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  1. #1

    Default Best Runs of the 1970s

    Results of a recent poll of the top 100 comic book runs of all-time was predictably lacking in Bronze Age representation. Despite the ranking of the Uncanny X-Men at #2, too many titles popular during the 1970s were missing. It is interesting to examine titles as regarded by readers at the time of publication. Looking at books and stories that won awards by professionals and fans in the era shows how many once-great comics have been either forgotten or dismissed by modern readers. “Academy Awards” for comic books were recognized by pros from 1970-74 (as either ACBA or Shazam Awards), while fans voted for Eagle Awards starting in 1976. The following is what one analyst looks back on… what some people in the Seventies… deemed the best comic book titles and runs.

    1. X-Men. The Claremont-Byrne-Austin X-Men run deserves its all-time status, but it’s notable the earlier Dave Cockrum drawn issues were also highly regarded. The Sentinels (#98-100) and the Starjammers (#105, 107, 108) arcs were Eagle nominees for top stories of ’76 and ’77. Byrne began pencils in #108, and the “Country Quest” run through the end of the decade (#111-128) that included Magneto, the Savage Land, Alpha Flight and Proteus was every bit as good as the Hellfire Club/Dark Phoenix epic that followed. Days of Future Past in #141 and 142 was the capstone of the Claremont-Byrne-Austin era.

  2. #2

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    2. Conan the Barbarian. Before the All-New, All-Different X-Men came along, there’s no doubt which comic book ruled the Seventies: Conan the Barbarian. Conan won ACBA Awards for best story or best feature every single year from 1970-74. The accolades continued with Eagle Awards for best character or feature from ‘76-78. The Thomas-Smith run from #1-24 was especially stellar, with five issues cited in best story category: #2, 4, 6, 20 and 24. Conan the Barbarian was so different than anything else on the spinner racks, with compelling Howard adaptations by Thomas and moody intricate details by Smith providing qualities unseen before in four-color comics. The succeeding art team of Buscema-Chan (with a few Neal Adams assists) turned in a run from #25-45 that was solid in its own right. The combo stayed together with Thomas to produce consistently good Conan throughout the Seventies.

  3. #3

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    3. Avengers. Besides mutants, the best team title in the Seventies was the Avengers. The current poll lists three separate runs of Avengers: #59 by Bendis, #42 by Stern and #29 by Busiek/Perez. But long-time Avengers fans know the canon: Thomas/Buscema starting in the Silver Age Sixties, circa #50-87, and ending with the glorious Kree-Skrull War and epilogue in #89-100 in 1972. How sought-after were the Adams’ Kree-Skrull issues? A review of six comic dealers’ catalogues from the winter of ’78 shows the average price for Avengers #93-96 at $3.50 each. In contrast, Giant-Size X-Men #1 was $3, X-Men #94 went for $2 and Incredible Hulk #181 could be had for $1.50.

    Other notable Avengers classics from the Seventies include the Defenders War in #115-118 and Defenders #8-11; the Celestial Madonna in #129-135 and Giant-Size Avengers #2-4, and the Korvac Saga in #167-177. The latter Eagle winner from ’78 unfolds smack dab in the middle of arguably the best sustained Avengers run in history: #160-191 plus annuals #7-9, with great tales by the likes of Jim Shooter and Dave Michelinie and art by George Perez and John Byrne. The Jim Starlin two-parter in Annual #7 and Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 won an Eagle in ’77.

  4. #4
    Elder Member Shellhead's Avatar
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    Those are great picks. I'm understandably fond of the Michelinie/Layton run on Iron Man, especially the classic Demon in a Bottle storyline. And while it got a little too weird for me, the Gerber run on Defenders deserves attention. And some day I will get around to picking up the entire Moench/Gulacy run on Master of Kung-Fu, since it appears there will never be a reprint collection. I highly recommend the Englehart/Brunner issues of Doctor Strange, as well as the game-changing Warlock storyline that Jim Starlin carried through nearly a half dozen titles. Speaking of Englehart, he had a good solid run on Captain America that included the Marvel Universe equivalent to Watergate, which resulted in Cap becoming Nomad for a while.

