Now that Brian is done with everyone’s list, here’s my Top Ten, with comments, and some comments about the Top 100. There’s some SPOILERS, too, so be aware!
I figured I should write a bit about the “contest” itself, as well as how I determined my selections. Many commenters have been weighing in on how they chose their runs, and I figured I would do the same! Plus, some people wondered about the dates of these runs, so I included the cover dates. And in case you’re wondering about trade paperbacks, as several people have expressed an interest in buying trades of the comics, I tried to track down the collections of these runs in whatever format. I don’t know if some of them are out of print, but these are the trades that exist or have existed at some point!
First, with regard to the rules Our Dread Lord and Master set down, I have a couple of objections. (Of course, he has already addressed these, but I wrote this before he addressed them, so I’m keeping them!) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen shouldn’t have counted. It’s clear that it’s two mini-series plus a graphic novel, not an “ongoing” in any sense. I would have said the same thing about Hellboy, but that’s been around forever and a new series comes out pretty regularly. In ten years, if Brian does the contest again and Moore has done five more LoEG minis, then I probably wouldn’t have a problem. But that’s a minor objection I had.
My only other objection is splitting up Chris Claremont’s run on Uncanny X-Men but not Peter David’s run on The Incredible Hulk. I could make the case that Claremont’s run is far more seamless than David’s run, as David seemed to re-invent the title every twenty issues or so. The exception I would make is Claremont’s collaboration with John Byrne, which is obviously a separate animal. Claremont and Byrne told pretty much a complete story, and Byrne left almost when the run was finished. (Plus, as Brian points out, he co-plotted most of it.) Following issue #137, it’s very difficult to find breaks in Claremont’s story. The Mutant Massacre is probably the next break, but that covers Cockrum’s second run, Smith’s run, and Romita’s run. After that, I would argue there’s not a real break until the Uncanny X-Men/X-Men split. So while I have no problem counting the Phoenix Saga as a separate “run,” the rest of Claremont’s Reign of Terror should have been counted as one, or at most two, runs.
As for my choices … well, MarkAndrew has accused me of having “reverse nostalgia,” as good a term as I can think of, because I simply don’t really like comics from before 1970 or so. Therefore, while I respect the work of Lee and Kirby and Ditko, I don’t look upon their seminal work from the early 1960s as all that good. I’ll get into this more when I go over the actual list, but I definitely think modern comics are better. I also listed 7 runs published by DC, 1 by a subsidiary of DC, 1 by an independent publisher, and 1 by Marvel (the UK variety). If we go to my top 20, only 2 are actual Marvel books. To me, a lot of “runs,” especially those on Marvel books prior to, let’s say the late Nineties, weren’t that great because they were simply a collection of comics by the same creative team or one creator that kept going until someone left the book. John Byrne’s run on Fantastic Four is a classic example of this. He wrote and drew the book forever, but at the end, he just kind of left the book without really wrapping anything up. It’s even more egregious with his run on Alpha Flight, which he left basically in the middle of a storyline! Claremont kind of petered out on X-Men, David left Hulk in a huff, the Hobgoblin storyline didn’t even get resolved in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man. Marvel has never seemed really interested in the idea of a “run,” while DC, ever since the late 1980s, has been. To me, a run is more than a long sequence of comics by the same creator, it’s a story with a beginning and an end. That’s why the Claremont/Byrne collaboration was so interesting, because it seemed antithetical to what Marvel did back then. So my best runs reflect that idea – hence the overabundance of DC books.
Many people have wondered about the lack of older comics. I think this ties back into the idea of “runs” – even though some writers and artists stayed on books for a long time (how the hell long did Dick Sprang draw Batman, anyway?), each issue was still a discrete unit, not part of a “run.” It’s much harder to find what people consider a run among the Big Two from the 1940s, ’50s, and even early ’60s. Hell, the early Fantastic Four issues weren’t really tied together too much! Someone bemoaned the fact that none of DC’s war comics made the list. I just finished The War That Time Forgot Showcase volume. Those are fun comics, but every single one is pretty much the same issue. There’s no way that’s a “run.” So although I think people respect the older comics, when they think of “runs,” they gravitate toward the modern stuff. Am I wrong?
Finally, I think another rule of the contest should have been that “runs” that aren’t finished should have been ineligible. I didn’t even consider listing runs that aren’t finished, because of my definition above – runs have an ending, and bad endings have ruined some great comics (and not just comics, but books and movies and, hell, any entertainment medium). My personal rule was that I would not vote for any run that wasn’t finished, and I would have extended that rule to the entire contest. I mean, I love 100 Bullets. But Azzarello might totally screw up the ending. Would I then love it so much? Maybe not … (And yes, Brian also addressed this. I don’t care. Runs that aren’t over shouldn’t have been eligible.)
So, let’s check out my top 20, and then I want to dissect the final list a bit. Of course, with me, “a bit” means “a whole lot.” Deal with it! The numbers in parentheses next to my number are where they ranked on the final list. This is just to show you guys how very wrong you are!
1 (14). Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison and Richard Case (#19-63). There shouldn’t even be a #2, this is so far ahead of everything else. Not only the best run in comic book history, but one of the best love stories in comic history. There’s much more in my Comics You Should Own post. The issues are cover dated February 1989 to January 1993 and DC has recently finished collecting all of them in six trade paperbacks.
2 (37). Hitman by Garth Ennis and John McCrea (#1-60). I’m a bit surprised, when I thought about it, that this came in at #2, but I can’t think of another comic to put in the spot. It’s far better than Preacher, in that Ennis deals with many of the same themes – friendship, loyalty, and tragedy – with much more flair, more realism (despite the crazy fantasy stuff), and a better ending. Plus, Ennis avoids the preachiness (sorry) that he often indulged in with Jesse and Tulip and the gang. Hitman is less ambitious, but in a strange way, it ends up being deeper than Preacher. It’s a hell of a lot more fun, too, with zombie penguins, time-traveling dinosaurs, and Section Eight, the greatest collection of twisted superheroes ever. And McCrea is just as good as Dillon is, and for what he’s called upon to draw, probably better. The issues are cover dated April 1996 to April 2001. The Justice League crossover came out late last year, with cover dates of November and December 2007. The first 28 issues have been collected in five trades, and the first one includes the Demon Annual that introduced Tommy.
3 (18). Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (#1-26). It’s the only one on my list that’s incomplete, but it’s as complete as it’s going to get. This is more for the individual issues, as Ellis’s grand story is nothing special, but the way he constructs his world is stunning. Each issue is brilliant in some way, incorporating elements from so many different kinds of fiction effortlessly and still continuing the overall narrative, and although it’s not Ellis’s most heart-wrenching story, many of the issues deal with loss and how we overcome it. More than any other comic by Ellis, it’s a marvelously hopeful story, and that helps. Cassaday’s art is staggering as well, as he easily shifts from neon-splashed noir to ornate fantasy to jungle adventure to space opera. Too bad he’s so slow that the final issue won’t be out for another decade or so! The issues are cover dated April 1999 to December 2006. The three crossovers with Batman, the Justice League, and the Authority are also very good. There are three trades and one Absolute Edition (collecting issues #1-12). Obviously, eventually it will all be in trade.
4 (45). The Spectre by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake (#1-62). Ostrander takes Jim Corrigan through a spiritual journey as he searches for meaning in a world gone mad, and along the way he manages to confront the AIDS crisis, what it means to be an American, how to be a good Christian and a good man, and why evil exists in the world. It’s rare to get such a deeply religious book in a mainstream comic, but Ostrander manages it nicely. It helps that he had Mandrake to interpret his often wildly violent scripts, as the art was amazingly frenetic and inventive, showing the Spectre’s battles in vivid detail. Corrigan’s quest is meaningful to everyone, and when he finally knows peace, it’s a wonderful moment. The issues are cover dated December 1992 to February 1998. Sadly, there’s only one trade, collecting issues #1-4. If any series would sell well in trades, it’s this. Come on, DC!
5 (7). Starman by James Robinson, Tony Harris, and Peter Snejbjerg (#1-80). Starman is a perfect example of using continuity without making it too convoluted. Robinson steeps his tale in DC history, but he always knows what he’s doing and he never loses the reader. He manages to create a tapestry of Staman history from the 1940s to the present, and along the way, push the character forward into the future as well. Jack Knight is a fascinating character, as well, because he often acts like a normal person more than a hero, but he struggles mightily to do the right thing and become a hero. The book reads far better as a whole than in individual issues, especially in the latter half of the run, first when Jack went into space and then when the “bad dwarf” took over Opal City, but it’s well worth it. Plus, Robinson made Opal a real city, unlike so many of the fictional DC cities. Harris and Snejbjerg have different styles, but they both complement Robinson’s stories very well. And this is one of the best comics showing the development of a true father-son relationship that you can find! The issues are cover dated October 1994 to August 2001. Ten trades collect the entire series, and DC just announced that they’re releasing a bunch of mega-sized Omnibi collecting the whole thing yet again.
