INTERVIEW: DiDio & Lee on "Dark Knight 3," Vertigo's Future & DC's Evolving Readership
We’ve gone through the rest, now here’s the top two comic runs, as chosen by a vote by about 700 Comics Should Be Good readers, who each chose their ten favorite ongoing comic book runs, and then I both assigned point totals to their votes (10 points for 1st on their list, 9 points for 2nd, etc.) and compiled the point totals to make this here list!
2. Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s X-Men – 1182 points (28 first place votes)
X-Men/Uncanny X-Men #108-109, 111-143
X-Men was already an up and coming series from Marvel before John Byrne took over as penciler from Dave Cockrum. It was not exactly lighting the sales charts on fire, but there was a buzz about the book. It was at the end of a storyline when Byrne was brought on to replace Cockrum in Uncanny X-Men #108.
After one more Cockrum issue with #110, Byrne was back for good with #111, and he and Claremont went on an incredible journey, taking the X-Men all over the world, with nice character work and excellent artwork by Byrne.
They had a great story with Magneto against the team…
plus a dramatic story where the X-Men are feared dead, this allowed Jean Grey to go off on her own storyline that eventually led to the Dark Phoenix Saga much more down the road…
What’s amazing about the Dark Phoenix saga was just how slowly it build up to a head, and all the while, Claremont and Byrne were telling strong stories, including the Proteus storyline.
The Hellfire Club was probably one of the more notable parts of the run, as it also introduced Kitty Pryde. They had already established, early in the run, that Wolverine was willing to kill if need be, but the Hellfire Club took that to a bigger level – due to Byrne’s involvement with Wolverine, Wolverine soon became one of the most popular characters in all of comics – this story has one of the most famous single panels in comic history.
And, of course, the Dark Phoenix Saga happened, which was amazing, even though Claremont and Byrne did not have the ending they initially planned on having…
However, Jean Grey’s death made the story even more famous than it probably would have been. It was at this point that the book really started to take a sales upswing (hitting its acme under Paul Smith’s tenure on the book).
How do you follow up an amazing storyline like the Dark Phoenix Saga?
Well, how about ANOTHER famous storyline, Days of Future Past, with an alternate future.
Byrne finished his run with yet ANOTHER classic story, the famous Christmas issue starring Kitty Pryde.
Byrne left to take over Fantastic Four, while Claremont stayed on for another decade or so.
But they had already made their mark on the comics world.
Here’s Mister Midnight (from zonetrooper.com) with his explanation for why he picked Claremont and Byrne #1 on his list…
12. The conclusion of the loose ends left behind by the cancellation of the Ka-Zar series….which turned out to be one of the best Ka-Zar stories ever !!!!
11. Alpha Flight…..yes at one time they were cool.
10. Guest appearances by the Beast and Angel……loved the Beast in the Magneto story and Angel towards the end of Claremont/Byrne’s run.
9. The Hellfire Club……yeah…at one time they were cool too.
8. Mutant X/Proteus.
7. Killer characterization……Kitty and Peter…..Jean and Scott…..Logan and Kurt…..(Oh God does that make Logan and Kurt sound gay?)
6. Professor X…flashback…”P.S.I War”.
5. Days of Future Past
4. Dark Phoenix Saga…………awesome even to this day…..too bad they ruined one of the best endings ever by bringing Jean back only to kill her again.
3. Terry Austin……without a doubt the best inker EVER.
2. John Byrne…….at the height of a comic career that will one day rival many of the greats……George Perez and Frank Miller being his only peers at that point in time. Terry inking his pencils always brought out the best of John’s work….but Terry on any pencilwork period always brings the artwork to an entire new level.
1. Arcade…………just kidding……of course Chris Claremont. This particular run will always be brought up in any similar type of top stories, runs, whatever you want to call it list. Although it’s difficult to tell where Chris ended and John began on some of the storylines. Claremont and Byrne blurred together so well and have never been touched. (not just on X-Men…but on Iron Fist, Marvel Team-Up,Power Man, and even Star-Lord)The work that both of them have done without the other just never acheived the same greatness. The Lee and Kirby of their day…Lennon/McCartney, Plant/Page, Waters/Gilmour…Jay/Silent Bob…you get the picture.
Thanks, Mister Midnight!
1. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman – 1318 points (42 first place votes)
The Sandman #1-75
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman opened up fairly oddly, as the book was meant to tied into the DC Universe, which was a bit awkward at the beginning, but Gaiman’s excellent writing made the book still work, enough so that DC began to let him have more freedom with his work, and then the book got amazing.
One of the first notable issues was Sandman #8, which introduced the star of the series, Morpheus (known as “Dream” of the Endless)’s sister, Death. Death became one of the most popular characters DC had. In fact, when DC had a poll for which characters should get their own mini-series, Death was the winner (or second, I forget – or was she second amongst the people who did not already have a mini-series planned? What was it?).
Essentially, having Morpheus be the king of dreams allowed Gaiman to tell whatever stories he wanted to, with a specific bent towards stories involving mythology and folklore. It was a fantasy lover’s dream. Not only did he come up with clever story ideas, what was remarkable about Gaiman was that his stories also were extremely character-driven. Gaiman would introduce new characters constantly, and within an issue, you felt like you knew the character your whole life.
Gaiman also picked up some established DC characters, in a little metafictive bit, had the established characters exist in Dream’s world. Like Cain and Abel and Lucien. Matthew the Raven came from Swamp Thing. Dream’s brother Destiny was an established DC character.
Prominent NEW characters included the immortal Hob Gobling, Mervyn Pumpkinhead, the witch (and former girlfriend of Morpheus) Thessaly, the evil Corinthian, plus Gaiman’s personal take on Lucifer, which was picked up by Mike Carey in his classic Lucifer run.
It’s truly amazing how many amazing characters Gaiman had in this series. Wow.
One of the most notable issue was #19 “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which won the World Fantasy Award in 1991 for Best Short Fiction (being a bit lame, they decided to change the rules the next day to make comics ineligible – what the heck?!).
Sandman won a tremendous eighteen Eisner Awards, including three Eisners for Best Ongoing Series and four Eisners for Gaiman as Best Writer.
Dave McKean did the amazing covers for the series, but the interiors were by many different artists.
Sam Kieth, Mike Dringenberg, Malcolm Jones III, Kelley Jones, Jill Thompson, Marc Hempel, Michael Zulli and Charles Vess all did notable issues, but there were many more great artists on the series.
P. Craig Russell drew an impressive 50th issue of the series…
The story ended with a new Dream taking over, and the celebration of Morpheus. Superman and Batman even guest-starred to pay their tributes.
Gaiman has done work since then on Sandman, and they’ve also been quite good. He’s a good writer, that Gaiman.
Okay, that’s the list!
Thanks for reading! Special thanks to Rene for the stat-keeping he’s done!
We’ll see you all next time we do one of these things.
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