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2016 Top 100 Comic Book Runs: #60-51

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comic News Comment
2016 Top 100 Comic Book Runs: #60-51

You voted, and now, after over 1,000 ballots were cast, here are the results of your votes for your favorite comic book creator runs of all-time (this is the third time we’ve done this countdown. We’re on an every four year schedule)!

To recap, you all sent in ballots ranking your favorite runs from #1 (10 points) to #10 (1 point). I added up all of the points and here we are!

60. Robert Kirkman and Charles Adlard’s “The Walking Dead” – 195 points (2 first place votes)

“The Walking Dead” #1-161 (ongoing)

The selling point of “The Walking Dead” is essentially that this is what happens in a zombie movie after the closing credits finish. What do you do in a world overrun by zombies? How do you manage to form some measure of society in a situation like that?

That’s the problem facing Rick Grimes as he wakes up from a coma to discover that the world has changed much since he was shot on duty as a police officer. He manages to find his wife and son who have joined a sort of collective, led by Rick’s former partner. The group is tight knit with an interesting mix of personalities. Rick soon takes over as the leader of the group, which leads to conflicts.

Tony Moore drew the initial six-issue storyline but Charles Adlard took over with issue #7 and has drawn the book ever since.

The series is mostly about Rick’s attempts to find SOME sort of life for his family and for his people, even as tons and tons of shit gets poured on top of them. Not just from the zombies themselves, but by evil people who use the zombie apocalypse to become tyrants. What can one good man do against such mounting terror? And at what point does he cease to BE a good man if he has to constantly lower himself to the level of his enemies?

As you have seen from the TV series, there are a number of particularly engaging personalities in the book, like the group scavenger, Glenn, or the former lawyer turned sharp shooter, Andrea, or the wizened old man, Dale, or perhaps the breakout character of the book (other than Rick, of course), Michonne, a normal woman who has adapted to bad assery in a fashion unlike many others.

Here’a a great scene where Rick and Tyresse (another father who Rick bonded with) talk about the crazy state the world is now in..

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In recent years, Kirkman has taken the story of the survivors into interesting new territories that are a lot different than their earlier stories.

59. Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins’ “Flash” – 202 points (5 first place votes)

“Flash” #164-225

It’s rare to see a writer follow up an immensely popular run on a title with an immensely popular run of their own, but that’s exactly what Geoff Johns did after Mark Waid finished his run on the “Flash.”

Johns opened up with a storyline that was only supposed to bridge the gap between the end of Waid’s run and whoever took over the book after Waid. Instead, the storyline was so well received that Johns himself was given the assignment, along with artist Scott Kolins (who had developed a new art style at the time just for this new run).

Johns set out to do two things with his run. The first was to really establish Flash’s city of Keystone City as an actual city with its own personality, and the second was to re-establish Flash’s Rogues Galley, which Waid had mostly left alone (save for Abra Kadabra, boy did Waid love Abra Kadabra), while also introducing a number of new Rogues himself.

Johns definitely achieved his goals on both fronts, particularly with the Rogues. Perhaps Johns’ best issue of his run was a spotlight on Captain Cold.

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Spot on characterization work. As for new Rogues, Johns best addition was Zoom, who originally began as a friend of Wally’s, a police profiler named Hunter Zolomon, but whose mind became totally twisted, and decided that he would help Wally by giving him a personal tragedy. That has been his MO ever since, “helping” Wally by making him a stronger person via torture.

After Zoom caused Wally’s wife to miscarriage, Wally asked the Spectre to erase his secret identity from the minds of the world. A Brand New Day began for Wally and his wife, Linda. This also led to a series of new artists over the last two years of Johns’ run.

At the end of Johns’ run, Linda’s miscarriage was reversed, and she gave birth to twins (a boy and a girl).

58. Joe Locke and Gabriel Rodriguez’ “Locke and Key” – 209 points (6 first place votes)

“Locke and Key: Welcome to Lovecraft” #1-6, “Locke and Key:Head Games” #1-6, “Locke and Key:Crown of Shadows” #1-6, “Locke and Key: Keys to the Kingdom” #1-6, “Locke and Key:Clockworks” #1-6, “Locke and Key: Omega” #1-5 and “Locke and Key: Alpha” #1-2 (plus the tie-in series, “Locke and Key: Golden Age” #1-3)

Locke and Key was a series about three siblings (the Lockes) who move to their family estate (Keyhouse) with their mother after their father is murdered. Once there, they begin to discover magic keys that can open up doors in Keyhouse. Different keys have different properties. While this obviously could be a set-up for a fun tale, in the case of Locke and Key it is a horror story, as the keys are involved with some pretty dark magic. Hill manages his large cast extremely well, giving every character (the Lockes plus their friends and family) equal opportunity to shine (or, as is the case with Locke and Key, equal opportunity to get put through terrible situations).