6 (67). Shade, the Changing Man by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo (#1-70). Milligan’s early masterpiece remains his best work, mainly because he tempered his weirdness with a truly wonderful (if twisted) love story, this time with three people. It’s also alternately, a great road trip, a great domestic drama, and then a quest saga. After Bachalo left and Milligan killed Kathy, the book suffered for a while, but Milligan managed to pull it together at the end and give us a sweet ending. It’s certainly uneven, but overall, it’s a great comic book. The issues are cover dated July 1990 to April 1996. This is another series that is not collected, except for issues #1-6, which form only part of the first storyline.
7 (28). Suicide Squad by John Ostrander (#1-66). This is a wonderful comic book, as Ostrander takes a simple concept – using supervillains to go on dangerous missions – and turns it into an action-packed tale in which you never know who might die. It’s far more than that, of course, as the characters – both the established ones and the new ones – get so much development and the relationships between them become the driving froce of the book. Ostrander never lets up on the action, but he still manages to create tension through the way the characters act. As the series progressed, it became more and more a political thriller, especially after Ostrander ditched the costumes. The stars of the book were, of course, Amanda Waller, Deadshot, and Captain Boomerang, but even minor characters were fleshed out. It couldn’t last, but it was great while it did. The issues are cover dated May 1987 to June 1992. There are, a bit shockingly, no trades, although DC did solicit a Showcase volume, which they then pulled. Maybe it will show up someday.
8 (97). Grendel by Matt Wagner (#1-50). What began as a simple story of an almost-perfect man becoming a criminal to challenge himself becomes something much more as the series progresses. First, Wagner killed his main character. Then, he decided that the force that makes someone Grendel could move from person-to-person, and then become simply a transcendant influence on the world. Again, I could go on, but I just finished writing about these comics: #1-12, #13-23, #24-33, and #34-50. Issues #1-19 are in trade, as is “War Child” (issues #41-50), and apparently Dark Horse is committed to getting the missing ones out in trade eventually.
9 (DNP). Captain Britain by Alan Moore and Alan Davis. Yeah, that’s right! Other Moore works are far more important and “better,” but damn, Captain Britain is awesome. A lot of what Moore did later germinates here, and the fact that Davis draws it makes it even cooler. Moore destroys a universe, kills Brian Braddock, rebuilds him, and then sends an unstoppable killing machine to, well, kill him. We also get a villain who can remake reality. All of this was from before it became clichéd, and it’s even more powerful for that. And when Captain UK kills the Fury, it’s one of the most unbelievable fight scenes in comics. No, it’s not as horrifying as the ones in Miracleman, but it’s amazingly intense. Too bad Moore and Davis had a falling-out. The series is collected in trade (but it might be out of print), and after Moore left, Jamie Delano and then Davis took over the writing, and that’s pretty darned good as well and is also available in trade.
10. Sandman by Neil Gaiman (#1-75). Yes, it’s a boring choice, but there’s a reason it’s so acclaimed. Gaiman takes a horror comic set in the DC Universe and springboards into a grand tapestry of stories about identity, loss, myth, retribution, and the sins of the past haunting the present. He gives us great single issues and great long-running arcs. He created wonderful characters and used them to tell tales about the human condition, and it becomes a series where every reader can find something that relates to their life. Gaiman tried so many different things with this series, and for the most part, he succeeded. It’s a series where you can find something new each time you read it, and that’s a nice feature. The issues are cover dated January 1989 to March 1996. And yes, you can find the series in trades. Ten at last count, plus two monster Absolute Editions containing issues #1-39, with a third coming soon.
Here’s my 11-20:
11 (21). Animal Man by Grant Morrison and Chas Truog (#1-26). I went over this (plus Milligan’s six issues) in this post. Cover dates: September 1988 to August 1990. There are three trades, but not one for Milligan’s story! The unfairness of it all!
12 (36). Marvelman/Miracleman by Alan Moore, Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Beckum, and Jon Totleben (#1-16). The original series ran in Warrior magazine, issues #1-21 (March 1982 to August 1984). The Eclipse series (which reprinted the earlier material in issues #1-6) ran from August 1985 to December 1989. The series was released in three trades, but they’re long out of print. I’ve heard it’s actually much easier to find the single issues than the trades. This is, of course, the apotheosis of superhero books, and it’s amazing to read, even though I’ve read it dozens of times. I still get chills when Mike Moran figures out that Johnny Bates is a bad guy, and their final battle is absolutely stunning. The middle issues suffered because of awful art, but even so, Moore’s writing keeps it going until Totleben took over. Man, this is a cool comic.
13 (5). Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch (#20-64). Many people don’t like the latter part of this run, but if you read it all at once, it works very well. Moore couldn’t do much more with Swampy on Earth because he was too darned powerful, so he sent him to space. This allowed Moore to experiment with storytelling, “Loving the Alien” being the most extreme example of this. The early issues retain their visceral impact, but the later issues shouldn’t be discounted, either. January 1984 to September 1987. There are six trades, but issue #20 is not included.
14 (DNP). Moon Knight by Doug Moench, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Kevin Nowlan (#1-38). I included Nowlan’s brief run on the book because it was cancelled soon after Sienkiewicz left, and the stories after he left are still in the odd vein that Moench established, so I figured I’d throw them in there as well. This is, I’ve argued, one of the first “modern” comics, in that it was part of Marvel’s experiment to bypass the newsstand and go straight to the Direct Market, a revolutionary move back in 1980. Both Moench and Sienkiewicz took a while to get settled, as the first year or so was solid but nothing spectacular, with Moench writing good action stories and Sienkiewicz drawing in his best Neal Adams style. As the series progressed, Moench delved more into the multiple personalities he had set up for Marc Spector, Sienkiewicz started to experiment more, and the series became truly great. The final ten issues or so of Sienkiewicz’s stint (#20-30) are stunning, and Moench, despite trying to integrate Moon Knight more into the Marvel Universe after he left (to boost sales, presumably), still wrote beautiful stories hauntingly illustrated by Nowlan, like the Holocaust one (Spector is Jewish, after all). For the early Eighties, this was a remarkably mature book. The issues are cover dated November 1980 to July 1984. Two Essential volumes collect issues #1-30. The Nowlan issues will likely never get reprinted.
15 (DNP). Dr. Fate by J. M. DeMatteis and Shawn McManus (#1-4; #1-24). More Comics You Should Own. Winter 1988 to January 1991. This has not been collected.
16 (66). New Mutants by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz (#18-31). I, unlike Brian, do not count the issues preceding and following these. The first 17 issues, with Bob McLeod and Sal Buscema, are decent, but nothing special. Issue #18 was like issue #19 of Doom Patrol – absolutely different and absolutely stunning. Sure, Sienkiewicz’s art was brilliant, but it was as if Claremont went a little nuts, too, trying to match the wonderful visions Sienkiewicz was giving us. The run is all too brief, but that year the two collaborated is amazing. The issues immediately following were still pretty good, but then the book began a long decline that brough us, ultimately, Rob Liefeld. These issues are cover dated August 1984 to September 1985. The first part of the run (through issue #25) was just released in a collection.
17 (9). Justice League by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, Ty Templeton, and Adam Hughes (#1-45). I would just count the JLA/JLI/JLA run, from May 1987 to December 1990, which is issue #45. Then the General Glory story arc began, and that just wasn’t for me. I always liked JLE, but not enough to count it. What’s great about this run, as others have put it more eloquently, is that it didn’t start out as pure slapstick, but as a good action comic with wonderful character moments. Yes, it got goofy toward the end, but Hughes’s art helped mitigate that. Plus, it introduced me to Beatriz DaCosta, who is now one of my favorite characters. Two trades, long out of print, collect issues #1-12, but DC has just solicited a new hardcover of issues #1-7, so maybe more will be forthcoming.
18 (65). Detective Comics by Alan Grant, John Wagner, and Norm Breyfogle. I went over most of the run on Detective here. The cover dates are February 1988 to October 1992 (with a few breaks and changes of titles). Sadly, there are no trades of this.
19 (83). StormWatch by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney, Oscar Jimenez, and Bryan Hitch (#37-50; #1-10). I like this a lot more than The Authority, because it seemed Ellis was trying harder to fit his heroes into real-world situations. The Authority is a pure action move to StormWatch‘s spy thriller. I like spy thrillers more. July 1996 to September 1998. The series is collected in five trades.
20 (12). JLA by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter. Although Morrison’s devotion to the Big Bat Dude grew a bit tiresome, the moment when Protex screams, “He’s only a man!” gives me the chills. I loved that Morrison kept the characterization to a minimum in this series and just kept hitting the group with bigger and badder threats. If you’re going to use the big guns, you need to have them go up against the biggest threats! This is cover dated January 1997 to May 2000 (#1-41, with a few gaps). Six trades make up the run.
