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Your Top Creative Runs part 36

Today ends with an all Marvel group. A classic Avengers run, one of the top mutant writers of all time dealing with younger mutants, and a classic solo run that's too low on the list, IMO.
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59. 136 points - Avengers (Roy Thomas) - 6 first place votes
#35 - #104
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Stan Lee wrote The Avengers for the first 34 issues, but when I think of the team's older adventures I think of Thomas for the most part. During the run by Thomas the Avengers added, Black Panther, Hercules, Vision, the Black Knight, and Captain Mar-Vell to the team. He also saw members like the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver return to the team , turned Hawkeye into Goliath, had the debut of the Yellowjacket ID for Hank Pym, the marriage of Yellowjacket and Wasp, and created villains like Ultron and events like the Kree-Skrull War. Thomas oversaw one of the most creative and interesting periods in the history of one of Marvel's signature titles.

In one of the more famous stories, Hank Pym built a robot called Ultron, which didn't work out so well. See whenever someone builds a robot that can think for itself, it will turn on whoever built it. It's like a law or something. So Ultron turned evil and then built a new robot to help him kill Pym and the Avengers. That robot was built from the body of the original Human Torch (screw you Byrne!) and the brainwaves of the then deceased Wonder Man. However, instead of helping Ultron Vision turns on his creator as per the law of fictional stories, and helps the Avengers. He then joins the team and his first issue as a member is the one you see up top. The issue title was "Even an Android Can Cry" and showed the human nature of Vision as he found out about his past and that the team accepted him for membership. The final panel, which is so awesome and iconic that we used it instead of an actual cover. Eventually the Scarlet Witch rejoins the team and despite the objections of Quicksilver and Hawkeye (who was in love with Wanda) she begins a relationship with Vision. The Vision is one of my personal favorite characters of all time, so this aspect of the run makes it one of my all time favorites on it's own, but it's far from the only highlight.

All things taken into consideration, this run should probably be much higher on the list, Beyond having great writing, adding many important characters and stories to the Avengers history, and being a really fun run, the series also had some great art mostly by John Buscema, The two of them would of course go on to work together many more times over the years on books including the Conan books we saw earlier on the list.


58. 142 points - New Mutants (Claremont)
#1 - #54 Annual #1 - #3
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Chris Claremont is going to show up a lot on mutant teams working with a bunch of different artists from here on out.

Originally the this group of mutants were brought together by a Brood controlled Professor Xavier in order to be used by the Brood, but with the help of the X-Men they stopped the aliens and saved Xavier. The team then stayed together as a group of younger mutants more resembling the original X-Men team that had since grown to adulthood.

The team originally consisted of Cannonball, Dani Moonstar, Wolfsbane, Sunspot, and Karma. Unlike the original team, this team was filled with people from all over the world. Cannonball was from Kentucky, Wolfsbane from Scotland, Sunspot from Brazil, Karma was Vietnamese, and Dani was a member of the Cheyenne tribe. Karma, the original leader of the team, was eventually believed to have died and Dani and Cannonball took over leadership as co-leaders. The team also added many new members such as Cypher, Magma, and Magik.

The series, despite focusing on younger heroes, had a pretty dark tone most of the time, dealing with death for members, and more serious personal issues rather than giant battles (though the book had those as well). For instance, the alien member known as Warlock was a member of a race that had no sense of self and which was meant to become part of a hive mind. Additionally his kind also had a vampire-esque quality to them, taking life force from other living beings in order to survive. When he first showed up, Warlock didn't realize that killing others to live was wrong and his story and struggles with finding a sense of self and controlling his need to drain lives were a big part of his story over the course of the run, Eventually he was able to do this and became close friends with Cypher (and much, much later their story got more complicated, but that's not part of this run).

Later on in the series, Magneto was actually named leader of the team, though that didn't really work out and he soon left. Claremont handed the book off to Louise Simonson and we saw that run earlier on the list.


57. 143 points - Captain America (DeMatteis/Buscema) - 6 first place votes
#261 - #300 with a few fill ins here and there
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Chap returns to write up another run by this DeMatteis guy. I think he likes his work. Take it away Chap!

