Shelf Life: Ron's 10 Favorite Comic Runs

Fri, July 6th, 2012 at 1:58pm PDT

Comic Books
Ron Marz, Columnist

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Get on a Run: My 10 Favorite Comic Runs

I'm not a lists guy. "Year End" lists, "Best Of" lists, I generally ignore all of them, because it's ultimately just somebody's opinion, not particularly more valid than somebody else's opinion. I like what I like, you like what you like, everybody's happy.

So, anyway, here's a list.

This is a list of my favorite comic runs. Not the best, not the most important, but my favorites. The ones I've read multiple times, the ones I've purchased in multiple formats. As such, these are the ones that have had the most influence on me as a writer.

Your definition of a "run" might be different than mine. For me, a run has to be protracted storytelling, something more than a limited series. A lot of my favorite stuff -- "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen," "The Dark Knight Returns," "Watchmen," "The Rocketeer" -- doesn't really fit the criteria.

No surprise that my list reflects when I "came of age" in comics. I think we're all very much products of when we first discover comics in a serious way. There's real magic then, a sense of wonder that's not easy to duplicate. First love is not always the best love, but it leave an impression, doesn't it? I mean, people buy "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" comics and "Deadpool" comics, right? I, on the other hand, wouldn't read them if you handed me a dollar at the end of every page. They're just not in my sweet spot. But I'll run to the store every time there's a new issue of "Rocketeer Adventures," or a new "Nexus" chapter in "Dark Horse Presents."

These are the ones that work for me. In no particular order, my 10 Favorite Comic Runs:

"Thor" by Walter Simonson:
I remember the exact spinner rack in the exact convenience store where I saw the cover to "Thor" #337 for the first time. The image of Beta Ray Bill smashing the logo sucked me in. By the end of the first issue, I was a Thor fan (and Simonson fan) for life. Still the yardstick for epic storytelling in comics, everything from "DOOM!" to "He stood alone at Gjallerbru..."

"Nexus" by Baron and Rude:
I was a fan of First Comics in general, and a few titles in particular. "Nexus" was not a superhero story, per se, even though Horatio Hellpop wears one on of the great superhero costumes ever designed. I liked the story of a tortured, space-faring assassin a lot. I loved the Steve Rude art.

"American Flagg!" by Howard Chaykin:
Sex! Violence! America! More than two decades old now, and still ahead of its time, "AF!" looked and read like nothing else on the stands. Still does, for the most part. It's almost criminal the entire Chaykin run isn't available in an omnibus edition.

"Dreadstar" by Jim Starlin:
Jim's "Avengers Annual" #7 and "Marvel Two-In-One Annual" #2, telling the end of the first Adam Warlock and Thanos confrontation, probably had a more profound effect on me. But for long-term storytelling, this is my favorite of Jim's work. Obviously, Jim being a close friend for more than two decades plays a part as well, but it's my list, you know? Seeing a talented creator tell his story his way is a glorious thing to behold.

"Grendel" by Matt Wagner:
Most of the titles on this list as here because they're so damn consistent. "Grendel" is the exact opposite. Matt Wagner's genius was to let the Grendel concept grow and evolve, taking a different form -- with a different artist -- in each iteration. What is consistent is the level great storytelling, from Hunter Rose all the way to Grendel-Prime.

"Hellboy" by Mike Mignola:
Mignola drawing monsters is, all by itself, reason enough for a place on my list of favorites. But there's so much more, including some of the consistently best writing in comics. "Hellboy" has spawned its own universe, and each title is as readable as the next. And, you know, monsters.

"Fantastic Four" by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby:
Greatest run ever? I think so. There's more true creation in the first 100 issues of "FF" than any other comic, ever. It's Kirby at the height of his powers. This is where the Marvel Universe was built.

"Amazing Spider-Man" by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and John Romita:
If Stan and Jack's FF is the greatest run ever, the first 100 issues of Spidey are a close second. For me, "FF" is less a superhero story than a science-fiction tale, so I'd make the argument that the Lee-Ditko-Romita Spidey is the greatest superhero run ever. It's the template for the modern superhero saga, the flawed hero balancing life both in and out of costume.

"Swamp Thing" by Alan Moore:
Even before "Dark Knight" and "Watchmen," this is the book that exposed me to the possibilities inherent in comics. Moore and his artistic collaborators of Bissette, Totleben and Veitch created the first comics I found truly creepy and unsettling, as well as touching and elegant. "Everything you know about Character X is wrong" has become a terrible cliche since "Swamp Thing" did it, and did it by far the best.

"Daredevil" by Frank Miller:
The first "Daredevil" issue I got my hands on was #183 or #184. The next day I started hunting down all the issues I'd missed. Miller and his artists (Klaus Janson, David Mazzucchelli, Bill Sienkewicz) made Matt Murdock and Elektra Natchios real people to me, and taught me that you could tell any kind of story you wanted, as long as the audience cared about your characters. There have been a number of great runs on "DD," including the one going on right now. This one is still the best.

A few other favorites didn't quite make the cut: "New Teen Titans" by Wolfman and Perez ; "Starman" by James Robinson, Tony Harris and others; "Planetary" by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday; "Bone" by Jeff Smith; "The Walking Dead" by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard; "Sin City" by Frank Miller.

What's your list?

Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it's pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes "Artifacts" and "Magdalena" for Top Cow, and his creator-owned title, "Shinku," for Image. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com.

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