Here’s the Top 100:
1. Sandman by Neil Gaiman (1318). See above.
2. Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin (1182).
December 1977 to March 1983 (#108-143).
One Omnibus (through #131); six Masterworks (the sixth has #141-143, plus the second Cockrum issues); two Essential volumes.
I like this run a lot, and would probably put it in my top 30. Jean Grey as Jesus is a brilliant move, and because the book didn’t sell well, Claremont and Byrne could do a lot of crazy shit. Plus: Dazzler!
3. Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (1030).
November 1961 to September 1970 (#1-102).
Two Omnibi collecting issues #1-60; ten Masterworks editions; five Essential volumes.
Long-time readers of this here blog know that I’m not a huge fan of Kirby. I actually like later, DC Kirby art more than this, because he obviously got a lot better. I have tried to read this run, I have. I own the first two Essential volumes, which don’t quite reach the Galactus Saga (which I’ve read, obviously), but I just can’t get into it. I recognize the massive impact of this series, but I don’t think it’s all that good. Lee’s dialogue is decent (I don’t think it’s as good as some people do, but I don’t hate it, either), but the stories are just dull. I guess they get better later (the Essential volumes end at #40), but after 40 issues, I just wasn’t keen on reading more. I completely understand the impact this run has had on Marvel and even comic book history, but that doesn’t mean I like the comics. Brian mentioned that until later in the run, “they DIDN’T go back to the well” – meaning they didn’t recycle a great villain like Doctor Doom that much. Let’s look at the first 40 issues to see if that’s true:
Doctor Doom: 9 appearances: #5, #6 (with Namor), 10, 16-17 (two-parter), 23, Annual #2, 39-40 (two-parter)
Namor: 7 appearances: #4, #6 (with Doom), 9, 14 (with Puppet Master), Annual #1, 27, 33 (as an ally against Attuma)
Skrulls: 4 appearances: #2, 18 (Super-Skrull), 32 (Super-Skrull as Invincible Man), 37
Mole Man: 3 appearances: #1, 22, 31
Puppet Master: 3 appearances: #8, 14 (with Namor), 28 (with Mad Thinker/Awesome Andy)
Hulk: 3 appearances: #12, 25-26 (two-parter)
Red Ghost: 2 appearances: #13, 29 (both time feature the Watcher)
Mad Thinker (with Awesome Andy): 2 appearances: #15, 28 (with Puppet Master)
Diablo: 2 appearances: #30, 35 (with Dragon Man)
Frightful Four (The Wizard, Paste-Pot Pete, Sandman, Medusa): 2 appearances: #36, 38
Miracle Man: 1 appearance: #3
Kurrgo, Master of Planet X: 1 appearance: #7
Impossible Man: 1 appearance: #11
Rama-Tut, Pharoah from the Future!: 1 appearance: #19
Molecule Man: 1 appearance: #20
Adolf Hitler: 1 appearance: #21
Infant Terrible: 1 appearance: #24
X-Men (under thrall of the Puppet Master): 1 appearance: #28
Attuma: 1 appearance: #33
Mr. Gideon: 1 appearance: #34
Dragon Man: 1 appearance: #35
While it’s clear that this was a remarkably fertile time for the two men, they obviously weren’t adverse to reusing a character, especially the two big guns (Doom and Namor), who appear in 36% of the stories (15 out of 42 issues). So I would challenge Brian’s statement a bit.
More than anything, these first 40 issues didn’t thrill me. I look at them and appreciate what the two men did for comics, and Kirby’s art is better than I used to give it credit for, but there’s something lacking in them. Maybe I’m just not a Sixties kind of guy. I doubt it, because Steranko’s Nick Fury is pretty damned awesome.
4. Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson (988).
May 1979 to February 1983 (#158-191, with a few gaps).
One Omnibus edition collecting the entire run, three Visionary trades, two trades collecting issues #159-161, 163-164 (“Marked for Death”) and #169-172, 180 (“Gang War”).
The placement of this actually surprised me. It’s not that it’s bad at all, but I’m surprised it was 4th. I get that people really like it, but again, 4th? This is, of course, extremely influential, in both good and bad ways. Nice art, though.
5. Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch (942). See above.
6. Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (926).
August 1962 (Amazing Fantasy #15) to July 1966 (#1-38, 2 Annuals).
There is an Omnibus collecting every issue; four Masterworks volumes; and the first two Essential volumes collect the run.
I like this a lot more than I like the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four. And it feels more like a “run,” based on my definition above.
7. Starman by James Robinson (921). See above.
8. Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon (857).
April 1995 to October 2000 (#1-66).
Nine trades collect the entire run.
As I mentioned with regard to this book and Hitman, I think this is probably Ennis’s masterpiece, but I like Hitman more. He was obviously more “taken” with this, but it ending up being a bit more pretentious and precious than Hitman, and that’s where it falters a bit. Ennis screws up the ending a bit (a reason to make current runs ineligible!), and he too often allows his characters to rant about things he obviously feels passionate about, bringing the narrative to a halt. And Herr Starr’s successive gruesome injuries is like the gag on The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on the rakes – funny at first, then annoying, and finally surreal. I dropped this book for a while because of the disgusting injuries (the fat guy landing on the Messiah really turned me off), and while I’m glad I went back and got the issues and read them, I can’t rank this as high as Hitman or even Hellblazer.
9. Justice League by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis (742).
May 1987 to March 1992 (for the run that was voted on). See above.
10. X-Men by Grant Morrison (701).
July 2001 to May 2004 (#114-154, one Annual).
This run has been collected in seven trades; three hardcovers; or one Omnibus.
Boy, do I wish Marvel had not basically retconned most of this run out of existence. I know a lot of people read this, but as someone who had been reading the mutant books for years, issue #114 was like a punch in the gut – but in a good way. It was astonishing, and although I don’t think any story matched “E is for Extinction,” this is a brilliant run that should have completely redefined the X-Men. Of course, the people who hated it because it was so “different” should remember how conventional it really is. Yes, Morrison played with a lot of new kinds of ideas, but it fit well into the history of the X-Men. Too bad Marvel didn’t see it that way.
I can even forgive the Xorn reveal, which I still say is not telegraphed in the Annual. Maybe I need to read it again, but still.
11. Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez (643).
November 1980 to March 1985 (#1-50; #1-5, three Annuals).
There are three archive volumes (issues #1-20, Tales #1-4); and four trades, which do not collect the entire run (two deal with Terra, one with Donna Troy, one with Trigon).
I have read the two trades about Terra, and wasn’t impressed. Again, it’s another one that not’s bad, but I’m not dazzled by it. I have a distinct feeling that this is another one where you had to be there when it first came out. Years later, after hearing about how awesome it is, the impact when you actually do read it is lessened. I like the stories I’ve read, but not to the point where I think it’s the 11th-best run of all time.
That X-Men/Titans crossover rocks, however.
12. JLA by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter (574). See above.
13. Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra (547).
September 2002 to March 2008 (#1-60).
Nine trades are out, with one more to come.
I enjoy this book, but I HAVEN’T READ THE ENDING, AND IF YOU SPOIL IT FOR ME I WILL FIND YOU, WHEREVER YOU LIVE, AND EAT YOUR EYES! EVEN IF YOU LIVE IN SURINAME OR BHUTAN OR EVEN (SHUDDER) ALABAMA! So please don’t spoil it. Thanks!
14. Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison and Richard Case (524). See above. I’d like to thank the 11 other people besides me who voted this #1. You obviously are the 11 smartest comic book fans in existence!
15. Thor by Walt Simonson (514).
November 1983 to August 1987 (#337-382, not all with Simonson on art).
Four Visionary trades (through issue #374), with another one scheduled. For some inexplicable reason, Marvel has allowed Vols. 2 and 3 to go out of print. Stupid, stupid Marvel.
I only own issues #337-355, but damn, they’re good. I’m waiting for the Visionary trades to come back in print (Marvel is getting around to it, they claim), so I can, you know, buy them. Imagine that – people want to buy these books! Why, oh why, did they go out of print? Stupid Marvel.
16. Fantastic Four by John Byrne (508).
July 1981 to August 1986 (#232-293).
Eight Visionary trades collect the entire run.
This is quite good. Byrne did some very cool things with the characters, and it’s the kind of comic you can read over and over and always be entertained. But, as I mentioned above, it ended kind of weakly, plus, you know, he brought back Jean Grey late in the run. Boo, John Byrne! Still, this is good comic-bookery.
17. Captain America by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting (504).
January 2005 to present (#1-37).
Six trades are out, plus one Omnibus (#1-25).