Rodriguez shines with his detailed, expressive artwork. One of the most notable aspects of Locke and Key is the sequential storytelling. A great deal of terror is wrung just out of the usage of panels as the slow reveal of something awful is right at the turn of the page. Rodriguez does a great job milking the horror out of all of his pages.

Hill is also adept at revealing the mystery of the keys slowly but surely. As time goes by, we learn bits and pieces about the history of the keys as we lead up to the final storyline, which will be out soon.

One of the most acclaimed issues of the series (which is a series of mini-series making up three “Acts”) is the first issue of the second mini-series in Act Two, “Keys to the Kingdom,” where we see the mindset of the youngest of the Lockes, Bode, as Hill and Rodriguez pay tribute to Calvin and Hobbes by having Bode’s view of the world appear similar to Bill Watterson’s Calvin character.

In the issue, Bode uses the Animal Key to become a bird. However, one of the villains of the book has also used the key to become a wolf and is attacking Bode’s brother and sister. Note the wonderful contrast here by Rodriguez in the depiction of Bode’s attempts to help his siblings from HIS perspective…

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and then reality…

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Impressive stuff.

Locke and Key was a fine series and one of the best horror comics in YEARS.

57. Steve Ditko and Stan Lee’s “Doctor Strange” – 212 points (3 first place votes)

“Strange Tales” #110-111, 114-146

In “Strange Tales” #110, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee introduced one of the best characters the two worked on together, Doctor Strange. The initial story introduced the basics of the story really quickly, and what basics they were!

A jerkish surgeon whose recklessness led to his hands damaged, Strange searched for a cure, until he ended up becoming the apprentice to the Ancient One, and his life was totally turned around for the better. No longer a jerk, Strange began to use his newfound mystical powers for the good of the universe. It’s such a great concept that the recent blockbuster film adaptation basically kept the origin unchanged (well, except that the Ancient One was now a Celtic woman instead of an Asian man).

After a short break, the feature returned to Strange Tales where Ditko and Lee produced a number of classic issues, introducing many new characters that are still used to this day, like Baron Mordo, Dormammu, Eternity, Nightmare and more.

Here, from Ditko’s final issue, is an epic sequence where Eternity (who had been trapped by the Dread Dormammu) is freed…

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InSANE.

The comic was a nice counterpoint to Ditko’s more grounded work in “Amazing Spider-Man,” as this series allowed Ditko to cut loose with bizarre and trippy concepts. It was a tremendous work, and it gave such a great foundation to future writers (Note – towards the end, Denny O’Neil did some scripting on the book).

56. Dave Sim and Gerhard’s “Cerebus” – 230 points (8 first place votes)

“Cerebus” #1-300 (Gerhard from #65-300)

Dave Sim’s “Cerebus,” which stars the short grey-skinned anthropomorphic aardvark, Cerebus, originally debuted as, if not a take-off, at least similar in tone to Steve Gerber’s Marvel comic, “Howard the Duck,” in that it was an anthropomorphic animal used for satirical purposes. In the original storyline in the late 1970s, “Conan the Barbarian” was the main target, although other pop culture figures were featured. Cerebus was a hard-living mercenary with little morality who got involved in various adventures.

This changed with the second storyline, the 25-part epic, “High Society,” where Cerebus gets involved with politics, applying his rough and tumble style to the world of, well, high society. Through this, he ends up becoming Prime Minister, although that does not exactly work out, leading to the massive two-part epic, Church & State, which took about 60 issues, and involved Cerebus becoming Pope.

As you might imagine, Cerebus is corrupted by the power…

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These stories saw a change in the series to becoming one of the most intelligent ongoing comic book series out there, with a great deal of wit and wisdom.

The rest of the series (Sim noted that he would do exactly 300 issues, with Cerebus dying in the last issue) have a series of slightly-less focused stories, although, as the title continued, the work took on an approach more similar to Sim’s own life, which included heavier religious overtones, plus specific attacks upon feminism and “homosexualism.”

