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The Greatest John Ostrander Stories Ever Told!

Every day in November 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 John Ostrander Stories Ever Told!

Enjoy!

Sorry for the delay!

10. Suicide Squad #40-43 “The Phoenix Gambit”

After the Suicide Squad was disbanded an issue earlier and Amanda Waller was sent to prison, no less than Batman himself arranges for her release as she helps to form a new, more covert version of the Suicide Squad. Art by Geof Isherwood, co-written by Kim Yale.

9. Spectre #57-62 “The Search for God”

The conclusion to John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s acclaimed Spectre run as Jim Corrigan finally receives some measure of peace after decades of serving as the Spirit of Vengeance. This is how you know a writer has done an iconic job – he leaves the character and the comic book company (who owns the character) allows the character’s story end with this writer.

8. Grimjack: Demon Knight

Grimjack is given an opportunity to revisit his past and change it for the better, including saving the life of his beloved. Will he be able to pull if off? Is it even possible to change the past? Ostrander and artist Flint Henry re-visit the days of the Demon Wars to give us a gripping and emotional tale of love and loss (and demons! Don’t forget the demons!).

7. Spectre #1-12 “The Life and Death of Amy Beitermann”

That’s not the official title of the storyline, but since only issues #1-4 have been collected so far, I figured I might as well just make up my own (a couple of voters went with “Reaver” as their title for this 12-issue arc – I think that makes some sense, but I would prefer to spotlight Amy more). Amy Beitermann is essentially the heart of Ostrander and Tom Mandrake’s acclaimed Spectre run. It is when Jim Corrigan meets her in this issue that his life changes dramatically (for the better? You’ll eventually find out in the series). A good woman who is now dying of AIDS but still strives to do good for her community, Amy was a powerful character and the central figure of the first 12 issues of the series, as Corrigan must deal with the fact that Amy is destined to die alone in an alley, stabbed to death by a serial killer. Dark stuff, but extremely powerful and, as I mentioned before, based in a strong sense of “heart” – Amy is a tragic character to be sure, but she is still a force for good. You could really tell Ostrander had something special in this series when he created Amy.

6.Suicide Squad #10 “Against the Wall”

Amanda Waller versus Batman. One of best single issues of the Suicide Squad in a series that was known for its great single issues. Art by Luke McDonnell and Bob Lewis.

5. Spectre #52-56 “The Haunting of Jim Corrigan”

Was Jim Corrigan, himself, a murderer? How do you handle THAT? Meanwhile, the Spectre is going all “Wrath of the Spectre” on the world, making things clear that something needs to give. This storyline also introduces the current Mister Terrific. I did a spotlight on this storyline here if you’d like to read more about it. Art by Tom Mandrake.

4. Suicide Squad #33-36 “Apokolips Now”

This classic tale has the Suicide Squad travel to Apokolips as a couple of long-running subplots come to a head in a highly energetic and bombastic adventure (filled with a lot of death, of course, as this IS the Suicide Squad). This story eventually leads to the end of the Squad as they then knew it. Co-written by Kim Yale with art by John Snyder, Geoff Isherwood and Luke McDonnell. I did a spotlight on this storyline here if you’d like to read more about it.

3. The Fury of Firestorm/Firestorm #62-64, Annual #5 “To Regain Tomorrow”

In one of his very first storylines as the new ongoing writer on Firestorm, Ostrander (along with artist Joe Brozowski and inkers Dick Giordano and Sam De La Rosa) used Firestorm to tell one of those classic “what if superheroes existed in the real world?” questions, as they have Firestorm determine to rid the world of nuclear weapons (spurred on by a dying Martin Stein, one half of the Firestorm combo with young Ronnie Raymond). Unsurprisingly, this idea is not met with support from the rest of the world (including superpowered beings who work for the U.S. government, like Captain Atom and Suicide Squad and superpowered beings who work for the Soviet government). The end result is not just a change in Firestorm’s status quo, but a change in the being known as Firestorm himself/itself (the book also got a name change, with the “Fury of” part being dropped off). Greg Burgas wrote a great celebration of the series as a whole here. Ryan Day also did a great write-up on Firestorm (and specifically this storyline and a later one called Eden) here.

