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CSBG Archive

The Greatest Roger Stern Stories Ever Told!

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!).

Story continues below

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!


A little disappointed to see NONE of his DC work (especially the first ten or so issues of his Starman) on this list, I am actually most amazed that everyone forgot the awesomeness that is the Monster Hunters in Marvel Universe 4 thru 7.

Look at that number of Avengers, Cap, and Spider-Man stories! Roger Stern was a definitive writer for all three properties, and who can say things like that very often?

Some great stuff here, but some great stuff missing, too – like all of his Superman!(!)

Under Siege is still a finalist for best Avengers Story Ever, and the other Assemblers tales here are all very strong.

All three of the Cap stories here are available in the War and Remembrance trade – what a brilliant collection that is!

The Kid Who Collected Spiderman belongs on the Top Ten Comics That Made You Cry list.

Mike Loughlin

May 23, 2010 at 6:13 am

Great list- In addition to the other stories that didn’t make it, I’ll add:

Dr. Strange 55 – gorgeously drawn by Michael Golden, Stern shows how the aftermath of Clea’s departure leaves Strange open to an attack by one of his oldest enemies.

Incredible Hulk vs. Superman – one of the best inter-company crossovers, Stern crafted a fun story bolstered by Steve Rude channeling both Kirby and Swan.

Avengers 1 1/2 – The original Avengers vs. Dr. Doom, illustrated by Bruce Timm. As a bonus, imaginary house ads were drawn for comics published at the time, and both 2 year-old Kurt Busiek and well-read Marvel fan Burt Kusiek show up in the letters page.

No complaints about this list; these are all terrific stories. My only quibble is that Stern’s work with Paul Smith on Doctor Strange is probably the single best work ever done on that title, culminating in Strange sneaking into the Dark Dimension to assist a rebellion against Dormamuu. I would have put that ahead of the other two. Hmmm… maybe I should pull those comics out… great read on a rainy day like today.

His Superman run is my favorite era. He took out a lot of the inherent goofiness of the Byrne reboot and replaced it with solid characterization. I guess Exile would have been what I went for if anything. Stern is probably the best straight up superhero writer ever.

I am glad to see the GN, Triumph and Torment listed even though for unfathomable reasons Marvel has never reprinted it (along with a lot of good work from that side of Marvel of the 1980’s). I happen to win an auction on eBay that has the colorist’s portion of the work and it was an interesting process back then. The colors were painted by Mark Badger on a separate piece of drawing paper and the inked portion of Mike Mignola’s work was on a transparent sheet which they must have copied over.

I was lucky enough to get Mike Mignola to sign my copy at C2 E2…now if I can get Roger Stern’s sig! For his part, Roger Stern credits the story by Gerry Conway in Astonishing Tales #8 “Though Some Call it Magic”, as the inspiration for the story. By the way Brian, is there a Doctor Doom category coming up or are you passing him by again? ;-)

Emmanuel Seyman

May 23, 2010 at 9:40 am

FWIW, here’s the comics on my list that didn’t make the top 15.

* Faithful Servant (Avengers #280)

Jarvis is recovering from the beating that he suffered at the hands of the Masters of Evil (we’re just after “Under Siege” and before “War on Olympus”). Tony Stark offers him early retirement, noting that it’s a miracle Jarvis has been harmed so rarely, considering he’s serving the Avengers. Jarvis wrestles with the idea for the rest of the issue. Beautiful, solid characterization by Stern.

* Dearly Beloved… (Fantastic Four #300)

The marriage of Johnny Storm and Alicia Masters, with the Puppet-master deciding that this is the perfect opportunity to attack the Fantastic Four.

* The X-Men vs the Avengers (#1 -> #4)

The Avengers decide to bring Magneto to justice, the X-Men declare that there’s no way he can get a fair trial, hilarity ensues… Yeah, editorial took over the last issue but the characterization of all the super-heroes involved in the first three issues was gold.

* Marvel: The Lost Generation (#1 -> #12)

A lot of good Stern/Byrne work on that series.

Nice list. Stern is awesome.

I wish we had a little Starman here, but I’m okay with the absence of Superman.

I never really enjoyed Stern’s Superman work as compared to everything else he did. To me, the post-Byrne Superman has always been readable, but nothing special. Probably not Stern’s fault. The whole writing-by-committee period of Superman never really clicked for me.

