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Posts Tagged "Comic Book Top Ten"

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN BYRNE

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John Byrne was born on July 6, 1950.  He’s the only celebrity I ever stalked.  Actually, I just knew he lived in Brooklyn Heights and saw him enter a house on the street where I was working.  I didn’t want to bother him so I just stared at him.

I think I creeped him out.

Anyway, I’ve celebrated him quite a bit on this site because the 1970s and 1980s Marvel is my favorite comic book era–and that’s when he was at the top of his powers. He was my 8th favorite Writer/Artist of all time.

But I’ve never done a Top 10 devoted to him.

Now’s the time.  Hit next for the Top Ten John Byrne Comics!

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BERKELEY PLACE’S TOP 10 BRIAN WOOD COMICS

Brian Wood is known for writing long-ass stories.  DMZ.  The Massive.  Conan.  Even, from what folks have told me, his Star Wars work is one long, continuing story.  And yet, at the same time, one of his coolest works was Demo, a series of one-offs.  Wood is one of those guys who writes mostly his own original stuff, and who (in my view) is consistently underrated when people make lists of the best creators in the industry.  In fact, he got a 2004 Eisner Award nomination for “Talent Deserving of Wider Recognition.”  And with two new Image Comics series debuting later this year (Starve and Black Road, both with artists he has worked with on several projects before), the time is right for a top ten.

One caveat: I don’t read Star Wars comics so his Dark Horse series, praised as it was, doesn’t appear here.

Let’s do this.

10.  Rebels (Dark Horse) (2015)

Revolutionary War fiction.  It’s a story about Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys.  I swear, I never, ever would have thought I’d be remotely interested in a comic like this.  

But it’s truly amazing.  We’re only two issues in and I can tell already it’s going to be one of Wood’s best works.

9.  DV8: Gods and Monsters (Wildstorm) (2010)

I picked up the trade of this book because it was written by Brian Wood.  I knew nothing about who DV8 were, and really there were only a few Wildstorm books I read or kept up with (The Authority is the main one).  But I loved this story about young superheroes sent to a primitive planet to work out their issues.  They could have been Gods in that time, but they turned into monsters.  That’s the essence of it, anyway.  It’s also the rare example of a Brian Wood superhero story—he tends to shy away from them, favoring instead dystopian or science fiction.

If you like this book, check out Brian Woods runs on X-Men #30-37 (2012) and Ultimate X-Men #13-33 (2012).  Both are strong showings—just not strong enough to make this list.

8.  The Couriers (AiT/Planet Lar) (2003)

The Couriers is a collection of four graphic novels: Couscous Express, The Couriers, Dirtbike Manifesto, and The Balland of Johnny Funwrecker.  Each is about a group of New York City bike messengers who work for drug-runners and mercenaries, and the stories are written like old John Wu movies: Violent, constantly moving, full of chases and action and guns.  So much of Wood’s work is more cerebral—this is just punch after punch. It really showcases the author’s versatility.

7.  Conan the Barbarian (Dark Horse) (2012)

I do not like Conan.  I do not like swords and sandals.  But I do like Brian Wood’s conan, particularly the first six issues, “Queen of the Black Coast.”  In it that story, he puts Conan on a boat and has him meet a pirate queen—in other words, Conan is out of his element and facing a woman as powerful as he is.  Then, as the story progresses, Wood puts them both on dry land—taking the queen out of her element.  The flip-flopping of roles and power make this more interesting than the typical barbarian story.  It’s also based on one of Robert E. Howard’s most-loved Conan short stories.  Oh, and having art by Becky Cloonan never hurt anybody.

6.  Fight for Tomorrow (Vertigo) (2002)

Yeah, it’s just a karate book, albeit a well-drawn one with art by Denys Cowan.  And yet, I’ve read it a half-dozen times and each reading makes me like it more.  It’s definitely the most superficial entry on this list, and it doesn’t pretent to be anything more than what it is, but sometimes a simple story can be the best kind of story.