2. Suicide Squad #22 “Final Round”

Some voted for #21 AND #22 as one story, and I can definitely see that. Most voted for #22 as a single issue, and since I, myself, did a spotlight on #22 awhile back as a single issue, I figure I’ll just go with it as a single issue. This is the issue where Rick Flagg learns that a US Senator named Joseph Clay has been blackmailing Amanda Waller, so Flagg sets out to kill him. What Flagg doesn’t know is that Waller has already outmaneuvered Clay, so Clay’s blackmail threat is no longer, well, a threat. Waller then has to send the Squad after Flagg, telling them to keep Flagg from killing Clay – by whatever means necessary. Flagg’s friends don’t want to do it, but they don’t want the criminals on the team to kill Flagg, so they agree to hunt Flagg down. Ultimately, Deadshot find Flagg and Clay first, leading to the most iconic sequence in Squad history. I did a write-up on the issue here (there are some spoilers in the write-up – be forewarned!). Art by Luke McDonnell and Karl Kesel.

1. Deadshot #1-4

Deadshot’s actions in the aforementioned Suicide Squad #22 are due to his mental state being particularly unhinged after the events of this mini-series, co-written by Kim Yale with art by Luke McDonnell. In this extremely dark series, Deadshot learns that his son has been kidnapped. In order to rescue his son, Deadshot must confront his past, especially his utterly twisted family situation. If you’re faint of heart, don’t read this series. If you are curious about the dark inner workings of Deadshot’s mind, be sure to track this baby down. I did a write-up on the series here, if you’re interested in reading more about it.

That’s the list! Agree? Disagree? Let me know!

54 Comments

On the one hand, I hate you all for not voting anything from the grossly under-appreciated Hawkworld.

On the other hand, I hate myself for not bothering to vote and now angrily complaining.

So, really, it’s a wash.

People did vote for it (the legendary Hawkworld Annual #1, where Ostrander does the best job of continuity fixing that I think I have ever seen, for instance, got a lot of love), it is just that he has a LOT of famous stories, ya know?

It sounds like we need more Spectre collections. Or at least comiXology editions.

Definitely, Shaun. Soooo definitely.

Gah, I meant to dig out some specific Martian Manhunter issues and vote for them before the deadline, stupid real life! Ostrander’s entire Martian Manhunter run was amazing.

I really like what I’ve read by Ostrander, but haven’t read quite enough to vote in this poll. I’ll really have to check out that Deadshot mini.

I loved his “Gotham Nights” miniseries. Story and art (by Mary Mitchell) were fantastic, and it’s still quite unique.

He also wrote a Detective arc in issues 622-624 with art by Mike McKone and Flint Henry, which featured a “Batman” comic, and the controversy which arises when a lunatic cites it as an influence on his murderous behaviour. Pretty weird, but good.

How did I miss this? Cripes, here I am trying to come up with 10 Scott Lobdell stories that don’t suck, when I could have been wracking my brains trying to narrow a list of 50 great John Ostrander stories down to 10.

Anyway, in addition to the fine material represented here, I also recommend:

– Hawkworld 1-25 & Annual 1: Hawkman has never been written better, and the Shayera Thal Hawkwoman created in these issues was definitely the blueprint for fan-favorite Hawkgirl in he justice League cartoons. Katar & Shayera make for one of the best couples ever in super-hero comics.

– Every issue of Spectre & Suicide Squad not mentioned in the countdown.

– Martian Manhunter 0-the last issue (36, IIRC): After a great start with issues 0 and 1,000,000, it took a few issues for Ostrander & Mandrake to find their footing. The wait was worth it, however. Particularly strong were the Malefic, Darkseid, Jemm, and split-identity stories.

Ah…. Hawkworld Annual #1… why oh why didn’t DC just stuck to that? Everything suddenly made sense. Even Invasion!

No Star Wars titles?

No Star Wars: Legacy?

I’ve read almost all of Ostrander’s stuff, and imo if you don’t include at least some of those stories then you can’t really call yourself an Ostrander fan. It seems like most people voting are just DC readers, which is quite a shame. Don’t get me wrong, these are all good to great stories, but oftentimes the best ones are written outside of the Big 2 aegis.

People voted for his Star Wars stuff, just not enough to make the top ten. Again, we’re talking about the ten greatest stories by a guy who has written a TON of great stories over a nearly THIRTY year career! That means a lot of great stories are not going to make the list. People voted for his Star Wars work, people voted for his Martian Manhunter stuff, people voted for his Kents maxi-series, people voted for Manhunter, people voted for Hawkworld, people voted for other Grimjack stories. They just did not get enough votes to make the top ten.

I’m sort of surprised that that Firestorm story did so well. (It was on my list, but my list was full of stories that I didn’t expect to make the list, like aforementioned Hawkworld Annual #1 and a couple of my favorite stories from Wasteland.)

Also a little surprised that the Oracle vs Cliff Carmichel/Thinker two-parter from Suicide Squad didn’t get more love than some of the other SS stories that made it..

