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The Greatest Kurt Busiek 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 Kurt Busiek Stories Ever Told!


15. Shockrockets

Busiek and Stuart Immonen combined for this action-packed tale of an elite fighter pilot squad who fly specialized alien ships and basically protect the world – but when an evil general shows up with similar technology, things get crazy. Our POV character is the newest member of the pilot team.

14. Superman #654-658, 662-663, 667, Annual 13 “Camelot Falls”

Camelot Falls revolves around an intriguing dilemma, is civilization MEANT to not rise and fall? Is Superman, in putting off the fall of society, just making its inevitable decline WORSE? A sort of “the bigger they are, the harder they fall” type of situation? That is the dillemma that Superman is faced with in this storyline, when he is informed that his assistance to the world has only made its future decline WORSE. So should Superman fall back? Well, read this storyline by Busiek and Carol Pacheco (plus others) and find out!

13. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City (Vol.2) #10 “Show ‘em All

In this acclaimed one-off issue of Astro City, the villain the Junkman pulls off a major heist. The problem is – he is not getting the CREDIT for the success! So the question becomes, if a villain pulls of a super-crime and no one notices, does it really count? Find out in this issue by Busiek and Brent Anderson (note – I suppose I could have combined the various issues that were collected in Family Album and therefore Family Album would be ranked higher, but pretty much no one voted for the collection, so I’m thinking everyone looked at these issues individually, hence they are ranked that way).

12. Avengers (Vol. 3) #41-55, Avengers Annual 2001 “The Kang Dynasty”

An older Kang from the future, along with his son, Marcus, decides to finally devote ALL of his efforts into once and for all CONQUERING the 21st Century Earth in this epic storyline with art by Alan Davis, Kieron Dwyer, Manuel Garcia and Ivan Reis. Among Kang’s devastation was the death of all the citizens of Washington D.C.!! The Avengers were at their lowest ebb here, but, naturally, they found a way to fight back!

11. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City (Vol.2) #14-20 “Tarnished Angel”

Finally released from prison, former supervillain Steeljack wants to just live the rest of his life as normally as he can, but, of course, that’s quite difficult for a former supervillain who is covered in metal. Busiek examines the prejudices that affect supervillains in Astro City and we see how the best of intentions can not really amount to much when you come down to it. Brent Anderson did a marvelous job on the artwork.

10. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City (Vol.1) #1 “In Dreams”

This is our introduction to Astro City, as we see a day in the life of perhaps its greatest hero, the Samaritan! Like “Family Album,” I suppose I could have collected all the votes for the first mini-series together, but like I said, very few people voted for the collection, while lots and lots of them voted for the individual issues, so I went with the individual issues. If I collected all the votes for the first collection (while knocking off duplicate votes, of course), the first collection would probably rank somewhere around #6 on the list. Brent Anderson drew the issue, and Alex Ross’ designs were integral to the process.

9. Avengers (Vol. 3) #1-3 “The Morgan Conquest”

Along with George Perez, Busiek brought the Avengers back to the Marvel Universe in grand fashion in this story where Morgan Le Fey has manipulated reality so that she is the queen of the world and the Avengers are her servants. However, the power of being an Avenger is shown to outweigh pretty much everything, and the heroes manage to break free from her control and a new era in Avengers greatness is begun!

Story continues below

8. Superman: Secret Identity

Busiek and Stuart Immonen show us what happens when mild-mannered teenager Clark Kent discovers that, just like the fictional Clark Kent in the Superman comics, he DOES have powers! His journey of self-discovery with his powers is wonderfully handled by this terrific creative team.

7. Thunderbolts #1-12

Busiek and Mark Bagley (plus some assistance over the run from Roger Stern and some additional artists) tell the tale of the Thunderbolts, the new superhero team taking the place of the missing Avengers – only they’re secretly the Masters of Evil, plotting to take over the now-Avengers-less Earth! However, some of the Thunderbolts find that they sort of ENJOY being heroes – and when the Avengers return, can the wannabe heroes redeem themselves?

6. Avengers Forever

Busiek and Carlos Pacheco (along with Roger Stern as co-writer for most of the series) tell this sprawling time-travel story of epic proportions as a rag tag team of Avengers plucked from different time periods must team up to stop the machinations of Immortus and his masters, the Time Keepers.

5. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City (Vol.2) #1/2 “The Nearness of You”

This brilliant one-off issue by Busiek and Anderson show how the real-life effects of superhero epic battles, as a man’s wife disappears from existence due to a battle in the past (where her grandfather is killed). A spectral hero gives him the option of remembering a woman he will never see again or having the memories taken from him for good. A touching, beautiful tale.

4. Avengers (Vol. 3) #19-22 “Ultron Unlimited”

The Avengers villain Ultron ups the ante as he takes over his own country, wiping out the human population and populating it with robots!! The Avengers are sent into the fray while, at the same time, Ultron kidnaps a number of Avengers, including his “father” Hank Pym as we learn an important facet of Ultron’s origin story. This is the story that is especially known for Thor’s “Ultron – we would have words with thee” scene. Too cool. George Perez and Al Vey drew the arc.

