Top Single Issue Stories
One of the pleasures of publishing Longbox Graveyard has been meeting other fans in the online comics community. One of the first to comment on this blog was the enigmatic Mars Will Send No More, who has proven a kindred soul with his love of Marvel’s “Cosmics” and his admiration of classic Bronze Age comics runs, such as Walt Simonson’s Thor. Mars further endeared himself by giving me good-natured grief over my Top Ten DC Comics Characters list (and responded with a wobbly list of his own), so when he threw down the gauntlet on Twitter about doing a Top Single Issues list, I was eager to pick it up.
Mars has already led off with a thoughtful Top Issues list at his own blog, with a far-ranging collection of deeply personal choices well outside the mainstream focusing on dinosaurs, dragonflies, and monoliths, and with little reliance on “dorks in tights punching each other.” Lacking Mars’ eclectic tastes, my list is almost entirely about costumes in Fist City, but that’s a good thing — it means we can provide lists with minimal overlap, and together recommend a full twenty single issue stories worth reading. (Well, fifteen, actually, but more about that later).
Like my Marvel and DC Top Characters lists, this list of Top Single Issues isn’t comprehensive. These aren’t the best stories ever told, or the best-selling, or the best-known, or the most significant. They’re just my favorites, to the degree that I can remember them after reading comics for better than thirty years. My list is idiosyncratic and deliberately so, and presented in no particular order. They’re just superior stories I feel are worthy of note.
my blog, my rules … any objections?
A staple of the Golden Age, the single issue story is a dying form. Even in the Bronze Age which is the focus of Longbox Graveyard, the emphasis was generally on two-part stories, with the single-issue form usually reserved for the dreaded fill-in story. In recent years the single-issue story has all but vanished from DC and Marvel books, as storytelling has “decompressed” into six or twelve issue arcs intended for republication as trade paperbacks.
It’s a shame the form is going away, because the single-issue format forces creators to focus on a small and polished slice of action, with only minimal reference to greater events. Single-issue stories strip away many of the things I most dislike about comics — languid storytelling, dense continuity, and long and confusing fight scenes — in favor of economical storytelling. A single-issue story is harder to write than a multi-part arc, but when done well, a single-issue book is about as good as comics get.
For this list I tried to pick stories that genuinely stand alone, without directly extending into the previous or following issues. I looked for stories with minimal dependence on continuity (though some continuity is impossible to avoid in comics), and I wasn’t especially concerned about page-count — if the tale was published as a single story, then it was eligible for the list, whether it was a 48-page original graphic novel or a Will Eisner seven-page masterpiece.
Speaking of which …
While I appreciate and respect Golden Age comics, I don’t much like reading them, preferring the reinvented sensibility and sophistication of Silver Age and later stories, but for Will Eisner’s Spirit, I make an exception. Partly this is down to Eisner’s work being so modern — or at least seeming modern, given than Eisner practically invented modern comics storytelling whenever he put pencil to paper. Eisner is a comfortable destination for modern comics fans wishing to sample books from a distant era — I guarantee you will flip to the copyright page and shake your head in wonder that these stories were published decades before the 1961 birth of the Fantastic Four.
My knowledge of Eisner is far from comprehensive, and that I have so much of his work still to discover is a happy problem to have. I am working my way through the hardback Spirit Archives, which collect the Spirit in publication order, but I also jumped the line and picked up The Best of The Spirit, spotlighting twenty-two Spirit tales from the 1940s and 1950s. Any of those stories would be worthy members of this list (and Eisner could take every slot on my top ten!), but for today I’m restricting myself to a single story — “Ten Minutes,” originally published in September of 1949.
You don’t need to know a lot about the Spirit to enjoy this slice-of-life story — the Spirit is basically a guest star in this particular strip, which tells the tale of the last ten minutes of the life of Freddy, a neighborhood nobody who crosses the line to capital crime and pays the price in this short-but-sweet seven page story. Delivering a complete story in just seven pages is difficult, but Eisner embraces the time limit of the story, telling us in the first caption that the story will take ten minutes to read, then counts down the time by putting a stopwatch in the first panel of every page that follows.
