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Committed: My Top 10 Comics (for ANY year)

Rather than pick out my favorite comics of 2011, I present my top ten favorite comic books for any year (more about why this is non-specific to 2011 below the list.) Realistically, I’ll probably change my mind at some point, since inevitably I’m probably going to change myself at some point too. But for now, these are the books which made my this year, and every year so far, pretty great.

1. Elektra Assassin:
2011 is the year that Miller really came out the closet as a raging old nutter. But anyone who read his best works in the 1980’s and has witnessed his descent into public alcohol abuse over the last few years cannot have been surprised. His comic books are still right up there for me; Ronin and The Dark Knight Returns both completely reinvented the genre. We can’t blame him for the fact that while we were reading his books as tongue-in-cheek extremism, he was truly pushing an agenda of extreme political views. While the radical intolerance of his other books was right there on the proverbial sleeve, the magical collaboration of Bill Sienkiewicz pushed Elektra Assassin into a far more elegant, beautiful record of heroic endeavor and triumph.

2. Love & Rockets
That’s right, all of it! I could be nice and tell you that starting with the new, annual volumes will work fine for new readers (and that would be true.) Or I could be current and say that while the whole run has been incredible, volume 4 is the crowning pinnacle of the Hernandez brother’s achievements (and that would also be true.) But here’s the thing, like any really amazing experience, you need to work up to it nice and slowly. You need to get a rhythm going together and take your time, really build something together, which is what happens when you read a book for over 20 years and then cap it off with the glorious work that is volume 4 of Love & Rockets. Read Love & Rockets, all of them, both brothers, everything you can find. Your life will be richer.

3. Hellblazer
Everyone asks me where to start. I say start where ever you bloody like. It’s a mess, just like Constantine is a mess, I don’t think you’ll make it worse by reading his life in the wrong order. When people ask if this is good, I flippantly say that my relationship with Constantine is still going, after all the other relationships have somehow fallen away. Constantine had a big influence on me, from the time I first read about him in Swamp Thing, he made sense to me. As a kid I smoked Silk-Cut like he did, and then when he got lung cancer I got freaked out (and some say comic books don’t influence people, hah!) Sometimes he looked like crap and stopped making sense so we broke up for a little while, but I couldn’t stay away for long and I always came back because he always got good again. As I age, he makes more and more sense, which is a little worrying, admittedly, but that’s just how it is when you love someone. Maybe our’s isn’t the healthiest relationship, but despite being fictional, he’s a lot more realistic than some people I know.

4. Swamp Thing
Everything Alan Moore wrote on Swamp Thing, not just because it is a great story, but because contained in his Swamp Thing stories are the seeds of everything else he’s done, which I have loved. The magic, the horror, the love and trust. His wildly inventive adventure stories are on a par with the disturbing examinations of the psyche. He transformed my concept of reality with these books and I still enjoy them.

5. Vimanarama
One year, Grant Morrison put out two oddly experimental comic books. One of them was We3 with Frank Quitely, which is a gorgeous exercise in storytelling. Insanely energetic and emotionally wrenching, it uses imagery and pacing in ways that stretch the medium and allow the story to go that much deeper. Around the same time, Morrison collaborated on this far less lauded book with Philip Bond which was so completely different that at the time I didn’t even register them as being by the same author. Unlike other Vertigo books, this was a riot of color, influenced by the Indian gods awoken in the book, and dominated by the vaguely Bollywood aesthetic, Bond and Morrison created a delightful, enchanting love story. Classic adventure mixed in with a ton of very human interaction. It is the basic fun of it that I love the most, and taking this very simple idea of warring good and bad gods, which puny humans caught in the crossfire was done with such affection that I still love to reread this book or heroism in unlikely places.

6. Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga
By all rights, this ought to be higher on my list, but I have to admit that for me right now, this isn’t as much fun to read as it was when I was a little kid the first time around. Either I’ve changed to much, or the world has, I don’t know. Back when I was running to the sweet shop, trying to find the British, oversize, black and white reprints of the Uncanny X-Men, clutching my money tightly in my sweaty little hands, it was magic. I was totally and completely absorbed by the X-Men and by Jean Grey’s strange awakening. There is very little that imprinted on me so deeply, in terms of comic books or any other sort of fiction I was absorbing at the time.

7. Kingdom Come
At the time, reading this, I thought it was all about the art. It took me years to gradually realize that it was actually all about the story. Obviously both Waid and Ross are working together to create the alchemy that is great collaborative comic books, so that somehow, over the years, these are the heroes I believe in. This depiction of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc is the one I have come to associate most strongly with the characters. I love the story, at the heart it is about a man learning to step up and be the adult the world needs him to be. Everyone manages to put aside their own self-flagelation and grow up enough to make the hard decisions. It is a deeply inspiring story, we all have those moments where we need to become the parents we always wish we’d had and the story is a beautiful metaphor for this transformative, seminal moment.

