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Thoughts on the Top 100 Runs

Comics Should Be Good had a vote recently to work out people’s favourite runs of comics defined by a single creator over an extended period (among other rules). Greg has posted his thoughts on the list, which weirdly echoed my own thoughts, so I thought I’d share a few musings on the matter.

The idea itself is a lot of fun, sparking the debate that good lists do. Greg picks on a few interesting points, the most interesting (and the one I agree with) being that comics that are still ongoing should have been excluded from the vote because they aren’t finished and could go bad. That would have cut out a lot of voting, what with people’s short attention span, but it would have made the final result more interesting. He also notes that DC has the purer ideal of a ‘run’ because they seem to let the creator work rather than Marvel, who were always more about hot artists and the character as king.

Greg and I have similar tastes when it comes to comic books; he’s almost like an American version of me (only more prolific and a better blogger). Like him, I don’t particularly like comics before the mid-1970s and think that modern comics are more enjoyable than ever. His personal selection of top runs is a more intriguing and well-reasoned list, and I can see the parallels in our comic book reading evolution and tastes going through it – Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol and Animal Man, Peter Milligan’s Shade The Changing Man, James Robinson’s Starman, John Ostrander’s The Spectre and Suicide Squad, Matt Wagner’s Grendel, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman, even Alan Moore and Alan Davis on Captain Britain (a personal dream team of mine, and a run that started my connection with both Cap as a character and Davis as an artist – and I would have put his Excalibur run on my list) all suggest somebody interested in story and who got the comic book bug in the 1980s like myself. I would disagree with his downgrading of Preacher just because of dropping a fat pope on the descendant of Christ, but Hitman is still worthy of a high place on his list. And I think his love of Moon Knight is strange (as suggested by the fact that the Doug Moench/Bill Sienkiewicz run didn’t place, perhaps?), but we all have our idiosyncrasies …

So, here is the top 100 comic runs as voted by people reading Comics Should Be Good, and a few thoughts on some of the entries.

1. The Sandman by Neil Gaiman
Worthy of its place at the top of the list, and appropriate for internet-specific voters. An amazing collection of stories by one writer and it had an amazing effect on comic books in the public eye.

2. The Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont, John Byrne, and Terry Austin
I grew up reading and loving the X-Men of the Claremont era and this is the best of the run, so it is understandable why it would be so high.

3. Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Like Greg, I’m not a big fan of Kirby (should we start a club?) nor Stan Lee’s over-the-top writing, but I am aware of the impact it has had. I just don’t want to read it.

4. Daredevil by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson
I was as surprised as Greg by this being so high. I’ve got nothing but huge respect for Born Again but the whole run doesn’t have the same place in my heart. I think this is here more for the impact Miller had on comics rather than the run itself.

5. Swamp Thing by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, John Totleben, and Rick Veitch
It’s Alan Moore. No more need be said.

6. Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
See my heretical remarks about Lee & Kirby Fantastic Four and apply same here.

7. Starman by James Robinson
This was my introduction to the world of DC heroes and its history, something I’d never really cared about before. This is, along with The Sandman so far, is one of the truer definitions of a ‘run’, having a beginning, a middle and end. Very happy to see it so high on the list.

8. Preacher by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
My only big discrepancy with Greg – I think this deserves its place on the list because it was great from start to finish and it was the wonderfully warped vision of a writer, in harmony with his artist.

9. Justice League by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis
In a world of its own, almost separate from the rest of the top ten. Funny and moving, supported by great art and making the best of not having the big DC heroes because they weren’t allowed them.

10. New X-Men by Grant Morrison
As Greg says, E is for Extinction was a superb X-Men story that the rest of the run, while great, never quite matched. Morrison’s other big mainstream work, JLA, deserves to be higher than this though.

11. Teen Titans by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez
Haven’t read this, and I have no great desire to.

12. JLA by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter
Even though I really disliked Porter’s art, the stories in this run are huge and fantastic widescreen comics using DC’s huge names in really good comics.

13. Y: The Last Man by Brian K Vaughan and Pia Guerra
I haven’t read the last trade so I can’t comic but the rest are really good so Vaughan would have to make a complete hash of the ending to stop it from earning its place on the list.

14. Doom Patrol by Grant Morrison and Richard Case
Proving that weirdness and superheroes are a perfect match, this is a sublime vision of the surreal but in a good way. Idea after idea after wonderfully mad idea leave you in a giddy delight, but the stories are more than just oddness of oddness’ sake.