What would seem a gimmick for any other creator is just another day at the office for Eisner — in those seven pages he tells possibly the first “real time” story in comics history; introduces us to luckless Freddy; shows us how his shiftless frustration boils over into a heartbreaking murder; follows Freddy to his own foredoomed end; and shows how a heedless world goes on ticking, oblivious to Freddy’s little rise and fall. Like all of Eisner’s work, it’s a tight, soulful story told with masterfully illustrated emotion, humor, action, and pathos.
You can read “Ten Minutes” (in just ten minutes!) and other classic Eisner tales in The Best of The Spirit.
Winter Soldier: Winter Kills
This book almost doesn’t make the list, because it’s deeply enmeshed in Marvel continuity, drawing on the Civil War cross-over event, and two years’ worth of Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America (to say nothing of the seventy-five years history of Cap himself). But the book is so sharply-written that I cannot leave it off my list, and Brubaker, as always, uses continuity with restraint, deepening the entertainment for readers who understand the references, while at the same time imposing few barriers to new readers.
The story is simpler than it sounds — a lonely Christmas Eve in New York for the Winter Soldier (Captain America’s resurrected World War II sidekick, Bucky Barnes), the first such holiday “back in the world” for Barnes, who was thought lost during the war, and is trying to shake off the effects of being a brainwashed Soviet sleeper agent for the last half-century. Christmas Eve isn’t silent night, of course, as Barnes gets pulled into a raid on a Hydra base, and the book does have a nice bit of action, but where the story shines is in it’s characterization. Barnes, Nick Fury, and the Sub-Mariner all have richly nuanced dialogue in this tale, and Captain America, appearing entirely in flashback, tells the only joke of his life when he reminiscences about punching Hitler.
The story concludes with a poignant graveyard scene that I referenced in my Top Marvel Characters list two weeks ago, which again displays the right way to use continuity, as Barnes struggles with guilt from his murderous past, and receives friendship and emotional support from the least likely source — the remote and imperious Sub-Mariner. A beautifully-written and pitch-perfect story.
You can read this story (along with the best Captain America stories ever written) in the highly-recommended Captain America Omnibus Vol. 1.
The Song of Red Sonja
In my review of the Barry Windsor-Smith era of Conan the Barbarian I remarked that Conan stories follow a certain formula — but it’s a good formula. The formula is front-and-center in issue #24 of Conan the Barbarian, which marked the second time we’d meet Red Sonja, and the last time Windsor-Smith would pencil the book.
The plot is something you’ve seen a hundred times before — Conan and Sonja are off to steal some treasure, and along the way there’s a tavern brawl, a tower to climb, and a giant snake to kill. By-the-numbers stuff, for all that it is brilliantly drawn by Windsor-Smith, who’s insane attention to detail could not be appreciated in the original printings, but which is marvelously on display in the Dark Horse Conan reprints.
What makes this issue stand out from others of its era is Roy Thomas’ script. The plot may be off-the-shelf, but Thomas provides sharp dialogue that shows Conan at his headstrong and lusty best. Conan knows that Sonja is taking advantage of him, but he figures it’s worth it for a chance at some treasure and (even more promising) the hope of getting inside Sonja’s pants. For her part, Sonja seems unusually tempted by Conan, musing that breaking her vow of celibacy for Conan wouldn’t be such a terrible thing, and seeming at least slightly guilty when she steals the treasure, hops a horse, and tramples over Conan at the end. This is one of the very few Conan stories where the Barbarian doesn’t get the girl … and the story is better for it.
John Buscema would take over the book with issue #25, and overnight Conan would seem to age about ten years. The youthful, narrow-waisted Windsor-Smith barbarian would be replaced with Buscema’s powerful, thick-shouldered brute. That pending change makes the scene where Conan and Sonja frolic in the pond unexpectedly sweet and innocent. Conan’s youthful joy in that scene — and his childish punching of a wall out of frustration on the final page of the story — would feel inauthentic with Buscema’s version of the Cimmerian, but Windsor-Smith’s more subtle pencils unintentionally capture the end of Conan’s adolescence.