3. JLA/Avengers

The team-up of the century, as Busiek and George Perez tell this epic tale of the Avengers and the Justice League first being pitted against each other by Krona and the Gamesmaster, before they then team up to take Krona down, who wants to merge the universes of the JLA and the Avengers, which would destroy them both.

2. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City (Vol.2) #4-9 “Confession”

This storyline, written by Busiek with art by Anderson (Ross, of course, on covers and designs) examines the world of sidekicks, as a young man becomes the sidekick to the mysterious Confessor. When he discovers the Confessor’s secret, well, it is quite interesting. I don’t feel like spoiling it. Of course, while this story is going on, Busiek manages to weave lots of other stories together, as Astro City is very much a tapestry of tales.

1. Marvels

Busiek and Alex Ross re-examine the Golden and Silver Ages of Marvel Comics in this story, with the age of heroes being viewed through the eyes of “everyman” photographer Phil Shelton. The comic that launched Alex Ross’ career!

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!


“Confession” as the highest-ranked Astro City storyline? Wow. I did not expect that at all. I really thought it would be “In Dreams.”

RE: Tarnished Angel stars Steeljack, not Steeplejack.

Wow, for once I’ve read nearly everything on the list. (Only thing I haven’t is the Thunderbolts story. And hopefully Marvel will start releasing some Thunderbolts Classics trades.) Kurt is just such a consistently good writer.

I adored Shockrockets and was sad that it never continued. It was a vibrant world that deserved a longer life.

I expected Nearness of You to do a lot better. Still, it’s hard to complain about the list as he’s got about 10 stories deserving of the #1 spot.

Glad Shockrockets made it and sorry I wasn’t able to make room for it on mine. I’m sorry of a lot I didn’t make room for.

The only thing that’s sad about the list to me is that none of his excellent Spider-Man work made the top 15. The lack of Conan is also a bit sad. But it’s hard to point to anything I’d want to see go. (I haven’t read that Superman story, but it sounds excellent)

Ah well.

Honestly, this was a hard list to make. I immediately thought of 6 Astro City stories and 5 Avengers stories I thought the list would be incomplete without. But that’s no good. I settled on 2 Avengers stories and 4 Astro City stories. But was very sad to not include “The Scoop” or any of his Avengers with Perez.

My list:

1. Nearness of You; Astro City #1/2
2. In Dreams; Astro City (vol. 1) #1
3. Marvels; Marvels #0-4 (A failure to include issue 0 will make me angry)
4. Avengers Forever
5. Confession; Astro City (vol. 2) #4-9
6. Amazing Fantasy #16-18
7. Born on the Battlefield; Conan #8,15,23,32,45,46
8. Tarnished Angel; Astro city (vol. 2) #14-20
9. JLA/Avengers
10. Thunderbolts #1-12

If we’re including minor corrections, first, it’s “The Nearness of You”. (The title is a reference to a jazz song.)

Secondly, his wife’s grandfather isn’t killed by the changes in time. Instead, her grandparents simply never met. Although, that might not be so minor of a correction, since dealing with nonexistence rather than death is part of the core of the story.

To be fair, rereading “The Nearness of You” makes me feel like a jerk for pointing out such trivia, when other things are more important. It’s striking how powerful how strong a tale it is, and it fully deserves its slot despite being one of the shortest stories on any of the lists so far. (Off the top of my head, only the Deadman/Supergirl Christmas story is as short, and it covers a lot of the same ground.)

I just like to apologize to Brian for my “no particular order” vote. I didn’t know I was supposed to rank ‘em.

Marvels (no explanation needed)

JLA/Avengers (ditto)

Astro City#1: “In Dreams” (I remember that day I got this; Jerry Garcia died, and I got to see Jimmy Fallon and Shaggy on Conan O’Brien’s show)

Astro City #2: “The Scoop” (I just got “Silver Age”/”Silver Agent” at the end of the “Dark Age” story. Plus how could you not like the Bouncing Beatnik?)

Astro City #3: “A Little Knowledge” (this was the story that got my first letter printed in KBAC. It’s about a low-level hood finding out Jack-In-The-Box’s secret identity, and what that entails)

Astro City #6: “Dinner At Eight” (The Samaritan/Winged Victory date issue. Great closer for the first series)

Astro City #1/2: “The Nearness Of You” (got the Wizard and printed copies, AND got a letter printed in this. High-minded stuff, and we get a little more of the Hanged Man)

Astro City #1 (v2): “Welcome To Astro City” (aka The One Where All The Neighbors Band Together During And After A Crisis. Also the first appearance of The Gentleman)

Astro City #4-9 (v2): “Confession” (no explanation needed. I think the Astra story was #11 on my list)

Astro City #11-12 (v2): “Serpent’s Teeth”/”Father’s Day” (clever story where Jack-In-The-Box’s legacy is tarnished, and he figures out a way to make things right)

I guess I don’t get enough Busiek in my life, and I couldn’t think of much else beyond AC/KBAC.

