Friday, August 20, 2010

CSBG's Top 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History

A few weeks ago, I urged this blogs' readers to vote for the debut of the Manhunter from Mars as one of the 100 candidates for Comics Should Be Good's Top 75 Most Memorable Moments in DC Comics History. 45,000 respondents could vote for as many choices as they liked to determine inclusion and ranking on the list. An overwhelming minority of readers bothered with the Martian Manhunter, who did not rate a single appearance on the list. Not his arrival on Earth, and not the power walk from DC: The New Frontier. Well, I never liked Brian Cronin's candidate list to begin with, but he seems to know his readers, who gave tongue baths to Superman, Batman, the Flash and Green Lantern, as could easily be predicted. Lissbirds at Comics Make Me Happy and myself have been working on an alternate list of The Truly Most Memorable Moments of the DC Dodranscentennial if you're interested, and that will continue to address the inequities of this list. However, I'd also like to get belligerent about the poll results at length right here and now.

Bottom Tier
75. Is Batman a man or a fiend from hell? (Batman #244 by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano)
74. The Doom Patrol is defiant until the end! (Doom Patrol #121 by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani)
73. Heads roll as Superboy Prime gets mad (Infinite Crisis #4 by Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning)
72. Swamp Thing and Abby get better acquainted (Swamp Thing #34 by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben)
71. Lucifer locks up hell and gives Morpheus the key (Sandman #23 by Neil Gaiman, Kelley Jones and Malcolm Jones III)
70 Lex Luthor refuses to believe Superman is Clark Kent (Superman #2 by John Byrne and Terry Austin with Keith Williams)
69 John Stewart dooms an entire planet (Cosmic Odyssey #2 by Jim Starlin, Mike Mignola and Carlos Garzon)
68 Mogo is revealed (Green Lantern Vol. 2 #188 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)
67 Batman...lives! (Batman: The Dark Knight #4 by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson)
66 Animal Man can see you! (Animal Man #19 by Grant Morrison, Chas Truog and Doug Hazlewood)

There is some legitimately memorable stuff here. The sacrifice of the Doom Patrol was a big deal, especially considering the entire team perished, and that they managed to stay that way for about a decade and a half. The Swamp Thing sex scene was quite subversive in its day, and we all remember that Mogo doesn't socialize. In fact, I only disagree with four of these: Lucifer locking Hell was the plot motivation for Season of Mists, not so much a treasured moment. Nobody but myself and five other guys cared about Pantha while she was alive, and the circumstances of her death were more of a running gag that's already lost steam than a landmark. Batman has punched Ra's al Ghul many dozens of times, so I don't see what real difference his being shirtless and drawn by Neal Adams (redundant point?) makes. Finally, I feel the sticking point of Cosmic Odyssey was the moments after the detonation, not the bomb reveal.

Next to Least Tier
65. Batman strikes a pose (Batman #251 by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams)
64. Joker's first victim appears (Batman #1 by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson)
63. Batman discovers the Hyperclan's secret (JLA #3 by Grant Morrison, Howard Porter and John Dell)
62. Krypto dies (Action Comics #583 by Alan Moore, Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger and an uncredited Murphy Anderson)
61. Batman accepts a new Robin (Batman #442 by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Jim Aparo and Mike DeCarlo)
60. Batman summons the bats (Batman #406 by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli)
59. John Constantine outsmarts a trio of demons (Hellblazer #45 by Garth Ennis, Will Simpson and Tom Sutton)
58. The very first "Bwah Ha Ha" (Justice League International #8 by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire and Al Gordon)
57. Captain Marvel saves the day...kinda (Kingdom Come #4 by Mark Waid and Alex Ross)
56. Morpheus and a demon have a contest (Sandman #4 by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg)

Here's where my complaints begin. At #65 is a Batman pin-up. Not a moment-- an oft-reprinted pin-up. Only two entries into a run, and the Neal Adams fixation already borders on the fetishistic. The White Martian reveal was at least Manhunter-related, but as with Cosmic Odyssey, it's entirely about another hero to the exclusion of J'Onn. Does anyone really remember A Lonely Place of Dying. Had this been the moment Tim Drake had revealed that he had managed to deduce and positively confirm Batman and Nightwing's identity, I wouldn't bleat. This though? Whatevs. I'm all for Captain Marvel highlights, but once again, wasn't Superman's anguished scream amidst the fallout the money shot of that Kingdom Come sequence? Finally, of all his Sandman work, Neil Gaiman is most dismissive of Preludes & Nocturnes. I tend to agree, at least until the seemingly endless as the time Kindly Ones, but I digress. I never cared for the demon battle, I doubt all that many people remember it over better moments, and I think it just drew the catch-all Sandman vote.

