web stats

CSBG Archive

Top 100 Comic Book Storylines #4

Here is the next storyline on the countdown, as voted on by you, the readers!! Here is the master list of all storylines featured so far.

4. “Year One” by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (Batman #404-407) – 1149 points (21 first place votes)

Whatever aspects of the Batman character weren’t already re-defined by Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns were done so with this landmark new origin for Batman, courtesy of writer Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli.

The story tells the tale of Bruce Wayne and James Gordon, and how one man became Batman and the other became the symbol of honest cops in Gotham City.

That this story was the basis for the blockbuster film, Batman Begins, is of no surprise, since Miller writes the story in a totally cinematic style, and Mazzucchelli’s brilliant artwork certainly has a cinematic style to it, as well.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the comic is just how strong of a character Jim Gordon is in it. He truly works as the co-lead of the story. While writers certainly had done solo Gordon stories before this storyline, never had he gotten the attention Miller gave him, and a result, Gordon HAS had the same attention since.

Richmond Lewis’ colors should get some attention – she does a marvelous job setting the mood. Very evocative washes.

Add it all together and you have an engaging and entertaining new origin for Batman as we see him go from green vigilante to a trusted friend of the Gotham City police (as the police also go from being totally corrupt to only being significantly corrupt – a major step up!).

83 Comments

Was this the first re-imagining of Selena as a prostitute? Unlike Gordon’s characterization, that seems to have been mostly dropped from later stories, although my reading of the solo Catwoman series is spotty.

Shocker – I would have expected this to beat Born Again, and was hoping it would beat Watchmen.

This is the story that converted me to Frank Miller and just might be my favourite Batman story ever. The ending of the story where he saves Jim’s son is, along with the ending of Armageddon, one of the only two moments in fiction that can bring a manly tear to my eye!

Yeah, didn’t Brian have a poll recently asking which was the better Miller/Mazzucchelli work, and this beat Born Again? Maybe I’m remembering incorrectly. Anyway, they’re both excellent, but Born Again made my list (as did DKR), while this didn’t.

Why do I feel like there may be a few shocks, like Dark Phoenix or Born again NOT showing up at all?

At any rate, looking back, I definitely preferred this to the DKR. Both were good, but if I had to pick, I’d go with this story. Might be due to the artwork. Don’t get me wrong, Miller did some good stuff in DKR but I still prefer the art here.

I’m pretty sure Richmond Lewis is both a she and Mazzucchelli’s wife.

Yeah, that was a typo.

Thanks.

Born Again and the Dark Phoenix saga WILL show up.

While it may be possible they’d be left out of a top 10, there’s no way they’d be left out of a top 100 list.

I’d hate to see Born Again rated over Year One. It’s a great work, but it doesn’t read nearly as nuanced as Year One to me.

Hmm, less first-place votes than “The Dark Knight Returns”.

Wow…

So it really is “Miller-Time”?!?

the less first place votes than DKR surprises me – I figured Dark Knight would pick up more lower placed votes than Year One. I’ve always got the impression more people like Dark Knight than Year One, but more people love Year One.

I’m kinda happy that “Born Again” seems set to rate higher than other classic Miller works on this list. I fear that “Best Storyline” has somewhat overlapped with “Best Comic” in general in how this list has been compiled (I’m not pointing fingers, I was guilty of this too). Perhaps “Best Storyline” should have been more narrowly defined as a story that takes place within a larger ongoing, I don’t know.

But anyway, I like that “Born Again” was a storyline within Daredevil, with events building up to it in the ongoing beforehand, and ramifications in future storylines in that same ongoing after it. Whereas “Year One”, “Dark Knight Returns” and, the favourite to win, “Watchmen” are all just standalone stories each in a seperate miniseries. I’d call them a “story” rather than a “storyline”, to be honest.

It’s interesting how these last two are very close in points but with comparatively few 1st place votes. Assuming the top 5 play out as predicted, they really are a toss up to some degree. In terms of criticism of being over-rated, dated, etc, I think there is this notion that for something to be the greatest of all time, it should be “perfect”, and folks just love to point out the imperfections. One can not understate the huge immediate trend-setting impact these stories had on the industry for years with a sea of imitators emerging immediately trying to recreate their success. It is this effect combined with the excellent story telling and artwork that makes the top 5-10 so resonant.

Perhaps “Best Storyline” should have been more narrowly defined as a story that takes place within a larger ongoing, I don’t know.

Agreed. I left Year One off my list for this reason. Even though it’s an absolutely jaw-droppingly awesome story, it’s just not a storyline in the way the Englehart/Rogers Strange Apparitions story was (by the way, what the HELL is that one doing out of the top 100?). Fingers crossed enough people discounted self-contained stories to make Born Again or Dark Phoenix number 1.

Realistically, I think Dark Phoenix has the best chance, as Born Again will have haemorraged votes to this other fantastic Miller/Mazzuchelli collaboration.

Definitely worthy of the # 4 spot.

I think you are splitting hairs with the “story vs. storyline” argument. Is that what you meant by best comic vs. best storyline? I’m not sure I followed.

I don’t really see a distinction between the two. Obviously Watchmen is stand alone because it’s the only use of the characters, but Batman Year One’s blurb focuses on how it impacted the characterization of the Batman series afterwards.

But again, I don’t see why that should be a requirement for a good story(line).

I’m also surprised that DKR and Year One went out so early in the top 5. Born Again has to be up there though.

