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  1. #1

    Default The Best and Worst Anniversary Issues

    Discussing Wonder Woman #300 in my readathon thread got me thinking about anniversary issues. It's always disappointing when a company ignores an anniversary issue, though these days there's no chance of that happening, as they are much more likely to manufacture anniversary issues by manipulating the numbering.

    But when they do celebrate anniversary issues, the results are often decidedly mixed. Of course, it's a tricky thing to pull off, celebrating a character's legacy while still telling a good story. Often the celebration part trumps the good story part, leading to there being quite a few anniversary issues that have all sorts of extremely cool extras, pin-ups, bonus features and whatnot but really boring or disappointing lead stories.

    Anniversary issues were also extremely sporadic until the late 60's and early 70's, so I am curious why this didn't catch on sooner and why only certain publishers (or even specific editors) would celebrate while others didn't. It's interesting to me that Marvel didn't really start celebrating until it's two big new superhero titles, Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, hit #100 (though both series had memorable #50's as well). Or would you count Captain America #100, which was actually the first issue of his solo series and got hype because of that? Personally, I wouldn't, but that's what we're here to discuss.

    So what do you guys think are the best anniversary issues? Or the worst anniversary issues? And why?

    I'll start things off with one of the best ever and one of the worst ever, both from the same series:


    Candidate for best anniversary issue ever: Avengers #100

    Capping an epic three-part storyline that featured the Avengers battling the Greek gods for the life of Hercules, Avengers #100 also a) bringsback every character who had ever been an Avenger up to that point and b) boasts amazing, amazing artwork from Barry Windsor Smith. Plus it has a yellow frame cover, by Smith, which makes it one of the best looking anniversary issues of all time as well. Pure awesome.




    Candidate for worst anniversary issue ever: Avengers #200

    So, this is the infamous Ms. Marvel rape issue. For those who haven't read it, what happens is that a couple issues earlier, Ms. Marvel had suddenly become pregnant with a baby that was gestating at an incredible rate, going from egg to full birth in the course of like a week or something. In #200, she gives birth and the baby grows up into a full grown man, who is apparently the reincarnation of Immortus. or... something. Even weirder, he is his own father. Basically, he was trapped in limbo, so he impregnated Carol so she would give birth to him in the real world, freeing him. At the end of the issue, something goes wrong and he's going to die unless he gets back to limbo, so he takes Carol back with him into limbo, I guess to start this whole thing in motion. Time travel, right? The thing is, he even says right up front that he used some kind of mental persuasion power to cause Carol to "fall in love with him" and despite this, the three Avengers on hand allow her to go with him into limbo.

    Now, it should be noted that those three Avengers are the three Avengers least equipped to deal with things from a female perspective, namely Tony Stark, Thor and Hawkeye. And Hawkeye thinks it's a terrible idea, but gets outvoted by the rest of them, only going along very reluctantly.

    Still, this issue is a traveshamockery on all sorts of levels, other than the excellent art by George Perez. There are like five writers attributed to the story; basically what happened is that there was some editorial screwup, and the story that David Michilinie had planned for #200 was invalidated at the last minute because some other Marvel book published a very similar story. So they had to throw this together at the last second, and it showed. Chris Claremont later wrote Avengers Annual #10 as a direct rebuttal of #200, trashing the Avengers from start to finish as if they had written themselves. Then he took Carol and shot he rinto space as Binary. But really, I don't blame him, as they basically took a character who was specifically designed as a symbol of the feminist movement and had her date raped while her peers shrugged.

    Horrible.

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  2. #2
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    After Englehart left, the only really good thing about the Avengers was Perez's art. I liked Shooter's first stint on the book, but with hindsight it was largely due to Perez, as I discovered during the Korvac multi-parter when he didn't draw several issues and the story suddenly became a lot less interesting to me. I stopped reading the Avengers when Perez left and didn't come back when he returned a couple years later so never have read #200.