15. The Mighty Thor by Walt Simonson
Walt Simonson blew my mind with these comic books, apart from just making me interested in Thor in the first place. This is a really good run of comic books and should be read by anybody who wants to know how to reinvent a character while staying true to the history.

16. Fantastic Four by John Byrne
Despite his later problems, Byrne created some great stories here and rejuvenated the Fantastic Four in a way that few creators (such as Simonson, Waid & Ringo) have have done.

17. Captain America by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting
I have just started reading this, so I can’t comment, but the first trade is really, really good. Also, it’s not over, so shouldn’t count.

18. Planetary by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday
My love of Ellis is bordering on the disturbing, so obviously I’m happy about this, but I think Transmetropolitan should be higher. However, this is an excellent run – a fascinating look at the world of superheroes via a slightly skewed perspective.

19. The Incredible Hulk by Peter David
I have this run and have to concur that it’s an amazing collection of bizarre superhero comics with many different artists and different story roads for the central character.

20. Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
The most modern of completed runs that deserves its place via a great story and great art in a perfect marriage. The perfect vehicle for the talents of the creator in a mainstream universe, but bringing the cool indie vibe to proceedings. Really good stuff.

21. Animal Man by Grant Morrison and Chas Truog
Another mind-blowing set of comics from Morrison – I remember babbling to my non-comic-reading friends about the story where Animal Man meets his author in a comic book.

22. Fables by Bill Willingham
Even though this should be disallowed by the fact of currently ongoing, I can’t hold a grudge against such a charmingly enjoyable series. The brilliant idea of fairy tale characters in modern Manhattan is matched by the execution and continued entertainment that Willingham has wrung.

23. Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson
Quite possibly Ellis’ masterpiece, although he still has plenty of vinegar left in him to produce more great work. But definitely a superb run of comic books.

24. The Punisher by Garth Ennis
Who would have thought that Garth Ennis would reinvigorate the character of the Punisher in such an amazing fashion? Personally, I thought the later issues of his first run lost the magic, and I haven’t really read the Max series, but, it’s Ennis, so it’s automatically good.

25. Cerebus by Dave Sim and Gerhard
I think High Society and Church and State are amazing reads (I stopped around the midway mark, as Sim was getting a little too odd for my tastes), and it deserves its place on this list for the achievement of completing 300 issues of a black and white comics about an aardvark.

26. Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
I read the first dozen issues but, as I am not a big Spidey fan, I gave up and haven’t gone back. I’m sure this is a damned fine read – perhaps I’ll check it out from my library.

27. The Invisibles by Grant Morrison
Ah, the divisive Invisibles. Pure Grant Morrison weirdness and anarchy, straight from brainpan to your eyes. An amazing collection of comics, but not one of my personal favourites from the God of Comics.

28. Suicide Squad by John Ostrander
It’s hard to believe that this actually existed at all, let alone for the 60 issues (and a mini-series) of supervillian/thriller/espionage entertainment in the DC universe. But it did, and a firm favourite of the comic blogger and deservedly so.

29. The Legion of Super-Heroes by Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen
I have read The Great Darkness Saga and wasn’t particularly impressed, which probably earns me enemies. I did enjoy the ‘5 Years Later’ run from Giffen, if that makes up for it, even if it is an uneven run in its own right.

30. Astro City by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson
Still unfinished, thus earning disqualification, but it is definitely something that will have staying power, due to the special magic Busiek produces when writing this comic. Along with Animal Man and JLA, this is one of those runs of comics I like but don’t enjoy the art.

31. Bone by Jeff Smith
Absolutely charming and enchanting. Buy the big book collection and make yourself very happy.

32. The Ultimates by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch
A more apposite run for the modern comic book run I can’t think of, with flashy, stylistic writing from Millar, low on subtlety, high on bombast, plus Hitch’s best widescreen art.

33. Runaways by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona
The first ‘season’ of this series is an absolute delight and perfect in almost every way. I will be sacrilegious and say that, by the end of his run on the second season, I was getting very bored and uninterested in their adventures, and could scarcely believe that Vaughan was still writing it. It hasn’t got better with the advent of Joss Whedon. Still, there’s always the first 18 issues …

34. Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and John Romita, Sr
See previous comic-history-hating remarks about Fantastic Four and Dr Strange – honestly, I do really love comics, please believe me.