Year One was published in the Batbooks, so even by your new criteria, it would still be eligible. But this makes more sense to me anyway, because A.) It’s entirely possible and often pretty easy to rank the relative merits of most self-contained storylines v. miniseries, B.) I don’t want to have to wait six months for another list in order to get my reading recommendations, and C.) the line seems pretty blurry anyway. The Crises are all miniseries, but all draw heavily on plot threads and foreshadowing set in place throughout the DCU. Marvel’s events are largely the same. Whereas Year One was part of an ongoing, but stands largely on its own. Most silver age arcs are like that, too, since there was minimal concern for organic character growth and no guarantee that the readers had read anything prior.

Expanding on what Dave said, from what I recall, editorial made a point of publishing “Year One” in the Batman title, to drive home how the story was setting up a new status quo for the character from then on out.

Yeah, I agree Year One would absolutely be eligible as it was part of an ongoing and certainly impacted on future events in the ongoing, but it was difficult enough to whittle my list of storylines down to ten, so I was looking for reasons not to include things.

Year One is such a self-contained story (it’s an event, it’s labelled as a miniseries, it has a ‘special guest star creative team’) that I decided there were a lot of other candidates that fit my view of a storyline better. Plus, I correctly assumed this and Born Again would survive without my votes.

Wow. I never liked The Dark Phoenix Saga, but I’m hating it more with every day…

Er, just because more people voted for it over Year One? That’s a silly reason to hate something…

I hope Born Again makes it, I voted for this over Year One in the earlier poll, I like both, but prefer Daredevil… I just don’t care for Batman(or pretty much any other DC character, I grew up reading Marvel in the 70’s and didn’t pick up a DC comic until Alan Moore started writing Swamp Thing!) I have read many Batman stories over the years, mostly due to the writer at the time, but never regularly. I’m not knocking DC, I just have a much stronger affinity to the Marvel Universe.
I also hope The Dark Phoenix Saga makes it, I can’t understand why some people feel the need to knock it, those were some great comics(Claremont & Byrne were consistently brilliant month in, month out).
It’s a pitty not enough people voted for Byrne’s Fantastic Four, again some great comics…
I will definitely need to vote next time…
I have read 72 of the 97 so far.

Wait until Infinite Crisis bumps off Born Again….

I’m always shocked to see Year One get more love than Dark Knight. I love ‘em both, but Dark Knight is far superior,

Better than Dark Knight Returns? Yes! Yet both are top five material? Yes again!

Dark Phoenix in the last days of the countdown? Dream on.

Something always bothered me about this story. Maybe it was cleaned up later. IIRC Gordon has a son. Barbara’s no where to be seen. Then it’s revealed in anther series that Barbara is really his niece that he took in. Ok, weird, but whatever. I just don’t ever remember another mention of his son again. Was he retconned out somewhere? Is Barbara back to being his daughter?

Dark Phoenix in the last days of the countdown? Dream on.

Care to make a wager?

I don’t care wich gets #1 as long as Born Again and Watchmen are #1 & 2. :)

The Crazed Spruce

December 17, 2009 at 7:10 am

I never did read Year One, so I left it off of my ballot, but I definitely plan to one day.

And my picks for the top 3:

3: The Druspa Tau saga (Hawk and Dove 14-17)
2: The “Porcupine Man” saga (The Flash 24-28)
1: Damag Control (first mini-series)

I agree that it´s kinda strange to see Born Again beat Year One. I blame it on the fact that it “looks” more like a “storyline” than Year One, wich is more like a mini. Anyway, both are awesome and deserve to be this high.

By the way, with that in mind: Is The Dark Phoenix Saga be the number one instead of Watchmen? It definitely looks more like a “storyline”… At this point, I wouldn´t be surprised!

This, on the other hand, is probably deserving of its top 10 spot, and I’m glad to see it edge out the better-known and more-often-praised DKR.

So, Watchmen, Dark Phoenix Saga, and…

I cant understand why some people seem to hate The Dark Phoenix Saga? Is it because of Claremont? Or they´re just tired of the X-Men? Can anyone tell me why?

As much as I don’t want it, theres no way in hell Dark Phoenix Saga doesn’t make this list. No way in hell.

Anyway, Batman Year One is super awesome, even though I like DkR and Born Again more. Still, deserves this spot.

NEW TOTALS in a minute

NEW TOTALS:

Interesting notes – Miller-time! He’s almost caught up Morrison, and after Born Again, Moore is gonna need over 1747 points to catch him. Also, THE 80S.

-35 are Marvel stories

-50 are DC stories(31 are DC, 16 are Vertigo, 3 are Wildstorm)

-73 are superhero stories
-24 are non-superhero stories

-1980s(23 entries, 8959 points)
-1990s(34 entries, 8066 points)
-2000s(34 entries, 7172 points)
-1970s(4 entries, 763 points)
-1960s(2 entries, 558 points)

By Writer:

