On the worst day of the year for single people and absent-minded married men, Team FBB stood back and thought of the things that we love about comics. We capped it at 25 so that this series of articles would be completed sometime this year. One interesting thing that I came across while compiling my list was how many of these selections were based on visual storytelling moments. I’m starting to realize that I enjoy the art side of comics more than the writing.
1. Li’l Bloody – There’s something about the combination of Garbage Pail Kids and Little Rascals in Steven Weissman’s Yikes series that really hits my inner sweet spot. My favorite member of the monster misfit crew is Li’l Bloody, whose blood sucking evil vampire nature is hidden by how bite-sized he is (pun not intended). Here’s a page from Mean, where a classroom of first generation immigrants becomes the target of his frustration.
2. Towel Cape Attached with Clothespins – Paul Jenkins and Jae Lee’s Sentry starts with Robert Reynolds looking like a crazy man beginning his final breakdown. However, by the end of the first issue, as he rises into the air clad in towel “cape”, we see that maybe Rob isn’t as crazy as we assumed him to be.
3. Xorn Lied, Mutants Died – Grant Morrison’s run on New X-Men is a winding mess of fantastic storytelling mixed with okay to glorious art. Issue 129 is a great effort by John Paul Leon, following Xorn as he tells Professor X of his experience dealing with an emerging mutant in lower Manhattan. On the surface, it actuallis a touching story about death and ignorance that plucks at the heart strings a little too much. When Xorn’s dark secret is revealed later on in the run, it makes you question every aspect of this story.
4. Ted Knight Knowing When it’s the Right Time to Leave the Party – James Robinson’s Grand Guignol arc in Starman is an insane collection of man-up and bad ass moments that would make Mark Millar feel inadequate. The best part is that each of these moments is earned by the characters over nearly seventy issues of buildup. The king of “manning-up” is Ted Knight, and Peter Snejbjerg absolutely nails depicting this moment in #72.
5. Whenever Garth Ennis characters are drinking - Ennis has his tropes but this is my favorite one. His bar sequences work for me because they capture the feeling of going out drinking with your friends. The night unfolds as stories are traded back and forth and everyone knocks back a good drink. One of my favorite versions of the bar scene is in the John Constantine-less Heartland one shot drawn by Steve Dillion.
6. Any time Namor, Doctor Doom, Magneto and T’Challa are in a room together – Black Panther #28 may be the only time this has actually occurred. Priest and Valluto/Almond create a fantastic amalgamation of political alliances, Marvel Universe history, and four of the biggest egos on the planet.
7. Peter Parker telling Aunt May how he became Spider-Man – In Amazing Spider-Man #38/476, Peter finally comes clean to his aunt about his guilt over his uncle’s death. By opening up, he allows his aunt to move past her own guilt. I haven’t been this misty eyed over a comic since Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. This issue is easily one of the highlights of JMS and John Romita Jr’s run.
8. “Hold up Wonder Woman, we want in on this.” – JLA #41, the last issue of the World War III storyline, features a simple inversion of a common superhero trope. Superman always saves the world, but here, the world saves itself and Superman. I like to think that Grant Morrison had the same big goofy smile writing this as I did reading it. Howard Porter does a cool little job with the saviors in the double page spread.
9. Lightining Strikes and All is Lost – Kingdom Come was the first thing I read when I returned to comics in college. Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s baby doesn’t hold up well at all; it’s a collection of awesome moments with an okay story. What still works for me is this moment at the end of the third issue, where the Man of Steel’s hopes are dashed by the Big Red Cheese.
10. “This is what I do.” – Ron Zimmerman has come and gone but he did create one of my favorite comics alongside British great Sean Phillips. Tangled Web #13 is an issue long super-villain version of the “Ennis Bar Scene”, but the part that nails it is when Osborn lets everyone know who they’re really drinking with.
11. I’m Just That Awesome While Playing – Garage Band was the first thing I read by Italian creator Gipi and I was floored by the entire experience. The story of four young boys and their quest to start a band,Â was my favorite of that year. One of the standout visual sequences features Alex playing so hard that steam rises out of his body.