35. Love and Rockets by the Hernandez Brothers
A comic of which I am aware of its greatness but haven’t read and have no desire to either. Alan David Doane will probably shake his head and sigh at this remark, but I must do what I must do.

36. Marvelman/Miracleman by Alan Moore, Gary Leach, Alan Davis, Chuck Beckum, and John Totleben
Let’s face it – anything by Moore that isn’t one of those Images series he did for money (Voodoo, Violator vs Badrock, etc.) is worthy of inclusion on this list. This rocked my world when I first read it, and it hasn’t dimmed in appreciation since.

37. Hitman by Garth Ennis and John McCrea
Not only is this a consistently entertaining collection of comics about an Irish hitman in Gotham City, but there are some brilliant individual stories and issues in it as well (the most famous being the Superman one). God bless DC for publishing the comics in the first place, even if they are a little slack in printing the trades subsequently. Poignant, hilarious, violent, mocking and tender.

38. Astonishing X-Men by Joss Whedon and John Cassaday
Well written and beautifully drawn, but great? I’m not so sure, and this comes from a fan of the X-Men, Whedon and Cassaday. And, not finished yet.

39. The Flash by Mark Waid
Waid’s Flash was so much fun and, more importantly, extremely personal to the author that the love shone through. Some good artists (my favourite being Ringo) made it a very good run, although I’m not sure it was quite as good when Brian Augustyn came on as joint writer, or after the Morrison/Millar run.

40. Promethea by Alan Moore and J. H. Williams III
I’m still trying to work out whether I liked this or not, especially after the last issue. When on form, it was brilliant; when it wasn’t, it was a lesson in tarot magic. You decide.

41. The Avengers by Kurt Busiek
I had these comics and, apart from an Ultron story, the strange hero Triathlon, and the chaos magic updating of Scarlet Witch, I can’t remember very much about them, especially as I traded them in for some trades. Your mileage may vary.

41. Howard the Duck by Steve Gerber
Never read it, so no comment.

43. Daredevil by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
I commented above on how great a story this was, but this is not a ‘run’. It’s a trade paperback. If this was allowed, why isn’t Watchmen in? Very silly having this on the list.

44. The Legion of Super-Heroes by Keith Giffen, Tom Bierbaum, and Mary Bierbaum
As mentioned before, I really enjoyed this. I think I had sample one or two issues of LSH before this (and liked the idea of an entire team of different superpowered teens) but this stuff made me love the concept, even if I didn’t know half the history they were referring to. This developed my Giffen habit, leading to Ambush Bug, Heckler, Vext, etc., and for that I thank it.

45. The Spectre by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake
This is another example of why DC is such a great place for creators trying things – this wouldn’t have lasted at Marvel. This is a complete story from a cohesive creative team that made something special out of a character that is literally a deus ex machina. I must reread my issues of this again soon.

46. The Spirit by Will Eisner
Revealing my lack of comic book history, I have never read any of these books. That’s why I’m not on one of those cool group blogs or have a blog that anybody reads.

47. Deadpool by Joe Kelly
A really good run of parody and fourth-wall breaking comics, with early art from Ed McGuinness and Pete Woods. Includes the great issue which puts Deadpool in an old Spider-Man comic. This was so good it made me buy Steampunk (bleurgh) and M-Rex.

48. JSA by Geoff Johns
Well, at least I can say I’ve tried this before stating that I don’t like it. Can’t see the fascination

49. Detective Comics by Steve Englehart, Walt Simonson, and Marshall Rogers
No comment means not read.

50. Jack Kirby’s Fourth World
No comment means not read.

51. Hellboy by Mike Mignola
Is a collection of mini-series a run, technically? Whatever, it is still an impressive achievement for a (non-superhero) creator-owned series to do so well and have such an influence that it becomes a good film. Mignola ploughs his own furrow and brings old folklore to life with a big red monster.

52. All Star Superman by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
Not. A. Run. A very enjoyable effectively mini-series – Morrison and Quitely create delightful comic books together – that makes even a hard-hearted cynic smile with comic book joy.

53. Nexus by Mike Baron and Steve Rude
Another comic book I’ve tried but not liked, despite it being well liked.

54. Green Lantern by Geoff Johns
No comment means not read

55. Amazing Spider-Man by Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr
No comment means not read

56. The Flash by Geoff Johns
No comment means not read

56. Supreme by Alan Moore
I think that only Alan Moore could create a modern comic book that allowed him to recreate old Superman stories AND do it well. It might have suffered from Image art of the time but the writing and the love shone through. Also, only Moore could make me buy comics from Rob Liefeld.

