges. They’re so utterly different.

Rene, I really need to disagree with you here.

Morrison had a vastly different cast than Giffen & DeMatties, but their handling of the same characters was really similar. The Aquaman scenes during Kooey-Kooey arc were stand out in that regard, but so do the Superman scenes in the “Milleniium” cross-over and the limited Wonder Woman stuff in the JLE. Morrison never mentioned Oreos, but he gave J’onn J’onzz the same role in the League that Giffen & DeMatties did.

The real contrast is the handling of Wally West, but that has more to do with Mark Waid’s decision to totally change Wally in his own book than the JL.

Thanks to Starman I now know Batman’s favorite Woody Allen movie.

Guillermo, the JLI/JLE story basically consists of these issues:

Justice League 1-6/Justice League International 7-25/Justice League America 26-60
Justice League Europe 1-35 (9-35 plotted by Giffen & scripted by Gerard Jones)
Justice League Quarterly 1 (a few of the others are okay, but that’s the only one that figures back into the main book)
JLI Annual 1-5
JLE Annual 1-2
Formerly Known as the Justice League 1-6
JLA Classified 4-9 (I Can’t Believe It’s Not the Justice League)

DeMatteis’s Mister Miracle series from the same time feels a lot like a JLI book as well.

Yes, “annoyingness”! What would you prefer? Annoyingosity? Annoyability?

Pretty much any other word. Coquettishness. Perfundity. Cheese. Unicorn-tastic.

Effective ranting is all about word choice.

I actually have the complete JLI run- something that is almost unheard of for me (with the exception of stuff like Dan Slott’s THING or SEVEN SOLDIERS that’s short enough to collect easily.) Hunted down all the issues with the exception of the first seven, because I had A NEW BEGINNING in TPB.

I’m not actually sure it is the prototype of the sitcom-esque superhero team book- I think DEFENDERS had some issues like that when Gerber was on. But it definitely defined this as a valid subgenre. It worked because both the humor and the drama came from character- Giffen and DeMatteis really fleshed out the characters, so that Guy could be an egomaniac and the one who causes conflict but also show some kind of decency, Ted could be a jokester but also a sympathetic figure, Max could be a total sleazebag and someone who wanted to do the right thing, etc. They were very three-dimensional, or at least two-and-a-half-dimensional.

My number #1 as well. I look forward to the rest.

Brian — any chance you can reveal Nos. 101-110, once you finish up Nos. 6-1? There are so many questions about the series that didn’t get the love (Sin City, Hama’s G.I. Joe, etc.‚ assuming they’re out of the running). Or is that just stringing the feature out too long (just resulting in more incredulous posts)?

For those who think the 60s and 70s got shafted, here’s a shout-out to the O’Neil/Adams Batman, the Adams Deadman from Strange Adventures, and especially the Goodwin/Simonsen Manhunter arc that ran as a backup in the 100-page issues of Detective. The latter was a real masterpiece — terse, cinematic and sad — and all the more powerful for its brevity (7 issues, I think).

In any rate, I hope we’ll all have a forum to eulogize the unjustly neglected series.

BTW: Can anyone suggest specific arcs (corresponding to TPBs) from Preacher, JLI and Starman? I don’t want to kill a whole forest trying to find the best stuff. Thanks!

One of the reasons that JLI beat JLA is that JLA and New X-Men certainly split votes among those Morrison fans that thought one of his mainstream efforts were enough.

Preacher really needs to be read from beginning to end.

The Dixie Fried and Salvation TPBs come closest to working as stand-alone arcs, but it’s really all one story.

– I’m certainly of the opinion that JLI is overrated. It stands out among latter-day superhero comics, yes, and the jokes are quite good, but after the first two years or so the emotional content just sort of drained out of it until “Breakdowns,” which was a messy and overstuffed crossover with plenty of rehashing going on. (Max is in hospital again, just like in Invasion!; Despero shows up and wrecks the team again before someone’s one-off trick defeats him just as in his previous JLI arc; and so on).