The Song of Red Sonja is reprinted in Dark Horse’s The Chronicles of Conan, Volume 4.
The Anatomy Lesson
Swamp Thing #21 is not just a great comic — it might be the single most important book published by DC Comics in the 1980s. This is where Alan Moore made his mark in American comic books, proving that he could magnificently re-invent one of DC’s most cliched characters — in one stroke changing the way we looked at superheroes, and opening the door for Watchmen, which DC would publish two years later.
The Anatomy Lesson is vintage Moore, coloring inside the lines of Swamp Thing’s past history while simultaneously turning the book inside-out. The Anatomy Lesson tells the tale of Swamp Thing’s autopsy, conducted by the sinister Jason Woodrue, who makes the startling discovery that Swamp Thing isn’t what we thought he was at all. Rather than a man who because a swamp monster, he’s a swamp monster who dreams of being a man — the ghostly aftershock of a dead scientist, who created a body for itself (including non-functioning internal vegetable organs) in imitation of the human form it once wore.
Not content to tell us one of the most unexpected and brilliant origin stories of all time, The Anatomy Lesson also winds in a horror story where narrator Woodrue hatches an elaborate revenge scheme using Swamp Thing’s not-so-dead-after-all corpse, told with creepy mood, atmosphere, and blood.
(Swamp Thing scans courtesy of the ubiquitous Mars Will Send No More)
The Anatomy Lesson kicks off one of the all-time great runs in comics, but it also stands alone as a superior single-issue story. Not that it matters — read this tale and you’ll be hooked for the duration.
You can read The Anatomy Lesson in Saga of the Swamp Thing Volume 1, or check it out online over at Mars Will Send No More!
Sometimes the best way to write about icons like Batman and Superman is to not write about them at all. Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is inhabited by iconic heroes who are clearly supposed to be those more famous characters, but possessing their own names and costumes, Busiek has the freedom to approach these well-known heroes in new ways, without regard for the continuity or publishing agendas that encumber the “real” characters.
In the very first issue of Astro City, Busiek tells one of the finest Superman stories of all time — except it isn’t about Superman! Our hero is Samaritan, strange visitor from another world, who is faster than a speeding bullet, and in his alter ego is a mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan newspaper.
OK, it’s Superman. But don’t call him that, OK? We don’t want DC’s lawyers showing up and ruining the fun over in Astro City.
In Dreams tells the story of a day in the life up Super– eh, Samaritan, from the morning when he dreams of flying free through the skies without a care in the world; to his commute to work where he stops a tsunami before arriving at his newspaper office; then sneaks away to knock out a giant robot and contain an exo-biological outbreak. And that’s just before lunch! On his break, Samaritan meets with the not-Justice League, and through the rest of his long day gets on with the full-time business of being (call it what it is!) a superman, fighting bad guys, accepting awards, and rescuing a cat from a tree. Samaritan even pauses to lament there is no time in his life to have a relationship, before streaking into orbit to dispatch a monstrous supervillain, then flying home to sleep, and dream (again) of soaring through the clouds without the weight of the world on his shoulders.
It’s a great story, and that’s exactly what a day in the life of Superman must be like … but it’s not the kind of story you could tell in Superman, demanding as it does a new story every month that can’t be more of the same-old same-old superpowered routine. But the anthology format of Astro City allows Busiek to tell just this kind of story without regard for topping himself the month after, and the result is a fun, breezy, and insightful romp that ranks among the finest Superman stories you will ever read. (Except that it’s not Superman … wink wink).
In Dreams is reprinted in Astro City, Volume 1.
And that brings me to the end of this week’s list.
But wait! That’s only five issues! A proper Top List must have ten entries!
You’re right … but I’ve blithered on long enough for a single blog, and if I’ve learned nothing else from writing a weekly column it’s to never do in one blog what you can divide into two! So I’m going to cut this list off at five, and return in a couple weeks* with a second column to complete my list. That will give you time to sample some of these stories, and (more importantly) it will give me time to unearth five more worthy single-issue tales from my vast Accumulation. Thanks for reading!
