Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
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 Roy Thomas Stories Ever Told!
Sorry for the delay!
As you might imagine, for someone with such a long and varied career as Roy Thomas, coming up with a consensus for his greatest stories was quite difficult. There were about five Conan issues that received #1 or #2 votes on people’s ballots and then did not appear on anyone else’s ballot! I can only imagine how many people have a special Roy Thomas-penned issue that just resonates with them personally.
In any event, with all the great diverse works Thomas did over the years, I know people would be curious as to what just missed the top ten, so with that in mind, I decided to give you all six honorable mentions for Thomas’ list.
Six rather than five because most of the votes for his X-Men work split his issues with Neal Adams into two distinct storylines. If I combined them, then obviously that would make room for another story in the top 15, so rather than do that, I figured I’d just show you what would have been bumped up had I done so. Without any further ado, here is the list!
16. All-Star Squadron #21-26, All-Star Squadron Annual #2 “The Ultra-Humanite Saga”
This epic storyline involves the Ultra-Humanite collecting a series of powerful items in a quest to get his brain situated inside the body of Robotman. With most of the more powerful members of the team taken out, the remaining members must band together to defeat the despotic villain. This storyline also introduced Infinity Inc. as the young heroes appear in a time-traveling situation.
15. Savage Tales #2-3 “Red Nails”
Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith combined for this acclaimed adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s final Conan tale, as Conan and a female warrior get caught up in a dramatic struggle within an ancient walled off city. Smith’s artwork is stunning and Thomas adapts the story beautifully.
14. Thor Annual #7, Thor #283-299 “The Eternals Saga”
The storyline actually lasted until #301, but Thomas was only directly involved through #299 (he had left for DC, so the last few issues were written by Mark Gruenwald and Ralph Macchio, who had taken over scripting the series off of Thomas’ plots when Thomas left, but they had to finish the story themselves).
13. Amazing Spider-Man #101-102 “Morbius!”
Thomas became the first writer to write Spider-Man’s ongoing series other than Stan Lee in this tale, where Thomas had the unenviable position of having to deal with the cliffhanger of Spider-Man #100 – Spidey having six arms!! This story is best remembered, though, for the introduction of Morbius, the Living Vampire!
12. Avengers #69-71 “Kang vs. the Gamesmaster”
This three-parter, with art by Sal Buscema and Sam Grainger, introduced the Squadron Sinister (who later inspired the Squadron Supreme) as pawns in a game between Kang the Conquerer and the Elder of the Universe known as the Gamesmaster. This clever little tale was an attempt by Thomas to have an unofficial crossover with the Justice League of America (read here for more details).
11. Thor #272-278 “Ragnarok”
Thomas became one of the first Thor writers to play with the idea of Ragnarok (the foretold final days of the Norse gods) in this storyline that also introduced another version of Thor. John Buscema and Tom Palmer were the main artists of these stories.
10. Captain Marvel #17-21
Thomas and Gil Kane (with Dan Adkins on inks) revitalized the Captain Marvel comic book by a clever homage to the original Captain Marvel – the Kree Captain Marvel and Rick Jones switch places in a similar fashion to how Captain Marvel and Billy Batson did back in the 1940s. Thomas brought the book out of the doldrums and the new costume by Kane was fantastic.
9. Conan the Barbarian #4 “The Tower of the Elephant”
One of the greatest one-off stories of the 1970s, The Tower of the Elephant had stunning artwork from Barry Windsor-Smith and Sal Buscema, as Conan gets involved in a bizarre situation when he attempts to rob a tower.
8. Infinity, Inc. #1-10 “Generations”
This sweeping 10-part storyline introduced the concept behind Infinity, Inc. – young “legacy” heroes of the Justice Society who form their own team, led by the younger members of the Justice Society (Star-Spangled Kid, Power Girl and Huntress). During this storyline, the young heroes are forced to fight their mentors as the JSA is turned evil by the Ultra-Humanite! Dann Thomas co-wrote the story and Jerry Ordway and Mike Machlan did the artwork.
7. Avengers #66-68 “vs. Ultron”
The first two issues of this sprawling brawl between the Avengers and Ultron were drawn by Barry Windsor-Smith, with Sal Buscema closing out the three-parter. This is the storyline that both introduced adamantium and gave us an Ultron made up entirely of the nearly indestructible metals! One of the Avengers’ most difficult battles!
6.Conan the Barbarian #23-24 “The Song of Red Sonja”
In Conan #23, Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith introduced Red Sonja, and in #24, she is given a spotlight issue as Conan (and we readers, as well) becomes enthralled with this fascinating female warrior.
5. X-Men #60-63
After first introducing the energy vampire known as Sauron, the X-Men follow the villain to the Savage Land where they get caught up in a scheme that Magneto has going on in the area (involving the mutates of the Savage Land, who make their first appearances here). Neal Adams and Tom Palmer do the artwork.
4. Justice League of America #193, All-Star Squadron #1-3 “Formation of the All-Star Squadron”
Roy Thomas joined DC Comics with this ambitious examination of DC’s Golden Age by the introduction of the All-Star Squadron, a team designed to give Thomas access to all of the great Golden Age characters that DC had in their possession during the early 1980s. The initial storyline involved the evil time traveling Per Degaton and was set against the backdrop of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The art was done by Rich Buckler and Jerry Ordway.
3. X-Men #55-59
Thomas joined X-Men as this storyline introducing Cyclops’ brother, Alex, had just begun, but Thomas took it to another level as we learn why the Living Pharaoh is so interested in Alex, as Alex’s mutant powers manifest and he becomes the mutant known as Havok. That is not until Alex and Lorna Dane are captured by the Sentinels, who have returned under the command of Larry Trask. Neal Adams and Tom Palmer join as the art team early on and draw the story, which ends with a dramatic twist as Trask himself is revealed to be a mutant!
2. Avengers #57-58 “Behold, the Vision!”/”Even an Android Can Cry”
These two issues are a master class on comic book storytelling, as Thomas first introduces the mysterious Vision, has him fight the Avengers, has him betray his master, Ultron, and save the Avengers. This then leads to the classic story “Even an Android Can Cry” where the Avengers consider the artificial being for membership in the team. His reaction to the news confirms the title of the story. John Buscema and George Klein do the art (plus a little work from Marie Severin). This is the story that has the classic “Ozymandias” ending with Ultron’s head that blew the minds of many a young comic book reader at the time.
1. Avengers #89-97 “The Kree-Skrull War”
This epic storyline went through a number of peaks and valleys as Thomas brought Earth’s Mightiest Heroes into the midst of a conflict between the shape-shifting Skrulls and the war-obsessed Kree. Sal Buscema, John Buscema and Neal Adams were the pencilers for the story (which had a host of inkers), which managed to do a masterful job of fitting in character-driven sequences in the midst of thrilling action scenes. It is a keen mind that is able to balance both small and large scale approaches within a single storyline, and that’s exactly what Thomas demonstrated on this classic story.
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