Awesome list but I’m sorry, Triumph and Torment is number one, it’s just a law of nature.

@Emmanuel Seyman

* Faithful Servant (Avengers #280)

Jarvis is recovering from the beating that he suffered at the hands of the Masters of Evil (we’re just after “Under Siege” and before “War on Olympus”). Tony Stark offers him early retirement, noting that it’s a miracle Jarvis has been harmed so rarely, considering he’s serving the Avengers. Jarvis wrestles with the idea for the rest of the issue. Beautiful, solid characterization by Stern.

Avengers 280 is a fill in issue written by Bob Harras.

Looking at that list it’s amazing how little of Stern’s work is collected. Under Siege and Kang Time & Again spring to mind as being in print. Essential Amazing Spiderman 10 should have a load of Stern’s work in it (didn’t they start some colour repaints a while back ? – yes has one issue os ASM also in EASM9 and some PPSSM)

His Avengers work is at least 3 Essential Avengers away yet. The sooner they put Essential Avengers out quarterly the better !

I’ve not read his Doctor Strange – is that collected ? Essential Doctor Strange 4 has the right issue numbers but I know there’s been multiple volumes of Doctor Strange so am not sure these are the right issues.

There are some great stories here. I’ve got four of these stories, and parts of three more. Considering the gaps in my collection, that’s quite a lot.
I wish Marvel would hire Stern for one of their current titles. The recent stories in Spider-Man have been okay, but not great, but I assume that’s because he knows he’s not sticking around so he can’t get any good subplots going. Maybe they should hire him for one of the 17 or so Avengers titles that are starting now.

As a minor correction, that Fantastic Four-Doctor Strange-West Coast Avengers story involves FOUR seperate time travellers, not three. You forgot about Rama Tut himself.

Interesting that there’s no Invaders stories on there (not counting the Spitfire/Baron Blood Cap story).

If you were going to lump all of Stern’s Hobgoblin issues in there you might as well throw in Hobgoblin Lives to cap the story off.

Now that Roger is back doing Spider-man on a semi-regular basis I’d like to see this list revisited in a year or two to see if the top ten still holds. He just recently did a followup to Nothing Stops The Juggernaut in ASM that not only puts a different spin on the original tale but also manages to enhance and homage it at the same time. Nobody is better than Stern at taking small seemingly insignificant details from stories told years ago and spinning them into fantastic tales in their own right – except maybe Busiek :-)

Mary Warner, Roger Stern is doing work for Marvel now. In addition to the Spider-Man work mentioned in Rob Ocelot’s post, he recently worked with Kurt Busiek on the Marvels: Eye of the Camera mini. They wrote a very touching conclusion to that follows up with the character of Phil Sheldon from Busiek/Alex Ross “Marvels”.

Ooops…..forget previous post. I misread what Mary was saying. I agree he should have an ongoing.

I’m loving this feature! Other authors I’d like to see here are John Byrne and Dan Jurgens.

Hey Iron Maiden!

I was at C2E2 myself – giving a talk on the Physics of Superheroes. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to meet you. Long time from the FF board.

My copy of the hardcover Dr Doom and Dr. Strange is signed by Roger – but I forgot to bring it to C2E2 to get Mignola’s signature! In my defense, that was on the tail of a long week (three talks in five days in two cities) so there was only so much I could grab and pack for C2E2. Ah well, hopefully another chance.

I’m bummed I missed an opportunity to get Marshal Rogers to sign the beautiful Dr. Strange stories (listed at no. 8 above). Those six issues completely turned me around on Dr. Strange. Stern is a master story teller. I was not a big spider-Man fan, nor Avengers – but I have a massive collection of their comics, thanks to roger Stern. He would tell such good, solid stories, always leaving you wondering “what happens next” that before you know it – you have long boxes filled with his work.

Wow I’m surprised Hobgoblin Lives didn’t make it into this. Still the top three as they should be are THE stories always remembered most from Roger Stern. Now if only Marvel could give #3 it’s proper due.

Wow, I always thought that I was quite fond of Stern, but entry #8 is the only thing here that I actively like.
My attitude towards his Avengers run has always ranged from “just okay” to “please, no,” though I realize that’s quite a minority response.
Oh, and Cap #254 is the comic that made me hate Rubinstein’s inking. T has been bitching about Klaus Jansen whenever he comes up, well, Rubinstein makes Jansen look like (place name of ridiculously clean-lined, glossy inker here).