I… haven’t read any of these. Man, I suck.

The best Busiek story I have read is Amazing Fantasy #16.

My thoughts on the top 10:

10.ASTRO CITY 1: Solid pick.

9: AVENGERS 1-3: Good choice. Fabulous art from Perez.

8. SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY: Clever idea, well executed.

7. THUNDERBOLTS 1-12: Classic storytelling.MARVEL, you need to collect Busiek’s complete run right now!

6. AVENGERS FOREVER: Hugely enjoyable (Busiek and Stern seem to make a geat team). A bit heavy on the continuity porn, though.

5. ASTRO CITY 1/2: Solid pick.

4. AVENGERS 19-22: A solid choice.Another example of Busiek’s Sternlike ability to employ an idea that is so obvious that no one else has ever thought of it (Anti-Metal vs. adamantium!). Still more breathtaking art from Perez.

3. JLA/AVENGERS: A solid effort, although a bit too derivitive, at times, of Englehart’s classic AVENGERS/DEFENDERS WAR. More grist for fanboyish arguments (E.g, how could Superman stop a magic hammer, a la Count Nefaria, with his bare hand?). Again, beautiful art from Perez.

2. ASTRO CITY 4-9: Another good choice (Frankly, all of Busiek’s ASTRO CITY stuff is worth reading).

1. MARVELS: Excellent choice as number one. Beautiful combination of words and art. The right way to use continuity for maximum effect (E.g., note how Busiek links the flooding of New York and the reference to doomsday cults in AVENGERS 26-27 to his handling of the Galactus storyline in MARVELS #3).

Quibbles: Frankly, I would have expected Busiek’s IRON MAN: THE AGE OF IRON to have cracked the top 15. Although his run on IM was rather disappointing, Busiek’s scripting on the mini-series was outstanding, fully the equal of his work on MARVELS.

Boy, this is a great list. It is also a pretty solid case that certain creators go better together. Busiek raises the level of work produced by Brent Anderson, Stuart Immonen, Carlos Pacheo and Alex Ross. The reverse is also true.

Glad Tarnished Angel got mentioned. Someone lent me those issues years ago, and I just recently found them cheap, and they hold up nicely. Very touching human pathos while still full of those fun superhero tropes Busiek’s so great at playing with.

I included Thunderbolts no. 1 because it was such a well-executed twist, but I’ve never read his run beyond issue 2 (and 0 and -1). I’d love to collect all of those first twelve someday!

Also, did Busiek write Superstar for Gorilla Comics? I never read it but the premise sounded very cool (superhero who is powered by his popularity with the public). How long did it last and was it good?

Very surprised that “Nearness of You” isn’t at the top of this list, but then again, I suppose a lot more people have read Marvels and the other comics than Astro City #1/2. Even with collection in trade format, the fact that this was released as a Wizard promotion probably limited its exposure. Maybe my favorite superhero comic ever.

Do not like Marvels at all.

dhole: Superstar only has one GN and a B&W ashcan preview of the GN. It’s good. A great concept, and I hope it gets revisited someday.

Holly Martins

May 29, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I picked a few no-brainers, and then a few that I figured wouldn’t get many (or any) votes, but could foreseeably use an extra push.

1. Astro City 1/2 “The Nearness of You”
2. Marvels # 1-4
3. Superman: Secret Identity
4. Astro City #4-9 “Confession”
5. Avengers vol.3 #19-22 “Ultron Unlimited”
6. Astro City # 10 “Show ‘Em All”
7. Superman # 659 “Angels”
8. Astro City Special: Beautie
9. Avengers vol.3 #23 “Showdown!”
10. Avengers Annual # 19 back-up “The Day the Strangers Came”

I’d say that one “Angels” issue of Superman is better than “Camelot Falls”, which I did love. Maybe it’s because when “Camelot Falls” came out, it was pretty delayed, and kinda lurched a bit. I’m sure it reads better in one sitting. “Angels” was like a really good “Astro City” story starring Superman.

But there’s nothing I’d take off the list in favor of my own picks. He’s my favorite comics writer, along with Alan Moore. And I haven’t even read Untold Tales of Spider-Man yet. I’m surprised there’s been no mention of Arrowsmith yet.

I really think Astro City #1/2 is his best work though, certainly better than JLA/Avengers, and I believe he’s called it his own favorite. Although I will admit JLA/Avengers # 3 made me cry. Maybe the least manly moment of my life, now that I think of it.

Adam Weissman

May 29, 2010 at 3:52 pm

Never any love for The Legend of Wonder Woman…or Arrowsmith, apparently.

I think Arrowsmith should have made an appearance . . . .

Busiek’s done a lot of stuff, and not all of it could be in the top 15. I didn’t think of Superstar, Arrowsmith, or the Red Tornado miniseries he did early in his career. And while I did get Alejandro Cruz sketch from Stuart Immonen in 2000, I didn’t think Shockrockets rated that high.

