Tangled Webs: The Hollywood Reporter’s Top 100 Superhero Comics


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The Hollywood Reporter did a list of the Top 100 superhero comics. In a departure from a recent list of great comic books, Spider-Man was well-covered, with two runs making it to the top ten.

There’s plenty of Spidey related stuff throughout the Top 100. The Spider-Man related rundown ended up being…

98. Dan Slott’s Superior Spider-Man
86. Civil War
78. Amazing Spider-Man by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr
70. Spider-Girl by Tom DeFalco, Ron Frenz and others
31. Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man by Todd Mcfarlane
30. Kraven’s Last Hunt by JM Dematteis and Mike Zeck
14. Amazing Spider-Man by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., Gil Kane and Ross Andru
13. Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross
9. Ultimate Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
4. ‘mazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko, John Romita and Gil Kane

Incidentally, the rest of the top ten is Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman, Frank Miller’s Daredevil, Wolfman and Perez’s Teen Titans, Chris Claremont’s X-Men, Curt Swan’s Superman, The Dark Knight Returns, Dave Gibbons and Alan Moore’s Watchmen and the Lee/ Kirby Fantastic Four at #1.

It was a diverse list including some older material, which plays well to Spider-Man’s strengths. Spider-Man had been in some great comic books in the 1960s and the 1970s, so a list that is biased against older material (keeping in mind that there is the argument that those comics are so dated as to no longer be worth recommending to newer readers) wouldn’t include classic storylines like his first appearance, the Master Planner Saga, Spider-Man No More and the Night Gwen Stacy Died. Some listmakers have divided the Lee/ Ditko run and the Lee/ Romita run into separate categories, although I’d imagine that both would have placed well on a ranking that included Conway’s Spider-Man run in 14th place.

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I could quibble with some of the placement. The Stern/ Romita run should definitely be much higher, although it is nice to see it get honored. I personally don’t think Spider-Girl or McFarlane’s Spider-Man are worthy of the Top 100 when there is better material that didn’t make the cut (Mark Millar’s Marvel Knights Spider-Man, JM Dematteis/ Sal Buscema’s Spectacular Spider-Man, John Byrne’s Fantastic Four, Bendis and Oeming’s Powers,  The Alan Moore/ Dave Gibbon Superman classic “For the Man Who Has Everything.”)

There might be some complaints about Ultimate Spider-Man being in the top ten, but I can understand the case for that. This was a tremendously influential run. It reminded readers that for all the talk about the Teen Titans, the Runaways, or the Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man was the best teen hero. Ultimate Spider-Man was one of the first superhero runs collected entirely in TPB form, allowing new readers an accessible entry point, while changing the back issue market and comics publishing. It was the basis for much of the Mark Webb/ Andrew Garfield Spider-Man films, although the failure of those films is not the fault of Bendis and Bagley.

 

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The placement of the Conway run was a pleasant surprise. There is the argument that the best way to get started with Spider-Man is to just read the first 150 issues, and Conway’s run provides the capstone for that. In best of lists, his run is often represented with just one top five story, but there is much more to it than the blindingly obvious. The first appearance of the Punisher is quite underrated as a comic book story, pitting the college age hero against a new type of enemy. In two issues, the Harry Osborn Green Goblin became one of the top Spider-Man villains in a story that had many of the beats DeMatteis and Buscema expanded on for their Harry Osborn Green Goblin saga. Conway’s final arc marked the first time a writer tied up loose ends and concluded loose ends when leaving the title while featuring one of the most satisfying conclusions to a long-running mega-arc.

There remain a handful of omissions. It’s odd to see a list that includes Tom DeFalco’s Spider-Girl and Fantastic Four, but not his Amazing Spider-Man. As is the case with all of these lists, it’s subject to the whims of a handful of contributors to a magazine. A few Spider-Man fans in the editor’s office united in their appreciation of Ultimate Spider-Man could very well get that book into the top ten, while a slightly older fan base might have gone for another run (or another character). The Hollywood Reporter has done similar lists for films and television, with some interesting choices that have reflected the tastes of a staff that seems to have come of age in the 1990s: The Shawshank Redemption and Pulp Fiction were among the top five films, while Friends was their favorite show. The comics list was a mix of new and old, with five comics from the 21st century in the top twenty, and twelve comics from the silver age and earlier (including their top choice) in the overall list. In contrast, their list of the top films included nothing from the 21st Century in the Top 50 (there were plenty of lower-ranked recent films suggesting a lack of critical consensus), and nothing from the silent era, or the first decade of the sound era, and only five films from before 1950.

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What do you guys think of the list? Are there any comics you’re happy to see represented? Is there anything surprising? And is there anything you now feel encouraged to check out? 

(1) Comment

  1. hornacek

    "78. Amazing Spider-Man by Roger Stern and John Romita Jr" Happy to see Stern's run on this list, but agree that this is way too low. The creation and mystery of the Hobgoblin alone merits placement on this list, but his run had so many great stories, sub-plots, and mature characters (there's no way Slott's Spidey is the same guy as Stern's). I remember reading the Wolfman run, but the Stern run is where I really started collecting issues and paying attention to the writing credits. "31. Amazing Spider-Man and Spider-Man by Todd Mcfarlane" As someone who liked McFarlane's art, I have to call shenanigans on this placement. The ASM issues have great art, but the stories are just typical Micheline - not great, not bad, just good. And the adjective-less title had great art and that's about all you can say to praise it.

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