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!
90. Alan Moore’s “Supreme” – 104 points (3 first place votes)
“Supreme” #41-56, “Supreme: The Return” #1-5
One of Alan Moore’s most famous works is “Watchmen,” where Moore helped launch the “grim and gritty” movement of comic book superhero deconstruction. Moore, himself, was aware of what he had spawned, so his run on “Supreme” was designed as a sort of counter to the work he, himself, had done.
In “Supreme,” Moore took over a Superman analogue, and told basically all of his favorite Superman stories.
The book (which was mostly drawn by Chris Sprouse) was a delightful exercise in comic book fun and it was a nice breath of fresh air for those readers who enjoy their superheroes with a touch of the Silver Age mixed in.
The comic ignored all the previous stories of “Supreme” (who was also sort of a Superman analog, but not a particularly interesting one), but also acknowledged them, in a metafiction tactic by Moore to show that this Supreme (Moore’s Supreme, that is) was just the latest in a series of iterations of Supreme.
It was a clever move, which also matched the story of Supreme’s secret identity, comic book creator Ethan Crane, who worked on a comic called Omniman, who was ALSO going through a revamp at the same time.
There was a good deal of humor that was based on updating the “older” heroes (and villains) to modern times (with Moore’s genius flairs, of course)…
Sadly, after relaunching the book with “Supreme: The Return,” the comic company publishing Supreme fell apart, leaving Moore’s story unfinished.
89. Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ “Criminal” – 115 points (2 first place votes)
“Criminal” #1-10, “Criminal” Volume 2 #1-7, “Criminal – The Sinners” #1-5, “Criminal – The Last of the Innocent” #1-4, “Criminal Special Edition” and “Criminal 10th Anniversary Special”
“Criminal” was a book about criminals. Brubaker and Phillips excel at producing high quality crime stories and Criminal is a perfect outlet for such stories.
The first arc, “Coward,” was about a crook who was one of the best in the business, mostly because he always knew when to run. Here is the amazing opening scene introducing him to the audience, as he is running away from a robbery because he knows when it is time to get out of the way…
Of course, the story deals with said “coward” being forced into a situation that he COULDN’T run away from. That really describes a lot of the stories in Criminal, compelling characters being forced into tough situations where they must react a certain way to survive (or not) and the end result can often be heartbreaking but it is always compelling.
And the artwork, wow…Sean Phillips is just a master of noir. He can create a perfect scene like few artists working in comics today. And his character work is outstanding. Val Staples was the colorist for “Criminal” and he was excellent, as well.
The last “Criminal” arc was one of the series’ most acclaimed, as Brubaker and Phillips created characters based on classic Archie characters (although, really, just the archetypes of the characters, who have been around in media before they were Archie characters) and then put them through the wringer, exploring the idea of how powerful of a drug nostalgia can be while showing that “the good ol’ days” were rarely as good as you remember them, and you can’t force your way back to such an ideal. Phillips rocked with his stylized flashbacks of the characters (in a not quite Dan DeCarlo style, but clearly evoking an innocent worldview, even as they make it clear that these characters were NEVER “innocent”).
Besides a pair of one-shots, including a tenth anniversary story, that was it for “Criminal,” as the Brubaker/Phillips team has moved on to a number of other excellent projects, like their current series, “Kill or Be Killed.”
88. Alan Moore and J.H. Williams III’s “Promethea” – 120 points (5 first place votes)
“Promethea” was an extremely interesting comic in the way that it was such a malleable concept that writer Alan Moore himself used the book to tell two dramatically different types of stories, all ably aided by the burgeoning artistic brilliance of artist J.H. Williams III, who went from being a strong artist to being one of the best artists in the entire comic book business.
Promethea was a young girl who was taken by two Gods into “Immateria,” a land of imagination, where she continues to exist as a living story. She can appear on Earth when someone calls to her by writing about her – when someone does so, either they (or their muse) can BECOME Promethea.
That is what happens to student Sophie Bangs, who becomes Promethea, and soon gets caught up in the crazy superhero world and the much larger world of Immateria.
Here is her writing a poem to BECOME Promethea to save the previous Promethea (this came from the first issue, back when Mick Gray was inking Williams. Williams eventually began inking himself on the series)…
The first book or so of “Promethea” is heavily influenced by literature, especially as Moore takes us through the Prometheas of the past, including a poet, a cartoonist, a book cover painter and a pair of comic book writers.
Then Moore used Promethea to take the reader on a journey through the Sephiroth of the Qabbalistic Tree of Life, where Moore more or less uses about 15 issues of “Promethea” to give a series of lectures to the readers about philosophy. Williams really shines during this run, as Moore gives him a whole lot of strange things to draw.
After this storyline ends, we’re treated to an extended storyline about the Apocalypse, which also signaled the end of Moore’s America’s Best Comic book line, so Moore used this storyline to say goodbye not only to the ABC line of comics, but also to the characters within them.
It all culminates in a stunning final issue, which can be read as a 32-page comic book, but can also be read by taking out the pages and arranging them to form two posters (back to back).