Well, as seen by the fact that we’ve had two separate features on this site about his Firestrom run, I think you’d be surprised by how well-liked that run (and specifically that story) is. :)

OMG.

Thank you all for this. I’m surprised, amazed, and humbled.

I’ve killed a lot of trees in my career, haven’t I?

All the best

— John

Wasn’t the Senator’s name Cray?
Great list btw.

John Ostrander, if you’re still reading,

Thank you for all the great comics, and I look forward to whatever else you write in the coming years.

AO,

I did not know Mr. Ostrander had written many Star Wars comics until recently. Star Wars is not something I seek out (I like it fine but never got too far into the expanded universe), and I only found out about his involvement in Star Wars comics by hearing it mentioned on a recent podcast. Can you recommend a starting point?

I had to do something else after writing the above recommendations. I’d also like to point out:

– Blaze of Glory & Apache Skies: 2 Westerns featuring art by Leonardo Manco. Absolutely great comics that deserve wider recognition.

– The Kents: Beatifully illustrated by Tim Truman & Tom Mandrake, Ostrander wrote a compelling story of Jonathan Kent’s ancestors during the Civil War.

– JLA: Incarnations: Ostrander & Val Semekis (sp?) produced a 7 issue maxi-series in which each issue featured a story from different eras of justice League history. Fun stuff, with some well-handled character work.

Brian-

I think this is a list where revealing (at least) #s 11-15 would be really helpful. Personally, I didn’t vote because the only Ostrander stuff I’ve read are his Spectre and Suicide Squad runs, along with the Bishop mini-series (which is quite good). That being the case, I was hoping to use this list to find some good places to start hunting in regards to the rest of his output. But 8/10 stories on the list are from his Spectre or Suicide Squad work. I’ll definitely hunt down that Firestorm story, and Hawkworld Annual 1 sounds like something good too, but I’d love some more to go on.

Count me in as being disappointed that no Star Wars stuff made the list either. I regret not voting, but then, I haven’t tracked enough Ostrander to think of *ten* great stories to vote for. (On the stuff I did read: well, I wanted the Spectre stuff to be higher on the list, particularly his final issues.)

So, great Star Wars stuff:

– You’d probably start with everything that’s collected in the Quinlan Vos: Jedi in Darkness Omnibus (except the one arc he didn’t write). It’s a great story running between Episodes I and II without significantly touching Anakin, Obi-Wan, or any of the other major characters from the film. (Palpatine and Dooku lurk in the background.) It really showcases Ostrander’s ability to make delightful new characters in an established setting. Plus, the two-part “Devaronian Version” is one of the funniest Star Wars stories ever written.

– Then you’d read Ostrander’s Clone Wars TPBs. He didn’t write all of them, so just look for the ones with Ostrander’s writing. (I know he did the first and last–I can’t remember which ones between he did.) It’s more Quinlan Vos stuff, this time between Episodes II and III, crossing over with Anakin and Obi-Wan’s stories without really swimming in them.

– And of course, there’s Legacy, 125 years after Return of the Jedi. This time, Ostrander takes the Star Wars legend and twists it into a different and yet still familiar story. You’ve still got a Skywalker, a crazy pirate, a princess a Sith Lord, an Emperor, and a Jedi ghost…and R2-D2 eventually shows up. Make no bones, if you’re an Ostrander fan, this is him at his finest.

Lots of great work by Ostrander, the Suicide Squad run as a whole is just plain excellent.

“He also wrote a Detective arc in issues 622-624 with art by Mike McKone and Flint Henry, which featured a “Batman” comic, and the controversy which arises when a lunatic cites it as an influence on his murderous behaviour. Pretty weird, but good.”

With Dick Sprang covers, yes? This was an all around masterpiece that should be collected, if it isn’t. Just terrifically good!

^Yeah, that’s the one. Another great story from that overlooked Batman era. Not collected of course.

his Martian Manhunter run is the most underrated DC run ever

I never hear anything but good about Jon Ostrander, and as such have bought the first Suicide Squad TPB. I’m now hearing that it might be the only one! I really hope that isn’t true, as I would like to get to these stories some day, and I will continue to support the collections as/of they come out. Is it fair to call this the most uncollected of any “Greatest [Writer] Stories Ever Told” post? Out of the whole list, only 1.25 are in trade. Tsk tsk, DC.

The Crazed Spruce

November 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm

Not a bad list, though you ask me, it’s almost criminal that nothing from Manhunter made the cut. (I figured the Dumas storyline from Manhunter 1-4 would’ve squeezed into the Top 10, at the very list.)