I really surprised that JLA/Avengers was so high. I didn’t know that anyone really liked that mini.

I’ve never been able to really like Marvels. In my opinion, Alex Ross’s photorealistic art simply doesn’t work with comic book storytelling; it’s stiff, non-dynamic, lifeless. Also, while the story itself is well written, it sometimes becomes too much of nostalgia fetishism. Marvels is a comic that can’t be appreciated unless you have extensive knowledge of the history of Marvel universe.

Personally, I’d rate The Kang Dynasty higher than the Morgana arc and even Ultron Unlimited. The Kang Dynasty was an epic, long-running superhero story the way they’re meant to be done. The only real flaw in it was that Busiek tried to resolve the Triune Understanding storyline in the same arc, which felt extraneous. But the final issue of the Kang arc was one of the most impressive superhero comics I’ve read. Kang’s invasion has already been defeated, so you’d think there’s not much left to tell, but Busiek takes the story to its cold yet inevitable conclusion. The ending is even more chilling because Busiek Avenger’s run had mostly had an optimistic, old-school tone. There’s a lesson there: dark stuff like this feels more impressive when it’s in contrast with lighter material. If you keep batting the readers’ heads with one dark and gritty story after another, they lose their effect because there’s no contrast.

I haven’t read enough Busiek to feel qualified to vote. I have read a few issues of Avengers and Thunderbolts, plus a couple of lousy Spider-Man Unlimited stories.
If I had to choose something from my limited knowledge, I think I’d go with the Avengers issue with the Beast (I think it was #13 or #14), or the Thunderbolts with Hawkeye kissing Moonstone on the cover.

Yeah, spot on characterization and (Gorgeous) George Perez artwork popular aren’t very popular around these parts. Now Civil War! That’s a mothafuckin’ mini, amiright? And Secret Invasion!! Woohoo!! Perez should apprentice under Yu. Old fashioned= stinky feet Anything new = totally hot. lol rofl omg ikr

I really surprised.

This list is wrong.
“The Nearness of You” is perhaps the greatest comic i have ever read. Brian, can you fix the list? I’m sure that it should be #1 ;-]
Seriously, it was my #1, by a wide margin & Busiek is my favorite writer. i haven’t read everything by him [but that would take a while, as he’s written tons!], but i have all his AC, Avengers, Thunderbolts, Marvels, Superstar [GN and the preview], and bunches of other stuff.
i would love to see the entire list for this one, as i’m a huge fan/geek. i left a message at his site asking for more Shockrockets, but he’s doing other stuff.
Did anyone else vote for ‘The Wizard’s Tale’ with art by David Wenzel? It’s an OGN with a very sweet story. Check it out if you haven’t seen it yet.

i actually didn’t LOVE JLA/Avengers, as it felt a bit formulaic to me, but it was such great fun that i was happy with it. It held up better for me as i read it a second time. i think that i expected the greatest comic ever, and when it wasn’t that, i felt a bit let down.

About 6 months before it came out, we had George Perez at our store in the SF Bay Area, and he brought some 8×11 scans [which he wasn’t supposed to show] and he let us see the first 6-8 pages. It was one of the coolest things ever. To see the art before almost anyone else was so great! It was where the JLA fought a huge Avengers baddie [i forget who] & the Avengers were fighting Starro. Great stuff!

By the way, Perez is super nice & i had the chance to talk with him for over an hour. Highlight of my comics career!

“In this acclaimed one-off issue of Astro City, the villain the Junkman pulls off a major heist. The problem is – he is not getting the CREDIT for the success! So the question becomes, if a villain pulls of a super-crime and no one notices, does it really count?”

Hadn’t read this one, but that’s not an original set up — it’s the original, pre-Crisis story of Poison Ivy. In her first appearance she explains she’s the world’s greatest thie., But because she’s so good at her job, nobody knows who she is and what crimes she has committed. So she adopts a costumed identity and starts making public heists to feed her ego.

Nice cover for the story — reminds me of Scrooge McDuck in his money vault.

World’s greatest thief.

I agree about The Nearness of You. Wonderful story. The “epic battle” in the story would have been a six-issue EVENT! in the DC or Marvel universe; here it takes up about a page, because it’s not what the story centers on. Astro City is best when focussing on the smaller things instead of the big fight; this is why the recent Dark Age fell mostly flat with me. Too much action, and the emotional attachment we make to the characters suffered.

Look at the issues that made the list. A supervillan who pulls off the perfect crime and realizes it’s no good without the acclaim. The Superman type who flies all of the time but only enjoys it in his sleep. The sequence in Tarnished Angel where Steeljack visits the families of the dead criminals and sees what their lives were like. Or a few not listed: the Beauty story, Dinner at Eight, A Little Knowledge, or Shining Armor. The action is in the background while the characters stay at the center.