It’s a truly brilliant work.
87. Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s “Wonder Woman” – 122 points (1 first place vote)
“Wonder Woman” #1-35, #0
In their re-envisioning of Wonder Woman as part of her New 52 relaunch, Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang had Wonder Woman get caught up in a battle between the gods over the possible last heir of Zeus, who exists as a fetus in the body of a young woman that now Wonder Woman has to protect from the various other sons and daughters of Zeus that want to kill it.
Along the way, Wonder Woman teams up with various other gods, like Hermes, and also discovers a shocking piece of information…
Yup, Wonder Woman herself is ALSO a child of Zeus, and thus she even more directly has to get involved in the various plots and machinations of her newly-revealed-siblings against each other.
Of course, there is also a great deal of action in the series, particularly when Orion of the New Gods showed up to kick things up a notch.
Cliff Chiang beautifully depicted Wonder Woman and his re-designs of gods like Hermes and Strife and Apollo and Ares and Hera are very compelling. One of the fascinating things about Greek mythology is that characters often acted dramatically different in different stories. Like someone was wrathful in one story, but wise and kind in another. Obviously, there was not a strong sense of continuity in the old Greek myths. But Azarello plays with that, as the gods are all extremely multi-faceted, and the person that you think is your enemy might turn out to be your friend a few issues later (or vice versa).
Tony Akins and Goran Sudzuka filled in often for Chiang on art duties. DC wanted to give “Wonder Woman” a strong relaunch out of the New 52 and with Azarello and Chiang, that’s just what they got.
86. Mark Gruenwald’s “Captain America” – 124 points (3 first place votes)
“Captain America” #307-422, 424-443, “Captain America Annual” #8
Mark Gruenwald came to “Captain America” in an interesting way. Mike Carlin was writing the book and Gruenwald was editing the title. Then “The Thing” needed an editor. So Gruenwald took over editing “The Thing,” and brought Carlin over to write “The Thing,” leaving “Captain America” available.
So Gruenwald then had Carlin take over as editor of “Captain America,” with Gruenwald writing the title.
Gruenwald then stayed on the book for about eight years, writing well over a hundred issues of the title.
During his tenure, Gruenwald worked with a number of artists, most notably Paul Neary, Tom Morgan, (a young) Kieron Dwyer, Ron Lim, Rik Levins and Dave Hoover.
His run included the introduction of a number of new supporting characters, such as Diamondback, USAGent and Demolition Man.
A big part of Gruenwald’s “manifesto,” as it were, for his run on Cap was to introduce new villains for Captain America. Some of them, like the Serpent Society, didn’t really catch on past this run, while others, like Flag-Smasher, became generic villains, but some, like Crossbones, became longstanding members of Captain America’ Rogues Gallery.
Gruenwald also wrote a story where Steve Rogers was replaced as Captain America by John Walker, who would later become USAgent.
Diamondback became Captain America’s girlfriend. Gruenwald ended his run by having Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum turn against him, and he appeared to have died in Gruenwald’s last issue.
85. Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ “Batman” – 129 points (5 first place votes)
“Detective Comics” #395, 397, 400, 402, 404, 407-408, 410 and “Batman” #232, 234, 237, 243-245, 251, 255
While split up over the early 1970s, O’Neil and Adams still had a bit of a run, where Adams’ conception of Batman became the definitive look for Batman in the 1970s. This run tried to take Batman back to a darker style (after the camp of the TV series), along with stellar artwork by Adams. It was during their run that Ra’s al Ghul was introduced, which sort of personified what Grant Morrison later referred to as the “hairy chested love god” version of Bamtan…
Dick Giordano inked most of the stories that the pair did together, including their classic return of the Joker story in “Batman” #251.
84. Frank Miller’s “Sin City” – 130 points (3 first place votes)
“Dark Horse Fifth Anniversary Special,” “Dark Horse Presents” #51-62, then a pile of mini-series, including “A Dame to Kill For,” “The Big Fat Kill” and “That Yellow Bastard”
In “Sin City,” Frank Miller developed a wonderfully brutal noir world where the tiniest piece of affection can change people’s lives. That’s the case with the very first “Sin City” story, where a woman named Goldie sleeps with a thug named Marv with the presumed intent of having him protect her. She ends up dead the next day anyways. However, their one night together has spurred Marv on to do whatever it takes to avenge her death. Check out Marv’s decision-making, with Miller’s purple prose and striking use of noir shadowing…
While Marv was the first citizen of Sin City we’ve met, he was far from the last, as Miller has shown us different characters all getting into various pieces of trouble. Miller notably has gone back and forth in time, which has allowed him to use popular characters that have been killed. And Miller has introduced a lot of popular characters in this series.
83. Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo’s “Shade the Changing Man” – 131 points (4 first place votes)
“Shade, the Changing Man” Vol. 2 #1-70
In 1990, Peter Milligan took hold of a short-lived Steve Ditko superhero, Shade, the Changing Man, and went nuts with the idea. Ditko’s Shade was an other-dimensional agent who was framed, so went on the run with his powerful M-Vest (which stood for Miraco-Vest) to clear his name. In Milligan’s take, Shade was sent to Earth to save the planet from a swath of madness – his M-Vest was now a Madness-Vest, and he could use it to alter reality.
