20. 438 points - Amazing Spider-Man (Stan Lee) - 20 first place votes
#1 - #118 (minus a couple of issues late in the run)
Annual #1 - #9
Twenty people thought this was the best book ever written! And it should be much higher on the list. I blame the fact that many people haven't read the whole run, but from a historical perspective it should be higher. That said, I didn't vote for it.
In Amazing Fantasy #15, a book every comic fan knows the issue number of, a high school kid was bit by a spider and gained powers, becomes a wrestler, lets someone get away with the gate, and then that burglar ends up killing his uncle a few days later. This leads to the greatest lesson in the history of comics, don't let burglars steal money from promoters. Or something about responsibility and power, I don't know.
So this kid seemed to be popular, so Stan Lee decided to give him a solo book, with Steve Ditko on art. This team would work together for the first 38 issues, followed by John Romita Sr. taking over the art. Romita would be on there for the next 35 issues. Then some guy named John Buscema would start alternating with Romita for a while. Then eventually some hack named Gil Kane was drawing stuff along with Romita for the rest of the run. As you could guess, the art here was horrendous, these guys never went on to do anything famous, none of them ever had kids that would draw comics or become famous on this character, and this run is largely forgotten. Eventually some guys named Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway would start writing some stories towards the end of Lee's run. In fact, Lee and Conway co-wrote stories for a bit, before the reigns were handed over to Conway on a full time basis in time for probably the most famous Spidey story of all time, the death of the Green Goblin following his murdering of Gwen Stacy..
This run started off with Spider-Man trying to join the Fantastic Four because he needed to earn some money, but after finding out they don't pay, he went looking for a different job. In the second issue he realizes he could make money selling pictures of Spider-Man to the Daily Bugle. Unfortunately, the editor there likes to do stories about why Spidey is a menace. Still, you gotta pay those bills once you get your uncle killed. We also see the debuts of Flash Thompson, the Chameleon, the Vulture, Dr. Octopus, Sandman, the Lizard, Electro, the Enforcers, the Green Goblin, Mysterio, and Kraven the Hunter. In the first 15 issues. And yet somehow this book only ranks #20.
Here's Royal's take on the paring with Ditko in particular.
Pretty much everything we love about Spider-Man today was established right here in these thirty-nine issues. What else needs to be said, other than how remarkable it is to read through this run and see Lee and Ditko go from creators struggling to find their way with this idea to synthesizing pure pop-art masterpieces with each issue.
Thanks Royal, and I concur.
Unlike many books of the era, where the heroes are beloved by the public, Spider-Man is hated, mostly because of the negative press the Bugle has for him. He also constantly doubts himself, blames himself for the death of Uncle Ben, gets blamed for the deaths of others (such as in #11 where a stray bullet kills the brother of Betty Brant during a fight between Spidey and some mobsters), and generally deals with issues that many books today deal with all the time. Also, despite being in high school, Peter isn't a sidekick, doesn't follow around an older hero for guidance, and basically acts as his own man learning to be a hero on his own.
Another thing about this run that sets it apart from other books of the time is that Peter ages more or less in real time over the first chunk of this run. Issue #28 sees him graduate from high school and in #31 he goes to college. Eventually Lee realizes that this character is too popular to keep aging like this, so the direct references to him getting older kind of slow down.
The issue we see up top with the iconic cover is the first issue with the Kingpin, who would go on to be one of the best villains in the entire Marvel U, battling Spidey, Daredevil, and just about every other street level hero Marvel has. From this point on, the Kingpin becomes one of the main Spidey villains for the rest of this run. Other big events include the death of Gwen Stacy's father (which again is blamed on Spidey as he dies during a battle with Dr. Octopus), Spidey gets four arms (leading to the Thomas written origin of Morbius), the Sinister Six show up, the growing rivalry/friendship between Spidey and the Human Torch, Flash Thompson (who hates Parker) becoming the biggest Spider-Man fan around, Harry Osborn doing drugs, Norman Osborn revealed as the Green Goblin, the debut of Smyth and the Spider-Slayers, and just about every other big event in Spidey's history that you think of when you think of old Spidey comics.
A truly iconic run that created and defined one of the three most iconic characters in all of comics (along with Batman and Superman). Way too low and it's even worse when you see what's right above it.
19. 443 points - Green Lantern (Johns) - 24 first place votes
Green Lantern Rebirth #1 - #6
#1 - current plus various minis, one shots, etc.
Twenty-four people think this is the best book ever written and it got 4 more first place votes than Stan Lee's Spider-Man! What the hell people?
Look, I like this book. Hal Jordan has been one of my favorite characters of all time since I was like 8 and first read some GL comics. The Green Lantern concept is one of the best ideas in comics history. This book has had some great stories, like the two part Mongul story with Green Arrow and the Black Mercy plant, but at other times it's dragged and felt like a boring bridge between events. I understand that a lot of people had this on their list, and that a lot of people voted it #1, but this is a travesty to have it higher than many of the books earlier on the list.
Anyways, on to the book.
