1. Infinity Inc. – What I enjoyed about this book was that it was about legacy, second generation heroes, and started the decade being on Earth Two. We got to see an older Superman in the opening arc. We also had a dynamic team of Roy Thomas on writing chores and a new up and comer named Jerry Ordway on art. This was the best drawn book IMHO of the early 1980s.
2. Suicide Squad – It is not a surprise around these parts that I am a HUGE Suicide Squad fan. The title spun out of DC’s Legends mini-series and was written by new comer to DC, John Ostrander. Luke McDonnell’s art was very stylized, but fit the book. The concept was villains working for the government on the side of “good” per se earning their freedom. Certainly ahead of its time and remains a cult favourite.
3. Superman – Both pre and post Crisis. Pre-Crisis we had stories that fit the tone and sensibility of the Silver Age era. Many done-in-one stories including imaginary tales pencilled primarily by Curt Swan and edited by Julius Schwartz. Also, there were some other cool ones like a Super-Batman Superman story penciled by Alex Saviuk. Post-Crisis, we had John Byrne’s reboot which modernized the franchise and every issue he worked on crackled with energy and excitement. Silver Banshee looked so cool the first time we encountered her!
4. New Teen Titans – Marv Wolfman as writer and George Perez as penciller launched New Teen Titans in the early 1980s and even surpassed Uncanny X-Men in sales for a time. Solid writing, solid art, and compelling yet flawed characters in aging teen side kicks and newer characters like Cyborg and Starfire really made for engaging stories that you really couldn’t tell with the big DC icons. Plus issue #2 introduced Deathstroke the Terminator!
5. Green Lantern – The early and mid 1980s that had Len Wein, and later Steve Englehart, writing and artists like Dave Gibbons and later Joe Staton on art that really made stories about Hal Jordan exciting and relatable. I also first became mesmerized by the Predator and Eclipso during this run. It was also during this time where we saw both John Stewart and Guy Gardner assume their places as Green Lanterns prior to this series morphing into a less-than-stellar Green Lantern Corps book.
6. Hawk and Dove – The late 1980s launched a new Hawk and Dove ongoing series that sprung from the successful mini-series written by Barbara and Karl Kesel with new comer Rob Liefeld on art (where Karl inked in the feet 😉 ). The ongoing series had the same writers, but now Greg Guler on art. We have a new female Dove alongside hothead Hank Hall. The mythos was deepened with their connection to the Lords or Order and Chaos of Dr. Fate lore. We also had interesting characters like Barter introduced.
7. Green Arrow – Mike Grell’s mature readers Green Arrow was a gritty, down-to-earth book that really allowed Oliver Queen to graduate to serious DC vigilante from his campy past. There were some gut-wrenching tragedies that pulled on the heart strings with Dinah Lance. This one was another great DC offering with solid writing and art even if kids couldn’t pick up the book until they were 18.
8. Checkmate – Another espionage type book about government agents in cool costumes and various chess-based nom du guerre that really offered a different tone and type of story on the stands. Gritty art and gritty stories with characters like Peacemaker and Batman supporting characters like Harvey Bullock made for some interesting stories. Its crossover with Suicide Squad, Manhunter and others in the Janus Directive is a must-read.
9. Justice League of _________ – Pre-Legends mini-series we had some compelling adventures of Justice League Detroit bereft of the big guns pencilled by one of my fave artists in Luke McDonnell. After Legends, we had the relaunch of the Bwahaha league and later Justice League International with Maxwell Lord, Rocket Red, and unsuccessful solo-heroes in Blue Beetle and Booster Gold coming into their own and gaining cult-like status. Later we also got a Justice League Europe pencilled by Bart Sears and JLI writing patriarchs Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis.
10. Manhunter – John Ostrander launched an ongoing book from DC’s Millennium mini-series called Manhunter featuring a villain-turned-hero Mark Shaw. Sam Keith pencilled those early issues and his stylized art really advanced the story about a disgraced lawyer trying to come into his own. Also, the villain Dumas was a cool addition to Manhunter lore as was seeing Japan through the eyes of our protagonist.
11. BONUS / Honourable Mention – Flash – The post-crisis relaunch of the Flash franchise with Wally West at the helm was truly an inspired run. We had the former Kid Flash graduating to the Flash mantle after his partner and mentor Barry Allen seemingly died during the Crisis on Infinite Earths. It was the introduction of the blue collar hero who becomes wealthy and loses it all faster than most (or perhaps as fast?). His new rogues and supporting cast were inspired. His early tangles with Vandal Savage and his drug scourge Velocity 9, plus team-ups with Kapitalist Kourier and others were awesome. Mike Baron, Mike Collins, Butch Guice, and Larry Mahlstedt did some great work on a hero trying to live up to a legacy.
What were your 1980s DC Comics ongoing title faves?
Stay tuned for my look at my fave mini-series, plus a look at the 1990s and 2000s, in future weeks.
Tags: Clark Kent (Superman), DC Comics, Deathstroke, Flash (Barry Allen), Green Arrow, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Hawk and Dove, Infinity Inc., JLA, JSA, Justice League International, Justice League of America, Justice Society of America, Manhunter, New Teen Titans, Suicide Squad, Teen Titans