*Editor’s note: Rather than publish another Top Single Issues list here at Longbox Graveyard, the feature morphed into my Dollar Box feature category, where I look at single issues and short runs of comics where the original cover price was a dollar or more. Check it out!
NEXT WEEK: #19 Tomb It May Concern
LONGBOX GRAVEYARD TOP TEN LISTS
- Top Ten Instagram Superheroes
- Top Ten Superhero Lairs
- Top Ten Manliest Superheroes
- Top Ten Longbox Graveyard Articles (Year One!)
- Superhero Music Top Ten
- Top Single Issue Stories
- Top 1o Loves of Peter Parker (Part 1)
- Top 10 Loves of Peter Parker (Part 2)
- Top Ten Marvel Comics Characters
- Top Ten DC Comics Characters
- Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part I)
- Top Ten Spider-Man Battles (Part II)
- Top Ten Captain America Villains
- Spider-Man’s Bottom 10 Bronze Age Bums
- Top Ten Superhero Spoonerisms
- Top 5 Captain America Graphic Novels You Can Actually Buy (Sometimes), Read, And Enjoy!
Posted on October 19, 2011, in Lists! and tagged Alan Moore, Astro City, Barry Windsor-Smith, Conan, DC Comics, Ed Brubaker, Kurt Busiek, Marvel Comics, Red Sonja, Roy Thomas, Swamp Thing, The Spirit, Top 10, Will Eisner, Winter Soldier. Bookmark the permalink. 64 Comments.
Of all your selections, Conan #24 is the one that resonates with me. Important for the early Red Sonja appearance. Enjoyable for the great team of Roy Thomas and Barry-Windsor Smith. It’s one of three Conan books I still have in my collection. Stays bagged and boarded.
In no particular order, and on most days, I’d consider these my favorite single-issue stories:
(1) Amazing Fantasy #15 (“Spider-Man!” by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko) – The greatest origin story ever told. The story of Midtown High’s only professional wall flower. 12 pages long, it exudes charm on every panel.
(2) Fantastic Four #51 (“This Man…This Monster!” by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby) – A story about redemption. With no fist fights. Just compelling drama. Lee, Kirby and Sinnott each at the top of their game.
(3) Avengers #58 (“Even An Android Can Cry” – Roy Thomas and John Buscema) – A story about acceptance. Classic dialogue by Roy Thomas. Fantastic pencils by John Buscema. Superb inks by George Klein. It all culminates in one of the greatest splash pages in the history of the medium. I keep an unbagged reading copy of Avengers #58 at my night stand. It’s SO good!
(4) Uncanny X-Men #143 (“Demon” by Chris Claremont and John Byrne) – I LOVE the Claremont/Byrne/Austin run on the X-Men. But, there aren’t many single-issue stories to choose from. The run is characterized by long story arcs. X-Men #143 is a coming of age story. Specifically, Kitty Pryde’s coming of age as a super-hero. Brilliantly told, it’s also a homage to my favorite film, ALIEN. Twentieth Century Fox never sued Marvel for publishing it.
Great to hear from you Horace (as always).
I haven’t read Amazing Fantasy #15 in years — I should give it a fresh look. I have Uncanny #143 in the Collection but don’t remember it — I’ll give it a read soon. It’s actually the last Uncanny I have in the collection … was it Byrne’s last issue? Must have been some reason I got off the train there (though it might just have been one of my periodic departures from comics).
Avengers #58 does have a killer last page, and it is wonderfully compressed in that Silver Age style — in a single book we get the origin of the Vision, the origin of Ultron, a fight scene, and the induction of a new Avenger. Try that now and it would be a twelve-issue arc.
I read-read Fantastic Four #51 last week and will risk my Kirby card by saying it didn’t measure up to memory. It is a superior story, make no mistake, but I thought it suffered for having the genuine Thing off-stage for so much of the tale. It is evidence of that solid gold era that the Negative Zone is kind of accidentally created as a plot device in that tale, a kind of one-off concept that’s since provided decades worth of story fodder.
