O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
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 Mark Waid Stories Ever Told!
15. Ruse #1-12
Waid wrote the first nine issues of Ruse (plus plots for the next three issues), a clever series with wonderful artwork by Butch Guice and Mike Perkins about the brilliant detective Simon Archard and his assistant, Emma Bishop, who hides a secret. The series is set on a planet that is basically just like Victorian England, so imagine the comic is just set during Victorian England. There were a bunch of one-off mysteries mixed in with an overall plot involving the search for the mysterious Enigmatic Prism.
14. Flash #108-111, Impulse #10-11 “Dead Heat”
In this crossover with the Flash spin-off, Impulse (both titles were written by Waid at the time), a villain named Savitar is trying to take control of the Speed Force for himself – almost all of Wally’s speedster allies have their speed stolen, leaving it to Wally to take down Savitar – but Savitar is more prepared than Wally ever could imagine, leading to a speedster making the ultimate sacrifice to save the rest. Oscar Jimenez and Humberto Ramos drew the story (Jimenez the Flash issues, Ramos the Impulse ones).
13. Fantastic Four #60 “Inside Out”
Waid and the late, great Mike Wieringo began their acclaimed Fantastic Four run with this special one-off nine-cent issue that gave us the hidden (and heartfelt) origin of exactly why Reed Richards chose to call himself “Mister Fantastic.”
12. JLA #18-19 “The Strange Case of Dr. Julian September”
In this acclaimed two-issue fill-in for Grant Morrison (which made it painfully obvious that Waid should be the successor to Morrison should Morrison ever leave the book, so it was great that that actually DID happen), Waid and the book’s regular artist, Howard Porter, tell the story of the extremely unlucky Julian September, who ends up discovering a way to change his luck, but not without causing massive and destructive ripples in reality. Can the JLA stop him (yes, but that’s not the point, of course)?
11. Superman: Birthright
Probably the easiest story on this whole list to describe! In this 12-part maxi-series, Waid and Leinil Francis Yu update Superman’s origin and beginnings to his career for the first time in nearly twenty years!
10. Legion of Super-Heroes (Vol. 5) #1-13
Waid and Barry Kitson did the second total reboot of the Legion of Super-Heroes (known colloquially as the “three-boot”) with this series that saw the Legion as being more of a youth movement than anything else, a group meant to awaken a complacent galaxy and force people to actually make a change. In this thirteen-issue epic storyline (with some fill-in artists along the way, I should note), we are introduced to the Legion (through a series of strong character-based pieces) and then drawn into a battle for the basic freedom of the galaxy against a fellow, Lemnos, who ALSO wants to bring change to the universe, just not, to borrow a phrase, “change you can believe in.”
I could list a specific group of issues, like #1-12, but I dunno, it seems like most folks are just voting for the series as a whole, and since it really tells one long story, I suppose I’ll leave it at just the title for now. In any event, Irredeemable, by Waid and Peter Krause (plus other artist helping out here and there), tells the story of a superhero, the Plutonian, who is basically the Superman on his world and what would happen if he just snapped and became the worst villain that the world has ever known. The death and destruction is practically inconceivable, and as the series goes on, we not only follow the Plutonian (as well as get some insights into his past) but also the remaining heroes as they desperately try to think of ways to stop him.
8. Captain America #445-448 “Operation: Rebirth”
After a cool opening issue of their run where they get people used to the idea of a world without Captain America, Waid and Ron Garney come out blazing in #445 with the RETURN of Captain America! Brought back from the dead by his oldest enemy, the Red Skull, Cap is quickly thrown into an epic battle against no other than Adolf Hitler himself! Forced to team up with the Skull, Cap is shocked to learn that there is a third member of their adventure trio – Sharon Carter! You mean Agent 13, who’s DEAD? Yep, that’s the one! So this bizarre threesome take on Hitler and the Cosmic Cube in an action-packed drama that feels very much like a forebear to the terrific Ed Brubaker Captain America work of the last few years.
