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2016 Top 100 Comic Book Runs: #70-61

by  in CBR Exclusives, Comics, Comic News Comment
2016 Top 100 Comic Book Runs: #70-61

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!

70. Chris Claremont’s “New Mutants” – 160 points (1 first place vote)

“Marvel Graphic Novel” #4, “New Mutants #1-54,” Annuals #1-3

A lot of folks voted specifically for the run Claremont did with artist Bill Sienkiewicz, which lasted for New Mutants #18-31, 35-38, but enough just said “Chris Claremont’s New Mutants” that I combined all of the votes into one “Chris Claremont’s New Mutants.”

New Mutants was the very first ongoing spin-off series of the X-Men, the first of many.

After introducing the characters in “Marvel Graphic Novel” #4, with artist Bob McLeod, Claremont and McLeod launched the ongoing series, which featured the adventures of Cannonball, Sunspot, Psyche, Karma and Wolfsbane, the newest students at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters.

Claremont had a fairly good eye for teen dialogue, and the book was an engaging place for stories of the teen mutants, but the book really went to another level when artist Bill Sienkiewicz came to the title, hot off of his acclaimed run on “Moon Knight,” where his art experimentation had begun to catch many reader’s eyes.

Here, from issue #21, we see Claremont’s keen sense of characterization mix with Sienkiewicz’s design skills…

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and after they’ve given Rahne a makeover…

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Claremont eventually shifted the tone of the series to match Sienkiewicz’s style, which was notably darker than most Marvel comics of the time, so Claremont’s scripts also got darker, dealing with ideas of mysticism, mental disorders and bizarre psychic realities.

Oh, and the group all liked to watch “Magnum PI,” which was cool, because I like “Magnum PI.”

Sienkiewicz took some time off to work on a “Daredevil project,” then left the book for good with #38. Claremont held on for another year or so, before giving way to the editor of the title, Louise Simonson.

69. Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos’ “Alias” – 162 points (2 first place votes)

Alias #1-28

Now that she has a hit television series, everyone knows how great Jessica Jones is, but everyone who was reading “Alias” back in the day already knew that. Jessica Jones might be Brian Michael Bendis’ greatest creation, and “Alias” is certainly one of his strongest works.

The series was an “Adults Only” look at the Marvel universe through the eyes of private investigator, Jessica Jones, who was once a superhero until she was violated by the villain, The Purple Man.

The series is basically about Jessica’s redemption as a character, as we see her climb out of the gutter that she begins the story in until by the end of the series, she’s a functioning adult in a real-life relationship.

Bendis used this series (and its PG-13 rated followup, the “Pulse”) to take a look at the Marvel Universe from a different perspective than normal. Bendis has almost made this his stock and trade at Marvel, examining how a “real” person would react to certain situations. In other usages, it might not work, but in “Alias,” it worked well.

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Michael Gaydos’ series art matched the mood of the comic beautifully. It was dark and yet his characters never become too dark for you to relate to, and that is much to Gaydos’ credit.

68. Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum’s “X-Men” – 164 points (1 first place vote)

“X-Men” #94-107

Dave Cockrum helped create most of the All-New, All-Different X-Men that debuted in “Giant Size X-Men” #1, but the writer he worked with on that issue, Len Wein, was easing off of the book right away. Wein only did one more story, which appeared in “X-Men” #94-95, and that was co-written with incoming writer Chris Claremont. That issue was notable for shockingly killing off one of the new members of the team RIGHT away.

Claremont then took over as the full-time writer, and he and Cockrum quickly got into a groove on the series, especially the story arc in “X-Men” #98-100, which saw the Sentinels capture a group of the X-Men and take them into outer space. This was the first time that we had seen Wolverine without his face mask and this was the debut of a lot of Wolverine’s character traits, including his flirtation with Jean Grey…

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Cockrum and Claremont worked beautifully together, but as their work became more and more popular, Cockrum was almost a victim of his own success, as Marvel wanted to make the book a monthly title and Cockrum wasn’t able to keep up with the pace of a monthly book. In fact, he would need occasional fill-ins on the bi-monthly book, so just as the book was kicking into high gear after introducing the Phoenix and pitting the X-Men against the Shi’ar Imperial Guard (who were based on Cockrum’s previous team series, the Legion of Super-Heroes), Cockrum left the book.

