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CSBG Archive

2013 Top 100 Comic Book Storylines #20-16

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Here are the next five storylines on the countdown, as voted on by you, the readers!! Here is the master list of all storylines featured so far.

Note, there may be some spoilers ahead! You are forewarned!
Enjoy!

NOTE: All of these storyline posts will be image intensive, so I’ll be spreading them over multiple pages.

20. “American Gothic” by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, John Totleben, Rick Veitch, Stan Woch, Ron Randall, Alfredo Alcala and Tom Mandrake (The Saga of the Swamp Thing #37-38, 42-45, Swamp Thing #39-41, 46-50) – 391 points (9 first place votes)

American Gothic involves the introduction of John Constantine, and what that meant for Swamp Thing.

Essentially, Cosntantine works as a sort of plot driver for the series of stories that make up “American Gothic.”

An evil South-American magic cult named the Brujeria are using the Crisis on Infinite Earths to help them take over the supernatural arena, and as part of their plot, they began having all sorts of evil events take place across America. Constantine manipulates Swamp Thing into taking down these threats.

Eventually, it all leads to basically one big ol’ fight between good and evil, and literally the Ultimate Darkness against the Ultimate Light.

There are a series of artists at work during this storyline – the standard brilliance of Stephen Bissette and John Totleben, but also impressive work from Rick Veitch and Stan Woch on pencils.

Moore handled the slow build towards issue #50 about as well as any writer has ever handled a build to a “big” issue number – this is a storyline without being a strict storyline (for most of the story, at least).

The final battle in #50, though, is given all the trappings you would expect from a “big” issue, with Moore playing with the vast history of DC Comics and their supernatural characters.

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Moore stayed on the title for a little while longer (and did some excellent work), but in many ways, this was the capper to his Swamp Thing run.

19. “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” by Alan Moore, Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger and George Perez (Superman #423 and Action Comics #583) – 394 points (7 first place votes)

With the John Byrne revamp of Superman due soon, DC had one last opportunity to “say goodbye” to the pre-Crisis version of the character, and editor Julie Schwartz was delighted that Alan Moore was the man to do the farewell.

The result was “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” a story of the last days of Superman, utilizing pretty much every Superman villain and supporting cast member, in a story that was at both times dark and touching.

The main gist of the plot was that Superman’s enemies all become more and more vicious, with normal bad guys suddenly becoming murderers.

With the D-Level villains suddenly causing problems, the A-Level threats like Lex Luthor and Brainiac are REAL problems for Superman, so he collects his closest friends and holes up at his Fortress of Solitude and awaits the siege.

What follows next is a mix of horror and heroism and love and loss.

Here are two of the more notable tear-jerker moments, as Superman’s friends stand up for him, in sad but lovely ways. First, Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang…

And then Krypto…

In the end, Moore took the toys that were available to him and used them all up, essentially, in such a way that the book could not have continued otherwise, leaving it perfect for a revamp of the title.

And having it all drawn by Curt Swan (with Perez inking the first issue and classic Superman artist Kurt Schaffenberger inking the second) was just a master stroke – seeing Swan draw some of the death scenes is just beyond touching (as you can see from that Krypto scene above).

18. “The Elektra Saga” by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson (Daredevil #168, 174-182, 187-190) – 432 points (10 first place votes)

Elektra was introduced in the first issue of Daredevil fully written by Frank Miller, as a former “love of Matt Murdock’s life” in college who, after her father (a Greek ambassador)’s assassination, moved away from New York only to return years later as an assassin herself.

Throughout much of the next 14 issues Matt Murdock has to deal with Elektra’s return, both in his personal life as Matt Murdock (seeing his first real love again after years apart) and in his superhero life as Daredevil as Elektra was, you know, an assassin, and Daredevil doesn’t take kindly to assassins.

This duality came into play pretty early on, as the pair alternated between teaming up and fighting each other.

Things changed, however, when Elektra was chosen personally by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, to become his chief assassin.

