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CSBG Archive

2012 Top 100 Comic Book Runs #20-18

You voted, now here are the results of your votes for your favorite comic book creator runs of all-time! We’ll be revealing three runs a day for most of the month. Here is a master list of all of the runs revealed so far.

Here’s the next three runs…

20. Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’ Justice League – 474 points (8 first place votes)

Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7-25, Justice League America #26-60, Justice League Europe #1-8, Justice League International Quarterly #1 plus some Annuals.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

When DC gives you a Justice League book, but won’t let you use almost any of the most popular heroes, you make due with the heroes you WERE allowed to use, and write them to the best of your ability.

That is what Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis did with their run on Justice League, and the end result was one of DC’s biggest hits of the late 1980s. Originally intended to be an “All-Star cast,” due to various reboots and such, the only MAJOR hero available was Batman, although Captain Marvel was there in the beginning (and lasted one story before HE was taken away – Black Canary lasted about a year before SHE was taken away). The other heroes who were made available were low-level characters with their own titles that didn’t sell a bunch (Blue Beetle, Booster Gold and Captain Atom), Mister Miracle (who hadn’t appeared regularly in about a decade at the time), one fairly notable League member (Martian Manhunter) and a pretty popular Green Lantern, Guy Gardner, from Steve Englehart’s popular Green Lantern Corps title.

Without the major heroes, Giffen and DeMatteis instead attempted to really develop the personalities of the heroes they WERE given, particularly once Beetle and Booster’s series were each canceled, giving them free reign with how to write them. They also spotlighted the League liaison, Maxwell Lord, who formed the team for fairly nefarious reasons but soon turned out to be a good guy. Later on, due to a lack of female characters on the team (and notable female heroes available period) when Canary was taken from them, Giffen and DeMatteis added two obscure members of the Global Guardians who soon became stalwart members of the team, Fire and Ice.

The book is most known for the humor of the title, which was a major aspect of the book – it really was a situation comedy.

Here is the first usage of “Bwah Ha Ha” that shows what the comedy of the book was like…

Helping the writers in this journey was was Kevin Maguire, whose ability to depict facial expressions was extremely key to the early issues of the series, and Ty Templeton, while using a more cartoonish style, was an able successor. Adam Hughes was the next regular artist, in his first, and most likely LAST regular series.

19. Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary – 489 points (8 first place votes)

Planetary #1-27, plus a few crossover one-shots, most notably Batman/Planetary

“Archaeologists of the Impossible” is the tagline for the Planetary, and that’s as good of an explanation as anything else, as Warren Ellis and book co-creator, artist John Cassaday, have developed a fascinating look at popular culture with this title that really is a bit of cultural archaeology.

The concept of the book is that there is an organization called Planetary, which employs agents to track the secret history of the world, partly for curiosity’s sake, but partly to see if there’s anything that could be learned to help mankind. The book begins with the mysterious Elijah Snow joining two other field agents, Jakita Wagner and The Drummer.

From then on, while there is an overarching storyline that deals with the villainous Four, the book mostly takes each issue to examine a notable popular culture character, like Zorro or Doc Savage or the Lone Ranger of the Fantastic Four or Nick Fury, and so forth. Through these characters (almost all analogues of the originals), Ellis examines the underpinnings of the very genre of superhero comics – notably, what is BEHIND superhero comics? What makes them tick? Stuff like that.

Here’s their take on the Hulk…

Story continues below

It’s quite engrossing, and Ellis is extremely lucky to have John Cassaday with him doing it all. John Cassaday was a good artist before Planetary began, but it was during his work on Planetary that he became a GREAT artist. The amount of different characters he has to create/emulate is amazing, and yet each issue is like a mini-epic, with beautiful design work and excellent character work, as well.

The series suffered a few delays over the years, but it was well worth it!

18. Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern – 498 points (11 first place votes)

Green Lantern: Rebirth #1-6, Green Lantern #1-67, Green Lantern #1-current (#13)

Geoff Johns had already done significant work with Hal Jordan before he took over the Green Lantern title. Johns was the fellow who had Hal Jordan become the new Spectre during the Day of Judgment crossover. However, a few years later, Johns was given the arduous task of not only redeeming Hal Jordan, but essentially “fixing” everything that had happened after Hal Jordan went nuts in the mid-1990s.

Johns introduced a twist on the Parallax idea by introducing the concept of Parallax as an independent being that possessed Hal Jordan and turned him evil. By the end of Rebirth, Hal Jordan was back as Green Lantern, as was John Stewart and Guy Gardner (Johns stripped away the “alien shapeshifter” aspect of Guy). Plus, Sinestro returned as a villain.