-Morrison (11 entries, 2931 points)
-Miller (3 entries, 2423 points)
-Moore (8 entries, 1785 points)
-Gaiman (5 entries, 1591 points)
-Waid (3 entries, 1490 points)
-Wolfman (2 entries, 1274 points)
-Millar (3 entries, 958 points)
-Stern (4 entries, 881 points)
-Giffen (2 entries, 835 points)
-Ennis (4 entries, 748 points)
-Spiegelman (1 entry, 723 points)
-Levitz (1 entry, 704 points)
-Johns (2 entries, 683 points)
-Claremont (2 entries, 568 points)
-L. Simonson (3 entries, 566 points)
-Brubaker (4 entries, 564 points)
-Ellis (4 entries, 563 points)
-Lee (2 entries, 558 points)
-Busiek (3 entries, 537 points)
-Lobdell (1 entry, 511 points)
-Nicieza (1 entry, 511 points)
-Loeb (2 entries, 474 points)
-DeMatteis (1 entry, 473 points)
-Tomasi (1 entry, 452 points)
-W. Simonson (2 entries, 429 points)
-Bendis (3 entries, 381 points)
-Shooter (2 entries, 361 points)
-Jurgens (2 entries, 348 points)
-Ordway (2 entries, 348 points)
-Cooke (1 entry, 314 points)
-Meltzer (1 entry, 304 points)
-Vaughan (2 entries, 295 points)
-Willingham (2 entries, 234 points)
-Buckingham (2 entries, 234 points)
-Conway (1 entry, 250 points)
-Sim (2 entries, 220 points)
-Whedon (1 entry, 195 points)
-David (1 entry, 179 points)
-Kessel (1 entry, 167 points)
-Jones (1 entry, 167 points)
-Pak(1 entry, 165 points)
-Rucka(1 entry, 160 points)
-Grayson(1 entry, 160 points)
-Robinson (1 entry, 142 points)
-Dixon (1 entry, 142 points)
-Moenech (1 entry, 142 points)
-Stern (1 entry, 141 points)
-Michelinie (1 entry, 141 points)
-JMS (1 entry, 140 points)
-Starlin (2 entries, 408 points)
-Javier Grillo-Marxuach (1 entry, 131 points)
-D’n’A (1 entry, 131 points)
-Furman (1 entry, 131 points)
-Thomas (1 entry, 127 points)
-Fraction (1 entry, 115 points)
-J. Hernandez (1 entry, 110 points)
-Windsor-Smith (1 entry, 106 points)
-O’Neil (1 entry, 105 points)
-G. Hernandez (1 entry, 102 points)
-Smith (1 entry, 102 points)
-Ware (1 entry, 100 points)
-Rosa (1 entry, 100 points)

I don’t really get the love for Year One. I bought it at the time it came out and I remember finding it okay but not earth-shattering. But Batman doesn’t really do much for me in general.

Born Again beating out Year One and DKR on a vote-in list? That strikes me as seriously weird. It would almost be weirder to me than if Born Again just didn’t show.

Not bad, mind you, but definitely weird. Then again, it did come up in yesterday’s thread that Marvel had gotten Born Again back into print in trade recently….

I don’t think “Born Again” has ever been out of trade for very long; the earlier run has been at times.

Very surprised; I’d guess the two big Miller Batman stories split the vote too much. If one of them didn’t exist, the other would probably be #2.

@Gavin

I’ve always got the impression more people like Dark Knight than Year One, but more people love Year One.

For what’s it worth, I like DKR but love Year One. As a result, Year One got a vote from me (#2 or #3, I can’t recall exactly offhand) and DKR did not (too many other things I enjoy more than DKR, as much as I do enjoy it).

Also for what it’s worth, I have no objections with Dark Phoenix placing anywhere in the top three. I didn’t vote for it (too many other X-Men stories I personally enjoy more, and I figured it’d have plenty of support anyway) but I thoroughly enjoy it, today as much as when I first read it (which wasn’t until the early 90s and it was already hyped up. Yet despite that, it still blew me away).

I think I’d pick Year One over DKR too. While I love both, I think DKR’s highpoint is that first issue as a whole, and then the next three, while most certainly very good, kinda pale in comparison. Year One, on the other hand, is incredible all the way through. It’s also the first time I’ve ever stopped to really take in the coloring of a comic. Usually I don’t even notice it unless it’s really bad, but this was extraordinary.

For whatever reason, Miller either forgot or intentionally omitted Barbara. Possibly they were trying to pull a “Man of Steel” on Batman, but it didn’t work because there’d been no break in the Batman titles post-Crisis and New Teen Titans was still popular, so it would be messing well (of course they did that anyway with Jason Todds new origin). In any case, they turned Gordon from a widower with an adult daughter (would probably have been pre-teen or early teen during Year One) into a married man with an infant son.

Because Barbara was omitted, the whole niece angle was added (I believe that was in Secret Origins) and Jim was divorced off-stage and his ex-wife moved away with James Jr. to get as close to the status quo, as possible. They got even closer, later, by implying that Jim slept with his brother’s wife and is actually her biological father.

wwk5d:

Er, just because more people voted for it over Year One? That’s a silly reason to hate something…

Nah, that would be petty. It’s a three way combination of it beating Year One, it beating TDKR and it being crap.

Fabio:

I cant understand why some people seem to hate The Dark Phoenix Saga? Is it because of Claremont? Or they´re just tired of the X-Men? Can anyone tell me why?

Because Claremont bogs down his stories with excessive unnecessary exposition that makes the books a chore to read and this story is also poorly paced and more than a little tedious. The art in the book is fine, but not vintage Byrne.

Carl:

They got even closer, later, by implying that Jim slept with his brother’s wife and is actually her biological father.

Hopefully they’ll forget that. It’s enough that she’s his daughter already. To feel the need to make her even more his daughter than she already is feels like a kick in the teeth to adoptive families.

I didn’t vote for Year One myself (prefer DKR and was trying to create a wide ranging top ten), but I can see how this would be popular.

As to something else…

Fabio said:
>>I cant understand why some people seem to hate The Dark Phoenix Saga? Is it because of Claremont? Or they´re just tired of the X-Men? Can anyone tell me why?<<

Why I left it off (and generally speaking, I like the X-Men as a whole, though this will make it seem like I don't):

1) Personally, I find X-Men in space boring as hell, and the Shiar even more dull ("we're like stereotypes of superheroes, except we get our asses handed to us on a regular basis unless it's convenient that we win")…I can't think, aside from the first Brood storyline, where it ever worked for me, and even that (Storm as a Space Whale) was a stretch;

2) Jean Grey/Cyclops/Professor X form a group of characters that I find personally annoying and devoid of any real personality/characterization, especially when Claremont wrote them. To me, the best, most consistently well written run of Uncanny was 198 (trial of Magneto/Storm takes over) to 244 (just post Inferno…and yes, I've read/own almost all of Claremont's X-Men run to make that statement)…with a slight wobble during Fall of the Mutants; The common denominator? For most of that run, those characters weren't present.