After his replacement, John Byrne, had even more success and then left the series himself, Cockrum had a second chance and returned to the book for a second run. He left to do a creator-owned series (annoyingly for him, he left right before the book hit a sales BOOM with incoming artist Paul Smith. Now I love Paul Smith’s artwork, but I doubt that he was single-handedly responsible for the sales exploding, so it was more likely a case of “right place, right time” and Cockrum was not in said right place at the right time).

67. John Layman and Rob Guillory’s “Chew” – 167 points (1 first place vote)

“Chew” #1-60

Chew is the story of Tony Chu and his various friends and family members. Who’s Tony Chu, you ask? Well, here you go…

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In the marvelously strange world that Layman and Guillory have created, there are often pages just like that one, as they introduce a new character who has a similar food-related skill. In the Chew universe, the most powerful government agency is the FDA.

Chu’s power usage takes a turn for the surreal in the first issue…

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Chu begins to work for the FDA and while solving crimes he also gets caught up in a variety of increasingly outlandish conspiracies.

As you can see from the above pages, the highlight of Chew WAs the inventiveness of both Layman and Guillory, as they were always coming up with bold (and often strange) new ideas (and Guillory would also sneak so many cool easter eggs into issues). However, along the way they also did a wonderful job developing the various supporting cast members that they introduced over the years. By the end of the series, they easily could go multiple issues without even having Tony in the book and the title was still working. I mean, come on, Agent Poyo alone is worth the price of admission (Agent Poyo was a cyborg kung-fu expert fighting cock who worked for the FDA).

What was really perhaps most impressive was how well the conspiracy angle ended up paying off in the series. That’s hard to do and Layman and Guillory managed to pull it off.

66. Roy Thomas’ initial “Conan” run – 170 points

“Conan the Barbarian” #1-115 and “Savage Sword of Conan” #1-79

Roy Thomas was always a fan of Robert Howard’s sword and sorcery character and he fought long and hard to get Marvel to approve of doing a licensed series based on the character. However, Marvel was not willing to spend the top dollar it would have required to have John Buscema draw it, despite this being Buscema’s ideal character to draw (Buscema was so much more interested in sword and sorcery style books that he would literally draw those types of characters on the backs of the pages of the superhero stories that he was forced to draw since those were Marvel’s bread and butter). So instead Thomas was “stuck” with a young, up and coming artist named Barry Windsor-Smith, and the resulting series was a stunning success for Marvel.

Smith’s detailed artwork and Thomas’ brilliant adaptations of Howard stories (plus new stories inspired by the Howard settings) were a wonderful team.

Two years in, they also introduced an amazing new addition to the “Conan” mythos, Red Sonja…

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When Smith eventually left the series, the book was now popular enough that Thomas was able to bring Buscema in and the two worked together on a number of excellent “Conan” stories. “Conan” was essentially Thomas’ baby for years. It was sort of his corner of the Marvel publishing empire. He stayed on it until he left Marvel entirely at the start of the 1980s. He later returned to the book in the 1990s.

65. Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley’s “Invincible” – 172 points (1 first place votes)

“Invincible” #1-131 (ongoing)

Robert Kirkman and Cory Walker first gained Image’s attention with their mini-series about Erik Larsen’s SuperPatriot character.

Soon, Image decided to buck industry trends and attempt to launch a brand new, old school superhero line of comics.

Invincible is the only comic left from that line. It has managed to draw attention due to Kirkman’s interesting blend of Silver Age-style stories with a more modern feel. The early issues were like a mixture of Ditko/Lee Spider-Man and Superman, as Invicible was a young teen whose father is the revered superhero, Omni-Man, and Mark learned that he has superpowers as well!!

Taking the name Invincible, Mark begins his training as a superhero. Soon after, though, Kirkman pulled out the rug from under Invicible’s world by revealing that his father was evil and was actually an advance scout for an alien invasion of Earth!