7. Fantastic Four (Vol. 3) #67-70 then back to the old numbering for #500
This storyline by Waid and Mike Wieringo opens with pretty much what the name of the story is – an unthinkable act of horror by Doctor Doom that makes it clear that this time around he is going to be going after the Fantastic Four in ways you could not even imagine (or, I suppose, “think”). It comes down to Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic, having to try to master something he ALSO cannot really even “think” about – magic!
6. Flash #0, 95-100 “Terminal Velocity”
Terminal Velocity revolves around Wally West getting a glimpse of the future (after a spotlight issue, #0, where Wally travels through his own timeline, including visiting himself when he was a kid – brilliant issue) and then doing all sorts of Machiavellian things in a gambit to avoid that future. We are led to believe that he saw himself be killed, but in reality, he saw his girlfriend, Linda Park, killed. So he vowed to do anything he could to save her, even if it meant manipulating his fellow speedsters Impulse and Jesse Quick to do so. In the end, Wally is sucked into the Speed Force – but can his love for Linda bring him back? Ask Taylor Dayne – she will let you know if that is possible. A variety of artists worked with Waid on this storyline, from Mike Wieringo in #0, Salvador Larroca for the next four issues, then a split issue between Salvador Larroca and Carlos Pacheco and finally the last issue, the double-sized #100, with art by Salvador Larroca, Carlos Pacheco AND Oscar Jimenez.
5. JLA: Year One
Waid and Barry Kitson delivered this impressive year-long mini-series examining the origins of the Justice League. The phrase “love letter to the Silver Age” is used a lot, but this project is at least a legitimate usage of the phrase, as Waid and Kitson definitely embrace the oddity and coolness of DC’s Silver Age, while also examining the personalities of the various founders of the Justice League a lot deeper than ever was possible during the actual Silver Age.
Another Waid and Kitson project! In this creator-owned series, they explore a world where villainy HAS won. It’s over. Done. So what happens next? Once you’ve reached the top, the BEST you can do is maintain your position, and that’s a position that the villainous Golgoth finds himself constantly challenged for from within his own camp – perhaps even from his own daughter!
3. JLA #43-36 “Tower of Babel”
We’ve long heard tell that, if he were properly motivated, Batman could take down pretty much any hero (like if they went crazy, etc). Well, in this storyline, Ra’s Al Ghul uses Batman’s secret contingencies for each hero to take down the Justice League. Even if the League can manage to survive the plans Batman had for them, can they possibly forgive him for it? Howard Porter and Steve Scott drew this arc, which was Waid’s first arc as the regular JLA writer.
2. Flash #73-79 “The Return of Barry Allen”
Wally’s greatest dream turned into a nightmare as his uncle, Barry Allen, the Flash before Wally, returns to life. Only thing are not what they seem, and soon Wally is forced to collect a group of speedsters to confront Barry, who has returned…different. This storyline introduced Max Mercury to the title and really began the whole “Speed Force” idea that became such a major part of the title. In any event, while Wally gets help from the other speedsters, he soon learns that it ultimately comes down to him and his own fears of replacing his uncle to win the day. Greg LaRocque drew this arc, in his swan song on the title, after a long run as penciler.
1. Kingdom Come
Waid and Alex Ross put together this epic mini-series which showed a world where “grim and gritty” heroes have proliferated to the point where they are not even really heroes anymore. A great tragedy that was a result of one of the fights involving these heroes brings Superman out of retirement in an attempt to bring heroism back. But can Superman’s heroic idealism win out when the methods used involve throwing dissenters into a gulag? A gulag that seems to be a big super-powered powder keg? Lex Luthor, meanwhile, has his own plans to take advantage of the situation and what role will Batman take in all of this? The Spectre brings a mild-mannered minister to witness all of it.
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 list that is still up for grabs here!
As a special treat, after the last list goes up on Monday, on Tuesday I’ll share Mark Waid’s personal vote for what HE thinks are his top ten stories (from before 2005, as he feels he doesn’t have enough distance from his more recent stuff to judge them yet)! Yay! Thanks, Mark! What a treat!
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