Top 10 Comic Book Runs

Comic Book Resources is conducting a survey of what their readers think the top 10 comic book runs are.

Basically a run is defined by a creator or a creative team’s run on a specific ongoing comic book, with mini-series being excluded.

This is one of those topics that just get everyones juices flowing, so here are my top 10 and a few honorable mentions:

My list heavily leans towards modern comic book runs, not because I’m young, but mostly because I enjoy the modern storytelling more than the classic comic book writing – like Lee & Ditko’s Spider-Man

Other Notable Runs (not in order): Geoff Johns’s Teen Titans (V3: #1-45); John Ostrander’s Suicide Squad (V1: #1-66); Keith Giffen & J.M. Dematteis’s Justice League books (various); Brian Michael Bendis’s Daredevil (V2: 26-81); Bill Willingham’s Fables (#1-ongoing); Mark Waid’s Flash (V2: #62-129); Peter David’s X-Factor (V1: #70-90); Brian Michael Bendis’s Alias (1-28); Matt Wagner’s Grendel (various); and Bendis & Oeming’s Powers (v1: 1-37; v2: 1-ongoing)

Honorable Mentions:

Groo: The Wanderer (Sergio Aragonés, Mark Evanier, Stan Sakai, and Tom Luth): Mostly because it will get forgotten. Groo has been around for 25 years! Not continuously, not consistently, but still. And it still is funny. For those who don’t know, Groo is a satirical look at the barbarian warrior stories, like Conan the Barbarian. Groo is a great hero… except he’s dumb…. REALLY DUMB…. Reading Groo, you get the sense that the creators just are enjoying themselves too much.

Girl Genius (Phil & Kaja Foglio): Phil Foglio has been a great artist for many years. From the What’s New with Phil and Dixie to the Myth Adventures series to Buck Godot to even the x-rated XXXenophile. But I think there is little doubt that Girl Genius is his coup de-grace. Phil and his wife have created a wonderful steampunk adventure tale that combines the adventure spirit of the pulp novels and movie serial with modern humor. And the best part is that you can read it for free!!!

Preacher (Garth Ennis, Steve Dillon, & Glen Fabry): This one hurt to keep off the list. It really did. The story of Jesse Custer, Tulip O’Haire, and Cassidy is a tremendous epic. Garth Ennis combines the feel of the classic John Wayne westerns, the irreverant humor of Bill Hicks, with a modern tale of control over the kingdom of heaven and the world. And Steve Dillon’s pencils are marvelous. Some of the best moments ever captured in comic books is in this book. But I’m just not sure if he really said anything with the run, but really, this missed my top t0 by like 1 vote.

Okay, without further ado, here’s my top 10 (at least as of Friday,. March 14th, I’ll probably change my mind tomorrow):

10: New Warriors (V1: 1-50); Creator: Fabien Nicieza

This one is a little lost to the sands of time. But Fabien Nicieza is a wonderful super-hero writer. And he took this, trying to hard to be hip, superhero concept in the 1990s, and turned it into a wealth of great stories. The book was always about these young teenagers, who didn’t quite fit in with any of the other superhero groups, forming a tenuous alliance between them. Plus, the book allowed the characters to grow and ‘come of age’. Watching Marvel Boy become Justice, learning the difference between Justice and Truth. Seeing the redemption of Nova, and the blossoming romance between he and Namorita. Watching a confident teenage black super-hero, Night Thrasher learn the difficulties of being the leader. Everything works in this series. Do yourself a favor and pick this one up. I bet you could find the entire run for cheap on ebay.

Best Moment: The kiss between Nova and Namorita in issue #39

9: Astro City (various); Creators: Kurt Busiek (writer), Brent Anderson (illustrator), and Alex Ross (cover art)

I love this series. The only reason it’s not in my top five is that it lost steam due to it’s inconsistent publishing (mostly due to Busiek’s health). Busiek and Anderson create the world of Astro City, which contains super-heroes that are very reminiscent of classic Marvel and DC characters. But he tells human stories about these characters. The masks, the powers, and the sagas are gone, and in it’s place, what would the world be like in a world of super-heroes. Where to they eat? How do they date? What does the man on the street think of the world they live in? Everything about this series is just beautiful, and perfectly captured. To me, Astro City ushered in a modern age of heroes, that the rest of the comic book world is still catching up to.

