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2012 Top 100 Comic Book Runs #4-3

You voted, now here are the results of your votes for your favorite comic book creator runs of all-time! We’ll be revealing two 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 two runs…

4. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four – 863 points (29 first place votes)

Fantastic Four #1-102, Fantastic Four Annual #1-6

To put the over 100-issue run on Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby into perspective, take into consideration that its now more than forty years after they FINISHED the book, and writers are still working off the stories they did in those issues, that is how deep and realized the universe was that they created in those 100-plus issues.

Their run was a hit from the get go, so much so that by the fourth issue they were already using it to bring back a Golden Age Marvel character, Namor. To go from the return of a classic character to the introduction of an even MORE classic character is no small feat, but that’s what Lee and Kirby did with the introduction of Doctor Doom in Fantastic Four #5.

Doctor Doom is one of, heck, he IS the greatest supervillain in comic history, and he made the rest of Kirby and Lee’s run a little easier, as they knew they could always go back to Doom if they needed a cool story.

The best part about their run, though, was that (until the later stages) they DIDN’T go back to the well – they just kept creating and innovating, like with the Inhumans, Galactus and the Silver Surfer.

In one of the great changeups in comic history, they went from the epic Inhumans story DIRECTLY into the epic Galactus story and then WHAMMO – they hit you with the inspired one-off humanity-inspired piece, This Man, This Monster.

Really, though, when you think about it, the power of humanity is behind both the Galactus trilogy AND “This Man, This Monster.”

In the Galactus trilogy, it was his experiences with humanity (namely Alicia Masters) that turned Silver Surfer against his master, Galactus. Along with the Human Torch acquiring the Ultimate Nullifer (in instance #1,403 of the Watcher ignoring his “do not interfere” credo), this turned the tide against Galactus…

Later, in “This Man, This Monster,” a scientist takes away the Thing’s cosmic mutation in order to live as the Thing himself, all in an attempt to kill Mister Fantastic. But when he actually gets the chance…

Stan Lee sure had a lot of faith in the power of humanity!

Whether they were telling large scale stories or small scale stories, all of the Fantastic Four tales were blessed with Stan Lee’s impressive dialogue and Kirby’s absolutely brilliant design work and bombastic storytelling. It is important to note that nearly halfway through their run they added a steady inker, Joe Sinnott, who would be with the book the rest of the ride. It might be a coincidence that Sinnott joined the book just as it hit its peak of creativity (the ten-issue stretch where they introduced the Inhumans, Galactus, Silver Surfer, Black Panther AND fit in “This Man, This Monster”), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t.

This was a roller coaster ride of epic proportions, and it’s too bad it ended when it did.

Still, the run as a whole was a masterpiece of superhero comic fiction.

3. Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing – 1184 points (27 first place votes)

Saga of the Swamp Thing/Swamp Thing #20-58, 60-61, 63-64, Annual 2

Something that I think often gets lost when discussing Alan Moore’s tremendous run on Swamp Thing is how the run started. Everyone remembers Moore’s SECOND issue, “Anatomy Lesson,” but Moore actually started on the book one issue earlier, tying up the loose plotlines of previous writer Marty Pasko. It’s quite interesting to read the care and attention Moore puts into Pasko’s storylines, while still managing to wrap it all up in one issue in a much different style than Pasko.

And then, of course, with the Pasko storylines finished, Moore dropped the big one – “Anatomy Lesson.” There have been a number of other significant retcons with titles before, but they all paled in comparison to what Alan Moore did with “Anatomy Lesson,” which revealed that the entire origin of Swamp Thing was false – Alec Holland was not transformed into Swamp Thing during a chemical explosion – instead, the chemicals animated a group of vegetation into THINKING it was Alec Holland.

Story continues below

Later, Moore would also explain the various inconsistencies of Swamp Thing’s origin by saying that there were many different Swamp Things who all had the same basic origin. Clever meta-fiction work by Moore.