8. Detective Comics (#569-#574)
It’s another dorky one from my childhood. I don’t want this to be the Batman I love, but it is, I can’t help it. Mood-wise, I feel like The Dark Knight Returns and Batman Year One definitely set him in stone, but at his heart and soul, Mike Barr and Alan Davis made me love him. He’s alive, he’s got people around him he cares about, there’s a life and a liveliness to this that is so delightful. I can’t say that these stand up in the same way that Arkham Asylum (which – as a clichéd, teenage, black-wearing, art student – made me extremely happy) or Killing Joke does. I can read and reread them. But still, it is this Batman who forms the structure for those terribly serious iterations of our dark knight. With Barr’s affectionate, gentle humor and Davis’ style and warmth, this changed my thoughts about Batman forever.

9. Promethea
The best Wonder Woman story ever written was Promethea. I’m sorry that Wonder Woman is so great as an icon, but so disappointing in stories, but at least Alan Moore gave us Promethea. When J.H. Williams was working with Moore on this, he really began to stretch his storytelling muscles and for my money, this is both of them really throwing a ton of rich comic book love at the reader. With all the sex, magic and general themes of transformation, it is easy to forget that at heart this is a science superhero story, but it is, in spades. When we look to the future, we have to look to the visionaries of science fiction to give us something to dream about. In Promethea we get it and then some.

10. Buddha
Osamu Tezuka’s books chronicling the life of Buddha. He isn’t a Buddhist. That makes it better, honest. How can I get you to read this? It sounds like a terrible idea really; well-known creator of Astro Boy writes 8 volumes about the life and times of Buddha. But he does it so well! Fantastical and outrageous, he gives us his version of the tale, with his emphasis and interest always firmly in the arenas of transformation and adventure. It is so beautiful and affectionately done that one cannot help but enjoy it. People forget that religions are started by other people, that we have much in common with those we deify. Tezuka does a wonderful job of simultaneously celebrating and also humanizing Siddhartha Guatama for us. With cover designs by Chip Kidd at his best, these are books that I enjoy rereading or simply sitting on the shelf.

Last year at this time I ran a short questions and answer column based on your comments and emails, but this year I’m going to simply address one big question that has come up repeatedly this year. People have asked why I’ve been writing about “old” comic books with increasing frequency. Understandably, people wondered if it was because I was unable to get to my comic shop  when I was off my feet with a sprained ankle, and while it is true that I didn’t manage to get as many of the monthly comic books for a few weeks, that isn’t why I enjoy write about past comic books.

There are four main reasons why I like to read old(er) comic books;

1. This is the time of year when many people are writing their “Top Ten of 2011″ lists (or top 30 or top 50 or top 100, etc.) At times I’ve enjoyed it too, but lately I feel like the more people push the new stuff and talk about how important new comic books are, the more I feel an uncomfortable pressure to read them. Like most of us, I don’t want to be pushed into something just because it is new, or judge it by some different standard because it is a reprint and so I have been trying to represent the other options.

2. Then there is context, which is really interesting. It is can often be much easier to examine and identify the trends of an era in retrospect, and so reading comic books from just a few years ago can act as a sort of a time capsule, unwittingly telling us a lot about the wider political and economic moods that were prevalent when they were created. It isn’t as if I am some sort of history buff (I wish I were), but it adds to the enjoyment of a book if we can acknowledge what else was happening in society for the author as they were writing and drawing a book. An obvious example is something like the piece I wrote a little while ago on the influence of Margaret Thatcher on British comic book writer’s attitude towards authority figures and superheroes (Nov 2nd, 2011.) It is easier to look back 20 or 30 years and see how the politics of that era affected them. It is much divisive and complicated to look at a current prevalent trend in comic books now and try to correlate it to a national mood, which is one reason there was so much more aggressive commentary on the column I wrote about the new breed of solo female superhero titles from DC (Nov 30th, 2011.) While this might speak volumes about our current climate of changing attitudes towards sexual identity, it is much more difficult to dissect at it with out the benefit of time acting to emotionally disentangle us from the ongoing trends and changes.

3. This leads to my third reason to gravitate towards previous comic books and avoiding writing about current ones; The comments. I have noticed that when I write about current books, the comment section can become rather heated, and while I love to stimulate discussion, I like to try to avoid people insulting me (who wouldn’t?) Unlike Bart Simpson and Guy Gardner (who are two of my favorite negative-attention-seekers), I prefer to either slip in under the radar or have strangers talk about the work, rather than me. It makes me very nervous when the comment section fills up with irate comments, because then I have to monitor them carefully for personal threats. Naturally this takes the fun out of it for me, so although I do want to encourage a stimulated dialogue between people, I’m always aware that things could turn nasty. With all of that in mind, I try very hard to avoid subjects which might incite personal attacks. Over the last 4 or 5 years of writing this column on various websites, I have found that the more current and mainstream the book I write about, the more incendiary the comment section.