And like many a sitcom, it seemed to gradually shift focus from rounded characters like Beetle and the early Guy Gardner to increasingly one-note depictions and additions. Beloved as he is, G’Nort is just one long and rather predictable dumb joke, and the less said of General Glory the better. There’s a reason it worked so well again when it was restricted to six-issue-long revivals, folks.

More tot he point, though, it seems to me that a lot of JLI’s humor only works if you come into it with knowledge of the superhero genre; it’s novel because it applies very standard TV comedy tricks to what otherwise looks like a superhero book. And yes, there’s some nice characterization in there, particularly with J’onn, Batman, and Ice (though not, despite the claims I read endlessly, Guy Gardner; he never really gets beyond being a foil for Ice’s optimism, J’onn’s patience and maturity, and General Glory’s pompous naivete).

I enjoy rereading the first 25 or so issues of the series every now and again, and a lot of the jokes just plain work, but they’re not terribly deep or revelatory. It’s well-done entertainment; it’s not in the company of stuff like Cerebus, or even the X-Men, which, however overblown and overwritten, was at least trying to be about something more than the inherent goofiness of superheroes or the simple fun of a sitcom gag. JLI is, to my mind, usually very unambitious material executed very well.

— Preacher is interesting and fun, though I’m increasingly convinced that it doesn’t register even remotely as the effective critique or satire of Christianity some people insist on reading it as. I still have no idea what Jesus de Sade was supposed to be about. At any rate, I’ve written more comprehensively on my other reservations about the series here. It belong son this list, but probably not in the top 10 or even 15.

— Starman is keen; there’s a lot more going on in there than is sometimes acknowledged.

Dean,

I wasn’t really refering to how Giffen and Morrison portrayed the characters, when I said the two series were vastly different. Yes, some of the same characters were used, and the characterization of said characters wasn’t very different, but JLI was a sitcom based on interactions, and JLA was epic widescreen science fiction action. The priorities and emphasis were just completely different.

About Wally West’s characterization…

One of my peeves with Justice League Europe, though, was that the characterization wasn’t as convincing as with the American branch. Sure, Messner-Loeb’s Wally West was a guy with plenty of goofiness and comic potential, but in JLE Wally was turned into a caricature. Same thing with Animal Man, that had comic moments with Grant Morrison, as the “superhero dad living in a suburb”, but in JLE too he became, dunno, 2-dimensional.

I agree though that Giffen/deMatteis really made us care for Max, Booster, Beetle, Guy, Ice & Fire, J’onn, all characters that had never been stars before. But I wonder how the characters should have been handled after the title’s demise. Trying to replicate the same humour Giffen/deMatteis had seems pointless, thrusting them into grim’n’gritty tales is even worse. Not using them at all? Guy Gardner and Booster Gold are still very active in the DCU, right?

Omar, pretty interesting observations about Preacher!

Patrick Lemaire

April 26, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Frankly I didn’t think JLI or Starman would make it at this point. It means that I won’t see Tomb of Dracula nor Roy Thomas’ Conan the Barbarian but it seemed for a while that the earlier decades were underrepresented. I guess not enough people from these generations are Internauts.

Yeah, some sort of follow up where you show us where the stuff that didn’t make it falls in the 100+ range would be very interesting to see.

Justice League Europe wasn’t nearly as good and it didn’t have the lingering effects that Justice League International did with Max Lord, Beetle, Fire, Ice, Booster, and the rest.
I do wish that Power Girl’s JLE outfit would have stuck around since the boob costume is just silly.

Andrew Collins

April 26, 2008 at 4:37 pm

JLE wasn’t AS good as JLI but I thought it complimented the main book well, even when Loebs replaced DeMatteis on the scripting. If it’s weakness was anything, it was Bart Sears’ artwork, which never worked as well for me.

As for the comment in the writeup about Starman being “one of the best things to come out of ZERO HOUR”…I’m of the opinion that it was the ONLY good thing to come out of ZERO HOUR. I mean, what else was there?

