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Top 100 Summer Comics #1

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…

but those were our times.

#1 – Spider-Man 1

I was 9 years old when this came out. Do you know what that means? It’s the perfect age for a child into comic books. Young enough to embrace the suspended disbelief, old enough to hunger for something new, something aggressive and fresh. Between ages 9 and 12 children are trying to establish themselves from their parents and peers alike, but especially from themselves as a “child.” Growing from childhood to adolescence. So the graphic medium of comic books where the audience has always maintained a hum of appeal to children and adults is a gateway and transition through those days. It’s no coincidence so many people my age I know who collected or read comics read them during this time period. It’s the comic book window – they either grab you here or they don’t.

I was already locked in – I fall outside of that norm on the early side. I was eagerly anticipating this book, feigning and reading whatever comics I could find, so when Todd McFarlane’s SPIDER-MAN dropped, I was tuned in. And it was good. All the elements of McFarlane’s run on Amazing were there, just amplified. This felt new – even the paper felt different. There was a legitimate low level news buzz about this, and we had just hit the crest of the “comic books as collectible investments” wave.

Why does this issue come in at numero uno on this list? Because this was the breaking point. There are blurred lines on the golden and silver age of comics, and the period that followed that as well. But for the modern age, there’s no question. It started here. For all that means and represents, an entire generation of comic books, comic companies, comic movies, and most importantly, comic fans began with Todd McFarlane and the gnarly, high detail webs of the wall crawler himself. Whether you flip through this one on the first or last day of summer, know that you’re partaking in one of the key elements of a classic summer activity.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #2

While searching for this cover image, I came across a site I was unaware of, and plan to investigate further. Jean-Grey dot com. Interesting.

I have some big fall plans for recurring posts, but one I am dwelling on is “no one drew it better”, a series on artists large and small, who I feel deserve mention for illustrating a definitive version of iconic or at least notable characters. I can’t think of anyone that Whilce Portacio drew that falls into that category, but his work on this issue makes me wonder “what if” on more than a handful of X-Men.
#2 – Uncanny X-Men 281

Consider this the flipside of the X-Men coin – while Jim Lee was launching X-MEN #1 towards 8 million copies sold, Whilce Portacio was over on Uncanny putting down some of my favorite pencils ever. Raw, gutteral almost, style that had a lot of emotion. Some of his facial definition lacked the detail that would have put him over the top, but while the market was moving towards a clean, post Lee smooth, Portacio’s grit and thin lines attracted me to his work. I think his work on this issue, along with a great, fast paced story that introduced about 5 different plot lines that would all reach conclusion within the next few years makes this a standalone “great” single issue.

Want to get into the x-books of the ’90s? Buy X-Men #1. Then buy this issue next.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #3

Probably the most frequent recurring theme in this list is John Byrne. He’s one of those figures that you know is a big deal, but maybe not even realize just how BIG of a deal he’s been. For example… Michael Eisner (you know, that Disney guy) was involved in what seems to be about 40% of pop culture from 1975-1995. Even just on the surface he was responsible for a lot of movies and television, but if you do some further investigation, you’ll see how knee deep he was in even more stuff. Listen to him on this Bill Simmons podcast (if you’re not interested in sports skip to about 34 minutes in).

#3 – Avengers Annual 14

John Byrne is that for comics. He was a force in every major Marvel book from 75-95 at one point and has had career defining runs in at least 4 different books. His DC work is so on point that they basically allowed him to reset the ride on SUPERMAN. Not some throwaway character, the most popular comic hero of all time.

This issue we have a classic Roger Stern comic, Skrulls, Avengers in space, but through it all we have John Byrne on breakdowns (aka rough pencils) and he absolutely shines. The story is awesome and was given a nod during the recent Secret Invasion storyline, and works very well on a completely stand alone level. Would love to see this in a collection, if it already is, point me in the right direction.

But yeah – John Byrne, hats off. It makes you review how the greatness of the Claremont / Byrne run on Uncanny X-Men should be given to one over the other.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #4

Gene Ha wasn’t meant for the world of hero comics.

He was too good.

#5 – Askani’son 1

His style was both science fiction and organic, which created this surreal futuristic setting that has not often been replicated. His take on the book MADE it – the stories are great, and Scott Lobdell deserves some major props for excellent pacing and tone. But it was Gene Ha’s unique vision that made this one of the best x-books of the ’90s, if not ever.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #5

Sometimes the most memorable issues are merely for sentimental value. For example, this issue was the first Silver Surfer comic I purchased, but I would say the most memorable part was my introduction to artist Ron Lim.

