I have read every Marvel Universe comic published in the ’60s and ’70s. It’s time to pick the best ones. Here’s the rules:
- This is for single-issue stories–a complete tale is told in one issue — but there may be elements of the story that are part of a longer arc.
- Every single comic on this list is graded as A+–however, there are more than 100 A+ comics over Marvel’s lifetime. So, consider these the A+ books of the A+ crop.
- Right now, I’ve re-read–for this blog–every single Marvel 616 story published in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s–so for those decades, this list is comprehensive. However, I’m working my way through the ’80s as I write this post. Therefore, this list only includes ’80s and ’90s comics that I, from memory, recall being excellent. As I clear another decade, this post will be updated to include A+ comics from it.
THE TOP 100 MARVEL COMICS OF THE 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s
100. TALES OF SUSPENSE #49 (1964)
An early example of “let’s make the heroes fight each other!” as Iron Man fights a mind-controlled Angel of the X-Men.
99. UNCANNY X-MEN #111 (1978)
Just a good story. It takes place in a carnival, and focuses on Beast–who has to rescue his fellow X-Men (even though he’s an Avenger now) from Mesmero.
98. FANTASTIC FOUR #12 (1963)
The first Thing/Hulk fight. The beginning of a grand tradition.
97. DAREDEVIL #8 (1965)
Stilt-Man debuts–the villain everyone loves to say is corny. Featuring delightful art by Wally Wood.
96. MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE #96 (1983)
“Visiting Hours.” In the aftermath of MTIO Annual #7 (which also made the list), Thing is hospitalized after going 10 rounds with The Champion–and all his enemies decide to visit (and kill) him in the hospital. And a bunch of heroes, and Sandman, protect him.
This comic exemplifies the fun of 1980s Marvel–it’s a “spot and name the D-lister” issue. A great ride.
95. WHAT IF? #13 (1978)
Conan dresses like a pimp and interacts with 616 characters for the first time in a “What If?” story that doesn’t really feel like a What If? It’s unclear whether it’s canon. What If? #39 was a sequel, and also lots of fun.
94. JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #112 (1965)
Today, comics showing “who would win in a fight” are pretty common. But this was one of the first. Hulk vs. Thor. With art by Jack Kirby. You can’t ask for much more than that.
93. UNCANNY X-MEN #179 (1984)
To save Colossus’ life, Kitty Pryde agrees to marry the morlock Caliban. It’s creepy and frightening–and it sets up the next several issue, in which Colossus acts like a completely ungrateful cad and Wolverine lets Juggernaut beat the snot out of him. In the end, Caliban realizes that Kitty is only marrying him because she loves someone else who needs the Morlocks’ help and so he agrees to let her go.
The issue also introduces Leech, a sympathetic Morlock who will later join X-Factor.
92. AVENGERS #181 (1979)
A lineup change issue that features the Beast/Wonder Man bromance and introduces a new Stark employee…Scott Lang! It was a quiet, character-driven issue–at a time when The Avengers was also full of big events. This period is probably the best Avengers comics of all time.
91. DAREDEVIL #181 (1982).
One lives! One dies! Iconic. I owned three copies of this, one polybagged and boarded, one polybagged and hung on my wall, and one I read over and over and over.
90. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #1 (1963)
Put to one side the typo where Stan Lee calls Spider-Man “Peter Palmer.” This comic took a one-off character intended to just be a “weirdo” in Amazing Fantasy #15″ and made him a titular star–in an issue that featured the Fantastic Four and introduced the Spidey/Human Torch bromance.
89. CAPTAIN AMERICA #110 (1969)
Jim Steranko introduces Bucky to the Marvel Universe. And also Madame Hydra.
88. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #14 (1964)
Another genius Lee/Ditko issue. The first Green Goblin, whose identity is hidden behind the door of a wall safe. The Enforcers. Hollywood. A fake Hulk. So much in one issue!