It wasn’t Loebs on JLE, it was Gerard Jones

JLI had humor and heart, which went beyond the usual overdone melodrama and angst of its contemporaries. Keith Giffen kept the running gags funny, but I think J.M. DeMatteis’ scripting was the secret to its success; he made the characters lovable. Not merely gagmen and straight men, or comic relief, but lovable. Kevin Maguire & Adam Hughes were perfect for the book. It’s too bad the humor/ action balance went out of whack after the first couple years.

JLE wasn’t as good (I found Wally especially grating), but the issue in which the team has to take French lessons was priceless.

Starman remains one of my favorite series. Robinson developed Jack, Shade, Ted, Opal City, Bobo, and the Mist so well, and Harris & Snejbjerg did a bang-up job on the art. When your fill-in artists include Gene Ha, Teddy Kristiansen, Russ Heath, and the highly-underrated Craig Hamilton, you’re doing something right.

Preacher was the perfect series to start reading at age 16. I’ve reread it since, and found it holds up, mostly. The humor was a tad juvenile, but that just added to the perverse charm.

It occurs to me that JLI/E got a lot less interesting as it shifted its focus from existing characters onto the parody characters. It’s a nice side gag or one-off to have joke versions of Doctor Doom (Manga Khan), Galactus and the Silver Surfer (Mr. Nebula and the Scarlet Skier), and Captain America (General Glory) turn up for a brief arc. Likewise, making the British embassy staff into a Fawlty Towers homage is a nicw little wink. It’s not so much fun when the parody characters keep hanging around, especially as it becomes clear how damned hard it is to treat them as actual, multidimensional characters beyond their initial inspirations.

You should’ve gone for the Al joke again in the JLI writeup, Brian. I’ve laughed every time it’s come up so far, I would’ve laughed again. “…hoping each time that the next leap will be the leap home.”

Anyway, Preacher was very high on my top ten. I don’t remember where, exactly, because I didn’t keep my list, but man do I ever love Preacher. I think Ennis’s great strength as a comic writer is to have strange characters with very odd characteristics, put them in outlandish, even bizarre situations, but base his stories on their essential humanity, making them sympathetic and relatable even when they’re, like, thousand year old vampires and assassins with telepathic powers and the like. And I think he doesn’t do this any better than he did during Preacher.

One of my peeves with Justice League Europe, though, was that the characterization wasn’t as convincing as with the American branch. Sure, Messner-Loeb’s Wally West was a guy with plenty of goofiness and comic potential, but in JLE Wally was turned into a caricature. Same thing with Animal Man, that had comic moments with Grant Morrison, as the “superhero dad living in a suburb”, but in JLE too he became, dunno, 2-dimensional.

Let’s put it this way, I never knew how important J.M. DeMatteis was to the JLI until they tried to replace him on JLE. Neither William Messner-Loebs, nor Gerard Jones, were able bring the same warmth to Giffen’s plots.

That said, I thought the Flash scenes in the JLE were fun. I liked the relationship Wally had with Power Girl a lot It had multiple levels that never got fully explored.

It’s not so much fun when the parody characters keep hanging around, especially as it becomes clear how damned hard it is to treat them as actual, multidimensional characters beyond their initial inspirations.

Omar, it is interesting how much more Marvel did with their parody version of the DCU in “Squadron Supreme”. I think that Giffen wanted to leave a full year before he did, so a lot of the jokes and plot-lines were recycled toward the end. This hurt the main title, but utterly killed the JLE.

While Squadron Supreme is certainly a parody of the Justice League, it’s a parody that used in service of creating a long and (for the time and medium) complex satirical work.

The problem with the Giffen parodies is that they were literally just parodies in the colloquial sense– they showed up, were funny, and then after that really had nothing more to contribute.

jli, preacher, starman

Giffen & DeMatteis’ Justice League was great. I’m really surprised to see it rank so high but that shows what a special place it holds in a lot of fans’ hearts. While it did have a lot of sit-com stylings, it was unique and that’s part of what made it stand out from the rest of the crowd. DeMatteis’ snappy dialogue was classic and the artists from Kevin Maguire to Adam Hughes and Ty Templeton were all classic and contributed a lot expressionistically towards the feel of the book.

