Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Every day in May we will reveal the greatest stories ever told starring a particular character or written/drawn by a particular creator (and throughout the month, you’ll get daily chances to vote for NEXT week’s lists). These lists are voted on by YOU, the reader!
Here is the list of characters/creators featured so far (along with the rules on how to vote).
Today’s list is the Greatest Roger Stern Stories Ever Told!
I’ll give you the top five stories that DIDN’T make the Top Ten…
15. Avengers #281-285 “The Olympus War”
Zeus blames the Avengers for what happened to Hercules during the Under Siege storyline, so he brings them to Olympus to face their punishment. Zeus made a major mistake, though – he underestimated the Avengers. John Buscema and Tom Palmer draw the storyline that pretty much worked as the finale to Stern’s Avengers run (yes, he started another story, but this was the last one he actually finished).
14. Amazing Spider-Man #226-227 “The Cat Came Back”
Stern brings the Black Cat back to the Spider-Man books, setting her up to become the love interest she became in the pages of Spectacular Spider-Man. Art by John Romita Jr.
13. Avengers #267-269 “Time – And Time Again!”
The popular Avengers mini-series Avengers Forever (which Stern co-wrote the last 10 issues of) took a great deal of inspiration from this three-part storyline that involved alternate timelines and a battle between Kang and Immortus – with the Avengers stuck in the middle! John Buscema and Tom Palmer did the art.
12. Doctor Strange #60-62 “The Montesi Formula”
It is a race against time for Doctor Strange to unlock the secrets of the Darkhold, specifically the Montesi Formula so that he can rid the world of the threat of Dracula forever! Dan Green and Steve Leialoha drew this three-parter, which tied in with Stern’s Avengers run.
11. Avengers #251-254 “Absolute Vision”
After Secret Wars, the Vision (who had been severely injured during a crossover with the Fantastic Four) recovered and asked to be made leader of the Avengers. He made some sweeping changes, including the installation of a SECOND Avengers team (meant to be the first of many) in California, leading to the West Coast Avengers. As it turned out, all of these moves were part of an overall plan to take over the world for its own protection. Naturally, the Avengers took issue with this and had to take on their own teammate (who, as it turned out, was not quite himself). Bob Hall drew this story.
10. Captain America #253-254 “Versus Baron Blood”
In this memorable two-parter, Captain America is drawn to England to help out his old Invaders friends, Union Jack and Spitfire, who are being tormented by their evil relative – the vampire Baron Blood! Before the story is over, a new Union Jack made his debut and Captain America had to do some unsightly things with his shield. John Byrne was dynamite on the art of this story.
9. Captain America #255 “Living Legend”
Stern and Byrne’s much-loved run came to its much too short conclusion with this one-off story celebrating the then-forty year anniversary of Captain America. In the story, Captain America’s early days are re-told, with new additions, tweaks and explanations thrown in! Probably the best re-telling of Cap’s origin ever and Byrne’s art is truly amazing on the story.
8. Doctor Strange #48-53 (Morgana Blessing story, with time travel!)
Marshall Rogers joined Stern for a six issue run on Doctor Strange with Terry Austin inking (plus finishing Rogers’ breakdowns on a couple of issues). In this run, he debuted a new love interest for Doctor Strange, Morgana Blessing, as Stern took issue with the idea of Doctor Strange sleeping with his pupil, Clea (Stern figured she could be his girlfriend or she could be his student, but she couldn’t be BOTH). This storyline eventually ended in a multi-part time travel story that involved a very clever trip to the pages of an old issue of Fantastic Four (Steve Englehart later had the West Coast Avengers travel to the same point in time, making that point in history have THREE separate time-travelers present! Someone totally needs to have a group of heroes travel to the same time!).
7. Captain America #250 “Cap for President!”
This was an idea originally proposed (and shot down) during Roger McKenzie and Don Perlin’s run on Captain America, but was finally brought up in this one-off issue by Stern and Byrne (with finishes by Joe Rubinstein). The issue was a very well-reasoned look at the idea of Cap running for President, which Cap, of course, ultimately rejects.
6. Avengers #227-230 “The Trial of Hank Pym”
With Jim Shooter off of the book, Stern had to come up with a conclusion to the downward spiral Shooter had placed Hank Pym on, and Stern did a really remarkable job redeeming Pym as much as he could in this storyline that also introduced Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) to the Avengers. Al Milgrom and Sal Buscema did the artwork for these issues.
5. Doctor Strange and Doctor Doom: Triumph and Torment
In this graphic novel with art by a young (but still awesome even then) Mike Mignola, Doctor Strange is forced to help Doctor Doom try to save the soul of Doom’s mother, who has been doomed to hell. During their battle against Mephisto in hell, there are a number of twists and turns, all beautifully illustrated by Mignola and Mark Badger. While he had won the title of Sorcerer Supreme over Doom (Doom’s second-place finish is what put him into a position of requesting Strange’s help), it was this story that proved that Strange truly had earned the title.
4. Amazing Spider-Man #248 “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man”
In this one-off story (told as one-half of Amazing Spider-Man #248), Stern and guest-artist Ron Frenz tell the heartfelt tale of a little boy who might be Spider-Man’s biggest fan. Spidey visits the boy and has a nice talk with him (and naturally, there is a twist to the tale).
3. Amazing Spider-Man ##238-239, 244-245, 249-251 “The Original Hobgoblin Saga”
Enough people voted for this as one story that I figured I might as well count it as one story (it IS a relatively small amount of issues) – although if we counted all votes for the complete saga as votes for the highest-voted single story (the initial appearance of the Hobgoblin), it would still rank here and no other parts of the story would rank in the Top 15, so I have no problem with it being here. Anyhow, this is one of the most impressive pieces of storytelling Stern did, as the idea of introducing a brand-new villain and making him/her seem to fit perfectly as a main foe of the main character? That’s damned hard to do, and Stern pulled it off here with ease. Then, sadly, with him off of the book, multiple writers and editors ended up making the Hobgoblin not nearly as cool as he was at the beginning. The art for these issues were by John Romita Jr. and a plethora of different inkers (practically a new one each issue).
2. Amazing Spider-Man #229-230 “Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut”
In this famous two-parter by Stern, John Romita Jr. and Jim Mooney, the Juggernaut is coming for Spider-Man’s ally, Madame Web, and despite all odds, Spidey must stop the unstoppable Juggernaut! A triumph of clever storytelling, this story resonates to this day, as Stern just recently completed a sequel to the story in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man.
1. Avengers #273-277 “Under Siege”
I featured this storyline recently in the Year of Cool Comics. It was a brilliant example of sub-plots simmering to the point of boling over in an explosive succession of issues. For a number of issues, Baron Zemo was secretly putting together a team of super-villains specifically designed to defeat the Avengers. Studying and planning, Zemo eventually put together such a large and powerful team of villains that his Masters of Evil were able to basically just bumrush the Avengers Mansion and take it over. For days, they tortured their captive Avengers, beating Hercules within an inch of his life and making Captain America and Black Knight watch as the brutalized Jarvis, the Avengers’ faithful butler. This being the Avengers, though, they were able to make a comeback, with the only Avenger to evade capture, team leader Wasp, putting together a makeshift team of heroes to save the captive Avengers (who were doing their best to free themselves). Likely remembered as Stern’s masterpiece. John Buscema and Tom Palmer drew the storyline.
That’s the list! I’m sure there is a lot of agreement and disagreement with the list out there! Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!
And please vote for the lists that are still up for grabs here!
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