100 Greatest Superhero Comics

11:00 AM 10/6/2016

by Aaron Couch and Graeme McMillan

Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Todd McFarlane and more A-list creators look back at their legendary work.

Frank Miller/DC Entertainment

In superhero comics, great work can be a marathon (the hundreds of issues Stan Lee and Jack Kirby labored over to create the Marvel Universe) or a brilliant flash (the four issues of a The Dark Knight Returns Frank Miller used to transform the medium).

This week, thousands of comic book fans will descend upon New York Comic Con for a glimpse of greatness, and in honor of that, The Hollywood Reporter and iconic creators are looking back at 100 classic runs of superhero comic books that went on to become fan favorites and define the genre.

Below, Lee looks back on Jack Kirby's finest work, Miller recalls how he cracked the big problem that was Batman defeating Superman, Todd McFarlane details his battles with Marvel over Spider-Man, Grant Morrison shares the most nerve-wracking moments from All-Star Superman, Kurt Busiek speculates that Marvels only worked because no one thought it would be a hit, former Marvel Editor in Chief Roy Thomas reflects on the wild influences of the "Kree-Skrull War" and Marv Wolfman remembers the moment he dreamed up Crisis on Infinite Earths.

  1. 100
    100

    'Fantastic Four' by Tom DeFalco and Paul Ryan

    #356-400 (1991–1996)

    Marvel/Paul Ryan
    "The Fantastic Four was a soap opera about this family that is always in crisis mode," recalls Tom DeFalco, who followed the acclaimed run by Walt Simonson. "It was a weird experience during that run, because everybody claimed to hate what we were doing. We used to get the most scathing reviews, 'This is terrible' — and yet every month sales rose. They rose and they rose and they rose. One of the guys who wrote scathing reviews every month, I said to him, 'If you hate the book, why do you keep reading it?' He says, 'Oh I have to know what happens next.' "
     
  2. 99
    100

    'Imperium' by Joshua Dysart

    #1-16 (2015-16)

    Alas, poor Imperium, which ended all too early this year. The idea behind the Valiant Entertainment series was novel — the story of a supervillain taking over an African country, as told from his point of view — and the execution was note-perfect, with writer Dysart embracing the moral ambiguity of the concept by revealing early on that the villain's actions might be responsible for a future utopia, and introducing a cast of characters who believe that they're done the wrong thing for the right reasons. A spin-off of Valiant's Harbinger series, we can only hope for a revival sooner rather than later.
     
  3. 98
    100

    'Superior Spider-Man' by Dan Slott and Others

    #1-33 (2013-14)

    Giuseppe Camuncoli/Marvel Entertainment.

    The series began with a controversial premise: Spider-man arch memesis Otto Octavius has taken over Peter Parker's body and assumed the role of Spider-Man. However, this is Doc Ock with a twist — he now also has the memories of Peter Parker, and has learned that with great power comes great responsibility. This is a Spider-Man who's smarter than Parker and also edgier – with a villainous bent … but at the same time you can't help but root for him, which makes this unlike any Spider-Man run before it.   

  4. 97
    100

    'Hawkeye' by Matt Fraction David Aja

    Vol. 4 #1-22 (2012-15)

    In a world where continuity can hamstring creativity, Hawkeye had a wonderful simplicity, even beginning its issues with the briefest of a premise — that this is what Clint Barton does when he's not hanging with the Avengers — followed by "that's all you need to know." What he did often involved going after organized crime types with reckless abandon ("this looks bad," a favorite refrain). 

  5. 96
    100

    'Alias' by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos

    #1-28 (2001-04)

    Brian Michael Bendis' and Michael Gaydos' failed superhero is one of the most psychologically complex characters in the Marvel universe, with Jessica Jones overcoming enough trauma and self-hatred to make Peter Parker seem cheery. Alias was the first series for Marvel's MAX comics imprint, allowing Bendis and Gaydos to explore more adult themes but also preventing them from bringing in the company's more kid-friendly flagship characters, like Spider-Man. Her chief bad guy, The Purple Man, is truly menacing and the stakes in their battle are personal, not world-ending — a rarity in comics. Jessica has since made her way to Netflix, with Krysten Ritter playing the rough-around-the-edges detective.

  6. 95
    100

    'Wildcats' by Joe Casey, Sean Phillips, Dustin Nguyen and Others

    'Wildcats' Vol. 2 #8-28, 'Wildcats 3.0' #1-24 (2000-04)

    Superheroes went corporate in this two-series run by Man of Action's Casey and his artistic collaborators that was based around one easy hook: if superheroes really wanted to save the world, they wouldn't manage it by beating up bad guys in colorful costumes. Instead, super science is mass produced and the consequences are every bit as important as you might expect … which might, occasionally, involve the need for ultra-violence, depending on how business competitors feel about developments.

  7. 94
    100

    'Secret Six' by Gail Simone and Others

    Vol. 2 #1-6; Vol. 3 1-316 (2006-11)

    Simone's Secret Six took the high concept of Suicide Squad and removed one vital element — that the team was being forced to do the right thing — to create something that felt like the guiltiest of pleasures. It's not that the villains were bad, per se, but they certainly weren't interested in doing good for its own sake, which made them far more unpredictable than the many other super teams around them.

  8. 93
    100

    'Batman and the Outsiders' by Mike W. Barr and Jim Aparo

    #1-9 (1983-94)

    The premise was bold: Batman would the Justice League and form his own team of rookies (and eventually leaving them to return to Gotham in the hopes they would carry on his work). The results were electrifying.
     
    "Barr and Aparo took established DC characters and gave them compelling issues to deal with — Batman had grown apart from the JLA, Black Lightning had sworn of superheroing after the accidental death of an innocent, and Metamorpho had never fit into any sort of team before — while introducing new heroes to partner with — Halo, Geo-Force, Katana, and Looker, each with their own individual struggles that could only really be dealt with as a team," says Joey Esposito, Writer of Pawn Shop, Footprints and Captain Ultimate. "No to mention, Jim Aparo's Batman is THE coolest Batman to ever grace comic book pages. From his decade long tenure drawing Brave and the Bold through Batman and the Outsiders, and later the Batman series wherein Jason Todd was famously killed via a phone-in reader poll, Aparo's Batman is stoic and mysterious, a looming presence with simple lines and the raddest of rad capes, a look that has never been matched."
  9. 92
    100

    'Blue Beetle' by Keith Giffen, John Rogers, Cully Hamner and Others

    Vol. 8 #1-25 (2006-08)

    Giving the Spider-Man archetype a fresh spin for the first time in decades, the 2006 Beetle was a Latino teenager smart enough to let his family and friends in on his secret identity, which gave him the grounding necessary to stop an alien invasion. Fast-moving, funny and thrilling, in many ways it was Marvel's critically acclaimed Ms. Marvel a decade early. 
     
  10. 91
    100

    'The Incredible Hulk: Monster' by Bill Mantlo and Mike Mignola

    #312 (1985)

    Marvel/Mike Mignola

    The landmark story redefined Bruce Banner and his big green alter ego, with the origin story revealing Bruce had been the victim of abuse at the hands of his father, who dubs him a monster as a young child. The tragic tale suggests that the Hulk's rage actually has its roots in Bruce's childhood rather than simply being the product of gamma radiation.

  11. 90
    100

    'Invincible' by Robert Kirkman, Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley

    #1-ongoing (2002-present)

    Skybound

    It's almost inconceivable that the same creator behind the very bleak The Walking Dead wrote the bright and splashy Invincible, a series made to be pure fun without losing its stakes or emotional center. It tells the tale of Mark Grayson, the son of the alien superhero-turned-villain Omni-man, whom early on he must turn against to save Earth. Kirkman's longrunning project will end in 2017, with him saying of plotting the end of the Image Comics property: "if most superhero comics continue forever with no end in sight and over their runs do not, in any way, tell a cohesive story that holds together to form a singular narrative... shouldn’t Invincible do the exact opposite?"

  12. 89
    100

    'Daredevil' by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

    Vol. 2 #82–119; Vol. 1 #500 (2006-09)

    Marvel/Tommy Lee Edwards

    Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark not only had the unenviable task of following up Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev's stellar run — they also had to start from an impossible place, with Matt Murdock behind bars. It truly feels like a continuation of what came before it while breaking so much new ground that it stands on its own. 

  13. 88
    100

    'Doom Patrol' by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani

    'My Greatest Adventure' #80-85; 'Doom Patrol' #86-121 (1963-68)

    Even before its ground-breaking final issue, the original Doom Patrol was a wild ride that seemed far, far stranger than anything else DC or Marvel was publishing at the time — what other series would feature threats such as the Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man, or a talking French gorilla called Monsieur Mallah? But it's the final issue, which marked the end of the series by outright killing the entire team, that ensures that the series lived on in fans' minds for years afterwards. 
     