3) The story itself, IMHO, was a mess and memorable only for Jean/Phoenix killing herself, a planet of space cucumbers I had no previous context for biting it, and one panel of Wolverine in the sewers…otherwise, it was fight the Hellfire club and the Shiar…again; I mean, really, Mastermind was the friggin' reason Phoenix goes bad? Master at mental powers, but Jean/Phoenix has no clue that her own mind is being messed with? Sorry. That's a huge story issue for me, especially given that it's a grade z villain-wannabe doing the damage.

4) It led to Jean dying in some way being the end game only to eventually return (she bit it recently again in the X-Books, X-Men: The Last Stand used it, If you count Madelyne Pryor as a double, then she died; hell it was even alluded to and/or done in both cartoon series,etc.). Like how Optimus Prime now dies on a regular basis in Transformers because of one scene in the '86 film. You can't have him in Transformers without him dying/near death at some point in the story and then returning. Pass. (though not nearly as criminal, on balance, as what Days of Future Past did to the X-Men for 2+ decades afterwards…another book off my list that gets way too much play for simply being an "evil alternate future" storyline; well done, no doubt, but seen it a billion times by the time I read it so it's impact was minimal).

Granted, these are all personal reasons as to why I don't care for it. I can see how others would like it, but to me, it's a story centered around characters I could care less about that really makes little sense to me other than Claremont and Byrne wanted to off Jean.

I cant understand why some people seem to hate The Dark Phoenix Saga? Is it because of Claremont? Or they´re just tired of the X-Men? Can anyone tell me why?

Maybe because it’s been mentioned about 50 times a day here since this countdown began and some people are a little tired of hearing about it?

Bernard the Poet

December 17, 2009 at 9:36 am

I didn’t vote for this. It is a fine fine script with superb art, but I’m afraid the story has lost quite a bit of lustre for me because of its constant retelling. Year One has become practically its own genre – so many of the Elsewhere series are just different riffs on Year One, so are the Christopher Nolan films. Year One was closely followed by Year Two (and then Year Three). There was a Catwoman mini, a Mr Freeze mini and a Two Face annual, which were all set in Year One. Most of the ‘Legends of the Dark Knight’ series was set immediately after Year One, as was The Long Hallowe’en and countless other stories.

I don’t mean to damn Frank Miller’s work because it was successful and most of the titles I’ve mentioned above were pretty good, but when I re-read the Dark Knight and Year One last year, the Dark Knight was still fresh as a daisy, whereas Year One seemed rather old hat.

On the writer race:
It seems that Miller has a very good chance of winning out. Even with DKR and Year One having this “low” entries (at least lower than I expected) he has about 700 points on Moore. If Born Again is in, he definitely passes Morrison and if the difference between Watchmen and Born Again is less than 700 points, then the order would be Miller, Moore, Morrison (which is also the alphabetical order). However there are many first place votes not allocated yet, so I think the first place will beat third place by a wide margin.

Just wondering, did anyone else vote for Paul Jenkins’ “A Death in the Family” storyline that ran in PP:SMv2 from issue #44-47? Cause that story is a gem and has quite possibly the coolest diss Spidey ever issued to Norman in it.

I loved Year One, and am actually happy that it placed higher than the also brilliant DKR.

Dark Phoenix Saga is an incredible story, and I agree, I have no idea why people hate Claremont’s X-Men so much. Just a brilliant run, and DPS was its crown jewel. It will be in the top 3, along with Born Again and Watchmen.

Heh…the 80s have every remain point out there, of course.

I sort of wish that “storyline” had been defined in such a manner as to exclude votes for the entireity of any title. (For one thing, it would have made a “Top 100 limited series'” poll next season a natural followup.) (I would have said ‘exclude limited series’, but that causes some oddness around long books that were known to be finite well in advance like Preacher, Bone, or Cerebus)

Looks like we have 25 (and will have 26, all told) of these in the list now, so I suppose that a limited series poll would be 75% or so new picks even so…

Yeah, if Born Again even comes in at #3, Miller is at least taking second place. If Born Again places higher then only Moore has a realistic chance of beating him.

I don’t know how I feel about someone charting so high based on a handful of works that are 25 years old. It may very well prove that while Gen Y ruled the bottom of the list, Gen X still rules the top.

DanCJ:

“Because Claremont bogs down his stories with excessive unnecessary exposition that makes the books a chore to read and this story is also poorly paced and more than a little tedious. The art in the book is fine, but not vintage Byrne.”

I agree with you. That´s why I think Claremont + Byrne = awesome X-men run
Claremont +Miller = great Wolverine mini (Claremont would never be resposonsible for the whole Japanese plot).
Claremont + any artist who don’t care about the plot = bad

Tekende:

“Maybe because it’s been mentioned about 50 times a day here since this countdown began and some people are a little tired of hearing about it?”

That´s no reason for the hate. What about Watchmen? How many was it mentioned? Don´t be shy. If you don´t like it, just say so…

Tekende:

Lynxara said:

I don’t know how I feel about someone charting so high based on a handful of works that are 25 years old. It may very well prove that while Gen Y ruled the bottom of the list, Gen X still rules the top.

The great thing about the list is that we do have multiple measures of placement. Certainly, some weight should be placed on point totals. But, personally, I find it really interesting to see who the most consistent creators have been. Moore and Morrison (who I, personally, prefer to Miller) have more entries than MIller will. It may also turn out that both have more first place votes than Miller does too. Once the list is finished, it will be very interesting to see how creators do on these alternative measures.