There is a particularly brilliant sequence where she is sent to silence reporter Ben Urich. First by killing an informant leaking him a story about the Kingpin…

Now Elektra and Matt were definitively at odds – although when she was assigned to murder Foggy Nelson’s, Matt’s law partner (and former college roommate), she could not go through with it when Foggy recognized her, showing that there was still some good in her.

However, this epiphany did not last long, as her rival assassin, Bullseye, chose to prove himself to Kingpin by taking Elektra out, which led to one of the most iconic deaths in Marvel history.

Her death had a profound impact upon Matt, as did her later attempted resurrection by the ninja group, the Hand.

This was Miller’s first ongoing series as writer and artist, and it was quite impressive to see how adept he was at creating engaging, memorable characters with strong interpersonal relationships.

The great Klaus Janson began to share the art duties with Miller as the series went along (first just as inker, but as time went by, Janson would take over more and more of the art on the title).

Go to the next page for #17-16…

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43 Comments

Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow?, such a heart breaking finale. Starts out sweet but turns sour.

Saga of Elektra, it is very rare that a villain would actually win but that is what Bullseye does here. I haven’t read all of these but I liked what I did read.

Coming of Galactus, one of the first multi-issue stories by Lee and Kirby. With only three issues, we get Silver Surfer, Galactus and a lifetime of stories.

V for Vendetta, saw the movie first. There is a reveal in it that I told my wife, if it is who I think it is, we are buying that trade. Good story, but slow.

Can’t believe we are about to enter the Top 15!

All good stories here.

When I bought the Frank Miller ultimate collections I remember being completely disappointed by the Roger McKenzie stories. I was worried that a leap in quality wasn’t coming. Then Elektra is introduced and it’s one of the best single comics I’ve ever read. Given how wordy a lot of his work would later become, it’s amazing how quickly Miller’s work on “Daredevil” can be devoured.

The Galactus Trilogy is a story that’s better in concept than in execution. The pacing is off and Stan Lee’s dialogue is as awkward as ever. Also: Galactus in shorts. Ha!

This is more like it. None of that Snyder, Johns, Millar, etc. crap. These are stories that truly deserve to be on a list of the greatest comic book stories ever.

^Yeah, you said it. Every single one of these is an absolute masterpiece. I wouldn’t balk at any one of these being someone’s #1, in fact.

I really love the Galactus story, but they should never have used him again, at least not as a threat to Earth. The whole his word is his bond claim got shot to hell when he showed up and attacked the second time–he’s not above good and evil, he’s a genocide who’ll keep his word as long as it’s convenient (of course in the original story it’s stated somewhere this is his first attack on a world of intelligent life, so that made him less of a monster).
The Man of Tomorrow story—while it’s nice to see all the Silver Age stuff in play, it never clicked for me. It felt more like going through the motions (I doubt Moore was just doing that, but that was my reaction).
American Gothic,awesome. Though I did love Scott Snyder in the New52 puncturing holes in Moore’s myth of the plant kingdom being all peaceful and harmonious.
V for Vendetta, yes.
Elektra? Frank Miller’s DD/Elektra stuff never really worked for me.

You know, of all the deaths in comics, pretty much the only that almost had me in tears the first time I read it, and still puts a lump in my throat, is Krypto’s in that story.

These were all amazing. No losers like “Hush” in this bunch.

Of these, I would say that Whatever Happened is way too high. One of Moore’s stories that completely falls flat for me.

V for Vendetta, I mean, I wouldn’t place it above From Hell, but it’s a great comic.

And American Gothic can be as high up as it wants.

I’ve been finally reading through the Kirby/Lee FF and I just hit 48! I’m waiting to catch a break on my work so I can devour these all at once. I’m in for a treat.

Aaaaaaand the Elektra Saga, my number one vote. I prefer it to Born Again, I prefer it to Dark Knight Returns, I prefer it to everything. It is perfect comics.

Wow, that’s more like it: four truly great comics!

And usually when Brian posts digitally recolored versions of classic four-color stories they look so hideous that it breaks my heart (such as when he posts ’40s Batman stories or early Thor stories that have been slathered with gradients), but I have to admit that that recoloring job on “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow” is actually really gorgeous! I wouldn’t have thought it was possible to “modernize” Curt Swan without ruining it, but here we are!