87. THOR #356 (1985)
There are not a lot of Thor issues on this list because his best stories are long form, and this post is dedicated to single issue stories. In fact, Walt Simonson’s Thor was one of the greatest runs of all time–but it appears on this list exactly once. Yet, dead in the middle of it, came a filler issue by Bob Harras and Butch Guice, featuring Hitler telling a kid a story about how he beat the snot out of Thor. It’s genuinely funny and genuinely sweet.
86. MARVEL TEAM-UP #100 (1980)
Marvel Team-Up was a book featuring two heroes who would “team up” against a villain. In this case, though, two super-star creators teamed up: Chris Claremont and Frank Miller. Together, they told the origin of future New Mutant Karma, including her backstory as the daughter of a corrupt military leader with complex family dynamics. And in the spirit of family, the tale also included The Fantastic Four.
It’s a treat to see these creators work with characters they rarely touched.
And on top of that, a back-up story by John Byrne kicked off the Black Panther/Storm romance.
85. MOON KNIGHT #1 (1980)
Not Moon Knight’s first appearance, but the first one that showed him as a character with a legend around him. It raised the question whether he is empowered by the moon god Koshnu or, instead, is just nuts–and Doug Moench never answered that question for his entire, three-year+ run.
84. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #225 (1983).
Foolkiller was one of my favorite comics—Steve Gerber in 10 issues told the story of a freaky vigilante that reflected the anger and righteousness of New York in the 1970s. The character returned in this one-off issue, which is a book I’ve re-read dozens of times. I know lots of people don’t even remember it, but we’re towards the bottom of my list so I can be sentimental.
83. X-MEN #4 (1964)
The first appearance of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants!
Rather than include the debut of the world’s first mutant superheroes, I thought this issue was better. It was better written, for one thing, and it established the “mutants vs. mutants” conflict that would run through nearly all of the team’s tales from then until the present day.
82. MARVEL PREVIEW #2 (1975)
It took a full year for Punisher to get an origin story. His emergence was a gradual, slow boil. And when we did finally get to learn about his roots, it came in a black-and-white magazine. We learned he is a veteran. We found out about his family being killed. But we did not learn his name. That came later.
81. THE INCREDIBLE HULK #142 (1971)
“They Shoot Hulks, Don’t They?”
A hilarious story inspired by Tom Wolfe in which Hulk becomes a cocktail party celebrity and gets rich.
80. MARVEL PREMIERE #3 (1972)
Out of nowhere in a generally below average anthology book, Stan Lee writes one of my favorite Doctor Strange stories–in which he faces himself! Illustrated by Barry Windsor Smith.
79. ADVENTURE INTO FEAR WITH MORBIUS THE LIVING VAMPIRE #24 (1974)
In which he returns to Earth after some awful space adventures to meet Blade for the first time and also, for the first time, have a really good, character-driven story told about him.
78. THE UNCANNY X-MEN #162 (1984)
Wolverine fights the Brood. It was everything X-fans wanted from a balls-out Wolverine tale. And since Wolverine #1 can’t make the list (it was from a limited series, not an ongoing) this one will have to suffice as a great of example of the bezerker being the best at what he does.
77. DR. STRANGE #56 (1982)
During his great run with Paul Smith on art, Roger Stern tells the origin of Sanctum Sanctorum.
76. JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #88 (1963)
The one where Loki turns into a pigeon and then gets carried off in a sack. Classic.
75. THE AVENGERS #1 (1963)
The team assembles for the first time, Wasp picks the name…Total smash bam fun.
74. DAREDEVIL #185 (1982)
“Guts.” This is classic Frank Miller, foreshadowing his deep noir in Sin City. Foggy Nelson takes on a case and acts like a bad ass while Daredevil, behind the scenes, saves him from all kinds of danger.
Actually, it’s more like Get Smart than Sin City.
73. WHAT IF? #34 (1982)
There were many good What If? books in the 1980s, but none stand out as memorable to me. Except this one. The all-humor book that was actually funny. There’s lots of humorous comics, but usually when they become like Mad Magazine—just joke after corny joke—they’re awful. But this one was gold. Marvel tried it again a decade later, but it just wasn’t the same. Lightning only strikes once, I guess.