Am also happy to see that Batman: Year One and potentially Born Again will both beat DKR. I’m among the group that read Born Again for the first time this year–the new hardcover edition–and that and Year One have made me a huge Mazuchelli fan.

Are all 5 of Gaiman’s entires on this list from Sandman? I’m pretty sure they are. It’s kind of interesting that between Moore and Morrison, they will have captured 1/5 of the entries on this list, and mainly for different works each time (Doom Patrol had a couple and so did Swamp Thing,) and yet the writer with the third most entries got it entirely for one title. I’m not trying to say Gaiman’s a bad writer, I just think it’s interesting that it worked out that way.

Well…

My only Gaiman vote was actually for “The Books Of Magic” mini-series…

Pretty even between the 80’s, 90’s, and 00’s.

@Tekende

Dark Phoenix Saga!!

I suspect the Gaiman representation here mostly reflects how quickly he moved on to being primarily a novelist after Sandman ended.

My #1 showed up at last! I knew it was going to chart high, kinda hoped for #2, but I’ll take #4.

I think the thing I like the most about Year One is how fleshed out the characters are. Unlike DKR, where the characters seem more like two-dimensional cyphers for the ideas and allagory presented, Year One’s Batman, Gordon, Essen etc etc seemed like real people. It wasn’t all pulp posturing over-the-top preaching. Both Wayne and Gordon get equal time, but Gordon is really the heart of the story and you really get to know him in a very three-dimensional way. Seeing him hold his own physically and morally while obviously being a flawed individual really made the events leading up to the trust and partnership with Batman really resonate and made seeing why such a partnership worked for the characters.

On the Wayne side, seeing a very human Bruce make the decisions he did, and the mistakes he made in this story, really grounded a lot of what came afterwards for me. You can tell that Bruce himself hasn’t completely bought into the myth he’s creating and trying to project, and I think it’s great that we get to see that. I think by the time we get to The Long Halloween in this continuity, Bruce has bought into being THE BATMAN, a not-quite-human personification of Justice.

Speaking of the Long Halloween, one of the biggest reasons I love Year One is the long shadow it’s cast over the Bat-books over the years. It’s more naturalistic take and art style have resonated through the years. I doubt stories like No Man’s Land, Gotham Central, or the current ‘Tec run. Heck, I think the argument could be made that the story was an influence on Batman: The Animated Series, and it’s fingerprints are all over both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Not to mention it’s direct anticedents like The Long Halloween, Year Two (ugh), Dark Victory etc etc. Even outside the Bat-books, I doubt we’d see something like James Robinson’s Starman without the real-world influence Year One showed could work in a superhero story like this.

In a very real way, Year One made Batman and the mythos surounding him much more than just a cool costume and a brooding mood for me. Even before I had read the story it was influencing the way I saw the character, and after I finished reading the book it changed the way I saw the medium, opening a world of different styles of art, writing and genre. You could say it was my gateway drug to indy comics, and for that it’ll always have a special place in my heart.

Gaiman wasn’t nearly as prolific as the other big names. (Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Books of Magic and The Golden Age came in between #101 and #150. I’d be surprised, but not shocked, if Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader fell in that range, too.). And a lot of his best non-Sandman work doesn’t qualify by virtue of being single-issue stories or original graphic novels…

Man, sorry that post is so choppy. Trying to work at the same time as I type here, and it really messed up my flow. I think I got the main ideas I wanted to down, but it reads really poorly. >=(

[blockquote] I agree with you. That´s why I think Claremont + Byrne = awesome X-men run. [/blockquote]

The problem doesn’t go away when Byrne comes in, though. For example, I dug out the Days of Future Past storyline when it made the list to see if it was better than I remembered. Here’s one of Storm’s thought bubbles;

“It was a lifetime ago when I was a street urchin in Cairo being trained as a theif by Achmed el-Gibar. Those were hard days, but happy ones — though I was happier still years later in Kenya. The urchin became the goddess Ororo — the weather witch who used her mutant powers to help the local villages. I…I wish I was there. I wish I was that child again. I might as well wish for the moon.”

Out loud: The coast is clear, my friends.

That’s one panel. She’s busy breaking into the sentinels’ home base. That’s right, instead of thinking about security measures or alarms, Storm pauses in the middle of sneaking around to think her origin story to herself. Partly in the third person and refering to her companions by their full names. It’s awkward, it ruins the flow, and there are big chunks of the whole story that are like that.

I could almost forgive it; product of it’s time and all that, and really, Claremont’s only a slightly worse offender than other writers of that era, but it gets it under my skin when I’m constantly told that it’s unquestionably one of the greatest stories ever.

i´m afraid. i’m starting to believe that born again isn’t gonna be on the list and we’re gonna see INFINITE CRISIS in number 3 or 2.

Yes! Can I get a “Hallelujah” for Born Again as #1? (I honestly thought that Year One would beat it even though I prefer Born Again; I was obviously mistaken).

I have no assumption that Born Again is a lock to appear. I love DD, love him, but I didn’t rate BA, it seemed to age really poorly for me, and for a story that starts brilliantly it ends with Nuke and I just didn’t dig that, though those Avengers scenes are pretty good, I must admit. I put up Elektra Saga in my votes but not BA and I would be hugely shocked to see a DD story rank in the top 3, though I’d also be hugely impressed and happy.

I will be happy to sit back and just see what comes, no need to p!$$ and moan, just sit back, enjoy the ride, know what I like and only read what I like. Hell, I didn’t even vote for Watchmen, it’s good, just not in my ‘favourite’ ten, now if they were talking about best ten, yeah, I could muster up the energy to admit that thing is perfectly crafted, I just like other things better but won’t complain when it inevitably gets the number one spot…but imagine if it didn’t, oh my.