Ineligible because it’s not over. If my sources are correct, I know how Steve Rogers will come back (did you think he wouldn’t?), and we’ll see if people like so much then!
18. Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday (493). See above.
19. The Incredible Hulk by Peter David (484).
May 1987 to August 1998 (#331-467).
Eight trades exist (the first four are Visionary trades, so maybe more of those are coming), ending with issue #400. One wonders if Marvel will ever collect the rest.
This gets a lot weaker around #425 or so, and only picks up when that Kubert dude came on board in the #450s (whichever Kubert it was – Andy?). But I still love this run, because David did more with the Hulk than I thought possible. I got into it late, but quickly went back and bought all the back issues (including a strangely low-priced McFarlane one, which was explained when I found out part of two pages had been cut out), and I love reading it. David never seemed to get stale or even bored, and I wonder if he’d still be writing the damned book if Marvel hadn’t interfered.
20. Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev (480).
December 2001 to March 2006 (#26-50; #56-81).
There are nine trades and/or five hardcovers.
I went into this run in detail here.
21. Animal Man by Grant Morrison and Chas Truog (430). See above.
22. Fables by Bill Willingham (428).
July 2002 to present (#1-71).
Nine trades so far, plus the graphic novel 1001 Nights of Snowfall.
This is one of my favorite current comics, but it’s ineligible because it’s not over yet.
23. Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson (418).
September 1997 to November 2002 (#1-60).
Ten trades collect the entire run.
I never got this when it came out, but quickly picked up the trades. It’s not my favorite Ellis work, but I think it’s his masterpiece, and almost every Ellis protagonist since then seems to be an iteration of Spider Jerusalem. This, like Preacher, allows Ellis to rant about things that interest him, but he’s usually very good about tempering it with neat stories. My favorite parts of this comic are when Ellis shows a human side to Spider. Ellis is excellent at this sort of thing, but too often he ignores that part of his repertoire to concentrate on angry ranting. Transmetropolitan is a nice blend of the two sides of Ellis, and that’s why it’s good.
24. The Punisher by Garth Ennis (389).
April 2000 to March 2001 (Welcome Back, Frank). August 2001 to February 2004 (Marvel Knights series). March 2004 to present (MAX series).
It looks like there are sixteen trades (with two pending), and some hardcovers.
I have read a few issues of the MAX series, and didn’t think they were anything special. The Punisher is just one of those characters I simply do not like. I’m sorry, but I just can’t really get into him, no matter how good the stories are.
25. Cerebus by Dave Sim and Gerhard (370).
December 1977 to March 2004 (#1-300).
Many, many trades are out there.
I have never read this, and I have never had much interest in reading it.
26. Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley (364).
October 2000 to August 2007 (#1-110).
Eighteen trades have come out (including the “Secret Six” arc); a bunch of big hardcovers.
I buy this series in trades, and I think it reads well in that format. I enjoy it a lot.
27. Invisibles by Grant Morrison (349).
September 1994 to June 2000 (#1-25; #1-22; #12-1).
Seven trades collect all three volumes.
I have read this once, and didn’t get it. It’s very possible than I’m not too bright, but I tend to think this is fairly overrated. Do you really get it, people who ranked it this high? I’m not asking to be snarky, I honestly want to know, because I just didn’t understand it at all. It’s very vexing.
28. Suicide Squad by John Ostrander (336). See above.
29. The Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen (328).
November 1981 to December 1984 (#281-313; #1-5).
Two trades are out, one “The Great Darkness Saga,” and the other the relaunch.
I read “The Great Darkness Saga” and didn’t get what all the fuss was about. It was fine, I guess, but inconsistent on the art side and a bit unbelievable, as wouldn’t Darkseid be better known? Anyway, it’s a perfectly fine story. 29th-best? Not in my world, but I have no problem with people voting for it.
30. Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson (323).
August 1995 to present.
All of this is in trade, except for maybe the latest story arc, which will be soon.
Although these are a series of mini-series, I would still consider it ineligible, as Busiek is obviously going to write more of these. I love this series, and maybe when it’s all done I’ll rank it quite high – probably higher than this, to tell the truth.
31. Bone by Jeff Smith (321).
July 1991 to June 2004 (#1-55).
Nine color trades are out, and that one big black-and-white volume, which at $40 for 1300 pages is excellent value.
I love this comic. Love it love it love it. Go buy it if you haven’t read it, and go re-read it if you have. Go!
32. The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch (315).
March 2002 to May 2007.
The series is collected in four trades and/or two big hardcovers.
I bought 15 issues of this before I went on my Mark Millar boycott, and I really enjoyed the first 6 or so, before the waits between issues became interminable and the story became just another alien invasion. I still read it, but it wasn’t as thrilling. Then I stopped buying Millar comics. I haven’t felt all that deprived.
33. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona (307).
July 2003 to May 2007 (#1-18; #1-24).
Seven digest-style trades and/or three big hardcovers collect this series.
I own the three hardcovers, and like them a lot. The art looks great in that format, and Vaughan does a very good job with the characters. I get the objections to who the traitor is, and kind of wish it had been someone less obvious (in hindsight, that is, because I didn’t see it coming), but I still like this series quite a bit.
34. Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr. (270).
August 1966 to May 1971 (#39-93, with some gaps).
This is collected in the Marvel Masterworks volumes 4-9 (only part of 4, though); Essential volumes 2-5 (parts of 2 and 5); a Romita Sr. Visionary trade with some of the issues; and a “Death of the Stacys” trade. You have no excuse if you haven’t read it!
As I mentioned above, I like the old Spider-Man comics a lot more than the old Fantastic Four comics, so I enjoy this run a lot. I have all the Spider-Man Essential volumes (well, I’m missing the Spectacular ones, but I have all the Amazing ones), and I really want Marvel to bring out another volume! Come on, Marvel!
35. Love and Rockets by the Hernandez Brothers (236).
June 1982 to present (#1-50; #1-20).
Many trades exist, including new hardcovers.
No, I haven’t read this. Yes, I’m a bad comic book fan. Have mercy!
36. Marvelman/Miracleman by Alan Moore, Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Beckum, and John Totleben (234). See above.
37. Hitman by Garth Ennis and John McCrea (232). See above.
38. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday (229).
July 2004 to present (#1-24).
Three trades are out so far, but you know a mega-huge Omnibus is in the pipeline.
As many of you recall, I was just not impressed with the first trade of this, nor the random single issues I’ve picked up since. It’s not that it’s that bad, it’s just not that impressive. If Brian does this again in ten years, I’d be stunned if this showed up. I don’t think it will age well. But that’s just me.
39. Flash by Mark Waid (228).
May 1992 to September 1997 (#62-129).
There are five trades, but they don’t collect the entire run.
I read two arcs: the return of Barry Allen, and the six issues leading up to issue #100. Both seemed like decent but unspectacular superhero stories. I know that people love this, so maybe I should get another trade and give it another chance.
40. Promethea by Alan Moore and J. H. Williams III (220).
August 1999 to April 2005 (#1-32).
Five trades are out.
For some reason, I’ve never finished this. I own three trades and liked them, but it’s never been high on my list of comics to buy. I understand it got weirder and weirder, and maybe that’s what’s kept me from buying it, but for whatever reason, I’ve never gotten around to the other two trades. I ought to, I guess.
41. The Avengers by Kurt Busiek (218).
February 1998 to September 2002 (#1-56).
Eight trades collect the run, or you could go for the five big hardcovers.
I own the first two big hardcovers, and as I’ve written about before, I am just not thrilled with them. For some reason, I can’t get into the Avengers.
41. Howard the Duck by Steve Gerber (218).
December 1973 to September 1978.
Essential Howard the Duck. What more do you need?
I haven’t read this at all. I’m aware of my suckiness, thank you.
43. Daredevil by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (211).
February-August 1986 (#227-233).
Daredevil: Born Again is the trade.
Damn, this is a great story. I’ve read this thing so many times, and I always like dragging it out and reading it again. But without going back and consulting the rules, shouldn’t a seven-issue “run” not really count? What was the minimum number of issues allowed?
44. The Legion of Super-Heroes by Keith Giffen, Tom Bierbaum, and Mary Bierbaum (208).
November 1989 to December 1992 (issue #38) and November 1993 (issue #50) (#1-50).
No trades are out for this run.
I haven’t read it, nor do I have much interest in reading it. On the other hand, I did just finally complete my collection (such as it is) of The Heckler, which is by the same creative team, and I’m looking forward to cracking that open.
45. The Spectre by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake (205). See above.
46. The Spirit by Will Eisner (204).
DC has 24 trades, not all with Eisner, apparently, but there they are.
I’ve read some of this, and I’m impressed with the stories. Those people who say Kirby was so wonderful should check out Eisner, twenty years earlier. Okay, they probably have, but Eisner’s work was so much more naturalistic (for the most part, if we ignore the stereotype that is Ebony White) than most mainstream superhero art. Why is that?