Miller said that the scene with Urich is based on supposedly true stories of somebody in New York stabbing people at theaters with an ice pick. He grew paranoid about it himself and worked that out in the comic.

The Crazed Spruce

November 23, 2013 at 7:04 am

I’ve only read a few chapters of American Gothic, but they were awesome. If I’d have read the whole thing, it would’ve no doubt made my list.

I had Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow at #2 on my list. Not only was it a riveting story with truly gorgeous artwork (Curt Swan’s best work, with George flippin’ Perez inking it!), but it both cleared house for Byrne’s reboot and served as a poignant love letter to the silver age.

Haven’t read either The Elektra Saga or The Coming of Galactus, at least not entirely, but they’re definitely on my must-read list.

I loved V for Vendetta (and liked the movie much more than a lot of people apparently did), but it didn’t quite make my sho…*ahem*… my initial list.

5 Complete and utter classics.

I voted for the Elektra Saga (I think it was my #4), it’s my 7th pick to show up, and two more are definitely still coming. Sadly Green Arrow: Quiver will not be making the list this time either. Sigh.

I think the reason the Elektra Saga jumped 60 or so spots is because a lot of people didn’t know it was eligible in the ’09 vote; I know that’s why I didn’t vote for it the first time around. But it’s such a great story, and visually, the fight scenes… just amazing. DD #181 is in my top ten single issues ever.

The three Alan Moore stories here are all things I love but didn’t vote for (I had three different Moore stories on my ballot). Swamp Thing is my #1 favorite run ever, but I like the initial Woodrue storyline and Love & Death a little more than American Gothic. I really love the last five chapters of American Gothic where it all comes together with Crisis, the Parliament of Trees, and all of the DC supernatural characters, but the first several parts of the saga–the romp through old horror tropes–don’t do quite as much for me. Some I really liked, like the underwater vampires, but others didn’t resonate with me. Still though, this is great stuff.

Man of Tomorrow was one of the last stories cut from my list. When I had 9 votes set in stone and one spot left on my ballot, it was a toss-up between three Alan Moore stories: Olympus, Supreme: Story of the Year, and Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. I ultimately went with Olympus, mostly because I’d just reread it and it’s mind-blowingness was fresh in my mind.

V For Vendetta is great, but I find it a little more distant than Watchmen or Miracleman, perhaps because it’s more obviously “British” than the other two. But it does have one of my favorite Moore moments, the bit with the two officials discussing V’s plans and saying maybe he’s done, “or maybe he’s just been clearing the air. Everyone who could have identified him is dead now. What if he was just getting them out of the way before launching into his real plan?”

The Coming of Galactus is great and important, but like most Lee scripted stuff, a bit too archaic now. I almost think it would be better if all of the words were removed and just Kirby’s art told the story. But I know that’s sacrilegious.

Considering there are exactly 15 stories from the ’09 Top 30 still unaccounted for, I think we pretty well know what else will be showing up at this point. In terms of additions and subtractions, I think this version of the list is a definite improvement on the ’09 version. The only story from the ’09 list that was left off this one that I’m honestly sad isn’t here is Starman: Sins of the Father, which I really think is a classic that should still be here. And I’m surprised Batman: No Man’s Land, The Death of Captain America, and the Mutant Massacre all got left off this time around, but I’m not bothered by them missing the cut.

Whoops, I miscounted: five truly great comics!

Swamp Thing was well done.

Whatever Happened was pretty good but I prefer For the Man Who Has Everything by quite a margin.

Galactus is a complete mess as far as I’m concerned, with a really rushed feel and pacing, and just generally poor writing throughout. Its massively outclassed by just about any 1950s Dan Dare story IMO.

What I’ve read of V so far has been very good.

V is a great comic but I haven’t reread it in years. That sucker’s a dense read. I liked Lloyd’s mix of tight figure work and gritty environments. He’s a seriously underrated artist.