  14. 87
    100

    'Astonishing X-Men' by Joss Whedon and by John Cassaday

    Vol. 1 #1-24 (2004-08)

    Geeks mourning the 2003 end of Firefly on the small screen rejoiced when Whedon energized the X-Men franchise with his Eisner-winning run, which tested Marvel's mutants in a new way. In their first plotline, Whedon and Cassaday introduced the mutant cure, a conceit adapted for the big screen on 2006's X-Men: The Last Stand.

  15. 86
    100

    'Civil War' by Mark Millar and Steve McNiven

    #1-6 (2006-07)

    Steve McNiven/Marvel Entertainment

    Millar had already deconstructed The Avengers for a post-9/11 world with The Ultimates. With Civil War, he brought frustrations over Bush-era civil liberty policies to the mainstream Marvel Universe with a tale that put Captain America and Iron Man on opposite sides of the Superhero Registration Act. Years before collateral damage of superheroics would be addressed on the big screen in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War, the groundbreaking series asked what the role of a superhuman should be in society and helped bring Ultimates-level excitement to the 616 Universe. 

  16. 85
    100

    'The Incredible Hulk' by Peter David

    #331-400 (1987-1992)

    Peter David — then a member of Marvel's sales staff and a fledgling writer — came to Incredible Hulk at a time when the character was failing when it came to sales. He soon was turning heads for bold decisions like returning the Hulk to his original gray color, and along with it giving the character more brains. He managed to inject more humor and emotion into a series with Hulk in the title than anyone had imaged possible.

  17. 84
    100

    'Power Man and Iron Fist' by Jo Duffy and Kerry Gammill

    Vol. 1 #56-75(1979-81)

    Sweet Christmas! Pairing two characters born of attempts to jump on cultural bandwagons, Duffy and Gammill took a couple of potential lemons and made the finest lemonade imaginable, bringing out the buddy comedy potential of the pairing of the cynical ex-con and naive martial arts genius and producing a run that took full advantage of its pulp roots but never lost sight of the friendship necessary for the series to work.

  18. 83
    100

    'Wonder Woman' by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang

    #1-34 (2011-14)

    DC Entertaiment/Cliff Chiang

    Azzarello and Chiang dared to take Wonder Woman back to her roots in Greek Mythology, reconceiving her not as a hero molded from clay but as a daughter of Zeus. The bold three-year-run asked readers to reexamine what the character means in the DC Universe and in our own modern world. 

  19. 82
    100

    'Daredevil' by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

    Writer Mark Waid and artist Chris Samnee (2011-ongoing)

    The acclaimed runs of the millennium had all been dark and gritty – so Mark Waid and Chris Samnee went the other route, embracing the outlandish aspects afforded by the comic book medium (Matt fights The Spot in his first outing and even uncovers a coven of monsters terrorizing a town in the south.) For fans who couldn't imagine Daredevil departing so much from the darker Miller/Bendis/Brubaker model and still being good, this proved them wrong. 

  20. 81
    100

    'Invincible Iron Man' by Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca

    #1-33; 500-527 (2008-12)

    The series hit just in time for Iron Man's meteoric rise in popularity thanks to Robert Downey Jr.'s turn in Iron Man, with Fraction saying his goal with the book is to see Tony "clean up his messes," — being a hero working to be better than relapsing into his old ways. The beloved series pulled together threads of the Iron Man mythos and made them new and explored the inner hopes and fears of its character, going personal for the larger-than-life figure.  

  21. 80
    100

    'The Runaways' by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona

    Vol. #1-16 Vol. 2 #1-24 (2003-07)

    Jo Chen/Marvel Enterprises

    The premise was irresistible: a group of teenagers learn their parents are among the world's leading supervillains, and flee to avoid becoming like them. The series, which is being adapted for the small screen by Hulu, was groundbreaking, featuring a diverse cast of characters both in terms of gender and sexuality. And the team included LGBTQ characters in an era before Marvel was as openly invested in character diversity as it is today. 

  22. 79
    100

    'New Avengers' by Brian Michael Bendis and Others

    #1-62 (2005-2010)

    After breaking the team apart in Avengers: Disassembled, Bendis put them back together, with help from A-list artists such David Finch and Steve McNiven, with the two penciling the first arcs that saw a combination of characters fans previously only had dreamed of being part of a permanent team. Having both Spider-Man and Wolverine move into Avengers Tower may fan service … but it's awesome fan service, and the bond between these characters made the Civil War storyline that would come later all the more poignant.

  23. 78
    100

    'Amazing Spider-Man' by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr.

    #224-250 (1982-84)

    Marvel/John Romita Jr.

    The creative team was able to move away from Spider-Man's classics rogues gallery and bring in new villains (Hobgoblin) and bad guys that usually faced other heroes (Juggernaut, Mister Hyde and Cobra.)

    "Stern’s snappy dialogue gave these stories a friendly neighborhood beat, while Romita Jr.'s still-developing pencils added a cinematic, quality to scenes — like the Hobgoblin first getting into costume in ASM No. 238, and Spider-Man 'stopping' the Juggernaut in ASM No. 230 (complete with a shot-by-shot/panel-by-panel breakdown of these critical moments)," says Mark Ginocchio, host of the Amazing Spider-Talk podcast. "Plus, this was the run that planted the seeds for the Spider-Man/Black Cat bad girl/choirboy romance, provided an origin story for the Vulture 20 years after he was first introduced, and gave us J. Jonah Jameson in a yellow tracksuit. What more could a Spider-Man fan want?"

  24. 77
    100

    'Superman: Secret Identity' by Kurt Busiek Artist and Stuart Immonen

    #1-4 (2004)

    Secret Identity took place in a world in which Superman only existed in comics, and a young boy from Kansas is named Clark Kent by his parents almost as a gag. But he inexplicably begins gaining the powers of Superman, with the four-issue series spanning Clark's life and exploring the changes he goes through as he ages.

    "Superman: Secret Identity was a deliberate attempt to take the superhero-as-metaphor idea, using Superman as an expression of our Clark Kent’s inner self, and then exploring how someone’s inner self changes over their lifetime, who they open up to, what their priorities and concerns are," says Kurt Busiek, who also explored the superhero in a real-world way with Marvels. "It’s a story about being human, using a superhuman element as a way to dramatize internal concerns and conflicts," 

  25. 76
    100

    'Shade the Changing Man' by Peter Milligan and Chris Bachalo

    Vol. 2 #33-50 (1993-94)

    By the time Shade was part of the launch line-up for DC's Vertigo imprint, it had stayed far from the character's roots as a sci-fi superhero created by Spider-Man's Steve Ditko. Milligan and Bachalo had also been working long enough to get into a particular groove, and their final year-plus as a partnership displayed how well they meshed, as the two used the series to explore how a literal madman can be a better man when his — and others' — lives depend on it.

  26. 75
    100

    'Sleeper' by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips

    Vol. 1 #1-12, Vol. 2 #1-12 (2004-04)

    Despite the genre trappings — superhero names, secret origins and dual identities — Sleeper isn't a superhero story as much as it is a crime story that just happens to involve some superpowers. But what a crime story, with both creators taking full advantage of the noir possibilities offered by the medium to build something unlike what most fans would have expected from capes and cowls at the time.
     
  27. 74
    100

    'Enigma' by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo

    Enigma #1-8 (1993)

    A love story wrapped in a mystery that pretended to be a superhero story, Milligan and Fegredo took the secret origin idea and applied it to the story of a man trapped in a life he doesn't recognize. Through the machinations of a man who may or may not be real, our progtagonist finds his life forever changed. Between Milligan's dry, existential humor and Fegredo's loose, scratchy and beautiful artwork, it's the superhero comic for people who want a funnier, more optimistic alternative to Watchmen
  28. 73
    100

    'The Micronauts' by Bill Mantlo

    Vol. 1 #1-58 (1979-84)

    It started as a toy tie-in, and turned into something that outlived the toys by a number of years. What made Micronauts so irresistible was the magpie-like tendency of writer Mantlo to steal influences like Jack Kirby's New Gods, George Lucas' Star Wars and Jim Starlin's Warlock and somehow make the resultant stew feel organic. That the series boasted art from Michael Golden, Butch Guice and more was the icing on the cake.
     