47. Deadpool by Joe Kelly (202).
January 1997 to October 1999 (#1-33).
One trade is out, collecting issues #1-5.
I haven’t read this. Given the love it seems to receive, perhaps I should.
48. JSA by Geoff Johns (192).
January 2000 to March 2006; February 2007 to present (#6-77, 81; #1-14).
It looks like eleven trades, one extra one for “The Lightning Saga,” and one forthcoming.
This would probably be ineligible, because it’s still technically ongoing, even though the previous series ended. I haven’t liked enough of what I’ve read by Johns to really care about reading this.
49. Detective Comics by Steve Englehart, Walt Simonson, and Marshall Rogers (184).
May 1977 to April 1978 (#469-476).
There’s a trade, which includes issues #477-479.
The Simonson issues aren’t awful (Dr. Phosphorus is pretty keen), but of course the big draw are the Englehart/Rogers/Austin issues. I wrote about those issues here.
50. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World (180).
October 1970 to March 1974.
Lots of different trades are out, including the Omnibi (a fourth and final volume is forthcoming).
I’d really like to read this. Kirby’s Five-Oh! came out this week, didn’t it? I’ll have to ask my retailer where the hell it is.
51. Hellboy by Mike Mignola (179).
March 1994 to present.
Many trades, with no signs of stopping.
I have read very few issues of the Hellboy-verse, but I’d like to read more. They’re groovy.
52. All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely (176).
January 2006 to present (#1-10).
One trade is out, collecting #1-6. Of course, you could wait for the big hardcover that will appear eventually.
This is ineligible, of course, but I dig it quite a lot. I’m not sure if it’s as good as most of Morrison’s stuff, but we’ll see.
53. Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude (174).
May 1983 to present (#1-101).
It looks like about half has been collected in trade.
I haven’t read it, except for the recent reprint of the Origin story. It was okay.
54. Green Lantern by Geoff Johns (174).
December 2004 to present (#1-6; #1-29).
It looks like four trades are out so far.
I can’t accept this appearing on the list. Much like Astonishing X-Men, I think this will not appear on a list like this ten years from now. Granted, I haven’t read much of this, but whenever I take a look at an issue, it’s thoroughly unimpressive. It just seems like Johns is far more interested in giving fans exactly what they want instead of caring about writing a good story. I guess that’s why it’s popular and why it shows up on this list, but it’s just pandering. Blech. Bringing back Hal Jordan and caving to a bunch of whiners should automatically exclude it.*
*Sorry for being so angry. Hal’s return just really pisses me off.
55. Amazing Spider-Man by Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr. (170).
January 1982 to May 1984 (#224-252).
Parts of this run are collected in two trades.
I have covered part of this run, in two separate Comics You Should Own posts: the two-part Juggernaut story, and the Hobgoblin story. They’re, you know, good.
56. The Flash by Geoff Johns (168).
September 2000 to October 2005 (#164-225).
Eight trades collect the entire run.
I haven’t read any of this. I’m in no hurry.
56. Supreme by Alan Moore (168).
August 1996 to June 2000 (#41-56; #1-5).
Two trades, from Checker books, have been published.
I hear good things about this, even though I’ve read only one issue. I suppose I should find the trades.
58. The Avengers by Roger Stern (164).
January 1983 to February 1988 (#227-288).
“Under Siege” has been collected, but only a few other random stories.
I’ve never read any of this.
59. Green Lantern/Green Arrow by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams (162).
April 1970 to January 1973 (#76-87, 89; Flash #217-219).
It’s all been collected in one trade (including the back-up stories).
I’ve read more than a few issues of this, but not all of it. I love Adams’ art. The stories are pretty good, too, especially that Jesus one.
60. The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch (159).
May 1999 to April 2000 (#1-12).
Two trades of six issues each are available, and/or one Absolute Edition.
I love this run, but I have a feeling it won’t be held in such high esteem in the coming years. It’s more of an “awesome” kind of run than one that really stays with you, isn’t it? StormWatch is much more interesting.
61. Iron Man by Bob Layton and David Michelinie (152).
September 1978 to April 1982 (#114-157).
There are five trades, but the entire run has not been collected.
Yes, I suppose I should read this, but I haven’t. I’ll get around to it, especially now that I’m armed with the issue numbers!
62. 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso (150).
August 1999 to present (#1-89).
I read them in trades, so I know they’re available – currently eleven of them.
It’s ineligible, but damn, it’s good stuff. I hope it ends well.
62. Fantastic Four by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo (150).
October 2002 to June 2005 (#60-70; 500-524).
This run is collected in six trades and/or three big hardcovers.
I own the first big hardcover of this, which ends with the horrific Doom story (“horrific” because of what happens, not because of the quality, which is very good). I have heard it didn’t go too well after that, but I’m still curious about it. Maybe I’ll pick up another hardcover just for fun.
64. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill (148).
March 1999 to November 2003 (#1-6; #1-6).
The trades are available, including three Absolute editions.
Well, I still think this should be ineligible, but whatever. I didn’t like The Black Dossier all that much, but the first two mini-series were excellent. I really hope Moore and O’Neill can get some more series out before I grow old and feeble.
65. Detective/Batman by Alan Grant, John Wagner, and Norm Breyfogle (146). See above.
66. New Mutants by Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod, and Bill Sienkiewicz (144). See above.
67. Shade, the Changing Man by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo (142). See above.
68. Top Ten by Alan Moore and Gene Ha (141).
September 1999 to October 2001 (#1-12).
All of the series is in trade, but wouldn’t an Absolute Edition be nice?
This is a wildly fun series to read, not only because of all the Easter eggs, but because of the wonderful stories. Moore ties dozens of plotlines together effortlessly, and Ha’s artwork is amazing. It would have been nice to see the series go longer, but I guess 12 issues and one graphic novel is good enough (and no, I haven’t read Smax – maybe I should).
69. X-Factor by Peter David (140).
September 1991 to May 1993 (#70-90).
Three Visionary volumes have come out, collecting through #83 (but not including #70), plus there’s an “X-Cutioner’s Song” trade (#84-86).
I own most if not all of these (I’d have to check), and although I liked them when I bought them, these were sitting in my parents’ house for about 12 years, and I only recently got them back. Therefore, I haven’t re-read them, and I have no idea if they hold up. I guess I’ll find out when I get around to them.
70. Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming (134).
April 2000 to present (#1-37; #1-27).
There are eleven trades or, if you prefer, two big hardcovers (issues #1-24).
I own the first trade and a few of the subsequent issues (including the one guest-starring Warren Ellis, which is … odd), and I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t know why. I can’t say there’s anything really wrong with it, it just didn’t do it for me. And then I heard about the monkey sex issue, and thought maybe it was a good thing I didn’t keep reading.
71. Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, and Rick Leonardi (133).
June 1987 to May 1990 (#218-261, with many guest artists).
“Fall of the Mutants” and “Inferno” are in trades, plus the Brood story. Parts of it are in a Jim Lee Visionary volume. Are these trades out of print?
I love this era of the X-Men, but as I pointed out above, I’m not sure it should be counted separately s a “run.” If it is, I would go from a few issues earlier (#214 is the real “beginning” of this “era”) and end at #280, which is the last issue before the titles split. But I will defend this run against Philistines like Brian, who don’t like it all that much. Boo, Dread Lord and Master!
71. Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith (133).
January 1983 to November 1983 (#165-175).
Essential volume 4 has the goods. “From the Ashes” is the trade of the big story arc, but it might be out of print.
Again, this “run” blends rather easily with the prior one (Smith came on board to end the first Brood story) and into the subsequent one. These are some humdingers, though. Wolverine’s wedding (issues #172-173) are freakin’ awesome.
73. Black Panther by Christopher Priest (130).
November 1998 to September 2003 (#1-62).
The first twelve issues are collected.
I own the first trade and enjoyed it (especially when Everett Ross sells his soul for a pair of pants), but never got around to buying the second trade. Of course, Marvel stopped collecting them, so maybe I should just go back and buy the damned issues in single format.
74. Excalibur by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis (122).
October 1988 to July 1990; October 1991 to July 1993 (#1-24; 42-67).
The first part, when Claremont was writing, is in four trades, but not the ones with Davis as sole writer/artist.
These are really fun comics, and it’s too bad there’s a caesura between them, because they fit together so well. I love re-reading these.
74. Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Kano, and Stefano Gaudiano (122).
February 2003 to April 2006 (#1-40).
There are five trades, but some crossover issues are not included.
These comics are very good, except toward the end, when they seem to lose their way a bit. It’s a great idea, however, and it would be nice to see DC try to revive something like this in the future.
76. Concrete by Paul Chadwick (120).
July 1986 to present.