Moore was ably assisted by the art team that was there when he joined the book, penciler Stephen R. Bissette and inker John Totleben – together, Bissette and Totleben delivered a stunningly rich art style, that was perfect for the moody stories Moore told.

Throughout his run, Moore would tell deep character-based stories, most notably the relationship between Swamp Thing and Abigal Arcane. The issue where the two have sex is a stunning testimony to both Moore’s skills as a writer and Bissette and Totleben’s skills as artists. See how Swamp Thing and Abby have sex for the first time…

Once they’ve begun, their sexual experience is shown in a series of double page spreads. Here’s one of them…

Also notable in Moore’s work was when he would touch on the DC Universe, and give us drastically different takes on various famous superheroes. Moore’s early work with the Justice League in an issue of Swamp Thing informed pretty much every modern writer of the Justice League. During his run, Moore also introduced John Constantine, who would be Swamp Thing’s guide on a number of stories (more accurately, he would con Swamp Thing into getting involved in stuff).

Towards the end of his run, Rick Veitch became the artist on the book, and while he had a much different style than Bissette and Totleben, it was still excellent artwork, and it was Veitch who would end up following Moore on the title as writer (and doing a fine job, himself).

Without Moore’s Swamp Thing, we likely wouldn’t have seen Vertigo and all the comics that spun out of Vertigo, or if we did see them, it would have taken a long time to get there, so its influence is massive.


Ah, Moore’s Swamp Thing run. One of my early loves. The run that introduced one of my favorite characters (ConJob) and Vertigo (which brought even better series) to me :D
Ha, saw these coming. I wonder what will take the second spot, when it’s pretty guaranteed the Sandman will be there.

Swamp thing had few very good issues. (#21) Most felt a bit too esoteric tough.

All in all I found the prose too overflowing and flowery.

Swamp Thing was my #1 choice. I re-read it start to finish again recently and it still holds up and delivers some of the best comic moments wrapped in an excellent long-form narrative.

I’m kind of surprised how similar this list is to the last one at the top end. X-Men, Sandman, Swamp Thing, and Fantastic Four are all going to be Top 5 again, when I thought they might have just easily slid out of the Top 10. Are these the consensus top runs then?

Dunno. I guess the next time around will make it more clear if it is a pattern or not.

Two spots left and three comics from my list haven’t appeared. One of which will be in the top 2 (probably #1). One of which has been left off for inexplicable reasons. One of which I never expected to appear.

Swamp Thing was my #1 choice. At the time it came out it towered above pretty much any other comic ever – and it’s still one of the best.

I’m well stoked for Andy Helfer’s Shadow and Sleeper to take the top two slots!

The only alternative would be for some X-crap to take the spaces and that’s unthinkable.

Ooh no – I just realised a non-X-book that’s going to be in the top 2. It’s not ALL bad then.

I forgot how good Bissette and Totleben were together on Swamp Thing.

And in the ashamed to admit category:

(1) I’ve never read Fantastic Four in its entirety. Picked up the first two Masterworks in softcover, and was underwhelmed (although issue #6 is one of my favorite single issues ever). I know I need to suck it up until team hits it stride with Inhumans, Galactus, etc, but looking at the issues in between: another Hulk team-up? More generic aliens? Sigh, I’ll get to it eventually.

(2) I’ve read 0% of Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing, and the more preview pages I see, the less interested I am. Yes, I am aware that this makes me a terrible person.

Ummm…no Cass…not a terrible person….just very lucky…a lot of us would love to be able to read Swamp Thing again for the first time.

Cass, the early issues of FF are admirable on the innovations and concepts they were bringing in, but admittedly it took a while before the stories started to get consistently good and not just historically significant.

1. Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four was on my list. Still probably the best post-Golden Age superhero comic. People always talk up that stretch from around issues #40-60, but I honestly found the early comics just as high quality as the middle of their run.