Invincible stood up to his father, and it was dramatically violent (this is the point when Ryan Ottley took over on art duties and has stayed ever since, although Walker has recently returned for a long arc to give Ottley time to get ahead on the series)…

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Now stuck as a hero on his own, the series became about a young man coming into his own as a superhero, as Invincible grew from being a naive teen to a mature young adult, capable of being the leader of a whole generation of heroes.

The comic is a fun action-filled comic book that has a great deal of good-natured humor, although Kirkman is never afraid to bring drama into the book at times – characters ARE killed, and there ARE effects to actions. Also, relationships grow and mature as the series goes by. Invincible is now married with a child.

As the series has continued, Kirkman has added more and more characters to the point where his universe was so vast that although he wanted the series initially to be self-contained, he even spun off a short-lived series spotlighting the main superhero team from the “Invincible” universe.

The series is nearing its final issues, and it has been quite an amazing run so far.

64. Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan’s “The Question” – 176 points (4 first place votes)

“The Question” #1-36, Annual #1-2

When DC purchased the Question from Charlton (where Steve Ditko had created the book decades earlier), the book was given to Denny O’Neil, who basically “owned” the Question for the next decade or so (more, even), as he was essentially the only writer of the Question during that time period. However, for most of that time, there was no Question series. From 1987 to 1990, though, there was, and it was by Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan, and it was good.

In the series, O’Neil had the Question become a book that was more about Eastern philosophies than anything else (heck, there were even “recommended readings”!!), as the Question changed his methods and tried to deal with crime in his city, Hub City, by attacking the corruption at its source in the government. Also, he did a lot more as Vic Sage, reporter, as far as being a crusading journalist.

O’Neil worked in a number of intriguing supporting characters, such as Myra, the mayor of Hub City, Lady Shiva and Richard Dragon.

In this scene from an early issue, we see the government corruption plot plus the interactions between Vic and Myra…

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Denys Cowan’s art worked well with the almost surreal take by O’Neil. It was an excellent comic book and it is great that DC collected the whole series into trades.

63. Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.’s “Amazing Spider-Man” – 180 points (3 first place votes)

“Amazing Spider-Man” #224-227, 229-252

A funny thing about Roger Stern’s legendary run on “Amazing Spider-Man” is the fact that it followed an eighteen issue run on “Spectacular Spider-Man” that was almost just as good! Heck, Stern even introduced Roderick Kingsley (the man he had planned as as the secret identity of the Hobgoblin) in the pages of that run! The run (which went from “Spectacular Spider-Man” #43-61) was an important part of Stern’s overall Spider-Man work, as a lot of plots he began in Spectacular carried over to “Amazing Spider-Man.”

That said, when Stern took over “Amazing Spider-Man” with “Amazing Spider-Man” #224, he clearly turned his work on to a whole other level. There was a clear change in how he wrote the “secondary” Spider-Man title and how he wrote the “main” title, as he was now in the driving seat for the Spider-Man books as a whole and he was a great driver.

Stern’s early issues re-introduced the Black Cat into the Spider-books, where he helped to make her the staple of the Spider-Man books she became for years. An interesting aspect of Stern’s books, also, is after a number of writers who tended to downplay Spider-Man’s powers, Stern went the other direction, highlighting just how powerful Spider-Man can be.

One of the most acclaimed issues in Stern’s run came early on when he had Spider-Man fight against the unstoppable Juggernaut in a two-issue story that did not CREATE the “superhero battles against a much more powerful foe,” but certainly put a twist on the theme that later writers have followed frequently. John Romita Jr.’s excellent action-packed artwork was on great display during the Juggernaut story arc.

Here’s a piece of it…

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What a wonderful sense of power and also such a feeling of dread. Stern and Romita really nailed the “unbeatable odds” thing here.

Stern brought Mary Jane Watson back into the Spider-books and did good work with Spider-Man’s supporting cast. Romita Jr. did strong work on the character moments, as well.

Stern also introduced the Hobgoblin, a mysterious new villain who used the Green Goblin’s devices and serum to become a powerful crime boss. The Hobgoblin was not just interesting because of the mystery of his identity, but also because of his off-beat approach to villainy. He was no mad man, he was a businessman and he used what he learned from Osborn’s in ingenious ways.

Even as his run came to a close with “Amazing Spider-Man” #250, Stern plotted two more issues of Amazing for incoming writer, Tom DeFalco, and one of them was the story of the alien costume in #252.

