101. 57 points - Alpha Flight (Byrne)
#1 - #28
In 1979 Uncanny X-Men #120 featured the debut of the premiere Canadian superhero team, Alpha Flight. They proceeded to beat the X-Men's asses. The team would exist as mostly supporting characters around the Marvel U for a few years. Then in 1983, they were finally given a series.
The original team in that first appearance consisted of Guardian, Northstar, Aurora, Sasquatch, Shaman, and Snowbird. The characters came from all over Canada and represented each of the different major areas of the country. When the series started two new members were added to the team, the kickass dwarf Puck and the amphibious Marrina. Marrina was a former member of Beta Flight (the lower level Canadian team that served as a training ground/backup plan for Alpha Flight).
The series tended to focus on just a couple characters at a time rather than following the whole team into battle after battle. For instance from issue #14-16 you see Marrina develop a relationship with Namor (who Byrne later wrote in a solo series we saw earlier on this list), and the spotlight is on her and Puck. Earlier in the series it was revealed that Marrina is a member of a race of aliens, the Plodex, that had tried to take over the Earth thousands of years ago, but failed. Despite that, she was found and raised by a human and decided to be a hero. The story in these issues focused on another survivor of the Plodex invasion who had a more nefarious intention. As Marrina was looking into things, she found herself losing control and becoming more and more wild and animal-like. This was because the alien they were looking into was genetically modified to be her mate and being near him drove her insane. Namor and Puck save her, but she's so shamed by her actions that she hides from Namor and lets him think she died in an explosion before telling Puck that she was quitting the team so as not to put the others in danger (she would later return after Byrne's run ended).
The series also featured the apparent death of Guardian, who was replaced by his wife Heather. After an explosion from his malfunctioning suit, Guardian is presumed dead. Instead he was actually transported to one of the moons of Jupiter. Heather takes his name and a new suit and leads the team. The original Guardian eventually returns to Earth, but leaves the Guardian name to Heather and takes the name Vindicator for himself.
After Byrne left the book, it continued on for many years with many different writers, ending with #130 in 1994. The team has never reached those levels of popularity again but continues to stick around and come back despite cancellations and writers killing them off.
100. 58 points - Astro City (Busiek)
We've reached the top 100, and what a great book to represent that milestone!
Astro City is a series of both ongoing and miniseries by writer Kurt Busiek, along with Alex Ross (who has helped design many of the heroes, craft their histories, and does most of the covers) and Brent Eric Anderson (who also helps with the stories and looks, as well as providing the interior art on most of the issues).
Our pal Royal had this to say about the series:.
The urban setting of superhero comics give their stories their flavor, and it's rarely used as well as it is in Astro City. When Kurt Busiek, Alex Ross, and Brent Eric Anderson came together to create Astro City, they made a comic that was as much about comics as it was about its collection of great characters. The first story is appropriately entitled "Life in the Big City," and that's what the series is really about: making it in the big city, both as a superhero and as an everyday citizen. It's a great series that combines humanity with superhero tropes.
The series is sometimes described as superheroes in the real world, but Busiek has said he thinks it's more about real people in a fantastical world. The difference being that amazing things happen in this series that could never happen in the real world, but people react in a realistic way rather than heroes existing in a world where amazing things don't normally happen. It seems like a subtle wording difference, but the difference in meaning is pretty big. Busiek and his collaborators aren't ashamed of doing superhero comics, they aren't trying to hide what they are doing, and they aren't afraid to have living cartoon characters, gorillas with guns, secret underground people, magical beings, vampires, alien invasions, and The Mock Turtle and in fact it embraces all of those things. What sets the book apart is the way it shows human emotion, the reactions of the people surrounded by this madness, the real lives of the heroes, and the emotional impact of what goes on.
The series tends to focus on character first and action second. While there might be a giant god-like being attacking the city, the focus is on a kid who moved to the city to be a sidekick. Jack-In-The-Box might be bringing down a major gun smuggler, but the focus will be on a small time crook that sees him changing costumes, figures out his civilian ID, and lets his paranoia drive him insane. Or a cartoon tiger that was brought to life by a villain and went on to become an alcoholic burned out former star in a story exploring the dark side of celebrity culture. Even when the book focuses on the major heroes, the stories end up about a former villain returning from jail and trying to go legit, while facing adversity at every corner and mistrust from the heroes around him, or the youngest member of the most famous family of superheroes in the world, the First Family, running away to experience what it's like to be a regular kid and go to school.
While many of the characters are analogues of various established heroes (like Blue Knight, a combo of The Punisher and Ghost Rider, a skull faced being that wears the uniform of a dead cop and represents the typical vengeance seeking hero, going after criminals that get away with crimes), their actions and personalities make them their own and the stories told create a world that is unlike anything from any other company. This series is how superhero comics should be done.
99. 59 points - GA/GL (O'Neil/Adams)
Green Lantern #76 - #89
In 1970, Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams took over Green Lantern and reinvented the character of Green Arrow, by adding him to the book and giving him his left-wing leanings and telling a story that saw the two heroes traveling around the US and facing major issues of the day. While some critics think the book is too preachy for it's own good, it pretty much defined the way that Green Arrow has been written ever since and included stories dealing with racism, overpopulation, pollution, and most famously drug abuse.
In a totally unprecedented move for a mainstream superhero comic, issue #85 featured Green Arrow's sidekick, Roy Harper, in one of the most famous comics of all time. Previous to this, Roy had been shown as a typical sidekick, a happy, goodhearted kid who was also featured as one of the original Teen Titans. In this issue it was shown that he was also a heroin addict. Seeing his life spiral out of control, including the disbanding of the Titans and the end of his relationship with Donna Troy, Roy made the same mistake that many young people have made. When he was discovered by Green Arrow, emotions got the better of Ollie and he punched him in the face and kicked him out on the street. Green Lantern found Roy and took him to Black Canary, who helped him through his withdrawal and helped him get his life back together.
The issue won various awards and, along with the rest of this run, ushered in a new era for DC comics where certain types of stories that were once off limits were allowed to be told. While the series can be seen as overly preachy, and to all people are happy with the evolution of Roy or Ollie since then, there's no denying the importance of the series and its impact on both the DCU and comics on the whole.
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