Everyone thinks Dark Phoenix will make the list, so I’ll go with that. It’s not my idea of a lock for top 5, but I doubt it would be below 100.
Born Again is definitely on the list. It’s overthinking things to the Nth degree to try to imagine a scenario where it doesn’t make the cut. I imagine those will be two or three and Watchmen will be 1. That scenario just seems like the simplest resolution to me. Although, two days ago I would have said DKR would be #2 so who knows?

In the interest of full disclosure though, Born Again is the only one of those three to get my vote, so maybe I’m biased in guaranteeing its inclusion.

Claremont’s verbiosity is representative of the style at the time, which was designed to allow anyone to pick up the book and figure out what the hell is going on. None of it was written for the trade, because there were no trades at the time. I get that it bugs some people now, but there is actually something to be said for it. (and how many times have I seen people around here gripe about ridiculously drawn-out stories, spending 6-8 issues on something that should be done in 3-4 simply to GET to a trade?)

I’m happy to see “Year One” so high on the list. It’s really great stuff, and holds up well today. It’s not shocking or deeply revalatory, but it is a terrific and dense story. You actually believe Mazzuchelli’s Batman would strike terror into the hearts of criminals, and Gordon is wonderfully drawn as the one good cop in a corrupt dept without making him a saint. Lots of foreshadowing of the work Miller would later do on Sin City as well (Selina with her john is a story that could be dropped right into the next volume). I’ve read it many times, but sadly don’t own it. A situation I should remedy.

Dave: Totally agree with you. I know back then they wanted every issue to act like “someone picking up the book for the first time”, but seriously, what the fuck man. Like putting in Storm’s origin in the most clunky way possible would help understand the character. You should be able to get a feeling for them through the characterization and character development, not random half-assed narration boxes. I know its superhero books, but they feel like something for a five year old. I guess that might have been the target audience back then, but here in 2009 its completely archaic and doesn’t take advantage of the visual medium that are comic books.

Hrrmmm.

REALLY?

Year One (which is fine, borderline great) over DKR?

Maybe because it’s more traditional and less… well… unnerving? Dark Knight Returns is all weirdly experimental in terms of placing, page design, storytelling, using inset panels of media figures as a kind of Greek Chorus to deliver epilouge…

While Year One is a good, traditionally paced noir Batman story.

“By Writer:

-Morrison (11 entries, 2931 points)
-Miller (3 entries, 2423 points)
-Moore (8 entries, 1785 points)
-Gaiman (5 entries, 1591 points)
etc”

What!?! No McFarlane or Leifeld…. WTF. ;)

On the totals, is the Stern with 4 entries and 800+ pts different than the Stern with 1 entry and 140 pts?

Year One was on my list, but not #1. I think I placed it at #5. I think the most amazing thing about this series is how much happens in the span of four issues. If DC was to do this series today it would be a twelve-issue stand alone mini-series.

I get that people aren’t big on Dark Phoenix. Yes, it made my top ten. Yes, the dialogue is clunky and excessive. It wasn’t just the death of Phoenix that made this a good (if not great) story. Ultimately, it was a look at a mutant at the pinnacle of her powers. What they could ultimately become with their true potential unleashed. So that’s why I see it deserving a spot on the top-ten. I agree, however, that it makes for clunky reading by today’s standards.

anyone that doesn’t think dark phoenix will appear is just not thinking. it’s the most popular story from the most popular era of the most popular franchise in all of comics. it’s written by someone who’s considered a great writer, and drawn by someone who is considered a great artist. it’s been copied countless amounts of times, set up numerous recurring themes and story elements within its own title, and has one of the most recognizable “storyline names” in all of comicdom.

born again seems to be a lock to finish third if for no other reason than simply all the miller vote splitting that’s clearly going on in the top 5. watchmen and dark phoenix will be 1 and 2, but it’s unclear which will be which. watchmen is better, and probably the front runner for number 1, but a dark phoenix upset wouldn’t shock me. again, it’s remarkably popular, and imitated quite often.

there are still around 350 first place votes unaccounted for. i don’t see born again getting more than about 40 first place votes because even if people like it better than year one and dark knight, they don’t like ti that much better. so that leaves over 300 votes for the top two, minus however many went to storylines that didn’t make the top 100 at all.

i don’t understand all the claremont hatred people seem to have. i get that some people simply feel compelled to rally against whatever a lot of people like. so be it. but people are bitching that the claremont/byrne era suffers from too much explanation and rehashing every issue, without acknowledging that’s just the way comics were. stan lee, roy thomas, denny oneil, steve engleheart, marv wolfman, gerry conway, etc… they all did it. up until about the mid-80s, that’s simply the way comics were written. either you can read and enjoy comics from before the mid-80s revolution, or you can’t. if you cant, that’s fine, but no need to bitch about them. and if you can enjoy comics from the old days, then it’s fairly obvious dark phoenix saga deserves its stature.

as for my own take on the best claremont stuff, i think his peak was from x-men 162 (the start of the brood saga) until x-men 213/annual 10 (the end of the mutant massacre and the real beginning of the “franchising” of the mutant titles). this 50 issue stretch/era would also include the original wolverine miniseries, the x-men/alpha flight two parter, and the first 40 or so issues of the new mutants (including the masterful issues with sienkiewicz). while i like all of the claremont stuff both before and after, the 94-161 era is a bit too much a product of it’s time for me in terms of the writing style, and the 214-280 era is a bit too disjointed, disorganized, and spread out among too many titles. but from 162-213 you get the brood saga, the morlocks, the new mutants, wolverine’s wedding, rogue/rachel/psylocke/longshot joining, the paul smith issues, the barry windsor smith issues, the art adams issues, the asgard stories, and the mutant massacre. i also think this era had claremont’s best character work by far, before the silvestri/lee era simply brought in too many characters to allow significant time with any of them.