Lots of trades exist, but I’m not sure if it’s everything that could be collected.
I haven’t read a single issue with Concrete. That’s just weird.
77. Superman by John Byrne (119).
October 1986 to November 1988.
Looks like most of it has been collected in various trades. Has all of it been?
I own the Man of Steel mini-series. It’s good. But I have no mad-on to get the rest.
78. Wildcats by Joe Casey, Sean Phillips, Dustin Nguyen, and Duncan Rouleau (117).
April 2000 to October 2004 (#8-28; #1-24).
Five trades collect the run, but 3.0 only made it to #12 in trade. So sad!
This is part of the body of work that makes Casey one of the best writers working today. This is a marvelous read, and even though the final issues are not fantastic, Casey makes the best of it. It’s a shame that his really interesting stuff doesn’t last, but his more mainstream stuff does well. This is probably his masterpiece until Gødland supplants it.
79. Invincible by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Ottley (115).
January 2003 to present (#1-49).
So far we have eight trades, including a few gigantic hardcovers.
This is a very good superhero book. I would deem it ineligible, but I have no problem with it showing up on the list.
80. Lucifer by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Ryan Kelly (114).
March 1999 to June 2006 (#1-3; #1-75).
The series is collected in eleven trades.
I bought the Sandman Presents mini-series when it came out, and a friend got me the first trade, but I just wasn’t into it. It’s not bad, certainly, but it didn’t grab me. But it’s another series in which I have become interested because of its presence on this list. Maybe I’ll pick up the second trade.
81. Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (113).
March 2003 to May 2005 (#1-12; #1-12).
Four trades collect the series, and one for Point Blank (which is not essential, but forms a nice prelude to the main book).
It took me a long time to get into this book. I got the first trade, liked it well enough, but didn’t see what was so special about it. I got the second trade and felt the same way. I decided to get the final two trades just to see how Brubaker would end it. As a whole, this is much better than individually. It’s a nice comic, and I have no problem with its ranking.
81. X-Force/X-Statix by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred (113).
May 2001 to October 2004 (#116-129; #1-26).
Six trades are out, plus the Deadgirl mini-series.
Issue #116 is one of the best single issues of the past decade, and the first few are amazing. Milligan couldn’t keep the energy up, probably not surprisingly, but it remained a very good book, especially given the fact that Marvel published it and allowed Milligan a lot of latitude. Even before the Princess Diana thing, it was getting a bit stale, and I dropped it right before the final story arc. Of course, I’ve heard that’s very good (especially Guy fighting Iron Man in the nude), so I’ll probably pick up the issues some day.
83. StormWatch by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney, Oscar Jimenez, and Bryan Hitch (112). See above.
83. Thor by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby (112).
October 1963 to August 1970 (#97-179).
The trades: Masterworks volumes 1-6 (part of 1), Essential volumes 1-3 (parts of 1, ends at #166).
Except for the origin issue, I honestly don’t know if I’ve read any of this. Given the write-up Brian did and the reaction some people had to this, I think I might have to go get some Essential volumes!
85. Groo by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier (110).
December 1982 to present.
Most, but not all (it appears) is in trade.
As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t get Groo. I enjoy reading his adventures, but I just can’t see loving it so much. It seems like a well-written “classic” situation comedy, in that each episode might be hilarious, but because everything stays pretty much the same, you lack the emotional attachment to characters that I need to consider something great. But that’s just me.
86. Warlock by Jim Starlin (109).
February 1975 to 1977.
This doesn’t appear to be in trade.
If this is half as weird as Starlin’s Captain Marvel stuff, I will have to find it somewhere!
86. The Avengers by Roy Thomas (109).
December 1966 to October 1972 (#35-104).
Collections include: part of Masterworks volume 4, volume 5, 6, and 7 (to issue 68); part of Essential volume 2, 3, 4, and part of 5. Parts of the run have been collected elsewhere, including the Kree-Skrull War trade.
I’ve only read the Kree-Skrull War trade, and that mainly because of Neal Adams. So I can’t speak to the quality of this.
88. Doctor Strange by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (108).
July 1963 to July 1966 (#110-146).
Strange Tales shows up in Masterworks volume 1 (and a few in volume 2) and Essential volume 1.
I haven’t read this (because it’s from the Sixties, man!), but maybe I should.
89. Captain America by Mark Gruenwald (107).
July 1985 to September 1995 (#307-443).
Only a few story arcs are in trade: “The Bloodstone Hunt” and “Streets of Poison.”
This run was long before I really got into finding out the talent on a book and whether the creative team was any good. Mostly I just stuck to my favorite characters and a few random creators (most of whom worked for DC). So this run passed me by completely. In fact, the first time I even considered buying Captain America was right after this run, when Waid and Garney came on board.
90. Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and John Romita, Jr. (106).
November 1983 to November 1986 (#175-211).
The only trades of this are Essential volumes 5 and 6. The Mutant Massacre got a trade, which I see occasionally, but I wonder if it’s out of print.
Again, I would count this as part of Claremont’s grand storyline that began in issue #144 and ended with issue #213. But I’m in the minority, I guess. I do love this X-Era, though.
91. Green Arrow by Mike Grell (104).
August 1987 (The Longbow Hunters #1) to November 1993 (#1-3; #1-80).
The Longbow Hunters is in trade, but it doesn’t look like the rest of the run is.
Despite the controversy over Grell’s treatment of Dinah, I love The Longbow Hunters. I bought one other issue of Green Arrow (#40, the one Grell drew), but not the rest of the series. Grell’s art in the original mini-series is a huge draw, but I liked the story a lot as well. It’s a wonderfully adult take on a superhero going through middle age, and it shows again why DC and Marvel should allow their heroes to age. Anyway, that’s a soapbox issue, so I won’t go into it, but I still drag out my trade of The Longbow Hunters occasionally and read it. This is one of those series that I should collect, because when I started buying comics I didn’t know who Grell was, and as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate him more.
92. Nextwave by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen (103).
March 2006 to March 2007 (#1-12).
There are two trades, but a monster trade collecting the entire run would look so nice on a bookshelf, wouldn’t it?
In the middle of this run, I thought Ellis was losing it, but the beginning and end are just fantastic comics. I recently bought Abnett and Lanning’s mini-series about Elsa Bloodstone (cheaply, I can assure you), and it’s amazing what Ellis does with her to redeem her slightly after that clusterfuck. I wish this could have lasted a little longer, but like a lot of great series that didn’t last, a few issues are better than none!
93. Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos (101).
November 2001 to January 2004 (#1-28).
There are four trades, plus an all-inclusive Omnibus.
Alias is another series about which I’ve written extensively. It’s excellent.
93. Hellblazer by Garth Ennis, Will Simpson, and Steve Dillon (101).
May 1991 to November 1994 (#41-83).
Six trades of the main storylines, and some single issues in “Rare Cuts,” collect everything.
I started buying Hellblazer late in Ennis’s run (“Rake at the Gates of Hell,” in fact), and quickly went back and scooped up the back issues before they got too expensive. As I mentioned above, I think this run even trumps Preacher, as Ennis isn’t too beyond the pale when it comes to the ultra-violence, and Kit is a better character than Tulip. Ennis’s return to Hellblazer years later (“Son of Man,” issues #129-133) is decent, but shows how much more he enjoys writing truly disgusting violent scenes.
95. Lone Wolf & Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima (100).
Many trades are available.
I haven’t read any of this. I am a bad person.
96. The Question by Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan (99).
February 1987 to April 1990 (#1-36).
The first trade is out, and a second (collecting through issue #12) will be available on Wednesday, I’m fairly sure.
I read the first trade and liked it, and I’ll probably pick up the second. I don’t know if I should wait for DC to collect the rest, given their erratic publishing schedule. Of course, I’m not in any hurry to buy these, because although I liked the first trade, it’s not like I desperately need to read the rest, so I can be patient.
97. Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai (98).
July 1987 to present (#1-38; #1-16; #1-109).
It appears that there are 23 trades currently out.
I tried a few issues out not long ago, and while I liked them, I think I’ll stick to the trades. It’s definitely on my list to get, though.
97. Grendel by Matt Wagner (98). See above.
99. Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore (96).
November 1993 to June 2007 (#1-13; #1-13; #1-90).
So many trades: Nineteen regular volumes; ten hardcovers; six digests.
This is another book I’ve never read, so I have nothing to say about it.
100. Plastic Man by Jack Cole (95).
August 1941 to November 1950.
DC’s Archive Editions collect almost the entire run, it looks like, in eight editions.
I read the Art Spiegelman book about Jack Cole and his creation, which was very good, but I’ve never read any of these comics, except for the origin story.
100. Master of Kung-Fu by Doug Moench (95).
September 1974 to March 1983 (#20-122).
No trades, apparently. Not even an Essential volume????