In 1981, since apparently he didn't already have enough to do with Defenders and Marvel Team-Up, the Marvel brass decided to give the writing chores on Captain America to J.M. DeMatteis, replacing the Cap dream team of Stern & Byrne after a few forgettable fill-ins in-between by various big names like Mantlo, Claremont, Michelinie, and Shooter. 40 issues later, JMD turned in the finishing touches on what is undoubtedly one of the finest runs in Cap's rich history.

Naturally, as a Cap writer probably should, JMD bookended his run with two Red Skull stories. One of these was just a litttttttttttttttttle bit better than the other; I mean hey, I'm as big a fan as the 50-foot-tall Ameridroid as the next 80s comic nerd, but in no way does the opening three-part story compare with...well, we'll get to that better arc later. But along the way, JMD brought high action, touching stories, and actual character growth, a bit of a rarity in the Cap title over the years. DeMatteis expanded the Steve-Bernie relationship started by Stern, gave Cap a new partner in Jack Monroe (making his first appearance since the early 70s, and taking over the ID he would make his own, Nomad), brought Falcon back into the book on a semi-regular basis, and introduced a new character, one of Cap's old childhood buddies named Arnie Roth, who is probably the first comic character I ever realized was gay.

JMD further expanded the Marvel U with new characters or old characters in new identities, some much more successful than others. Besides the above-mentioned Nomad, this run dusted off old characters like Constrictor, Porcupine, Tumbler, and Scarecrow, introduced Team America (I love 'em...to hell with you haters), Every-Man, Vermin, Black Crow (another personal fave), and Red Skull's daughter Sin (who's making a BIG splash nowadays in Bru's Cap run and Marvel's upcoming summer event Fear Itself) and her Sisters of Sin. Most importantly though, JMD dusted off a once-used character from Englehart's 70s run and immediately transformed him into Cap's #2 nemesis, and one of Marvel's greatest villains and most complex characters (thanks to later writers like Busiek and Nicieza). This of course, would be Baron Helmut Zemo, who reappeared to make Cap's life miserable in issues 275-278, and again in that big Red Skull arc I mentioned earlier.

As for the action, there was plenty of that too. Cap fought the Skull and Ameridroid, Strucker and Hydra with the Howling Commandoes, Viper/Madame Hydra with the new Nomad, Zemo, and other assorted battles in-between, most notably a totally kickass three-issue arc with Cap teaming up with Deathlok (issues 286-288), in what is still probably that character's coolest story ever.

Yet all of this was but prologue to JMD's magnum opus, a storyline that is still, in this writer's humble opinion, the greatest Red Skull story ever told, that essentially ran from 290-300 (with a non-JMD scribed epilogue in 301). In this run, the Skull is finally dying of old age, and is determined to take Cap with him, aging Cap, taking all his friends out of the equation, leaving two tired old warhorses to battle it out one last time in Skullhouse, a "home" as dark and evil as the Skull himself. Along the way, we finally learn the Skull's twisted origin, see Cap relive his worst day and conquer his nightmares, meet the next generation of Skull's family, see Zemo begin to learn the ways of evil at the foot of the master, and in the end, see Cap win by just being who he's always been, and while the Skull of course retuned a few years later, it was a tremendous "farewell" issue for one of Marvel's greats. Hopefully, with the Cap movie coming up soon, Marvel will finally get off their collective ass and trade this so more of you can read it. It is fantastic stuff.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention JMD's workhorse artist for the majority of this run. Mike Zeck absolutely brought the wow to this book month-after-month, and in my mind's eye when I see Cap his is still the version I see. The only bad thing I can say about this run is that Zeck didn't get to finish it, as Marvel pulled him away from the title, right as the big finale Skull story was about to start, to pencil some little-heard-of mini called Secret Wars. Zeck was replaced by Paul Neary, an artist who was much more famous for his inking skills (particularly over Alan Davis) than his penciling. Neary, while good, was no Zeck (although truthfully, the haggard old-man versions of Cap and Skull that ended the arc probably looked better under Neary than they would've under Zeck, who does more big, muscular stuff much better; but damn I still would've loved to see Zeck finish out the string), but it didn't affect the greatness of this arc, or this run. Truly one of the highlights of Cap's history, along with early Gru, Stern, Englehart, Waid and Bru.
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