1,000 COMICS I'M GLAD TO HAVE READ
2009 marked 20 years of reading comics for me. And while everyone else is busy compiling "Best of" lists for the last year or the last decade, I'm thinking about 20 years of comics. Yes, there were plenty of clunkers in there. I have a collection in excess of 15,000 comics so; I'm sure there are duds, even some I liked at the time. Heck, there have to be hundreds of sub-prime comics laying in longboxes. (In fact, I'm sure some of them are right under Malibu's "Prime.")
I'd rather think, though, about the ones that I enjoyed.
So, instead of an ordered list of ten items, I'm going to one-up the internet. I'm giving you a list of 1,000 Comics I'm Glad To Have Read. These are pamphlet format comics only. No original graphic novels, no manga (and "Lone Wolf and Cub" is on my short list of favorite comics of all time, though), no bande dessinee (alas, "Asterix" and Francois Schuiten), no art books, no books about comics (no "Understanding Comics.")
This is not Tony Isabella's book, "1,000 Comic Books You Must Read." This is not a complete list of great comics, by any means, not even of the greats that I have read. I have no doubt that there are several entries on this list that people won't agree were worth reading, but like I said last week: these lists are intensely personal things.
It's not in any order. At times, it's completely random. But I enjoyed looking at this list, researching some issue numbers, and thinking back on their times in the sun. Maybe they'll spark some memories for you, too, or make you reach back into your comics closet for a refresher.
1,000 comics is a slightly daunting task, so I'm breaking it up into two parts over the holiday weeks. The second half will appear in this space next week. Please do come back for those.
Let us begin with the most obvious:
"Savage Dragon" #1 - #3, #1 - #155: There's no comic I've read continuously for as long. Nothing comes close. Other long-running titles come and go, but "Dragon" remains. Granted, it's had some slower release times and some slightly-less-than-great issues, but I have a strange personal investment in the series after all this time with it. Can't imagine ever letting it go.
"Freak Force" #1 - #18: Still one of my favorite series of all time. Wonderful Vic Bridges art work (with a very clear John Byrne influence), with Keith Giffen doing his Bwah-Ha-Ha style plots on Erik Larsen characters. I even wrote fan-fic for it back in the day, when I thought I'd grow up to be a writer. (Ironically, I just got a Google alert about a spam site that recently scraped the text and added it to their website.) I didn't grow up to be a creative writer, but I did buy a lot of original art from "Freak Force," which my more lucrative career path afforded me at the time.
And, of course, just to tie the two together, I appeared as a character in "Dragon" attempting to reunite Freak Force to disastrous results, as written by Robert Kirkman. Yeah, I guess I do have a personal stake in that world, don't I?
"Ultimate Spider-Man" #1 - #133: The best, most consistent series of the 2000s, period, bar none. Mark Bagley's departure could have been disastrous, but the choice of Stuart Immonen as a replacement was the stuff of genius. Too bad he didn't stay on longer. His loss is the Avengers' gain, I suppose. Either way, Brian Bendis gets to keep him.
"Scion" #1 - #39; "Ruse" #1 - #26: CrossGen produced an awful lot of great books, but these are the two I thought I'd point out. The former was a bravura performance by Jimmy Cheung on art, with Ron Marz's scripts producing a wonderful fantasy adventure. Check out his final issue, where Cheung did his best "Prince Valiant" imitation. "Ruse" is Mark Waid's "Sherlock Holmes" analogue, but not his last. Scott Beatty took a few issues to get comfortable in Waid's shoes writing the series, but I still enjoyed it to the end. Butch Guice's art was done completely in two page spreads, which gave the book a unique look, and a welcomed one.
This is not Guice's only appearance on this list of comics. In fact, let's get straight to the next one, which was his last assignment prior to CrossGen:
"Birds of Prey" #1 - #34: Chuck Dixon hit his stride on the Batman family of titles when he got to "own" the satellite books. At one point, he wrote "Nightwing," "Robin," and "Birds of Prey" all at the same time, with great artists (Greg Land in his pre-CrossGen prime, Rick Leonardi, Pete Woods, Mike Wieringo, Tom Grummett, et. al.) and great stories. "Birds of Prey" for some reason stands out at me the most in compiling this list. The interplay between Oracle -- the great reimagining of the post-"Killing Joke" Batgirl by Kim Yale and John Ostrander as the data center for superheroes -- and Black Canary was entertaining and believable. When they finally met in person at the end of the second year, it was electric. I almost cut the list off there, as the next ten issues featured too many fill-in artists and Batman crossovers, but I'm such a sucker for Guice's art that I included it all in there. "The Amazing Spider-Man" wunderkind Marcos Martin even drew an issue in there.
I'm tempted to put the Pete Woods era of "Robin" on this list, as well, but you'd be amazed how quickly 1000 comics go.