I was amused by Avengers/JLA but wouldn’t list it here. Thunderbolts was brilliant…damn you Kurt Busiek for making me care about Abe Jenkins and Melissa Gold and Erik Josten. All I ever needed them to be were punching bags; why did you have to make them interesting people? My jaw literally dropped when I read that last-page reveal in Thunderbolts #1.

I flat-out loved JLA/Avengers. It’s my second-favorite DC/Marvel crossover, and that’s only because Batman/Hulk is such a hard act to follow. What I love about JLA/Avengers is that every previous crossover treated the two worlds as if they’re completely equivalent, but this one really addressed the differences between the two worlds in a really smart way. Plus it’s just such a fun mini — when I can’t sleep because I’m stressed out about something and my mind is racing, I’ll reread JLA/Avengers just to get me thinking about something more pleasant.

I didn’t vote in this one because I know Busiek’s written a lot of great stuff I haven’t read (like his Avengers run), but I have to say, I loved his early work on Power Man & Iron Fist, especially #105.

Yeah, Busiek can be pretty…workmanlike…for me a lot of the time, especially when working on Big Two properties. JLA/Avengers is a perfect example – it’s decent and has fun moments, but it’s exactly what you’d expect. Without the notoriety of the players or the historic business events behind it, it’s a stock 70s era superhero story.

And maybe that’s why he’s able to craft such powerful stories that look at “stock 70s era superhero stories” from a different perspective. I’m glad that he does that in the creator owned Astro City instead of in work-for-hire; it also works a lot better for me there (I’m not a HUGE Marvels fan, either).

Which is a long way of saying I’m shocked the “Tarnished Angel” didn’t crack the top ten. I love that story.

I’ve always felt pretty bad that I haven’t read any Astro City, and now I feel worse. They’ll be the next set of trades I pick up after the three or four different ones I’m working on now.

To kind of balance the Avengers/JLA opinions (I never realized so many people didn’t like it or were indifferent to it): Several people I’ve given it to, most of whom barely know Batman and Superman, took to it with a passion. Sure, that led to a lot of phone calls asking me to explain who belongs in what headquarters/when/where/why kind of stuff, but even non-fans give it back having loved it. Personally I enjoyed the hell out of it, realized I didn’t know nearly as much DC stuff as I thought after reading it. And how can you not love the cover to #4? GIves me chills every time.

Ultron Unlimited was a fun, quick way to re-energize a villain we’d seen dozens of times before and make him even more of a threat. Having liked JLA/Avengers, this may sound weird, but I can’t read the Morgan LeFay story without feeling like there’s too dam many characters in it. I like it, it looks great, and it was a good way to get everyone back into things and together after Heroes Reborn, it just always feels cluttered to me.

And finally… Kang Dynasty, how do I love thee? Easily my favorite Avengers story of all time. I just re-read it the other day, thinking it would take me forever when I pulled the hefty stack of books out of their box, and finished it in a night. Callbacks to team history (Carol/Marcus), advancing/resolving running storylines (Triune Understanding, Triathalon, Hank’s doppleganger/mental issues), drawing on everything the MU has to offer (Deviants, Torg and the Atlanteans, Master of the World, etc.), and showcasing the brilliance and nobility of a classic but potentially goofy villain. The last two issues alone have simultaneous pitched space and ground battles with the entire team going all-out, Kang and Captain America duking it out as giant holograms, Damoclese Base being ripped out of the sky and plummeting to Earth WITH Kang screaming his defiance on the way down, a real Kang/Cap rematch, and it all wraps up with an incredible several-page look into how Kang’s mind works and his biggest, most personal defeat. My two complaints: The mostly Wanda/Simon issue always drags a little for me, especially coming in right at the end, and Cap’s “miserable, jacked-up little tin Hitler” line during an otherwise mind-blowing cliff-hanger. To me, any time he mentions Hitler usually feels forced unless he’s fighting the Skull. Yes, he’s one of the most evil people in Earth’s history, but this is a guy who’s enslaved thousands of timelines. I think we can agree that’s several orders of magnitude worse. Still, on any Busiek list, always my #1 (unless Astro City completely melts my brain when I get around to it).

1. Astro City 1/2
2. JLA/ Avengers
3. Avengers: Ultron Unlimited
4. Astro City: Confessions
5. Astro City: Tarnished Angel
6. Astro City vol 1 #1 (Samaritan)
7. Astro City vol 2 # 10 (Junkman)
8. Astro City vol 2 #1-3 (Astra)
9. Astro City vol 1 #6 (Dinner at Night)
10. Avengers Forever

Astro City! The latest stories are still excellent, but Tarnished Angel, Confession, In Dreams, and Nearness of You are unequaled. I also like Show’ Em All, but I think it’s a cute and clever gem, intead of a great tale. But there is no bad Astro City. Even the inferior Astro City stories are wonderful.

I didn’t read Shockrockets, but I love everything else in this list, except for JLA/Avengers, Avengers Forever, and the Morgan Conquest.

No, I don’t dislike JLA/Avengers because it’s old-fashioned. I dislike it because I feel it has no heart. It’s intriguing how Kurt can write something so touching and heart-felt as The Tarnished Angel or Marvels and then turn around and produce something so lifeless as JLA/Avengers.