Preacher blew my mind when I read it for the first time. I immediately sat down and reread it (the first trade). Ennis is a sick, twisted highly entertaining writer with a unique perspective no one else comes close to except maybe for Warren Ellis. Preacher is one of the very best works to ever come out of Vertigo. I prefer it to Gaiman’s Sandman. I had heard at one point it was either being looked at as a tv series or a movie. Has anyone heard anything fairly current regarding its status ?

James Robinson is one of the modern greats in the industry and I’m elated he’s returning to DC. Tony Harris is almost a guaranteed sale (with the exception of Identity Disc – sorry Marvel). My complete is very incomplete and I’ve always heard great things about it, so later I’ll be getting the complete collected edition.

As for the next six, here’s my guess as to how they’ll roll out :

# 6. Lee / Ditko Spider-Man
# 5. Frank Miller Daredevil
# 4. Alan Moore Swamp Thing
# 3. Lee / Kirby FF
# 2. Gaiman Sandman
# 1. Claremont / Byrne X-Men

#

I really can’t see the Fantastic Four finishing ahead of Spider-Man; the latter is far more popular (although the size of the Lee/Kirby run compared to the Lee/Ditko run, and the mere presence of Kirby, may overcome that).

Likewise, I don’t think there’s much chance Sandman won’t be #1.

Omar, it is interesting how much more Marvel did with their parody version of the DCU in “Squadron Supreme”

I’d argue that the Squadrons Supreme and Sinister were almost never treated as parodies. Roy Thomas, who “created” them, always used them fairly seriously, in no small part because he always wants to actually write those 1940s-vintage DC characters. Thomas, Mark Gruenwald, J.M DeMatteis, and Kurt Busiek all loaded their Squadron stories with lots of references to DC continuity, but mainly in the service of “really” writing DC at Marvel. They aren’t making that much fun, as far as I can tell.

The one exception is Englehart’s use of the Squadron as a fairly nasty swipe at DC in general during his Avengers run. Interestingly, he took half a page of his first JLA story (#139) to write himself (thinly disguised) into the story, where he apologizes to the heroes themselves for thinking they’re fit only for mockery.

There’s so much packed into that FF run that I could see it passing Spidey.

I’m not sure Sandman is more universally popular than Claremont & Byrne’s X-Men. Very few fans won’t say that it wasn’t a huge part of their collection at some point. Not everyone is going to say that about Sandman, methinks.

Hondo, I’ve heard Preacher could be turned into a HBO TV show, and that it would be pretty faithful to the comics. It’s been a while since I’ve heard of it, though. Still, the one place that could do justice to Preacher would be at HBO.

My guesses:

6 – Spidey
5 – Swamp Thing
4 – FF
3 – Daredevil
2 – Uncanny X-Men
1 – Sandman

Sandman first. Sandman may not be as universally famous as the X-Men, but it has a legion of uber-loyal Internet fans, and little of the rejection X-Men, Claremont, and/or Byrne face nowadays. Sure, if we could go back in time to the early-1980s, I’d say this X-Men run would be more popular than Jesus Christ and the Beatles combined. But today, I think it loses to Sandman.

I’m going to put Daredevil as #3 due to the 1980s factor. But I may be wrong, because fans will have split the votes with Born Again.

And FF ahead of Spidey. Spider-Man may be more popular, but I think Kirby’s name and the fact that Spider-Man’s Stan Lee run had some split votes with the John Romita run, will hurt it a little.

JLI was good for its time. I got tired of it well before the end of the run, though. Somewhere after the first year, though, it stopped being an action/adventure book with humorous dialogue and started having silly plots as well as silly dialogue. That was when I checked out. If I want superhero parody, I’ll read Ambush Bug, not the Justice League.

Never got into Preacher, or Ennis’ work in general. It seems to me that after you take away the shock value stuff, there’s not a whole lot left over. Major points for the Bill Hicks tribute, though.

Thrilled to see Starman place so high, and not just because it’s one of the few of my choices that made it to the list. You should adjust the issue numbers, though, Brian. Starman started with issue #0, not #1, since it spun out of Zero Hour in 1994.