Best Moment: The Junkman (a villain) finally is able to pull the perfect caper, but no one knows he did it, so he must get captured by Jack-in-the-Box for satisfaction in Volume 2, Issue 10

8: Hellblazer (41-83); Creator: Garth Ennis (writer)

Note: Okay, I really want to add Steve Dillon’s name to this list, but he didn’t come aboard until issue #57, and I can’t leave the Dangerous Habits story off of the list.

This was the other reason why I left Preacher off the list, because at the end of the day, I think that Ennis’s Hellblazer run holds up a little better after all these years. We begin in issue #41 with John Constantine learning that he has lung cancer, which pits the ultimate rogue against the devil. Ennis was able to capture the feeling of the solitary Constantine, who needs his mates, despite his willingness to cut them loose at a moment’s notice. And the character of Kit might be one of the greatest female characters ever created by anyone.

Best Moment: John Constantine giving the First of the Fallen the middle finger on the last page of issue #45

7: The New Teen Titans (V1: 1-50; V2: 1-5); Creators: Marv Wolfman (writer), George Pérez (illustrator)

The New Teen Titans is the first series where I really became aware of the creators of the comic book I was reading. In 1980, this comic book series came on like a house of fire. These two reinvented the teen superhero book permanently. And created characters that were so dynamic and interesting, that the entire Teen Titans cartoon series was based on their creations and based on most of their stories, which were close to 25 years old when the series went on the air. During the run, they created three iconic new characters (Cyborg, Starfire, and Raven); created perhaps the greatest DC Villain of the modern age (Deathstroke); redefined Robin the Boy Wonder as Nightwing; and created one of the most heart-wrenching sagas ending in a beloved character’s death, in the Judas Contract. Awesome run!

Best Moment: Especially knowing what comes late, the kiss between Tara and Changeling in issue #42

6: 100 Bullets (1-ongoing); creators: Brian Azzarello (writer), Eduardo Risso (illustrator)

I don’t know that a series ever made me more excited to read the next issue than 100 Bullets. What seemed, in the beginning liked an interesting moralistic tale that asked the basic question: Would you kill someone if they deserved it and you were assured that you would get away with it? From that basic question Azzarello and Risso have explored all aspects of human nature: revenge, redemption, sacrifice, legacy, love, and honor. They also write the book with a realism that echos what you see in The Sopranos or The Wire. And depicts the true underside of the world. A great crime-noir series.

Best Moment: Agent Graves reveals that he gave Joe Dimaggio a “magic gun”, and the magic bullet that shot President Kennedy was from him in issue #27

5: The Incredible Hulk (331-467); creator: Peter David (writer)

11 years and over 136 issues, not counting specials, annuals, and mini-series. That’s a run, ladies and gentlemen. Peter David complete redefined the Incredible Hulk, in much the same way that Frank Miller redefined Daredevil. Peter David wrote about the man trapped by the Hulk, the people who got caught up in the Hulk’s wake. The Hulk still retained rage and villainous behavior, but there was always a reason for it. David wrote about how Bruce Banner’s rage was from childhood abuse, and that the hulk showed Bruce Banner’s split personality. He brought back Rick Jones and made him an interesting character again. I haven’t even read every issue of this run, and every time I just want to read more.  The Hulk will never be written any better.

Best Moment: Too many great moments, so let me simply pick, the wedding between Rick Jones and Marlo in issue #418

Groo: The Wanderer4: Transmetropolitan (1-60); creators: Warren Ellis (writer); Darrick Robertson (illustrator)

Imagine the pitch, okay take a futuristic Hunter S. Thompson and bring him back from a secluded mountaintop to write newspaper opinion pieces for a newspaper, and let’s make him just a foul tempered, egotistical, renegade, cursing, drug abusing, jerk (oh wait, I said he was based on Hunter Thompson already). Lords was Spider Jerusalem fun! And the things he would say (“Only someone who really f–king hated you would do something like that”). Trying to be the moral compass and father figure for a directionless, headline-obsessed, age. Ellis’s brilliant satire about modern life and journalist hit home in so many ways. I might miss this series more than any other.

Best Moment: When Spider Jerusalem and his filthy assistants go monstering in issue #27

3: Ultimate Spider-Man (1-110); creators: Brian Michael Bendis (writer); Mark Bagley (illustrator)

I thought this was an awful idea. Yeah, let’s rewrite Spider-Man. We haven’t screwed up him enough in the regular series, let’s take him back to high school and rewrite the stories with a ‘modern’ sense about it. Awful idea.