Minor Tier
55. The opening page of Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow (Superman #423 by Alan Moore, Curt Swan and George Perez)
54. Sue Dibny is raped (Identity Crisis #2 by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales and Michael Bair)
53. Superman flies into the sun to save it (All Star Superman #12 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely)
52. The first woman in a refrigerator (Green Lantern v3 #54 by Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal)
51. Swamp Thing makes a discovery (Saga of the Swamp Thing #21 by Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Totleben)
50. Animal Man meets his maker (Animal Man #25 by Grant Morrison, Chas Truog and Mark Farmer)
49. Dick Grayson loses one relationship, gain a new, unhealthy one (Detective Comics #38 by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson)
48. It ends with a wink (Action Comics #583 by Alan Moore, Curt Swan, Kurt Schaffenberger and an uncredited Murphy Anderson)
47. Wonder Woman wins the contest to go to Man's World! (All-Star Comics #8 by William Moulton Marston and H.G. Peter)
46. Darkseid revealed as the "big bad" of the Great Darkness Saga (Legion of Super-Heroes #293 by Paul Levitz, Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt)

Ten moments: three Alan Moore, two Grant Morrison, two violent acts against women, and the only one of them all related to the Golden Age Wonder Woman. I'm reasonably comfortable with the lot, though.

Middling Tier
45 Hal Jordan becomes Parallax (Green Lantern Vol. 3 #50 by Ron Marz, Darryl Banks and Romeo Tanghal)
44 Green Lantern learns a difficult lesson (Green Lantern Vol. 2 #76 by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams)
43 Darkseid and Batman trade blows (Final Crisis #6 by Grant Morrison and JG Jones)
42 Aquaman's son is murdered by Black Manta (Adventure Comics #452 by David Michelinie and Jim Aparo)
41 Superman expresses his frustrations at Mongul (Superman Annual #11 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)
40 Superman meets the cousin he didn't know he had - Supergirl! (Action Comics #252 by Otto Binder and Al Plastino)
39 Dick Grayson becomes Nightwing (Tales of the Teen Titans #44 by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Dick Giordano and Mike DeCarlo)
38 Gordon and Batman's alliance begins (Batman #407 by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli)
37 The Justice Society of America has their first meeting (All-Star Comics #3 by Gardner Fox and Everett Hibbard)
36 Coast City is destroyed (Superman Vol. 2 #80 by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding)

This is the first portion to actually make me angry. For starters, I always thought Hal Jordon's Emerald Twilight rampage, especially the killing of Kilowog and snapping of Sinestro's neck, were far more memorable than his friggin' costume change into Parallax. Next, all the jerks on Batman's jock must really love the ridiculousness of Batman killing Darkseid, the ultimate "F-U" moment to logic in favor of fan service. Final Crisis sucked, it didn't matter, and this specific moment was the high point of low mentality. Batman shot a god with a gun. It was way better when Reed Richards only threatened to do that to Galactus forty years ago. Oh, and that totally was more memorable than the creation of Robin, you jackasses. Finally, there's the destruction of Coast City. I can accept it, but I don't care. Coast City didn't matter to anyone outside of Green Lantern fans before 1993, it was a well played tragedy for a number of years, and then it was essentially undone..

Accomplished Tier
35 Superman holds "Batman's" corpse (Final Crisis #6 by Grant Morrison, Doug Mahnke and, I believe, Christian Alamy, but it might also have been self-inked)
34 Sue Dibny is killed (Identity Crisis #1 by Brad Meltzer, Rags Morales and Michael Bair)
33 Rorschach enjoys prison life (Watchmen #6 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)
32 Terra reveals herself (Tales of the Teen Titans #34 by Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Romeo Tanghal)
31 Batman duels Ra's Al Ghul in the desert...bare-chested (Batman #244 by Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano)
30 Our introduction to Watchmen (Watchmen #1 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)
29 Hot shot District Attorney Harvey Kent gets a face full of acid (Detective Comics #66 by Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos)
28 Superman reveals his secret identity to Lois Lane (Action Comics #662 by Roger Stern and Bob McLeod)
27 The Justice League and the Justice Society meet for the first time! (Justice League of America Volume 1 #21 by Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky and Bernard Sachs)
26 Frank Miller adds a little extra to Batman's origin (Batman: The Dark Knight #1 by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson)