  29. 72
    100

    'Batman and Robin' by Grant Morrison and Others

    #1-15 (2009-11)

    "It was particularly rewarding to create a new framework for the basic series concept by removing Bruce Wayne from the picture and replacing him as Batman with the grown-up former Robin, Dick Grayson," recalls Grant Morrison. "Adding Damian Wayne — the son of Batman and arch-villainess Talia Al Ghul I’d introduced earlier in the run  as Robin made for a very different and contentious Dynamic Duo. The combination of a youthful, light-hearted, working class Batman with a serious, snobbish and aristocratic little Robin seemed to really strike a chord. I wish we could have given them a few more years together before Bruce came back but it was a lot of fun while it lasted."

  30. 71
    100

    "Under Siege" By Roger Stern and John Buscema

    'Avengers' #273-277

    Marvel/John Buscema Tom Palmer

    It doesn't get much more painful than this, with writer Roger Stern's acclaimed storyline seeing Avengers Mansion under siege thanks to a plot by Baron Zemo, who assembles a dozen of the world's toughest villains. Most devastatingly, Mr. Hyde beats Jarvis mercilessly while a horrified Captain America looked on, unable to help. The real consequences of the arc gave the team a new sense of world weariness, as if they truly had gone through battle.  

  31. 70
    100

    'Spider-Girl' by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and Pat Olliffe

    #1-100 (1998-2006)

    Marvel/Ron Frenz
    What began as a premise for What If…? Ended up launching one of the most beloved female characters in comics. Set in the future in an alternate universe, Spider-Girl followed the adventures of Spider-Man's daughter May "Mayday" Parker — and though it was popular with readers, its creators were constantly convinced it was always on the verge of cancelation — with the book defying sales predictions that had pegged it for cancelation.
     
    "Right before it would be canceled someone would pull out the numbers and go, 'Wait a minute! We can't cancel this book!' " recalls Tom DeFalco, who once was told Spider-Girl #60 would definitely be it's final issue. "On April Fool's day they called me up and said, "We just realized Spider-Girl is selling better than anybody thought so we can't cancel it and we need a plot in two days. I said, 'Come on guys, you think I'm going to fall for that routine?' It took them a couple of hours to convince me that they actually did want more." 
     
    But the book lived on, going until issue #100 and Mayday finding new life in other series.
     
    "The fact that it's lasted so long, I've always been very thankful — and all of us, we fell in love with Mayday and the whole supporting cast. We hope that stuff showed," says DeFalco, who is currently working on Reggie And Me from Archie Comics.
  32. 69
    100

    'Supergirl' by Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle

    Vol. 5 #34-59 (2008-2011)

    Gates and Igle created stories that challenged Supergirl physically and emotionally with tales dealing with loss and the pressures families place on us all.

    "We explored grief and post-traumatic stress through the lens of a super-powered teenage girl. Supergirl’s father is killed early on in New Krypton. Both Jamal and I experienced terrible losses at a young age, and we put all of those emotions into our work," says Gates. "We wanted to tell Supergirl stories that were relevant to us, and in doing so, hoped the book would find an audience who identified with our take on the character."

    Gates, who just wrote an Adventures of Supergirl miniseries, created a cathphrase for Kara, which he says sums of what Supergirl believes in and what she means to us: "Hope, help, and compassion for all." 

  33. 68
    100

    'The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl' by Ryan North and Erica Henderson

    1 #1-8, Vol. 2 #1-(ongoing) (2015-present)

    Erica Henderson/Marvel Entertainment

    It's difficult to explain the appeal of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to anyone who's not read it for themselves: it's funny, warm and smart, a superhero series that's as interested in solving problems through friendship and thinking through problems as through punching. It's also a series that gleefully embraces the sillier side of the Marvel Universe and features the deceptively simple, naturalistic art of Henderson — one of the few superhero artists who can draw heroes that look like real people without looking ridiculous in the process. In other words, it's one of the best superhero comics being published today.

  34. 67
    100

    'The Immortal Iron Fist' by Ed Brubaker, Matt Fraction, David Aja and Travel Foreman

    #1-16 (2006-08)

    Against all odds, Ed Brubaker and Matt Fraction were  able to bring a grounded feel to Iron Fist even as they explored the mystical aspects of his character, like sending Danny Rand to compete in a tournament of the Seven Capital Cities of Heaven. The series made Danny cooler than ever before, and featured a healthy dose of humor to help sell the (on its surface) ridiculous-sounding story of a billionaire who learned martial arts in the mystical city of K'un-L'un.

  35. 66
    100

    'Superman' by Dan Jurgens

    Vol. 2 #29, 57-146, 148, 150 (1989-1999)

    Jurgens' time on Superman is an odd thing; he's remembered for being the writer/artist on the issue that killed the Man of Steel (Superman #75) and one of the creators responsible for bringing him back, but everything else he achieved — along with the rest of the "Superteam" on titles such as Action Comics and Adventures of Superman being published at the same time — remains curiously overlooked, despite being work that managed the difficult feat of updating the character for a more cynical 1980s and '90s without ever losing the heart and soul essential to Superman.
     
  36. 65
    100

    'The Infinity Gauntlet' by Jim Starlin, George Perez and Ron Lim

    #1-6

    It doesn't get more bold than beginning a series with half the sentient life in the universe being erased from existence … unless you then assemble the entirety of the Marvel Universe to combat the man who did it. Jim Starlin's cosmic work reached new heights with the limited series, which saw the mad Titan Thanos get his hands on the Infinity Gauntlet and become a god, all to impress his love Death. The storyline reverberated for decades and will likely come into play on the big screen with 2018's Avengers: Infinity War.

  37. 64
    100

    'JLA' by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter

    'JLA' #1-41 (1997-2000)

    Eschewing any grounded take on DC's biggest names, Morrison and Porter took the JLA — and the entire DC universe — to new levels by playing up the characters' similarities to mythical figures. "The members of the JLA map so perfectly onto the pantheon of Greek gods, with Superman as Zeus, Batman as Hades, the Flash as Hermes, Aquaman as Poseidon, and so on, that it made more sense to play up the fantastical, mythic, epic elements of their exploits and to treat the stories as dreamlike allegories or science fiction fables featuring a group of powerful, easily-recognisable pure archetypes," Morrison recalls — no wonder, then, that the run ends with every human being on Earth achieving their own godlike potential, if only for a moment.

  38. 63
    100

    'Catwoman' by Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke

    #1-4 (2002)

    The creative team reimagined Catwoman for the 21st century, giving her a new costume that is considered one of the great modern revamps.
     
    "We saw her as a function for male readers, and we wanted to negate that and see what we could do with the female audience," Cooke told The AV Club in 2012 of their vision. "That automatically took us into this area where we would have to redesign her look if we want any credibility with women. At that point my first thought was, 'She has to look sexy, because women won’t accept her being unattractive, but you also have to look functional.' "
  39. 62
    100

    'Miracleman' by Alan Moore

    #1-16 (1985-89)

    Before there was Watchmen, there was Miracleman. (And afterwards, too; the series had a sporadic publishing schedule.) Alan Moore's first revisionist superhero tale had art from the likes of Alan Davis and John Totleben, but the focus was the story, which took a Shazam-like superhero to new heights and saw him remake the world in his image.

  40. 61
    100

    'Fantastic Four' by Walt Simonson

    #337-341, 343-350, 352-354 (1990-91)

    Writer and artist Walt Simonson brought out some of the wildest sci-fi premises the Fantastic Four had ever seen. Though his time was brief and it failed to electrify in the sales department, it has grown to be considered one of the all-time great runs for Marvel's first family.
     
    "I loved what Walt was doing. He was coming up with all of these crazy, wild science fiction ideas. I thought , "Wow!' " recalls Tom DeFalco, who was Marvel Editor in Chief during the run and ultimately pulled the plug on it. "For reasons that befuddle me, because I'm a Walt Simonson geek, sales on the newsstand were falling. I didn't want to be the Editor in Chief when Marvel had to take Fantastic Four off the newsstands, that just struck me as a legacy I didn't want."
     
  41. 60
    100

    'Starman' by James Robinson, Tony Harris and Peter Snejberg

    Vol. 2 #0-80 (1994-2001)

    As much a love letter to the DC Universe as anything else, Starman centered around the slow maturation of Jack Knight, a second generation superhero who wasn't thrilled about the family business, but soon learned to love the world(s) he had been born into. Working at its own pace and charmingly fond of sidekicks and also-rans, Starman is, at its heart, one of the most kind superhero comics ever published by either DC or Marvel.