Adam Hughes’ first regular book was “The Maze Agency”.

Preacher? Ugh. Torture porn.

JLI was a breath of fresh air at the time, but I don’t find that it’s aged well. So strange that the book was so funny because both Giffen and DeMatteis on their own are super-dark. DeMatteis’s Defenders is a another run that got slighted off this list. Come to think of it, that Defenders run was VERY similar to Preacher, but much better, I feel.

Starman is one of the few books on the list I’ve never read or even seen. I’ll have to hunt it down.

Well, except Giffen was also really funny with Ambush Bug and the LOSubH Special. But stuff like 5YL and Annihiliation is so hopelessly grim! Weird.

I never saw Squadron Supreme (or Sinister) as a parody…more as a way for Marvel to have the Avengers face off against the JLA but not being able to use the actual characters.

JLGL did work on Superman during the 1970s. His style was a nice blend of solid storytelling with a romantic flair…it worked well together. At least I think so. Need to google him to see what he’s up to now…

Maybe the next list to vote for is “Most underrated and Underused” artists. He’d top my list.

As for the final six…I think it could go in any way. i was shocked by the order of the last 5 or 6 entries, and shocked to see some of them this high period. I doubt the final 6 will be as we expect.

I still think you’re underestimating Ditko’s Spider-Man, Rene. Surely being the greatest comic ever made will work in its favour.

$10 says Wonder Woman will take 1 of the remaining 6 slots.

Vincent Paul Bartilucci

April 27, 2008 at 6:46 am

I was gonna keep my mouth shut but I can’t. Comparing JLI to Fawlty Towers is just wrong … so, so wrong ….

The latter is pure genius, one of the most brilliant comedies in television history.

To me, JLI is like Gilligan’s Island. I know what’s supposed to be funny. It just isn’t.

$10 says Wonder Woman will take 1 of the remaining 6 slots.

I’ll take that bet; there’s absolutely no way Wonder Woman makes it this high on the list. She’s nowhere near that popular; she’s much less popular than Green Lantern or Flash, both of whom are already represented here.

$10 says Wonder Woman will take 1 of the remaining 6 slots.

Was that sarcasm?

I agree, Chris. I think Lee/Ditko Spider-man is a lock for No. 1, despite all the Internet love for Sandman and the broader scope of Lee/Kirby FF. It’s too primal a superhero experience for so many of us. First, I imagine that there’s an enormous amount of affection for it, as most of us probably encountered it at an early age (and got our minds blown). Where FF was about family dynamics and broadening the geography of the Marvel Universe, Spidey was intensely personal — and who couldn’t empathize on a very deep level with the Lee/Ditko Peter Parker and all of his struggles and frustrations. It gave us the modern archetype for super-heroes, in which the civilian identity and his or her particular psychology were the primary drivers of the hero’s actions — instead of just a hollow vessel for taking some time off in between adventures. As far as creators, it’s one of the first runs that most fans at the time could IDENTIFY as a run, due to Marvel’s (groundbreaking?) emphasis on hyping the creative team on the opening splash page. And was there ever an artist as suited for a hero as Steve Ditko to Spidey — not to mention one of the most eerie and indelible rogue’s galleries ever? (Sandman, Vulture, GG, Mysterio, & Doc Ock WITHOUT Ditko? Seriously …)

Probably the greatest compliment to the Lee/Ditko run is that Marvel continues RESURRECTS it. John Byrne went back to it. Bendis and Bagley went back to it. Hell, they just turned the clock back on the whole franchise. (And don’t forget the back-to-origin movies and cartoons.) And while you can modernize the setting and trick out the storytelling, it’s still the same story. It’s elemental. How many times have we heard over the decades of reboots and retellings that a creative team wants to recapture the original energy and flavor of the Lee/Ditko run? It’s the fundamental template for the character at the absolute center of the Marvel Universe. It helped set the TONE for Marvel’s books. For that matter, it’s one of the primary blueprints for the last 40-some years of superhero storytelling.

