By JD Phillips
Social media right now is filled with people mourning Marvel comics’ late Godfather, Stan Lee. While that love is amazing, the best way to honor a legendary writer is to read the stories that made him a legend in the first place. Here are my picks for the best comics runs Stan Lee and the equally amazing Jack Kirby ever wrote.
5. “Incredible Hulk” (1-6)
While the initial Hulk run wasn’t the runaway success you might guess it was considering how popular the character is now, Lee’s take on the character was experimental and powerful. His tale of Bruce Banner’s unfortunate transformations into the giant monstrosity was one part Jekyll and Hyde and one part creature feature. Lee and Kirby’s most famous monster would eventually become a mainstay of the early Marvel days. In fact, a Marvel superhero hadn’t truly been christened by the company until they’d had their own fight with the green-skinned meanie.
4. “Uncanny X-men” (1-66)
The X-men as you know them probably came from Chris Claremont’s genre-redefining run on the superhero team, but the original run set the tone for the intense, politically charged themes the series is known for. Modern readers who complain about political commentary in their comics should take a look at this run that retooled the civil rights movement to the company’s mostly white readers. Professor X was the peace-loving Martin Luther King Jr. and the violent but passionate Magneto was a dark mirror of Malcolm X. The teen team were normal kids stuck in a bad situation they didn’t choose. To this day, it’s probably the most successful political allegory comics have ever produced.
3. “The Silver Surfer” (1-18)
Silver Surfer was one of the most bizarrely successful characters from “Fantastic Four”. This run on the character not only capitalized on that success but added some amazing pathos to the long-suffering cosmic hero. Many writers have taken on the character since, but no run is quite as iconic as the first one that saw Norrin Radd trapped on Earth and thrown into conflicts with characters like Thor and Mephisto.
2. “Fantastic Four” (1-100)
Marvel’s first family is the rock that the church of Lee and Kirby was built on. The series is just as known for the supporting characters it created as the main heroes themselves. The Inhumans, The Silver Surfer, Black Panther, Galactus, Doctor Doom, Adam Warlock and more were all birthed from this amazing character incubator. It was the ultimate comic book springboard that led to a universe that was able to compete with the wildly successful but out of date DC comics of the 1960’s.
1. “Amazing Spider-Man” (1-100)
Most comic book legends didn’t come into the picture as the fully formed icons they would eventually become. Powers, origins, and costumes get retooled for years until they are perfect. Then there’s Spider-Man. What started as a one-shot character for “Amazing Fantasy” became a runaway success. Unlike Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, or so many others, Spidey burst from the page with the powers, costume, and philosophy the character is known for today. The original run of Spider-Man features his first battles with characters like Doc Ock, Green Goblin, The Kingpin and most of his rogues' gallery. It also features several of the character’s most iconic moments like Spidey giving up his superhero mantle, getting trapped under rubble while Aunt May’s life hangs in the balance, and his first go with the legendary Sinister Six. Stan Lee is most often associated with Spider-Man for a reason. It is without question his best work as a writer and you should read it immediately.