  42. 59
    100

    'Animal Man' by Grant Morrison and Chas Truog

    #1-26 (1988-1990)

    Grant Morrison's first U.S. comic project was like nothing mainstream superheroes had seen before: an extended and impassioned plea for kindness towards everyone, including fictional characters. After Buddy Baker's family are murdered, the hero gets the chance to confront Morrison himself and ask whether his pain was as entertaining as the audience might have believed, leading to one of the most touching climaxes in the genre's history. 
  43. 58
    100

    'Daredevil' by Ann Nocenti and Others

    #238-291 (1987-1991)

    Ann Nocenti rose to the challenge of following Frank Miller's "Born Again" by bringing her own take on New York into the comic, injecting her run with smart social commentary working closely with artist John Romita Jr. to let the city seep into the comics.

    "I lived in New York City, and approached Daredevil as I would making a documentary film. I wanted the comic to be drenched in the feeling of 1980s New York. The street life, the graffiti culture, the homelessness, the wildness, the excesses," she says.  

    Nocenti began studying judo, karate and boxing to help her choreograph ever-more ambitious fight scenes, knowing that conflict escalates to violence in a superhero story.

    "I once proposed a non-violent, peaceful resolution to my wise editor Ralph Macchio, and he wisely laughed me out of the room. So the challenge became, how do you escalate all conflict to violence without romanticizing violence? Many of my stories reflect that struggle."

    As a female creator, Nocenti says she received plenty of support from the talented Mravel editors of the day, such as Denny O’Neil, Archie Goodwin, Mark Gruenwald, Louise Simonson, Larry Hama.

    "It never felt like men were trying to keep women out of the field. Quite the opposite! I think they would have liked more female artists and writers in the business," she says. "I do think that when John Romita Jr. and I created Typhoid, the way females were represented in comics was on my mind. I wanted to shatter the stereotypes by putting them all into one female with multiple-personality disorder. Mary was innocent, Typhoid Mary was a sexual predator, Bloody Mary was a feminist vigilante, and Mary Walker was the 'sane' personality that held them all together. And then I launched all four of them at Daredevil and Matt Murdock, with an assignment from Kingpin – 'Break his heart!' And she sure did."

  44. 57
    100

    'Spawn' by Todd McFarlane

    (1992-present)

    Photofest
    After leaving Marvel, McFarlane and other creators formed Image Comics, a gamble that paid off when its first book about an ex-CIA operative returning from Hell became an instant hit. McFarlane had kept the character in his back pocket during his time and Marvel and DC, wanting to save him for his own purposes.
     
    "When I was able to go with the other six guys and found Image Comics, I knew who was going to be in that first book. It was that character I was smitten about when I was 16 years old," he says. "I had done a 20-page book in my basement with him. I pulled it out. That guy I drew when I was 16, I modernized him, but it was essentially the same, even the logo I created with the skull, I kept all of that."
  45. 56
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    'Doom Patrol' by Grant Morrison and Richard Case

    'Doom Patrol Vol. 2 #19-63 (1989-1993)

    Morrison rescued the Doom Patrol concept from its seeming fate as X-Men Lite with a series of surreal, funny stories informed by art movements, pop music and dream logic, all of it brought to life with some wonderfully angular artwork from Case. Never again will we see the likes of the Brotherhood of Dada, the Men from N.O.W.H.E.R.E. and the Beard Hunter, but we shall always remember them. 

  46. 55
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    'X-Statix' by Peter Milligan and Mike Allred

    #1-26 (2002-04)

    What if instead of hiding on the fringes of society, Mutants embraced the spotlight? The members of Peter Milligan and Mike Allred's X-Statix team had more in common with a reality stars than some of the brooding loners popular in the pages of Marvel. The subversive book was as humorous as it was strange (and violent), with the creators encouraged by then-Editor in Chief Joe Quesada to do exactly what they wanted. 

  47. 54
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    'The Omega Men' by Tom King and Barbaby Bagenda

    Vol. 3 #1-12 (2015-16)

    For a series that could be summed up as "What if Star Wars was approached with a real-world take on politics and rebellions?" The Omega Men offers an abundance of rewards for readers — a technical precision approaching Watchmen, a storyline that reflects writer King's experience as a CIA operative in Iraq, and artwork and character designs that leap off the page. Unlike anything else DC has published in years, this will undoubtedly go down as an all-time classic run.

  48. 53
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    'The Mighty Thor' by Walt Simonson

    Vol. 1 #337-382 (1983-87)

    Without doubt the finest Thor run outside of Lee and Kirby's — and arguably the finest including that original take — Walter Simonson managed to capture the spirit of adventure and whimsy that the earliest issues had offered while blazing his own way artistically. Delving deeper into true Norse mythology than the series had gone before, he breathed new life into the characters while making them look at mythical as they had ever managed. All this while introducing an alien (called Bill, no less) that looked like a horse and turning the Thunder God into a frog, too.

  49. 52
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    'Batman: The Killing Joke' by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland

    (1988)

    DC Comics

    The one-shot issue stands as one of the most acclaimed and controversial Batman stories ever. Many consider it the definitive origin story for The Joker, with the future villain's tragic backstory — of a failed performer whose pregnant wife dies — lending a new and unimagined layer of humanity to him. The series also paints Batman in a new light, with the series positing the idea that both the hero and the villain aren't so different, each forged by one bad day in their lives, in Bruce's case, the death of his parents. "All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy," says The Joker. 

  50. 51
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    'Flex Mentallo' by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

    #1-4 (1996)

    Spinning out of his psychedelic Doom Patrol, Flex was part autobiography for Morrison, part history of the entire superhero genre and part attempt for him to explore his theory of what superheroes actually are. With beautifully precise artwork from Quitely, the series might be the finest thing Morrison ever created.

    "I believe superheroes can save us in the real world in the same way that any well told and well sold narrative can shape the way people think and behave," says Morrison." A lot of the world’s troubles can be blamed on highly subjective interpretations of various doctrines and manifestoes, so we know for sure that stories can provoke wars and mayhem. They can also bring enlightenment and understanding and remind us of the things we value and the experiences we have in common."

    The creator says superheroes can be seen as a forward-looking vision of human potential.

    "There doesn’t have to be a 'real' physical Superman for the character to be effective — he's more real and more powerful as a symbol of our best, kindest, most indefatigable inner selves," he says. "The scene in All-Star Superman, for instance, where Superman prevents a suicide attempt, has actually saved real lives in the real world according to personal testimonies."

     
  51. 50
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    'Warlock' by Jim Starlin

    'Strange Tales Vol. 1 #178-181; 'Warlock' Vol. 1 #9-15; 'Avengers Annual #7; 'Marvel Two-in-One Annual; #2

    The closest superhero comics have ever come to a prog rock album, Jim Starlin's Warlock is as excessive, intense and psychedelic as you could hope. Godlike beings have to wrestle with their own evil selves literally, while also dealing with their own mortality and morality in the form of extended monologues. Over-the-top, yet effortlessly epic, in many ways it's the superhero template created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee taken to the limit.

  52. 49
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    'Thor' by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

    'Journey Into Mystery' #101-125; 'Thor' #126-179 (1964-70) Vol. 1 #160-169

    Stan Lee, his brother Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby introduced the Marvel take on Thor with 1962's Journey Into Mystery #83, and though a number of creators would put their mark on the character in the next few years, the Norse God became the stuff of superhero legend when Lee and Kirby returned to the title for a run that brought a new level of grandeur to Thor's tales. But for Lee, Thor's humanity remains what stands out.
     
    "Thor's human identity was Dr. Donald Blake, a lame physician who walked with a cane. When Blake struck the cane on the ground in a certain way, it would become the Hammer of Thor as Blake transformed into the Thunder God," Lee remembers. "Somehow this effect has been lost and forgotten over the years."
  53. 48
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    'Top 10' by Alan Moore and Gene Ha

    Vol. 1 #1-12 (1991-2001)

    The high concept of Top 10 is simple, but effective: it's Hill Street Blues, but the cops all have super powers. The execution manages to live up to that logline, with Moore offering a mix of procedural elements and soap opera threading through the series, while Ha manages to bring just enough visual spectacle to make the super elements work without sacrificing the character acting necessary for audiences to fall in love with the characters.

  54. 47
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    'Justice League of America' by Steve Englehart and Dick Dillin

    #139-146, 149-150 (1977)

    DC courted Steve Englehart to take over Justice League after he made a name for himself at Marvel, with the rival company hoping he could inject a little bit of an Avengers vibe into the team — and give them all distinct personalities. At Englehart's suggestion, the book was made double sized in order to fit in plenty of superheroics and time to explore the characters individually.

    "My time at Marvel has had its ups and downs, but that’s where I started, and where they always let me go as far as I needed for a story So every time DC hired me, that’s what I brought to them," says Englehart. "In the JLA, I got to dive into all the iconic heroes and spin stories that put flesh on every single one, using all double-sized issues to let them breathe, and I got to do it with Dick Dillin — so that was all solid fun for a writer."