72. BATMAN VS INCREDIBLE HULK #1 (1981)
Is it cheating to include the best of the early, oversized cross-over comics? Probably. Is X-Men/Teen Titans a better comic? Yes. But this one has very high sentimental value for me, and being the publishers’ second attempt at a crossover, they had learned to assign top-notch talent and make sure the book delivered. It did.
71. THE FANTASTIC FOUR #267 (1984)
Just that one panel was enough for this issue, in which Reed fights to get to his wife’s bedside at the hospital in time for the birth of their second child, only too arrive too late and discover that she miscarried.
A powerful, mature book that helped move the art form forward, courtesy of John Byrne.
70. AVENGERS #178 (1978)
A solo story about Beast by Steve Gerber and Carmine Infantino. The 8th Best Steve Gerber Comic of All Time.
69. IRON MAN #182 (1984)
After about a year-and-a-half worth of issues, Tony Stark finally hits bottom in an alley in the snow. He gets sober after his companion dies in childbirth, giving Tony a son.
An excellent example that even superhero comic books don’t have to have big villains to provide great stories.
68. THE INCREDIBLE HULK #1 (1962).
A terrific mix of horror and superheroics (superherror?), mixed with a great, martyrousorigin story. Hulk may be the most relatable major Marvel hero of all time.
67. AMAZING ADVENTURES #15 (1972)
This comic debuted The Griffin, but don’t hold that against it. Beast turned blue and in this issue his former teammate Angel meets him in his new form. They bond over their shame about their freakish bodies. Also, Patsy Walker plays a major role in the series, serving as a friend to Hank McCoy.
Excellent character work.
66. THE AVENGERS #221 (1982)
This list is heavy with ’80s issues because back then Jim Shooter, editor in chief, pushed hard on the idea that comics should be self-contained–so that every issue could be an entry point for new readers. That was Stan Lee’s philosophy in the ’60s as well (but this list has fewer ’60s books because (a) fewer were published and (b) they simply weren’t as good).
The other reason that the ’80s are so highly represented: Humor. This issue of Avengers marked a line-up change, sported a great cover, and featured the debut of distraction-and-wannabe-villain Fabian Stankowicz.
65. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #267 (1985)
Peter David and Bob McLeod tell the tale known as “The Commuter Cometh.” Spider-Man needs to go to the suburbs, where he can’t swing on webs.
Yeah, it’s a classic. Take the hero and put him somewhere he’s uncomfortable.
Fun, funny, and masterfully smart. They truly don’t write comics like this anymore. And as you can see, it’s still well remembered today.
64. FANTASTIC FOUR #1 (1962)
The one that started it all.
63. POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #90 (1982)
It was Kurt Busiek’s first issue writing the title, and it was maybe the most fun I’d had reading a comic in years.
62. INCREDIBLE HULK #340 (1988)
Peter David and Todd MacFarlane revisit the first appearance of Wolverine, as the X-Men tackle Hulk in the wilderness.
61. MARVEL FANFARE #15 (1984)
The March 31 April Fool’s day issue. Brilliant and beautiful by Barry Windsor Smith.
60. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #5 (1963)
The one where Flash dresses as Spider-Man and ends up getting kidnapped by bad guys. Then Spider-Man meets Doctor Doom. But it’s the first half of the book that makes this such an important, often-imitated story.
59. UNCANNY X-MEN #183 (1984)
Wolverine lets Juggernaut beat up Colossus in a bar after Colossus dumps Kitty, who was willing to marry Caliban to save his life.
And Colossus deserves every punch!
58. PUNISHER #10 and DAREDEVIL #257 (1988)
Two comics, the same story, told from the title character’s POV. A brilliant idea. The story itself is good and simple–the characters are each individually tracking a serial killer based on the guy who put poison in kids’ tylenol in the ’80s–and points up the distinctions between the two characters’ moral codes. Maybe it’s cheating to put two issues under a single number for a “best single issue” feature, but isn’t this a creative way to tell a done-in-one?