Johns then launched a brand-new Green Lantern series starring Hal and John.

Johns soon started what is likely the defining aspect of his Green Lantern run (well, unless “bringing Hal Jordan back from the dead” is what his defining aspect is – I guess it is a close call either way), which is the introduction of Sinestro having his own Corps of YELLOW light-based villains. This introduced the concept of the multi-colored corps, which persist to this day as a major aspect of the DC Universe (yellow for fear, red for anger, violet for love, blue for hope, indigo for folk rock, black for death, orange for avarice and white for life).

Johns also spent a lot of time developing Hal Jordan’s back story, and in fact, his Secret Origin storyline with penciler Ivan Reis became must of what the film, Green Lantern, was based on…

Green Lantern later played a major role in the massive Blackest Night crossover (as the Black Lanterns spun out of the Green Lantern titles).

More recently, in the relaunched Green Lantern title, Sinestro was given a Green Lantern ring and the book became a bit of a buddy title for awhile spotlighting the tension of Sinestro and Hal being forced to work together against the secret machinations of the Guardians of the Universe, who are beginning to seem a lot more creepy than normal. Last month, Johns took Hal and Sinestro out of the title and introduced a brand-new Green Lantern, an Arab-American whose role in the upcoming Green Lantern crossover of “The Third Army” is still to be determined.

Johns has been blessed to work with a number of amazing artists during his time on Green Lantern. Ethan Van Sciver did Rebirth, Carlos Pacheco launched the new title with Johns (Van Sciver did some early issues, as well). Then Ivan Reis took over for a few years and the last few years has been drawn by Doug Mahnke.


Planetary makes it 5 outta 10 for me (Invincible, Astro City, Transmetropolitan, and Fables are the others). Ellis defined the twentieth century superhero for me in this title – he took every major cape from the Pulp Age on and found a new angle to look at them with. I always found his issue about the faux John Constantine an especially insightful glance at the 80s British Invasion. And there are just so many heart-wrenching stories: the science city girl, the time-trapped team member, the ship with no crew, Doc Brass… in just 27 issue, so many plot threads are opened and closed.

Giffen’s League came close for me. Ted Kord and Booster Gold are two characters that I will love forever, simply because of the great characterization done in this series. For me, Giffen’s League did what Ostrander’s Suicide Squad did: take C-Listers and really flesh them out with A-level exposure. However, Giffen really caught the sit-com falvor and used it to spice up the standard team book.

Johns isn’t exactly my favorite writer, but I really respect his work on Lantern. I mean, the Sinestro Corps War is one of the best storylines of the last several years; I still pick it up now and again. He really understood the concept of worldbuilding and poured tons of ideas into a franchise that had been slowly shriveling for a long time. I mean, characters galore and great ones, to boot: Atrocitus, Arkillo, Dex-starr, Bleez, Saint Walker, and of course – LARFLEEZE! I will admit that the post-Blackest Night Green Lantern really suffered until the reboot – it felt stagnant. But recently I’ve found my interest in the title renewed. It’s nothing like as good as his JSA run – that’s a title he really fit like a glove – but inb4IHATEGEOFFJOHNS, right?

17 more… think I can name ‘em all, but the order will be interesting.

Still waiting on a few of mine that I hope will show up. I feel fairly confident that we will see Bendis’ Ultimate Spider-Man, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s FF and Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing before the list goes out. Not getting my hopes up for Grant Morrison’s Batman though. Sigh.

Interesting to see the shake-up of the order of these since last time.

I’ve never been a huge GL fan, but picked up both Rebirth and Sinestro Corps War out of curiosity and loved them both. Especially the Sinestro story. I think Johns is very good at getting new readers quickly familiar with the status quo and then getting right into the action, I always felt well-invested in characters I didn’t know very well just an issue before.

So between that quality and the sheer size of his tenure on the character, I’m happy to see him on the list.

And I only just finally read Planetary and I’m happy to see that make it as well!

I really enjoyed the Giffen/DeMatteiss JL, but it wasn’t on my list. Pleasantly surprised that it made the top 20.
Johns has done some of his best work on GL, but it’s been on a downhill slide for a couple of years now. Still (usually) enjoyable comics, but far from top ten material in my estimation.
Never read “Planetary.”

Planetary was up there on my list. I was torn between including it vs. Transmetropolitan, but Planetary was far more consistent.