  55. 46
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    'Legion of Super-Heroes' by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen, Greg LaRoquette and Others

    Vol. 2 #290-313; Vol. 3 #1-63 (1982-1989)

    One of the most popular superhero titles of its time, Legion mixed soap opera and superheroics like few other comics, while the 30th century-setting of the series — which centers around teenage superheroes inspired by the original adventures of Superman — allowed for a scope almost no-one else could match: Entire planets could be enslaved by villains, and a universe could be brainwashed as part of a diabolical scheme. The 1980s Legion was the concept at its best, feeling as good as a mix of X-Men and Star Trek should be.

  56. 45
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    'Captain Marvel vs. The Monster Society of Evil' by C.C. Beck

    'Captain Marvel Adventures' #22-46 (1943-45)

    Not only was C.C. Beck's multi-issue epic — it ran across 25 issues! — one of the first multi-part stories in the genre's history, it's one of the best (despite the cringeworthily racist portrayals of Asian and African-American characters this 1940s-era creation contains) as Mr. Mind sets up an army of challenges to thwart the Big Red Cheese in his fight against crime. He doesn't win, of course, but it takes a long time to get there. 

  57. 44
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    'Zenith: Phases 1-4'

    '2000AD' Progs 535-550, 558-559, 589-606, 626-634, 650-662, 667-670, 791-806 (1987-1992)

    A rare foray into superheroics for British anthology title 2000 AD, Zenith saw Grant Morrison and artist Steve Yeowell reconsider the idea of a "real world" superhero for a British audience.

    "The series was about the superhero as pop star celebrity; and just as we don’t expect our greatest Olympic athletes or scientists to engage in the fight against crime and injustice, I couldn’t imagine a 19-year old superhuman being having any interest in fighting anyone when he could use his powers to get famous and date supermodels," Morrison says.

  58. 43
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    'Swamp Thing' by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch

    Vol. 2 #21-64 (1984-87)

    Is Swamp Thing a superhero? Even DC and Moore himself might quibble with the definition — the series was technically a horror book when published — but it features appearances from Batman and the Justice League and ties in with Crisis on Infinite Earths, so we're calling it… especially because so much of what Moore did ended up resonating with the superhero genre for years to come, from the reboot of the concept to the cross-character connecting and more. A seminal text for the superhero genre, no matter what.

  59. 42
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    'Green Lantern: Mosaic' by Gerard Jones, Joe Filice, Cully Hamner and Luke McDonnell

    #1-18 (1992-93)

    That Mosaic shouldn't have worked was something that co-writer Jones joked about in an early letter column, commenting on the idea that an all-white creative team weren't ideal choices to tell a story about DC's leading black character going through an existential crisis on an alien planet. But it did work, nonetheless, opening up issues of race, identity, grief and how they work in a fictional universe filled with aliens and resurrections as a regular occurrence. The long-lived Green Lantern framework has rarely been used so intelligently, or to such worthy ends. 
     
  60. 41
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    'Promethea' by Alan Moore and J.H. Williams

    #1-32 (1999-2005)

    After returning to superheroes via parodies — the 1963 series — or well-intended minor pieces — his WildCATS run, for example — Promethea saw Alan Moore at arguably his most engaged and inventive with the genre in more than a decade, mapping a history of magic onto an investigation into female archetypes in superheroes. As impressive as Moore is, however, artist Williams is arguably moreso, upping his game with each new page to match what his writer is giving him and then some. If this was to be Moore's last major superhero work, it's a hell of a way to go out.

  61. 40
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    'Fantastic Four' and 'FF' by Jonathan Hickman and Others

    'Fantastic Four' Vol. 1 #570-588, 600-611; 'FF' #1-23 (2009-2012)

    Five years before the disastrous Josh Trank Fantastic Four movie hit theaters, Jonathan Hickman and Dale Eaglesham showed the world just how fun Marvel's first family could be … in the right hands. The run captured the dual nature of Reed Richards — a man obsessed with his work and doing the most good possible, even as he knows this puts a strain on what is truly important to him — his family. The first volume sees Reed given   who has the opportunity to join an multiversal club comprised of Reeds from different universes, who do nothing but solve impossible tasks across the multiverse. And things only get crazier from there, with Hickman's ambitious run spanning thousands of years and elevating the Richards' young genius young daughter Valeria to one of the most intriguing characters in the 616 universe.

  62. 39
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    'Captain America' by Steve Englehart and Sal Buscema

    #153-186 (1972-75)

    By 1972, American support for the armed forces had been soured by the Vietnam War and Captain America was on the verge of cancelation. Steve Englehart, who had two years earlier been honorably discharged from the Army as a conscientious objector, and artist Sal Buscema, tackled the character in a real-world way, asking who he would be if he really existed. The results were stunning, bringing the failing comic to become a top seller or Marvel.

    "As long as Cap’s claim to fame was his stardom in The Last Great War, he was hard to warm up to for most of us living and dying through the Vietnam War," says Englehart, who realized that it was his ideals that made him universally relatable.""My thought was, let him rep the ideals, the things we learned in school."

    In addition to the shadow of Vietnam War, Englehart was also writing Cap when the Watergate Scandal broke, which ultimately led to a storyline in which Steve Rogers abandoned the Captain America identity. 

    "When Watergate hit and all of America was riveted every day on the three networks, an idealistic Cap could not go on fighting supervillains. An idealistic Cap had to face his version of Watergate, and both versions led to the disgrace of the President, and that led to Cap quitting because he could no longer be the man for America’s ideals," recalls the writer. "Steve Rogers went on with his life, under a new identity, the Nomad. But others tried becoming Captain America, and it never worked. In the end, Steve Rogers had to realize that Captain America still held a place in the American scene, and it was dangerous for anyone else to fill it. In short, the idealism also led to very fun stories." 

  63. 38
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    'Crisis on Two Earths' by Gardner Fox and Mike Sekowsky

    Justice League of America Vol. 1 #21-22 (1963)

    The first run of Justice League has been credited with inspiring the creation of the Fantastic Four, and therefore the entire Marvel Universe, but it has an additional claim to fame — in the two-part story that ran towards the end of the series' second year, Fox and Sekowsky not only offered the first superhero team team-up, but they set in motion a framework for event storylines for decades to come with a multiversal threat that is too big for just one world's greatest heroes to deal with.
  64. 37
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    'Justice League International' by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire

    'Justice League #1-6, Justice League International #7-24 (1986-89)

    The late 1980s was a bleak time for superhero comics as the success of Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns brought forth a new wave of "realistic" and downbeat storylines and revamps. Justice League went against the grain by turning DC's premiere superhero team into a sitcom filled with fallible humans for whom saving the day was just the job they happened to have. The combination of Giffen's wild plots, DeMatteis' non-stop banter and Maguire's expressive artwork proved irresistible to fans, spewing its own wave of copycats.

  65. 36
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    'Captain America' by Ed Brubaker and Others

    'Captain America' Vol. 5 #1-50; 'Captain America: Reborn' #1-6

    Steve Epting/Marvel Entertainment

    Brubaker's run is perhaps the most consequential in Captain America history. Along with stellar artists such as Steve Epting and Michael Lark, Brubaker helped smash a key rule about comic book deaths — that everyone returns form the dead, except for Bucky, Jason Todd and Uncle Ben. (Now, that only remains true for Peter Parker's uncle.) The creative team crafted a tale that saw Bucky revealed to still be alive and working as The Winter Soldier. The bold run also saw Steve Rogers assassinated following the events of Civil War, with The Winter Soldier taking over the role of Captain America.

  66. 35
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    'Green Lantern' by Geoff Johns

    'Green Lantern: Rebirth' #1-6' 'Green Lantern' vol. 4 #1–67; 'Green Lantern' Vol. 5 #1-20 (2005-2013)

    Before he was DC Entertainment President, Johns proved the doubters wrong by demonstrating that the then-moribund Green Lantern franchise didn't just have life left in it, but that it could become DC's biggest brand. He did this by infusing DNA from Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, lifting elements from earlier storylines and writers and bringing it all together in a way that felt organic, exciting and fun. That he was joined by a number of top-level artists, including Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis and Doug Mahnke only made things more attractive. 
  67. 34
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    'The Flash' by Mark Waid, Mike Wieringo and Greg LaRocque

    'The Flash' Vol. 2 #62-100 (1992-95)

    Stepping into the series midway through its run, Waid gave DC's third Flash not only a personality but a purpose that the hero had lacked up to that point. The writer says that there was more going on under the surface than even he was aware.

