Now, before I begin, I know that a few of these books got one trade, maybe two, throughout their run. That’s fine, it’s a good start, but when a book runs 30-60 issues, and only 6 are collected? That isn’t nearly enough.
10. Mutant X
In the late 90’s Howard Mackie was writing X-Factor, and then ended the book by blowing up Havok, presumably killing him. Instead, the younger Summers brother was vaulted off into another reality, where his spirit possessed the dieing body of that version of him. When he awoke he was in a world not his own, in a life not his own, and nothing could have prepared him for it. He was the leader of The Six; a team made up of Bloodstorm (Vampire Storm), The Brute (a green scaly version of Beast with hooves and the mind of a child), Iceman (Bob Drake, who is unable to revert to his human form), The Fallen (Warren Worthington, who in this world was given leathery bat wings and flame breath by Apocalypse), and Marvel Woman.
Marvel Woman being Madelyne Pryor, Havok’s wife, and the mother of his son Scott. This world was pretty different, after all, when we do eventually meet Cyclops he’s in space leading the Starjammers, and hadn’t seen his brother since the plane crash in their origin.
It was a very different take on the Marvel Universe that was a lot of fun. Sure, it was bogged down by some of the typical Mackieisms (inability to keep his own continuity straight), and it was unfortunately completely forgotten upon wrapping up (even when Havok returned from the dead they didn’t tie it into this, hell, if not for the most forgettable Exiles story of the first volume, Mutant X would have never been mentioned again). None of htis changes that it was a fun book though, and that it gave Havok the oppurtunity that he’s never really had, even despite all the teams he’s been on and led. He was the star of this book, across 32 issues, and I want to say two annuals. In trade it would make a fine addition to the collection of any fan of the character, or of the X-Men in general.
How many books are there where the villain is the main character? Quite a few, right? Now, how many of those have the villain remain a bad guy? Not as many, right? Now, out of those, how many of those villains are insanely evil, take over a country, and slaughter a group of super heroes? The answer? Just Eclipso.
Eclipso was really the first of its kind when it hit shelves in the early 90’s, telling the story of the spirit of revenge as he takes over a South American country, one person at a time. How he commits atrocities, kills countless thousands, and, again, kills a group of super heroes. The book was bloody, violent, and unforgiving. This wasn’t a villain we could sympathize with, or rationalize the actions of. He was evil, plain and simple.
He was the prototype for characters like the Plutonian (Irredeemable), Nemesis (Nemesis), and even Norman Osborn. Now, just imagine if the book was rereleased today. It would find it’s place, no doubt, and the best way to test it?
Release the full series in a one volume edition, or do the event that led into it in one volume and the ongoing series as the second. Give fans a reason to care about Eclipso by showing just how awesome he can be.
8. Heroes For Hire
After Onslaught wrapped up there was a big gap in heroic bodies in Marvel, I mean, they had just dumped the Avengers and Fantastic Four into another reality while criminalizing the X-Men for surviving. What were they to do?
Bring back Luke Cage and Danny Rand and restart the Heroes for Hire! Adding in former Avengers like Dane “The Black Knight” Whitman and the Prince of Power himself, Hercules, they gathered a team of C list characters into an incredibly entertaining book. Hell, the ‘leader’ of this motley crew was Jim Hammond, better known as the original Human Torch.
Ostrander worked magic on the title by making everyone on the team relevant, even when most of them hadn’t been in years. He made an issue of Luke Cage and She Hulk going on a date into one of the most entertaining single issue stories I had read in years.
The book didn’t last too long after the other heroes had returned, which was a shame. There was a lot of good going on here, from a crossover with Quicksilver (another Ostrander written book), Ant-Man (Scott Lang) joining up, and even ending the book on a team up with Wolverine and Shang Chi. The book was fun, featured a lot of characters who weren’t getting a lot of love (and wouldn’t still for several years), and most importantly, it was well written. Unfortunately, it’s been more or less forgotten as the years have passed.
7. The Spectre
The first few issues of this book are in trade, but that’s it. Ostrander’s iconic run on Jim Corrigan that helped define, as well as retire the character after nearly sixty years of existence. Do you know how rare it is for DC or Marvel to retire a character at the request of a single writer? How few and far between occasions come up where a writer finishes out their book, and the publisher agrees to not let anyone else tackle those characters?