    DC had some great stuff in the '70s, too. The first Swamp Thing run was very good, though not quite as good as Alan Moore's later run. The Manhunter backup in Detective Comics was great. The "hard-travelling heroes" stories featuring Green Lantern and Green Arrow were years ahead of their time.
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  5. #5

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    4. Tomb of Dracula. The whole run is great, not just the Wolfman scripts from #7-70. The origin issue of Dracula reborn is perhaps my favorite #1 of any comic book; as a 13-year-old reader it read like a panel version of a Dan Curtis production. I also really liked the time travel mirror yarn in #5 and 6. TOD was recognized for best feature by ACBA in ’73 and ’74, and by Eagle in ’78.

    5. Howard the Duck. The run of issues #1-31 and Annual 1 by Steve Gerber and Gene Colan was hot in the mid-Seventies. Eagle best story awards went to #1, 3 and 16, but who could forget Howard’s presidential campaign in #8? Here’s the demand collectors had for the supply of this title from a ’78 back issue catalogue: HTD #1 @ $17, Fear #19 @ $15, Giant-Size Man-Thing #4 and #5 @ $15 each, HTD #2 @ $7.50. A quick comparison of others from the same mag: Silver Surfer #1 @ $17.50, FF #48 @ $8.50, Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122 @ $7.50, #129 @ $1.25.

    6. Man-Thing. This Gerber title crosses over with his fowl, and the run includes the original from Fear #10-19, plus Giant-Size Man-Thing #1-5, which is famous for two non-verbal things: the first Howard solo stories and the great Brunner cover on #4. ACBA tabbed Manny for best feature of ’74, which included popular tales about the Laughing Dead in #5 and the Living Dead Man in #12. My personal favorite is still #1, when Gerber reveals that dogs are the gods and people their caretakers.

  6. #6

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    7. Defenders. The top non-team of the Seventies actually won two Eagles for best runs: in ’76 for #31-40 and ’77 for #46-50. The former with Sal Buscema pencils also needs to include Defenders Annual #1 for its climax of Gerber’s wacky Headmen/Nebulon arc. The second shorter arc is my favorite in the title’s history: Dave Anthony Kraft’s Scorpio saga, with pencils by Keith Giffen. Klaus Janson inked the best-looking books of the continuous #31-50 run.

    8. Hero For Hire. This book got so bad they had to eventually merge it with Iron Fist to save it, but the original run of #1-16 with Billy Graham pencils was really good, and Cage was cool. While other heroes danced in a New York City portrayed as a benign backdrop, HFH offered a decadent dangerous uptown that may have been more realistic for the decade. At least, it was when I went there…

    9. Demon. In 1973 I charted of a weekly Top-20 of comic books, sort of like American Top-40, that regularly changed depending on how much I liked each new batch of comics that I bought. At the end of the year I used my weekly ratings to tabulate an All-Time List for 1973. Conan was Number One, while Hero For Hire finished second, and Demon came in third. I never got into Kirby’s Fourth World much – too scattered in too many titles to keep track of. Demon and Kamandi were both neat and attainable, and I gave Etrigan the edge for his gothic tableaus in #1-16.

  7. #7

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    10. Swamp Thing. Berni Wrightson is my favorite artist of the Seventies. His run in #1-10 is a classic. Issues #1 and #6 won Shazams in ’72 and ’73, but #4 is my most memorable for the ghastly werewolf that nearly jumps right off the page at me. Wrightson was also the star of many DC horror titles, with his covers, splash pages and short stories. Best of the lot is House of Mystery, which won Shazams in ’72 for short stories in #201 and #202. Wrightson pencils highlight the HOM #201-213 run and beyond.

    Other features or stories from the Seventies recognized by both contemporaries and in recent polls include Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Batman, Warlock and Iron Man. Two more that were omitted were Master of Kung Fu and the Manhunter series in Detective Comics. And then there’s the underrated Marvel Two-In-One that won three Eagles at the end of the Seventies for Annual #2 and the 51-58 run. Poor Ben still gets no respect.

    So what are your favorite 1970s comic book runs? Let the lists begin!

  8. #8
    Senior Member Bad Wolf's Avatar
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    Agreed on X-Men. I've only read the tail end of Avengers in the 70s, but the Michelinie run (incl. fill-ins) is among my all-time favorites.

    I don't think "Demon in a Bottle" holds up that great; I think Michelinie would get much better as his run progressed.

  9. #9

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    My favorite 70s runs are Phantom Stranger and Swamp Thing. I want to read Manhunter and Archie Goodwin's Batman.