You can look at it this way: Comics and comic heros would be vastly different today had there been no Lee/Ditko run on Spider-man. Moore’s Swampy broadened the boundaries of storytelling and helped usher in more mature themes and concerns. It in turn inspired Gaiman to go even further with Sandman, where suddenly nothing was off-limits in a fantastic confluence of soap opera, horror, mythology, theism, and high art. But both of those runs were essentially sealed off from the rest of the comics universe — individual accomplishments, but not influential on the scale of Spidey. They gave birth to the Vertigo line and helped both identify and create a market for more adult fare, which is a huge contribution, but they didn’t have near the impact on comics as a whole as Lee/Ditko Spidey.

Whoa. So, that’s my vote.

I may be mistaken, but the Lee/Ditko run of Spider-Man is the first one I remember where internal continuity actually mattered. What happened last issue affected this issue and would affect the next issue. It was a fundamental change that has affected every comic book that came after. I’ll be shocked if it isn’t #1.

JLI/JL/JLE were hilarious.

While re-reading some back issues I came across a storyline in JLE with Powergirl and the “cat from heck” and that just got me rolling around laughing until tears came.

I’m glad I bought them when they were first published

“It’s been ages since I read those stories. I read them when they were on the racks, but tried to find trades years later, and only the first story arc was available. I know DiDio hasn’t honored that book very well, but has any of the rest of the run have been collected?”

They recently started a hardcover reprint series. The second volume has been solicited—not sure if it’s out yet. It will continue if people buy them, of course…. And Starman is getting the “Omnibus” treatment this year, for those thinking of checking it out (and you should!).

Mason, I love Ditko’s Spider-Man, but I still don’t think it will be #1. Since this isn’t really about what comic run is the most fundamental, it’s a popularity contest. I was the one that said Starman and JLI and Teen Titans would be on the list, when people said they wouldn’t (of course, I also made my share of mistaken predictions, thinking Morrison’s JLA would rank higher, but…)

Sandman is just unbeatable in its popularity.

I also think Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men will rank higher than Spidey.

Many of the 1960s runs suffer from the “respect, but not love” thing, as the list has demonstrated again and again. That these two 60s runs already made it into the Top 6 is amazing (to use a adjective connected to Spidey) enough.

I do think many fans feel closer to Sandman or Byrne’s X-Men, while Ditko’s Spidey is the sort of thing they respect and aknowledge, but the feeling of immediacy of reading the stuff when it comes out really hurts the older runs.

The Giffen/DeMatteis run: I think I own all of it — but I’m not sure about all the annuals. I didn’t vote for it, because I haven’t felt the overwhelming urge to go back and reread it on anything remotely resembling a regular basis, but it’s usually entertaining and I can certainly understand why some people voted for it. (Although if you had asked me at the beginning of this contest, I never would have predicted it would crack the Top 10 in the final scores! That it would place somewhere in the Top 100, sure, but all the way into the Top 10?)

“Preacher.” I’ve read the first TPB collection, years ago. I didn’t like it.

“Starman.” I own the full run. I at least toyed with the idea of voting for it, but again, as with the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League stuff, Robinson’s run with Jack Knight just didn’t pass the test of “how often do I actually go back and reread the run, or lengthy portions of the run, just for fun?” So I concluded that while I admire many things about it, it simply isn’t one of my personal “Top 10 Favorites.”

Sandman has a lot of fans, but Claremont/ Byrne X-Men has been read and loved by just about everyone. It set the tone and art-style for Marvel in the ’80s and ’90s (when most people reading this blog were pre-teens & teenagers), and even effected DC- what was Teen Titans if not the Claremont/ Byrne style fused with DC characters (half of whom were new, a la Giant Size X-Men #1)? Even the badwill Claremont & Byrne have inspired in the past decade hasn’t dimmed the luster of their X-Men comics. Dark Phoenix Saga is often regarded as the best story from the best-selling comic of the ’80s & ’90s. I’ll be surprised if it’s not number 1.

The first seven issues or so of the Justice League, without the “International” part ,was the most fun comic book super-hero I had ever read.

