THE 100 GREATEST COMICS OF ALL TIME
By Samuel Catalino
I would like to give you all a bit of background on this column below. About a year ago I purchased an Amazing Fantasy 15 from Jerry Weist and had the pleasure of speaking with him on the phone. For the record he is fair to deal with high priced books. I told him about this column that I wrote a few years ago, and informed him of my opinion about his book. I do not recall if I sent him a copy of this column, but he had promised me a book of Comic book art that he wrote, and I never received it. No big deal. People forget about these things all of the time. Now, without further ado, I present my review of this book.
I just got a book the other day from a (who shall remain unidentified) friend of mine. The book was called 100 GREATEST COMICS, and it was written by (actually compiled) by Jerry Weist. Now what Mr. Weist did was gather a number of comic book aficionados together to create this list. The interesting thing about this list is that it was originally 135, and the people identified would then vote on only 100, eliminating 35. Now whose list was the 135? Yep, you guessed it, it was Jerry Weist! There was one thing that the people could do, add 15 of their own comics, so at least 85 would come from this list of 135. So what Mr. Weist did was compile a list he thought was the 135 greatest comics and gave it to a number of people to vote on what would be the 100 greatest of all time.
The list of people he gave this list is a who’s who in Comics, ranging from Harlan Ellison to Paul Levitz to Maggie Thompson to CGC ers Steve Borock and Mark Haspel, 44 in all. I recognize a number of them from Bob Overstreet to Joe Mannerino along with Michele Nolan and Greg White, and it seems to be top heavy with pros, writers and dealers, who make up most of the list. I didn’t see too many true collectors (that means not writers like Mark Evanier and Roy Thomas) on the list. Gareb Shamus was absent from the list and maybe that is a good thing after seeing their choice for the greatest (Amazing Spider-Man #50) cover of all time. The list is an impressive one.
So what does an old crotchety man like I have to say about this impressive list of people who voted on Mr. Weists’ 135 greatest comics? Only that the collective votes mean nothing, being that the results were skewed in the first place. When you control whom you vote for, you control the outcome. That was the first thing that should have been done was that all of these people should have been allowed to vote for whichever comic that they wanted to.
The comics displayed are top laden with Golden Age books, with nine out of the top ten being Golden Age. What was the one that actually dented the top ten, do you ask? Why Zap Comics #1 of course. That was the most important comic of the 1960s, according to the list.
Now how did they decide the criteria of this subjective list? To Mr. Weist’s credit, he addresses this by citing that greatness is subjective. He then writes about them as:
1. HISTORICAL IMPACT
3. INTRODUCTION OF NEW CONCEPTS
I think he should have just stopped with his first comment, because all of these were pretty much blown away as you go through the list. The first one that comes immediately to my mind is Amazing Fantasy #15. Here you have the first appearance of Spider-Man that ends up being the standard bearer for Marvel Comics even as Superman is the standard bearer for DC comics. It certainly fell within the quality and introduction of a new concept as well as rarity and popularity, especially popularity. Where did Amazing Fantasy #15 end up? Number twelve. Zap Comics had more historical impact, more quality, introduced new concepts and was rarer and far more popular than Amazing Fantasy #15 according to this list. Now I don’t mean to take down Zap Comics as to show a clear example of how lists like these violate their own parameters.
The next one is Batman. Batman #1 comes in at number 10, Detective Comics #38 (the introduction of Robin) is at 13. Where is Detective #27, which is the first appearance of Batman? Well it comes after Detective Comics #1 (which was at #18) and ends up at #23. Yep, I guess Batman #1 had more impact that the very first appearance of the character. Now I understand all of the main villains (The Joker comes to mind) had their first appearance in Batman #1, but what is more important, the villains or the main character? And was the first appearance of Robin more important than the first appearance of Batman?