#5 – Silver Surfer 19

Ron Lim was in my opinion the Dr. J to Jim Lee’s Michael Jordan – his clean style and sharp angular jaw lines were a real foresight into the style of the ’90s… but Lim was doing it in 1985. No one has ever drawn a better Silver Surfer, and in this issue, a throwdown with Firelord, he puts that on a showcase. I think if a comic book artist can be in the “No one drew _______ better than him” argument, then they most definitely deserve some recognition.

Why is there no comic book hall of fame?!

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Top 100 Summer Comics #6

I need you to just look at the cover of this before we dig in. Find the redemption in this ragtag team of Avengers. It is not easy, so you might want to sit down and refocus your eyes.

#6 – Avengers 365

Can you name all the Avengers here? 200 Marvel Dork points if you can. I did, but it wasn’t easy. And I remember this era vividly.

Clockwise – Crystal, Black Knight, Hercules, Death Cry, Vision.

1. Hercules at this era sucked so bad. Not funny, not fun, no beard, looks like the worst WWF jobber from 1995.

2. Crystal / Black Knight should never be the coolest member of your Avengers squad.

3. Death Cry? Who? Really? Thanks, ’90s.

4. The Vision is NEVER the coolest member of the Avengers, but he should not be the most recognizable hero on your comic book cover.

This is where I would love for there to be numbers made available – how many copies did this issue sell? 45? 100? It was a dark time for the Marvel offices, and the Avengers seemed like a comic in full on “If SPAWN fans don’t start buying this book, we’re being cancelled next month” mode every month. Bad sign – an editor is writing your book. If anyone else was there for this era of the Avengers, you should get your own special full page “I AM AN AVENGER” profile with a letter of salutations from Stan Lee himself.

The good? A young Steve Epting pencils this issue, and many others of this era. He was far from where he is today, but it’s still a decent style. I’d love to hear a personal critique of his style and where / how he’s grown. Why hasn’t Marvel done this with certain creators? I can see the issues with having current greats “re-doing” issues by other creators, but I bet artists would be intrigued by the idea of a do-over on some of their early work.

Anyways… I’m sure Marvel editorial wishes they had a little bit of a do-over on this entire era of the book.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #7

Technical difficulties everybody…

Maybe the height of the Adam Kubert run on Wolverine. So good that the entire episode was essentially revisited in the recent Jeph Loeb, just instead of a claw through the brain he cuts his head clean off with the murmasa blade.

The story: Sabretooth has sought refuge at the Xavier Institute (the ’90s name for the School for Gifted Children) but is obviously still a total psycho killer. Wolverine gets it, but has been MIA healing and dealing with not having an adamantium skeleton. Logan comes home, and decides it’s time to take out the trash. Epic battle. Why hasn’t this been collected yet?

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Top 100 Summer Comics #7

“I’m a sucker for…” has appeared frequently through my postings here. I’ll at least take solace in my self awareness for knowing the use of certain storylines and visuals draws me in a moth to the flame. For better or worse, but hey… it’s my list and I’ll do what I want to.

#7 – Captain America 16 (vol 4)

Jae Lee is awesome. Captain America is awesome. And for some reason, just as I like football in the snow just a little bit more, any good comic book adventure in the snow / ice / etc is that much better. And I don’t think anyone will accuse Chuck Austen of rewriting any classic novels, but he did a good job with the ice story. During a relatively weak time for Captain America stories, this was an oasis, albeit brief.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #8

For whatever reasons, I always liked the Silver Surfer. His vibe is cool, his job is cool… and even his real name, Norrin Radd, is cool.

#8 – Silver Surfer 50

Here we get a little look at his (cool named) planet, Zenn-La. A little look at his history, featuring father Jartran Radd and girlfriend Shalla-Bal. And… Thanos taunts him with all of this. A good anniversary issue, and Ron Lim and Jim Starlin do a smashup job, as always.

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Top 100 Summer Comics #9

So… this Emma Frost lady. Pretty cool. You know her type. Takes what she wants.

Here’s where what she wants becomes Scott Summers, Cyclops.

#9 – New X-Men Annual 2001

Weird thing – this issue was done in a “wide screen” format… which worked. Odd to see it now in the Collected edition… but it’s a cool idea.

Not a whole lot to say other than 1) here begins the Emma/Scott duo that runs the x-verse these days 2) also the first appearance of Xorn… kind of?

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