2. Did Moore seriously not write Swamp Thing #59 and #62? I’ve never heard that before. And I’ve read the entire run in order, but I never noticed another writer credit.

3. Not sure if you’re aware of this or not, but there’s actually another Alan Moore Swamp Thing story that ran in DC Comics Presents #85. I don’t know if that fits your criteria for being part of his run or not, but if so then you might want to add that to the list of issues.

Troy: It looks to me like the CSBG audience does consider those to be the GOAT.

Cass: Read Swamp Thing #21. If you still don’t like it then you never will.

Cass, I think the FF becomes truly great starting with issue #44 (is it a coincidence that Sinnott takes over inks with this issue?) and maintains that greatness, not to mention historic importance, though about #70. So yes, I think you ahould stick it out. Up until then, the only FF issues that really stick out to me are those Thing/Hulk battles and a couple of Dr. Doom’s appearances, and maybe a couple of Nmor’s appearances. I also think Annual #3, with the wedding of Reed & Sue, is great fun, with almost every Marvel superhero & supervillain at the time showing up, though the ending does fall a bit flat.

Turd Burglar, I’m in the same boat as Cass, so I will have to look for Swamp Thing #21. Thanks for the suggestion.

I love FF #45-87. Not all issues after #70 are good, but I really like the Inhumans/Doctor Doom storylines in #82-87.

It’s weird, I can’t think of a run that more deserves to be on this list, while simultaneously making me shudder imagining some sort of punishment scenario where I’m forced to slog through it. While I appreciate and am grateful for the FF run’s concepts, characters and overall significance, I recall reading Essentials vol. 3 and being overwhelmed by the cornball factor. I was psyched to read about Galactus, the Inhumans, Doom and the Surfer, but boy, it didn’t take long before reading it felt like work (I did enjoy “This Man, This Monster”, however).

I actually feel much more affection for the Lee/Ditko Spider-Man, and have noticed lately that my favourite Stan Lee work tends to be his non-Kirby collaborations (Spidey, Dr. Strange, Silver Surfer).

Moore’s Swamp Thing was #2 on my list after Miller’s DD! I came to the party late, just as Moore was wrapping up the run, but based on good buzz I picked up the double-sized #53 (with Batman) from a back-issue bin and was blown away. Coincidentally, the next one I picked up was #63, fresh off the rack, which happened to tie up the cliffhanger in #53.

After that I was rifling through back issues, and every one was fantastic. I read “Bogeymen”, the annual in Hell, and finally the first trade with Anatomy Lesson and the Demon Trilogy. And then there was Constantine’s debut arc in American Gothic, with the world’s creepiest assassin, the Invunche.

Both these arcs are worthy additions, but my heart goes with that wonderful, memorable Swamp Thing run.

Wait, didn’t Claremont’s X-Men already place in this poll? So what else is gonna be in the top 2 besides Sandman?

Claremont’s X-Men was split into three parts for the purpose of this poll. 1) Claremont/Cockrum, 2) Claremont/Byrne, and 3) post-Cockrum Claremont. The third one has already placed. You can guess which of the others is going to make the top 2.

Please please please please PLEASE don’t let the Claremont/Byrne run take the top spot in this contest. Essentially what you’re saying is that those issues are the best representative of well-written comics to ever exist. I mean, really? Those are the comics that you would give to a non-comics reader and say, “This is what comics are about?”

Argh, I’m getting angry just thinking about it.

Kirby & Lee FF: I understand people’s difficulty slogging through the “cornball” aspects of the run. To me, it adds to the charm. As with the Ditko/ Lee Spider-Man comics, you can half-read the words and still be wowed by the art and the concepts. Essential vol. 3 is one of my favorite collections of comics just to stare at. Sinnott smoothed out Kirby’s rougher tendencies, adding a shine to an already-gorgeous gem. Kirby’s art and imagination were powerful, and he reached new heights on FF.

