Sunday, February 24, 2013

Who's the Best... Super-Hero Team?

Doug:  It's been awhile since we had this conversation.  I do believe the last time we had it we were working off some fanboy list that had Gen-13 (?!?) in some Top 10.  Egad...


Humanbelly said...

Boy, there's a goodly amount of cross-pollination with the AVENGERS ASSEMBLE board on this blog, which might naturally skew the discussion just a smidge. Which, heh, would be okay with me, since The Avengers are definitely my first choice-! Woooo-hoo!

So, given that you seem to be asking for preferences on a broad scale, that seems to indicate weighing the team in its entirety, yes? Tough call, of course. Given that the Avengers are my first choice, does that mean that the Milgrom Avengers rank above the Claremont/Byrne X-Men? Uhhh, no, of course not. So the discussion may well break down into favorite eras of different team books vying against one another (or even themselves)-- but I'll still have a shot at the broader question.

1) Avengers
2) JSA
3) Defenders
4) Oh golly, this is really tough. . . at points I've regularly bought (sometimes for decades) and enjoyed X-Men, FF, Justice League, Alpha Flight, Next Men, Doom Patrol, Champions, Guardians of the Galaxy, Omega Men, and I'm sure a couple of others. Plus there were multiple X teams (New Mutants/X-Force, X-Factor, Excalibur. . . ). Here's who's NOT on the list of even top 30, though: GEN-13.

Hmm- may have to return to this later. . .


Anonymous said...

This is almost's hard to pick just one! Probably Avengers (for Marvel) and the JLA (for DC), simply because they had all the heavy hitters (and if you include all the different line-ups, those two teams had most of the superheroes in their respective universes at one time or another).

But since I'm kind of contrary sometimes, I'd probably express a preference for the Defenders, the 80s Titans, the All-Star Squadron/Infinity Inc, and one or more of the X-teams.

Mike W.

J.A. Morris said...

Most of my life, I would've said the X-men, without question. But I'm going with the Avengers, followed by the FF and the Bronze Age Defenders, then the X-men. I say this because I find myself reading Bronze Age (and 1980s) stories that feature the FF & Avengers more than X-books.

Having said that, the best "Era" for any team would have to be the X-men as done by Claremont, Byrne & Austin. But after that, it's a big dropoff in quality.

Rip Jagger said...

Inferior Five!

No...I change my mind, it's really The Justice League of America.

They refined the concept established by the Justice Society of America and inspired The Avengers which took the idea to new places eventually influencing the JLofA itself.

Nah... I changed my mind back. It's the Inferior Five.

Rip Off

Matt Celis said...

The original Doom Patrol was awesome in every way. I also like teams with steady rosters as you get to know he characters that way. having a steady creative team
helps a lot as well.

I also enjoy the inferior five. hilarious.

The original mighty Crusaders are a riot, too.

And the more-or-less original Defenders are a particular favorite: Doc, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, and Valkyrie. Especially if Sal buscema is drawing them.

Comicsfan said...

Somewhere, the Champions are scratching at the door...

Edo Bosnar said...

Hmmm, Inferior 5 is actually a good choice.
But pretty much all of my favorite teams are on the Marvel side; also, like I said in last thread a few years ago, they're really hard to rank. Back in the late '70s/early '80s I would have said X-men in a heartbeat, but now I have a greater appreciation for the Defenders, especially from their introduction, through the Gerber era and little after, the FF (esp. once Byrne assumed control of the title), and, of course, the Avengers.
There's also the Great Lakes Avengers and NextWave - heck, I'm a sucker for satire...

david_b said...

Tough question...again.

As for straight forward, less-behind scenes angst and more straight tight team-work, I'd say the FF. I know they're considered more 'a family', but for straight near-seamless, mutual dependability (and non-drinking members, Tony Stark..), my choice would be Marvel's First Family. Nothing beats a Kirby-drawn Ben Grimm for a cigar-chompin' team member.

'Course if you WANT backroom shenanigans, you can't beat the Defenders, with the ingredients of Hulkie, Namor, Valkrie, jeez.

DC, I'd go with the Titans (NTT or Cardy's early hipster quartet) or yes the JLA especially the early 70s with Adams or Dillin as artist.

Thanks to Matt's reminder, I REALLY need to start collecting 'Inferior Five'.

