Greg has a very interesting post at Comics should Be Good about quasi-masterpieces, runs of comics by creators that are defining and the peak of their work. It’s a large subject to discuss, and requires someone with a greater range of comic book history than Greg has, something to which he readily admits.
The post got me thinking about my interpretation of this idea, as it is something that I have been ruminating on recently with regards to my own collection. My Trimming The Collection series was initiated by looking through a couple of boxes of my collection and wondering why I still owned them; the posts examine why I bought them in the first place, why I am removing them from the collection, and hopefully defining what it is I want from my comic book collection. I want to have comics that I simply could not imagine being without; single issues, series and runs that are just plain fantastic comics (as I see them).
I can agree with Greg on two of the three he discusses; Claremont & Byrne on The Uncanny X-Men and Peter David’s run on The Incredible Hulk. I would probably include all of Claremont’s run on The Uncanny X-Men, as I didn’t get the original Dark Phoenix saga – I came in at issue 201, meaning the subsequent comics will always have greater resonance for me (for example, the Asgardian crossover makes me giddy with nostalgia just thinking about Art Adam’s renditions of my favourite mutants) – but I realise that I am heavily biased in this area. I’m so subjective on the topic, I’d also include The New Mutants, from when Bill Sienkiewicz started drawing until when Claremont left, which is much harder to defend (except for the Sienkiewicz issues, perhaps).
PAD’s Hulk has a similar link; I came in around the time of the unification of the three Hulk personalities (sheer genius), and the combination of PAD in full swing with Dale Keown and then Gary Frank in those issues are the ones that really do it for me. I can’t comment on the Moench & Sienkiewicz on Moon Knight, as I haven’t read them, even though I own them.
He mentions in passing some other runs which I would also put on the list, Walt Simonson’s The Mighty Thor and John Byrne’s Fantastic Four. Simonson on Thor is wonderful comics, the crackling art matching the stupendous story of an all-action god. Byrne’s FF is probably his best work, redefining the FF for an audience that can’t forget Kirby & Lee (not that I’ve read any of that). So, what about some runs in my collection that I would include on the list?
Greg mentions another one; Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson on Transmetropolitan. I know I am Ellis’s bitch, but this is a brilliant series. I would mention Authority and Planetary as well, but Transmet is his masterpiece so far.
Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon on Preacher. ‘Mature’ comics done to balls-out perfection. Undiluted joy in sweary violence and theology. I would also include Hitman and Ennis’s run on Hellblazer, which are also excellent comic books.
Grant Morrison has too many: Animal Man was a delightful shock to this reader, when Morrison put himself in the book. Doom Patrol was psychedelic superheroes done wonderfully (what about Flex Mentallo?). The Invisibles is unique. Zenith, with Steve Yeowell, is a personal favourite of mine, as it coincided with me getting 2000AD for the first time. Even The New X-Men and the JLA are worthy additions.
Peter Milligan & Chris Bachalo on Shade, The Changing Man was a brilliant use of an old character and completely reinventing it for the author’s own purposes. Enigma, with Duncan Fegredo, may be only 8 issues, but should be mentioned as well.
Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman – literary comic books with a flair for storytelling (and the concept of storytelling) that helped to alter my view of the comic book.
Alan Moore; well, where do you start? Watchmen, Swamp Thing, Top Ten, Promethea, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, hell, even Supreme and WildCATS; all amazing, and I’m probably forgetting a whole load of things.
My love of superheroes means that my collection is spandex-heavy, but hopefully with a twist. Mark Waid’s run on The Flash, particularly the Weiringo-drawn time, when he was really hitting his stride, mixing the science with an almost autobiographical feel.
James Robinson’s Starman, particularly the first half with Tony Harris; the second half, with David Goyer helping out, was never quite as strong.
Priest’s Xero, Quantum & Woody, and Black Panther; comics that you had to read properly, your intelligence not insulted.
Kurt Busiek’s Astro City; a love for superheroes shining through via an angle not investigated before.
Giffen’s Legion of Super Heroes ‘5 years later’ reboot; daring to play with the history and concept of a much-loved team. And what about Ambush Bug, anybody?
Alan Davis’s ClanDestine and his own run on Excalibur; classic superhero comic books with a British flavour.
Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai. Black and white brilliance about a rabbit in feudal Japan. A description doesn’t do it anywhere near justice.
I could also include Joe Kelly’s Deadpool, DC Johnson & JH Williams III on Chase, Evan Dorkin’s Milk & Cheese and Dork, Paul Grist’s Kane, but we’re entering a foggier realm.
This record of my personal definitions doesn’t even include comics collecting now that I think will still hold their own in the future:
100 Bullets, Alias, Barry Ween, Bendis’s Daredevil, Ex Machina, Fables, Waid & Weiringo on the Fantastic Four, Gotham Central, Hellboy, The Losers, Powers, Queen & Country, Runaways, Sleeper, The Ultimates.
I’d better stop, or it will just turn into a inventory of my collection. This is a topic about which I have many (unfocussed) thoughts that can’t be controlled in a quick reactionary post. One of the aspects I always have a problem with is the subjective versus the objective; in many lists, the academic version tends to be a drier recital of ‘approved’ classics, while the fans’ endeavour will be more about the personal, visceral response to material, leading to a more-personal catalogue. This topic bodes well for an interesting discussion.