Moore & Co. Swamp Thing: One of the only geninely creepy comic runs I’ve ever read, Moore brought believable human drama with the shudders and the world-expanding. Bissette, Veitch, & Totleban drew some of the most effective horror comic artwork ever published; check out their version of the Demon. An entire imprint and the careers of Neil Gaiman and others started here. As others have stated, I envy anyone who gets to read it for the first time.

Maybe a poll with runs of the last decade could be interesting too (you know, to discover new series ^^).
I love my classics but would be pleased to learn about new things to read.

> Essentially what you’re saying is that those issues are the best representative of well-written comics to ever exist. Those are the comics that you would give to a non-comics reader and say, “This is what comics are about?”

No, people are saying that they were a well-liked run of comics by the same creators. People can think that, and simultaneously think that other comics are more well-written, or more suitable for adults, and then choose a third comic as an introduction to non-comics readers. And personally, I certainly wouldn’t choose Sandman as representing “what comics are about”; I can see qualities in it, but I find the stories uninteresting and the art is often terrible.

Fair enough, Martin. I’d just hate for a comics rookie to see this that as the #1 comic and then be forever put off of comics because of the dialogue, characterization, constant rehashing of powers, overuse of thought bubbles to convey basic information, etc.

Although I think Sandman is actually a great representative of comics; I’ve handed my copies of TPBs out a legion of times, and everyone who reads them comes back for more.

Lee/Ditko’s Fantastic Four run WAS Silver Age comics. It really defined that age in comics even more than Spider-Man, Hulk, and anything DC put out during that time. 4’s high already but I was really hoping it would beat Claremont/Byrnes X-Men and Alan Moores Swamp Thing.

Wasn’t it #2 on the 2008 list?

As I said in the previous post, I prefer Lee/Ditko’s Spidey to Lee/Kirby’s FF, but there’s no denying the sheer craft, energy and imagination on display, as well as their impact on, not only future FF stories, but superhero comics in general. Great stuff.

Like Starman, I have several of DC’s newer hardcover collections of Moore’s Swamp Thing, but I haven’t gotten around to reading them. Some day, though something tells me I’ll need to be in the right mindset to fully enjoy them; they don’t strike me as “lazy Sunday” kind of reading, but something you really need to pay attention to in order to fully appreciate them.

@b2squared: Essentially what you’re saying is that those issues are the best representative of well-written comics to ever exist.”

No, it’d be saying “these are the comics that a majority of CSBG readers who participated in the poll felt were the top comics based on whatever personal, subjective criteria they applied to reach that determination”.

@b2quared: And I see someone beat me to the punch; my apologies. I’m not trying to pile on or anything.


What @Cadio said was spot on. Top 25 series of the last decade.

Great to see these two on this list! This is the part of the list that yeah, we knew they’d be on here, but where?

My guess for 2-1? Maybe … Claremont/Byrne X-Men and Bob Kane Batman? or Claremont Byrne and Sieglel/Shuster Superman? Probably the latter, as there a bunch of Batman’s on the list, there is only one Superman so far.

I really hope there’s no complaining if Claremont/Byrne X-Men are No. 1 or 2. Remember this was voted on by the readers, not Brian himself. If it’s listed as popular, its because it’s legitimately popular with the CSBG readers. It’s not like it’s going to be Niceiza’s X-Men or Austen’s or Milligan’s (nothing personal against those creators, just picking the three most-often derided runs as contrast)

Gaiman’s Sandman hasn’t shown up yet, has it? If not, then that’s bound to take one of the remaining spots.

FF deserves it all the way. I would have placed it higher, just because of how I have always perceived the Lee/Kirby run. It started the Marvel Universe. Their issues are the absolute building blocks of Marvel. We are introduced to such amazing characters and probably, the greatest comic book villain ever. The FF are my most favorite Marvel property and I’ve followed them most of my entire life.