Only two runs from the 21st century on my list are Planetary and Ellis/Hitch Authority. Don’t get me wrong, LOVE Millar’s CAP, thoroughly enjoy Chew, Nauck’s Wildguard, and just about anything Kirkman touches. Think Waid/Rivera’s DD is the bomb,Whedon/Cassidays X-Men are the only non-Claremont books that deserve the title X-men: but Planetary was just pure JOY!

I had to scroll past seven previously-posted articles to find this. Is having everything nice and orderly in the archives with one article per day so important that it justifies the main page being an unordered mess of backdated articles?

Planetary was awesome.
The bwa-ha-ha era of the Justice League was awful.
Two extremes, awesome and awful.

Somewhere in the middle, I rate Geoff Johns’ Green Lantern as a “meh”. In five years we can expect this one to plummet in the poll.

Two things here.

1 – That JL / JLI / JLA run was so wonderfully funny. In that same issue, you didn’t show the scene where Mr. Miracle tries to land the vehicle on the roof and falls through the ceiling.

But one line from that run that I have been using for basically 25 years now is an exchange (I believe between Miracle and Beetle)

“You know Beetle, there’s nothing like a good sense of humor.”
“And you’ve got nothing like a good sense of humor.”

Of course, a lot of the fun in that run was later negated when Lord killed Beetle and Wonder Woman killed Lord in the lead up to Infinite Crisis.

2 – I had really hated what had been done with Hal Jordan and his stand-off with Batman. I remember in 92, when Hal visited the league and they offered to let Hal have Guy’s place and Hal and Batman had a great talk.

So I really loved it when Johns had Batman be distrustful and then has John Stewart come up with that brilliant explanation – Batman doesn’t trust Hal because Batman relies on people being afraid of him and Hal isn’t afraid of anything. One of the best explanations I have ever seen in a comic.

JLI – It’s pretty dated, especially those moments you could practically hear the canned laughter, but for making so many people care about a team of C-listers, I have massive respect.

Planetary – I only finished this recently. I think I actually might like it better than Transmetropolitan, but that may just be because of John Cassaday, whose one of the only photo-realistic artists that I don’t find boring and stagnant (I’m looking at you Mike Choi!). While some of Ellis’ ideas get away from him (the Four became less and less interesting as the series went on), it’s really a testament to his dialogue that he never spews his philosophy in the ultra-pedantic, Dave Sim-style, and managed to carve a really cool action story all the way through.

Green Lantern – I probably didn’t vote for this because of how lukewarm I’ve grown towards it at this point (seriously, another Lantern-War?!), but man, between Sinestro Corps and War of the Green Lanterns, this was the best book DC was pushing every month. Johns really did for the entire GL mythos what Claremont did for X-Men, and pulled off that so rare instance of completely reinventing the series into something much grander and involving. Just look the Green Lantern animated series; nearly all of it is based off the contributions Johns made to the mythos. Not to mention his knack for writing villains made Sinestro one of the best baddies in the DCU. Hopefully it’ll recover (this Simon Baz guy is pretty interesting).

Hmm. Well, despite my incredulity that Johns’s Green Lantern is rated better than 81 other great runs, at least it appears that Morrison’s Batman will beat it.

“One punch… and I missed it?!” Oh, I love the early JLI. In a way I think that was the last time any creative team working in the DCU really got what was special about their universe. Planetary is fascinating, maybe Ellis’s best work, but not my favorite. Personally, I think that Geoff Johns is the biggest hack in comics, and the embodiment of everything wrong with the industry, but his GL was entertaining enough, I guess, probably his best work, if nothing special.

Are we only going to get 3 runs at a time from now on?

Looks like Mark Waid’s Irredeemable is not goin to be on this list. What a shame.

There are two runs that I adore for very different reasons in this batch.

The Giffen and DeMatteis’ Justice League was a lot of fun. For me, the run had a prologue in JLA 258-261. DeMatteis wrote the story of Professor Ivo destroying a Justice League composed of B and C-listers. That prospect hung over a lot of the high points of the subsequent JL/JLI/JLA years. The humor and the sense that they were over-matched by the old school Rogues Gallery created some genuine suspense. Better, the humor was often genuinely funny. The jokes were often character-driven and did more to develop the second tier of DC heroes than anything before, or since. So many characters were defined by Giffen & DeMatteis that it is hard to over-state their influence.

PLANETARY is utterly brilliant as well. It was the best outlet for Warren Ellis that I have encountered. He could set up a piece of pop culture per issue and utterly take it apart. The premise meant that his protagonists never had to live with the consequences of any given issue. They just moved on to the next inquiry. John Cassaday was astounding on PLANETARY. He visually re-thought a couple dozen sub-genres, kept the series as a whole consistent and told a great story. It always bums me out a little to someone that talented cranking out middle-of-the-line Marvel books, when he once was seemed to be re-inventing comics. Anyway, that series was great, great stuff.