4. Finally, and most importantly, I try to write predominantly about the kind of comic books I love, which means that I’m going to pick ones from all over. If it is good, and I want to share it with you, I will, and I won’t hold back because it is old or even out of print. The overarching subject of my column has always been about the ways in which comic books intersect with my daily life, so when I read something particularly good, or it comes up in conversation with a friend, then I’ll share it with you. Lately, partly in reaction to trying out so many of the new DC 52, I started looking at back issues again as a sort of mental palate cleanser. It wasn’t that the new 52 were so traumatizing, but in order to give all of the female titles a chance, I felt that I had to read at least three months of each before I could really assess them. For someone who regularly reads only four or five ongoing comic book titles each week, adding an extra ten or so to them was quite a change. It sort of burned me out on new books, so much so that for a while, I just wanted to shelter in the refuge of some great old books. Last week I gave you a short, sharp splash of some of the new books that I do like, and I hope that balanced things out for you.

With the new year almost upon us, I want to thank you for reading my Wednesday missives, and particularly everyone who talk to me about comic books, online and in-person. It is remarkably fun to continue these online conversations and I’m tremendously grateful for the opportunity to meet and talk to new people about comic books. Comic books are such a potent combination of imagery and language and it is so exciting to share them, thank you.

44 Comments

My Top Ten (Ever)

1. Batman Year One
2. All-Star Superman
3. Planetary
4. Watchmen
5. Millar’s Ultimates (and Ultimate Galactus Trilogy)
6. Green Lantern Rebirth (and just about every other GL comic Johns has done)
7. JMS’s Thor run
8. Almost all of Brubaker’s Cap (I know that’s kind of cheating, but his first 25 issues were amazing)
9. Kingdom Come
10. Killing Joke, Dark Knight Returns, and All-Star Batman (tie0

I expect though that the next time I do a list like this, it will include some of Snyder’s Batman/Swam Thing, Jeff Lemire’s Animal Man/ Frankenstein, and Jonathan Hickman’s FF/Fantastic Four. I also really enjoyed Batman R.I.P., and Batman Incorporated. I know I didn’t include much outside of the Big 2, but I think that’s because I think far too many reviews like this try to add obscure comics from independent publishers to increase their so-called credibility. Its like many of them think they will be ridiculed for loving mainstream comics. I do read some independent stuff, and I regularly pick up just about anything Mignola writes, Dynamite books (The Boys, Lone Ranger especially), Image (Walking Dead, Severed) Ellis’s Avatar stuff, and plenty of others that I come across. I loved Scalped, Deus Ex Machina, and Millar/Ellis on The Authority. I just really try to go by what hits my LCS’s rack. I live in a small town, and so my exposure to independent titles is limited to what I can dig up on the internet. I applaud you guys for putting the spotlight on these independent books, but it does seem like some of you go out of your way to avoid praising any of the recent DC/Marvel stuff. Although that’s obviously not the case for everybody, it just seems like its becoming “uncool” to say you love Batman, Spider-Man, or Superman. I will get off my pedestal now, lol. I also need to mention Jason Aaron again, I already mentioned Scalped, but I think he is just firing on all cylinders now. Punisher Max has been great, Wolverine/X-Men relaunch have been great. This guy is something special, and a cool dude to meet in person. I love his take on the X-Men, and I can’t wait to see what he does with the Hulk. I also expect him to be on my next faves list.

That Barr/Davis run on Detective was just … wonderful.

Top ten, no particular order.

1. New X-Men
2. Miller Daredevil
3. Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four
4. Lee/Ditko Spider-Man
5. Dark Knight Returns
6. Watchmen
7. Kirby’s Fourth World
8. Ultimates 1 and 2
9. Punisher Max
10. All-Star Superman

Mike Barr is a BRILLIANT Batman writer and it always irks me that people forget this. Not just the run you mention but also “the Player on the Other Side,” the SON OF THE DEMON and BRIDE OF THE DEMON graphic novels… lots of other smaller stories that were always dependably good. Plus he can actually write a mystery, something you’d think would get more emphasis when you talk about who should be writing the adventures of The World’s Greatest Detective. But that’s a rant for another day.

simply… *thumbs up* :)

Hiya, seasons greetings and stuff.. Enjoyed reading this.. Food for thought and lots of inspiration to read..

Personally i still can’t imagine my top ten without:

V for Vendetta
Lone Wolf & Cub
Secret Wars
Watchmen
Web of Spiderman
Judge Dredd – Block Wars
Tower King – Ortiz
Dan Dare by Frank Hampson
Elektra
????????

Bunch of old crap I’m sure anyone reading this would think, but I’m not really an expert or comic geek..

I’m a passing viewer, love reading comic or graphic novels when they grab me but rarely go and grab them… Shame on me!

Nevertheless.. Comics are great..

Happy New Year..

Zz.

Wait a minute… I didn’t put the original Dark Knight in my list… Like my subconscious assumed it was there already…

They are of course in no particular order.. Apart from ‘V’ but Dark Knight is in there where the question marks linger as my brain tried to figure what was missing!

Okay.. I feel better now.

Zz.

Mike Barr also writes some of my favourite Star Trek novels. The man is truly talented.

Hell yeah on Mike Barr. The UK Batman Monthly reprints of The Lazarus Affair were my first exposure to Batman comics, and it’s still my favourite Ra’s Al Ghul story.