‘Nuff said!

How great is Reed and fake Ben’s farewell handshake? I love the stocism hiding the emotion……

Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four 2012: #4, 863 points
Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four 2008: #3, 1030 points
Down 1 place, -167 points

Moore’s Swamp Thing 2012: #3, 1184 points
Moore’s Swamp Thing 2008: #5, 942 points
Up 2 places, +242

We see a slight realignment as we approach the very top of the 2012 Top 100. Lee/Kirby’s Fantastic Four loses points and drops down a notch to #4, while Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing gains a significant number of points and leapfrogs up to the #3 position. This probably reflects a shift of taste in the 2012 vote versus the 2008 vote, rather than a serious popular reassessment of either work.

There’s also the availability factor to consider. Moore’s Swamp Thing was recently reissued in both hardcover and softcover trade, making the entire run easy to obtain for the first time in around a decade. The surge of points in the 2012 voting is probably the result of a substantial number of voters having recently read the run for the first time. Lee/Kirby’s Fantastic Four is one of the few runs Marvel is pretty good about keeping in print in trades, for the record.

The first time I read Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four was in Essential format. The first book was sort of a slog, as mentioned by previous posters. The book starts rapidly picking up steam after issue 20 or so. I couldn’t put down Essential #3 (containing issues 40-60). Those 20 issues or so are pretty much the greatest ride in comics history. The sheer energy and imagination are just too much for even a standard format. As Brian mentioned, Lee/Kirby don’t even finish up stories at the end of issues sometimes. The end of the Inhumans storyline takes place in the same issue that the Silver Surfer shows up. The Ff just couldn’t catch their breath and neither could the reader.

Moore’s Swamp Thing stands as the second comic run (after Miller’s Daredevil) I sought out in back issues. Those were heady times.

Confession time: I’ve never read the full Kirby/Lee FF run. My reading consists solely of the first Essential volume and a few scattered issues from throughtout their run afterward. I’ll get to the rest of it one of these days.
I’m actually re-reading Moore’s “Swamp Thing” right now. It’s a great run, just not one of my ten favorites.

Always wanted to read Lee and Kirby FF, it has quite the reputation. Not surprised to see it this far up the list. Might even check out the new FF series (despite the fact that I’m not the biggest proponent of Fraction), if only because it seems like it will have a similar style with a lot of the outlandish plots and similar old-school-style Allred art.

Swamp Thing by Moore – I’m kind of meh on; heard it’s good but the character does nothing for me and a lot of the types of stories Moore does with this series just aren’t my cup of tea. Still, it has a legendary reputation and I’m sure that it’s brilliant for its genre, even though I’m not a big fan of the genre.

b2quared said: Those are the comics that you would give to a non-comics reader and say, “This is what comics are about?”

Yes. Those are EXACTLY the comics I would give, and HAVE GIVEN for the last 20 years, to people as examples of good comics. And nine times out of ten they agree with me and start looking for more to read. And from there I suggest things like Frank Miller’s Daredevil or Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or “Watchemen.” I’m not saying those X-Men are the end-all, be-all of good comics ever. I’m saying in my opinion they are my personal favorites, which was the heart of this poll.

To all of those saying similar things about slogging through Lee/Kirby’s FF: Sinnott = point where the run gets amazing. ‘Nuff said. Man, I still tear up every time I read that mad scientist’s death scene.

Hey, these are both pretty good.

@Jeff Bob Kane’s Batman or S/S’s Superman on the top spot. LOL.

I voted the silver age superman #2

@mckracken LOL

The only question now is which will take #1 and which will take #2- Scott McCloud’s Zot! or Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty’s Ms. Tree? I mean, those are the top two right? :)

I never heard of either of these, but that first one looks like a Fantastic Force ripoff, and that second one would be better with some pouches and mullets and big big guns.