57. MAN-THING #1 (1974)
One of Steve Gerber’s best comics (full top 20 here). It introduced the nexus of all realities and featured Howard the Duck.
56. MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #24: DAREDEVIL: LOVE AND WAR (1986)
Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz offer a graphic novel that’s mostly about Kingpin trying to revive his comatose wife. So it’s really a love story. The art is tremendous.
55. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #50 (1967)
“Spider-Man No More.” Come for the iconic panel, stay for the first appearance of The Kingpin!
54. ALPHA FLIGHT #12 (1984)
One of the best covers of all time. And the insides are good, too, showing a long-lasting death of a major character and doing it in a moving, powerful, and heroic way.
53. WHAT IF? #31 (1982)
What If Wolverine had killed The Hulk? A great story that has an appropriate ending: Magneto kills Wolverine with his own claws. How has that not happened in the pages of X-Men?
52. IRON MAN #133 (1980)
After using all his power to take down Hulk, Tony Stark is trapped in his armor and his oxygen is running out. He needs someone to go inside the circuitry and save him.
Great, fun issue.
51. DAREDEVIL #146 (1977)
An early Bullseye appearance where he takes over a TV studio and shoots Daredevil.
50. MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #7 (1982)
An elder named The Champion chooses Thing as his opponent for the fate of the Earth. A beloved story.
49. AVENGERS #174 (1978)
One of the many books on this list that I read dozens of times. It was the one that made me excited about Collector being in Guardians of the Galaxy. Hawkeye (yes, Hawkeye!) saves the Avengers from being…”Captives of the Collector!” Written by Jim Shooter and the great Bill Mantlo, illustrated by Dave Wenzel, with a cover by George Perez.
48. FANTASTIC FOUR #275 (1985)
Far as I know, this was the first time a superhero had to deal with paparazzi. It would happen again in Gotham Central, when a newspaper got pictures showing Renee Montoya was a lesbian, but that was a serious book. This one was much lighter. And sexier. You will believe a green woman can be hot.
I’m pretty sure it was this issue that made She-Hulk a viable property again. After this, Byrne gave her a graphic novel and then wrote a series for her—a groundbreaking, truly avant garde and artistic solo series. That, in turn, set the stage for brilliant solo books by Dan Slott and Charles Soule, each very different from the one that preceded it. Who would have thought that a character Stan Lee created just to claim the copyright would become the muse for some of the most innovative, ahead-of-the-curve books.
47. DAREDEVIL #1 (1964)
Most Marvel comics promised to be totallliy different or more unusual than anything else you’d read in your life, but Daredevil #1 actually delivered.
46. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #90 (1970)
In which Captain Stacy dies in Spider-Man’s arms.
45. POWER MAN AND IRON FIST #88 (1982)
This is a personal favorite that I am fairly certain you won’t find on any other tribute to Denny O’Neil. But this is my web site, so I can do what I want. It’s great because he stops criminals from getting away by throwing a pole at their car. But it’s my favorite PM&IF story–and one of my favorite comics ever–because of a quiet little scene on a bridge where a suicidal DW Griffith–a side character from this series–is visited by a stranger…
…Who tells him to cherish his own depression because he may never feel that low again. Believe it or not, for a traumatized kid like me (I was 15 when this came out), these became words to live by. This comic got me to recognize my own feelings as valuable, even when they were painful.
Okay. That was some serious shit, huh?
44. TOMB OF DRACULA #50 (1976)
Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan’s Tomb of Dracula was a great comic. It was also a very long single story, that was in most respects self-contained. So having a done-in-one where Dracula goes mano-a-mano with Silver Surfer was a rare treat.