I usually don’t play this game, but what the hell? In no particular order:

Busiek’s Avengers vol. 3
Preacher
Seaguy 1 & 2
Ex Machina
V for Vendetta
Promethea
Astro City
Ennis’ Punisher
Gruenwald’s Squadron Supreme
Ostrander’s Suicide Squad

extremely honorable mention: Star Wars: Dark Times vol. 1, Batman Adventures 4 vols.

This list is too mature. Where’s Nextwave? :P Just kidding. But not really.

I have got to go to got to check out Elektra Assassin, Vimanarama and Buddha. That’s what I love about All Time favorite lists, if it’s someone’s favorite OF ALL TIME, it’s definitely worth a look, and I think I’d enjoy those.

I, on the other hand, love lists, and love the recommendations when it looks like someone has good taste.
No particular order:

Elektra Assassin (good call!)
Starman
Flex Mentallo
Transmet
Sleeper
Kindgdom Come
Y the Last Man
Hitman
Planetary
We3

Of course, since he disagrees with you, Miller just must be a “raging old nutter” pushing his “extreme political views” of “radical intolerance”, right? Just like, to me, you must be a “simplistic young fool” pushing your “misguided world view” of “false enlightenment”. Interesting how that works both ways…

This list always changes from day to day, but lets see what it is for me today:
Akira (almost always on the list)
Nausicaa (also almost always on the list)
Usagi Yojimbo
Swamp Thing
Hellboy/BPRD
Daytripper
All-Star Superman
Dragonball
The Incal
Promethea

My top 10 In no particular order….

1) Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil. I grew up learning to draw comics via the How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way. Miller’s art and storytelling showed me how you could subvert the paradigm and create something fresh and vital

2) Hate by Peter Bagge Especially for the first 16 issues in glorious black and white

3 The ENTIRE America’s Best Comics line when it was written by Alan Moore Even the stuff not written by Alan Moore was still pretty damned entertaining but Tom Strong and Promethea were just fabulous books.

4) The Invisibles no other comic had me looking up subjects and influenced my book buying like this series did, though Promethea came close.

5) Sandman DC/Vertigo

6) HellBlazer. I haven’t missed an issue since the series first came out. Despite some low points in the seires Constantine is always a great character.

7) Scalped. Perfect crime drama

8) Hitman I personally feel THIS was Garth Ennis’s magnum opus. Preacher failed to deliver for me but this delivered in more ways than I ever expected. And it made you feel sad for each of the supporting characters as they were killed off one by one.

9) Dork by Evan Dorkin. I LOVE Dorkin’s work. His page of newspaper strips often had me doubled over with laughter. He had better gags on his table of contents pages than I have seen in other so called humor magazines. His “How To Get Sued” panels especially. The Eltingville Club series was always funny and always on target. Especially where one of the members is kidnapped and deprogrammed from collecting. Dorkin’s work embodied what was good of the indy comics in the 90’s

10) Stray Bullets David Lapham’s self published crime book had me gasping in shock like no other book after finishing a read. I wish he could afford to go back making more of these or at least finish up the story he left us hanging with. If we can get an Arrested Development movie why not a wrap up on Stray Bullets?

My Top 10:

1. Watchmen – No explanation necessary.

2. Chris Claremont’s mutant-verse, 1976-1991 – It may seem like a cop-out to include this all together, but I really feel like it’s a singular 15 year saga of a mini-verse, done by (mostly) a singular voice. And I could do a top ten of just Claremont mutant stories: The Wolverine mini w/ Frank Miller, the Asgard wars w/ Art Adams, From the Ashes w/ Paul Smith, Life/Death w. Barry Windsor-Smith, New Mutants vs. Legion w/ Bill Sienkiewicz, Avengers vs. Rogue w/ Michael Golden, #268 w/ Jim Lee, Kulan Gath story w. JR JR, Dark Phoenix Saga w. John Byrne, and Excalibur Cross-Time Caper w/ Alan Davis. But to me, it’s one long saga, with some of the best artistic collaborations in mainstream comics.

3. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing – The first comic that taught me what comics were capable of, and a group of stories that simply does not age.

4. Frank Miller’s Daredevil – There’s no better example of a writer making a character completely his own without fundamentally changing the character (like Moore did with Swamp Thing).

5. X-Men: Age of Apocalypse – The event story for which I will forever measure all event stories. Every chapter felt like an essential element of the story, and the imagination and planning that went into the epic was both gargantuan and creative. One of the last major events that felt like it was driven by the story-telling instead of by the shocks and status-quo changes that were delivered.

6. Sandman – A series that constantly defied expectation and description. And maybe my favorite moment of heartbreakingly true character work in comics. (Spoiler alert): At the end of Kindly Ones, as Morpheus is ready to accept his fate, his sister looks at him and says something like ” You could have just stopped, you know. Destruction did that. You could have just left your post.” And Morpheus says, stone faced, “No, I couldn’t.” And after a brief silence, Death realizes Morpheus is telling the truth. “No, you couldn’t, could you.” I once read that Neil Gaiman summed up the entire Sandman story in one sentence by saying “The King of Dreams realizes he must change or die, and makes his decision.” This is the moment that the entire series coalesces into that one sentence.