I tried to fit in as many Suicide Squad stories as I could because it is truly my favorite of John’s works. I’m glad to see #10 and #2 represented here but I’m even more surprised to see the Deadshot mini winning the top spot! God, there were so many excellent Squad stories that I wanted to vote for… I felt the Deadshot series would get a lot of love from other Squaddies and I was right, but man! That was a VERY pleasant surprise. JOHN and LAWTON, ROCK ON!

The man is just awesome. Period. My fave stories for SS came right after Apokolips Now where he started to take the squad out of costume and it felt more real world. He was ahead of his time there.

That’s when I first discovered the series, right after Amanda and the Squad went freelance. John Ostrander could do no wrong by me after reading those stories.

Dang, that’s a good list. Six of my 10 made it in. (But hell, even if none of my votes made it, chance are it’d still be a damn fine list.)

“The Life and Death of Amy Beitermann” remains my favourite comic story of all-time. That 12th issue is absolutely heartbreaking.

FunkyGreenJerusalem

November 8, 2011 at 1:43 am

I’ve read a fair bit of Ostrander, and I’ve had gone with a totally different top ten. But that’s because I’ve not read any of these yet – that’s very good news for me! Got some good reading ahead of me, as they slowly get re-released.
I’ve not gotten that far in GrimJack trades, and I’ve only got the Spectre 4 issue collection, as well as #0 issue somehow, and those books would have made it onto all time faves lists of mine, let alone just of Ostrander.
Star Wars Legacy was so good, I was able to ignore it was a Star Wars spin off and read it, something I’d never managed before.
I’m surprised no comic publishers plan involves giving him a truckload of cash to write comics about whatever he wants.

Have really only read Suicide Squad with small smatterings of others – but I love John Ostrander’s writing.

Has Suicide Squad been collected? I would love to get those graphic novels!

The first Suicide Squad trade is out now, and the second is out within the next month. It is totally worth reading.

And on the trade note, boy I wish IDW had finished the reprints of Grimjack. I need to track down the rest, because I loved what I had read. I have so much of John O’s work in single since I tracked down Suicide Squad, Spectre, and Hawkworld all in a year long binge of back issue hunting. Now I think I need another for the reast of Grimjack and the Firesotrm stuff.

And I too wish some of the Star Wars stuff had made it. A few of those stories were on my list, as well as an issue from the vastly under-reated Martian Manhuunter series. Now that was a great book. John and Tom mandrake firing on all cylander post Spectre. Great, great series.

How about the Kents or his Hawkworld stuff? There is so much you could choose by Mr. Ostrander.

The Second Squad TPB was supposed to have come out two weeks ago, and didn’t without any announcement. And it vanished from Amazon’s database at the same time. So, alas, ‘cancelled’ is it’s most likely fate. (Some sources currently list it as coming out in December, but that may be a placeholder date rather than anything to get one’s hopes up about.)

I only got halfway through a ballot because I started trying to carve up Martian Manhunter and Spectre into nameable and distinct arcs without pulling out the longboxes. I could have done ten from Suicide Squad alone from memory, but really wanted to think about how different parts of MM and Spectre compared to SS. (Pre-Zero Hour Hawkworld would have been way up there, too, but my memory of distinct arcs is even worse for that run.) And then , of course, I ended up not finishing the ballot at all.

So very many great comics.

Just a general note to everyone-

If you’re trying to vote in these, but find you can’t recall issue numbers/plots without digging through the collection, check out mycomicshop.com

It’s a great resource website that has covers, creative teams, and brief plot descriptions for virtually everything, and is a great memory jogger. It’s also a nice resource to be able to find out what exists. Want to see what Suicide Squad trades are out there? Punch it into the search engine.

Thank you, Mr. Ostrander.

I finally completed buying all 38 issues of Martian Manhunter last week, and have been plowing through the whole series. It’s so good, it’s a real testament to Ostrander’s writing that it doesn’t even crack his top ten. I think I may seek out his Spectre run next…..

I’d completely forgotten about that Deadshot mini. That was some good comics. And McDonnell killed on the art. On those rare occasions when he inked himself, his stuff was really good.

I haven’t read enough of his work to vote intelligently but two of my favorites didn’t make the list. The first is the Oracle: Year One story in Batman Chronicles. The second is an issue of The Spectre where he has to go in to Hell to interrogate a kidnapper about the location of a missing girl.

Adam,

Thanks for the order of the Ostrander Star Wars stories! They’re going on my ever-growing list of comics I’m planning to read.