58. The Avengers by Roger Stern
No comment means not read

59. Green Lantern/Green Arrow by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams
Message comics in the DC universe by the sharp and passionate writing of O’Neil and the elegant anatomy and design skills of Neal Adams. Yes, it is dated but that doesn’t stop it from being a good run of comic books.

60. The Authority by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch
To invent a new term and style of comics – ‘widescreen’ comics – is no small achievement. The quality, mentalness and fun of the actual issues themselves only add to this. But 12 issues do not make a run, otherwise Watchmen would be number one on the list.

61. Iron Man by Bob Layton and David Michelinie
No comment means not read

62. 100 Bullets by Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
Sorry to repeat myself, but this isn’t a run YET. It is an excellent run of comics so far – Risso is a perfect artist for this book and Azzarello has worked a marvellous high concept into an absorbing series – but how will it finish?

62. Fantastic Four by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo
A magical combination of two artists perfectly suited to a book. So good they had to bring them back.

64. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill
The rules of this list seem to be less defined than if I had been running it. A collection of mini-series and a – what do you call The Black Dossier? This do not make a ‘run’ but it goes back to my comment about anything from Moore ending up on the list. Not that I disagree …

65. Detective/Batman by Alan Grant, John Wagner, and Norm Breyfogle
No comment means not read

66. New Mutants by Chris Claremont, Bob McLeod, and Bill Sienkiewicz
This is the only Claremont work that should be artist separated – the Sienkiewicz run is superlative, mind-blowing, dazzling comic books whereas the McLeod stuff is pedestrian by comparison. And it was never the same again, which shows how definitive it was. A very favourite run.

67. Shade, the Changing Man by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo
See my previous comments about the mad genius of this great run. Only Vertigo and Peter Milligan could create this. Personally, I wish it had stopped at the 50th issue, because the later issues weren’t as good. However, it might be my favourite Milligan work.

68. Top Ten by Alan Moore and Gene Ha
Technically a run? No. Great concept (the superhero police of a city full of people with superpowers), fantastic writing, fantastic art – I wish there was more. The Forty-Niners and Smax intensify this feeling.

69. X-Factor by Peter David
I like these comics but I wouldn’t have had it on a list of favourites. Funny stuff with B-list mutants – is that a fair assessment?

70. Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Oeming
I’m still buying the individual issues as they come out, which shows that (a) it’s not a run, and (b) I really enjoy this great mix of police and the concept of the superhero. Good writing and moody art make for a very individual comic book.

71. The Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri, and Rick Leonardi
Among my personal favourites of stories, not because of any special qualities, rather that these were the issues I buying as my hobby became hardcore. I still like Silvestri’s art even now, when I shouldn’t.

71. The Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and Paul Smith
Long enough to be a run? Probably not – if we just had all the Claremont comics as one run, it would have left more room for other stuff on this list.

73. Black Panther by Christopher Priest
The best comic to come out of Marvel Knights. Priest made the Black Panther a fascinating and brilliant character, matched by the greatest supporting character in Everett K Ross. Great artists, great stories that made you think, and extremely funny – it was criminal (as always with comics written by Priest that kept cancelled) that it was cancelled but at least it left behind a great, great run of comics.

74. Excalibur by Chris Claremont and Alan Davis
I’ve recently re-read these, after being sparked by the recent ClanDestine mini-series. Davis’ art is magnificent, as always, and the other artists suffer in comparison. The Claremont stuff is disturbingly over-written, but sufficiently entertaining to help you ignore it. The more cohesive run is the Davis-written issues, bringing together a reason for the team, tidying up Claremont’s plotlines, and just damn good comics.

74. Gotham Central by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, Michael Lark, Kano
This is a great set of comics based on a genius idea – the stories of the police department who have to work in the shadow of the Batman – matched with two of the best writers of crime-based comic books in the business and the moody and realistic art of firstly Lark and Kano.

76. Concrete by Paul Chadwick
No comment means not read

77. Superman by John Byrne
I actually had all the Byrne written & drawn issues but got rid of them in a purge, which goes to show how much of an impact they had on me.

78. Wildcats by Joe Casey, Sean Phillips, Dustin Nguyen, and Duncan Rouleau
I haven’t read the Philips-drawn issues, but I did get version 3.0, which was really good post-something or other superheroes. Casey really tried to do something interesting with the concept, for which he should be respected.