7. Batman: Year One – If you like reading super-hero stories, it’s probably inevitable that you like reading super-hero origin stories. This is, Amazing Fantasy #15 notwithstanding, probably the super-hero origin story for which all others will forever be judged. It feels like the moment that how to tell an origin story became more important than what the origin story was.

8. James Robinson’s Starman – Out of a lot of forgotten and unrelated DC stories from yesteryear, James Robinson created one of the great hero mythologies of modern comics.

9. Ultimate Spider-Man – In a millennium where reinventing and retelling old stories looks like it will be (perhaps) even more important than creating new ones, this is the blueprint of how to do it right.

10. Green Arrow: Quiver – Probably the most unlikely entry on my list, and one that a lot of people will probably think doesn’t fit. But in one ten issue romp of humor and adventure, Kevin Smith confirmed everything I love about shared universe continuity, and the DCU in particular.

Honorable mentions (the next ten, no particular order): Morrison’s Animal Man and JLA, Marvels mini-series, Preacher, Bone, Giffen/Dematteis JLI, Miracleman, Supreme: Story of the Year, Hellboy, Simonson’s Thor

As a side note, I think it’s interesting that Len Wein not only created the characters for my two favorite extended comic runs (Swamp Thing and the new X-Men), but also hired the writers who did those runs. Wein recruited Moore from England and gave him Swamp Thing to write, and Wein handed the new X-Men off to Claremont when his workload became too high. I’ve never particularly liked Wein as a writer, but I absolutely can’t fathom what my comic reading life would have been like without him. In terms of his importance to the medium, Len Wein is one of comics’ most under-appreciated figures.

Not gonna come up with my own list, just a few comments on yours.

Last I heard, Elektra Assassin is getting a HC treatment, so I’ll probably have to get that.

Love and Rockets is great. I found random bits of the story, and somehow that worked to hook me in. It’s well out of date now, but if anyone wants to learn a bit of who’s who, the Staros Report 1996 has a character guide. I think you can get one of those pretty easily and cheaply from Top Shelf Comix.

Interesting that Vimanarama ranks so high. I liked it, but kinda felt more could have/should have been done with the concept.

I don’t know, it seems the more and more I think about Kingdom Come, the less I like it. Probably just me.

Otherwise, thanks for the columns and keep up the good work in 2012!

Greg, Jamie and Gavin beat me to it, but I feel compelled to voice my own appreciation for Mike Barr – he is in fact my favorite Batman writer. Besides the stuff mentioned above, I’d also add the often overlooked Ra’s Al Ghul story in Batman Annual #8.
Sonia, you are so right about Love and Rockets. It is perhaps the finest example of what comics/sequential art can achieve as an art form. The Hernandez brothers took the medium to a whole new level pretty much from the start, and their quality has never diminished.
As for Frank Miller, I have to say (and granted, I’ve only read bits and pieces of his post-1990 output), I haven’t read anything by him that surpasses his first run on Daredevil…

That was a beautiful beautiful thing you wrote about HELLBLAZER. Currently buying the Delano books as they come out – all my singles were lost through the years. i hate the blatant fan-flashing with Jim Lee and John Cassaday in the covers of the first two books, but the interiors are beautiful nonetheless.

Also beautiful: what you said about SWAMP THING and PROMETHEA. We really do need our visionaries in all the arts.

@Travis – I remember Marvel releasing ELEKTRA: ASSASSIN as a giant hardcover back in the early 2000s, packaged with the other DAREDEVIL book that Miller did with Billy the Sink. I know because I have a copy of that book in my shelves!

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Top Ten (I think!)…and in no particular order…

Moench /Gulacy’s Master of Kung-Fu
Starlin’s Warlock Saga
McGregor’s ‘Panther’s Rage’ in jungle Action
Bryne/ Claremont’s X-Men
Garth Ennis’s Punisher
Garth Ennis’s Preacher
Steranko’s SHIELD
Avengers circa 50- 200 approx
Watchmen
The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers

Honourable runners-up….

Ostrander’s Suicide Squad
Garth Ennis’s Hitman
Frank Miller’s Daredevil
Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns
Thunderbolts- first series
Crisis on Infinite Earths
Captain America- Winter Soldier/ Death of Cap Saga
Barry Windsor Smith’s Conan
Ostrander’s Heroes for Hire
Garth Ennis’s The Boys

Top 10 in no particular order:

1. Zot! by Scott McCloud
2. Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison
3. Animal Man by Grant Morrison
4. Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, et al
5. Suicide Squad by John Ostrander, et al
6. Love And Rockets by Los Bros. Hernandez
7. Ms. Tree by Max Allan Collins & Terry Beatty
8. Boneyard by Richard Moore
9. Grimjack by John Ostrander, et al
10. Jon Sable by Mike Grell

Honorable mentions (because I’m terrible at narrowing these kinds of list down to just 10): Green Arrow by Grell, V For Vendetta, Top Ten, Jack Staff, Nexus, Usagi Yojimbo, Peter David’s Fallen Angel, Groo The Wanderer (and pretty much anything by Aragones), Chew, Invincible, Preacher, Hitman, Wild Dog, Sandman, Sandman Mystery Theatre, Roy Thomas & John Buscema’s Conan, John Ostrander & Tom Mandrake’s Spectre and wayyy too many more to mention…

Aww man… So after reading further comments i NEED to add..