All worthy tales, any of them rightfully on a list like this, but I am still casting around for more tales for the next column. I have one set aside but four slots still open. I need to do more reading, there are a couple stories tickling the back of my brain, but I will have to dig them out of memory (and storage) before I can be sure. I sense I will be reading Judge Dredd and some Kirby Fourth World in my near future.
Yeah, Uncanny X-Men #143 was Byrne and Austin’s last issue. I stopped being a regular reader after several issues. In addition to pencils, Byrne did significant co-plotting as well.
I went through my collection and came across a couple more single-issue stories:
Amazing Spider-Man #248 (“The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man”); and
Fantastic Four #236 (“Terror In A Tiny Town”).
Do you remember these?
I don’t remember either one of those, but I am notoriously indifferent to Spidey and the Fantastic Four (I am among friends, and can admit these things). I do have that FF issue on my want list, though — still looking to fill in twenty-odd FF’s between issues #232-285 before I can begin on the great Byrne re-read.
Horace, We just dug FF #236 out for a scan session, because ‘Terror in a Tiny Town’ has one of our favorite scenes. Sue sneaks through a mansion at night and overhears Doom playing the piano. She is touched by how eloquently and sensitively he plays. For just a second we see Doom the artist.
Then he goes right back to being a sociopathic homocidal jerk! Ha! Of all the versions of Doom over the years, we like Byrne’s the best – and the Jim Shooter version, which has much in common.
I’m going to add the lesser-known Bill Mantlo version of Doctor Doom from the later issues of Super-Villain Team-Up to your doom list, Mars. He caught the soul of the Doctor (and the Red Skull too) in the scenery-chewing melodrama of Super-Villain Team-Up #12. I have a review coming up here at Longbox Graveyard in a couple weeks.
And FF #236 is one of dozens of issues I have inbound at this hour, owing to a splurge at MyComicShop.com — I’ve just about filled in that Byrne run. Looking forward to giving it a read, it might earn a spotlight on a Top Single Issues list if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.
So awesome. The Byrne run was one of the first things I picked up in 2008 when I rekindled comic book lunacy. It arrived in one lump thanks to a sweet eBay deal. All communication with the outside world ended for 3 days…
Post that SVT #12; we had a few, but totally missed ‘Micronaut’ Mantlo’s contributions!
That gives me an idea for a future collaboration. Keep an eye on your mail for an offer you can’t refuse.
Paul wrote: “Even in the Bronze Age which is the focus of Longbox Graveyard, the emphasis was generally on two-part stories, with the single-issue form usually reserved for the dreaded fill-in story. In recent years the single-issue story has all but vanished from DC and Marvel books, as storytelling has ‘decompressed’ into six or twelve issue arcs intended for republication as trade paperbacks.”
I wonder if Marvel and DC think that single or two-part stories won’t sell? I dunno. They’re all about selling “events”. House of M, Civil War, DC 52, etc.
In my prior post, I mentioned the long story arcs in Uncanny X-Men under Claremont/Byrne. Take the Dark Phoenix Saga, for example. X-Men #129-137 weren’t marketed any differently than Spidey Super Stories or Rom. They weren’t published with the idea of an accompanying trade paperback to follow. In fact, when the saga was underway, it didn’t even have a name! It was just X-Men #129-137. Claremont and Byrne were just trying create solid stories.
It was the rise of the direct market that changed everything. Selling books on a non-returnable basis allowed creators to experiment with all kinds of new story forms, and longer tales really caught on with a hard core audience that maintained pull lists as the local comics shop. Crisis and Secret Wars validated the long-form mini-series and mega-crossover all at once, and we’ve been stuck with them ever since.