    "I didn't realize it until years later, but the theme in a lot of my work is family," says Waid. "It came up in Flash, obviously, because he built up a family with super speedsters, and yet, paradoxically, I don't have a family. Maybe this was my way of reaching out, and in fiction, trying to construct a family that didn't exist in real life."

  68. 33
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    'Batman: The Long Halloween' by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

    #1-13 (1996-97)

    Courtesy of DC Comics

    Loeb brought his big screen writing background to this sprawling tale that felt like a film. Key images Loeb and Sale crafted for The Long Halloween made their way into Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight — from Batman, Gordon and Dent forming a rooftop pact against organized crime to millions in cash burning in a warehouse. Unlike Nolan's grounded films, Long Halloween had the benefit of drawing from Batman's deep rogues gallery, for a crime mystery that was both gritty and pure comic book goodness. 

  69. 32
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    'X-Factor' by Peter David and Larry Stroman

    #71-75 (1991-92)

    David and Stroman defined X-Factor for the 90s, the decade readers couldn't seem to get enough of Marvel's mutants. The X-Men allies were reimagined as working as U.S.-government-sponsored team, with David and Stroman hitting the ground running, their first story bringing together castoffs from across the Marvel Universe and turning them into a cohesive unite strong enough to take on Mister Sinister. 

  70. 31
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    'Amazing Spider-Man' and 'Spider-Man' by Todd McFarlane

    'Amazing Spider-Man' #298-325; 'Spider-Man #1-14; 16 (1988-1990)

    Todd McFarlane/Marvel

    Todd McFarlane redefined Spider-Man for a new generation, making key changes to the costume and the look of his webbing and propelling the character to new sales heights. When McFarlane joined Amazing Spider-Man in #298, Peter Parker was in his black costume. The artist agreed to join if he could bring back the classic red and blue.

    "The coolest page I drew for me personally was the last page of issue #300, because he pulls out the old classic and puts it on and jumps out the window and I'm like, 'Yeah he's back!' Even though I'd been on the book for 3 months, this was me going, 'Now I'm drawing Spider-Man!"

    Sales were instantly boosted, but Marvel wasn't unhappy with McFarlane messing with its flagship character. In addition to changing his look, he put him in anatomically impossible poses, with the artist saying he was pulled into meetings to assure the higher ups he'd stop messing with Spidey (he would promptly ignore everything they said, he recalls).

    During his Amazing Spider-Man run with writer David Michelinie, the pair introduced Venom, and McFarlane's success led him to be handed the reins to his own book, Spider-Man, with the first issue smashing sales records with 2.5 million sold.

    "When I'd read Spider-Man,  it was Spider-MAN, emphasis on Man. What I did was I flipped it and wanted to do SPIDER-Man, emphasis on spider," says McFarlane. "I just thought if it's going to be a spider, let's put him in these creepy poses. Let's add a little more black to the costume.  Spiders are kind of creepy. Let's get the eyes big, because bugs have big eyes."

  71. 30
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    'Kraven's Last Hunt' by J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck

    'Web of Spider-Man' #31-32, 'The Amazing Spider-Man' #293-294 and 'The Spectacular Spider-Man' #131-132

    Marvel/Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod
    Perhaps the greatest Spider-Man standalone story of all time, "Kraven's Last Hunt" took Kraven the Hunter and made him into a villain of literary per portions, with a tale that sees Kraven bury Spider-Man alive and assume his identify. Writer J.M. DeMatteis initially pitched the story to Marvel as a Wonder Man story, with Simon Williams crawling his way out of a grave after being buried alive by his brother. It was rejected. Months later he took it to D.C., this time conceived as a tale in which The Joker kills Batman. Again, it was rejected — as was a revamped pitch that saw Hugo Strange kill the Dark Knight. In 1986, he found himself courted to take over Spectacular Spider-Man for Marvel by Tom Defalco (who had rejected the Wonder Man story). DeMatteis realized his tale would work perfectly for Spider-Man, an emotionally authentic hero whose relationship with Mary Jane gave him a reason to come back from the grave.
     
    "Peter crawling out of the grave was me crawling out—or at least taking the first tentative steps out—of the painful mess my life was in at the time," recalls DeMatteis, who endured personal struggles around the time he was writing it. "Peter reaching for hope was me reaching for hope. I’m not saying I did this consciously—all the best stuff comes gushing up from the unconscious—but that was absolutely my psyche working its way toward the light."
     
    Looking back, those months of rejection put him in exactly the right place to write a story for the ages.
     
    "I think those personal struggles are what gave the writing its authenticity and provided an emotional reality for the characters. Had I written the story a few years before, or a few years after, it would not have been the same thing. I was writing from the boiling center of the volcano and that came through, I think, in KLH," he says.
  72. 29
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    'Suicide Squad' by John Ostrander, Luke McDonnell and Others

    Vol. 1#1-62 (1987-92)

    John Ostrander and Luke McDonnell revamped Suicide Squad for a new generation, introducing the concept of Project X, the secret government agency headed by Amanda Waller, who really had no qualms about sending her team of bad guys to do shady things — even if they got killed or captured in the process. That dark high concept featured a revolving cast of characters as they were cycled out to replace the dead — and it's irresistible pitch (it’s Mission: Impossible for superheroes) endures today. 
  73. 28
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    'Fantastic Four' by Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo

    Vol. 3 #60-70; Vol. 1 500-524 (2002-05)

    "We knew we were doomed if we were going to go in there and try to compare ourselves to Lee and Kirby," writer Waid says. "Nobody does that better than Lee and Kirby. The idea was to go back to their roots, but take it in a slightly different direction, and concentrate on the character interactions that Stan and Jack didn't have time for back in the day, because that wasn't the style."

    The result was a modern classic that shed new light on the heroes that had been central characters in the Marvel Universe for almost half century by that point, with the late Wieringo's art playing an important role in giving them new life. "There was something special about it," Waid said about his collaboration with the artist. "When I thought of things, Mike drew them exactly as they were in my head."

  74. 27
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    'The Flash' by Gardner Fox, John Broome and Carmine Infantino

    Vol. 1 #105-123 (1959-1961)

    The comic book that launched the Silver Age, the early Flash is pretty much the platonic ideal of a superhero comic from that era: smart, fast-moving (of course) and with sharp art from Infantino, it mixed science facts and science fiction to make superheroes feel contemporary and exciting at a time when they were considered a lost cause.

     

  75. 26
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    'Wonder Woman' by George Perez

    Vol. 2 #1-62

    Rarely had Wonder Woman had such a creative champion as she did with New Teen Titans co-creator Perez, who revised the character's origin, strengthened her tie with real-world mythology and tried to find a purpose for Diana outside of being the woman in the Justice League. That he succeeded speaks to his passion — one that drove him to illustrate as well as write the first two years of this series.

  76. 25
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    'Wolverine' by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller

    #1-4 (1982)

    Marvel/Frank Miller

    Claremont was already established as the definitive X-Men writer of the era, and Frank Miller was just a few years away from solidifying his status as a legend with The Dark Knight Returns and Daredevil's "Born Again." The meeting of the two greats led to a story that would redefine Wolverine as a man of honor, a samurai who returns to Japan to re-win the love of Mariko.  

    "First off, Wolverine had the worst costume of any character I had ever drawn," Miller says of the challenge of picking up the character. "Second much of the story took place in Japan which I had never been to and about which I knew too little at the time and I couldn't draw a samurai sword to save my life."

  77. 24
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    The Post-War 'Spirit' by Will Eisner

    'The Spirit' weekly newspaper strips (1946-1950)

    When Will Eisner returned to his weekly newspaper strip — which featured Denny Colt, a man presumed dead by the world, as the domino-mask-wearing crime fighter the Spirit — after his service in World War II, he seemed like a creator reborn with the possibilities of the comic medium. Adopting techniques from cinema and inventing some new ones himself, he went beyond the bad guy of the week formula to produce a weekly series of pulpy thrills, moral fables and shaggy dog stories that remain to this day some of the most inventive comics ever produced.

  78. 23
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    'Kingdom Come' by Mark Waid and Alex Ross

    #1-4 (1996)

    Simultaneously a rebuke to contemporary trends in the superhero genre and a chance to tell an "ending" story for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, Kingdom Come mixes the character-driven writing of Mark Waid and the visual pyrotechnics of Alex Ross, who brings a photographic reality to the heroes via Norman Rockwell-inspired painted artwork. The result is something that manages to be both a fond farewell to beloved characters and a reminder that fighting evil really is, in the words of an old Superman tagline, a "never-ending battle."

  79. 22
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    'The Authority' by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch

    Vol. 1 #1-12 (1999-2002)

    Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch's work starring a team of often unlikable characters working with incredibly high stakes helped usher in the reign of widescreen comics — works so supersized, slick and cinematic that they felt like they were worthy of a big screen blockbuster.