Yes, Batman was obviously really dead there. Screw me gently with a chainsaw, that is a travesty. The murder of Martian Manhunter seemed real, much more likely permanent, and had lots of people up in arms. The "death" of Batman was a blatant last minute stunt to compete with the more impactful but barely longer term death of Captain America at Marvel. Also, another pause to masturbate over topless Batman fighting papa bear Ra's al Ghul in the desert with big phallic instruments. Superman revealing his identity to Lois Lane for the first time that "counted" always felt like too little too late, which is why the next step to grab sales was to kill off Superman. Finally, while there's plenty of great moments in The Dark Knight Returns, adding a pearl necklace to the deaths of the Waynes isn't remotely one of them. This blog is my operating table, and people who voted for Final Crisis will be my patients.

Major Tier
25 Superman races the Flash (Superman #199 by Jim Shooter, Curt Swan and George Klein)
24 Joker gets in one last joke (Batman: The Dark Knight #3 by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson)
23 Wonder Woman does not see eye-to-eye on things with Maxwell Lord (Wonder Woman Vol. 2 #219 by Greg Rucka, Rags Morales and so many inkers I honestly do not know who inked these pages)
22 The Red Hood takes off the hood (Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland)
21 Dr. Manhattan silences Rorschach (Watchmen #12 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)
20 Hal first recites his oath (Showcase #22 by John Broome, Gil Kane and Joe Giella)
19 Superman returns (Kingdom Come #1 by Mark Waid and Alex Ross)
18 Barry Allen has a little accident (Showcase #4 by Robert Kanigher, Julie Schwartz, Carmine Infantino and Joe Kubert)
17 Earth-2 is discovered! (Flash #123 by Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella)
16 Blue Beetle is defiant in the face of death (Countdown to Infinite Crisis #1 by Geoff Johns, Greg Rucka, Judd Winick, Phil Jimenez and Andy Lanning)

I'm not a big Kingdom Come fan, so I pose a question to those who are: Superman returns? Really? That did it for you? It was so inevitable and the build-up so modest, I got nothing out of that. I also find it kind of sickening that their are two neck-snapping scenes in a row. This is Wonder Woman's finest hour: uncharacteristically killing a guy she barely knew who has since been resurrected, and when there were tons of alternatives available to her?

Penultimate Tier
15 Batman and Joker share a laugh (Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland)
14 Batman takes down Superman (Batman: The Dark Knight #4 by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson)
13 Abin Sur finds a replacement (Showcase #22 by John Broome, Gil Kane and Joe Giella)
12 Bruce Wayne loses a window, gains an identity (Detective Comics #33 by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff)
11 The Waynes take a night stroll (Detective Comics #33 by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff)
10 Bane breaks Batman's back (Batman #497 by Doug Moench and Jim Aparo)
9 "One Punch!" (Justice League #5 by Keith Giffen, JM DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire and Al Gordon)
8 Jason Todd is beaten nearly to death by the Joker (Batman #427 by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo)
7 Green Arrow's ward is a junkie?!!? (Green Lantern #85 by Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams)
6 Ozymandias' plan goes into effect (Watchmen #11 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons)

Of course Batman's fabled and constantly misinterpreted "take down" of Superman would rank high amongst the fanboys. For the record, a reticent Superman was handling his best friend Batman with kid gloves. Meanwhile the Dark Knight was in a super-suit and joined by Green Arrow in throwing everything they had at the Man of Steel. They managed to do real damage in a short, overwhelming offensive, but Batman knew he couldn't seal the deal, which was why he'd already planned his own death. Aside from that and Bane's breaking of Batman ranking much too high, this one is alright. Batman fans have long ruled the roost at CBR, so this makes sense.