Matt, the fact that you would dismiss Preacher as “torture porn” shows that you have either never read Preacher or more likely you have have no conception of what the term “torture porn” actually refers to and are just using it as a post-Hostel buzzword for “oh no shocking violence I’m oh so offended!” Either way, you come off looking about as amazingly ignorant as if you had attempted to decry Y the Last Man as the second coming of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto.

Preacher is about as far as you can get from torture porn, in that the horrific violence always takes a backseat to the character work, and the events of the series ultimately leads to the the protagonists growing as people and finding redemption.

By contrast, the best example of the equivalent of torture porn in the comics medium right now is probably The Walking Dead, in that the entire series has no planned arc beyond Kirkman constantly mutilating or killing his characters and making their lives worse and worse with no storytelling goal in sight other than prolonging the series and the suffering of the characters as long as he can think up ways to make their lives worse, and only one significant moment of character development (“WE ARE THE WALKING DEAD!”) in nearly 50 issues. Regardless of the shock value in Preacher, at least Ennis knew what he was working towards with the series, had an end goal in sight, and clearly had affection for the characters. I’d be hard-pressed to think of any character in The Walking Dead who comes off as anything more than a plot device destined for a horrible death.

For my money (if anybody’d running a book), Ditko’s Spidey & Sandman are the two I revisit time & again. I bought the Spidey omnibus despite having them all reprinted already and I take it down daily and stroke it while making a kind of cat-like purring sound.

And Sandman is Sandman.

Ditko for the pictures and inventing all the best bits of Spider-man and Sandman for the stories.

A tie?

Of course I’ve I got the first two FF omnibuses too…

I’m not sure Sandman is more universally popular than Claremont & Byrne’s X-Men. Very few fans won’t say that it wasn’t a huge part of their collection at some point. Not everyone is going to say that about Sandman, methinks.

i’m not a very big Gaiman fan (like Ellis, he just repeats himself too much in his stuff) but i disagree with this assessment, keeping in mind the thousands (and i do mean thousands) of Filipinos who lined up for more than twelve hours to get his signature, and that was just for one of the three days he was here back in 2005 (could be wrong with the date, though), from high school kids to fat-ass dads. reportedly, the only other country that was that big of a surprise for him was Brasil. i don’t think Claremont’s (or Ellis, or Ennis, or Morrison, or even Moore, for that matter) that universally popular. maybe with comic book people in general, but not universally, “universal” including people outside comic book people.

as an aside, Templesmith was here, too, to promote THIRTY DAYS OF NIGHT. reportedly, only fifteen people came to the signing.

Anthony Coleman

April 28, 2008 at 5:54 am

With the top 6 coming up, I have to agree, that the top 6 will be:
Claremont/ Byrne X-MEN
Lee/ Kirby Fantastic Four
Lee/ Ditko Spiderman
Gaiman’s Sandman
Miller’s Daredevil
Moore’s Swamp Thing

I can’t see any other scenario in which that is NOT the top 6. They’re the most highly regarded runs in the history of the medium and they have yet to appear on the list. There is absolutely no doubt that this is the top 6, the only question is which one will take the top spot (I say Claremont/ Byrne X-men).

Hey Rene — I definitely see your point. I guess it’s partly a question of how voters perceived the assignment — your “favorite” runs, or “greatest” runs, or “important” runs, etc. My list was mix of stuff I loved as a kid, and what I like now (Full disclosure: I’m responsible for one of the first-place votes for Moore’s “Top 10.”) The Lee/Ditko Spidey obviously isn’t as fresh and present in the minds of voters as “Sandman”; and Gaiman’s stuff is so much more sophisticated and resonates on so many more levels. But, in it’s way, that early Spider run is just as enjoyable. It has a lot of heart, and it’s so much fun. It’s not just about “respect.” It’s a marvelous (sorry) distillation of what’s fun about comics.

That run is like your first kiss — a little awkward maybe, simple, but tremendously exciting and (hopefully) uncomplicated, and it makes you want to swing around the city screaming “Wha-hoo!”