Matt Celis said...

I still need 2 or 3 issues...oh how I wish D.C. would print a nice color volume of all the issues--it's not like there are so many.

The issues I need always seem to be offered at ridiculous prices.

William Preston said...

The clear answer is The Mighty Heroes.

But seriously, folks:

I'm surprised how often the FF is ranked on the low end of the scale. Why is that? Taken over the long haul, has there been a better "team"? Defenders was a great comic, and X-Men had it's wonderful runs and dreadful runs, and Guardians of the Galaxy--man, that was wild stuff. But I've gotta give the prize to the FF for the brilliance of the way it was conceived and then, over the course of many years, carried out.

Over at DC, the Justice League always felt awkward to me, a bunch of solo heroes shoehorned into being together. The flaw in the logic of the assemblage was finally unpacked in the Identity Crisis series: no, Batman had never been a team player. I enjoyed the Legion, but, at least in the '70s, they seemed less of a team than this assortment of people who happened to show up at things together or be on the same planet at the same time. The Teen Titans of the mid-'70s I liked a lot, and they clearly wanted to be together and do things together.

Matt Celis said...

"Batman had never been a team player"? Only if you believe comics printed after the Bronze Age. Batman not only founded the JLA, he quit that team to start his own. He also enjoys regular team-ups with everyone from Sgt. Rock to kamandi. Not to mention his good chum Robin.

Anonymous said...

Geez, what a sadistic competition! Looking at all those covers leads me to admit that super-teams must have been my favorite choice in the Bronze Age. they were always the first choice for my 20 o 25 or 30 cents. I bought them all regularly. JLA, All-Star, Titans, Avengers, Defenders, FF, X-Men, Invaders.

Whenever we went to a city with a comic shop, I used to hunt for old issues of Blackhawk, Challengers of the Unknown, Doom Patrol, and god knows what else.

The only thing that could've swayed me from a super-team was a 100 page super-spec. And my second choice after a super-team was always.....a super-teamup. Brave & Bold, Marvel Teamup and Two-In-One were always the next tier for me.

Much as I loved them all (and I did), the JLA has to take first place in this competition for me. They were my first team, and I was lucky enough to discover them during the Wein-Dillin-Giordano years. They were like the Beatles to me, and everyone else were on the next tier, like the Stone, the Who....

I have to agree with Matt. I know it's fashionable to characterize Batman as an outsider (literally), but come on. He was a solid team player up through the bronze age. Not only was he a pillar of the JLA, but he had what may be the longest team-up book in history with B & B. And look at The Dark Knight Rises. He teams up with everyone he can think of in that movie. Outsider my...

James Chatterton

Anonymous said...

I think the term 'best' team can be applied to any one of these teams at some point over the years -

1. FF - best at the start of what we call the official Marvel age. Stan & Jack Kirby (especially inked by Joe Sinnott) brought in a new age of superhero team; unlike DC's tepid JLA, the FF members weren't sanitized ideal larger than life figures - they actually bickered and argued with one another! Go team!

2. The Uncanny X-Men - While Wein & Cockrum ushered in the new team, it hit its stride with the Claremont/Byrne/Austin creative team. Yes, I agree with JA Morris - this was the best team for a number of years, until Byrne left.

3. Avengers - for most of the Bronze Age, at least. Anything after that is a haze for me.

4. The New Teen Titans - the 80s team by Marv Wolfman and George Perez. Fabulous artwork by Gorgeous George and great stories by the Wolfman. Nuff said.

5. The original Defenders - namely, the team with Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Doc Strange and a certain green gamma powered goliath. C'mon, Marvel, I wanna see you make a movie with this team instead of Guardians of the Galaxy! Rocket Raccoon, seriously?

6. The Guardians of the Galaxy -the original team with Yondu, Martinex, Charlie-27 and Major Vance Astro, NOT the 2008 incarnation with (gasp) Groot and company.

- Mike 'still can't believe they made Spidey & Wolverine Avengers' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Matt Celis said...

The reason FF and X-Men aren't on my radar is because I prefer crimefighters. FF explorations of space and what not was never my bag. And X-Men just seemed to have internecine mutant warfare as their raison d'etre.

david_b said...

Mike, I firmly believe we could see a Defenders film someday. I mentioned the idea a few weeks ago and someone countered with it being near-impossible due to different studios having the rights of certain characters.