Perhaps Stern’s most famous story was a short story in “Amazing Spider-Man” #248, the tale of a young boy who we learn in a newspaper story is “The Boy Who Collects Spider-Man,” Spider-Man’s biggest fan. It is a real tearjerker.

62. Los Bros Hernandez’s “Love and Rockets” – 191 points (8 first place votes)

“Love and Rockets” #1-50, “Love and Rockets” Vol. 2 #1-20, “Love and Rockets: New Stories” #1-8 (ongoing)

“Love and Rockets” is one of the greatest comic book anthologies ever, and it’s quite impressive to note that it is an anthology that is made up of just one family – the Hernandez brothers, primarily Gilbert and Jaime, although brother Mario occasionally chips in, as well.

Each brother primarily tells their own epic tale, while occasionally peppering in one-off stories.

Gilbert’s was Palomar, which was the goings-on of a fictional South American village.

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Gilbert later used one of the characters from Palomar, Luba, exclusively.

Jaime’s was Hoppers 13 (which, when the stories were collected, was titled Locas), about two women, Maggie and Hopey, and their developing friendship.

As you can tell, both brothers are known for the work they do with strong female characters, but they’re mostly known for their ability to tell stories about realistic characters, while using a seemingly simplistic art style to do so, sort of sneaking the deep stuff past you with the simple artwork.

One of Jaime’s most famous stories was the death of Speedy Ortiz, a young man who had a past relationship with Maggie and who was now in the middle of a gang conflict after dating Maggie’s younger sister (who was also dating another gang leader). Speedy likes to present a tough front but Hernandez lets us see how conflicted he is underneath, but how his indecisiveness runs rough shot over Maggie’s feelings, even after his death…

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Tough stuff, but beautifully depicted by Hernandez.

The second “Love and Rockets” series was a good deal of time after the first one and “Love and Rockets: New Stories” is a new extra-sized annual format, so they probably shouldn’t count as part of the “run,” but eh, if you’re interested in these characters, you might as well know that there is a current comic book series with them coming out. And man, “New Stories” is amazing. Jaime, in particular, is doing some of his best work ever on this series. “The Love Bunglers,” from “New Stories” #3-4, following a now middle-aged Maggie, was a stunning achievement.

61. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s “Scott Pilgrim” – 193 points (6 first place votes)

“Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,” “Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness,” “Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together,” “Scott Pilgrim vs. The Universe” and “Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour”

Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim was about a Canadian young man (a bit of a slacker) who falls in love with an American girl named Ramona, but before he can “officially” date her, he has to defeat her seven “evil ex-boyfriends.”

In the early volumes of the series, O’Malley got a great deal of humor out of the idea that this otherwise normal young man suddenly fights people, Street Fighter-style. While humorous, though, O’Malley never lost touch with depicitng an otherwise realistic vision of what it is like to be in that weird nebulous zone between being a teen and being an ADULT. Scott is our slacker hero, but the rest of his band (Sex Bob-Omb), his sister, his too-young-for-him high school girlfriend Knives, his roommate Wallace and Ramona Flowers, the young woman he has to fight the boyfriends over were given very nice, defined, personalities.

O’Malley’s Manga-inspired art added to their personalities nicely, with the subtle touches in their reactions and facial expressions putting across a good deal of the information that we have about their personalities. The relationship between Scott and Ramona (she is an Amazon.ca delivery girl, they have a “Meet Cute” when Scott orders from Amazon just to meet her) was rich, and believable.

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O’Malley has an ear for realistic dialogue, and the interactions between Scott and Knives (the high school girl) and Scott and Ramona were distinct entities, but both of them portrayed how Scott could be seen as appealing to both ladies.

Later in the series, things take a dramatic turn as Scott’s “journey” is nearing its end and the question has to be asked – what now? What does everyone do with their lives once Scott has defeated all of the ex-boyfriends? Have any of the past volumes truly prepared Scott for a “real life” with Ramona beyond the spectacle of fighting her evil ex-boyfriends? It’s a sober reality that pops into the tale with a vengeance, as O’Malley pulls the ol’ bait and switch, giving us heartfelt drama in the middle of our funnybook!

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