One scenario I see is a majority of folks naming Spidey their second or third pick (leaving No. 1 to their current favorite), and thus outweighing a fewer number of people picking “Sandman” as No. 1. But only Brian knows …

I don’t think that Claremont/Byrne’s X-Men is going to take the #1 spot, because I expect that a lot of people put X-Men on their list, and then decided their favourite run. I would be surprised to find that most of the people who voted for Claremont/Cockrum (for example) also voted for Claremont/Byrne.

Sandman, on the other hand, didn’t have to split its vote with anyone.

Theno

I got the first Starman TPB some time ago and just didn’t care for it. Then about a year ago I read it again, and said, “Now I get it!” I’m glad I gave it another try.

JLI is great, from what I’ve seen of it. As for Preacher, I never had any use for a comic full of disturbing violent images.

My favorite JLI moment has to be Black Canary’s reaction to missing the famous punch.

Mason, I agree that Ditko’s Spidey is hugely fun. But I do think the old runs suffer, for two basic reasons: they’re harder to find, and they’re acquired tastes.

I just couldn’t get into Silver Age comics when I was a teenager in the 80s. I thought those comics were dumb, unhip, the artwork ugly, the writing woody. It was just much later that I started to see those comics with different eyes, could get past the different style, and saw how fun they were.

I agree that Claremont has come to be the symbol of once great hasbeen, but most everyone universally acclaims the original Claremont / Byrne run as the very pinnacle of superhero runs ever. They’re more modern than, say, Lee / Ditko Spidey, and are more “cool.” I LOVE original Spider-Man and don’t think the character has ever been better than those first thirty-some issues, but popularity-wise and what do fans go back to read more often, most lean towards this X-run.

I love all 6 of these runs and consider them all great. My personal # 1 is not even any of these 6, but was the Levitz run of Legion.

Hmmm……

I think only Gaiman has a chance of keeping Stan Lee out of the top two. Claremont was reworking Lee’s mutants remember. Magneto, the sentinels, Juggernaut, even the anti-Mutant hysteria all stemmed from Lee.

(But then there was Phoenix and the Hellfire Club…blimey, this called be close, couldn’t it?)

And Alan Moore…

“Matt, the fact that you would dismiss Preacher as “torture porn” shows that you have either never read Preacher or more likely you have have no conception of what the term “torture porn” actually refers to and are just using it as a post-Hostel buzzword for “oh no shocking violence I’m oh so offended!” Either way, you come off looking about as amazingly ignorant as if you had attempted to decry Y the Last Man as the second coming of the S.C.U.M. Manifesto.”

Seconded. The series has tons of heart and the New Year’s Eve issue is among the sweetest damn things I’ve ever read.

Rene — Absolutely, and I agree. The Lee/Ditko Spidey was far from sophisticated. And surely there is a rose-colored glasses effect for those of us who first read those issues when we were kids. I recently re-read the first six issues (they were reprinted and inserted into the Sunday edition of the local paper, I think as a movie promo), and the certainly showed their age. Very clunky. I remember, though, that the run really started humming when the overarching storyline picked up steam and Ditko started stretching out (the first super-size Sinister Six story was a jaw-dropper). And I maintain that the run had a primal essence to it — a sense of lightning bottled — that still resonates with a lot of people today, and that the industry has tried to replicate ever since.

But it’s all hair-splitting from here. I think we’re all in agreement on the final six, which are all great and important for their own reasons. Rene, if you haven’t already revealed your original top 10 (it’s hard to keep track of everybody), I’ve love to see it. I’m sure you could put me on to some good stuff.

I thought we were supposed to get # 6 – 4 posted on Monday ! The suspense is killing me !

We’ve only getting 2 an entry now, I believe.

For #6-5, I’m going to guess Miller Daredevil and maybe Swamp Thing, in some order.

One a day this week, until Friday, when we get #1 and 2 together (as you can’t very well post #2 and expect any surprise when #1 comes, right? :)).

Wow! Awesome! James Robinson #7 for Starman. One of my all-time favorite titles.

I’d love to know (more than two years later! It seems like yesterday! :) ) if any of the people who said above they were going to track down some of these books did so, and if so , what did they think?

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