Shows how the worst ideas in the right hands can become gold. Because Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley showed how Spider-Man was so much more fun stripped of all of the weight of the 40+ years of stories attached to Peter Parker. Everything was new again, and everything was possible. Most creators would fit old stories into the new. Bendis was perfectly willing to change almost everything. And he even made Aunt May into an interesting character. WOW.

Best Moment: When Peter Parker reveals to Mary Jane that he is Spider-Man, and she reveals that she thought he just wanted to kiss her in Issue #13.

2: Strangers in Paradise (v1: 1-3; v2: 1-13; v3: 1-90); creator: Terry Moore

It’s been said already. By many many more creative people than me. But Terry Moore probably described love better than any other creator. The depth of emotion between the characters of Katchoo and Francine, as well as David. There are moments of this series that are perfect and beautiful. Terry Moore draws women beautifully and accurately. Showing that flaws are beautiful. No one captures emotion like Terry Moore did in this series.  It should be required reading for almost all comic book fans.  I remember how I felt the first day I read SiP. And the true hallmark of a great comic book, I’ve given this to practically everyone I’ve ever met to read. Even my wife loves this comic book.

Best Moment: Wow, so many to choose from.  Let’s go with Francine’s triumph over Freddie in Vol 1: Issue 3.

1: Starman

My favorite series, ever! I am so happy that DC is collecting this series in omnibus form. (My wallet is less happy, but…) When I started reading this comic book back in 1994, my basic thought was that all superhero comic book roads lead to this series. It celebrated the past, the golden and silver ages, without descending into hokeyness or just being a tribute. It celebrated the spirit of the previous 40 years, without minimizing or discounting the realistic grittiness of the previous 10.

Plus, Jack Knight was the first superhero that I could recognize among my age group. I recognized Jack Knight.  I recognized his relationship with his family.  James Robinson is seven years older than me, but he wrote the character of Jack Knight for us.  There is a certain sort of us that ‘gets it’. And the whole series was written like that.

And I would be heavily remiss if I did not mention Tony Harris’s art. Tony draws the best art that I’ve ever seen. There are pages of Starman that are beautiful. The art deco drawings of Opal City, the style of Jack’s tattoos, the design of Jack’s Cosmic Rod, everything sings in this book.  And when he stopped drawing Starman, it lost a part of that coolness. (Plus I never liked the Jack in space saga.)

Favorite Moment: 

I almost can’t.  But there’s a moment in  issue #4, where Jack and his father are talking about some weird things happening in Opal.  And his father basically says to Jack, that being a hero isn’t just something you put on when the time is right, that as a hero “The weirdness finds you.”

That just always spoke to me.  Cause strange things always seem to happen to the same people. They don’t necessarily invite it in, but somehow it finds them anyway.

Anyway, that’s my list. There are probably terrible omissions here.  Like Frank Miller’s Daredevil is missing from the list.  Well, I never read it at the time, and reading it now much of it seems kindof outdated (even though Born Again is one of my favorite Story Arcs of all time!). So it’s mostly off of here because it didn’t cross my radar screen.




2 thoughts on “Top 10 Comic Book Runs

  1. [quote]Basically a run is defined by a creator or a creative team’s run on a specific ongoing comic book, with mini-series being excluded [/quote]
    Basically, any creator owned series could qualify, but Stan Sakai’s (ongoing) run doing the writing, drawing, and lettering on Usagi Yojimbo should definitely count.

    [b]Fantagraphics:[/b] 38 issues plus 3 Color Specials and an initial Summer Special which reprinted the two earliest Usagi Stories from Albedo along with a new story.

    [b]Mirage:[/b] 16 issues published in color.

    [Dark Horse:[/b] 109 issues and one Color Special

    That is 167 issues of Usagi Yojimbo, along with approximately two dozen short stories which have been published in various anthologies and magazines over the years.

    Most of the Usagi Yojimbo stories to date have been collected into 21 trade paperbacks with a twenty-second volume scheduled to be released this summer.

  2. That’s great, but it’s not my list. Go add Usagi Yojimbo to the Comic Book Resources page. I’ve never read Usagi Yojimbo, only because I don’t have enough comic book friends or enough money to buy everything.

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