Neil Gaiman with Sandman.
James Robinson with Starman.
John Ostrander with Spectre.
You know how Hal Jordan spent a time as The Spectre before his resurrection? Ostrander cleared the job for him. You know Mr. Terrific? Former JSA Chairman, former White King of Checkmate? Debuted in The Spectre. You like Eclipso? Ostrander built him up as the Spectre’s opposite number during the course of the run, as one was the spirit of vengeance, and the other, revenge.
It was a wonderfully thought provoking series, and a true must read. Now, if only DC would make it easier to be read…especially as it has been so long since I’ve read it that I can’t do it too much justice with my write up!
6. Legion Lost
Legion Lost, and by proxy all of the DnA Legion, needs to be thrown into trade. Sure, there is one trade that I know of, Foundations, but I’m not going to count that. After all, it was put into trade because it was Superboy traveling to the 31st century and joining the team, not because it was Legion. And I get that, Legion wasn’t the worlds hottest property for a while, but it is getting there now and DC owes it to themselves and fans to show us some of the best Legion they’ve got.
The post Zero Hour Legion has a special place in my heart as my own personal Legion, the one I got my start with, but with all bias aside, the book really didn’t pick up until Abnett and Lanning took the helm, shuffling off a chunk of the team for Legion Lost with (at the time) rising artist (and currently superstar artist) Olivier Coipel. It was everything good and right and awesome about the Legion as they broke the characters down to their very cores and truly cemented me as a fan of the Legion.
I’d like nothing more than the next time I go to a convention and DnA are there, that I can hand them a hardcover edition of Legion Lost to get signed.
5. Suicide Squad
Have you noticed that there’s a lot of John Ostrander on here yet? Well, there’s more coming up. The Suicide Squad was a precursor to the modern Secret Six. You had a group of villains who were doing jobs, usually moderately heroic, though they weren’t given much choice. See, the Squad was a Dirty Dozen, a bunch of bad guys that are already in jail who are sent out on missions. If they succeed, it goes a long way to their early release, if they fail, then they come back in a body bag, and if they run? Well, running would get you blown up, as the Squad didn’t exactly have an easy going boss.
No, they had Amanda “The Wall” Waller. One of the baddest bitches in comics, and the kind of person you don’t want to test with a hypothetical bomb in your head. She’d push the button and then say “NEXT!”.
The Squad has been revisited a lot in the past few years, which makes me wonder how it hasn’t been collected. A few years ago there was an announced Showcase edition of the book set for release, but it never wound up happening. Now there’s apparently a trade solicited for early 2011, but I don’t know what issues are in it. And for a book that brought Deadshot into the modern era, made Captain Boomerang a fun monthly character, and brought us Oracle? That just isn’t enough.
4. Young Justice
I have a complicated history with Young Justice that can be summed up as that I liked the book, but I understood why it needed to end to make way for Teen Titans. Unfortunately, Teen Titans wound up disappointing the hell out of me, so while I understand why they did things the way they did, I always felt a bit cheated that once One Year Later kicked in the book was just dead in the water.
Young Justice was a fun take on the youth of DC, as it was during a time when the Titans mantle still belonged to the no longer Teen Titans, and the kids of the DCU, Robin (Tim Drake, Superboy, and Impulse were looking for their own place in the world. They were Young and it was “Just us” and so they were named “Young Justice”. The book didn’t take itself too seriously, and yet it still managed to ring true with readers of all age groups. It was a coming of age story about younger super heroes and sidekicks as they tried to figure out just what exactly they wanted to do with their lives.
Like did Robin want to be Batman one day? Could Superboy ever be Superman? And would Wonder Girl one day be Wonder Woman, or would she take the path of Donna Troy and define her own identity?
And then….Arrowette, one of the deepest characters from the title who has more or less vanished off the radar since the book ended. Secret too.