2. Force Works
1. Extreme Justice

2. All of Heroes Reborn
1. Didio’s Outsiders

2. Siegel Superman
1. Shuster Superman

2. Loeb/McGuinness Hulk
1. Liefeld New Mutants/X-Force

Swamp Thing #59 was written by Bissette but Moore still gets gets a credit for co-plotting. If you look at the run as Moore/Bissette/Totleben you could make the argument that it still falls in the run (It’s actually one of my favourite stories). #62 is all Veitch and is definitely separate as it’s basically a setup for his run about to start a few issues later.

b2quared: Claremont/Byrne X-Men is 10x the comic that Sandman ever was and an infinitely better representation of the medium. Unless you’re recommending comics to a 90s goth then the odds of an average person enjoying, or even just not being repulsed by, Sandman are somewhere in the neighborhood of 0%.

Manymade1: Lee/Kirby FF was #3 last time.

Jeff: Are you even being serious? Sandman is #1.

mckracken: “I voted the silver age superman #2″

… That’s not even a run.


None of you peeppls can ADDS!

Guy Davis BPRD takes the crown. its OBVIOUS.

Greg, can you UNblock the top ten lists once this is through?

I would love to see the actual votes…

You’ve already seen the results, what would be the point of seeing who voted for them? It’d make much more sense to just show the runner-ups (even if only a text list of them).

Maybe I missed it, but I don’t remember seeing Watchmen on the list.

whoops nvm. Just read the rules saying Watchmen wasn’t allowed

joe the poor speller

November 1, 2012 at 2:18 pm

who’s greg?

I presume he meant me.

joe the poor speller

November 2, 2012 at 10:10 am

Oh, I see. anyway, I second the request to have the 101-150 (or more) released. Only the names would be enough.

Swamp Thing was my #1. I think it is literally the perfect run, containing everything you could want. The first major act (#20-34) starts with death, gives a new origin, a re-genesis, a trip to Hell, a major battle with his arch enemy, and ends with a love story. The second major act (#35-50) is one of comics’ greatest horror sagas, an epic journey through the genre and into the heart of good and evil, not to mention the introduction of arguably comics’ greatest new character of the last 30 years (Constantine). And the third major act (#51-64) begins with an epic fight against Batman, a second death, an epic journey through space and encounters with several DC space characters, a return, the tying up of loose ends, and then the great reunion. Now THAT’s a run. Every story works individually, the entire thing works as a single saga. It didn’t go on too long, it wasn’t too short. And the artwork by Bissette, Totleben, Veitch, Alcala, and Wood was consistently stunning, as the sample pages show.

While I have no lost love for Todd McFarlane and Spawn, it was reading Spawn #8 as a 13-year-old that got me interested in this Alan Moore fella and my helpful LCS dealer pointed me to the classic stuff. It blew my mind then and continues to do so now.

And, of course, Lee/Kirby FF. Important, classic stuff. Definitely not my favorite, but objectively, it had to be top 5.

For anyone interested in trying Swamp Thing out, any half decent local library should have the first trade of Moore’s work, which is usually just called “The Saga of the Swamp Thing.” Depending which edition you find, it’ll either reprint #20-27, or #21-27. If the one you find skips #20, don’t worry too much, #21 is the major starting point, and probably the greatest single comic of the post-Silver Age.

And for people that requested a list of the greatest runs from the last decade, this countdown covers that need. Just omit every run from the 20th century, then renumber. Here, I’ll start for you…

1. Y The Last Man
2. Morrison Batman
3. Morrison New X-Men
4. Bendis DD
5. Bendis Ultimate Spidey
6. Johns GL
7. Planetary
8. Whedon Astonishing X-Men
9. Brubaker Cap
10. Ennis Punisher
11. Fables
12. Walking Dead
13. Gotham Central
14. Scalped
15. Runaways
16. Ultimates
17. 100 Bullets
etc. etc.

You can just about get a Top 40 of the 2000’s using this Top 100.

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