Final Tier
5. Death of Supergirl (Crisis on Infinite Earths #7 by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Dick Giordano and Jerry Ordway)
4. Baby Superman speeds away from his dying home planet in a rocket ship (Action Comics #1 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster)
3. Barry Allen makes the ultimate sacrifice to save the Multiverse (Crisis on Infinite Earths #8 by Marv Wolfman, George Perez and Jerry Ordway)
2. Superman dies (Superman Vol. 2 #75 by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding)
1. Joker shoots Barbara Gordon (Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland)

Death, death, murder, kill... ooh, a baby! What a bloodthirsty lot. I'm just morbid enough to find humor in the sexualized paralyzing of Barbara Gordon as the great moment in 75 years of DC history. This explains a lot.


Aaron said...

See for me what really makes number one a big deal is the destruction of Commissioner Gordon's coffee table. But seriously, ugh I hate Killing Joke. The reason I'm more of a DC fan than a Marvel fan is I like that there is less wallowing in misery, so it is a shame these top choices are miserable. I'm not a big fan of Neal Adams fetishism either, and the Alan Moore fetishism is awful. It's dumb that the first crossing over from Earth 1 to 2 back in the day wasn't on the top five list (maybe instead of Barry Allen's death), that had such an impact on the comics that were produced afterwards.

Diabolu Frank said...

The thing about Barry's death? It only worked when he had died. The Dark Phoenix Saga holds up as a great story whether Jean Grey happens to be living or dead at the moment. Barry Allen on the other hand made a bunch of brief ominous appearances in the cross-continuity novelty porn that was Crisis On Infinite Earths, then died while serving the Anti-Monitor one of a series of setbacks. What made his presence great here was the sainthood he achieved as guardian angel over the purity of the Silver Age. Now that he's back, the impact is negated, and I suspect this moment will slide way down the DC 100th list.

rob! said...

Waitaminute...I haven't been paying too close attention to this, but...did people actually vote the Joker shooting Babs as the seminal moment of DC's 75-year publishing history? Jeebus, that's sick.

There have to be some people at DC not thrilled with that.

Diabolu Frank said...

Rob, it's more like the most voters agreed that amongst each's potential 100 votes, Babs would be one of them. Since there was no scaling system to mark the emphasis of each vote, it's a weird sort of compliment that Babs received the most acknowledgment. Everyone added her to their vote cart and proceeded to checkout.

LissBirds said...

Well...if I may play devil's advocate...

Bear in mind that it is "memorable" moments, not necessarily happy, favorite, good, fun, etc. moments. Many a child walked away from The Wizard of Oz remembering those damn flying monkeys because they were so frightening, and that's what stuck out in their memory--not Glinda and Munchkinland and happiness and all that. So, Babs getting shot is horrific and shocking, and perhaps that's why people chose it as "memorable." Plus, unlike the Barry Allen example, this one actually stuck in continuity, so that moment keeps its gravitas. Negative things tend to stick in people's memories more than positives. What's wrong is when people cherish those kinds of moments over the good moments. There, I think, is where the difference lies.

What really bugs me is that poor Sue Dibney gets put on the list TWICE, once for rape, once for murder. Again, I suppose you could use the above logic to make a case for it, but is that all fans really remember about Sue Dibney? I guess the sad but true answer is "yes."

The shirtless Batman scenes really don't serve any real purpose. I'm really surprised that baby Superman arrives on Earth wasn't Number 1, because, well, that's the birth of the superhero and "DC" comcis. I'd put that at the top of the list.

And about Final Crisis. Ugh. What is wrong with you, people?! Smart fans should've rebelled and boycotted any and all references to that piece of utter nonsense. Seriously? It made it on the list TWICE? More than COIE, which actually had real, historical implications for the DCU? Is anyone going to be talking about Final Crisis 20 years from now other than in the context of either mocking it or complaining about wasting their money on it?! A god bullet, really? Dead Batman?! Wake up, people!! Do I need to run into a gymnasium and throw a sledgehammer through a big telescreen of Grant Morrison's head for you all to wake up?

Okay, I'm done ranting. I think. Sorry for hijacking your comments.

And poor J'onn didn't even make the list. I'd like to know who the 25 bridesmaids are who didn't make the top 75.

Diabolu Frank said...

The thing about Sue Dibny's two appearances is that neither moment was memorable at all for me. I remember in the abstract that Sue died, because I knew it was coming. I recall that Sue was raped, because I was told as much before the unnecessary demonstration of the act. What I find memorable is Ralph's sagging face at the funeral, and the pregnancy test result. There's a lot of confusing "events" with "moments."