My theory? Kurt is so devoted and in love with these characters, that he is like the guy who has desired and loved a woman his whole life, and when he finally gets to go on a date with the woman, he is so reverential and proper to her that the sparks simply do not fly.

I felt Morgan Conquest was a bit like that too. So reverential to the idea of the Avengers that it became by-the-numbers. But something wonderful happened as Kurt kept writing the Avengers, as he no longer replicated the past, but managed to surpass it, as he crafted some of the bigger, most epic, most awesome Ultron and Kang stories you ever saw.

Thunderbolts and Secret Identity are not Astro City tales, but they could be. Very personal stories, by a master that knows the genre so well that he can play with it like no other writer.

Camelot Falls is more irregular (the dark alternate future bit was very by-the-numbers), but overall I enjoyed it.

Avengers Forever I think is even worse than JLA/Avengers. Something that is written to reconcile continuity errors while simultaneously making this continuity even more intricate is a work of demented fan fiction, not something I expect to see published professionaly.

Yes, I know it’s strange. Kurt has written some of my favorite stories EVER, but there are at least two of his so-called greatest works that I just can’t stand.

Never voted on this one, which is odd because I’ve read a lot of Busiek but then again, I haven’t. I started a list which would have had Thunderbolts, JLA/Avengers, Marvels, and Confession on it (all were in my top 5). Number 5 was “What if Punisher had killed Daredevil?” from What If 2nd series #26 (highly recommend a look; it’s a very good Punisher/Kingpin story that’s easily one of my favorite What ifs?).

And then I hit a wall. I looked at that story as my personal one personal indulgence for the list that I knew would probably not make it, and then realized anything else was typically a one-shot stories or incomplete arcs since I’ve never really followed Avengers or Astro City at length, nor Superman. So, really, I just wound up abstaining.

Still, looks like there is some interesting stuff here, so maybe I’ll give some of these a shot.

“In Dreams” is not just my favorite Busiek story, it’s one of my all-time favorite single issues of anything.

I got burned out on Astro City fairly quickly, so I didn’t like the other stories from there that ended up on this list as much as others, but “In Dreams”–and really, all of vol. 1–ranks pretty highly for me.

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 29, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Did not read Avengers: Ultron Unlimited or the Kang Dynasty, nor did I read Superman: Camelot Falls.

All the rest of the list, and some not listed, I have read.

Maybe one day, I’ll get those Avengers by Busiek/Perez. Bet they’ll make better reading than any Avengers by Bendis.

Rene . . . I think JLA/Avengers has loads of heart. Busiek put a lot of thought into the premise, and I think he put a lot into it. I especially liked Hawkeye thinking the JLA were a bunch of brainwashed Squadron Supreme wannabes, because that was part of a suggestion put out by Wizard.

I miss Astro City as “appointment reading.” I don’t know if it’s from the sporadic scheduling due to Busiek’s health or that he peaked in the late Nineties. I thought “The Dark Age” was okay, but I didn’t think it was special. The Beautie special? That was more like it. And right now, I can’t believe I forgot about the Samaritan/Infidel one-shot.

Dang…I really need to read Astro City!!!

Marvels for number one? Couldn’t have picked it better myself. That story is one of my favorite GNs and is a great example of what comics can be.

Really surprised to not see any of Kurt’s stellar Conan work on here, but oh well…

“Hadn’t read this one, but that’s not an original set up — it’s the original, pre-Crisis story of Poison Ivy. In her first appearance she explains she’s the world’s greatest thief., But because she’s so good at her job, nobody knows who she is and what crimes she has committed. So she adopts a costumed identity and starts making public heists to feed her ego.”

That’s not really the set-up or the whole set-up. The Junkman was an elderly man, forced into retirement by his company for being to antiquated and cast aside by society. So, he started a career as a super villian to get back at the world and after 20 years pulls off “The Perfect Heist.” Then it goes into the problems of actually pulling off the perfect heist, while nobody knows and all the capes still get all of the glory…Similar concepts, but different

Great list, though I must be the only one who loves the Morgan Conquest (and, actually, issues 1-12 of that Avengers run) more than the Ultron saga!

Damn, I never saw that Kurt Busiek was up for voting. I totally would have voted for this one.

Glad to see some love for Astro City 1/2. One of the best single issue, or half issue really, stories ever written. I am surprised the Samaritan/Infidel issue didn’t make the top 15. I’m not surprised to see Marvels as #1, I think it deserves it’s spot as an all-time classic, but I don’t know if it even would have made my top 10. I’m such a fan of his Avengers and Astro City stuff that those would have taken up at least 8 of my 10 spots, if not all 10.

Tom –

I think Bendis is a great writer, but he is strictly a one-genre writer. He does crime/suspense stories very well. But he just can’t write big superhero battles. And that is a big part of the appeal of the Avengers. Bendis and Avengers are the greatest mismatch in the story of comics, but what can we do? The dude sells.