  80. 21
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    'New Avengers' by Jonathan Hickman and Others

    Vol. 3 #1-33 (2013-15)

    Epic is a word tossed around too much when discussion large, crossover events, but there's really no more apt way to describe the stakes of Hickman run, which sees beloved heroes turn ugly — and beyond redemption — as they must deal with truly impossible choices when they must destroy a series of Earths in order to save their universe. 

  81. 20
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    'DC: The New Frontier' by Darwyn Cooke

    #1-6 (2004)

    Darwyn Cooke/DC Entertainment

    This charming dose of nostalgia brought new life into DC's Golden and Silver Age heroes, with writer and artist Darwyn Cooke taking inspiration from The Right Stuff for his tale, which begins in the 1950s as superheroes are on the decline. Unlike many books looking back to the past, his was imbued with hope, not cynicism.

    “I didn’t particularly have a great affinity for superheroes and the more I looked at the characters I realized that I was very interested in who they were before they were superheroes," Cooke, who died after battling cancer in May, told Under the Radar in 2008. "I began to look at the history of the company and the time the characters were created in. I looked at the America of that era and all of a sudden all of these elements came together in my head really well."

  82. 19
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    The Kree-Skrull War by Roy Thomas, Sal Buscema, Neal Adams and John Buscema

    'Avengers" #89 – 97 (1971-72)

    The sprawling space epic is considered one of the greatest Avengers stories ever told. Writer Roy Thomas was a master at bringing together desperate (and old) elements of the Marvel Universe, and pulled al the way back to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's creation of the Skrulls in Fantastic Four #2 (1962) and the Kree in #65 (1967).

    "If there were these two major, warlike races running around in the cosmos, it made sense to me that their intergalactic ambitions would eventually clash, if they hadn't already," says Thomas, who also took inspiration from Raymond Jones' book This Island Earth.

    Artist Sal Buscema began working on it, and Neal Adams came on board adding key elements with Thomas' blessing, such as the Inhumans, a SHIELD satellite, and "what had become the fourth Skrull, who wasn't accounted for at the end of FF #2..." Perhaps the most iconic shot featured a tiny Ant-Man going through The Vision, and was something Adams had wanted to draw for some time ad threw in there " even though that had virtually nothing to do with the Kree-Skrull War," recalls Thomas, who said "go for it" as The Avengers book had temporarily added roughly 50 percent to its page count and so the team had "a lot of space to fill."

    Thomas, who succeeded Stan Lee as Marvel's second editor in chief, looks back at the run fondly, noting of all his work, "it's the Kree-Skrull War that perhaps sent the most vibrations through the Marvel Universe."

  83. 18
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    'Batman: Year One' by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

    'Batman' #404-407 (1987)

    DC Entertainment/David Mazzucchelli

    Miller and his Born Again artist Mazzucchelli reteamed to deliver what many consider to be the definitive Batman origin story. Bruce isn't yet the Batman and Gordon has moral failings (he has an affair with his pregnant wife).

    "It was to demonstrate that Jim Gordon wasn't the knight in shining armor like Batman. He was part of the real world, a hero on a human scale," Miller says.

    For a time, Miller and director Darren Aronofsky were developing a live action film based on the iconic work, which would go on to heavily influence Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins

  84. 17
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    'Daredevil' by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

    Vol. 2 #26-81 (2001-06)

    Frank Miller pioneered Daredevil as a gritty and grounded hero — and Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev took the ball and ran with it. Maleev's art was unlike anything in the 616 universe — grimy and gorgeous, and Bendis dared to let the cat out of the bag, exploring a storyline in which Matt is outed as Daredevil. During their five years, the duo made gutsy move after gusty move with real and lasting consequences. 

  85. 16
    100

    'The Ultimates' by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch

    'The Ultimates' #1-13 and 'The Ultimates 2' #1-13 (2002-2007)

    The ultimate post-9/11 comic, The Ultimates was a huge critical and commercial success, bringing Marvel into the 21st century with edgy storytelling and art worthy of a movie that would reverberate for years to come and help make Marvel's Ultimate line the most-buzzed about section of the company's publishing arm. In the years that followd, the Marvel Cinematic Universe drew heavily from The Ultimates, propelling Marvel Studios to box office billions and cemented Millar and Hitch's reimagining as the most influential run of the century (so far). 

  86. 15
    100

    'Astro City' by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

    (1995-present)

    Alex Ross/Vertigo

    The anthology series has run for more than 20 years, jumping from character to character and resisting the urge spinoff the sprawling world into multiple franchises. The creative team — including cover artist Alex Ross and — gets a share of the royalties, making it both creatively and financially rewarding for those involved.

    "We’ve just focused on exploring the ideas, creating new ways to look at humanity through the lens of the superhero genre," says Kurt Busiek. "There are individual stories that I think stand out, like the #1/2 issue and, say, the Samaritan Special. But I’m prouder that the whole run seems to stand up pretty well, that we’ve done a lot of different stuff, created a lot of characters and viewpoints and tackled a lot of different ideas, and done so at what feels like a pretty successful level, creatively."

  87. 14
    100

    'Amazing Spider-Man' by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., Gil Kane and Ross Andru

    #111–149 (1972-75)

    Courtesy of Heritage Auctions

    At just 19, Gerry Conway took over Amazing Spider-Man from Stan Lee, and would go on to deliver one of the most gutsy stories in comic book history: "The Night Gwen Stacy Died." Published in 1973's Amazing Spider-Man no. 121, the landmark story plunged Spider-Man into darker territory, with Gwen's death at the hands of Norman Osborn becoming almost as key to the character as Uncle Ben's murder. In addition to the iconic fight at the Brooklyn Bridge, its last panel also set up Mary Jane as a more complex character, with her refusing to leave Peter during his time of grief. Along with Ross Andru, the pages of ASM during this era would also give birth to Frank Castle, the war veteran turned blood thirsty vigilante known as The Punisher. 

  88. 13
    100

    'Marvels' by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross

    #1-4 (1994)

    Marvel/Alex Ross

    Much in the way Watchmen deconstructed the superhero, Marvels deconstructed the Golden Age of the Marvel Universe, with the it gazing back at the 1940s through a modern lens and assessing what the colorful heroes meant for society and human achievement.

    "Marvels is a story about how an ordinary man reacts to superhero activity around him — he himself is not a hero, he doesn’t save the day, but we witness how he reacts to others doing it and what it makes him think and feel about his world, himself and the heroes’ place in it," says Kurt Busiek.

    It looked at the collateral impact (both physical and psychological) such heroes had … and it wasn't always for the better. Alex Ross' incredible art realized the Marvel characters in a way they'd never been seen before, allowing Marvels to take something old and make it seem new and for many fans, it helped them rethink the entire Marvel Universe. But Busiek says that wasn't his or Ross' intention.

    "I just wanted to answer the question, 'What would it feel like to be there?' " he says. He wonders if things may have been different had they known it would go on to be an iconic piece of work.

    "Had we known the kind of impact it was going to have, I expect that we’d have been a lot more nervous, and Marvel would have watched us more carefully, and it might not have come out the same at all. By doing it in obscurity, without expectations, we were freer to go where the story took us," says Busiek.

  89. 12
    100

    'Crisis on Infinite Earths' by Marv Wolfman and George Pérez

    #1-12 (1985-86)

    The unprecedented event tore the DC Universe apart and put it back together again, simplifying years of continuity for a new generation of readers. Marv Wolfman says he first thought of the story in 1981 while waiting for other creators and editors to show up to Penn Station in New York to take a train to a convention in Pennsylvania.
     
    "When everyone else finally showed up, I narrated what I had of the story to them and they all thought it was strong enough to pitch to DC the following Monday," says Wolfman. "Because we decided to hold it back until DC’s 50th anniversary, in 1985, I had a lot of time to slowly layer in the plot and find and fix all the problems, showing it pays to take the time to do it right rather than doing it fast."
     
    Wolfman says despite the bold move, he had no hesitation about ripping the universe apart, with DC sales flagging aside from his other hit work on Teen Titans.
     
    "We needed to do something big and surprising to show the readers that this was a new DC Comics," he says. If you don’t take risks and try something new the readers, inundated with more media than ever before, will give up and turn their attention elsewhere."
  90. 11
    100

    'Fourth World' by Jack Kirby

    'New Gods Vol. 1 #1-11; 'Mister Miracle' Vol. 1 #1-18; 'Forever People' Vol. 1 #1-11; 'Jimmy Olsen' #133-148 (1970-73)

    The sprawling tale is Kirby at the heights of his ambitious, with him plotting a story pitting the worlds of Genesis and Apokolips against one another and introduced key characters such as Orion of the New Gods and the villainous Darkseid.
     