There’s something about solid but unflashy artists working with writers who push the envelope. I love what Frank Brunner and Gene Colan did with Steve Gerber in Howard the Duck, but I think Sal Buscema’s basic, storytelling-first artwork made Gerber’s Defenders seem even odder. The same effect can be found when Chas Troug and Richard Case drew Morrison’s Animal Man and Doom Patrol, respectively. The art looks more like a typical super- hero comic but the content of the stories were far different and thus accentuated.

Now, Curt Swan is a better artist than Buscema, Troug, or Case (as good as they are). His work still looks less stylized than the Bronze Age guys (Perez, Byrne, Adams, etc.). I like “Whatever Happened…” a great deal, and Swan’s art brings out the script’s flourishes. Unlike collaborations with Bissette & Co in Swamp Thing, in which the art and script go toward horror and fantasy on equal footing, Moore’s style feels like an invasion into Superman’s world. The clash works for the story, in which Superman’s world experiences Ragnarok.

American Gothic ended fantastically. First, Moore redefined Swamp Thing. Next, he redefined ST’s world. At the story’s climax, he redefined the entire universe. Epic.

The Elektra Saga gets noticably better as it goes along. Issue 168 is good, issue 181 is a masterpiece. Miller produced a truly gut-wrenching tale.

I understand having to get past Lee’s scripting in Coming of Galactus, but Kirby’s art (especially inked by Sinnott) always wins out.

The Crazed Spruce

November 23, 2013 at 7:54 am

And for those keeping track….

American Gothic bumped up from 22 to 20
Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow leapt from 25 to 19
The Elektra Saga rocketed from 64 to 18
The Coming of Galactus climbed from 19 to 17
V for Vendetta slid from 15 to 16

@Third Man: By my count, there are only 14 stories from the last top 30 that haven’t turned up yet. And since the one tied for 20th is almost guaranteed to show up in a day or two (what with a certain movie coming out next year and all), that leaved one slot in the top 15 up for grabs. I’d venture a guess, but after Elektra jumped 44 spots, anything’s possible.)

The Crazed Spruce

November 23, 2013 at 8:04 am

Huh.

After crunching the numbers, I noticed that if I hadn’t voted for Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow, it would’ve finished at #22, which would’ve squeezed Age of Apocalypse into the top 20.

You’re welcome, people! :)

The Crazed Spruce

November 23, 2013 at 8:08 am

I’m kidding, of course, but it goes to show just how close some of these results were, and how every vote counts. A big thumbs up to everyone who sent in a ballot!

I was really disappointed by Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow. I kept hearing about it being some apotheosis of Silver Age Superman stories, but I found it to be a very unappealing grim n gritty muckfest with none of the emotional beats paying off. I feel like all the hate towards The Killing Joke could better apply to this story, and all the love it gets could better apply to Supreme.

@CrazedSpruce

Good point, I was thinking Long Halloween was in the Top 30 last time and that it would take the last spot, but maybe we’ve gotten too high for it now?

I guess Green Lantern: Rebirth is still a possibility (shudder), or maybe another Morrison Batman story (Incorporated?). I can’t think of anything new for Marvel that might go this high (surely AvX or Age of Ultron aren’t THAT loved are they?)

The Crazed Spruce

November 23, 2013 at 10:24 am

Well, Long Halloween is the frontrunner for the last slot, though it could just as easily be Green Lantern:Rebirth, or Mutant Massacre, or Whys and Wherefores, or House of M, or (gah!) Seven Soldiers of Victory. Hell, it could even be something completely out of left field, like Trinity War or something from The Walking Dead.

Haven’t read Galactus.

Not a huge fan of the other 4 stories here.

Interesting that 3 of these stories were written by the great Alan Moore, a writer that wrote some of my favorite comics.

V, especially, falls flat for me, with characters that are more Ideas than actual characters.

Whatever Happened and Elektra are OK for their era, but I feel they are a bit dated.

I didn’t like that Swamp Thing storyline at all.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’m only certain that I’ve read 2 of these. Swamp Thing is one of my favorite runs of all time, and I got a trade of V when I was pretty early into comics, and have probably read it 50 times by now. I
ve maybe read all or parts of Whatever Happened and The Elektra Saga, but can’t be sure. I know I haven’t read the Coming of galactus, and I’m a huge Kirby fan. I really need to do something about that one of these days.