A very solid list. My thoughts:

15. Avengers 281-285: A genuine classic. I am surprised that it did not crack the top 10, however.

14. Amazing Spider-Man 226-227: Again, I am very surprised that this did not make the top 10. A classic story, far superior to Wolfman’s intro for the Black Cat. Noteworthy both for Stern’s makeover of the Black Cat (Stern had a talent for that; see his work on the She-Hulk) and for his take that to Wolfman’s inept handling of Spider-Man (E.g., Stern has the Black Cat marvelling at Spidey’s prowess, not the other way around).

13: Avengers 267-269: A solid pick.

12. Doctor Strange 60-62: Another classic Strange tale (pun not intended) from Stern. Again, shocked that this did not make the top 10.

11.Avengers 251-254: A solid pick, somewhat marred by so-so art.

10.Captain America 253-254: Sheer brilliance from the Stern/Byrne team.

9. Captain America 255: Perhaps the best single issue story that Cap has ever had. Certainly, as Brian has said,the best Cap origin tale.

8. Doctor Strange 48-53: One of the all time great Strange epics. This one has it all: Nick Fury (in a nice shout out to their days on STRANGE TALES), Nazis, Dormammu, Baron Mordo, Ancient Egypt, the FF, etc. Marshall Roger’s art is stunning.

7: Captain America 250: A staggeringly ambitious tale that does not quite live up to the premise. The closest thing to a clunker in the Stern/Byrne Cap run.

6. Avengers 227-230: Solid scripting from Stern as he attempts to salvage Hank Pym. However, Milgrom’s art is barely adequate. Milgrom was a fine inker, but his pencilling leaves much to be desired.

5. Doctor Strange/Doctor Doom: A true classic. Brilliant scripting from Stern (He understands both characters) meets gorgeous art from Mignola.

4.Spider-Man 248: Classic tearjerker.

3.Spider-Man 238-239, 244-45, 249-51: One of the truly great Spider-Man storylines.

2.Spider-Man: 229-230: Effortless brilliance from Stern.

1. Avengers : 273-277: Perhaps the best ever Masters of Evil storyline?

Omissions: I am a tad surprised that nothing from Stern’s run on SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN was included. In particular, I would have thought that SPECTACULAR #60 (featuring Stern’s new and improved Beetle) would have made it.

This is the only time I hadn’t voted and wished I had, as I think that Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut and the Hobgoblin should be 2 and 1, respectively.

Roger Stern is one of my favorite writers. Looking at this list reminds me why I got into comics in the first place!!

Thanks Roger!

Hi Professor Jim! Haven’t seen you at the FF boards for a while. It wasn’t until I looked at the guide book much later that I saw you gave a presentation at C2 E2. So close and yet so far! I plan on going next year. That is so cool that you got your copy of “Triumph” signed by Roger Stern! I will have to catch up to him at a con one year.

Travis Pelkie

May 23, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Iron Maiden, Roger Stern appears at virtually every Ithacon (Ithaca,NY), if you’re in this neck of the woods. Shows are usually in the spring (April this year, but usually Jan/Feb) and the fall (Sep/Oct). Check out comicbookclub.org for details.

I would have thought the Juggernaut story would have been #1. Do you think the cool comics feature swayed the voting, Brian?

And while I’m more familiar with his DC stuff (I have a copy signed by Roger Stern of the issue of Action that intro’d the Eradicator Superman post Doomsday), I’m not sure I could point to a specific story that I liked the most. I do like the Superman and Legion stuff he did.

I think someone was saying on the voting post for Roger Stern that he should, as a writer, be ranked up with Alan Moore, Morrison, etc. And they’re probably right, but he probably isn’t because he never really had one specific work that took the comics world by storm (like Moore with Swamp Thing and Watchmen, or Morrison with Doom Patrol, JLA, New XMen). However, Stern does excellent regular runs with superhero books, and that’s actually rare. And he didn’t have to resort to killing old characters for cheap thrills.

I agree with Mike Loughlin about Avengers 1 1/2. And Mark Waid is in that letters page too!

So bravo Roger Stern, and let’s hope that any of the above stories not collected by Marvel get collected soon. Marvel Visionaries Roger Stern. Make it happen if it hasn’t already.