43. UNCANNY X-MEN #143 (1981)
I never would have thought, when I set out making this list, that so many Chris Claremont X-Men books would make it. I needed to limit the number somewhat, but since he worked with so many artists—and stayed on the book for over a decade—their inclusion is inevitable. This issue, in which Kitty Pryde (who is Jewish) gets a solo Christmas adventure fighting a Brood queen, is definitely one of my favorites of all time. I read it so much I wore out the binding and had to buy a new copy.
It’s from the Claremont/John Byrne era, and as I re-read it for this post I was reminded of how wordy comics were back then. Just look at the two panels above. If they were written today, there’d be next to no words at all. Actually, the panel probably never would have been written. Internal dialog is pretty much gone. It’s used to set mood (but not as thought bubbles), sure, but not to establish aches and pains.
42. NEW WARRIORS #36 (1993)
Fabian Nicieza did a great job with this comic, and this issue is my favorite of the series. Young Vance Astrovik is convicted of killing his father. He goes into prison a fallen hero and emerges with a new name (“Justice”), a new costume, and a change of character. Great piece of work.
41. FANTASTIC FOUR #13 (1963)
The debut of the The Watcher! The first trip to the blue area of the moon! And also, Thing stuffs Reed into a tumbler.
40. WHAT IF #32 (1982)
What if the Avengers had Become the Pawns of Korvac? This is what What If? should be like: A huge cast, lots of deaths, over-the-top action, and the revisiting of a beloved, classic storyline.
39. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121 (1973)
The one where Gwen dies.
38. THE DEFENDERS #4 (1973)
The first appearance of one Steve Englehart’s most enigmatic characters, Valkyrie. Her early appearances were truly bizarre, showing no indication of who she really was and what she was about. She was mainstreamed later, but these early stories are well-worth seeking out.
37. DAREDEVIL #266 (1989)
The one where he has a beer with Mephisto. Brilliant. Everything Ann Nocenti ever wrote is basically summed up in this book–she had a very offbeat, fascinating perspective.
36. SILVER SURFER #38 (1990)
This is part of a larger Surfer/Thanos story by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim, but this issue stands alone as a major insight into the character of Thanos. He fakes his own death, allowing Silver Surfer to kill him, just so that he can work behind the scenes to further his romance with Death herself. He also sets his own daughter, Nebula, on fire.
35. GHOST RIDER #68 (1982)
Roger Stern begins his too-brief run on Ghost Rider with the best story of the entire series. It’s a simple origin retelling told through the narrative convention of a confession in a church. And for the first time in a decade, the character of Johnny Blaze seems to make sense. It took over a decade before Ghost Rider’s origin was retooled to be attributed to Mephisto. Lots of folks don’t know that. Written by Roger Stern, this is also a standout comic because it is one of the few really good Ghost Rider comics.
34. THE INCREDIBLE HULK #377 (1991)
Lots of Peter David Hulk issues on this list. In this one, he develops the Banner-abused-as-a-child concept originated by Bill Mantlo and has Bruce do some inner child work. Brilliant, and well-drawn by Dale Keown.
33. STRANGE TALES #110 (1963)
The first appearance of Doctor Strange, and an early example of the movement of EC Comics type horror-adjacent comics moving into the world of capes and spandex.
32. FANTASTIC FOUR #10 (1963)
Doctor Doom switches bodies with Reed Richards and takes over as the leader of the Fantastic Four. That alone might make this list. But what makes this book stand out as an “A++” book is the first appearance of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in a comic. From here, the existence of Marvel Comics in Marvel’s comics would become canon, and an ongoing subplot weaving through all of Marvel’s 616 comics. A brilliant marketing method and a wonderful way to bring creators and fans together–something Stan Lee was a genius at.
31. UNCANNY X-MEN #153 (1982)
Kitty’s Fairy Tale. Sweet, cute, and genuinely funny.
30. STRANGE TALES #135 (1965)
Lee and Kirby just couldn’t stop making hits back in the 1960s. In this comic, they created Nick Fury, the SHIELD agency, the Helicarrier, LMDs, and the entire concept of a super-spy agency protecting the U.S. Yeah, it was a product of 1960s paranoia, but it was awesome.
