Top Comic Book Storylines: 36-33

Today, we continue our countdown of your picks for the greatest comic book storylines of all-time with #36-33.

You voted (over 1,000 ballots cast and a little bit more than the last time we did this countdown) and you all sent in ballots ranking your favorite storylines from #1 (10 points) to #10 (1 point). I added up all of the points and here we are!

36. “The Death of Superman” by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson and Roger Stern (writers), Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, Jon Bogdanove and Jackson Guice (pencilers) and Brett Breeding, Doug Hazlewood, Dennis Janke, Denis Rodier and Rich Burchett (inkers) (Superman #74-75, Adventures of Superman #497, Superman: Man of Steel #18-19, Action Comics #684, Justice League America #69) – 302 points (1 first place votes)

In an idea borrowed from writer Louise Simonson’s husband, Walter and the issues leading up to the introduction of Surtur in Thor, we kept seeing the sound effect “Doom doom doom” appear at the back of the four Superman titles in the weeks leading up to the reveal in Man of Steel #18 of a monstrous creature pounding away at its captivity and the “doom” noise was it punching its way free.

It then went on a rampage throughout the United States, headed towards Metropolis through sheer happenstance.

The Justice League showed up to stop it, and the creature went through them easily (it was Leaguer Booster Gold who named the creature “Doomsday”).

Eventually, it came down to Superman, who tried to keep the creature from Metropolis, but eventually ended up battling the creature all the way TO Metropolis. In a fascinating stylistic design for the storyline, as the story progressed towards the end, the issues went from five panels per page in one part to four panels per page in the next part to three panels per page to two panels per page until the final part of the story was just all full splash pages. It had a real sense of acceleration heading towards the end.

In that finale issue, in one last blow for each combatant – Doomsday and Superman killed each other.

This was certainly one of the more dramatic comic books of all-time. I mean, Superman DIED, for crying out loud!

RELATED: Top Comic Book Storylines: 40-37

35. "Dangerous Habits" by Garth Ennis, Will Simpson, Mark Pennington and a host of other inkers (Hellblazer #41-46) – 309 points (4 first place votes)

In one of his very first storylines as the writer of Hellblazer, Garth Ennis ended up with likely the greatest John Constantine story of all-time (it was roughly adapted into the Constantine movie). The basic concept of the story is that John Constantine discovers that he has terminal lung cancer, likely a result of a lifetime of cigarette smoking.

John tries to keep from dying by pursuing various means, including a fellow magician named Brendan. Brendan, though, not only can’t help him but is dying himself. Constantine takes a detour from his plot to help save Brendan’s soul from the First of the Fallen. This, of course, only makes the First of the Fallen even happier to see Constantine when he finally decides to kill himself…

Of course, this being John Constantine, he has something up his (literally) bloody sleeve. It’s a brutally clever story by Ennis with strong work by Simpson and a host of inkers. Ennis really nails Constantine’s personality in this arc. It's the sort of thing that you would hand to other writers and say, "If you want to know what John Constantine is like, read this story."

34. "Under Siege" by Roger Stern, John Buscema and Tom Palmer (Avengers #270-277) – 315 points (1 first place vote)

This story was a brilliant example of sub-plots simmering to the point of boiling over in an explosive succession of issues. For a number of issues, Baron Zemo was secretly putting together a team of super-villains specifically designed to defeat the Avengers. Studying and planning, Zemo eventually put together such a large and powerful team of villains that his Masters of Evil were able to basically just bum rush the Avengers Mansion and take it over (taking advantage of another simmering sub-plot, Hercules’ distaste for being led by the Winsome Wasp – he did not like the idea of warriors like himself, Captain America and Black Knight taking orders from a woman). After beating Hercules within an inch of his life, they spent the next few days torturing their captive Avengers, including destroying all of Captain America’s belongings in front of him (including the only picture he had of his mother) and then making Captain America and Black Knight watch as they brutalized Jarvis, the Avengers’ faithful butler.

You have to love first how hardcore Cap is in the face of adversity (“I’ll remember this.” Chilling!) and then how disgusted Cap looks at Jarvis being attacked. Such amazing facial expressions from artists John Buscema and Tom Palmer.

This being the Avengers, though, they were able to make a comeback, with Wasp, the only Avenger to evade capture, putting together a makeshift team of heroes to save the captive Avengers (who were doing their best to free themselves). This likely remembered as writer Roger Stern’s masterpiece. And, of course, the aforementioned John Buscema and Tom Palmer did a wonderful job themselves.

RELATED: Top Comic Book Storylines: 44-41

33. "The Death of Gwen Stacy" by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita and John Tartaglione (Amazing Spider-Man #121-122) - 322 points (4 first place votes)

Gerry Conway had only been the regular writer on Amazing Spider-Man for roughly a year when someone (who precisely came up with the idea seems to be in dispute) decided to shake the series up by killing off a major character. Initially, the decision was the old standby when it comes to "Who should we kill off in Spider-Man's series?," which is Aunt May. Someone, though, suggested that it might make more sense to take out Gwen Stacy, who Conway wasn't a big fan of (he felt that she and Peter were too much of a "perfect couple" and it wasn't interesting) and Romita felt that her death would have a greater impact and it reminded me of how the great Milton Caniff killed off Raven Sherman in Terry and the Pirates (which shocked the comic strip readers of the era).

In the “Death of Gwen Stacy,” Norman Osborn finally snaps for good and, as the Green Goblin, kidnaps Peter Parker’s girlfriend, Gwen Stacy and then throws her off of a bridge…

Spidey does not take this well...

Whoa, whoa, whoa, Spider-Man! I know that your girlfriend was just murdered in front of you, but you don't have to use such strong language like "creep"! By the way, Conway himself was the one who asked for them to add the little "snap" there when she dies, which later leads readers to logically assume that her neck snapped when Spider-Man's webbing grabbed her.

Anyhow, Gerry Conway, Gil Kane and John Romita practically DARE you not to come back for the next issue with that ending and they were surely right. The following issue is a powerful lesson in Spider-Man’s humanity and his capacity for mercy, as he just can't bring himself to kill the Green Goblin when the opportunity arises. It's basically a matter of, "If I kill to avenge the woman who loves me, aren't I therefore becoming someone that she never would have loved in the first place?"

Of course, a somewhat underrated aspect of this story is the way that Conway uses this story to set up the romance he wanted between Peter and Mary Jane, as seen in the classic epilogue to the story (which is the first half of a bookend Conway uses during his run).

KEEP READING: Top Comic Book Storylines: 48-45

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Brian Cronin (15129 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over a dozen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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