    In terms of the story, Avengers #100 I thought was a bit of a let-down after a really good beginning to the story in the previous issue. The set-up in #99 was dramatic and tense, the threat to Hercules and the Avengers felt real, at least to the 10-year old reader I then was. But in #100 it kind of fell apart with the Avengers defeating their adversaries with ease. So I'd have to say this issue is memorable to me only for the incredibly beautiful Barry Windsor-Smith artwork. If only he'd stayed on the book a little longer! But then he might not have been able to handle more than one regular series at a time and I'm glad he was able to do 20-something issues of Conan.

    Some other anniversary issues I remember:

    Tomb of Dracula #50:
    Dracula vs the Silver Surfer, which sholdn't have worked but did, thanks to Wolfman and Colan.u

    Master of Kung Fu #50:
    Climax to the first Fu Manch MoKF epic, one of the best stories Marvel ever published. I wish Pablo Marcos or Dan Adkins or best of all Gulacy had been able to do the inks, though. IIRC Mike Esposito inked this one, and wasn't up to the standard of Marcos who had done the previous few issues. I think MoKF #100 was pretty good as well, but can't remember any details about it right now, so not as memorable as #50 it seems.

    Fantastic Four #100:
    In most ways, not really such a great issue - just one long running battle between the FF and just about every enemy they'd ever encountered; but memorable for Kirby's artwork and the fact that it was one fo the last FF stories he ever worked on. And there is some good vintage interplay amongst the members of the team, including Crystal, who plays a crucial role.

    Thinking about this topic brings home to me once again how many of my favourite series never made it far enough to have a real anniversary issue:

    Man-Thing
    Howard the Duck
    The Eternals
    The New Gods
    Mister Miracle
    Killraven
    Omega the Unknown
    Werewolf by Night
    Kull
    OMAC
    The Demon
    ...

    or, if they did, the creators who made it special to me had departed long before #50: Doctor Strange, for example.

  3. #3
    Mark Brodersen hondobrode's Avatar
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    Great idea for a thread !

    Gotta say, these are both good picks.
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  4. #4
    Elder Member dupersuper's Avatar
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    A few of my faves, off the top o' me head:





    Pull List; seems to be too long to fit in my sig...

  5. #5

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    More from Avengers, because that series gave us what for me personally was the worst anniversary issue ever published, namely Avengers #500. What better way to celebrate 500 issues than by disbanding the team, killing off half of the members and canceling the title. They should have just polybagged this with a fresh pile of crap for fans to smear on themselves, because that's exactly what Marvel was trying to do with this comic.

    I'm not going to dignify it by posting a scan.

    For what it's worth, Avengers #400 was terrible too and also came just before the series was temporarily canceled and relaunched in the Heroes Reborn fiasco. #400 had some redeeming qualities, though, as Mark Waid wrote it and they had some decent backup features and whatnot. Not enough to make up for Bug Jan, but at least somebody tried.

    And Avengers #300 was no great shakes either, as it was part of an Inferno tie in that somehow also involved Nanny and Orphan Maker from X-Factor. Buscema art and a backup story by Stan Lee himself elevates it though.

    Notice the diminishing returns? Avengers #100 > 200 = 300 > 400 > 500

    #150 was also a fiasco, as Steve Englehart was fired after writing like 6 pages so they just shoe-horned in a partial reprint of Avengers #16 for the rest of the book. #250 and #350 weren't bad though, being giant-sized battle issues involving then-current storylines. Not great, but not terrible.

    A pretty sad legacy of anniversary issues for one of Marvel's flagship titles.
    Last edited by Scott Harris; 11-14-2012 at 09:39 PM.
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  6. #6

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    Some of my favourites: Superman 200 (an imaginary brother and Hyperman in Canada), Superman 207 (30th Anniversary issue), Superman 300 (Superman 2001), Action Comics 500 (the Superman Story), Batman 200 (retelling Batman and Robin's origins), B&B 100 (one of my favourite comics), JLofA 100 (the beginning of an epic 3 parter with the JSA and the Seven Soldiers of Victory), Superboy 200 (Duo Damsel marries Bouncing Boy), LSH 300 (an epic celebration with lots of guest stars), Detective Comics 500 (a beautiful mix of Detectives), Detective Comics 526 (celebrating Batman's 500th issue), Green Lantern 100 (with Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Air Wave), New Teen Titans 50 (a Who is Donna Troy story, but it featured the return of George Perez).