5.  Northlanders (Vertigo) (2008)

So I mentioned above that Wood’s current comic is called Rebels and it’s Civil War fiction.  The only thing I can imagine being less interested in is Viking fiction.  Enter: Northlanders.  A well-researched piece of historical fiction with tremendous art and powerful stories that go beyond the stereotypes of tough, noble conquerors and instead delve into what it must have been like to live in a time where war and combat were a necessity, even for humble farmers and widows.  And many great artists joined the party for the seven distinct stories in the series, including Leandro Fernandez, Fiona Staples, Becky Cloonan, Paul Azaceta and Declan Shalvey.

4.  The Massive (Dark Horse) (2012)

Basically, it’s Waterworld.  A post-apocalyptic Earth has been overtaken by the seas, and a group of environmentalists are hunting for a lost freighter called The Massive.  The tale sounds so simple, but the desperation, and the way that the characters’ pre-apocalypse pasts kept coming back to haunt them, made it a thrilling page-turner.  It was truly one of the first books I’d read every Wednesday it came out.

The book won an Eisner for Dave Stewart’s coloring, and the art is made even more extraordinary because of Stewart.  The bleakness of the story and the environment where it took place were held together by a series of artists many of you have probably never heard of: Kristian Donaldson.  Garry Brown.  Danijel Zezelj.  But their work complimented Wood’s narrative perfectly.  I think part of the reason it never got the attention it deserved was that it followed on the heels of DMZ, another dark, long-form story with similar artistic style.

3.  DMZ (Vertigo) (2006)

DMZ refers to a demilitarized zone in a future where Manhattan is unclaimed land following a second U.S. Civil War.  In this 65-issue epic, Brian Wood explored contemporary issues surrounding journalists embedded in combat zones, class warfare, colonization, extortion…But it was more than a symbolic version of Iraq, it was a tale of truth and the First Amendment—and how the need to tell a story can be more important than the story itself.  Wood worked with a bunch of great artists, some of whom followed him to The Massive and others of whom have become bigger names since their work on DMZ: Riccardo Burchielli, Kristian Donaldson, Ryan Kelly, Andrea Mutti, Shawn Martinbrough, and Cliff Chiang, to name a few.

The story did become a bit of a sprawl towards the end, but at least the first 2/3 of the story was unlike anything you’ve read before.  And it did come with an actual ending—a narrative conclusion, not just a quick arc that stitched everything up in the face of series cancellation.

Of all his original works, DMZ is the one that most cries out for a televised adaptation.  Get on that, AMC!

2.  Moon Knight #7-12 (Marvel) (2014)

Brian Wood had the unenviable job of following Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey’s incredible, not-to-be-missed six issue reboot of the Moon Knight character.  So what did he and artist Greg Smallwood do?  They basically ignored it, instead telling a story that could have been familiar (Moon Knight loses touch with his spiritual power source and guide, Koshnu, and falls down to the bottom) but instead felt as different as when Frank Miller first took the “hero falls” concept to its logical conclusion in Daredevil: Born Again.  Yes, that’s right.  I compared this run to the greatest Daredevil comic of all time.  No, it’s not as groundbreaking, but using the book to talk about Guantanemo and how terrorists should be treated was similar to Miller’s use of Nuke and Captain America in that DD story—and nealry as provocative.  Warren Ellis tried to tie all the prior Moon Knight versions together in a series of one-offs, and Wood basically tried to do the same thing in a six-issue arc.

It may not have gotten the recognition of Ellis/Shalvey’s run, but only because that run was beyond compare.  If Wood hadn’t come right at its heels, I bet it would have been a book everyone would have been talking about in 2014.

1.  Demo (AiT/Planet Lar) (2003)

Demo is Brian Wood’s masterpiece.  Twelve issues, twelve separate stories, each about kids who either have super powers or complicated lives, or both.  The art is beyond compare—it’s Becky Cloonan’s masterpiece as well—and was recognized by most industry awards.  Most “done in one” comics don’t sell well these days—people are into continuity and longer stories—but the quick nature of the Demo comics didn’t feel isolated.  The issues had a common thread or feel, so it seems like you’re reading one long story about twelve different people.  The stories dealt maturely with teenage rebellion, suicide, “parents just don’t understand,” and all the angst that comes with growing up.

