And with this post, we bust into the top 40! Kasey Kasem would be so proud!
40. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #121 (1973)
The one where Gwen dies.
39. THE NEW MUTANTS #1 (1983)
Could lightning strike twice? Could another band of mutants matter? Yes.
This book introduced the cast (actually, they’d already appeared in a graphic novel—but most people didn’t know them yet) and launched a terrific new series. Written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by the great Bob McLeod.
38. GOTHAM CENTRAL #34 (2005)
Most of the books on this list are self-contained stories, but not this one. This is in the middle of an arc where the police are trying to figure out who killed “Robin.” But this issue, in which the Teen Titans show up to the station to submit to questioning, was fantastic. So good you don’t have to read the rest of the arc to appreciate it. But you should. You should read every issue of Gotham Central. Like I did. Then you can be one of the cool kids. Here’s my write up of this issue.
37. 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.
36. SUPERMAN #129 (1959)
I had this in a big hardcover called “Superman From the ‘30s to the ‘70s,” and I read that book until it fell apart. This was the great story about Superman meeting and falling in love with a mermaid named Lori Lemaris. Because even his nonhuman girlfriends have the initials “LL.” It’s stories like this that make Superman interesting: He’s so powerful that nothing can stop him…Except a broken heart.
35. THE WALKING DEAD #1 (2003)
Before this, I’d never read a good zombie comic. But the premise was solid (although it seems to be a pretty close rip off of 28 Days Later), the characterization was great, and the art was phenomenal. This was one of those first issues that made it hard to wait 30 days for #2.
34. ULTIMATE SPIDER-MAN #13 (2001)
Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagely’s update of the Spidey legend was a slow boil, and this was the first big payoff: Spider-Man reveals his true identity to Mary Jane.
33. PLANETARY #2 (1999)
The one where they fight Godzilla.
Every issue of this series is brilliant–and just about every issue is done-in-one–so it’s hard to pick the one to represent the series in my list. I know lots of folks would have gone with the one about the Hong Kong ghost–and that was great, too–but this is the one I remember most. Largely because I understood what Warren Ellis and John Cassaday were doing when I read this, and couldn’t wait to read their next foray into a new genre.
32. BATMAN #244
The great Neal Adams illustrates Denny O’Neil’s story about the origin of Damian Wayne. Of course, O’Neil had no idea that that was what he was writing.
But it is one of the few date rapes in comics.
31. DAREDEVIL #185
“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.