This is something I have been meaning to track down for some time. I think I have to ramp up my efforts!
100. Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware (95).
Winter 1993 to Winter 2001 (#1-18).
Five trades exist.
I’ve never read it. I don’t think I’d like it. Maybe I would.
Now, let’s check out the list, going only by first place votes (the first number in parentheses is where the run actually placed, while the second is the number of first-place votes it received):
1 (1). Sandman (42).
2 (3). Fantastic Four (Lee/Kirby) (37).
3 (7). Starman (35).
4 (5). Swamp Thing (30).
5 (2). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Byrne) (28).
6 (8). Preacher (21).
7 (6). Amazing Spider-Man (Lee/Ditko) (19).
8 (11). Teen Titans (15).
9 (10). X-Men (14).
10 (9). Justice League (Giffen/DeMatteis) (13).
10 (21). Animal Man (13).
12 (4). Daredevil (Miller) (12).
12 (14). Doom Patrol (12).
14 (23). Transmetropolitan (11).
15 (27). Invisibles (10).
15 (29). Legion of Super-Heroes (Levitz/Giffen) (10).
17 (20). Daredevil (Bendis/Maleev) (9).
18 (25). Cerebus (8).
19 (12). JLA (Morrison) (7).
19 (16). Fantastic Four (Byrne) (7).
19 (18). Planetary (7).
19 (19). Incredible Hulk (7).
19 (31). Bone (7).
19 (46). The Spirit (7).
25 (13). Y: The Last Man (6).
25 (22). Fables (6).
25 (37). Hitman (6).
25 (47). Deadpool (6).
29 (15). Thor (Simonson) (5).
29 (24). The Punisher (5).
29 (28). Suicide Squad (5).
29 (32). The Ultimates (5).
29 (35). Love and Rockets (5).
29 (45). The Spectre (5).
35 (17). Captain America (Brubaker) (4).
35 (30). Astro City (4).
35 (40). Promethea (4).
35 (44). Legion of Super-Heroes (Giffen/Bierbaums) (4).
35 (53). Nexus (4).
35 (55). Amazing Spider-Man (Stern/Romita Jr.) (4).
35 (66). New Mutants (4).
35 (67). Shade, the Changing Man (4).
35 (73). Black Panther (4).
35 (76). Concrete (4).
45 (26). Ultimate Spider-Man (3).
45 (33). Runaways (3).
45 (34). Amazing Spider-Man (Lee/Romita Sr.) (3).
45 (36). Marvelman (3).
45 (43). Daredevil (Miller/Mazzuchelli) (3).
45 (49). Detective (Englehart/Simonson/Rogers) (3).
45 (52). All Star Superman (3).
45 (58). Avengers (Stern) (3).
45 (62t). 100 Bullets (3).
45 (68). Top Ten (3).
45 (71t). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Silvestri) (3).
45 (74t). Excalibur (3).
45 (80). Lucifer (3).
45 (89). Captain America (Gruenwald) (3).
45 (91). Green Arrow (3).
60 (38). Astonishing X-Men (2).
60 (39). The Flash (Waid) (2).
60 (50). Fourth World (2).
60 (51). Hellboy (2).
60 (56t). The Flash (Johns) (2).
60 (56t). Supreme (2).
60 (60). The Authority (2).
60 (61). Iron Man (2).
60 (64). League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2).
60 (65). Detective (Grant/Breyfogle) (2).
60 (69). X-Factor (2).
60 (81t). Sleeper (2).
60 (81t). X-Force/X-Statix (2).
60 (86t). Avengers (Thomas) (2).
60 (88). Doctor Strange (2).
60 (92). Nextwave (2).
60 (97t). Usagi Yojimbo (2).
60 (99). Strangers in Paradise (2).
60 (100t). Acme Novelty Library (2).
79 (41t). Avengers (Busiek/Perez) (1).
79 (41t). Howard the Duck (1).
79 (48). JSA (1).
79 (53). Green Lantern (1).
79 (59). Green Lantern/Green Arrow (1).
79 (62t). Fantastic Four (Waid/Wieringo) (1).
79 (70). Powers (1).
79 (71t). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Smith) (1).
79 (74t). Gotham Central (1).
79 (77). Superman (Byrne) (1).
79 (78). Wildcats (1).
79 (79). Invincible (1).
79 (83t). StormWatch (1).
79 (83t). Thor (Lee/Kirby) (1).
79 (85). Groo (1).
79 (86t). Warlock (1).
79 (90). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Romita) (1).
79 (93t). Alias (1).
79 (93t). Hellblazer (1).
79 (96). The Question (1).
79 (97t). Grendel (1).
79 (100t). Plastic Man (1).
101 (95). Lone Wolf & Cub (0).
101 (100t). Master of Kung-Fu (0).
Obviously, down at the bottom it gets a little sticky, but I find it interesting that some runs (most notably Animal Man) finished high up in the first-place rankings but not so high in the general rankings. Most people, it seems, ranked it very high or not at all. Others didn’t finish as high as a first-place run, but I expect they showed up on a broader number of ballots, because they’re more “classic.” This gave me another idea: to rank them by their percentage of first-place votes! Basically, as each first-place vote was worth 10 points, we’ll look at how many of a specific run’s total came from voters ranking it first. Let’s check it out! The first parentheses shows where the run finished, the second shows its first-place votes, and the third is the percentage of first-place points making up its total.
1 (7). Starman (35) (38.00%).
2 (3). Fantastic Four (Lee/Kirby) (37) (35.92%).
3 (46). The Spirit (7) (34.31%).
4 (76). Concrete (4) (33.33%).
5 (1). Sandman (42) (31.87%).
6 (5). Swamp Thing (30) (31.85%).
7 (73). Black Panther (4) (30.77%).
8 (29). Legion of Super-Heroes (Levitz/Giffen) (10) (30.49%).
9 (21). Animal Man (13) (30.23%).
10 (47). Deadpool (6) (29.70%).
11 (91). Green Arrow (3) (28.85%).
12 (27). Invisibles (10) (28.65%).
13 (67). Shade, the Changing Man (4) (28.17%).
14 (89). Captain America (Gruenwald) (3) (28.04%).
15 (66). New Mutants (4) (27.78%).
16t (23). Transmetropolitan (11) (26.32%).
16t (80). Lucifer (3) (26.32%).
18 (37). Hitman (6) (25.86%).
19 (74t). Excalibur (3) (24.59%).
20 (8). Preacher (21) (24.50%).
21 (45). The Spectre (5) (24.39%).
22 (2). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Byrne) (28) (23.69%).
23 (55). Amazing Spider-Man (Stern/Romita Jr.) (4) (23.53%).
24 (11). Teen Titans (15) (23.33%).
25 (53). Nexus (4) (22.99%).
26 (14). Doom Patrol (12) (22.90%).
27 (71t). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Silvestri) (3) (22.56%).
28 (31). Bone (7) (21.81%).
29 (25). Cerebus (8) (21.62%).
30 (68). Top Ten (3) (21.28%).
31 (35). Love and Rockets (5) (21.19%).
32 (100t). Acme Novelty Library (2) (21.05%)
33 (99). Strangers in Paradise (2) (20.83%).
34 (6) Amazing Spider-Man (Lee/Ditko) (19) (20.52%).
35 (97t). Usagi Yojimbo (2) (20.41%).
36 (62t). 100 Bullets (3) (20.00%).
37 (10). X-Men (14) (19.97%).
38 (92). Nextwave (2) (19.42%).
39 (44). Legion of Super-Heroes (Giffen/Bierbaums) (4) (19.23%).
40 (20). Daredevil (Bendis/Maleev) (9) (18.75%).
41 (88). Doctor Strange (2) (18.52%).
42 (86t). Avengers (Thomas) (2) (18.35%).
43 (58). Avengers (Stern) (3) (18.29%).
44 (40). Promethea (4) (18.18%).
45t (81t). Sleeper (2) (17.70%).
45t (81t). X-Force/X-Statix (2) (17.70%).
47 (9). Justice League (Giffen/DeMatteis) (13) (17.52%).
48 (52). All Star Superman (3) (17.05%).
49 (49). Detective (Englehart/Simonson/Rogers) (3) (16.30%).
50 (32). The Ultimates (5) (15.87%).
51 (28). Suicide Squad (5) (14.88%).
52 (19). Incredible Hulk (7) (14.46%).
53 (69). X-Factor (2) (14.29%).
54 (43). Daredevil (Miller/Mazzuchelli) (3) (14.22%).
55 (18). Planetary (7) (14.20%).
56 (22). Fables (6) (14.02%).
57 (16). Fantastic Four (Byrne) (7) (13.78%).
58 (65). Detective (Grant/Breyfogle) (2) (13.70%).
59 (64). League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2) (13.51%).
60 (61). Iron Man (2) (13.16%).