May 23, 2010 at 8:07 pm

My favorite Spectacular Spider-Man story would be the humorous Ringer story. The Ringer was one of the least menacing villains Marvel ever had, able to solidify rings out of particles in the air. Spider-Man, having some time to kill before a date with Mary Jane, draws the battle out and has some fun with him. He suddenly looks at a clock and realizes, “I’m about to be late for my date! Better wrap this up fast!” , and does so. You wouldn’t want all superhero books to be like this, but it was a refreshing break from the usual.

Roger Stern is probably the greatest Avengers writer ever. Although it’s something of a radical statement, the book has never been as great as when he was the regular writer for that title. It was so compelling.
To this day I don’t know what was the disagreement with Mark Gruenwald (who was the editor of the Avengers book at the time) which drove him off the book, but did Gruenwald know he was putting a stop to one of the greatest Avengers’ run ever? Just curious here about what the story was.
The awfulness of the book immediately after Stern left was mind boggling, with Walt Simonson’s run, the monster Marrina story and what may possibly be the worst Avengers lineup ever for Avengers 300 (Mr. Fantastic? The Invisible Woman? Gilgamesh?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!). The book only recovered years later with the Busiek/Perez stint.
I agree that Roger Stern has not been adequately recognized. One of the reasons he never became a “hot writer” might be that he was obviously not a writer/artist (like Byrne and Simonson) or that he was never paired with an exciting, up an coming artist in a regular series, like Peter David with Todd McFarlane on the Hulk. McFarlane’s amazing artwork drew attention to Peter David’s fine writing. Ditto John Romita Jr. to Ann Nocenti’s Daredevil. Or Walter Simonson to Louise Simonson’s in X Factor. John Buscema was great, of course, but he was not a fan favorite.
I agree that Roger Stern should get a Marvel Visionaires, and it would be great to see him writing on a regular basis with 4 Avengers titles a month, and with so many middling minis and one shots coming from Marvel each month.
And I agree that Under Siege might be the greatest Avengers story ever.

Juan– You said that maybe Roger Stern hasn’t received as much recognition because he was never paired with a hot new artist, like Ann Nocenti was with John Romita, jr on Daredevil. But Stern worked with Romita on Amazing Spider-Man for quite some time, well before Romita did Daredevil. (And the art was much better in Spider-Man than it was in Daredevil.) So I’m not sure your theory is very accurate.
I suspect Roger Stern hasn’t received enough recognition simply because his writing isn’t dark and gloomy enough to be considered ‘cool’.

Juan –

The disagreement was that Gruenwald wanted Captain America to be returned to a leadership position in the Avengers, with the hope that the sales of Cap’s how mag would increase. Roger Stern had prepared things so that Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) was the leader now, and Monica’s maturing as a hero was a storyline Stern was fond of.

Stern said he couldn’t imagine a reason for Monica to step down now in favor of Captain America in a way that wouldn’t send the wrong message (“black female feels she is not ready and returns leadership to white male”). And that is why Stern left.

Mary –

Yes, Stern is not enough to be a “classic”, but old enough to be ignored by many of the youngest readers. He is not whimsical and innocent enough to be considered retro and, like you said, not edgy enough to be considered cool.

I meant Stern is not OLD enough to be considered classic, but old enough to be ignored by younger readers.

Thanks Travis for the info ….I rarely get to the East so maybe I will have to wait and see if he ever comes to Chicago.

@Mary: Beat me to it! I was going to point out that Rama Tut was an incarnation of Kang/Immortus.

Yep, great list, there’s really no way to go wrong with Stern. I’m happy that a whopping four of my choices made the top 10 (would have been five, but I figured everybody would be voting for the Spidey/Juggernaut story and it placed quite highly, which is nice). I still regret not having read many of Stern’s Dr. Strange stories, and none of his famed Avengers run. That needs to be remedied, somehow.
Like Emmanuel Seyman, I also voted for Lost Generation – I think that’s a really fun, and really underrated story. Strern and Byrne are truly a comics dream-team.
kisskissbangbang (great handle, by the way) – I love that Ringer story in Spectacular SM as well, and put the entire 3-issue arc that it started on my list. Also voted for that Gideon Mace/Herokiller story from Spectacular 50-52 as well.

