5BC: Five Best Comics of 1980

It’s perhaps difficult to see from the vantage point of so many years later, but this issue of X-MEN was a game-changer when it came out, and cemented the popularity of the series at the top of the Direct Market sales charts for a decade and a half. Powerful, unexpected, emotional, this comic generated both gifts of flowers and death threats, and its impact on the X-Men series has never been equaled. The creative team of Chris Claremont, John Byrne and Terry Austin would soon go their separate ways.

This book represented the beginning of a renaissance over at DC. Not only was the lead story a strong collaboration between Jim Starlin and Marv Wolfman, but the bonus insert comic introduced and previewed the New Teen Titans by Wolfman and George Perez. That series would go on to become the vanguard of the modernization of DC.

While he’s largely forgotten or held in disgrace today for his personal views on women, in 1980 Cerebus creator Dave Sim was just beginning to stretch his legs as a creator, transforming a series that started life as a seemingly one-note parody of Conan into a much richer reading experience. This particular issue betters a trick once performed by Neal Adams on a single page: the entire issue can be laid out side-by-side to form an image of the lead character. It’s a bit of a geek trick, but Sim makes an entertaining story out of it simultaneously.

It owes a great deal to a classic Will Eisner Spirit story, but as creator Frank Miller takes over writing the DAREDEVIL title as well as drawing it, he brings his influences with him, transforming what was up to this point a standard Marvel super hero comic into a noir-ridden crime drama. His creation Elektra would go on to be one of the most significant and imitated of the decade. It’s still amusing that her name was misspelled on this first appearance cover, though.

A hell of a good anniversary issue compiled by outgoing editor Paul Levitz, almost every story in this massive release is noteworthy. Probably none so much as the opener, written by acclaimed writer Alan Brennert, which postulated a parallel world in which Batman was able to prevent the murder of his own parents. Len Wein and Walter Simonson deliver a two-page story built entirely around the cliches Snoopy uses in his faux novels in the Peanuts strip. And Joe Kubert delivers a rare Hawkman art job in a story concerning the origin of the Martian Manhunter. And that only scratches the surface.

One thought on “5BC: Five Best Comics of 1980

  1. I never noticed the misspelling of Elektra. By a stretch of a coincidence, the only other comic I bought the day I purchased that DD was a Batman issue that misspelled the Electrocutioner on the cover. October 1980 : a bad month for proofreading.

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