There were a few Silver and Bronze age “epics,” but if you look back at Kree/Skrull war or Avengers/Defenders War I think you’ll find they were pretty tidy affairs by current standards. Newsstand distribution was heavily dependent on casual buyers and I think there was a fear that a reader might put the book back on the rack if he was joining it in the middle. There was even some reader resistance to continuing stories — checking the letters page in the Tales of Suspense books reprinted in the recent Captain America Omnibus reveals a few comments taking creators to task for telling stories that were too long and needlessly continued from month to month (and those were 12-page stories!). Part of that may be down to variety — readers wanted new bad guys and new situations every issue — but mostly I think it owed to spotty distribution. Plus, comics buying wasn’t a Wednesday ritual in those days — it was something you did when you had some pocket change or your parents took you to the store. You might go weeks or months between being able to buy comics.
I’ll tell you another lost art — the recap! When a classic book did indulge in a multi-issue story, there was always a page or two of recap bringing new readers up to speed and reminding continuing readers of where things left off. Some of the recap pages in Jim Starlin books could look denser than illuminated manuscripts. Mars Will Send No More posted a scan of a Warlock story today (1000 Clowns) that had an absolute wall of words down the left hand side of it’s recap page. Starlin was all about the subtext and he didn’t want you to miss a drop of it.
Paul wrote: “…the dreaded fill-in story.”
Now you have me wondering what my favorite fill-in stories are.
Speaking as a guy who has written a couple inventory stories in his day I can confidently say that would be a very short list indeed.
Very cool. What’s fun about this format is that there’s no arguing over what’s “better” – it’s just stuff we like the most! These are cool choices and we’d like to read the rest of that Will Eisner story. Thank you for all the pingbacks and props, Paul! Very generous.
And you’re welcome to steal our scans without credit at any time – no sweat. After all, we kind of stole them ourselves. (Although links back to our site are always a nice touch.)
We love it when people grab them for their own blogs, Flickr, Tumblr, etc. It means we’re spreading the comic book madness throughout the web, and that makes us happy!
I’m pretty remiss in attributing scans. For the most part I cast around using Google image search and grab what looks good. For those Swamp Thing scans I did get them directly off your blog, and should have given you a shout out (which I have now done).
I’m starting to do a little judicious scanning of my own, in support of the blog. The first substantial scanning I did was from my two-part Thor column, because I was referring to specific pieces of art and couldn’t find exactly what I wanted via Google in some cases. Tomb of Dracula and Ms. Marvel are both coming up, and I’ve done some scanning for those, and I suspect I’ll be grabbing a whole bunch of stuff for (another) Conan column coming in November. I don’t think Longbox Graveyard will ever be about scanning entire books but it’s useful to grab a panel or two in support of whatever goofy point I’m trying to make.
Horace, we must be brothers from another mother. I completely agree with all of your suggestions (yes X-Men #143 was the last issue for Byrne and also Terry Austin).
I’d also add Marvel Two-in-One #50 (new Thing & old Thing, by John Byrne), Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 (versus the Champion), Avengers #223 (Hawkeye and the new Ant-Man team up), and, to give DC some face time, Batman #423 (“You Shoulda Seen Him”), New Teen Titans #8 (A Day in the Life) and New Teen Titans #50 (Donna Troy’s wedding. I’m no doubt leaving out many that I love just as much, but this is all I can think of right now.
You’re giving me some good titles to hunt up on my new Marvel Digital Unlimited sub, though sadly I don’t think they’ve gotten Marvel Two-In-One online yet. Two-In-One was perpetually on the bubble for me when I was buying comics in the 70s, so my collection is spotty, but I love Ben Grimm (and put him on my Top 10 Marvel Comics Characters list awhile back), and I far preferred Two-In-One to Spidey in the more popular Marvel Team Up.
Yeah, Ben Grimm is one of my favorite superheroes. I was reading old Fantastic Fours recently and re-remembered how great the Thing is. Regarding Marvel Two-in-One, it was one of those titles I bought only if the cover looked interesting. However, when I decided to re-read all of my old Marvel Two-in-Ones, I went to a local comic shop and bought a bunch more of them. One good thing about Marvel Two-in-One is that most of the back issues are cheap!
Two-In-One would make excellent dollar box fodder, wouldn’t it?