79. Invincible by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker, and Ryan Ottley
Very enjoyable superheroics. Shouldn’t be on the list because of the fact that it’s still ongoing, but we should let that slide due to the fact that this is a delightfully charming superhero comic book of the sort that you thought people don’t make anymore, and it’s from Image, making the success and popularity even more deserved.

80. Lucifer by Mike Carey, Peter Gross, and Ryan Kelly
I have read a couple of the trades, which I thought were very good, but it never caught my attention and I haven’t sought out the rest of the story.

81. Sleeper by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.
Very good noir superhero espionage comics. Very deserving.

81. X-Force/X-Statix by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred
I tried this when it came out but I have no desire to re-read them, and might join my Trimming the Collection list.

83. StormWatch by Warren Ellis, Tom Raney, Oscar Jimenez, and Bryan Hitch
Did Wildstorm knew what it was doing when it let Ellis free on StormWatch? I’m very glad they did – this was a very enjoyable run of modern style comic books with some nice playing around with the tropes of superheroes.

83. The Mighty Thor by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Never read them and don’t want to.

85. Groo by Sergio Aragonés and Mark Evanier
Never read them and don’t want to, with no offence to the creators involved.

86. Warlock by Jim Starlin
No comment means not read

86. The Avengers by Roy Thomas
No comment means not read

88. Doctor Strange by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
See previous comments regarding old Lee and Ditko comics, comic-book-hating Commie that I am.

89. Captain America by Mark Gruenwald
My hazy memory of my comic book reading recalls the 350th issue of this book, written by Gruenwald and drawn by Kieron Dwyer, and quite liking it. I don’t know if that counts for much, but it means I don’t begrudge its place on the list.

90. The Uncanny X-Men by Chris Claremont and John Romita, Jr
All Claremont X-Men is my favourite, so splitting up by artists doesn’t mean anything – they always had good artists on the mutant books.

91. Green Arrow by Mike Grell
No comment means not read

92. Nextwave by Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen
This should be disqualified from the voting, only having 12 issues, but it is one of the most enjoyable (short) runs of pure explodo joy and fun comics in recent years. Letting Ellis do whatever he wanted with C-list superheroes was an idea of genius, and Immonen’s art was magnificent.

93. Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
This deserves to be higher up the list – has any other book done so well, been so consistently well drawn and well written, and introduced a new character (in the form of Jessica Jones) into the Marvel universe in recent years? Taken on its own, it is a great story, even if Jones continues to exist in the New Avengers, and is the modern Marvel equivalent of what Vertigo allowed Morrison, Milligan, Gaiman et al. to do 20 years ago.

93. Hellblazer by Garth Ennis, Will Simpson, and Steve Dillon
It was this stretch of comics that got me on the Ennis train and I’ve never looked back. I started with the Dillon-drawn issues and even I could see this was a match made in heaven. My favourite interpretation of John Constantine.

95. Lone Wolf & Cub by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima
No comment means not read

96. The Question by Denny O’Neil and Denys Cowan
I actually own these issues and recommend them highly (although probably not as much as Greg Rucka would). Intelligent writing and moody art and no sound effects on the well-choreographed fights – really rather good in all respects.

97. Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakai
Technically, this would be disqualified because it is still ongoing after 20 years of Stan Sakai writing and drawing the adventures of the rabbit samurai, but I don’t care – this is one of the greatest runs in comic books, made even more impressive that it isn’t about superheroes, is in black and white, and is anthropomorphic. With that many handicaps, it is amazing that is still exists, let alone the fact that it is quite simply amazing on all levels.

97. Grendel by Matt Wagner
The early stories about Hunter Rose, which were also drawn by Wagner, are very good comics indeed. I haven’t read much of the other stuff in between, but Wagner created a fascinating character and world for Grendel so I would be tempted to read this via the library.

99. Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore
No comment means not read

100. Plastic Man by Jack Cole
No comment means not read

100. Master of Kung-Fu by Doug Moench
No comment means not read

100. Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware
No comment means not read

The only major addition to the list (as mentioned in runs outside the top 100) would be Zenith, by Grant Morrison and Steve Yeowell. The pop star son of superheroes who wants nothing more than have fun and sleep around, this was a series that opened my eyes to what superhero comics could do. That it was in the middle of 2000 AD was even more amazing. One of the best things Morrison has written, it was cool and modern and current but was suffused with a love for superheroes and their history. Absolutely wonderful. And, with the letter Z, is the perfect way to end this list and post.

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