Note: In the ’60s, comics were designed to be single-issue stories. This one is part of a larger story, but on its own, it shows Nick Fury rising to be the leader of SHIELD–thereby updating the World War II hero for the new-and-developing Marvel Universe.
29. MARVEL TWO IN ONE ANNUAL #2 (1977)
The first death of Thanos!
28. ASTONISHING TALES #8 (1971)
The half-issue tale where Dr. Doom fights Mephisto for mother’s soul.
27. INCREDIBLE HULK #420 (1994)
Peter David’s run on Hulk is, deservedly, known as one of (the?) best Hulk runs of all time. In this issue, Jim Wilson dies of AIDS.
26. DOCTOR STRANGE AND DOCTOR DOOM: TRIUMPH AND TORMENT (1989)
The “Doctor Doom’s mommy is in Hell” story finally gets its due in a brilliant Roger Stern script and amazing Mike Mignola ar.
25. SILVER SURFER #4 (1969)
“The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny!” Stan Lee and John Buscema created this story, in which Loki tricks Thor into fighting Silver Surfer. Two of Marvel’s most powerful characters dueling on the Rainbow Bridge.
24. CAPTAIN AMERICA #255 (1981)
Roger Stern and John Byrne’s Captain America is recognized as one of the greatest runs on the character, and this 40th anniversary issue was a modern retelling (and retconning) of Cap’s origin.
23. AVENGERS #223 (1983)
This was the first time I’d read about either Ant-Man or Taskmaster—and the idea of photogenic memory was supercool. It sounded so scientific I actually believed it was a thing. Hey, I was just a kid. Anyway, if there’s just one scene like this in the Ant-Man movie, it’ll be all worth it.
22. DAREDEVIL #208 (1984)
Written by Harlan Ellison, this is part one of a two-part arc, but part two isn’t really necessary. Nearly the whole issue is Daredevil making his way through a house of traps. It’s like DD vs. Rube Goldberg, and it’s one of the most action-packed comics I’ve ever read.
I doubt there are many people other than me who remember this issue, let alone who would place it on a top 10 list. So if you disagree, tell me why. Or get your own blog!
21. G.I. JOE #21 (1981)
“Silent Interlude.” Widely recognized as one of the most important comics of all time. Check out this cool article about it here.
20. DEADPOOL #11 (1997)
In which Deadpool travels back in time to join the fun in Amazing Fantasy #15. Joe Kelly’s run on this book was tremendous.
19. OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #1 (1976)
I know I said I would only use done-in-ones for this feature, and Steve Gerber rarely writes anything that doesn’t bleed over into other stories, but Omega the Unknown is his masterpiece and the first issue was a complete origin story–even if it sowed plenty of seeds for the rest of this brilliant, 10-issue saga.
18. DOCTOR STRANGE #66 (1984)
It’s not an important story. It’s not one where something really dramatic happens. It’s a simple tale of a guy with “luck powers” who realizes his own destiny. A character piece that focuses on someone who is not a superhero and who is barely heard from again, but it’s an example of how Roger Stern had a tremendous imagination and could write the heck out of a comic.
17. INVINCIBLE IRON MAN #128 (1979)
Demon in the bottle. After several issues of build-up, we see Tony Stark getting sober and facing his demons, and making amends to Jarvis–who quit as Avengers’ butler during the worst of Tony’s drunkeness.
16. AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #3 (1967)
The first appearance of Doctor Octopus. And the first use of Spider-Man’s belt-light, aka, the Spider Signal. And if that’s not enough, Human Torch visits Peter Parker’s high school, thus beginning their competitive bromance.
15. SILVER SURFER #3 (1969)
The first Mephisto. ‘Nuff said.