I’m working on a tongue-in-cheek column about “Manliest” superheroes for a future Longbox Graveyard and Ben Grimm made the short list, not just for the stogie and being a test pilot, but also because of his approachability and regular-guy nature. He has a floating poker game and there’s probably no one in the Marvel Universe you’d rather share a beer with (he’d even pay). He’s one of Marvel’s warmest characters — there’s a lot of Jack Kirby in him.
You’re quite right about all of that. That’s probably why I love the big orange lug. Hawkeye is the other Marvel hero I’d love to have a beer with.
The problem with having beers with Hawkeye (or someone like Wolverine!) is that he’d probably start a fight. Grimm is mellow and big enough that no one will start something in the first place. Plus he could set the Flying Bathtub on autopilot and get everyone home safe.
Drink with the big guys, look for trouble with the little guys.
Ben Grimm is mellow? Are you kidding me? That guy will trash a million dollar piece of Reed Richards equipment at the drop of a hat! This is a guy who smashes a door off its hinges because he doesn’t have time for Reed to unlock it. Sorry, but Ben is as much a hothead as about half of the Marvel superheroes. However, you make a good point that, if there is trouble and a bar fight breaks out, I’d much rather be sitting with him than with Hawkeye!
This all reminds me of the Marvel Two-in-One with him and the Sandman, and the two of them are sitting in a bar together on the cover. That is a classic issue!
Mellow is the wrong word — you’re right that he can be as violent as any Marvel hero (all of whom seem to go braindead when they meet each other, so they can have the obligatory two-page beatdown before they realize they’re on the same side). I guess I meant that Grimm is an easy-going guy unlikely to start a problem on his own. When he flies off the handle it’s usually because the Torch was needling him or he’s having his once-every-twenty-issues existential breakdown about being trapped in a monster’s body. He’s very much a slow-burn, turn-the-other-cheek kind of guy (but once he blows, look out).
I’ll buy that. He does have those “I’m a monster” breakdown every so often, doesnt he? Even sillier is the way he always thinks Alicia is about to dump him for some other guy despite numerous evidence to the contrary, or that she’ll dump him if she regains her sight, as if she doesn’t alreay know he’s a rocky monster. Still, I love the big lug. He makes Fantastic Fours well worth reading.
That whole “Alicia is going to dump me” cycle they run once every couple years is actually a nice means of externally dramatizing Grimm’s insecurities. Even if he wasn’t an orange rock monster, Grimm would likely go through these same fits of insecurity, trying to self-destruct as a means of getting people to tell him how much they love him and need him. Obviously I’m reading things into the tales that may not be there but you could run that same story in a romance book where Grimm is a perfectly normal guy fixated on some other element (his social class, a scar on his face, his race) and it would work just the same.
Hmm, interesting though. You may be right there.
Whenever I see visitors coming from this page, I wonder when you are going to come back and give us the other five of your top ten single issues! Allow me to throw down the gauntlet once again… especially now that infinity gauntlets are hitting mainstream movie culture! You just need one more story per soul gem and you got a top ten!
Well, you know what happened, Mars, is that the second half of my Top Ten evolved into my Dollar Box series, first over at Stash My Comics, and now “reprinted” here at Longbox Graveyard, now and then.
But you are right … along with the next entries in my Master of Kung Fu and Tomb of Dracula review series, and the fatal absence of a follow-up to “Escape From The Longbox Shortbox” (I should get around to “Conquest” sometime!), the back half of that Top Ten remains my “unfinished symphony” … and with LBG now on “monthly” status that may remain the case for some time. But life is long, and I do think about it, and I do see that gauntlet you’ve just thrown down, you Martian scoundrel, you!
Hmm, well, I’ve already named six – Uncanny X-Men #143; Marvel Two-in-One #50 (new Thing & old Thing, by John Byrne); Marvel Two-in-One Annual #7 (versus the Champion); Avengers #223 (Hawkeye and the new Ant-Man team up); Batman #423 (“You Shoulda Seen Him”); and New Teen Titans #8 (A Day in the Life).