In 2004, Johns was given the task of bringing Hal Jordan back from the dead to become the Green Lantern, He did this in a miniseries called Rebirth that led to an ongoing book. Planning ahead from the start, Johns was attempting to bring about the War of Light and Blackest Night events that had been hinted at years ago in a famous story by Alan Moore called Tygers, which told the story of Abin Sur hearing prophecies from some twisted beings. To get to that stage Johns reestablished the role of the Green Lantern Corps, had Sinestro create his own Corps, had other emotions become the basis for other Corps, and eventually tied it all together.
The initial plan was to give focus to both Hal and John Stewart in this book, while focusing on Guy and Kyle in Green Lantern Corps (which spun out of a second miniseries and which we saw earlier on the list), but more often than not John got left out altogether while Hal was the focus.
The book attempted to set up various side characters and a supporting cast, but then forgot about that and has largely ignored characters like Jillian "Cowgirl Pearlman, a fellow pilot that Hal was dating but who hasn't been seen in many, many issues.
Overall the book has had some amazing art through most of its run by various artists, but the writing has struggled at times as Johns has been working on many other books and the story has relied on event after event after event to keep things going.
I just don't see why this book is this high or had that many first place votes. Let's move on
18. 488 points - Y: The Last Man (Vaughn) - 29 first place votes
#1 - #60
Twenty-nine people with excellent taste felt this was the best book ever written! While I didn't vote for it #1, it made my list and is indeed a great story. I have lent this book to various friends, as well as my wife, and it has been universally praised as one of the best comic stories they've read by all of them.
Between 2002 and 2008, Bryan K. Vaughn crafted an amazing look at a world where just about every male of most species died due to some cataclysmic event that is never totally spelled out definitively. The book follows two of the only male survivors, a man named Yorick and a monkey named Ampersand. And over the course of the series, that monkey becomes one of the coolest characters in any comic ever, but isn't even one of the two coolest characters in the book, as Yorick and Agent 355 are better.
Vaughn's look at this potential world, a world without men, shows women reacting in wildly different ways, rather than being obvious based on gender roles. Some nations, like Australia and Israel, thrive due to the number of strong female soldiers they have currently, while other countries fall into disarray due to not having strong women trained to do many of the jobs needed to keep a country running. In the US, much of the government and infrastructure falls apart, but some women step up and try to keep some semblance of order. Among those trying to keep order is Yorick's mom, who was a first year senator, but becomes the Secretary of the Interior as a result of the many deaths from the plague. Other women fall into cults or become needy or react by trying to be wildly independent. This is not a book where women are painted as innocent or right all the time or wrong or dumb or weak or any other lazy broad strokes look at women or men. Instead they are shown to react as individuals, some positively and making themselves better, some worse and showing an evil hidden inside, but most somewhere in between and just clutching to something in order to find their way through a world where society has fallen apart. You know, kind of like how it would really play out.
One of the other big things shown in the story is the way that the deaths of the men ended up killing many women. For instance, many planes, trains, cars, and other vehicles all crashed due to having male drivers or pilots or whatever. Also, the guards of many prisons abandoned their jobs, power plants weren't operational in many areas, and other things of that nature that led indirectly to many deaths. Getting these things up and running is a key background story to the overall plot.
However, at its heart, the story is about Yorick's search for his girlfriend, Beth, who was in Australia at the time of the event and who he has no way of contacting. Meanwhile a scientist who was working on cloning, Dr Mann, believes that she knows what caused the event and how to cure it. Also along for the ride is Agent 355, a member of a secret government group of spies who is sent to help make sure Dr Mann and Yorick make it to Mann's San Francisco lab. Yorick's sister meanwhile falls in with a gang called the Amazons, who believe it was mother Earth killing men for being wicked and who are very violent, killing or hurting any women that don't hate men. They are led by a complete psycho named Victoria who preys on weak women, starving them until they follow her cause, and who blames men for all that was wrong in the world.
However, the main antagonist of the series is Alter Tse'elon, an Israeli badass who is sent to capture Yorick when word of a man being alive gets out. She doesn't want a cure though, she wants to kill Yorick so that the world can belong to women and her country can become the biggest power in the world. She proves to be among the most dangerous women on the planet, and nearly succeeds many times over the course of the book. She's also solely responsible for the most tragic event in the book, a moment towards that end that brought a tear to my eye and is one of the most well done scenes in not only this book, but any book ever.
Over the course of the series the ideas of gender roles, fate, love, friendship, belonging, sexuality, spirituality, loyalty, and morality all come into play and are dealt with in subtle and not so subtle ways. The idea of loyalty to a nation or to your friends. The question of whether Yorick loves Beth as much as he claims, or just the idea of her and the fact they last spoke on bad terms. Can you still be a straight woman if there are no men left? Did God do this, and if so why, and if not, does he even exist to let this happen? Was Yorick chosen for this, or a lucky victim of happenstance? Is there a bigger meaning? The book poses these questions, presents cases for and against many of them, but answers few directly.
Overall it's a masterpiece. The series features great writing and outstanding art, mostly by Pia Guerra. It's collected in various forms, from cheap softback trades to deluxe edition hardcovers, and tells a completed story that I only touched upon in the write-up. You owe it to yourself to pick this up and read it.