Ha! I’ve never read a single one of those – so maybe Stern is a better writer than I gave him credit for and I’ve just read his lesser stuff.

I didn’t know that Gruenwald specifically wanted Captain America to lead the Avengers to boost Cap sales (pretty self-serving as he was writing that book) but I did read that making Captain Marvel unfit to lead the team was very much a direction Gruenwald was pushing for, and that is what Stern took issue with, as she was kind of his baby and he had written her superhero evolution with such care.

Sure enough, when he left the book, we saw a subplot of her being indecisive and overwhelmed, with other Avengers questioning her fitness to lead. It did indeed, as noted, send a bad message and was totally inconsistent with the characterization of this formidable hero up to that point. Unfortunate as it was, I think Stern was right to leave rather than contribute to wrecking the character.

(by the way, an example of great Captain Marvel leadership was in issue 265, when the Beyonder has kidnapped Captain America, and Captain Marvel takes the reins, not just leading the rescue but forcing the bickering Hercules and Namor to stop bickering and step in line. The highlight of an otherwise middling Secret Wars II crossover story).

On the flip side, Captain Marvel was relatively inexperienced and had only been an Avenger a short time. It never really made sense for her to lead after such a short time. If Cap’s on the team, he’s going to lead unless a founding Avenger is around.

Ah, Stern. What a great body of work to look over, discuss and debate about.

I was the one who observed on the voting thread that Stern is not mentioned alongside the “greats” like Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, etc. despite the fact that he’s . . . well, just damned good. Some good comments on that up above. Stern is just a damned good mainstream superhero writer who has done some damn good regular runs on some major titles in both universes. However, none of his work is generally considered “definitive”, probably because he didn’t offer anything “new” or “controversial” or, as someone put it, “grim and gritty”. I’ll say one thing though, the comics world could use a few more writers like Roger Stern nowadays. Quiet excellence. Consistent quality. Stories that make you want to see what happens next w/o having to kill someone off. Those were the comics I fell in love with back in the 80’s and it’s evident that many of you guys feel the same way.

Another defining characteristic of Stern’s career is that there always seems to be some kind of editorial intereference or creative difference that has ended his run on many of these titles, often when he is just hitting stride on them. Oh how I wish he could have stayed on ASM w/ JRJR and given the Hobgoblin saga a fitting ending (Hobgoblins Lives aside). And I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard folks lament the untimely end of his run with Byrne on Cap, or the above-lamented ending to his time on Avengers due to issues on handling Monica Rambeau. Man, why couldn’t they just leave well enough along, acknowledge what a good thing they had going on these titles and let the man do his work! I can’t help but think that we missed out on some quality comics as a result, as I’m sure that Stern left all 3 titles with some good stories in the tank. I suggested in the past the Marvel give him a “Stern Forever” line to go back and pick up those plot threads that were left dangling on ASM, Capt America and Avengers, but I think Stern commented on his own site that he wouldn’t be interested in such an endeavour – that he is only interested in writing “new” stories (which is to his credit).

I think in some ways, the Hobgoblin was propped up by the mystery over who he was. I don’t know if he’d have made a great long term villain once he was revealed. He wasn’t crazy, he wasn’t a thug, he didn’t really have any personal animosity towards Spidey, he avoided unnecessary battles, and was pretty much just about the money. While that’s interesting from a comic book sense, it doesn’t make for a long term villain unless you pretty much take him out of the suit and turn him into a Kingpin-type. The other option would be to drive him crazy, but then they may as well have done The Green Goblin again.

Had the revelation gone as Stern planned, there may have been a future for Roderick Kingsley, but maybe not The Hobgoblin.

@Carl: You say that Hobgoblin didn’t have any personal animosity towards Spidey, but I don’t know if that is necessarily true. That was definitely the case when he first started off as Hobgoblin, but you could make the argument that getting his battle van trashed, his head beat in, and then nearly drowning to death at the bottom of the East River (or was it the Hudson… I forget) is enough cause to make Hobby feel some personal animosity towards Spidey, definitely enough to make it convincing that he would try to get back at (and probably kill off) Spidey.

But in many ways that would more or less make Hobgoblin like a run of mill Spidey villain like The Shocker. They hate him because he messes with their plans. Hobgoblin was different from the run of the mill costumed villain, because he was all business. He didn’t take unnecessary risks and act out of mindless revenge. If you take that away and take the mystery of who he is, then you just have another guy in a suit.