The list goes on… What issue of Fantastic Four is highest in this list? Issue #1? Number four, the reintroduction of the Sub-Mariner, or number five, which is the first appearance of their archenemy Doctor Doom? Nope, it is issue number 48 at the position of 37, with the introduction of Galactus and the Silver Surfer. Fantastic Four number one comes in at number (you will get a big kick out of this) 48. Fantastic Four #1 did not have the historical impact nor the quality or introduction of concepts and was not as rare or not as popular as Fantastic Four #48. Now I loved issue 48 and it is significant to the history of Marvel Comics in the introduction of two fantastic characters, but is that more significant as the book that most people acknowledge launched the Marvel Age? Some may argue Amazing Adventures#1 (Dr. Droom) though, but that is for another column. I guess Fantastic Four #1 did not meet the criteria and had to settle for number 48, nine positions behind issue 48.
Now the next one equally amuses me as one would wonder where Wonder Woman #1 (number 56) would end up, but there is something interesting as her first appearance which is in All Star #8 ends up at # 19. Now I have no problem with that position, but what the heck was Young Romance #1 doing at position 28? Isn’t that a little bit high for that book? Yeah, I know I will catch it for that, but isn’t my opinion as valid as those who voted on this list and the person who made this list?
Moving on, would you care to guess which X-Men ended up on the list? Well, look no further than number 40, but the book is Giant Size X-Men number one, more important historically, rarer than Amazing Spider-Man #1 that ends up at number 43. Where is X-Men #1? It limps in at #53.
Moving along, Amazing Spider-Man #129 shows up in the 100 greatest comics of all time at number 85 while Amazing Spider-Man #14 (the first appearance of the Green Goblin) is nowhere to be found. Not to be outdone, the greatest (in my humble opinion) Amazing Spider-Man was number thirty-three, and there are a lot of comic book collectors who would agree with me.
Other comics that appear on the 100 are Incredible Hulk #181 (the first appearance of Wolverine), Daredevil #168 (first appearance of Elektra). Do you all see the pattern? All major characters and moviemakers? So where the heck is Tomb of Dracula #10 which introduced the character Blade which became Marvel’s first breakthrough at the movies? MIA
I could go and ask why the heck Dark Knight Returns and Watchman are on the list (number one issues of each) when they are all mini-series? I guess that there are no comics worthy of renown from 1990 forward except Superman Peace On Earth by Alex Ross. I guess those folks never read Marvels. Maybe it slipped their mind?
A number of years ago, I made sport of the TCJ greatest comics list by asking why they failed to include Will Rogers or Jerry Lewis in their list. Of course this list is actually talking about single comic books, where that list was made of strips and did not cite specific strips of the run, so I had fun with that too.
Then Wizard came out with their list of the greatest covers that inspired me to do one of mine own. I do believe that my list might have had a bit more credibility than the Wizard one being I put Action Comics #1 at number one. Of course, when I put Amazing Spider-Man #28 at number two, I suspect some folks questioned my sanity.
Mr. Weists’ book does acknowledge that there is a consensus of opinion that Action Comics #1 is the greatest comic of all. I would not dispute that claim, but the next ninety-nine is up in the air as far as I am concerned. The only opinion of a great comic book is you, the reader. Don’t rely on someone else’s opinion sway you in that discovery.
Your opinion is just as valid and carries as much weight as these people do. An honest title would be 100 greatest comic books by Jerry Weist. That is his list. Make up one of your own, it will have just as much validity and credibility. Hey you can even publish your own book too just like he did. Now I am wondering if Gareb Shamus was an anonymous contributor to that list.
Now Mr. Loeb just put up his top ten comic cover list in the CBG this month…. other than there are no comic covers before 1966 or after 1973 worthy of consideration…
You know, some folks make this too easy.
Postscript: Since The Comic Buyer’s Guide abandoned the newspaper format and adopted the Wizard mag format, they have a feature of pros with their top ten comic covers. Dick Ayers is up for this month.
Sam Catalino The People’s Commentator
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