From #65 on, Sim drew the book with artist Gerhard, whose detailed backgrounds were absolutely stunning, and became a major attraction of the series.

“Cerebus” never stopped doing parodies, though, and throughout the run, comics and pop culture and life, in general, were given parody treatment (“The Punisher” and “Sandman” being two notable examples of targets Sim parodied a lot).

In 2004, the series ended, as promised, with issue #300.

55. Jim Starlin’s “Warlock” – 238 points (2 first place votes)

“Strange Tales” #178-181, “Warlock” #9-15, “The Avengers Annual” #7 and “Marvel Two-in-One Annual” #2

Jim Starlin had already established himself as a tremendous cosmic writer with his work on “Captain Marvel,” but his run on Warlock (spanning FOUR different titles) really cemented that reputation, with his back-to-back classic arcs, The Magus Saga and then whatever you call the story with Thanos.

Starlin had Adam Warlock face off against an evil religious empire, also Magus, his evil future self, not to mention Thanos, who is, as you know, an evil guy who loves him some death. Warlock and Thanos teamed up to fight Magus…

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Starlin introduced some notable supporting characters, too, with Pip the Troll and Gamora, the “deadliest woman in the universe.”

Sadly, the books didn’t sell that well, so Starlin had to use other comics to finish his story. Like the two Annuals, which ended with, well, everyone dying. ?

Starlin would later revive all these characters for future fun stories.

54. Jack Kirby’s “Fourth World” – 250 points (5 first place votes)

“Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen” #133-148, “New Gods” #1-11, “Forever People” #1-11 and “Mister Miracle” #1-18

In 1970, when Jack Kirby left Marvel for DC, he brought with him his plans for the Fourth World, which was an entire line of comics that Kirby had envisioned which would, when finished, could be repackaged as collected works.

To introduce this new line of comics, Kirby took over as writer/artist on a title in need of a new writer, “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen,” where the battles of the Fourth World were first seen. In “Olsen,” Kirby first showed the world the evil power of Darkseid, who was the ruler of an awful planet called Apokolips, which was caught in a ancient war with a nice planet called New Genesis.

Darkseid’s main goal was to retrieve the Anti-Life Equation, which would allow him to control all living beings.

Their war had been stalled for many a year by a pact done decades before where Darkseid and Highfather, the leader of New Genesis, swapped sons. Highfather raised Orion, while Darkseid “raised” Scott Free. When Scott escaped Apokolips (all according to Darkseid’s plan), Darkseid had reason to restart the war.

This Pact was detailed in a classic issue of “New Gods” that established that this was not your typical superhero story, in the sense that Kirby was actually going to fill us in on all of the vast mythology of the series…

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However, Darkseid had not planned that Orion would be “tamed” enough by Highfather to be ready to oppose Darkseid’s plans.

These rip-roaring adventure yarns filled with over-the-top plots and larger-than-life characters were told through three main titles, “New Gods” (which starred Orion, mostly), “Mister Miracle” (which was the name Scott Free took when he escaped to Earth, as he became the world’s greatest escape artist) and the “Forever People,” who were a gang of young New Gods who had wacky adventures – but could merge into the powerful Infinity Man if need be.

The books were a ton of fun, but sales were not particularly great, and each title was canceled. Kirby wrapped up all the plotlines, and then went to work on other DC titles.

Years later, Kirby was given the chance to wrap up the stories in The Hunger Dogs, but DC seems to just ignore that story, as Darkseid has become a major part of the DC Universe now, as have Mister Miracle and Orion.

53. Alan Moore’s “Marvelman”/”Miracleman” – 252 points (6 first place votes)

“Warrior” #1-21, “Miracleman” #7-16 (#1-6 reprinted the “Warrior” stories)

Marvelman was invented in the 1950s when Fawcett quit making Captain Marvel stories, leaving L. Miller & Son, who reprinted the Marvel Family titles in England, without a star character. Mick Anglo whipped up a new character (without being TOO new, if you know what I mean), and Marvelman continued in the place of Captain Marvel until the comic was canceled in the early 60s.

Two decades later, in the pages of Quality International’s anthology, the “Warrior,” Alan Moore and Garry Leach brought Marvelman back, only with a postmodern edge. Reporter Michael Moran keeps having crazy dreams about superpowers, until he says the magic word, “Kimota!” and is transformed into Marvelman!