"300" #1 - #5: Frank Miller's historical fiction will forever be known as "the storyboards for that film with Gerard Butler" now, but at the time it was a sensational piece of comics work. Lynn Varley's colors filled out Miller's art in a way the single color works of the previous "Sin City" stories never could. The colors were at least as entertaining as the art, which was also done in two-page spreads like the aforementioned "Ruse." When Dark Horse reprinted the book, they did it in a very smart way: it was a hardcover book, side bound, with each two page spread on one extra wide page. This is the way the book was meant to be read. (It's also the way "Ruse" should have been published and, rumor has it, the way "Promethea" was always intended to be finally compiled.)
The movie is fairly entertaining, too, particularly when you see the Frank Miller panels so clearly on the screen.
"Ultimate X-Men" #1 - #25: Though I read it for the first 60 issues or so, it's the first two years on the title which stand out the most to me. Part of that obviously goes to Mark Millar keeping things internally consistent, at a time when he and Bendis ruled the Ultimate universe. But it's Adam Kubert's art that sticks the most in my mind. This is where I came to appreciate, I think, his creative way of telling stories with panels that didn't conform to a grid. Things that other artists would look awkward doing, Kubert made look interesting and cool. Plus, his open and expressive figure work is always a joy to look at.
Fill-in issues in the second year of the book included the work of Chris Bachalo and Kaare Andrews.
"Transmetropolitan" #1 - #60: Odds are, you first fell in love with Warren Ellis' work on "The Authority" or this title, a fantastic and crazy science fiction political saga, starring a crazy gonzo journalist, his filthy assistants, and a two-headed cat. I also think this might be the first long-form, but limited lifespan series I've ever read from beginning to end. It became a Vertigo staple format, alongside books like "Preacher" and "100 Bullets" and "Y The Last Man."
"New Warriors" #1 - #50: I didn't start reading it until late into its teens, but very quickly tracked down the back issues and loved the series, written by Fabian Nicieza and drawn by Mark Bagley for its first two years. Nicieza had a good sense of teen drama, a good sense of humor (Speedball, naturally), and the good storytelling sense to make the stories build up to a fantastic second year finale. Darick Robertson was the second regular artist and lasted to issue #50, but didn't pencil as many issues as Bagley did. Who in comics ever has followed Bagley on a title for as long as Bagley stayed? Nobody.
"Suicide Squad" #1 - #24: One of my favorite Pipeline columns of all time is the one where I reviewed this series, having read it for the first time. John Ostrander's Cold War superhero action series with a twist (they're all bad guys on suicide missions) is still one of the most highly regarded series of the last 25 years, and for good reasons. The stories hold up to this day, and the concept keeps trying to come back to life. I hope someday that one of the attempts sticks, and that Ostrander is writing it.
"Daredevil: The Man Without Fear" #1 - #5: John Romita Jr. drawing over a Frank Miller script in the mid-90s? What else do you need to hear? It's a great series, and one that is mysteriously absent from my bookshelf. I know they've released a hardcover of this one. I should add that to my wish list.
That makes for 577 comics already. Let's take a break and return post-Christmas for the next 423 or so, shall we?
PIPELINE PODCAST FOR 16 DECEMBER 2009
Last week's column was a pretty clear indicator of what comic would top the list, but there's lots to talk about in the other nine positions, as well:
- 10. "Tiny Titans" #23
- 9. "Underground" #4 (of 5)
- 8. "X-Factor" #200
- 7. "Marvelous Land Of Oz" #2 (of 8)
- 6." Fear Agent Vol 5 I Against I" TP
- 5. "Drawing Down the Moon: The Art of Charles Vess" HC
- 4. "Darkness/Pitt" #3 (of 3)
- 3. "Incorruptible" #1
- 2. "Dodgem Logic Magazine" #1
- 1. "Rocketeer Complete Collection" Vol 1 HC (Deluxe Edition)
"Tiny Titans" is still going strong, two years later. (I think I asked about "Supergirl," also, which turned out recently to have a trade published of its issues, so nevermind.) "X-Factor" returned to its original numbering. "Pitt" returned and will now disappear for at least five years again, short a movie or video game deal. Alan Moore's magazine launches in North America. And more!
I should also note here that the "Rocketeer" standard edition has a $30 price tag, not the $40 one I had mistakenly included in Pipeline originally last week. We corrected it later in the day.
Next week: 400+ more comics I'm glad to have read.
I also still have a stack of comics I'm trying to push out the door, in pretty good condition, with all prices including shipping costs. More have been added this week and prices have dropped, so check it out again. Check out the list today.
And, lest I forget, Merry Christmas! We'll see if Santa brings any of the comic collections I have on my Amazon Wish List this year. There's not much there, so I'm not betting on it.
The Various and Sundry blog updated this week with my "Blu Ray Manifesto."
Follow me on Twitter at AugieShoots.
My photoblog, AugieShoots.com, is less than ten days away from being updated every day for the entirety of 2009. The home stretch is fun!
Don't forget to check out my Google Reader Shared Items. It's the best of my daily feed reading, sometimes with commentary!
More than 800 columns -- more than twelve years' worth -- are archived here at CBR and you can get to them from the Pipeline Archive page. They're sorted chronologically.