    I don't understand any of the Avengers love, but I didn't grow up in this era, so who knows.

  10. #10

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    Avengers, no question. Best superhero book of the 70's from start to finish, no contest. Yes, Claremont's X-Men was really good, but it didn't get going until the last half of the decade. The first half the of the decade for Avengers featured the Kree-Skrull War, the Avengers-Defenders War and the Celestial Madonna storylines, not to mention the crossover into the first giant Thanos epic in Captain Marvel. The second half of the decade was even better, with the Serpent Crown Saga, some classic stories like the Bride of Ultron and the Count Nefaria arcs, and then the Korvac Saga and the second Thanos epic in Avengers Annual #7 and MTU Annual #2. And that was all before the Michelinie era and the Yesterday Quest stuff. Top quality for the entire decade.
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  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Harris View Post
    Avengers, no question. Best superhero book of the 70's from start to finish, no contest. Yes, Claremont's X-Men was really good, but it didn't get going until the last half of the decade. The first half the of the decade for Avengers featured the Kree-Skrull War, the Avengers-Defenders War and the Celestial Madonna storylines, not to mention the crossover into the first giant Thanos epic in Captain Marvel. The second half of the decade was even better, with the Serpent Crown Saga, some classic stories like the Bride of Ultron and the Count Nefaria arcs, and then the Korvac Saga and the second Thanos epic in Avengers Annual #7 and MTU Annual #2. And that was all before the Michelinie era and the Yesterday Quest stuff. Top quality for the entire decade.
    Scott nailed it with the Avengers, a consistently good run for a DECADE. As a teen, I wasn't really into the Englehart run so much because of the artwork. I was more into the pre-Defenders War (which the Defenders won, check the tallies) issues drawn by Buckler and Starlin circa #101-108. But once Perez and Byrne arrived, the title just got better and better for years, peaking with #181 and the best line-up change story (and cover) in Avengers history.

  12. #12
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    I'm a huge fan of the Englehart/Rogers issues of Detective. Silver St. Cloud is probably my favorite of Batman's girlfriends. And I always really liked the redesigns of Deadshot and Clayface in that run.

  13. #13

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    Taking the tack of looking at what was praised and awarded in those days, I remember that DC would announce their Shazam award winners in their comics in the early 70s. Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordano were given awards for their work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow and Batman. Bob Oksner (penciller) and Henry Scarpelli (inker) won the Shazam in the humour category for their work on Date with Debbi, among others.

    Green Lantern/Green Arrow also garnered some attention in the mainstream media.

    In the mid-70s I remember a lot of buzz about Richard Corben's work on Den.

    In terms of negative attention, Bob Greene attacked Steve Gerber's KISS magazine in the press. For which Gerber repaid him by mocking Greene (and his wife) in Howard the Duck. As already noted, Howard the Duck itself received many awards, and later gave rise to a dispute over creative ownership.

  14. #14
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    It was short, but the Archie Goodwin edited issues of DETECTIVE (437-443) are some of my favorites. Goodwin/Simonson Manhunter back-ups, ending with a Batman/Manhunter crossover in Goodwin's final issue----Chaykin-Toth-Amendola-Aparo art on Batman-------a Neal Adams cover--------what's not to like?
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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Harris View Post
    Avengers, no question. Best superhero book of the 70's from start to finish, no contest. Yes, Claremont's X-Men was really good, but it didn't get going until the last half of the decade. The first half the of the decade for Avengers featured the Kree-Skrull War, the Avengers-Defenders War and the Celestial Madonna storylines, not to mention the crossover into the first giant Thanos epic in Captain Marvel. The second half of the decade was even better, with the Serpent Crown Saga, some classic stories like the Bride of Ultron and the Count Nefaria arcs, and then the Korvac Saga and the second Thanos epic in Avengers Annual #7 and MTU Annual #2. And that was all before the Michelinie era and the Yesterday Quest stuff. Top quality for the entire decade.
    Avengers was certainly one of the best Marvel team books of the 70s (the whole Celestial Madonna arc in particular) but I still think Gerber's Defenders run is up there with it, a real underrated gem. And I'm surprised nobody has yet mentioned Man-Thing, Howard The Duck or Omega the Unknown. Frankly, I think I'd have been happy just reading Steve Gerber's shopping list back then; the man couldn't be boring if he tried.

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