So for my other four, how about Uncanny X-Men Annual #3 (Arkon); Legion of Super-Heroes Annual #1 (“Who Shot Laurel Kent?); All New Collectors’ Edition #55 (Wedding of Lightning Lad & Saturn Girl); and Justice League of America #200. And no, I’m not going to rank them!
I’m sure I’ll eventually discover other little done-in-one gems that I’ve forgotten to include, but that’s all I can think of for now. It’s a bit tougher to search through the memory banks for the best single issue stories than for the best multi-parters.
Some good choices there (I will be writing about that Thing vs. Thing issue when Super Blog Team Up comes back around in September) and if you want a platform for this Top Ten article, Dave, I’d be happy to publish it here at Longbox Graveyard! Let me know!
Thanks for the kind offer, Paul! That would require some actual work on my part, though, so I’ll have to think about it and get back to you. 🙂
Yes, that “actual work” part is always the trouble!
There’s no pay and scant glory in writing for Longbox Graveyard … but it you want to join the crew, you know where to find us!
Thanks, as always, for reading and commenting, Dave.
JLA #200 is one we would love to scan, but we suspect that square binding makes the task impossible without damaging the book. Cool picks, Dave! A few of these we haven’t read yet. We will have to rectify that!
Mars works in mysterious ways …
Someone at DC must have digitized that bad boy already. Some great re-colored splash pages from JLA #200 here: http://comicsauthority.com/2014/01/16/flashback-issue-bin-justice-league-of-america-200/
There is a Wolverine issue from the last decade, not sure the exact year, but I’m pretty sure it was Jason Aaron’s first issue on the book, and it was a fill-in, a break form the action, which somewhere around the Enemy of the State era. Anyway, Wolvie is out there saving some baby, and the art is terrific. It was a simply story, but it stuck me all this time (though not enough that I can unequivocally remember all it was about). Anyway, that’s my example of a good fill-in.
Moving on, Mike Mignola and his minions do a great job at crafting one-offs, and they do so with semi-regularity in Lobster Johnson. Paul Dini is also a writer I have 1000% faith in putting out a great single issue story. But yeah, that’s a tiny list these days.
Some of Dan Slott’s stuff fits neatly in the space between mega-arc and single issues, where the short stories all tie into the big ones, but it’s been a while since I remember him doing one of those.
When I was a teenager, I also enjoyed X-Men Unlimited (sometimes) because of the single sotry and a few back-ups were always base din continuity, but free of the burdens of what happens week to week in the X-world.
I have been very late in coming around to Eric Powell’s The Goon, but it occurs to me that many of his stories might fit this list as well.
It seems to me there is a kind of ideal serial comics form where each story stands on its own, AND forms part of a larger tapestry. One of Jim Shooter’s wisdoms was that every comic was potentially someone’s first comic, so they better not be lost when they pick it up (with the unspoken corollary being that any comic might be someone’s LAST comic, too). Back in the day there seemed at least some small attempt to make each single comic complete in and of itself — in contemporary books, they are obviously writing for the trade, and it doesn’t make sense to read most series less than six or twelve issues at a time … maybe comics just need to be digest-sized? I dunno.
The Goon is GREAT, but funny enough, I have only read that series in trade form. (I have the first 12, I think.)
That said, I hate the writing-for-the-trades practice. (I don’t think Powell does this, but its definitely the business model at the Big Two.) For example, the latest run of Amazing Spider-Man featured overpowered Electro and angry Black Cat for six issues. Slott is great at adding little wrinkles, so we got the debut of Silk in there, but by the time #4 rolls around, I’m losing interest and want to see a new crop of baddies.
This might be my own personal hang-up, having religiously watched the Adam West Batman, and half the fun of that show was, “Who’s the villain gonna be tonight?????”
I have so much more to say on this, and the current writing techniques in mainstream comics, but I’m at work and I want to finish this damn project so I can get home at a reasonable hour to watch Sleepy Hollow.
And to bring this full circle, Sleep Hollow actually does a fine job of telling “single issue stories” while nudging forward with a season-long story arc …
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