Matt Lazorwitz,

There have been 2 Grimjack Omnibuses published recently (I think by IDW). I know the trades were discontinued, but maybe the rest of the series will show up in Omnibus form. I have yet to pick them up (speaking of the list…), so I don’t know how far they’ve gotten.

Love Grimjack. Love Suicide Squad.

I hated – absolutely capital H H-A-T-E-D the first Spectre trade. I bought it at a used bookstore and sold it back within an hour after reading it. I didn’t want it in my house.

So… uh… does it get better? Or will I just end up hating the whole thing?

Spurred by a move after many years in one place, I recently unloaded 2,500 comics (!!!). (Side note: I advise everyone to cull your collection well before you have to move. It was a huge job to undertake at precisely the wrong time.) Suffice to say, I had to make some tough calls (otherwise why not keep everything?) — but I kept all my Suicide Squads, my Martian Manhunters, my Deadshot mini-series, my Kents maxi-series, and the first half of Hawkworld (in my memory, the series kind of ran off the rails later on).

@MarkAndrew: The Spectre remains the same throughout. By which I mean, it’s awesome.

I’m quite shocked you didn’t care for it, as I generally agree with your taste in things (and I’m shocked that anyone could not like the Spectre, period). What didn’t you like about it?

Also …

“He also wrote a Detective arc in issues 622-624 with art by Mike McKone and Flint Henry, which featured a “Batman” comic, and the controversy which arises when a lunatic cites it as an influence on his murderous behaviour. Pretty weird, but good.”

Nuts, I knew I’d forget something. I probably would’ve put this one at #7 on my list.

it’s probably been noted already but it’s great to see so much of his spectre run, love…at 32-years-old i’ve seen some iconic runs and this might be one of the best…

I’m surprised to see the Grimjack GN made the cut. There were at least three Grimjack storylines that were better.

Whatever happened to Flint Henry, anyhow?

Doug M.

Mission to Apokolips gets all the love, and it’s chock full of awesome moments, just like the War of the Gods issue is. But I prefer the more human-scale espionage or black ops missions: Mission to Moscow, Coils of the Loa, and (as far as I’m concerned the best-plotted arc of the whole run) The Dragon’s Hoard.

The Atom Hunt arc, too…

see, here’s the problem!

The Dragon’s Hoard was awesome. I was concerned that Amanda wasn’t going to survive that one. It was also great to see Mark Shaw working with the Squad again. The Apokolips arc was great but I began reading after they switched to the espionage settings, so those stories are also my favorites.

This is a great list. Really, though, anything with the Ostrander name attached to is worth reading. Other than Alan Moore, who of course is on a different plane altogether, John Ostrander was the best writer DC had in the 1980s and 1990s. My favorite works:

1. His entire run on Firestorm. A wonderful, horribly under-appreciated series.
2. His entire run on Suicide Squad. Ditto.
3. The Kents. The best western DC ever published (sorry Jonah).
4. Deadshot-4 issues of mind staggering goodness about a once throwaway character made great by Mr. Ostrander.
5. Grimjack-along with American Flagg the best series to ever come out of First Comics (which is really saying something).
Gotta pick up that Hawkworld and Spectre stuff one of these days. I always heard it was great but my limited budget could bear only so much.
Finally Mr. Ostrander, thank you for all the great hours of entertainment. There needs to be many, many more writers like yourself. Also I know you were having some health issues some time back (vision problems, IIRC). I hope that you are well now and far into the future. Take care.

For the record, #11-15 was…

11. Checkmate! #15-18, Suicide Squad #27-30, Firestorm #86 and Captain Atom #30 “Janus Directive”
12. Firestorm #77-79 “Eden”
13. Star Wars: Legacy #14-19 “Claws of the Dragon”
14. Hawkworld #21-25 “Escape from Thanagar”
15. Manhunter #1-4

Nothing of Wasteland…Raoul or Method Actor

No wasteland is probably the biggest shame, but that’s got a lot to do with Del.

not surprised to see the suicide squad and spectre take up most of this list for they are both johns coolest work. espically the story where amanda is able to out fox batman. and kind of surprised to see the dead shot mini wound up number one thought it would be number two. too bad dc does not put that thing in trade and also finish collecting johns spectre run.

One of my favorites was the BLAZE OF GLORY limited series. Marvel’s western heroes unite a la “The Magnificent Seven.” A great read.

Fully agreed! BLAZE OF GLORY is “The Magnificent Seven” Marvel westerns. Excellent story by John and some outstanding art by Leonardo Manco. It’s the series that led me to seek out Manco’s work. Good stuff!

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