None of these made my top ten, but they’re all fantastic stories. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow was one of the last few that I reluctantly removed to get my final ten.

I love this list and being a huge Moore fan I’m gratified to see him up here though I wouldn’t put these works as my favorite of his. “Whatever Happened” was a revelation in it’s day though I feel that it has become dated since it first appeared. The reason for this is that the writing for comics has improved by leaps and bounds since then, though it was Miller and Moore’s influence that primarily caused it to evolve. So I’m not saying that it doesn’t deserve to be here, just a little surprised.

As far as the Swamp Thing goes, it’s definitely one of my all time favs though for me it was the early issues that really shown. #21 for me is as close as a perfect comic as there ever was written, and that first year is just pure inspiration, every issue doing something jaw dropping and ground breaking. I think the Demon trilogy is my favorite run. It has a perfect blend of story, art and inspired plot structure. It should be taught in any “comics 101″ class.

I’m sorry to see that Promethea won’t be on the list. That comic really deserves much more attention. It is equally ground-breaking, not only for the subject matter but also for the inspired art by J. H. Williams III. He pulled out all the stops on this one and Moore created as many opportunities to do it by asking him to change up his style and do crazy stuff like photo comics. he set a high mark for modern comics (in terms of what can be down with computers and comics as much as for J. H>’s art) with that series that I haven’t seen anyone come close to yet. I don’t care what anyone says Moore is still the master of the medium and I’ll be following him as long as he is writing comics.

Even though Promethea didn’t make my list, it was close. That was a great series.

Well, after Tower of Babel, another pick, The Elektra Saga, made the list.

American Gothic would have if it hadn’t been forever since I read it, though I remember it being great back in the day.

Galactus : key event and all, but yeah, Stan doesn’t hold up that well a half century later, though Kirby still looks great.

WHTYMOT was my #4 vote. I love that story. Actually other tha. Th Abtastic 4 one (which I haven’t read – I can’t stomach Stan Lee’s writing) they’re all classics – and three of them by Alan Moore!

I’m pretty sure my Swamp Thing vote won’t make the list though. I voted for the Gotham City arc #51-53. American Gothic was excellent – but the climax in issue 50 was one of the weaker issues of the series.

Never liked V For Vendetta. Rest of the list is hard to argue with.

Brian, you should edit the Elektra Saga listing to include the extra scenes from The Elektra Saga Limited Series (with the cover actually shown above). The stuff with Elektra refusing to kill a low level Hand operative and her subsequent confrontation with the Jonin of The Hand is classic Miller.

@Chris McAree,

Those scenes were from a story in Bizarre Adventures 28 (i think; actually not sure about the number) and, yeah, they’re great.

A really great batch here.

The Galactus Trilogy is the fourth from my list to make it (and, like my other three so far, it has fortunately climbed). I can understand why people criticise Stan’s writing. But it’s an important part of what makes that run great. These works were/are mythical, but they were/are also pop. They demonstrate how pop can be mythical. And they are so uniquely comic book. (I feel that, while Lee may have been aiming to make comics more literary, he failed quite miserably. But in the process, gave them something entirely different and valuable.) And of course, I don’t think I need to offer any extra praise for Kirby’s art. I sort of prefer his 70s style, but the FF stuff is still great. And the Galactus/Surfer storyline caters to Kirby’s strengths.

Haven’t read American Gothic yet. I’ve read the first two hardcovers of the run, but not the rest. I have them here waiting to be consumed though. Love and Death actually came close to making my top 10 storylines, despite the fact that I’d only just read it. And #21 is one of the best single issues I’ve ever read. So I’m very much looking forward to American Gothic.

Whatever Happened… is great. It didn’t make my list, but I can’t argue with it being up here.

The Elektra Saga is good, but it doesn’t touch Born Again, IMO. Don’t know, it doesn’t really blow me away, though I think Miller did stellar work on both the art and writing (particularly for the time).

V for Vendetta is good, and it’s something that I think is worth reading, but I don’t think it holds up against many others on this list. I do think it should get extra points for what it’s contributed to our cultural iconography, and how it displays the transmission of ideas and creativity across individuals and groups.