    Some underwhelming ones: Adventure Comics 400 (nothing special, no big deal), Detective Comics 387 (a tepid recycling of the Case of the Chemical Syndicate), Superman 400 (everybody loves this one, but it doesn't really hold together for me), Action Comics 400 (a nice story and a good comic for me, but a bit of a downer), Detective Comics 400 (yeah it has Neal Adams and Man-Bat, but not really special for me), B&B 200 (because it was the last issue, which is a crime), Adventure Comics 500 (because the comic had been reduced to a digest and would not last for more than a few issues after that), Secret Origins 50 (again a last issue), Tales of the Teen Titans 50 (Donna marries Terry Long, yuck), Lois Lane 100 (just a regular issue).

    Weird: Jimmy Olsen 100.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by An Ear In The Fireplace View Post
    Lois Lane 100 (just a regular issue).
    But a good one! Just as Wonder Woman #200 was a regular issue, but really good. I kind of think they were better because they weren't forced attempts to do something "special."

    Though Wonder Woman #200 was giant sized anyway, the least they could have done was put a little 200th issue banner on the cover.
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  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Harris View Post
    But a good one! Just as Wonder Woman #200 was a regular issue, but really good. I kind of think they were better because they weren't forced attempts to do something "special."

    Though Wonder Woman #200 was giant sized anyway, the least they could have done was put a little 200th issue banner on the cover.
    I think in the Wonder Woman letter column, a few issues later, there's a query about why they didn't make a big deal about the 200th and the editor says they completely forgot about it. Of course, this was just Denny O'Neil's second issue as editor, so he probably wasn't prepared. The Dick Giordano interior art (his first time as a solo artist on a Wonder Woman story--he had done a few covers already) and the Jeff Jones cover art makes it a bit special. All of DC's regular titles had jumped to 48 pages by this point, with reprints filling out the content, so that wasn't anything special for this issue--and the reprint itself isn't anything of note, although I liked the new framing sequence illustrated by Giordano.

    With the Superman family comics, Weisinger had made big deals about anniversary issues before Lois Lane 100, so it's odd that there was no banner. They seemed to be totally unaware that it was an anniversary issue. And since this is the only 100 that Lois has ever got, it would have been nice to see something like a retrospective cover (a la Batman 200). At least Adventure Comics 400 acknowledged the anniversary of the comic, even if the contents weren't celebratory--the 403rd issue, being a Giant with the Legion of Super-Heroes, felt more like a celebration.

  9. #9
    what happens next? tolworthy's Avatar
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    Best and worst? I'm pretty ignorant on other titles, but the Fantastic Four run the gamut.

    In the early days annuals were anniversary issues: in the good old days a year was a very long time, and a lot happened: e.g. annual 1 had Namor's attack on the human race (a good story, diluted by being copied too many time), annual 2 had the origin of Doom, annual 3 had the wedding of Sue and Reed, annual 4 had the original human torch, annual 5 introduced Psycho-Man and the microverse, and annual 6 had the birth of Franklin (with Annihilus). After that, Kirby was planning to leave so they had reprints, and when original stories came back it was the period of empty hype.

    FF50: not an anniversary (annuals were the anniversaries), so just a run of the mill story... nothing memorable. I think it was the third part of a trilogy. Something about a guy eating the planet and somebody on a surf board I think. :)

    FF 100: both worst and best for the reasons given. Worst: generic, and in hindsight we expect more. Best: every page is packed (no need to stretch out the story, so they didn't: all for a regular cover price!); it was fun; Crystal was great; it was Kirby.

    FF150: a nice balance of important but not overstated. The wedding of Crystal is historically important and bitter sweet, and follows immediately from Sue and Reed's reunion (they literally had divorce papers until this point). A single sized issue. Nice. Balanced.