14. X-FACTOR #87 (1993)
Peter David and Joe Quesada’s terrific tale of Doc Samson psychoanalyzing the team. This book was great for many reasons. First, X-Factor was basically one long story, so it was hard to find a jumping-in point, and this issue achieved that by telling readers everything important that was going on with the characters without being a “recap” issue and while still advancing their individual storylines. Second, because it’s all talk—which is really hard to draw—and yet it’s entirely captivating. And third, because it actually makes good and proper use of Doc Samson. That ain’t easy to do.
13. FANTASTIC FOUR #4 (1962)
Let’s be honest: More than half of the first 100 issues of Fantastic Four are candidates for this list. Add to that many of the early issues of The Amazing Spider-Man, and you coul have a list with just two titles.
Issue #4 brought Golden Age sea-master Sub-Mariner into the 616 Universe. In addition to the iconic scene above, the story introduced the Susan Storm/Namor/Reed Richards triangle.
12. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN ANNUAL #1 (1964)
The concept of a team of villains was new to the Marvel Universe at this point. Stan and Steve brought together six of Spider-Man’s greatest foes and had them kick the hero around for an oversized issue.
11. AVENGERS ANNUAL #10 (1981)
Carol Danvers loses her Ms. Marvel powers! A new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants! The first Rogue! Incredible Michael Golden art! Spider-Woman playing a role that matters!
A perfect comic book.
10. GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 (1975)
The reboot to beat all reboots. The comic that set the stage for nearly three decades of mutant domination of superhero comics, nearly all by Chris Claremont (who did not write Giant-Size X-Men #1–that was Len Wein).
9. HOWARD THE DUCK #16 (1977)
The famous, “Zen and the Art of Art of Comic Book Writing” issue, which was basically one long essay about how Steve Gerber had writers block and hated writing monthly comic books because the deadlines were too hard to meet.
A year later, Gerber was fired from Marvel for, you guessed it, failing to meet deadlines.
8. DAREDEVIL #191 (1983)
Roulette. Chilling. Powerful. The perfect capstone for Frank Miller’s first run on Daredevil.
7. MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #1: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN MARVEL (1982)
A simple tale of death and mortality. We should all die like Mar-Vell–surrounded by people who loved us, helping us remember how much our lives mattered.
No story like it had ever been told before, and really none has been done since.
6. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #248 (1983)
That rarest of all creatures: The back-up feature that is better than the main event, aka “The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man.”
I have to say, the first time I read this what stuck out was that the kid was a collector–like me–not that he was dying.
Ooops. Spoiler alert. I just gave away the punch line.
5. THE UNCANNY X-MEN #138 (1980)
The death of Phoenix was part of a multi-issue arc. But issue #138 can be read as its own as a coda to that story. Jean Grey’s death was the first time DC or Marvel killed off a foundation character, by which I mean a character who had been around basically since the company’s beginning. In this issue, she gets a tear-jerking sendoff, but Chris Claremont brilliantly balances the loss with the first appearance of the character who would become the X-Men’s heart and source of greatest hope: Kitty Pryde.
Even the cover is iconic–read more about it here.
4. THOR #337 (1983)
Much has been written about Walt Simonson’s debut on Thor, and deservedly so. This issue literally smashed the logo and replaced Thor with Beta Ray Bill. Walt was like, “I’m not even gonna try to rehabilitate this book, which has been dull, tired, and stupid for decades. I’m just gonna reinvent the whole thing.”
3. THE AVENGERS #4 (1964)
“Cap lives again!” Bringing Cap back from the dead, and reviving a guy whose previous book had been cancelled because everyone hated it, and turning it into a classic. Quite a feat.
2. AMAZING FANTASY #15 (1962)
The best origin story of all time, period, end of debate. Like the early Fantastic Four issues, the Lee/Ditko years on Spider-Man could also take up many spots on this list. Such great comics.
1. FANTASTIC FOUR #5 (1962)
Dr. Doom, in his first and greatest appearance ever, sends the team back in time and Thing becomes the pirate Blackbeard.
Not only is this the best single issue ever, it’s my favorite comic of all time.