Brendan McCarthy designed the characters, and Chris Bachalo, in his first major comics work, drew the series, which drew much acclaim for both its surreal plots and for its intriguing character interactions.
The madness was called “The American Scream,” and Shade encountered a young woman, Kathy, who was recovering from some massive trauma (her parents were murdered by a serial killer, and her boyfriend was killed by the police because they felt he was the killer, as her boyfriend was black) – Shade somehow convinced her to go along with him on his journey to stop the American Scream, and the two eventually fell in love (even though when Shade showed up on Earth, he took the body of the serial killer, who had just been executed).
However, a great deal of twists and turns happen along the way, including Shade getting killed, like, five times or so, with him being reincarnated each time in a different dead body (once as a woman!).
Along the way, Kathy and Shade also added another traveling companion, a woman named Lenny. The trio had quite the relationship.
As noted above, the surreal nature of the comic was probably the most striking aspect of the book, specifically Chris Bachalo slowly coming into his own as one of the bigger artists of his time. The book really never recovered from Bachalo’s departure after five years on the book, and the series ended with issue #70.
82. Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso’s “100 Bullets” – 132 points (4 first place votes)
“100 Bullets” #1-100
At first glance, “100 Bullets” was a simple concept. A guy named Agent Graves would come up to people with an attache case containing a gun with 100 bullets, plus a photograph of a target, including proof that the target was responsible for whatever woes existed in the person’s life. The offer? Use the gun to get revenge, and if you use the bullets given, you will never be arrested for the crime.
This was the simple concept at first, as Graves went to random people making the offer, and each person would have different reactions to the offer.
Here’s an example…
However, over time, readers learn that there is a method to the seemingly random offers, and it all ties to a msysterious group called the Minutemen who are tied to an equally mysterious Trust.
Writer Brian Azzarello created a sprawling and engaging mystery comic that truly took the full 100 issues allotted to him to tell the whole story, which is an impressively ambitious feat on his part.
Azzarello’s partner in crime was artist Eduardo Risso, who is a master of noir art, so he fits in perfectly on this style of comic. When I say partner, I mean partner, as the two worked together on every single issue of “100 Bullets,” which was an impressive level of commitment by DC to the creative team, as they were on a schedule of “when you get the issues done, you get them done.”
In fact, the book even went on hiatus for a time when the entire creative team (colorist, letterer, editor, all of them) took over “Batman” for six months when DC hired Azzarello and Risso to do an arc of “Batman.”
This was a book made by a creative team that cares about each other.
The story of the comic is filled with characters that readers grow to care about, even if they are enigmatic and hard to understand.
I must not forget to mention cover artist, Dave Johnson, who was as much a part of the book’s success as anyone else, with his absolutely stunning cover work.
81. Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin’s “Detective Comics” – 137 points (3 first place votes)
“Detective Comics” #469-479
For whatever reason, Steve Englehart decided to leave Marvel in the late 70s, and quickly found work at DC, which was totally fine with taking on one of Marvel’s most prominent writers. Englehart began an acclaimed run on “Justice League of America,” and an equally acclaimed run on “Detective Comics,” with issue #469.
Initially working with Walter Simonson but ultimately with Marshall Rogers, Englehart’s Batman run was in many ways based on a similar structure to Jeph Loeb’s later “Hush” series, in that Englehart tried to work in as many major Batman villains into his story as he could, including re-introducing two early Batman foes that had fallen into disuse. Both of the villains, Hugo Strange and Deadshot, were rejuvenated by Englehart’s useage and later went on to prominent appearances in later stories. Deadshot, in particular, was an extremely minor villain that saw his coolness factor shoot up 736% percent when Marshall Rogers gave him one of the coolest costumes you ever will see (years later, it was that cool costume that piqued John Ostrander’s interest and got Deadshot a spot on the Suicide Squad).
Englehart had a good Penguin story, he had a good story involving Robin (he wanted at least one issue to involve Robin) and in the Laughing Fish, he had one of the best Joker stories of all-time (the Joker tries to get a federal trademark on fish that he has altered to have his Joker grin).
Englehart introduced a crime boss named Rupert Thorne who became a notable part of the Bat-mythos, as well as Silver St. Cloud, one of the best love interests Batman has ever had.
In one issue, Englehart even did some metafictional stuff by having Batman fight Deadshot on giant typewriters (evoking the 1950’s Batman comics) and in the fight, Silver makes a realization that few people ever had before…
Rogers stayed on the book for three more issues as Len Wein came in to wrap up any loose ends from Engelhart’s run, including writing Silver out of the book (people have mostly treated Silver St. Cloud as Englehart’s baby, and usually only he writes her). Wein and Rogers also introduced a new Clayface.
Englehart and Rogers would return to Batman for an acclaimed sequel to their run in 2005, “Batman: Dark Detective.” Tragically, Rogers died in 2007.
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