Truly, if you haven’t read this book, you should.  

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THE 10 WORST SIDEKICKS OF ALL TIME

wonder twins
You’ve read about the best, now here’s the rest…

10. Frankie Raye

This first one is is a bit of a reach, but stay with me. Frankie was Johnny Storm’s girlfriend, and then became Galactus’ sidekick (okay, he calls them “Heralds”) because she was jealous of all of Human Torch’s adventures.  Yeah, I wanna be cool and fiery too so I’ll help sacrifice entire planets to this horrible God.

Probably John Byrne’s biggest mis-step in an otherwise perfect run on Fantastic Four.

9. Snapper Carr

Snapper was introduced as a “hip teen” to try to make the Justice League of America more relatable.

It didn’t work.  He was just annoying. And he snapped his fingers a lot.

8. Etta Candy

Maybe she wasn’t really a sidekick because she didn’t stick around too long or do much of anything. But she was a fat chick who loved candy and hung around with Wonder Woman.

7. The Wonder Twins and Gleek

Superfriends was an awesome TV show, but Zan and Jana? No. All they did was turn into birds and puddles and follow around the guys you really wanted to see.

ebony white the spirit eisner6. Ebony White

The completely racist caricature sidekick to The Spirit. I shouldn’t need to explain my reasoning here. There are lots of examples of racist sidekick characters, but this one makes my list because he was created by Will Eisner, who was in so many other ways ahead of his time.

5. Aqualad and Aquagirl.

Aqualad was stupid character based on a stupid superhero. A sidekick initially rejected by Marv Wolfman in his classic New Teen Titans comic, which was all about sidekicks. Seriously, Aqualad—-from his name to his costume—was just the most worthless sidekick ever.

And the girl version just seemed desparate.

4. Rick Jones

I’ve never liked Rick Jones. First of all, he’s a jerk, driving his motorcycle out on government property during a gamma bomb experiment. Total dick move. But more than that, he’s a professional sidekick, serving Hulk, becoming Bucky for a while, traveling with ROM the Spaceknight and two Captain Marvels….He’s just annoying. The only time I liked him was when he became a washed up, alcoholic rock star singing about his days accompanying superheroes. That was kinda interesting.

3. Roy Harper

“Speedy” never really made sense to me. He was the kid version of Green Arrow, but the only time he did anything interesting with his mentor was when he got hooked on heroin. (It should have been speed, of course.) Harper became a decent solo character, but he was a terrible sidekick. And even in his solo stories he never really did anything Green Arrow couldn’t do.

2. Kid Devil

Okay, I admit that Blue Devil was never the greatest character, but when his book came out in 1984 I enjoyed it. For the time, it wasn’t terrible. But even as a young lad who read just about every comic Marvel and DC published, I could tell this was a bad idea. Geoff Johns tried to rehabilitate the character decades later by putting him in the Teen Titans and it kinda worked—but not really.

1. Alpha

I love Dan Slott. I love everything he’s done with Spider-Man. Except this. God, was Alpha awful. Marvel tried to push him out and make him a major character, giving him solo stories and all, but the fans said no fucking way.

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THE TOP 10 SIDEKICKS OF ALL TIME, ACCORDING TO ME!

Yesterday, I promised you a look at the top 25 sidekicks of all time and made a good faith showing of the first 15.  Today, we finish the list.

To reiterate the rules: They have to have been an actual sidekick in a comic book—someone who didn’t appear without the main hero, at least at first and for a long time. So Supergirl and She-Hulk wouldn’t qualify. Second rule: They can’t all be Robin. Or even Batman sidekicks. Because for a guy who was supposed to be such a loner, he sure did amass a lot of hangers-on. Final rule: No animals.