12. That’s Why They are the Best – It’s no big secret that I absolutely love Peter Milligan and Mike Allred’s X-Statix run. One of my favorite arcs has them go up against the Avengers. Milligan uses a classic Avengers lineup that you wouldn’t expect to fit in the story he’s telling in X-Statix, but he is able to fit this story into continuity and keep the Avengers true to their characters. Hawkeye’s lines here are perfect.
13. Two Cool Cats – There are a lot of standout moments in Darwyn Cooke’s New Frontier, especially any time J’onn J’onzz or King Faraday are on panel. This page from the fifth issue nails both their characters and their relationship up to this point.
14. Finally! – Over 28 issues, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos let us into Jessica Jones’s world and her struggles. In the final issue of Alias, she is under the control of the one man who is the source of that trouble. She finally gets the chance to take her life back and when she does, it feels just so good.
15. Waller Ain’t Nothing to Fuck With – Amanda Waller doesn’t have super powers, but she can do more damage than Superman’s heat vision, escape situations that would tax Mr. Miracle and his Motherbox, and save the day better than Wonder Woman ever could. Batman knows what’s up.
16. Jaime Reyes, His Friends, and His Family – Holy shit, a teenage comic book character with a supportive family structure filled with realistic, fully featured characters! They didn’t even need to kill his parents to make him feel angst. God bless you, John Rogers and Rafael Albuquerque. This was a straight up pleasure to read.
17. Scott Free – Mr. Miracle is just more than the globetrotting escape artist from Apokolips. He’s a husband a friend and also a shining example of humanity’s ability to overcome any odds in the face of despair or degradation. Here he takes on Lump in the eighth issue of Jack Kirby’s Mr. Miracle.
18. Your Mother and I Were Worried – Sure, he’s the obvious favorite in Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series, but Wallace Wells is just a joy on every page he is on. The fact that he is somewhat based on Chris Butcher is the icing on the cake.
19. Paul Pope’s Neo New York – It seems like Heavy Liquid, 100% and Batman Year 100 all take place in this weird space where the early 1990s Lower East Side of New York is shunted one hundred years forward. Pope’s futuristic New York is a place where you can have gastrointestinal strippers and art installations made out of tea kettles. I’ve never wanted to live in any comic book world more than the one he’s created here.
20. Shhhhhhh – David Lapham’s Stray Bullets is full of terrible human beings, while Spanish Scott may not be the worst of them, he is one of most fascinating. I could point to numerous examples throughout his series, but this page from Stray Bullets #2 shows him at his worst.
21. Jim Mahfood’s Backgrounds – More animated than anything you’ll see in a Saturday morning cartoon, Jim Mahfood refuses to keep his backgrounds static. They are filled with in-joke after in-joke, never overwhelming the actual story but slowly building up in the back so that you feel the need to reread each panel to catch all the details.
22. Wisdom Makes the Tough Choice – A book few people read, Paul Cornell’s Wisdom fleshed out of a character that had been nothing more than a stock Warren Ellis cliche. It is both noble and sad that Wisdom always makes his decisions based on trying to take the burdens off others, even when he knows it will hurt him the most. You can easily see what he’s given up in this page from the last issue.
23. Permission to Use Deadly Force? – I’ll be the first to complain about Alan Moore’s ability to manipulate his audience into feeling very specific reactions. I know some people can’t get through Top Ten: The Forty-Niners because of this. I still think that the moments following Officer Li’s death in the tenth issue of Top Ten are honest, especially due to Gene Ha and Zander Cannon’s skill in conveying the emotions through their artwork.
24. Despero Rockin’ the UN Flag – Adam Hughes’s cover for Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis’s Justice League of America #39 is one that demands to be bought. Defiling the flag of the United Nations makes him appear to be the opposite of everything that body represents, and shows that our heroes are the only ones who can stop him.
25. The Little Space Worm That Could – Mr. Mind is totally awesome in every possible way. From taking over the world because his radio show was canceled to being the only worm evil enough to be Hitler’s boss, Mr. Mind’s little voice box and tiny glasses let him grind us under his tail and look adorable doing so.