The Freak Brothers
Fat Freddys Cat
Russell the Saga of a Peaceful Man- Big Bang Comics

*the Russell comics are amazing and a wonderful documentation of English culture.. Absolutely brilliant and Pete Loveday the creator is a legend and a genius!

Shame upon me for forgetting Russell and thanks to the guy who mentioned Freak Brothers and reminded me!

Honourable mention to Robert Crumb also!

Zz.

Punisher Max>Hitman>Preacher>MK Punisher>Ennis’ Hellblazer

For all those getting Ennisy up in here.

Even though it’s hard to narrow down and I will change my mind on details tomorrow, I’ll submit my Top 10 in two categories:

ongoing series:

X-Men
Daredevil
Swamp Thing
Sandman
Hellblazer
Avengers
Fantastic Four
Walking Dead
Miracleman
Fables

miniseries

Deep Sleeper
Watchmen
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
Moonshadow
V for Vendetta
Ronin
Elektra: Assassin
Give Me Liberty
Justice Inc.
Squadron Supreme

honorable mentions for JLA, Warlock, Wolverine, Secret Wars and probably a zillion others if I think about it…

When I was 16, Elektra Assasin (along with Blood: A Tale and Moon shadow) forced my separation from comic universe based, super hero soap-opera banality. Occasionally a gem like Barr & Davis’s Detective would shine through. I Don’t understand why DC wouldn’t collect this (they could include their collaboration on Batman & the Outsiders…. what? Nobody would buy a collection of early Alan Davis work?!?) And Finally… Just received the third Absolute Promethea… a glorious travail through the Kabbalah. Your list is wonderful!

Agreed on the older stuff. While we do a “Best of” list for our site, I never enjoy the process all that much. And I hate reading other people’s lists where comics with all of 2 issues published are being called “Best new series”.

One of the hopes that I have for digital comics is that if the publishers can better monetize their back-catalog, they won’t feel quite as compelled to publish quite the volume of new stuff (much of which is forced and mediocre).

Thank you for writing this! Since I was 5 I have dipped in and out of the comic book medium at various times in my life. I have always been a DC Comics guy since, however, there are so many other titles I missed as I picked up and put down comics in what seems to be in 5 to 10 year increments. When you are away that long, you want to know what you missed. Sure you want to enjoy the new stuff and I have personally jumped into the new DC 52 with a commitment not to fall out again, but I really enjoy columns like this that showcase the old which is still with us in anthologies or paperback collections. It was the insistence of a friend to read Waid’s Irredeemable and Red Son (an alternative take on Superman as a Russian) that actually brought me back. And its the reminders of what came before that I am really interested in, since in the bound book world you always revisit the classics. For me, it brought back memories of my enjoyment of the Green Lantern and Green Arrow match ups in the 1970s. To each his own, but its good to see columns like yours! Thanks!

Lots of interesting and varied lists! With the exception of Lucifer (which is still great in its own right), all of the books on my list really challenged my perception of comics. This is particularly true of Sandman and Promethea. In my mind, nothing else even begins to compare to those two triumphs of the medium.

1. Sandman
2. Promethea
3. Scott Pilgrim
4. Y: The Last Man
5. Planetary
6. FreakAngels
7. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
8. New X-Men (Morrison)
9. Lucifer
10. The Authority (Ellis/Hitch)

This isn’t the first time someone has said the Dark Phoenix saga isn’t as good now as it was then and I wonder how much that has to do with the fact that Marvel brought Jean Grey back so that the emotional impact is lost. Well anyways, here’s my list
1. Thor during the Walt Simonson era
2. Hulk during the Peter David run, particularly the Keown issues
3. Amazing Spider-man when Roger Stern wrote it, especially the Juggernaut story
4. G.I. Joe, the first 19 issues
5. Preacher
6. FAntatic Four by John Byrne
7. Daredevil 168-181 by that old nutter
8. Superman by John Byrne
9. Flash by Mark Waid – Wally West is THE Flash
10. New Teen Titans by Wolfman and Perez
Child of the 80’s and proud of it!

So many great lists.Good job everyone.When I try to make a list,I see someone elses list and see a a run I missed.A few I did not find were Chaykins American Flagg,Wagner’s Sandman Mystery Theatre,Wolfman/Perez Teen Titans,Byrne’s FF,Simonson’s Thor and Lee/Ditko Dr. Strange. Comics are GREAT!!!

I missed Sean’s post.

No confusion and respect to the other Sean, but my post was the one without the list.