Cool, three of my votes show up, Swamp Thing, V, and Daredevil’s Elektra Saga.

I especially love the DD run (including #181, what a classic).

American Gothic ended a little flat with a cosmically vague resolution that didn’t mean much ultimately…but man, what great stories are in there, with underwater vampires, the crazy-creepy Invunche assassin and “Bogeyman”, one of my favourite issues ever.

I also loved that Superman story.

Not as big a fan of the Lee/Kirby FF but won’t dispute it’s place here (my own personal favourite “Galactus Trilogy” would be the Byrne 3-party with Terrax, Frankie Raye and everyone-vs.-Galactus, but that’s ’cause I’m an 80s child).

@Mike Loughlin

I think the Bizarre Adventures was the story about Elektra trying to prevent someone killing a nazi war criminal, and things not turning out well for anyone(Trying to avoid spoilers).
Miller and Janson did new stuff when their run on DD was repackaged as The Elektra Saga to tie everything together given that only certain parts of their run were used.
Most TPBs, including The Complete Frank Miller Elektra do not include the latter, but many include the former.

All that said, I have not read any of the above in upwards of a decade so I stand very much open to correction.

interesting for thought what ever happen to the man of tomorrow would not show up on this list till it hit the top five same with the galactus saga for it was one of the times when kirby really letting lose his talent. not to mention the silver surfer learning compassion from alice.

I personally love V For Vendetta. Like Moore’s work on Miracleman and Captain Britain, it really shows his progression as a writer issue by issue. I think we here in America take it for granted that Moore just wrote all of those out in monthly order when they are more a product of the UK style of 8 page installments. Each monthly “Issue” of V or Miracleman actually was produced over three months or more. The style and pace is more leisurely because of that factor than what American readers might be used to.

All excellent choices. V for Vendetta is the third (and almost certainly final) vote of mine to make the list.

While it’s hard to recall 4 years ago (perhaps Brian will correct me) I think there was some confusion over whether the Elektra saga fit the rules for a story, winding its way through a run as it did. I think it making the list last time clarified the issue and may account for its large jump.

Just a guess.

@Chris McAree,

You’re probably right. My memory is either spot on or patchy when it comes to comics. I’ve read both, do I’m probably mixing the two up.

Great, great, great, great and great.

I’ve read four out of the five on this list and they are all great!

Frank Miller’s Daredevil may be the best “mainstream” superhero comic of the 1980s. Bought them when they were brand new and changing the face of comics month by month.

Swamp Thing I read in black and white when a friend loaned me his Titan reprint trade paperbacks. I only read them that one time, but they’ve stuck with me.

V for Vendetta I got from the library a year or so ago. I’m such a big Alan Moore fan, I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to this. Definitely deserving of a high spot on the list, even though I prefer Top Ten and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

And “The Galactus Trilogy” has been a favorite since I read it in an over-sized Marvel Treasury Edition in the 1970s. I really don’t get what people mean when they say Stan Lee isn’t a good writer. Things were different then. Comics today are written differently, not better. You either stick with it and get used to it or you don’t. I love the Marvel style of writing from those comics.

I still haven’t read “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” I guess I wasn’t an Alan Moore fan yet when that came out and I’ve just never gotten around to it.

I may have only had one make the list this time (Daredevil) but this a a great set of stories this time.

As someone pointed out, they colored in pants for Galactus in this reprint. But what I caught this time around is that I’m surprised Stan never mentioned that Reed had a “cosmic razor” or something to explain him shaving the hair off his rubbery-bullet proof skin.

Everyone’s already said everything I need to about the individual stories here (especially how heart-wrenching Krypto’s death in “Whatever Happened…” is, I couldn’t agree more), so I’ll just say that this list really sums up how mind-blowing it is when people say Alan Moore is overrated, or even just that he full-on sucks. The three stories above aren’t even his three best known (though “V” is definitely up there), but if these were the only three things he had ever written, he would STILL be a legend.

Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and I’m sure there a few people who just genuinely aren’t into his stuff, but I would say there are a LOT of Moore-bashers who only do it to be contrarian.

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