10. The Legion of Substitute Heroes

A team that was created as understudies to the Legion of Superheroes, the LSHs were a group of misfits and weirdos with powers like eating stuff and hit-girl it's clobbering timeturning into immobile stone. If they were on the cover, I’d buy the comic. It was one of the only things that would make me buy Legion of Super Heroes.

9. Hit-Girl

I hear you: She’s not a sidekick! But she was. Not to Kick Ass, but to her father. And then she came into her own as the biggest badass teenage girl since Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

8. Bart Allen

What made the Bart version of Kid Flash so great? Lots of things, not the least of which was that he was a sidekick to a sidekick: Wally West, the first Kid Flash. Bart was always disgruntled, never wanting to be a kid version of an adult and always super-conscious of his role. Particularly in the pages of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’s New Teen Titans, he was the most relatable kid-version of a hero precisely because he resented being a kid. Remember when you were young? You couldn’t wait to grow up and stand on your own.

7. Wee Hughie

wee hughie becomes butcher

Was Hughie really a sidekick to the crazed, ultraviolent Butcher? Yes. The way The Boys was constructed as a comic was as an antidote to superhero books—so if Butcher was Batman, Hughie was Robin. He was also our entry point into the comic—the guy we most sympathized with with—which kind of made him the star, not the sidekick. But that was more of a narrative choice: As a character, he’s clearly a second banana to Butcher’s starring role.

And, as revealed above, by the end of the series he has taken on a lot of his boss’ worst traits…You can read more about The Boys here.

6. Francine Peters

Was Francine really Katchoo’s sidekick? Go back and read the brilliant Strangers in Paradise and you’ll see why I say she is. She serves as comedy herbie and franklinrelief when Katchoo get’s too serious or psychotic. She’s a damsel in distress. She saves the day. She provides every major sidekick function. That she’s also a love interest doesn’t mean she can’t also be a sidekick.

5. HERBIE

I’m talking about the robot butler to Franklin Richards in the wonderful all-ages comic, Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius. The book was a series of minis and one-shots, and was always charming and hilarious.

4. Sam Wilson

Maybe it’s not fair to call him a sidekick, but remember: The Falcon got his start in the pages of Captain America and for a long time the two characters shared the masthead. Remarkably, it took 20 years for him to get his first solo book—and even then, it was just a four-issue miniseries. A great miniseries, but still—way too short.

3. Dick Grayson

What?!? He’s only #3? Yeah. He was a great Robin—providing Batman with a voice of compassion that came from a place that wasn’t completely obsessed. On the one hand, he represents Batman saving his own soul—giving a father figure to a kid who lost his parents. On the other, he’s the counterpoint to Bruce Wayne, who lost his parents and had them replaced by a guy who taught him combat but was also an evil dick.

2. Tim Drake

first appearance tim drake robin

I know, I know: Two Robins at the top of my list? What can I say? The original sidekick is still the best. And I could never do better than Chris Sims at explaining why Tim Drake is the best Robin ever.

1. Bucky Barnes

Could there really be any doubt that this is who I’d pick? Of course not. Bucky Barnes was great as a sidekick, especially in the retcon flashbacks by Ed Brubaker where he was revealed to be a violent assassin—someone who took care of business even Captain America didn’t know about. But he was also great when was fleshed out has his own character, first as the sinister Winter Soldier and then eventually taking over the mantle as Captain America.

TOMORROW: The Worst Sidekicks of All Time!

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BERKELEY PLACE’S TOP TWENTY-FIVE COMIC BOOK SIDEKICKS!

batman is gay with robin

List time again! Today and tomorrow, the top 10 comic book sidekicks of all time, according to me. Now, the rules are: They have to have been an actual sidekick—someone who didn’t appear without the main hero, at least at first and for a long time. So Supergirl and She-Hulk wouldn’t qualify. Second rule: They can’t all be Robin. Or even Batman sidekicks. Because for a guy who was supposed to be such a loner, he sure did amass a lot of hangers-on. Final rule: No animals.

