The Comic Vine staff has put our noggins together to collect and codify the all-time greatest moments in comics.
We make no pretense at any academic objectivity here - - these aren't supposed to be the most "important" to the history of the medium. These are simply the times where we've been so wrapped up in a story that we literally had to say "Wow!" when we turned the page. These are the most-memorable pages or panels for readers like you (as decided by our highly-discriminating reckoning.)
These are the top fifty greatest moments in comics…
10. Batman KO’s Guy Gardner with one punch in JUSTICE LEAGUE #5
A large part of the fun of the classic Giffen/DeMatteis/Maguire run on JUSTICE LEAGUE can be chalked up to how irascible of a jerk Guy was. You loved to hate this Green Lantern so much that seeing him get some comeuppance made for the biggest stand-out scene of this whole era. There’s no greater fun than seeing a jerk put in his place, so when Guy challenges Bats for team leadership, yet again, you get giddy waiting to see just how he's going to get his. The gag actually starts with a punchline, as Guy's goaded to take off his power ring and promptly clocked with a sure cross from the Batman, allowing the grown ups in the League to then get on with their meeting while Guy lays on the floor, out cold. Classic.
9. The final battle between Cap and the Red Skull in CAPTAIN AMERICA #300
Bad blood grows thicker with time, so you can just imagine how thick it was by the time Cap and the Skull’s feud finally reached this boiling point after nearly 50 years of stewing. Seriously, anybody who's seen a latter day Clint Eastwood flick knows how much nastier grudges get among seniors. Here, both men's respective gimmicks for staying young forever has run out, making their bodies rapidly age to actually reflect their years; so (even though both guys were subsequently resurrected and rejuvenated) there's a raw sense finality when these old men clawing at each-other. Out of all the ways for the Skull to check out, having him suffer a heart attack and die slowly in Cap's arms while cursing him for the indignity is certainly the most bitterly fitting.
8. Magneto rips all the adamantium out of Wolverine in X-MEN #25
Few other moments in comics have made you want to say “Ouch” as bad this. Getting your back broken might be a realer threat than having your entire skeleton ripped straight out of your pores, but the sensation doesn’t seem nearly as painful when you roll it through your head. This part of FATAL ATTRACTIONS’ conclusion was a focal point for the X-Men's past and future. Not only did it realize a couple of long-standing“What If?” questions - - What’s the nastiest way Magneto could use his powers on Wolverine’s metal? What’s the worst injury Wolverine’s healing factor could handle? - - it was also the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back, setting Xavier off to mindwipe Magneto and set up years of storylines involving Onslaught, Joseph and a “feral" Wolverine.” It doesn’t matter if he eventually got the skeleton back, this is still the Canucklehead's lowest point ever.
7. Green Goblin captures Spidey and reveals his identity in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #39
What set Spidey so far apart from other superheroes in his early days was the fact that his problems were always so much more personal. That applied to the small stuff, like how his girl problems seemed just as pressing as his crimefighting duties, and it applied to bigger business like this. Batman and the Joker may be bitter enemies, but it’s not like Mr. J is actually the father of Bruce Wayne’s best friend - - nor has he ever learned the dark knight's secret identity. With a deadly one-two punch, this shocker put a deathly-more-personal spin on the usual feud between a superhero and his arch-nemesis. Norman Osborn didn't play fair then, and he hasn't ever played fair since.
6. The symbiote costume is alive in AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #258
You mean Spidey's suit is a living organism?!?! That had to be as far-out a notion as any for everybody to wrap their heads around in the 80s. Again, due credit must be given to a single moment that set up hundreds of issues, dozens of story arcs and a whole throng of characters like Venom, Carnage, Toxin, Anti-Venom and all those other symbiotes who showed up in SEPARATION ANXIETY. It all started right here, when Spidey's black duds showed that they were much, much more than an alternative outfit to wear after labor day.
5. Clark tells Lois his secret identity in ACTION COMICS #662
Maybe it’s not as… flashy a method "to take the mask off" as it is for your cowl to be ripped open by a goblin hauling you around in the sky, but this is certainly one of the most romantic ways to go about it. Throughout this list, we've put a lot of significance on the times genies have been let out of their bottles, and few genies have ever waited as long in their respective chambers as this one did. Indeed, it took Supes 661 issues and about five decades to finally open to the lady he loves. That’s all right, though. Still waters run deep, and all that, and the big man's got deeper feelings than anybody else on Earth (or even the rest of the galaxy for that matter.) What's more perplexing is the fact that Ms. Lane, the notorious snoop, didn't deduce this for herself, beforehand.
4. Ozymandias reveals he already “did it” in WATCHMEN #11
For all of the deconstruction that WATCHMEN performs on the superhero genre, its most masterful deconstructionist stroke cuts the legs out from underneath the most basic conceit of all action-adventures. That is, the notion that might equals right. Forget about how this is a response to all the times you’ve supervillains talk too much about their master plans. The more cutting commentary lies in how Rorschach, Nite Owl and Silk Spectre - - the heroes of this story - - simply can’t defeat this antagonist with punches, bullets or even impassioned appeals to reason. He’s already taken this drastic measure to change the world, and they have as little say in it as all normal civilians do when these capes elect to take the law into their own hands.
3. The death of Phoenix in UNCANNY X-MEN #137
Imagine the classic Jekyll & Hyde struggle played out on a galactic scale and tied up with an ending tragic and romantic enough to make even the biggest hard-case misty-eyed. One of Jean Grey's first deaths came at her own hand, as she simply couldn't handle the guilt of the atrocities she'd committed while hosting the Phoenix Force (or while the Phoenix Force had re-shaped itself to assume her identity. It gets complicated.) The Shi'ar Imperial Guard was after her to make the Dark Phoenix answer for its unspeakable act of snuffing an entire solar system, star and all, and rather than make her family, the X-Men, and her love, Cyclops, suffer any further for her crimes, she elected to sacrifice herself. Few space operas have ended with as emotional a crescendo as this, let us tell you.
2. The Avengers find Captain America in AVENGERS #4
Much like how Barry Allen meeting Jay Garrick was the first of the sort of parallel world team-ups that have defined the DC universe for decades, so too was this “reunion” one of the earliest examples of long-term continuity and “retconing” at Marvel. Just think about how typical those two things have become by today! Not only did this establish that there was a whole history to this fictional universe, it also reinterpreted past issues' plots so as to say Captain America had actually been missing since World War II and the one seen in comics for the previous two decades wasn’t really him (an issue that would be explored with even more retcons, later.) This moment defines Cap and the Avengers more than their respective origins even do, and the forthcoming movie’s going to have one seriously tall order to live up to when it does its spin on this scene.
1. Batman kicks Superman’s ass in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS #4
It's an age-old question that's been hotly debated in playgrounds and on message boards with equal seriousness - - “Who’d win in a fight? Superman or Batman?” Though he did it in an Elseworld (or a "Tale from the Multiverse," if you prefer) Frank Miller offered up the answer as the crux point of his most unforgettable and intense vision of the future. More so than any other versus thread, this grudge match carries with it a thematic struggle between justice and law as the far more politically-dissident Batman exerts his philosophy against a Superman who's long since sold out and become big government's loyal lapdog. The man beats this godlike alien through grit, guts and sheer force of will, and even winds up tricking the Man of Steel into thinking that the fight's killed Bruce Wayne, once and for all. Not bad for a superhero who's infamously never had superpowers.