“i don’t understand all the claremont hatred people seem to have. i get that some people simply feel compelled to rally against whatever a lot of people like. so be it. but people are bitching that the claremont/byrne era suffers from too much explanation and rehashing every issue, without acknowledging that’s just the way comics were. stan lee, roy thomas, denny oneil, steve engleheart, marv wolfman, gerry conway, etc… they all did it. up until about the mid-80s, that’s simply the way comics were written. either you can read and enjoy comics from before the mid-80s revolution, or you can’t. if you cant, that’s fine, but no need to bitch about them. and if you can enjoy comics from the old days, then it’s fairly obvious dark phoenix saga deserves its stature.”

Well said! The problems people often point out was simply the way comics were back then. ALL comics. You want to talk about extra dialogue? Stan Lee himself is indeed the man, and I would put him up there with Roddenberry, Lucas, and all the other pop culture visionaries of the 20th century. But have you ever tried reading a comic he wrote back then? It takes twice as long read one of his issues than an average 22 page comic today. Still great stuff, just different era.

Maybe people hate Claremont’s prose because it is tantalizingly close to prose from the 80s and on, but with a firm foothold in the Silver Age. I dunno.

I would add that DPS also features the first death of a Silver Age superhero (pretty sure…), certainly the most prominent. Its character work was absolutely unparalleled for its time- good-natured hero acquires too much power, goes mad from it, and is killed. Throw in the great art and at least three epic fight scenes by my count, and it is just a darn good story. Totally revolutionary for its time.

My favorite Claremont era was the first Cockrum and Byrne runs, and Paul Smith’s run (including the Wolverine mini series- still have no idea how that didn’t make it on this list- and some of the early New Mutants stuff). Plus I was absolutely obsessed with Jim Lee’s X-Men when I was a kid, so I’ve got to throw that in, too.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a sizeable chunk of the missing first place votes actually did go to books that didn’t make the cut. People may have voted for a quirky personal favorite in the hopes that the 10 points put it somewhere. I know my number 1 will not be showing up.

In the past, I’ve done bits on the #1 votes, Joe, and I’ll likely do that here, as well (well, except for this one, of course, as I’ve already used it up :)).

A “problem” with so many votes being cast (nearly 900 ballots!!! WOW!) is that there are worse odds that pretty much ANY storyline that someone would put at #1 on their list would not get a vote from anyone else.

“Well said! The problems people often point out was simply the way comics were back then. ALL comics.”

Luther Arkwright wasn’t like that. Alan Moore’s Captain Britain came a year later. His Marvelman relaunch came a year after that. Neither were like that. You could argue that most mainstream American superhero books were like that in the early eighties, but there were alternatives. It’s like arguing that the grim and gritty Image style was all there was in the 90s, and Rob Leifeld’s Youngblood is the best example of that, so it’s one of the best strories of all time.

I don’t love the Stan Lee work that gets unquestionly praised either, but there were really good things that came out of his style and the historical value is undeniable. Also, he was doing it in the 60s. Claremont, on the other hand, was doing it well into the late 80s. He’s infamous for overwriting, even, as you say, among a generation that loved it.

The DPS is like the Model T. You can justify calling the 1908 version one of the greatest cars of all time for its historical importance, but someone trying to get it on the list of the best cars of the 50s would be laughed it. It would move slower, break easier, and be less comfortable than almost everything else on the market. The DPS is the guy trying to sell Model Ts in 1950 by emphasizing their slowness and breakability. It’s the comics of the past while guys like Moore were making the comics of the future.

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the death of Phoenix was mandated by Shooter, and not something either Claremont or Byrne liked. When the most revolutionary thing about your comic was forced on you by editorial…well, that’s not really a good sign, is it?

“Finally, it’s worth pointing out that the death of Phoenix was mandated by Shooter, and not something either Claremont or Byrne liked.”

No, Shooter mandated that she suffer some form of extreme punishment (he suggested eternal torment). Claremont and Byrne decided that suicide was a better choice.

I dunno that “an editor insisted on it” means a story element is necessarily bad. He could insist on Phoenix dying, but he couldn’t insist on Claremont and Byrne making anyone care about it. That anyone did should be, more or less, to their credit.

dave-

i have to respectfully disagree with your points.

first of all, luther arkwright, captain britain, and marvelman were all british, and not available to american audiences until much later. so comparing them to the american comics scene is unfair, as they could not be read by the american comics audience. the youngblood comparison is wildly unfair. youngblood has, quite literally, not a single redeeming quality. none. zero. surely you don’t believe the same to be true about claremont’s x-men, do you?

also, claremont was not overwriting well into the late 80s, his writing style changed when he worked with frank miller and paul smith in 82/83 and really never looked back to the way it was. was he still wordy? of course, that’s just his style. but all of the unnecessary plot rehashing of his early work was gone.

speaking of the unnecessary plot rehashing used by claremont and other marvel writers of the late 70s/early 80s, i find it fascinating that you knock dark phoenix saga for the plot element of it that was editorially mandated but you don’t recognize that issue by issue plot recaps blended into the dialogue were also shooter/editorially mandated. you can’t have it both ways. either recognize all flaws and attributes that came from the editors, or recognize none of them. but don’t just recognize the parts that are convenient to your arguments.

as for saying moore was making the comics of the future, so others should have been too, again, that’s laughable. i am one of the biggest alan moore fans there is. the man’s genius was so far above and beyond his contemporaries that it’s incomparable. saying other writers should have been as good as moore was in 1982 is like saying other bands in 1964 should have been as good as the beatles were. there’s a reason the revolution in american comics started in the mid-80s… because that’s when alan moore got to american comics.

finally, it should be pointed out that moore’s captain britain run was heavily influenced by claremont’s x-men, particularly days of future past, and that when claremont took over captain britain a few years later (with alan davis, veteran of moore’s run), it was with moore’s blessing and encouragement.

