O Say Can You See: The Greatest Patriotic Super Heroes of All-Time
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 the rest of the month. Here is a master list of all of the runs revealed so far.
Here’s the next three runs…
11. James Robinson’s Starman – 637 points (22 first place votes)
Starman #1-80, plus a #1,000,000 and two Annuals
One of the few good things to spin out of Zero Hour, Starman begins with Ted Knight (the Golden Age Starman) passing the torch (or, in this case, his cosmic energy staff) to his son David. Sadly, in the very first issue, David is murdered, leaving the family title to Ted’s OTHER son, Jack Knight, who was wholly uninterested in becoming a hero.
Jack owns an antiques and collectibles store, and is quite happy to just do that – but with his brother dead, Jack feels the need to take up the Starman name, but only if his father would agree to use his research that led to the cosmic staff’s creation for the good of mankind.
Jack then began one of the stranger superhero tenures, as the whole time he’s doing it, even as he grows more and more as a hero, he still does not exactly fit in with other typical heroes.
While Jack is nominally the star of Starman, the REAL star is the city Jack and his father, Ted, live in – Opal City. Throughout the series, a message writer James Robinson gets across is an appreciation for the classics, and Opal City is a whole city that is BUILT around that notion – that the classic stories need a city, too, and that’s what Opal City. This leads to the Shade, a classic villain who Robinson re frames as an almost immortal man who just wants to enjoy his time in Opal City, the city he loves. The Shade even ended up getting his own series!
There is a family of cops in Opal City, the O’Dares, who also play a major role in the series, including former crooked cop Matt O’Dare who is pushed into heroism by the spirit of his ancestor.
Artist Tony Harris co-created the book, and did the art for the first 45 issues or so. He was responsible for all of the design of both Jack, Jack’s tattoos (a notable style element of the book in the early days) and Opal City. Harris left the book after 45 issues or so, and was followed by Peter Snejbjerg, who stayed until the end of the book.
Starman was one of the most cultured superhero comics – you’d have stuff like thugs debating the works of Stephen Sondheim!!
In fact, that’ll be our sample. From #14, a spotlight on the O’Dares…
In addition, Robinson revisited the past to find every past bearer of the name “Starman,” no matter how obscure. Other old heroes and villains kept popping up in the series, as well.
The book was such a massive critical success for DC that they allowed Robinson to end the story as he wished, which is a tremendous compliment in this day and age of “the show must go on, no matter how bad!” publishing.
10. Walter Simonson’s Thor – 701 points (16 first place votes)
The Mighty Thor #337-355, 357-382 (writer/artist for #337-354, 357-367, 380)
There’s not much cooler of a way to introduce yourself to a title then to break the old logo of the book in your first issue and debut a new logo the next one. And that’s just one of the dramatic things Walt Simonson did with his first issue of Thor, a book that was not selling particularly well, so Simonson had a great deal of freedom to TRY these dramatic things. The other dramatic event in the first issue of Simonson’s Thor was just WHO it was that was wielding Thor’s hammer on the cover – some weird looking creature!
Beta Ray Bill, the noble alien who was found to be worthy enough to wield Mjolnir, was an attempt to shock readers, and to give his book a try, as Simonson spent the next thirty issues or so both writing and drawing an eventful time in the world of Thor, as Simonson used his extensive knowledge of Norse mythology as the foundation for his stories, which were a bit more serious and true to Norse culture than previous writers.
Simonson’s stories were mostly plot-driven, but he gave a number of interesting character moments along the way, as well, and of course he delivered that fantastic, stylized dynamic artwork that he is so well known for using.
There was a major story with a fight between Odin and Surtur that took advantage of Simonson’s ability to draw really outstanding fight scenes, but perhaps the most notable storyline during his run was when a number of souls of living Earth people are trapped in the land of Hel. Thor, Balder and a few other people lead a rescue mission to save them, and the evil toady of the Enchantress, Skurge the Executioner, asks to be allowed to help, too. At the end, when they are about to be overrun at a bridge by the hordes of Hel right before becoming free, Thor vows that he will stay behind and hold off the hordes himself while the humans escape. Skurge knocks Thor out, and while everyone at first thinks he is being a traitor, he is instead opting to take Thor’s place.
It’s an amazing sequence of events, beautifully written and drawn by Simonson.
Soon after, Simonson concluded his run as an artist with an amusing story involving Thor being turned into a frog.
Then Sal Buscema joined the book as the artist, and Simonson continued a long story he had in which Thor is slowly beaten and scarred by battles, to the point where he is forced to grow a beard to cover his scars and wear a special suit of armor to maintain his strength. During this time, Thor takes on a new secret identity (Don Blake had been eliminated as Thor’s alter ego) of basically Thor wearing a pair of glasses, as a nod to Superman/Clark Kent.
The next few issues have a LOT of crossovers with various other books Simonson was involved with at the time, mostly X-Factor, and finally, his run concludes with a tremendously ambitious storyline including the Destroyer and the Midgard serpent. A classic finale to a classic run.
Oh, I would be remiss if I did not mention the amazing lettering John Workman did on this series. Amazing stuff.
9. Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s Preacher – 792 points (22 first place votes)
Preacher #1-66, plus some mini-series and one-shots (almost all of the one-shots and minis were not by Dillon)
Small-town Preacher is given the Word of God, so goes off to search America for God, along with his ex-girlfriend (who has since become an erstwhile assassin) and a hard-drinking 100-year-old Irish vampire.
Come on, how awesome is that?
Luckily, Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon deliver on the promise of that description, and THEN some, with their epic run together on Preacher.
Before reading this series, do note that not only is this book filled with horrifically violent images, but it also has some extremely disturbing NON-violent aspects, of which I won’t get into right here, but do note that if you are easily offended by stuff, then Preacher is not the book for you. That being said, as outlandish and disgusting as some of the parts of Preacher are, at the heart of the story are three well-crafted, complex characters, particularly the Irish vampire, Cassidy.
The book is designed like a Western, and a lot of famous Western locales are used in the comic, from Monument Valley to the Alamo. Heck, John Wayne is even a spiritual adviser to Jesse Custer (the nominal Preacher of this book). A great deal of this comic is based on Jesse and his ideas of honor.
While the three main characters are, well, the main characters, Preacher is known for its colorful cast of supporting characters, all so good that almost all of them had spin-offs during the series run, from the Saint of Killers, who is sent after Jesse by some scared Angels, to the evil Herr Star, the head of the Grail – a group that wants to control Jesse to bring about Armageddon, to Arseface, a young teen who tried to kill himself after Kurt Cobain shot himself, only he lived – just with a face that, even after plastic surgery, looks like, well, you know, to Jody and TC, two extremely disturbing “Good ol’ Boys” from Jesse’s past – all of these memorable characters ended up with their own spin-offs, all written by Ennis, and all collected in the trades that make up this series.
Let’s use Jody as our sample pages. Now Jody was a hard ass who worked for Jesse’s sadistic grandmother and Jody tormented Jesse his whole life and also killed Jesse’s father. So the two finally had their dramatic confrontation (it is very violent! Do not read if you are averse to graphic violence)…
Powerfully messed up stuff.
Steve Dillon’s gritty and humanistic artwork could not be any more appropriate for this series if you had asked a Magic Mirror who would be the fairest artist for this book in all the land.
By the time this series ends, you’ll be so attached to the characters that you will be quite disappointed to know this will be the last you’ll see of them, but Ennis manages to come up with a tremendous farewell to them all.
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