@ Carl: Monica became chair in issue 279, having made her team debut in 227. So she’d been a member – continuously – for 50 issues by this point. Cap didn’t want the job (and was about to become indisposed himself), Thor had other issues at this time (he’d been cursed by Hela and was vunerable), She-Hulk had just returned to the team and isn’t really leadership material, and Doctor Druid had just joined. That leaves just the Black Knight – himself having returned to the modern age & Avengers 30 issues back and Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel was a good choice, and endorsed by Cap himself iirc

Stern’s work with Captain Marvel and the Wasp gave us two of the best female Superheroes ever. Others may have created them but it’s here they stand out. Neither ever function as well again. His She-Hulk & Scarlet Witch aren’t bad either.

In fact, besides Doctor Strange, Fantastic Four & West Coast Avengers, that point in time also ties with the origin of Apocalypse, as seen in The Rise of Apocalypse limited series

Travis Pelkie

May 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I’m reading the comments about Monica Rambeau leading the Avengers, so now I’m interested in finding out what Roger Stern thought of how Ellis handled her in Nextwave. Have to remember to ask next Ithacon.

Some thoughts on one of the qualities that make Roger Stern great:

1. Character salvage/reimagining/restoration:

A. Mister Hyde: By the time that Hyde appeared in CA 251-252, he had degenerated into a joke. A being who had once gone toe to toe with Thor was reduced to fighting Daredevil as part of super-villian goon squads. Stern ended that. His Hyde, as seen in CAPTAIN AMERICA 251-252 and SPIDER-MAN 231-232, was a figure of menace, the dark side of man unleashed .

B. The Beetle: A character even more in need of a makeover: a quasi-joke villian who had been reduced to outright buffoonery. Stern, in SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN #60 turned him into a genuine threat.

C. Juggernaut: Although never a joke, the Juggernaut had never quite reached his full potential as a villian. Stern, in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 229-230, showed us a Juggernaut who truly is unstoppable.

D. She-Hulk: Stern via the She-Hulk’s tenure in the Avengers, turned her into the character that we know today.Ditching cliched angst, he remade her into a fun-loving hero who likes being big and green.

E. Wasp: While respecting her history as a character, Stern showed the inner toughness that Jan possesses during her stint as leader of the Avengers.

F.Black Cat: Stern took Wolfman’s Daddy obsessed psycho and turned her into a viable character.

Stern is the reason I always liked the Wasp.

People who say Janet is just a ditzy stereotype clearly didn’t read Stern’s run.

Rene, what is all the more impressive about Stern’s handling of the Wasp is that he showed her true strength of character without sacrificing her established personality. Another writer (Claremont or Miller say) would have put her through the wringer (Trapped on a desert island, brainwashed by a sadistic madman, etc.) in order to remake her as a tough, “macho” woman. Stern, in contrast, shows us a Wasp who is flirtatious, stylish, and “girly,” but also tough, determined, and smart. Offhand, the only other writer of the period who pulled off a similar feat was Byrne in his treatment of the Invisible Woman.


Mike Loughlin

May 24, 2010 at 5:05 pm

trajan23: what you say is true, Stern had the Wasp change in an organic fashion and become a good character. Shooter, however, put her through the wringer right before Stern’s run, and gave Stern the impetus to rehabilitate the character. Stern gets all the credit for making me me like the Wasp, though, a feat no other Avengers writer has accomplished.

Roger Stern’s not the same type of writer as Moore, Gerber, or Morrison. He’s not out to expand anyone’s consciousness, reinvent iconic figures, or redfine what a comic book can be. Like Waid, Busiek, Englehart, and Ostrander, he’s able to tell teriffic comic book stories without deconstructing or reinventing the underlying concepts. He does excellent character work and plotting, and I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy many of his stories. Anyone unfamiliar with his work would do well to seek out any and all of the comics on this list.

I would love to see a top 10 Avengers, Daredevil, Captain America, and Ben Reilly (just for kicks).

Trajan23, the Black Cat wasn’t a daddy-obsessed psycho under Wolfman. She tried to break her dad out of jail, true, but she was no more psycho than Uncle Ben-obsessed Peter. Then Wolfman left, and Michelinie turned her into a daddy-obsessed psycho.

