100 Greatest... or Not?

As I write this, Marvel has released all but the top five stories of the "100 Greatest Marvels of All Time" as voted on by you, the comic fan. So far the results have essentially been, "Mutant", "Mutant", "Something #1", "Mutant", "Mutant", "Something Else #1", "Mutant", "Mutant", "Ultimate #1", "Death of Gwen Stacy", "Something By Frank Miller", "Mutant", "Mutant", Mutant". The leading candidates for the top five positions are Giant-Size X-Men #1, Uncanny X-Men #94, Fantastic Four #1, and Amazing Fantasy #15. (My cynical comic-reading friends think that Origin #1 is a shoo-in for the top spot. I think we may be spared this, but only because that comic did not come out until the voting was over.)

Now, I'm all in favor of fans voting for their top comics. I'm all in favor of reprints. I have to confess that I didn't bother to vote in this poll, so I really can't complain... only, I'm going to complain anyway. (But you knew that, didn't you?)

First of all, fan voting is bound to skew the results to the recent. It is not that fandom en masse has bad taste (though with Wolverine #75 making the top ten, you really have to wonder), it's that many fans have not had the opportunity to read earlier comics. It's hard to vote on a story if you haven't ever read it. Oh sure, there's been reprints, although (with the exception of the terrific "Essential" series) they are usually of "event" books. You know, "first appearance of Spidey", "first appearance of the Hulk". The kinds of things that have nothing to do with how good the stories are. (Let's face it, Incredible Hulk #181 with the first appearance of Wolverine and #17 in the voting, is a bad comic book. So is Giant-Size X-Men #1, likely in the top five.) The worst example of extremely recent comics grabbing the vote of recent readers is the Ultimate books. Ultimate X-Men and Ultimate Spider-Man have been very good reads but are they really in the top twelve of all time? (It reminds me of a time in the 1970s when a local radio station did a listener poll of the top songs of all time. What finished #1? "Kung-Fu Fighting".) And do we really need yet another reprint of Ultimate Spider-Man #1? It only came out last year. How many reprints has it had... seven?

Second, by the very nature of such a poll, the first issues and special events are going to finish ahead of the pack. Fantastic Four #57, for example, with Dr. Doom stealing the power of the Silver Surfer is far superior to Silver Surfer, New Mutants, or (God help us) Secret Wars #1 (all on the list) but there is nothing to hang your hat on, no hook to get people to vote for it. At least, not enough people for it to make the 100.

In fact, the truth is (okay, okay, my opinion is), all of Stan Lee's Spider-Man stories, all of Stan and Steve's Dr. Strange stories, all of Stan and Jack's FF and Captain America and Thor stories, all of Roy Thomas and Barry Smith's Conan stories, all of Archie Goodwin's Iron Man stories, all of Steve Englehart's Cap and Avengers stories, all of Steve Gerber's Man-Thing and Howard the Duck and Defenders stories, all of Don McGregor's Black Panther and Killraven stories, all of Jim Starlin's Warlock stories, all of Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan's Tomb of Dracula stories and all of Doug Moench's Werewolf By Night and Master of Kung-Fu stories are better than anything that has come out that features Gambit or Bishop. But how is a newer reader to know that?

So, I hate the "100 Greatest Marvels of all Time" concept, right? Not at all. I love it. Anything that gives the fans a voice and ends up in reprints is all right by me. But let's balance this out, Marvel. Look at all the great stories in your vaults that didn't make the list all because people may not be aware of them. How about giving us reprints of these great older stories that never get reprinted? Because it's clear from the winning list that fans just do not know what they're missing.