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    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
    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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    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.

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    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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    Superman #400 was the only issue of Superman I ever had. It was pretty cool because of all the different artists that worked on it but it still never made me a Supes fan.
    "There's not much of a difference between a stadium full of cheering fans and an angry crowd screaming abuse at you. They're both just making a lot of noise. How you take it is up to you. Convince yourself they're cheering for you. You do that, and some day, they will. And that's how Sue Cs it."- Sue Sylvester, "Glee"

  7. #7

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    Captain America has had an interesting history with anniversary issues. #200 is particularly interesting to me; as it came out in 1976, the comic technically is a Bicentennial issue celebrating 200 years of America rather than 200 issues of Captain America. But it seems obvious Kirby intended this as a double celebration issue, so i think it still counts.

    #250 is a classic cover and story, so much so that it seems like it must be an anniversary issue, but it really isn't. I think the reason for this is because just five issues later, #255 is a 40th Anniversary special. It's also a great comic from the team of Stern and Byrne:



    #300, like #200, is an issue that is clearly intended to be an anniversary issue but technically isn't. It's normal sized and there's no mention anywhere of this being a 300th issue special or anything. However, it's also the end of a long storyline that was clearly intended to climax with #300, and it features Cap fighting Red Skull to the death. My mostly unsubstantiated hunch is that this was originally supposed to be giant sized but was cut back when writer J.M. DeMatteis was fired (or quit in protest, whatever) after editorial vetoed his plot at the last minute. hence the story doesn't technically end until #301. My theory is that the original ending would have been i #300 and made it giant-size, but when they had to switch writers, it necessitated making #300 normal size. But that's speculation. A great issue either way, but it's very weird that there's no "anniversary" element to the marketing.

    #350, on the other hand, is giant sized and wraps up a huge story line that had been running since #332. it's a personal favorite of mine:




    Not as successful but still very interesting is Cap's 50th anniversary special in #383 and his 400th issue. #383 features all sort of cool extras, as well as a shiny gold cover inked by Jim Lee. The main story is kind of not so great, though, as Father Time catches up with Steve and sends him on a weird dream trip through the past or whatever. Not great.




    #400 suffers an even weirder fate, though, as it is stuck in the middle of the Operation: Galactic Storm mega-crossover. Gruenwald does his best, coming up with a story where the Supreme Intelligence creates psychic doppelgangers of Steve's 6 greatest foes and he fights them all to prove his worthiness of being assimilated into the Supreme Intelligence. Still, it's a pretty big waste that a #400 gets stuck in a crossover. Welcome to Marvel. The bonus features are interesting, particularly a gatefold that unfolds to show all the covers for the entire series, something that Avengers #350 and Thor #450 also had, as they all came out at basically the same time.


    It's kind of funny that Cap's best "anniversary" issues were #255 and #350 instead of the usual suspects.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member LEADER DESSLOK's Avatar
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    BEST:
    (TIE) AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #200- Okay, Marv Wolfman may have borrowed a little bit from Bill Finger (and Lew Schwartz with Bob Kane) but Spidey's showdown with the burglar who killed Uncle Ben remains one of my favorite stories in the entire Spidey Canon! I read it several times before I put it away--I liked it that much.

    MASTER OF KUNG-FU #118- Not really an anniversary issue but possibly (if memory serves me right) the final issue for both GENE DAY and DOUG MOENCH, who wrote the book for several years! Not only did Shang Chi face his father Fu Manchu for the last time but also a clone of himself--who the arch villain felt had all the qualities his son was supposed to have! I wish the series had ended with this issue but it limped on for a few more issues with mediocre stories and artwork by other people. A shame.

    WORST:

    BATMAN #400- What an ironic twist. The very same Doug Moench's first and most noteworthy tenure with the Caped Crusader ended with this stinko issue. Despite great artwork on the cover by Bill Sienkiewicz (I'd love to own the original) and good interiors by Tom Mandrake, the story was a boring, derivitive imitation of Marv Wolfman's "Lazarus Affair" from about 70 issues earlier--even the fight scene between Batman and Ras Al Ghul was almost a panel-to-panel "remake"! It's simply pitiful that Moench didn't go out on a high note!