My Top Ten (in random order)

1) Top Ten – Alan Moore (it’s so good! procedural police story set in a multiverse where any of your favorite characters might make an appearance)
2) Summer Blonde – Adrian Tomine (Adrian knows you and your friends better than you do. If you have ever been in your 20s, please read this book)
3) Stray Bullets – David Lapham (I don’t think he’ll ever finish this series, but it’s still a fantastic crime story)
4) The Push Man and Other Stories – Yoshihiro Tatsumi (very dark stories about modern Japanese life in the 1960s and 1970s. Tatsumi also wrote a giant comic about his life and work in Manga which I also recommend)
5) Transmetropolitan – Warren Ellis (If you STILL haven’t read this, get on that. You’ll love it.)
6) American Splendor – Harvey Pekar (The whole thing. Just the whole thing. Who knew mundane life could be as exciting as fantasy?)
7) Safe Area Gorazde – Joe Sacco (Sacco went to Bosnia in 1996 and embedded himself in a warzone at ground level. DMZ has nothing on this real life account)
8) A Contract with God/Life on Dropsie Ave – Will Eisner (There is a reason there is such a thing as an Eisner award – Eisner was that good. Stories from the Big City and all the struggles therein)
9) Planetary – Warren Ellis (There’s a reason you see this on everyone’s list in this comments section. Planetary is a history, homage, and criticism of comic books through the ages – it is also a compelling story of metahumans. In a nutshell – everything you love about superheroes and adventure is here.)
10) Hellboy – Mike Mignola (There’s punching and Lovecraft-esque monsters everywhere. I liked Mignola’s art alot and it sucks he’s not illustrating much anymore)

As Sonia inferred, so many of these choices are influenced by the “first love” affect of comics — the tales from when we first really got involved with the medium are what stay with us. With that caveat (and in no particular order):

1) Steve Englehart’s ’70s Avengers run. Englehart may well be the most underrrated/overlooked writer in Marvel history. His run (as basically only the third Avengers writer) gave us the Avengers/Defenders War (Marvel’s first real BIG summer crossover), Mantis, the Vision-Scarlet Witch romance and marriage, Kang The Conqueror’s multiple Time Wars, etc.

2) Englehart’s Captain America “Secret Empire” saga: Anyone loving Ed Brubaker’s current run should go back and read that, because the tight-plotting, political messages and connecting Cap with the travails of the larger country (Watergate in the ’70s) are all the things that make an excellent Captain America story.

3) Chris Claremont’s X-Men (Cockrum/Byrne art) 94-141. Claremont went on for a decade beyond, but these were the true foundation for everything that has come since. Perhaps not since the Lee-Kirby run on the first 100+ issues of FF has there been so much regular mind-blowing stuff delivered in one comic issue after issue.

4) Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns/Year One: Enough said.

5) Alan Moore’s Watchmen — for already-explored reasons listed

6) Moore’s Swamp Thing — ditto

7) Paul Levitz’s Legion of Super-Heroes — the “Great Darkness” is, of course, the standout (made such an impression at the time, because the identity of the true villain was a real mystery at the time, because introducing “HIM” into the 30th Century had never been done before).

8) Dennis O’Neil/Neal Adams/Irv Novick “Tales of the Demon” stories of the early ’70s. As essential as Miller’s “Dark Knight” was, the fact is the Christopher Nolan movies could not have been made without these books. Ra’s Al Ghul, the League of Assassins (“Shadows” in Batman Begins), Talia (who, of course, years later would produce us Damian Wayne — for better or worse), etc. This storyline (spread out over a couple of years) also officially removed any memory of the ’60s “camp” years. Available at Amazon,
http://www.amazon.com/dp/0930289943?tag=batmantrades-20&link_code=as3&creativeASIN=0930289943&creative=373489&camp=211189

9) Jim Starlin’s “cosmic” original Captain Marvel and Warlock stories. Yes, the later “Infinity Gauntlet” stuff is good, but it still can’t touch Starlin’s early introductions of Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, Moondragon and countless other characters in CM. He then followed that up with Warlock and the existential war with his own alternate future self, the Magus. Of course, Starlin’s “Death of Captain Marvel” graphic novel is an essential part of this series.

10) Wolfman-Perez New Teen Titans: Basically issues 1-38, a great run that introduced Raven, Starfire, Cyborg, Deathstroke, transformed Robin into Nightwing, “The Judas Contract, “Who is Donna Troy?” Rightly so, the only comic that could go toe-to-toe with Claremont’s X-Men run at the time.

Honorable mentions: Wolfman’s “Tomb of Dracula” run, Englehart’s Detective Comics 469-476, Wolfman-Perez “Crisis on Infinite Earths,” Byrne’s “Fantastic Four.” Len Wein’s JLA 100-113.
Oh, and CBR last year gave a nice listing of Steve Englehart’s major Marvel and DC works: http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2010/05/10/2010-steve-englehart-reading-guide/

No particular order-

1- All Star Superman
2- Morrison’s Doom Patrol
3- The Invisibles
4- Asterios Polyp
5- Scud: The Disposable Assassin(seems a bit obvious)
6- Morrison’s Batman
7- 100 Bullets
8- BQM’s Batgirl
9- 52
10- Gaiman’s Sandman

1-alan moore’s swamp thing
2-spectre vol 3. one of the most underatted comic series
3-morrison’s doom patrol run
4-sandman
5-Simonson’s Orion series. (cut shamefully short)
6- Anything with Garth Ennis and the Punisher. Born is particularly excellent.
7-Morrison’s JLA run
8-Daredevil Born Again
9-Book of Magic
10-Judge Death

Good list.