    FF200: best. A lot of readers find the 1970s FF forgettable (needless to say I do not share that view), but the Son of Doom arc was superb. Everything an anniversary issue should be: larger than life, historically important, great art, story, characterization, etc.

    FF236: 20th anniversary triple sized. Byrne at his best. Terror in a Tiny Town is just a great oversized story. Nothing more, nothing less.

    FF250: mediocre, IMO. By the numbers, regular story padded out to double length. FF versus (spoilers) fake X-men

    FF296: 25th anniversary triple sized. A mixed bag. Superb start and great premise. But perfectly sums up the FF at that point: huge promise that went nowhere. E.g. it was supposed to seal once and for all a new status quo with Ben and the Mole Man, but the writers got cold feet. The pressure to never have any significant stories was very strong by this point. Written by Shooter, and if memory serves, a committee job (e.g. lots of artists), and Shooter who was soon after kicked out (not for this issue in particular, I add). On balance I like it, and it is historically important, but not in the way intended.

    FF300: worst. A marriage nobody could believe in, and not much happened. Poor art. The thinking was that it came just 4 issues after atriple sized 25th anniversary issue, so could not justify anything more than a token "throw in a marriage" effort.

    FF350: one of the best. Not a personal favorite - I don't like the new shiny Doom - but nobody can deny that Walt Simonson is a comic god,a master of the craft.

    FF400: better than it had any right to be. Sue defeats a Celestial, which is pretty darned significant. But otherwise it was a gratuitous cheap stunt that dilutes other stories: let's get a whole pile of Watchers and Celestials together - yawn. A weak story.

    FF450 did not exist because of Heroes Reborn and renumbering. A lot of people liked the 12 issues of HB:FF, but I found it unreadable. See the Image thread for why. Very nice individual frames of art, if you like posters and don't care for the characters. And rushed through so much stuff ina by-the-numbers fashion. That's about it.

    FF500: stands up well as an anniversary: rescuing Franklin from Hell. Waid is pretty good. His Doom and his FF are very different from the original characters though. E.g. his Doom is two dimensional evil for its own sake, and the story hinges on Reed being unable to read grimoires and not understanding magic at all - despite him being an expert on grimoires in Englehart's run.

    FF550: pretty awful. I had to look it up to remember what it was about. After reading the summary I still don't know what it's about. the best that can be said is that it probably fits in nicely with my "everything was a disaster at this point" thesis.

    FF600: pretty good: a story of the highest historical significance (which means the next writer will largely ignore it). But the epic was so stretched out that, despite 100 pages of content, the story took 50 issues to tell, including a whole other book, and did not actually climax until 604. It loses points for overstretched bloat, being hard to follow, and lacking originality, but scores top marks in every other way (nice characterization, historically important, clever story and the whole 50 issue arc deserves rereading; good art, etc.)

    In my opinion. :)
    Last edited by tolworthy; 11-15-2012 at 03:31 AM.

  10. #10
    ich liebe Leni stelok's Avatar
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    The worst anniversary issues
    Avengers #500
    Avengers West Coast #100
    Thor #500

    The best anniversary issues:
    Superman #900
    Master of Kung Fu #50
    Amazing Spider-Man #300
    A N I M E

  11. #11
    Run Runner shaxper's Avatar
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    I always enjoyed Detective Comics #627 -- reprinting Batman's first appearance and alternate retellings that had been done over the years.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Polar Bear's Avatar
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    Best: Amazing Spider-Man 400, death of Aunt May by DeMatteis & Bagley, 1995. Just a really great story. (I know that my Marvel universe ends around Secret Wars II or something, but I have to grandfather this one in.)



    Thor #300, conclusion of Thomas/Busecema's Eternals saga, 1980. The council of god-kings? The Destroyer? Odin crucified? The Eternals? This issue was, for ten-year-old me, the very epitome of the "sense of wonder." (And I hadn't bought any of the issues leading up to this one; I jumped straight in with this issue. I never felt lost. How's that for quality?)