Geoff Johns on GREEN LANTERN has never done that much for me. He has obviously made some smart choices, like the multi-hued Lanterns corps, borrowing from the short stories of Alan Moore and his early emphasis on fear. Still, even a sharp re-thinking of the cosmic side of the DCU hold limited appeal for me. Still, anyone that touches Gren Lantern in any medium is going to have to live in the shadow of his legacy. That is certainly an achievement.

Just reread all of Planetary, it suffers from everyone being related, it kind of comes off as a circlejerk. I still like it but I think writing everything up into a neat little bow is boring. I’m sorry to see JLI drop from #9 from the 2008 list.

Val Fal: I would have been surprised if Waid’s Irredeemable had made the list. I’d say the most glaring omission on the entire list is Roy Thomas’ runs on Conan and Avengers.

world’s thinnest plots based entirely on variants of pulp literature with characters that can do nothing but be “bad-ass” and “cool”.

I didn’t vote this time around (was travelling during the voting period), but JLI would’ve got one of my votes. It has a sitcom reputation, and it _was_ often hilarious, but the more I reread it the more I appreciate the *range* of the run. The serious, scary, thrilling and heartbreaking moments are all the more effective for popping up unpredicatably amidst the comedy. It was far from a one-note monotony.

I had never read Planetary and it was its appearance on the last iteration of this list that led me to do so. I enjoyed it greatly! This is one of the great beneficences of lists like these, giving people a tiny taste of well-regarded works they are unfamiliar with. It’s a potent distillation of recommendations of quality, and you get to sample a droplet of each item to help you decide what most appeals to you. Kudos and gratitude to Brian for enabling this!!!

I don’t care much for Johns GL, Planetary is fantastic and should have been even higher, same for JLI (maybe the funniest superhero run ever).

Giffen/DeMatteis JL: The early issues are my favorite super-hero comedy comics. The entire creative team balanced the laughs with the action sublimely. Later issues veered a little toward unfunny slapstick (oh man the General Glory stuff sucks, and Kooey Kooey Kooey was never as funny as they thought it was), but there were still some gems. The Despero arc was heart rending while the Guy & Ice date was hilarious.

Planetary: The best meta-comic. Ellis & Cassaday made most issues entertaining singles celebrating or critiquing one form of genre writing or another. The main plot was pretty good, and I’m glad the series was finite. Cassaday’s art was at its strongest on this series. His subsequent work has been good, of course, but I miss his varying the inking depending on the scenes.

Johns GL: I haven’t read much of this run. I wasn’t intrigued enough by the issues I read, but I can’t say I thought they were outright bad.

Planetary is my third vote to show up (after Hellboy and Animal Man), it was my #6. I think that not only is it one of the greatest comics ever, but it’s also the greatest analysis of the medium. It’s about how the medium of graphic storytelling in America has developed the way it has, why it’s so damn interesting and fun, and why it will continue to be so. And it’s also a symposium on how to create a comic book where the issues stand on their own. I don’t understand why DC hasn’t put it out in nice deluxe hardcovers yet.

I didn’t vote for Giffen/Dematteis JLI, but it was one of the last runs I cut from my list, and it was a nice example of how to be truly different and innovative without sacrificing broad appeal. The Kooey Kooey Kooey story was probably my favorite, but there are so many classics.

But man, I HATE Johns’ GL run. TO be fair, I’ve only read about half. I read Rebirth and the first few trades of the main series, Secret Origin, Blackest Night and the tie-ins, and the first few issues of the New 52 series. I want to like it, and I’ve tried to, but I think it represents everything wrong in super-hero comics– the propensity to make everything a major event, the constant retcons, the over-reliance on rewriting origin stories, the negating of past stories that don’t fit a writer’s agenda, everything drowned in continuity and “world-building,” reprehensible decompression… I could go on. I think the biggest reason the movie failed (and man, it was wretched) is that Geoff Johns got his hands on it and tried to have it reflect his run. There’s no reason a great movie couldn’t have been made out of Green Lantern, but super-hero movies work best when they reflect the core of a character’s appeal. Johns has added so much to the GL plate that the character is virtually core-less now. There’s no longer any center to go back to. Everything about GL is grossly unwieldy now, the same way it was just before Emerald Twilight, but much, much worse.