61 (24). The Punisher (5) (12.85%).
62 (36). Marvelman (3) (12.82%).
63 (60). The Authority (2) (12.58%).
64 (30). Astro City (4) (12.38%).
65 (12). JLA (Morrison) (7) (12.20%).
66 (4). Daredevil (Miller) (12) (12.15%).
67 (56t). The Flash (Johns) (2) (11.90%).
68 (56t). Supreme (2) (11.90%).
69 (51). Hellboy (2) (11.17%).
70t (34). Amazing Spider-Man (Lee/Romita Sr.) (3) (11.11%).
70t (50). Fourth World (2) (11.11%).
72 (13). Y: The Last Man (6) (10.97%).
73 (100t). Plastic Man (1) (10.53%).
74 (97t). Grendel (1) (10.20%).
75 (96). The Question (1) (10.10%).
76t (93t). Alias (1) (9.90%).
76t (93t). Hellblazer (1) (9.90%).
78 (33). Runaways (3) (9.77%).
79 (15). Thor (Simonson) (5) (9.73%).
80 (90). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Romita) (1) (9.43%).
81 (86t). Warlock (1) (9.17%).
82 (85). Groo (1) (9.09%).
83 (83t). StormWatch (1) (8.93%).
84 (83t). Thor (Lee/Kirby) (1) (8.93%).
85 (39). The Flash (Waid) (2) (8.77%).
86 (38). Astonishing X-Men (2) (8.73%).
87 (79). Invincible (1) (8.70%).
88 (78). Wildcats (1) (8.55%).
89 (77). Superman (Byrne) (1) (8.40%).
90 (74t). Gotham Central (1) (8.20%).
91 (26). Ultimate Spider-Man (3) (8.24%).
92 (17). Captain America (Brubaker) (4) (7.94%).
93 (71t). Uncanny X-Men (Claremont/Smith) (1) (7.52%).
94 (70). Powers (1) (7.46%).
95 (62t). Fantastic Four (Waid/Wieringo) (1) (6.67%).
96 (59). Green Lantern/Green Arrow (1) (6.17%).
97 (53). Green Lantern (1) (5.75%).
98 (48). JSA (1) (5.21%).
99t (41t). Avengers (Busiek/Perez) (1) (4.59%).
99t (41t). Howard the Duck (1) (4.59%).
101t (95). Lone Wolf & Cub (0) (0%).
101t (100t). Master of Kung-Fu (0) (0%).
Now that’s a Top Ten! I’m not exactly sure what these numbers mean, because I’m not a statistician and the percentages are so small I had to go out to the hundredths to separate them, but let’s look at the Top Ten and the Bottom Ten (excluding the two that got no first-place votes). Starman was named as the #1 run in a higher percentage than anything, which means to me that the people who like Starman really like Starman. Of the Top Ten, #1, #4, and #5 are very personal projects that didn’t or won’t continue when the creator stops working on it. #2, #3, #7, #9, and #10 are comics that were launched with a #1 issue, and with the exception (possibly) of Black Panther and Deadpool, we associate those characters most with these creators (which probably isn’t surprising). Only Swamp Thing and Legion of Super-Heroes were runs that began in the middle of a title, and Swamp Thing might not count, as Moore simply revamped the entire thing. As for the Bottom Ten, only Powers and Howard the Duck are associated completely with one creator (or team). Meanwhile, two Geoff Johns runs got the fewest percentage of first-place votes, possibly confirming my belief that people are “prisoners of the moment” when it comes to Johns (especially regarding Green Lantern) and those runs will not be terribly popular in a decade. (I don’t mean to insult people who voted for those runs. I don’t like Johns, but I recognize that he’s terribly popular. I just wonder if they’ll last as “great” runs or not, partially based on the fact that most people don’t think of them as their #1 run.) Most of the runs (with the exception of GL/GA, Howard the Duck, and the Claremont/Smith Uncanny X-Men) are relatively recent or still going on (4 are ongoing, while 3 others are less than a decade old), so maybe that plays into it – people are waiting to see how they stack up historically. I dunno.
Finally, let’s look at the vote total and how far behind each title was from the top and from the previous title on the list. Won’t that be fun?
Claremont/Byrne Uncanny X-Men (-136)
Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four (-288; -152)
Miller Daredevil (-330; -42)
Swamp Thing (-376; -46)
Lee/Ditko Spider-Man (-392; -16)
Starman (-397; -5)
Preacher (-461; -64)
Justice League International (-576; -115)
X-Men (-617; -41)
Teen Titans (-675; -58)
JLA (-744; -69)
Y: The Last Man (-771; -27)
Doom Patrol (-794; -23)
Simonson Thor (-804; -10)
Byrne Fantastic Four (-810; -6)
Brubaker Captain America (-814; -4)
Planetary (-825; -9)
Incredible Hulk (-834; -9)
Bendis/Maleev Daredevil (-838; -4)
Animal Man (-888; -50)
Fables (-890; -2)
Transmetropolitan (-900; -10)
Punisher (-929; -29)
Cerebus (-948; -19)
Ultimate Spider-Man (-954; -6)
Invisibles (-969; -15)
Suicide Squad (-982; -13)
Levitz/Giffen Legion of Super-Heroes (-990; -8)
Astro City (-995; -5)
Bone (-997; -2)
Ultimates (-1003; -6)
Runaways (-1011; -8)
Lee/Romita Spider-Man (-1048; -37)
Love and Rockets (-1082; -34)
Marvelman/Miracleman (-1084; -2)
Hitman (-1086; -2)
Astonishing X-Men (-1089; -3)
Waid Flash (-1090; -1)
Promethea (-1098; -8)
Busiek Avengers (-1100; -2)
Howard the Duck (-1110; N/A)
Miller/Mazzucchelli Daredevil (-1107; -7)
Giffen/Bierbaums Legion of Super-Heroes (-1110; -3)
Spectre (-1113; -3)
Spirit (-1114; -1)
Deadpool (-1116; -2)
JSA (-1126; -10)
Englehart Detective (-1134; -8)
Fourth World (-1138; -4)
Hellboy (-1139; -1)
All Star Superman (-1142; -3)
Nexus (-1144; -2)
Green Lantern (-1144, N/A)
Stern/Romita Spider-Man (-1148; -4)
Johns Flash (-1150; -2)
Supreme (-1150; N/A)
Stern Avengers (-1154; -4)
Green Lantern/Green Arrow (-1156; -2)
Authority (-1159; -3)
Iron Man (-1166; -7)
100 Bullets (-1168; -2)
Waid/Wieringo Fantastic Four (-1168; N/A)
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (-1170; -2)
Grant/Breyfogle Detective (-1172; -2)
New Mutants (-1174; -2)
Shade, the Changing Man (-1176; -2)
Top Ten (-1177; -1)
X-Factor (-1178; -1)
Powers (-1184; -6)
Claremont/Silvestri Uncanny X-Men (-1185; -1)
Claremont/Smith Uncanny X-Men (-1185; N/A)
Black Panther (-1188; -3)
Excalibur (-1196; -8)
Gotham Central (-1196; N/A)
Concrete (-1198; -2)
Superman (-1199; -1)
Wildcats (-1201; -2)
Invincible (-1203; -2)
Lucifer (-1204; -1)
Sleeper (-1205; -1)
X-Force/X-Statix (-1205; N/A)
StormWatch (-1206; -1)
Lee/Kirby Thor (-1206; N/A)
Groo (-1208; -2)
Warlock (-1209; -1)
Thomas Avengers (-1209; N/A)
Doctor Strange (-1210; -1)
Gruenwald Captain America (-1211; -1)
Claremont/Romita Uncanny X-Men (-1212; -1)
Green Arrow (-1214; -2)
Nextwave (-1215; -1)
Alias (-1217; -2)
Hellblazer (-1217; -2)
Lone Wolf & Cub (-1218; -1)
Question (-1219; -1)
Usagi Yojimbo (-1220; -1)
Grendel (-1220; -1)
Strangers in Paradise (-1222; -2)
Plastic Man (-1223; -1)
Master of Kung-Fu (-1223; N/A)
Acme Novelty Library (-1223; N/A)
Obviously, as you get down to the end the differences become much slighter, but it’s interesting to check out the space between each choice. This was very close in terms of jockeying for position once we got past the top few spots. I don’t know what else I can glean from this list.
Well, that’s it for me. Brian did a wonderful job with this, and as I mentioned, he brought in a ton of traffic for the blog. He is, of course, Our Dread Lord and Master, and this is why! I should also point you to the excellent comments on all the posts, because a lot of people have left some very good thoughts. And I must mention Rene’s excellent breakdown of the totals. Holy crap, that’s a lot of work! I’m sure Brian will post the lesser runs (up to 200, I’m sure), so we’ll see if any of mine or any of yours just missed the list!