Avengers Forever was one of the first superhero comics I’d ever read. Loved it then, may have to re-read it when I’m finished reading Tom Strong.

Travis Pelkie

May 29, 2010 at 11:53 pm

I’m surprised there’s not really much love for Untold Tales of Spider Man. UT motivated me to buy the Amazing SpiderMan annual that just came out, because of the Busiek/Oliffe Untold Tale in it. Although I suppose it’s hampered by having only 1 collection, and by the fact that I can’t really point out any one issue as the best. Scratch that, just thought of the annual that had Allred art, with Spidey on a date with the Invisible Girl. Maybe the Bluebird issue, or the MJ issue. Of course, another favorite, the minus 1 issue, had no Busiek work (but did have a Roger Stern main story).

I’m kinda surprised Camelot Falls made it though.


Regarding Bendis, I could not agree more. He is simply not right for the AVENGERS. His best MARVEL work, by far, is ALIAS, a book ideally suited for his talents.

i only wish from this list that marvel started doing “ultimate collection” trades of his entire T-Bolts and Avengers runs. Especially because the Avengers Assemble hardcovers are becoming harder to find.

The only Untold Tales story I ever bought was the annual. And yeah, it was good, but I forgot about it, loading up on Astro City instead. I hope it got some support . . . there was even a recipe for Aunt May’s wheatcakes! How can you beat that?

I tend not to vote on polls like this because my memory sucks- it’s too much work to remember everything I liked about a particular character or creator’s stories, much less order them by quality.

Still, I loved reading this list because it reminded me of all that was great in comics, from continuity-exploiting material like JLA/Avengers to personal stories of minor characters as in Astro City. These days most superhero comics feel everything from mediocre to disgusting, as if the current creators cannot think of a way to give them realism except by saying “Oh yeah life sucks in their world too.” That’s NOT why I read comics for at all, thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Busiek, for having gone beyond the call of a comic writer’s duty and given us not only fun stories to read, but meaningful ones as well. :)

Tom Fitzpatrick

May 30, 2010 at 8:27 am


Have yet to check out SCARLETT.

Thanks for all the very, very, VERY kind words, folks. Much appreciated, and I’m glad you like so many projects I’ve worked on.

And my apologies, but my freelancer’s knee jerked, so I have to make a correction:

“I especially liked Hawkeye thinking the JLA were a bunch of brainwashed Squadron Supreme wannabes, because that was part of a suggestion put out by Wizard.”

No, it wasn’t. It appeared in WIZARD before it did in the comic, but that’s because they interviewed me about what I’d do with a crossover if and when, before it existed. And then when the project got under way, they “suggested” my own gag back at me. Rassafrassa!



May 30, 2010 at 1:28 pm

Especially glad to see The Kang Dynasty on the list. Somehow, I’d gotten the impression that it wasn’t a big favorite with most fans, and didn’t expect to see it, but even though it only made 12th, that means there has to be somebody else as impressed with it as I was. Props to tuomas and Lou for their praise of it.

And to briefly remount a soapbox I was on recently in another of these comments columns, why isn’t this immensely consequential story ever referenced in the Marvelverse? Practically everyone in Washington, D. C. was killed when it was destroyed. That makes 9/11 pale in the Marvelverse by comparison. I want to be careful here, and am not trying to imply anything about 9/11’s significance in the real world, or deny that it would be tragic in any universe. But since the destruction of Washington wasn’t undone, this pretty much has to be the worst thing that ever happened to Marvel-America, and the Avenger’s surrender afterwards pretty much has to be their lowest ebb. Yet nobody ever broods, or weeps, or agonizes over it, not even Captain America. Norman Osborn’s tenure as head of HAMMER affects practically every book at Marvel, but this far more traumatic event is never even mentioned by any other series. It just baffles me.

And I want to second everyone else’s comments on Astro City & Marvels & Secret Identity & the like. Great as the stuff like Avengers/JLA is, his intimate stuff is even greater. But the earthshaking stuff deserves praise, too, especially The Kang Dynasty. Perhaps, if Kurt ever does a Marvels-type story set in a more recent timeframe, he can show us how the people-in-the-Marvel-street reacted to this horrific event, since it seems unlikely anyone else ever will.

Kurt I am a big Avengers fan. I did not know you did so much stuff beloved by me. I was late to the party with Astro City but I have enjoyed all of that. Thank you for entertaining me so well.

The true crime here is that Marvel collected Thunderbolts #0-8 but never collected the second half to Busiek’s opening arc, depriving those never grabbed the individual issues (especially #10) of the exact moments when the former villains actually started to believe that they could be heroes….

I commend them on finally starting to release Busiek’s New Warriors collections….

Damn, I know there have been Shockrockets collections before but like Superman Secret Identity, those ALWAYS sell out here in NYC… No better testament to the quality work of Busiek…

Now I have a hankering to pull out my Astro City trades and read them in order as I watch the Coca Cola 600…

Thx Brian and Kurt….

