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Monday, April 1, 2013

MAKIN' LISTS MONDAY: Top 10 Superhero Comic Book Runs

While a lot of these lists will probably be random things like movies, music, and TV shows, since this website is dedicated to my adventures in writing comic books, it only makes sense that I devote quite a few of my Top 10 lists to comics, don’t you think? 

This week I will be looking over my Top 10 favorite superhero comic book creative team runs.  To qualify for the list, the runs must consist of multiple storylines featuring the same creators and characters.  Single stories don’t qualify, nor do single issues and one-shots.  

10. Jay Faerber, Mahmud Asrar, and Yildiray Cinar – Dynamo 5
This is the only non-“Big 2” comic on the list. Though there have been a lot of great superhero comics put out by companies other than DC and Marvel, Dynamo 5 stands out above the rest.  The unforgettable characters and great premise (illegitimate children of a superhero banding together to form a super team) made for a fantastic mix of straight up superhero action and character-driven family dynamics.  This was the start of what will surely be stellar careers for both Asrar and Cinar, who brought Faerber’s strong scripts to life.  Creator owned superheroes tend to have a short shelf life and sadly we only got 3 years of the series before it ended in 2010.

09. Frank Miller – Batman Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, All-Star Batman & Robin
It’s hard to argue against the idea that Frank Miller completely redefined Batman with his duo of classic tales from the 1980s that told the earliest and latest stories in the Dark Knight’s career.  Much has been said about Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, with the praise being fairly universal.  Then along came All-Star Batman & Robin, a twisted reinterpretation of the creation of the Dynamic Duo, which wasn’t as universally acclaimed. Yes, it was absolutely insane and the intense “goddamn” Batman isn’t what readers were expecting, but when taken as a whole with the rest of Miller’s run, the characterization actually fit with his past and future interpretations of the character.  Plus, if you can over look the controversy and stop comparing it to other Batman stories you’ve read, it was actually just a lot of crazy fun.  Maybe it is meant to bridge the gap between Miller’s seminal works or maybe it is just a parody, but who really cares? It’s just fun to read.

08. Geoff Johns – Green Lantern: Rebirth, Green Lantern
After not reading comics for about a decade, I jumped back into comics at the perfect time for a lot of really great events, including Geoff Johns and Ethan Van Sciver’s Green Lantern: Rebirth, which brought Hal Jordan back from the dead and was the start of Johns’s nine-year run with the character that completely reenergized the Green Lantern franchise.  While there have been a few misses here and there, Johns and a slew of amazing artists put together some of the most exciting Green Lantern stories ever.  Who would have thought that Green Lantern would be one of the tent-poles for DC Comics?  You can thank Geoff Johns for that.

07. Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee – Thor: The Mighty Avenger
Launching in 2010, Thor: The Mighty Avenger was a light-hearted all-ages take on the Thunder God’s earliest adventures that was short lived but developed a devoted following during its 8 issue run.  Langridge’s scripts were filled with both humor and heart, while Samnee’s art was as spectacular as ever.  During my days reviewing comics for, I named this series as the Best Ongoing of 2010, praising its accessibility and wit.  Thor has had a multitude of classic comics in the past, from the original Stan and Jack classics to the much beloved Simonson era, but for my money, none were quite as entertaining as the sheer fun of Thor: The Mighty Avenger.

06. Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale – Marvel “Colors” Daredevil: Yellow, Hulk: Gray, Spider-Man: Blue
So, I’m cheating a bit by considering these a “run,” when the three released books in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s “Colors” series are not related other than their titling and their goal of telling standalone stories for each character stripped down to their iconic roots.  That being said, they are masterpieces of modern comics storytelling.  Yellow made me actually enjoy Daredevil, something that very few comics have ever been capable of doing, though I do feel that Hulk: Grey and Spider-Man: Blue are much stronger stories, with their heartbreaking take on the early years of the respective heroes.  While we are still waiting for the 2008 “launched” fourth volume, Captain America: White, to actually materialize, I’m certain that Loeb and Sale will have another classic on their hands.

05. Mike Grell –Green Arrow
I have always felt that Mike Grell was one of the most underappreciated comic book creators in the history of the industry and, to me, no comic is a better example of why than his lengthy run with Oliver Queen.  Starting with the prestige format The Longbow Hunters miniseries in 1987 and following on through his 80 issue run on the Green Arrow ongoing series, Grell redefined the character.  Gone were ridiculous trick arrows and appearances from superpowered friends, all being replaced with a gritty, violent, and realistic take on the vigilante hero.  Grell took the character seriously and the quality of his run was simply amazing—even if it was on the outskirts of DC continuity in the time (in fact Green Arrow is rarely mentioned by name during the entire run).  Grell’s tenure with the character ended in 1994, but his influence is still felt with the character to this very day—especially in the really great Arrow television series on CW.

04. Chris Claremont – X-Men Franchise 
For 17 years, Chris Claremont stood at the helm of the X-Men franchise for Marvel comics, crafting perhaps the greatest X-Men stories ever told and introducing some of the most popular characters in the entire company.  If you think back to any classic X-Men comic or character, chances are, Claremont had his hand in its creation.  Everything from The Dark Phoenix Saga to the launch of the best-selling X-Men #1 from 1991 and all that came between sprang forth from Claremont.  Though many will point to Stan and Jack’s incredible run on Fantastic Four as the greatest long term run for any creator of a Marvel Comic, in my opinion, that is nothing compared to Claremont’s time as the king of the X-Men Franchise.

03. Gail Simone – Secret Six
A lot of comic book purists are likely to balk at me placing Gail Simone’s Secret Six so high on this list, given that it is a fairly recent run and that its influence on the comic book industry at large has yet to be established.  While these are valid points, I honestly don’t care.  Secret Six and its precursor Villains United were simply ridiculously fun comics that pushed every envelope imaginable as they followed a ragtag group of C and D list villains on a variety of self-destructive adventures.  Simone was at her most bizarre in this series and, often times, her most sadistic.  And yet, the series retained her trademark charm, wit, and humor, even when exploring the darkest and most disturbing corners of the DC Universe.  

02. Jeph Loeb – Batman: Hush, Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory
There was a very long time that I wasn’t ready comics—nearly a decade to tell the truth.  I hadn’t given comics much thought for years, but then I ran across an article about action figures based upon Jim Lee’s designs for the Batman family of characters.  Lee was always my favorite artist and so I took a chance on the Hush trade paperbacks—I haven’t stopped reading comics since.  My love for the book didn’t stop with Lee’s gorgeous art, but was fueled by Loeb’s fantastic take on the character—something that I found equally as appealing in The Long Halloween and its follow-up Dark Victory.  Loeb simply “gets” Batman and because of that, I’m now the passionate comic book fan that I am today.

01. Marv Wolfman and George Perez – The New Teen Titans
Some fans love accessible, light-hearted fun comics that focus on character relationships, while others prefer grim and gritty stories filled with action and plot twists.  Some readers will only pick up comics with established characters, while others are constantly demanding new introductions that are written well enough to become future classics.  Most comics can satisfy one or two of these demands, but few can make them all happen and none can do it quite as well as Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s The New Teen Titans.  This comic literally has it all and still holds up today, decades after its debut.  The great mix of new and established characters, written with a sense of humor and purpose that led to some amazing (and often very dark) twists make this THE epitome of what superhero comics can be.  If I was only able to read one comic series about capes for the rest of my life, without a doubt it would be this run.

What are your favorites?

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