The first arc of Young Justice is in trade, as well as Sins of Youth. You can also find a few issues of their Our Worlds At War tie in in the O.W.A.W. trade, but let’s be honest. That doesn’t cut it. Less than a tenth of this book is in trade, and considering how high profile DC has made the core members of Young Justice? How Wonder Girl leads the Teen Titans, Impulse (now Kid Flash) is primed to be a lead character in the upcoming Speed Force book (as well as Teen Titans), how Superboy saved the world in Infinite Crisis, came back from the dead in Final Crisis, and is getting his own ongoing series, and how Robin is now Red Robin?
There’s a lot about this book that is worth collecting, and the bullet just needs to be bit and the job done. And I don’t mean in DC Comics Presents, because we need more than 96 pages at a time.
3. Martian Manhunter
In the late nineties DC launched an ongoing book for J’onn by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake, in which Ostrander worked his magic on the perennial member of the Justice League. J’onn was established as something far more than a JLA powerhouse, creating a higher profile for the character in the Southern hemisphere, crafting multiple secret identities that he would flow between, and even having him travel to Saturn in a story featuring Jemm, Son of Saturn, and the White Martians.
Mars was given an expanded lore, as well as J’onn, as Ostrander put emphasis into everything. He showed us a team up between J’onn and Abin Sur, a first meeting between a hidden J’onn and a young Clark Kent, and even took him to the farthest reaches of the future.
It was thirty six issues of making J’onn as important to the DC Universe as any of the other big name Leaguers, and while many seem to have forgotten it, it really was the best the character has been. And hey, they could do the entire series in three or four volumes.
2. Resurrection Man
This was the title that introduced me to Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, and I have never looked back. This is the story of Mitch Shelley, a man who dies. A lot. Usually violently. And then he comes back with a super powers, a new set for every death. He’s also got a wicked case of amnesia that is really messing with his identity.
Now I’m not going to be surprised that you’ve likely never heard of him, his book ran 29 issues if you count the 1,000,000 issue, and aside from a few scattered appearances since, Mitch has been completely in limbo. Though, if you were a fan of DC 1,000,000, you most likely know that he was one of the most awesome heroes of that time period, as the power to come back to life seems to make him just flat out unable to die.
It was a fun and slightly twisted book that had a very original concept behind it, unfortunately that’s probably why it didn’t last. However, there’s a different kind of audience today then there was a decade ago, and I have this feeling that Resurrection Man could find an audience today that just didn’t exist a decade ago.
Plus, Abnett and Lanning are superstars in their own right now, and fans of their work are just itching for more material to read.
The first volume of Thunderbolts came out of aftermath of Onslaught and rocked the Marvel universe, the Master of Evil posed as heroes and filled the gap created by all of the heroes who ‘died’ during Onslaught. Their first year was devoted to building the brand, and then the Avengers came back and with them the status quo had to change. After all, these were bad guys turned hero, so how would they react when the heroes were back and….these former big bads decided that maybe being good guys wasn’t so bad. The book moved on to be about the path of redemption as these super villains tried to turn their lives around. It was a fantastic title by Kurt Busiek and Mark Bagley, and then by Fabian Nicieza.
It was a book that reminded us all why Hawkeye was among the best of the Avengers, as he left the team to lead this team towards redemption the same way Captain America had done for him. It introduced us to Jolt, an unfortunately often forgotten character. Or you know what the best contribution this series made to Marvel was? Making Helmut Zemo one of the most intriguing characters in the Marvel Universe by fleshing him out beyond being a Captain America hating megalomaniac with a daddy complex. Zemo, thanks to the workings of Busiek and Nicieza, was one of the most complex characters in the entire Marvel Universe before Ed Brubaker recently white washed him back to being a Captain America villain.
And unfortunately, only the first arc of this title has been collected in trade from the first volume. Sure, the second volume has quite a few trades, but nothing is quite like that first volume. The first volume was just pure gold.
And there you have it, Grey’s Top 10. Thoughts? Comments? Lists of your own? Think I love John Ostrander too much? Tell me about it!
Tags: andy lanning, dan abnett, DC Comics, Eclipso, fabian nicieza, Havok, Heroes for Hire, John Ostrander, kurt busiek, Marvel Comics, Suicide Squad, The Top 10, Thunderbolts, X-Men, Young Justice