Speaking as a Morrison fan, folks got to stop drinking the Kool-Aid on Final Crisis. I mean, Infinite Crisis was better, and it was one of the worst things Geoff Johns has written. I'm going to really stick my neck out and even say Zero Hour was better. At least Dan Jurgens had things happen in his magnum dopus, even if he couldn't articulate what they were.

You'll have to play find the 25 Bridesmaids, as the 100 are all mixed. The Legion of Super-Heroes are heavily represented in the discard pile.

I moderate comments before they post, so nobody can hijack my forum. I say my piece in the post, and for the most part I'm cool with whatever course the comments take. Often times, those comments are the more interesting options to read. Inhibited conversation and rigid adherence to assigned topics is boring. Bring on the tangents and non sequiturs!

LissBirds said...

Are you sure you really want to invite me to bust out the non sequiturs? That will open up a can of psychedelic worms, let me tell you.

When I read Identity Crisis I didn't even realize Sue Dibney was raped, because I must've been reading too fast, though I realized it later. The sagging face was memorable because it was horrific. Even the tiny footprints was more memorable than the rape and murder, I think.

I haven't read Zero Hour, so I can't judge, really. At least Infinite Crisis made some sort of sense--or, at least, the plotting of it was able to be followed. Final Crisis lacked any such internal story logic and seemed like it was going for metatextual commentary on comics and then failed at that. It's the metatextual crap that Morrison puts out that I can't stand. Or the destroy-the-heroes-he-grew-up-with stuff. (i.e. All-Star Batman.)

I didn't think you were a fan of his, but I'm guessing you're a fan of his JLA 90's years, which were some pretty good stories.

What's ironic is that at the beginning of JLA: Misdummer's Nightmare, Morrison writes this intro that praises the Silver Age and chastizes the heroes of the "Dark Age" (Bronze Age, I guess) as flawed "deranged psychos...barely distinguishable from the villains" and how he was so happy that 1996 was a renaissance of nobility and grandeur in the "super-hero concept." So, this begs the question...what the heck happened to him in the past 14 years to make him do a total 180?! I mean, is his evil evil twin writing comics now?!

Diabolu Frank said...

The only psychedelic worm I need to address is associating Frank Miller's heinous All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder with Morrison's All Star Superman. Those are stories in near polar opposition to one another, and by many accounts Morrison's in the best take on Superman in ever.

Do not read Zero Hour, as it is five issues of crap hitting the great wall of '90s sensationalism and failing to stick. Yet, still better than Final Crisis' crawling up its own butt in search of a zeitgeist/meaning.

Morrison can be a really swell writer, but he can also be a total douchebag. The hypocrisy of having written things like Arkham Asylum and decrying "grim n' gritty" is almost humorous, but I do think he was earnest in his approach to JLA. He just takes too many drugs and layers in too much subtext, often losing the forest for the trees. He also has the curse of anti-climax. On the other hand, he has good intention and is a master of the "the moment." For you, I recommend Animal Man, which is straightforward even in its metatext. Also, the first year and a half of JLA is almost golden.

mathematicscore said...

I am a big time Final Crisis apologist, especially as I more and more let go of continuity minutiae; I think it's tone was fairly consistent with his earlier statements against grim and gritty. J'onn and Bat's deaths were both vehicles towards new ideas, and more interesting to me that any of the deaths in Infinite Crisis (except maybe Ted). FC felt very silver age with it's mind control, armies of heroes, genuine villains doing villainous things, and heroes being heroic. I can't offhand think of any hero doing anything out of character. Morisson likes to play on the dark side, but he lives in the bright.

Diabolu Frank said...

Excuse me while I vent:

The discontinuity didn't bother me, but there isn't a much better example of Morrisonian anti-climax than Final Crisis. Even if there had been no Death of the New Gods or related books, Morrison utterly failed to illustrate the magnitude of such an event. I liked the understated manner of Martian Manhunter's murder, but Batman Sue's entire involvement in the story was dumb heaped on dumb. Everything interesting was either happening off-panel or in too few panels, while far too much time was wasted on negligible and set-ups that never paid off. Finally, there were all those set-ups, like the resurrection of Aquaman and deaths of the Hawks, that Morrison erroneously relied on other hands`to elaborate upon. Final Crisis was all concept, and no execution-- a seemingly intentional source of frustration and narrative interruptus.