Trajan –

Yeah, that was particularly cool in the way Stern handled the Wasp. Superhero comics too often fall prey to the bullshit idea that you can’t be both girly AND strong. Well, not only superhero comics, but most adventure fiction, I suppose.

Rene, thanks for the info on why Stern left. I agree he was doing a great job with Monica Rambeau, and there was a controversy going on at that time on whether she was too powerful, and that nobody could defeat her. And well, Stern adressed the issue not only in the Under Siege saga by sending her into the Dark Zone, where she remained lost for several issues, but then in an absolutely brilliant issue afterwards where she had to save some kids trapped on a cave, only she could not use her powers!!! The only way she could use her powers was in her energy form, so she and the kid (kids?) almots fell into an abyss.
Afterwards, we have just witnessed an extended trashing of the character.
As for the Wasp, well, she was extraordinary as a leader when Stern was the writer. I think one of the most memorable battles ever in comics is the Wasp and Ant Man battling Absorbing Man and Titania when they were sent by Zemo to kill Hercules in the hospital. Things don’t get more epic than that!!
And Mary, I agree with your view that he was not dark and gritty enough (after all, this was the time of the Mutant Massacre), but I still think that the fact that he was never paired with a major hot artist was a factor. Romita Jr. started getting hot after his run on the X Men with Claremont, and hotter with Daredevil.
But well, whatever, he deserves some major recognition, in the way of some new writing gigs.

My list :

1. Superman : Time and Time Again

2. Superman : Reign of the Supermen

3. Captain America # 250

4. Doctor Strange # 53

5. Incredible Hulk vs Superman

6. Adv of Superman # 462 Home For the Holidays

7. Amazing Spider-Man # 238-239 1st and 2nd appearances of Hobgoblin

8. Avengers Annual # 13

9. Avengers : Under Siege (Masters of Evil)

10. Captain America # 230

Michael, you are right about the psycho part. Somehow I had conflated the Michelinie run, with its nutjob characterization, with Wolfman’s Daddy obsessed version. I still stand by my assertion that Stern’s take on the character (free-spirited wildchild obsessed with a romantic vision of life on the run) is the definitive one, however.

You know, if you had asked me who my favourite writer of all-time was, I certainly wouldn’t have said Roger Stern… then I look at this list, and I see:

Under Siege
The Trial of Hank Pym
The Original Hobgoblin Sage
Absolute Vision
The Olympus War

If I had to name my 10 all-time favourite comic book stories, those five would be on the list.
So maybe the next time someone asks me who my favourite writer of all-time is, I’m going to have to say Roger Stern. Sometimes you just need to see it all laid out for you before you realize what’s what.

Thanks to you all. This has been very flattering.

Just one correction: I didn’t leave the AVENGERS. I was fired.

Scott Rowland

May 25, 2010 at 10:30 am

I didn’t vote on this one, but I’m satisfied with the results. Mr. Stern has done a lot of great stories. I am surprised that there’s not a bit more love for his DC work, as I enjoyed his Superman, Starman, and Power of the Atom runs, also, as well as his stint on the Legion of Super-heroes. Still, like I said, I’m satisfied with the results.

Two Other points to note: When Marvel and Sears (?) published “The Best of Marvel Comics” red leatherbound book in the late 1980s, Roger Stern had more stories represented than any other single author (except maybe Stan Lee, but I seem to recall, he had more than Stan in that particular book).

Second, Stan Lee singled out “The Kid who Collects Spider-Man” as one of his favorite Spider-Man stories.

Now, will the current editors get on the stick, and give him more work? Thank you.

Mr. Stern,

What an honour for you to reply in this thread. And you being fired from the Avengers explains everything. I remember quite well an issue of Marvel Saga a few moths before you left the title, which gave a preview of where were things heading for each title, and that preview included the plans you had for the Avengers, which included images for Luke Cage and Machine Man.

Thanks for all those riveting, unforgettable stories! And hope to read more from you in the future!

I always wondered why Thor was wearing his classic costume on the cover of issue 277, but in the story he wore the armor which protected his “brittle-as-an-old-woman” cursed bone structure.

[…] screws around, and the Vulture is this crusty old fart who doesn’t like anybody,’ aldus schrijver Roger Stern die the Vulture de ultieme vijand voor Spider-Man […]

Roger’s run on PPTSM was fantastic!

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