Giffen/DeMatteis’ Justice League 2012: #20, 474 points
Giffen/Dematteis’ Justice League 2008: #9, 742 points
Down 11 places, -268 points

Planetary 2012: #19, 489 points
Planetary 2008: #18, 493 points
Down 1 place, -4 points

Johns’ Green Lantern 2012: #18, 498 points
Johns’ Green Lantern 2008: #53, 174 points
Up 35 places, +324 points

The Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League slides down the list. I’m sure part of this is the characters involved being less high profile than they were in 2008, and much of the run in question still not being collected in trade (as far as I know).

Planetary holds steady, which is a fairly remarkable achievement at this point in the Top 100. I’m sure the series ending between the 2008 and 2012 voting helped, and the subsequent trade editions.

Johns’s Green Lantern makes one of the biggest point gains seen thus far in the Top 100. The run is still ongoing, and has had plenty of time to develop since the 2008 voting. Also, I’m pretty sure most of it is being issued in trade as it comes out. While clearly this run is somewhat divisive, its impact is undeniable.

How did I miss this? Two of my picks made it again! JL and Planetary :D Though Transmet is still Ellis’ best work :p

I’ve read all of the first two runs in this installment, and at least a little bit of the Johns run on Hal Jordan. Never seriously considered voting for any of them, but in at least the first two cases, I can easily understand why other people would.

Alright, I take it back: JLI is the Internet’s most favorite thing that I haven’t read, not Suicide Squad. I have read the first trade, which I enjoyed, but I haven’t gone back to read the rest yet.

Planetary is great stuff. I’d love to go back and read it all in a couple chunks now that all of it has been released.

No surprise to see Johns’ Green Lantern work on the list. I enjoy it (and it’s really the only time I’ve read Green Lantern regularly), but I doubt I’d ever put it on a favorites list.

So glad JLI, my first place vote, made the list his high. It really is the best Justice League run IMHO, but Morrison’s JLA is a very close second and I don’t mind seeing it higher on the list, which I can partly attribute to the fact that it’s more recent. Both great examples of how to do the Justice League and why writing still matters even when you have some top-notch artists drawing the hell out of the book.

I’m sad to see that the Giffen/DeMatties JL came in at #20, after having placed 9th last time. Nice to see the Johns GL do well, though it’s not in my top 10.

Ed (A Different One)

October 31, 2012 at 12:23 pm

It seems to me that there are enough “untapped” pop-cultural wells out there to support an ongoing series in the Planetary vein – just intead of it having an over-arching storyline make it truly a series of one-off, standalone issues deconstructing iconic pop cultural figures on a montly basis. Hell, make it bi-monthly or even quarterly if you have to to make it viable. It could have a rotating creative team – something for up-and-comers to cut their teeth on, like writing an episode of “Tales from the Crypt” from back in the day. Or something that even established creators could take a shot at making their mark on for purposes of prestige and joining the “elite fraternity”, so to speak. Somehow I don’t see Marvel or DC ever taking a shot at it but Dark Horse? Maybe. Modern day Image could maybe do something like that too.

Ah, Geoff Johns and GL, what shall I ever make of you? I’ve only ever read a smattering of it so maybe I should probably keep my mouth shut, but it just seems like it’s ahead of a lot of awfully good runs that seem a heck of a lot more prestigious and influential IMO. But, then again (I remind myself), this is just an internet blog poll, nothing to get one’s feathers ruffles over. Good fun people. Good fun.

And count Giffen/DeMatteis as one of those historic and well-loved runs I probably would have never even known existed if it weren’t for the good ole interwebs. I was such a Marvel Zombie back during this time period I had no idea that this run was going on (and probably wouldn’t have had the open mind to appreciate it if I did). Another reason to thank Cronin for my continuing (and, might I add, free) comics education provided by this site. There are vasts swatchs of this run I still haven’t read, but I still pick up back issues of this whenever I can come across one that isn’t too expensive and I’ve never not enjoyed the read. Keeping my fingers crossed that my library will eventually picked up a collected edition of this – not that it’s not worth buying, but I’ve just go too much on my “must buy” list as it is – it would probably take me twenty years to get to this.


Third Man, I think DC has put Planetary out in 2(?) Absolute editions.

Planetary was my #12, mostly because I haven’t read the whole thing. But the first 18 issues are amazing stuff, I don’t think they could have muffed the end. “A few delays” HA!

Johns on GL has been ok, what I’ve read. Nothing spectacular. “Indigo for folk rock.” HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Giff/D-Matt JL — I like what I’ve read, love the characters, and I believe I now own the entirety of the JLI/A book, along with much of the Europe book. I got JLE 1 early on in my collecting, and it hit my sweet spot. Cool stuff.

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