And a caveat: These are my personal favorites, not necessarily the most important sidekicks—or even the most relevant. If you disagree with me, drop a comment and tell me why!

brat pack by rick veitchWe’ll start out, today, with #s 25-10, and then you can come back tomorrow and see the top 10…And then, some of the worst sidekicks of all time!

25. The Brat Pack

It’s hard to find Rick Veitch’s comic about sidekicks who serve as commercial products, and I’m going by memory, but as I recall it was excellent. It won an Eisner. But since I can’t do more research, it’s just placing at #25. Interestingly, it’s one of two “teams” of sidekicks you’ll see on this list. Can you guess what the other one is?

Hint: It’s NOT the New Teen Titans.

24. Obelix

Sidekicks essentially perform two functions: Humor or straight man. Obelix was the classic humor version. Costello to Asterix’s Abbot.

23. Frenchie

frenchie moon knight

Less a sidekick and more of a chauffeur, but Moon Knight’s helicopter pilot was a fan favorite. Also, one of the first semi-major gay characters in comics.

22. Kato

Speaking of drivers, here’s Kato. There have been comics about him, and the comics are actually often better than the TV shows, so he gets on the list. Chewbacca doesn’t get on my list, so take this one instead.

21. Mephisto

Sure, nobody thinks of him as a sidekick but the dude used to step and fetch for Thanos. Good times.

20. Amadeus Cho

AKA “The Seventh Smartest Person in the World.” What was cool about Cho’s period of service as a sidekick to the Hulk was that he did something nobody else ever did. Hulk went through lots of sidekicks and hangers-on, but through it all he resented puny banner. So his sidekicks were never all that smart. And his run with Hercules was terrific, too.

19. Arthur

Arthur, AKA The Moth, served alongside the lunatic hero, The Tick. Arthur was more than just a “straight amn sidekick,” though, he kept his bungling, egomaniacal hero out of trouble in the same way 99 always looked out for Maxwell Smart.

18. Wong

wong the manservant

An appearance by Dr. Strange’s Chinese manservant was always the highlight of Strange’s stories for me. I can’t explain why. He even broke the golden rule of Asian sidekicks by not being a karate expert!

17. Hydra Bob

Remember how I said that some sidekicks fulfill a necessary humor function? Well, Deadpool was already funny. Bob is his punching bag, his whipping boy, a character who does nothing but get the crap beat out of him, issue out of issue. If Deadpool was in South Park, Bob would be Kenny.

16. Harley Quinn

Sorry, fans, but she doesn’t rate higher than this for me. It’s pretty rare that I read her in a comic and enjoy her. Loved her on TV, but this is a comic book blog—not a cartoon one. At the same time, I love the concept of a girl for Joker. A crooked lid for a crooked pot.

15. Captain Haddock

More so than any of the other characters who hung out with Tintin, Captain Haddock was a star. The drunken sailor deserved a spin off. Written by Garth Ennis. Hey, it’s not too late.

14. Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes was a comic, so this counts. We all know that Hobbes was imaginary, just a tool of Calvin’s id, but he seemed so alive to us as readers. In fact, when my son was eight and read every single Calvin and Hobbes book over and over, he insisted Hobbes was real and not just a stuffed animal. Oh, and I know I said no animals—but he’s a stuffed doll, not an animal.

13. Cheeks the Toy Wonder

Speaking of stuffed dolls, in his first solo book Ambush Bug got himself sidekick: A toy doll that he found in the garbage. I loved this book, and never forgot Cheeks. It was good to see Bug having someone he actually cared about, since other than that he was basically a witless psychopath.

12. Lockheed.

lockheed

Again: I know I said no animals! But Lockheed’s a dragon, not a pet. And he was a great sidekick for Kitty Pryde.

11. Jimmy Olsen

I hesitated before putting Jimmy on this list because he’s not really a sidekick. He’s more like a damsel in distress, or a supporting character. But I remember his solo book titled “Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen.” That sure sounds like a sidekick to me.

Tomorrow: The Top 10!

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