It is soon revealed that the Marvelman stories of the past were part of a government experiment with fusing alien technology with humans, to create superhumans, and the government filled the heads of Marvelman, Young Marvelman, Marvelwoman and Kid Marvelman with memories of superpowered adventures, and then tried to kill them when their experiments were over. The nuke meant to kill them all only killed Young Marvelman. Marvelman just became Michael Moran, and forgot about it all, until his memory returned.

Kid Marvelman, meanwhile, had gone mad with power, and was now a sociopathic killer. Marvelman fights him, and gets him to say HIS magic word, turning back to a young boy named Johnny Bates. Bates is placed into a group home.

The rest of the “Warrior” run detailed the history of how Miracleman formed, as well as learning that Moran’s girlfriend, Liz, was pregnant. During the “Warrior” run, Alan Davis also drew a great deal of the stories.

After legal problems from Marvel over the name “Marvelman,” Quality sold their rights to Eclipse Comics, who changed the name of the title to “Miracleman,” and started a new title, first reprinting the “Warrior” stories (which were done in black and white originally) and then starting new stories, this time with different artists, such as Chuck Beckum (Chuck Austen), Rick Veitch and most notably Moore’s former Swamp Thing inker, John Totleben, who drew perhaps the most famous “Miracleman” storyline, where young Johnny Bates is sexually assaulted during his stay in the group home, forcing him to turn into Kid Marvelman again, who has now just totally snapped, leading to an amazingly graphic single-handed destruction of London – it’s waaaaaaaaaay beyond the pale.

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Miracleman (with help of some other heroes) finds a way to force Kid Miracleman to turn back into Johnny, and Miracleman has to make a dreadful choice…

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Chilling.

Moore left the book to Neil Gaiman after this storyline, with Moore’s last issue being #16. Gaiman wrote the book until Eclipse went out of business after #24.

52. Roy Thomas’ “Avengers” – 261 points (10 first place votes)

“The Avengers” #35-104

Roy Thomas took over from original writer Stan Lee on “The Avengers,” and proceeded to write the title for the next seventy or so issues, working most notably with artists John Buscema and Neal Adams.

During this run, “Avengers” readers were treated to the introduction of Ultron, the introduction of the Vision – who starred in one of Thomas’ most notable stories of his run – “Even an Android Can Cry”…

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, the introduction of Yellowjacket, the marriage of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, Hawkeye becoming Goliath, Vision and the Scarlet Witch beginning to date, and probably the most notable part of Thomas’ run on the book, the epic Kree Skrull War, where Neal Adams did some dynamite work (on the issues he actually drew).

Sal Buscema and Barry Windsor Smith also drew some notable issues during this run.

Thomas’ run was marked by an interesting blend of character drama with grand adventures – the reaction to Jarvis betraying the team was treated just as it was just as important as whatever villain they were fighting that week.

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Thomas laid a great foundation for Steve Englehart’s excellent follow-up “Avengers” run.

51. Mike Mignola’s “Hellboy” – 265 points (3 first place votes)
“Hellboy: Seed of Destruction” #1-4 in 1995, then lots of mini-series ever since then.

It’s funny, when “Hellboy” began, there was some concern (even from Mignola himself) as to how Mignola would handle the writing side of things. We all knew it would look amazing (as it is Mike Mignola we’re talking about here) but how would the stories be? Well, such concern was unwarranted as Mignola turned out to possibly be an even better writer than he is an artist, which is shocking considering how good of an artist he is.

In any event, Hellboy is a demon who was called to Earth while a child by a group of Nazi occultists during World War II. He spurned the attempts of the Nazis to use him for evil. Instead, he joined up with Allied Forces, in particular a Professor who raised this “hell boy” as his own child. In this nature versus nurture argument, nurture won out as Hellboy grew up to be a strong force for good and he helped the Professor form the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD).

The BPRD are a fascinating group in their own right, and have since spun off to their own long-running comic book series, co-written by Mignola.

In “Hellboy,” Mignola explores a great variety of folklore tales and different takes on great literature ideas. The character of Hellboy is such an open concept (he can adapt to action, adventure, horror or fantasy with great ease) that Mignola can really do whatever he wants with the series, and the result has been a variety of fascinating stories.

Most of them have been accompanied by Mignola’s own great artwork, but in recent years, he has had other artists draw the book, all of whom are greatly talented themselves (Richard Corben and Duncan Fegredo are probably the two other most notable Hellboy artists).

Here’s a bit from one of the first Hellboy story written entirely by Mignola (he originally had John Byrne script the feature)…

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Man, Mignola is AWEsome.

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