December 8, 2012
This is my personal Top Ten Comics list. This is not a list of the best comics, most important stories, or biggest hero brawls. These comics all have some personal story or meaning for me. I’m going to buck Top Ten tradition and not count down from ten. I’ll start with number one because as a whole, the first three comics would be all I’d need if the rest of my collection was lost. If I could only save three comics from a disaster, the first three are those comics. And I still have my original copy of almost every comic in the list.
FANTASTIC FOUR 320
I had given up on comics at one point. Totally dropped every series I bought, and at that time I bought nearly everything Marvel put out and about half of DC. It wasn’t the expense, and it was expensive, but it was the quality. I wasn’t enjoying them nearly enough. So I dropped every comic but- and here is my mistake- one, DC’s Star Trek. That was the one and only series I still bought. Well one day I was at the comic store and I saw FF 320. It was a classic Hulk vs. Thing battle. In the history of comics, Hulk vs. Thing is a perennial. But this was different. The Hulk was… grey. And the Thing was extra rocky, with spikes. And Crystal was back on the team? And some sort of primitive-looking she-Thing? Of course I was hooked, but above it all was Doctor Doom, leering down over the chaos. I HAD to buy that issue. And I was back into comics. Just as an aside, the story continued in that month’s Hulk, which had the worst art I ever saw, then or now, and nearly sent me right back out of comics. But I was hooked all over again.
AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 252
This is the famous issue where Spider-Man’s black costume debuts. That symbiote goes on to become venom, but that was in the future. This isn’t even the origin of the costume, just the first appearance. We had to wait for a later issue of Secret Wars for that. This comic comes in at number two because I could not find it anywhere at all in Brooklyn. It had so much hype that it sold out as soon as it hit the stands. And many copies didn’t even hit the stands as speculating dealers kept them for themselves. What puts this on the list is the fact that my father drove all over New Jersey, checking every newstand, magazine store, and gas station trying to find a copy for me. And late one night, he came home with three.
World’s Finest 271
If you are a casual reader this is a tough issue to get through. This comic combines two of my favorite things- comics and Old Time Radio. This issue tries to bring old Superman radio storylines from the 1940’s show into comic-book continuity by placing them on Earth 2, home of the older Superman who debuted in the 30’s. Atom Man, Superman’s greatest foe on the radio appears here, as well as numerous other scenes that were only transmitted on the radio and were totally unfamiliar to most readers. For most fans this comic, I’m sure, was a confusing mess, but for me, it was a perfect synthesis of two of my most enjoyable hobbies.
While it did not make the top ten, I also have to mention Batman 253, which also combines OTR and comics, as Batman met The Shadow.
ALL-STAR COMICS 69/70
The one on the right, #69, might be the oldest comic I own. It is also the oldest one I remember owning. I still remember the shelf with my pile of beat-up comics right over my bed when I was a kid and I distinctly remember this one. Number 70 is the debut of the Huntress, the daughter of Earth 2’s Batman. I loved this storyline. The JSA had just gone through a “civil war” where a mind-controlled Bruce Wayne, the Commissioner of Police, enlisted old-time JSA members to bring in the “renegade” new JSA members. Hero vs Hero, the heartbreaking collapse of Bruce Wayne, and more heroes than most comics, I still love these issues.
Batman dead? All his greatest villains in one issue? And Lex Luthor too? Could it get any better? Yes it could. This was only the first part of a four-part story in which each villain, on “trial” in Two-Face’s underworld court, tried to take credit for Batman’s murder. This series was the victim of something that I am sure you’ve heard collector’s say before- my mother threw them out. Back in the pre-internet days I spent a lot of time tracking those issues down. BTW- they were reprinted just last year.
This one is easy. Godzilla, King Kong stand-in, giant robot. This was like one of my favorite childhood movies come to comics.
SUPER FRIENDS 7, 8, 9
Take your pick, any issue or all of them. This is not just the arc that introduced Zan and Jayna, but it teamed the Super Friends with dozens of heroes from around the world and from different times. (Later on, DC retconned most of those heroes into The Global Guardians.) Sure the Super Friends was aimed at kids. I was a kid, and they didn’t get better than these. Just look- Four-armed aliens, dinosaurs, and the world at stake. While Zan and Jayna are near-jokes today, their debut issues were near-perfection. I literally read the covers off of them.
GOLD KEY STAR TREK
I had five of these issues when I was young. Many of them, especially the earliest issues, were written and drawn by people who had no conception of Star Trek beyond the bare-bones descriptions and it showed. However, like most Gold Key comics, there was a charm to them, something in their simple layouts that won fans over. But I was now a teenager and not as interested in comics as I was other things so I sold those issues, and got nowhere near what I should have for them. I didn’t care at the time but in later years as I came to appreciate comics in new ways, especially the fairly-rare Gold Key, it gnawed at me and I eventually went online and bought new copies of each issue I sold.
DC BLUE RIBBON DIGEST 21
DC used to put out small reprint comics, digest sized, which meant they fit almost perfectly in your back pocket. This particular one, of which I somehow own two, is a reprint of a couple of Justice Society stories and when I was young, I liked Earth 2 better than the regular continuity. The reprint work was awful, the scaled down art looked murky, the paper was the cheapest and thinnest possible, and the lettering at that size was simply hard to read. But I loved the digests, and this one in particular, because they were the trade paperbacks of their day, reprints of stories that would not be reprinted anywhere else.
BATMAN VS. HULK/SUPERMAN AND SPIDER-MAN
You can get these in reprints today but they won’t be in the original, over-sized format, about as big as a newspaper page. This is actually the second Superman/Spider-Man comic, but I still prefer the Batman/Hulk issue. But take your pick, there was nothing better than seeing worlds collide. Back then there were no other DC/Marvel crossovers, and no other comics you could spread out on the floor and read all day. I spent many mornings like that, laying on the living room rug reading the oversized specials. For many years, whenever I tried to sketch the Hulk, that pose from the cover is how I drew him.
What If? 34/ What If? 11
Issue 34 cracked me up as a kid and it cracks me up now. Issue 11 is an exercise in ego, as Stan Lee positions himself as the leader of the Fantastic Four. It was many years until I knew some behind the scenes stories about the creation of this issue, like why Steve Ditko doesn’t appear and how Jack Kirby refused to draw Roy Thomas.