    ADDENDUM:
    CAPTAIN AMERICA #200- The conclusion of The MADBOMB CONSPIRACY was one of my favorite stories ever! The idea of the wealthy and the powerful trying to literally "rip up" the constitution and "Bogart" the country wholesale is especially topical in these days of "The Two-Percent v. The Rest of Us"! I can just see a "Kirby Cap" laying the smackdown on the chin of a generic "Tea Party" stand-in for a homage to the cover of CAPTAIN AMERICA #1!
    Last edited by LEADER DESSLOK; 11-15-2012 at 02:05 PM.
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  9. #9
    Member MonteMike72's Avatar
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    Some of my Favorites:
    Fantastic Four #200
    Fantastic Four #236
    Captain America #255

    Some Least Favorites:
    Amazing Spider-Man #400
    Avengers #200
    Fantastic Four #400

  10. #10
    I love the 80s! spoon_jenkins's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by berk View Post
    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.
    I also find Avengers #100 to be underwhelming. I read Avengers via the Essential TPBs, and I was psyched for a big story with all the past Avengers. But I feel like it was weaker than the average issue of that time. Also, I'm an infidel who isn't that enthusiastic about BWS art from that period.
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  11. #11
    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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  12. #12
    Karma ran over Dogma grphxkindaguy's Avatar
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    Ah, I used to LOVE anniversary issues!!!

    I loved that they were mostly double-sized issues, sometimes w/a back up story or two or another bonus of some kind.

    Some of my favorites, off the top of my head, are:

    Rom #25 (he fights an imposter on his home planet)

    Rom #50 (most of his supporting cast that he's had since issue #1 is wiped out)

    Uncanny X-Men #175 (the team goes after Cyclops in the mansion, who is made to look like Dark Phoenix by Mastermind)

    Ucanny X-Men #200 (Trial of Magneto for crimes against humanity, 'nuff said)

    Batman #400 (All-Star Jam issue)

    Amazing Spiderman #300 (First Venom)

    Thor #400 (Thor vs. Set)

    Captain America #350 (Cap vs US Agent, finally!!!)

    Iron Man #200 (Tony gets a new set of armor and takes down Stane/Iron Monger who stole his company from him)
    Last edited by grphxkindaguy; 11-16-2012 at 12:52 PM.
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  13. #13
    Modus omnibus in rebus Roquefort Raider's Avatar
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    An anniversary issue that never was is Thor #350, where I expected to see the dramatic conclusion to Walt Smonson's Ragnarok storyline... my guess is that the story grew too big that there was no way to wrap it up in a double-sized issue! (It concluded a few issues after 350, which was normal-sized).

    But one that did exist and was definitely worth it was Legion of super-heroes #200, which had pretty much everything an anniversary issue must have: a multitude of segments illustrated by many old fan-favorites, all framed by a story done by the regular team; the resolution of a long-lasting mystery, that of whether the "Adult Legion" stories would actually come to pass (they wouldn't; we learned here that they were alternate realities seen by the unbalanced brain of a character); a cover with characters all drawn by different artists, including some more of the old fan-favorites; and finally an uplifting ending ushering a future rich in possibilities. Quite a celebration for Legion fans!
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  14. #14
    Marked for Redemption David Walton's Avatar
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    Amazing Spider-Man 200. Aunt May is dead. Peter Parker has lost his powers. And the burglar who killed Uncle Ben is back! You even get a cameo by the security guard from Amazing Fantasy 15 that brings things full circle. Great stuff leading to a poignant confrontation with the man who destroyed Peter's world. One of those issues that could easily function as a send-off for the character you could feel good about.

    Spectacular Spider-Man 189. An awkward family dinner with the Osborns brings Harry and Peter's conflict to a head.

    Spectacular Spider-Man 200. A brilliant send-off for Harry Osborn, who dies rejecting his father's legacy of evil. The silent panels depicting Harry's death are some of Sal's best work.

    Amazing Spider-Man 400. "Second star on the right and straight on 'til morning." 'Nuff said.
    Last edited by David Walton; 11-16-2012 at 02:04 PM.
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  15. #15

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    Strictly for being such a blatant display of Marvel screwing with the number to get more anniversary issues:

    X-Factor #50 (by the new numbering system) followed one short month later by X-Factor #200 (going back to the original numbering).

    Two 'anniversary' issues, billed as such, in two months on one book.

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