    Worst: Avengers 200, for reasons Scott has already detailed. But even beyond that, I remember when I bought it: #196-199 had been so excellent, and I was really looking forward to the epic resolution of the subplot. Then I read it. At the time, I was too young to even consider the moral ramifications of what was happening. I just knew it was boring and didn't pay off what had been promised. All in all, it was a great big balloon fart of an issue.
    Last edited by Polar Bear; 11-15-2012 at 05:36 AM.
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  13. #13
    Modus omnibus in rebus Roquefort Raider's Avatar
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    Polar Bear, I wholeheartedly agree about Thor 300. One of the best company continuity efforts I've seen.

    Thor #200 was also pretty neat, with the actual Ragnarok story. One of my favorite comics ever.

    Quote Originally Posted by berk View Post
    Master of Kung Fu #50:
    Climax to the first Fu Manch MoKF epic, one of the best stories Marvel ever published. I wish Pablo Marcos or Dan Adkins or best of all Gulacy had been able to do the inks, though. IIRC Mike Esposito inked this one, and wasn't up to the standard of Marcos who had done the previous few issues. I think MoKF #100 was pretty good as well, but can't remember any details about it right now, so not as memorable as #50 it seems.
    It has Shang-Chi facing Jack the Ripper (in a way), with the regular team at the helm. Pretty good in the Moench-Zeck-Day way, but not truly different from the other issues of that period.

    Anniversary issues used to be a big deal, but the constant renumbering of series have rendered their significance a bit moot. It's a pity, really.

    I liked it when an anniversary was used to mark some big change in a series (as long as said change was a positive thing and not a stupid gimmick).

    In Conan the barbarian #100, we have the climax of the Queen of the Black Coast storyline. (I probably would have viewed it as gimmicky since all the supporting characters die in that issue, but that was a pre-ordained thing because of the original prose story). Certainly a milestone in the overall series.

    Conan the barbarian #200 also managed to give us the oversized climax to a pretty good, extended storyline. The art by Semeiks and Isherwood was very good, and the script by Jim Owsley was a great pay-off to a year and more of preparation.

    Savage sword of Conan #200 is interesting in that it features not Conan, but is creator, Robert E. Howard. A nice tip of the hat from writer Roy Thomas.

    Micronauts #50 marked a major turning point in the series. See, Micronauts started with a sort-of Star Wars riff, with our heroes leading a rebellion against the might of the Darth Vader-like Baron Karza. Karza was a typical armored evil scientist/tyrant bad guy; an imposing figure worthy of the legacy of a Doctor Doom or Ming the merciless. But he was killed in issue #11. The series then languished like a rudderless ship, with some uninteresting quest here, some lame-o Karza imitator there, a brief return of the villain followed by another demise, and the introduction of too many uninteresting secondary characters. With #50, writer Bill Mantlo apparently decided to clean house. Karza came back with a bang, and he started his new career by killing pretty much every boring character in the book. Yay! The rest of the series was much better than issues 13-48 had been.
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  14. #14
    Veteran Member The Beast Of Yucca Flats's Avatar
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    Superman #700 is bar none, the worst anniversary issue I own. Dan Jurgens' Supes/Robin team-up is amusing enough I suppose, but the rest? James Robinson's lazy coda to New Krypton & JMS's toe-curlingly awful prelude to the excerable Grounded are bad enough, but the 'special' back-up material is a complete joke: promos for (then) upcoming stuff in the Super-line. No pin-ups, not at least one more short story, nothin' else. Just ads for stuff where even the genuine cream of the crop will be old news the second it hits.

    It just felt like an extra kick to the teeth for me; some extra suck-jimmies sprinkled atop the lamest sundae possible.
    Last edited by The Beast Of Yucca Flats; 11-15-2012 at 08:56 AM.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Bad Wolf's Avatar
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    I can't really think of a bad one, not even Avengers #200, but my favorite by far is Fantastic Four #236. Retelling the FF's origin in a twisted way and giving us a new story. Also, I really loved the cover when I was a kid!


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