Consider myself corrected, Kurt. And thanks for the abundance of work.

Kisskissbangbang– That’s why I don’t like to ever see massive destruction in Marvel stories.

kisskissbangbang –

I think the story was written in a time when it seemed like every Marvel comic existed in its own sub-universe (and I don’t know if that is better or worse than the super-connected, event-driven Marvel Universe we got now).

As for why it isn’t referenced now, I’d say it’s the same reason a lot of other stories are similarly relegated to semi-limbo. Seems to me that, as far as Bendis is concerned, the Avengers history that matters ended in the very early-1980s with Pym’s break-up. Nothing that came after really counts. The 1990s and early 2000s are all-but-erased.

The exception is Byrne’s stint on West Coast Avengers, that Bendis sort of validated, while ignoring everything that came after that.

Tornado Ninja Fan

May 30, 2010 at 3:02 pm

Shouldn’t the title be “The Greatest Stories Kurt Busiek Ever Told!”?

Mike Loughlin

May 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm

I can’t believe I completely forgot about Avengers Forever, Marvels, & Conan (issue 28 was amazing). Still, everything I voted for made the top 15 except for:

– The Astro City Samaritan special. What a great look into the roots of the conflict between a hero and villain, incorporating issues of faith vs. science and cultural conflicts! One of my favorite Astro City stories.

– Untold Tales of Spider-Man: the Bluebird storyline. With Untold Tales, Busiek & Oliffe got me interested in the Lee/ Ditko Spider-Man comics, and it was hard to pick a favorite story. The fate of Bluebird was heartbreaking, and seeing Spider-Man deal with it was quite moving.


May 30, 2010 at 8:16 pm

Love it.

Love it all.

Didn’t Busiek come up with the idea for resurrecting Jean Grey? I guess everyone can argue over whether that was a good idea or a bad one. It certainly had a lot of repurcussions, though.

Gah. Secret Identity needs to be much higher on this list. Ah well, at least it’s there…

There’s another reason I like Busiek: he actually BOTHERS to show up in threads to explain his motives, or just to THANK people for liking his work. How many creators in comics today do that? :)

As for the destruction of Washington, I’m pretty sure I read somewhere a Marvel editor state (when it was brought up around the time of Civil War) that, as with other stories involving time travel, at some point history was “changed” so that the destruction was minimal. Not having read the story myself yet, I don’t know if this is correct, or if it was in some other story. In any case, destroying such a major city permanently is not good if you want to maintain a veer of reality on your universe.

(At least with AMERICAN cities. DC blew up Montevideo (in the DC One Million crossover) but no one ever mentions it. Biased? American comics? Naaah!)

The Nearness of You was robbed – It is one of the best stories of all time for me. The biggest shock however is that Arrowsmith doesn’t appear at all.

I’m surprised Secret Identity didn’t place higher too.

Personally I couldn’t stand (and couldn’t understand if I’m honest) Avengers Forever, but I suspect that’s because I’m more of a DC guy. I’d probably love a similar project set in the DCU.

Camelot Falls is the only thing here that I haven’t read.

Man, these are some good stories.

The #2 kind of threw me, though. “Confession” was great but there are better Astro City stories. That Hangman story from #0 (or was that #1/2?) was better and it didn’t even make the list.

Happy to see Secret Identity in the top ten.

Here is a question: what is the ratio of great in-continuity (at the time of publication) to out-of-continuity Superman stories? 50-50?

Of the top of my head, I would say say maybe 30-70 with the Lion’s Share being toward the Imaginary-Elseworlds-Alternate Earth versions. Is there another character that is remotely like that?

@ Anonymous:

i think that ‘Hangman’ story from #0 or !/2 is the story ‘Nearness of You’ that has been referenced many times so far. i don’t remember a #0 for AC, but there is the 1/2 issue which has ‘The Hanged Man’ visiting a man who remembers a woman who never existed.

Could that be the story that you are thinking of? If not, can you tell us a bit more? With so many fans here, i bet we could help you out. Thanks,

uhhh.. Arrowsmith?

Without raining on the parade too much, I think I can nominate “Shattered Image” as one of the worst things, if not THE worst, that Busiek has ever done. Probably not his fault, considering I assume he was asked to work in the entire Image universe at the time, from the great iconic characters to the way-too-nineties horsecrap. I went to a party where people were giving away their old comics as door-prizes (yeah, my friends are awesome) and was given the whole mini in my grab-bag. I was excited when I saw his name on the cover, and then disappointed when I read the interior. Ugh.

Astro City #1/2 – such an amazing story and happy to see his labor of love rank so often here. Not surprised at Marvels that is #1 even though for me I only thinks it’s just OK.

holy crap – marvels is frikkin boring.
not a good choice for #1,


What about Busieks Iron Man run? It comes out in Omnibus soon, and I think about getting it. Was it a cool run?
My favorite stuff from him was his HIGHLY underrated Superman run, including Camelot Falls, Avengers Assemle and JLA/Avengers.

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