    "What made him the king was that he could tell stories and that his stuff was classic, big, Broadway, melodrama which is everything you need in this big, American storytelling that we do," says admirer Todd McFarlane of the late comics legend.
  91. 10
    100

    'All-Star Superman' by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely

    Writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely (2005-08).

    DC Entertaiment

    Morrison wanted to write a Superman story for the ages, and he succeeded, with him telling the tale of the Man of Steel facing his own mortality, forced to choose what his final deeds in the universe will be in his final days. It's an understatement to call it mind-bending, with it touching on key parts of the Superman mythos in a way that allows fans to understand, Kal-El, Lex and Lois in new ways. 

    Morrison points to #10 as "the most intricately structured of all the stories."

    "Having attempted, with the whole series, to do the best Superman long-form story we had in us, we’d also decided that the tenth issue should feature the most definitive single issue Superman story we could come up with," recalls Morrison. "Something that really encapsulated everything we loved about the character and his world in 24 non-linear pages, while also weaving in a brief history of the 'superman' concept that includes Aboriginal sky god myths, Pico Della Mirandola’s 'Oration on the Dignity of Man', Nietzsche, and Superman’s creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster! For me, certainly, that was the most labor-intensive chapter but I was really pleased how it worked out."

  92. 9
    100

    'Ultimate Spider-Man' by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley

    # 1-111 (2000-07)

    Marvel/Mark Bagley

    Perhaps no reboot has faced more scrutiny and doubt than Ultimate Spider-Man, which reimagined Peter Parker for the 21st century. But what would follow is a beloved run, with Bendis and Bagley's run now the stuff of legend — the pair breaking Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four record as the longest two-person creative team to continuously work on a comic in Marvel history. Bendis continued on the following Bagley's final issue (#111) and would go on to conclude Peter Parker's story and see him replaced with Miles Morales in his own title.  

    "Their take on the character wasn’t just a fresh coat of paint, it remains the most fleshed out and emotionally resonate interpretation of Peter Parker to see print, particularly due to Bagley’s emotive faces and iconic superheroic poses and redesigns," says Dan Gvozden, co-host of the Amazing Spider-Talk podcast. "In this run, Peter was more likely to be out of costume than in, Aunt May was an emotionally fragile ex-hippy, and Mary Jane was in on Pete’s secret from almost day one.

  93. 8
    100

    'Daredevil' by Frank Miller and Others

    'Daredevil' #158-191; #227-233 (1986)

    Marvel/David Mazzucchelli

    Miller revamped Daredevil as writer and artist on the early '80s, introducing Matt Murdock's assassin ex-girlfried Elektra and former mentor Stick — and bringing the character to new heights of popularity and critical acclaim.

    "I was lucky to inherit Daredevil when it was on the verge of cancellation. I was given a lot of freedom," says Miller. "They were nervous about the violence and I obeyed their restrictions. The more it sold the more freedom I was given. When I introduced Elektra she became more popular than the last character. Later the storyline required she be killed. My editor forbade it and [former Editor in Chief] Jim Shooter overruled the editor because he liked the story."

    He returned to Daredevil in 1986 to top his already impressive work, teaming with artist David Mazzucchelli for a tale of the Kingpin learning that Matt Murdock's greatest secret and proceeds to dismantle his life. Born Again is considered by many to be the best Daredevil story ever told — and Miller did it the same year he released The Dark Knight Returns.

  94. 7
    100

    'Teen Titans' by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

    'New Teen Titans' Vol. 1 #1-40; 'Tales of the Teen Titans' #41-50 (1980-85)

    DC Entertainment/George Perez
    When Marv Wolfman and George Perez started on New Teen Titans in 1980, DC hadn't had a new hit lasting more than six issues in years.
     
    "So we thought Titans would last six issues then be cancelled, but we decided not only to do our best but do the book we always wanted to see," recalls Wolfman, who would co-create iconic characters such as Deathstroke during his run with Perez. "My proudest memory was when issue 6 came out we were DC’s number one selling and reviewed comic. By doing exactly what we wanted to see we created a book everyone else seemed to want as well.
     
    The pair had a legendary partnership where their egos never got in the way of storytelling. 
     
    "We respected each other. When you do that you form a real partnership rather than two different creators each out for their own agenda," says Wolfman. "George and I worked together to make the books better and it didn’t matter who came up with what."
  95. 6
    100

    'Uncanny X-Men' by Chris Claremont and Others

    #94-279 (1975-1991)

    Marvel/John Byrne and Terry Austin

    Chris Claremont reinvigorated the X-Men universe, rescuing the franchise and making it into an unqualified success. Much of the modern X-Men mythology comes from his work, with such greats as The Phoenix Saga, Days of Future Past and the Brood Saga taking place under his watch. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created the X-Men, but Claremont took the concept and brought it to even greater heights. 

  96. 5
    100

    Superman by Curt Swan

    The artist's work spanned multiple titles and decades.

    World's Finest Comics No. 151
    World's Finest Comics No. 151
    Courtesy of Curt Swan/DC Entertainment

    Curt Swan may not have invented Superman, but no one outside of creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel can claim a greater ownership of the Man of Steel. His more than 40-year association with DC began in 1946 when he joined as a freelancer, and within a few years was working on Superboy. By the mid-60s he was the dominate force in the world of Superman — so much so that DC asked other artists to imitate Swan. For his Superman, he took some inspiration from Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller.

    "I wanted to show strength, of course, and ruggedness. And character. He had to be the kind of person you'd want to have on your side," Swan, who died in 1996, wrote in 1987 of his Superman. "When I drew Clark Kent, on the other hand, I deliberately softened his features, made them less angular than Superman's. I wanted him to appear more meek. Just sort of a good Joe."

  97. 4
    100

    'Amazing Spider-Man' by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita and Gil Kane

    'Amazing Fantasy' #15; 'Amazing Spider-Man' #1-100 (1963-1971)

    Courtesy of Marvel

    "In the beginning, my publisher never wanted me to do him," Lee recalls of his most famous creation. "I said, 'I have a new character called Spider-Man. He'll be a teenager and have a lot of personal problems. And my publisher [Martin Goodman] said, ‘That's terrible. You can't call a hero Spider-Man because people hate Spiders. He can't be a teenager. A teenager can only be a sidekick. And superheroes don’t have personal problems, that’s why they’re superheroes.’"  Lee stuck Spider-Man in the back pages in the final issue of a dying comic. The response to Amazing Fantasy #15 was fast and furious. "It sold well. So as the publisher, he suddenly decided it wasn't a bad idea," Lee says.

  98. 3
    100

    'The Dark Knight Returns' by Frank Miller

    #1-4 (1986)

    Frank Miller/DC Entertainment

    Frank Miller made Batman cool again with his tale of an aging Dark Knight coming out of retirement to take on a corrupt Gotham, President Reagan and the Man of Steel himself.

    "It was like any story problem," Miller recalls of plotting how Bruce Wayne could possibly defeat Superman. "You answer the question: 'What would the most intelligent man in the world do in order to defeat the most powerful man in the world ?' He answered Superman's strength with a suit of powerful body armor and he struck Superman with his weakness to Kryptonite."

    The Dark Knight Returns is bold, literary and politically biting; it's considered the most influential Batman story ever told — and one of the greatest graphic novels of all time — for good reason. 

  99. 2
    100

    'Watchmen' Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

    #1-12 (1986-87)

    Courtesy of DC Comics

    Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons work is largely considered the greatest achievement in the medium ever. Its 12 issues — along with Miller's The Dark Knight Returns — showed the world that comics are not just for children, with it tackling complex themes such as fears over nuclear war, moral relativism and if there is even a purpose to life ... or if it's all just a joke. 

  100. 1
    100

    'Fantastic Four' by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby

    #1-102 (1962-1970)

    Courtesy of Marvel

    No run in comic book history was as consequential as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's work on Fantastic Four. The legendary team built the Marvel Universe from the ground up, with it all beginning with a tale of Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben becoming not only superheroes, but bona fide celebrities.  

    “I remember being very impressed with how Jack drew The Thing,” Lee recalls, “I don’t think anyone else could have drawn a monstrous human and still make him extremely loveable.”

    The saga of Marvel's First Family established the revolutionary idea of the shared universe, which allowed the Fantastic Four to pop in for Amazing Spider-Man #1 or have Golden Age character Namor play a key role in the team's mythology. Without Fantastic Four, there would be no MCU worth billions at the box office and no 616 for creators to continue to build upon today. 

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