The Detective Comics issues (before “Batman: Year Two”) by Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis are indeed pretty good. But I wouldn’t take issues #569 and #570 into consideration, given that they contain that story in which Catwoman got brainwashed so she would act as a villain again. As an editorial measure, I find it awful; it’s so lame when they brainwash a character to justify a change in her behaviour (I can’t believe DC Comics made that same mistake again years later after Ed Brubaker’s Catwoman run ended). And it wasn’t even necessary, since Crisis on Infinite Earths had just been published and all that soap opera from previous years about Catwoman becoming an ally to Batman was now out of contituity anyway.

Good idea for list…so here goes

1-Fantastic Four the Completer Kirby/Lee run-Epic and has been attempted to be dupicated for years…with the possible closest being the current hickman run!

2-Green Lantern Rebirth- And everything GL that followed…Thought Geoff may have completely destroyed DC with the New 52..Not sure i forgive him for that but at least it didn’t really mess with this epic tale !

3-Preacher-Garth Ennis irreverant exploration of religion is perhaps one of the sickest funniest and down right thought provocing series ever written…

4-The Dark Knight Returns..the first Batman story that I thought got it…Plus it finally gave the Batman his balls back!

5-Crisis on Infinite Earths- Now this was a story that actually gave you everything you wanted in a universe wide reboot..Unlike Flashpoint..This series actual gave you and ending to the characters we had grown to love at that time..Worlds actually lived and died..we actually got and ending to most if not all the DC heroes..This gave us best of the DCU something sadly Falshpoint completely missed the mark on!

6-Wanted-The comic not the Movie!…This comic actually answered the question what if the villians won…and actually in the end made you think about the world we live in!

7-All-Star Superman- Finally a Superman story for the ages..taking every quirky aspect of the Superman Mythology and wrapping it up in a fun and throughly entertaining story..Perhaps the best Superman story ever!

8-Amazing Spiderman- Death of Gwen Stacy story- This was my first actual death I had ever read and trust me still gets me to this day…The scenes of her falling from the bridge and Spidermans reaction to her death felt completely real…and when she didn’t return ever…makes it hurt even now…The closet I’ve ever felt to feeling this emotional over a comics death is the recent ultimate Spider Death..the scene with him walking off with Ben ..Priceless!

9-X-men the complete age of Apocalypse Saga…I know an alternate universe…been done to death …but remember at the time it came out it was kind of inspired idea(another idea ruined by Flashpoint…LOL)…And theway the character lives were turned up side down..amazing.

10-Planetary…A wild genre weaving story for the ages…Pure genius!

Well I could keep going but thats my list and I’m sticking to it!..LOL

Thanks for the well-written article, specifically the second half and the acknowledgment of the deep bookshelf that the best of 2011 shares with the best comics have to offer.

Just wanted to share my experience with LOVE & ROCKETS. I discovered the book at #48 of the original run and then made a point of trying to find all of the original 50. I tended to read the issues as I found them, no matter the order. The Bros often visit their characters in flashbacks and at different points in their lives, aging and growing through life experiences. By reading out of order, I wasn’t alienated, in fact, it felt like I was checking in on lived lives and slowly amassing a full picture of their world. All said, the most gratifying literary experience I’ve ever had.

And, my 10, sometimes grouped in themes and not in any order:

1. Love & Rockets (see above)
2. The Life & Times of Scrooge McDuck (Don Rosa) and Dropsie Avenue (Will Eisner) – World and American history made more real by being cartoons
3. Daredevil: Born Again and Batman: Year One (Miller/Mazzuchelli) – Both creators refine their craft to its most essential elements while retaining humanity, fire, and pathos.
4. Reid Fleming: World’s Toughest Milkman (Dave Boswell) – So silly, this can only exist as a comic.
5. Pluto (Urasawa) – Combines the best of sci-fi and crime fiction and every detail is a work of art.
6. Swamp Thing (Moore and co.) and Uzumaki (Ito) – Put new faces on Horror for me
7. Bone (Jeff Smith) – Everything about it feels fully formed and effortless
8. Preacher (Ennis/ Dillon) – At first I thought I’d be put off by the intentional gonzo satire but he’s the hero we deserve. Made me want to be a better man.
9. The comic strips of Jules Feiffer – Taught my more than all my schoolin’ about history, politics, and a modern psyche.
10. Popeye (EC Segar) – Every pen mark has a sense of humor and every line rings true.

This is all the library I’ll ever need and yet comics continue to get better and offer more each year.

Ten of the best:

Sandman
Transmetropolitan
NEXTWAVE
Doom Patrol (Morrison)
Animal Man (Morrison)
All-Star Superman
Preacher
Hellboy
Swamp Thing (Moore)
From Hell (Moore)

Oh man, off the top of my head:

Sandman
Preacher
Transmetropolitan
Moore’s Swamp Thing
Watchmen
Promethea
Top Ten
All-Star Superman
Scott Pilgrim
Y the Last Man
Starm…

Wait, that’s ten already? Can’t do it.

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