4. The Punisher (1986) (5 issues)
AKA “Circle of Blood,” this was the book that really matured the Punisher character into something readable—and beyond “that guy who shoots people using guns bigger than his own torso.”
Also: Art by Mike Zeck, who worked on my #1 pick as well…
3. Squadron Supreme (1985) (12 issues)
Deconstructing superhero mythology is commonplace today, but Mark Gruenwald’s 12-issue miniseries about Marvel’s alternate-Earth answer to the Justice League was one of the first of its kind. Over the course of 12 issues (labeled a “maxi series,” a term dropped in the 1990s because it sounds way too much like a feminine product), Gruenwald shows what happens when superheroes try to remake the world as they see fit. This was before Warren Ellis did it in the pages of The Authority, and before Alan Moore’s Marvel Man came on the scene, too. By today’s standards, the writing is a little heavy, but by any measure it’s still sheer brilliance.
2. Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars (1984-1985) (12 issues)
Jason and I agree on our top two picks. Secret Wars was the first of its kind: Every major Marvel heroes and several minor ones “disappear” from the pages of their own comic books, only to return the following issue. The time gap is filled by a 12-issue miniseries in which Spider-Man gets his symbiotic black costume, Thing abandons Earth, and all kinds of wicked cool fights happen.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t technically the “first” of its kind. It was preceded by a vastly inferior three-issue mini called Contest of Champions in 1982, but that was really more of a scavenger hunt than a “super hero war.”
Plus, Secret Wars had this:
Secret Wars remains, in my view, the perfect “event.” You didn’t have to buy it. None of the cross-overs were essential. Regular Marvel storylines could continue with just a mention of the series. The creators had sufficient pedigree (Jim Shooter and Mike Zeck). And in it, your favorite heroes and villains fought a lot. There were a few major(ish) changes to the MU after it, but nothing you couldn’t easily pick up by reading only the books you already were reading.
Plus, it was fun. 1980s comics were fun.
Does anybody remember laughter?