“Nah, that would be petty. It’s a three way combination of it beating Year One, it beating TDKR and it being crap.”

You seem to think this is an official list or something. If Brian does this same list in a year, or if we were only allowed to vote for our top 5 or top 3, the results could be very different. You think it’s crap. Many others disagree with you. Oh well :D

“I mean, really, Mastermind was the friggin’ reason Phoenix goes bad? Master at mental powers, but Jean/Phoenix has no clue that her own mind is being messed with? Sorry. That’s a huge story issue for me, especially given that it’s a grade z villain-wannabe doing the damage.”

No, he wasn’t the reason. Phoenix was already on that path anyway. Mastermind just accelerated the process.

“Personally, I find X-Men in space boring as hell, and the Shiar even more dull”

They were only in space for the last issue of that story.

“It led to Jean dying in some way being the end game only to eventually return”

Well, her return wasn’t Claremont’s fault…

“Maybe because it’s been mentioned about 50 times a day here since this countdown began and some people are a little tired of hearing about it?”

You could apply that same line of thinking about Year One, DKR, Born Again, Watchmen, and half a dozen Morrison stories…I like some of those series, and I’m sick of hearing about them as well…:D

All fair points. I’ll respond here because I actually do believe everyone should have a chance to celebrate and i don’t want to rain on the parade when it actually pops up later this week. That said:

@Sean: I stand corrected. That doesn’t really change the point though. The most notable part of the story was something the creators didn’t really want to do.

@Lynxara; Right. My point was that that was actually the best element of the story. See above. I’ll give C & B a certain level of credit, although as a lot of people have pointed out in defense of the story, it was really the first time a silver age hero had died. People were going to notice.

@daniel: Yes, so it would have been unfair if I said “They should have taken their cues from the British scene.” But I didn’t. I brought it up in response to the allegation that ALL comics were like that when they patently weren’t. And while it may not be legitimate to say that Claremont should have learned from Talbot, it is completely legitimate to look at two independent scenes, one of which is innovating and one of which is not, and say that the innovating one is superior.

The Youngblood comparison was meant to illustrate one point: That just because a certain type of flaw is common (though again, not omnipresent) doesn’t somehow magically make it not a flaw. I stand by it as proof of that statement. The ways in which it’s not like DPS don’t affect the basic point.

If you’re arguing that Shooter is partially responsible for making DPS less good by editorial fiat, I’m not really inclined to argue with you. It’s still less good. I would point out, though, that, to the best of knowledge, he didn’t order origin recaps to be shoved into the middle of tense plot moments. Or to have characters speak of themselves in the third person.

Saying, “They should have looked toward the future, like Talbot or Moore” and “They should have been as good as Alan Moore” are not equivalent statements. The first represents an approach or philosophy that anyone can have. The second represents a skill level that is very unique. I argued the first one.

I dont think Phoenix’s death was the most notable part of the storyline. It was just the thunderous finale, and i agree with Shooter that her actions required consequence. The gripping heart of teh DP storyline is that a long-standing character is suddenly bestowed with csmic power, and over a three-year storyline it steadily affects her until she finally loses it and runs off to eat the planet of the asparagus people.
It’s dated, sure, it was thirty years ago. And it was the big one, bud, the one issue that the vast majority of comic fans (in my neighbourhood anyway) grabbed for and talked about every month as the series developed greater and greater heat. I was an absolute comix junkie in 1979, and only the Iron Man alcohol stories and Moench’s Master of Kung Fu were anything close. british comics? there was no such thing in 1979, not at my comic shop.

So, yeah, it’s dated, i realized how badly when I read the issues one at a time with my wife. We’ve worked our way through several of my favorite titles, and while she enjoyed the art and storyline she often asked if I couldn’t skim thru the words a bit.

Dave:

“It was a lifetime ago when I was a street urchin in Cairo being trained as a theif by Achmed el-Gibar. Those were hard days, but happy ones — though I was happier still years later in Kenya. The urchin became the goddess Ororo — the weather witch who used her mutant powers to help the local villages. I…I wish I was there. I wish I was that child again. I might as well wish for the moon.”

So funny and so wrong.

Josh:

Claremont’s verbiosity is representative of the style at the time, which was designed to allow anyone to pick up the book and figure out what the hell is going on.

No, sorry. Writing each issue as if it’s someone’s first is repreasentative of the time. Writing each issue as if that person who’s picking it up for the first time wants to know the entire history of each character even if it’s not relevant to the story at hand is all Claremont. In attempting to make books accessible to new readers he acheived the exact opposite.

In attempting to make books accessible to new readers he acheived the exact opposite.

I dunno…Claremont’s X-Men was my gateway into comics. I didn’t feel like the books were inaccessible, obviously, since I stuck around.

Granted, I’m just one example, but it’s worth noting that Claremont’s purple prose wasn’t a turn off for EVER potential new reader.

I wasn’t turned off by Claremont either. As far as the example given regarding Storm during DOFP, I didn’t mind it. It just made her situation all the more tragic, was in character for her, and began the seeds leading up to the Lifedeath story.

Leave a Comment

 

Categories

Review Copies

Comics Should Be Good accepts review copies. Anything sent to us will (for better or for worse) end up reviewed on the blog. See where to send the review copies.

Browse the Archives