Well, if the latter chapters of 'Untold Stories' taught us anything, it's only greed and studios making the right deals.

Garett said...

Good timing for team topic--I just picked up the Alpha Flight TPB. Haven't read this since it came out, and I remember being excited about it--an original John Byrne series! Read the first issue--happily, very good! I like the characters, and Byrne's art looks great. Flipping through, it looks like all the first 8 issues have appealing art.

I agree with James about the Wein-Dillin-Giordano supercombo. That's my idea of the JLA. Avengers, Teen Titans by Perez/Wolfman. The Avengers movie has reignited my interest in that team. So those'll be my top 3 teams...unless Alpha Flight can knock them off!

"Challengers of the Unknown" has to be one of the best team names, although I've never read the book. I like WW2 teams, Invaders and JSA, but rarely have found that the creative teams can do them justice.

Doug said...

Garett raises an important point about idea vs. execution. I've many a'time related my disdain for the artwork of Frank Robbins. I so wanted the Invaders to be one of my favorite books, and while I did follow it off and on for much of the book's life, it was always with reservation.

I really don't care for the Defenders except during the Sal Buscema-drawn years.

As others have said, the Avengers is my favorite, but as has also been well-documented by many of our readers, you can basically have the period shortly after #200 and up to the beginning of the Stern-Buscema-Palmer run.

So in terms of overall execution, the Lee-Kirby-Sinnott years of the Fantastic Four is the gold standard, followed by the All-New X-Men from G-S #1 through about #150.

As to mix-and-match line-ups on any of the teams, I just generally go with my overall appreciation of a given book without the ups and downs. All creative teams wane every now and then, don't they?


Matt Celis said...

Alpha Flight is one of those teams I always forget about. Talk about a nonteam, at least in the first dozen or so issues.

Always forget them along with DNAgents, New Wave, THuNDER Agents, and others from way back when. Do the 1-issue Seninels of Justice Count?

No FemForce fans? I'm kidding...

William Preston said...

I'm sticking with my "Batman isn't a team guy" analysis, and it's not premised on post-Miller concepts. Yeah, he paired up with people, but so did Spidey; that didn't make Spidey a good member of the Avengers. (In every issue I caught with Spidey, he seemed to be there to add jokes and to be utterly in over his head.) Batman always made more sense to me as "the dark detective," working on his own, popping up at every crime to show up Gotham's finest and jaw with the commish, Robin having moved on to the Titans. That's my Batman.

Matt Celis said...

One of the great things about Batman is he can be interpreted so many different ways based on 75 years of inconsistent source material.

William said...

My sentimental favorite is the good old Fantastic Four. Let me count the ways that make them stand out from all the other teams out there.

1. They are more like a family unit rather than a loosely assembled group of individuals.

2. They are not supremely powerful. One of the early concepts of the team was that (unlike the JLA) all of their powers had set limits. Mr. Fantastic could only stretch so far before he became weak. The Human Torch could only stay "flamed on" for a short amount of time before he needed to rest, and so on. It gave them a sense of vulnerability and made their adventures that much more exciting. These days, I think they are portrayed as being too powerful.

3. They had no secret identities and they all sport the same costume. I like secret identities, but the FF never seemed to need them. Another thing that makes them different from all the other super heroes out there.

4. They have the best villains like Dr. Doom, Galactus, and The Frightful Four.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Avengers, and the Justice League, etc., but the FF is the super team of super teams, IMO.

Joe Pilla said...

If we are restricting ourselves to Bronze Age incarnations of these super teams, then I do think that the Claremont-Byrne-Austin X-Men were without peers, followed--surprisingly closely--by the Gerber-Buscema Defenders (Until Grant Morrison surfaced, was there ever a zanier story arc than Steve's Headmen-Nebulon-Bozo epic?).
The FF is simply my favorite super-team, but I must confess that its best days predate the Bronze Age.

Anonymous said...

Cap's Kooky Quartet - C.A., Hawkeye, Quicksilver and the Scarlet hero, three (reformed) villains and NOT Earth's Mightiest, and yet they WERE a TEAM...the best team ever in comics!

Inkstained Wretch said...

The Justice Society of America. They were the first and are still the best. 'Nuff said.

William said...

Adding to my previous post about why the Fantastic Four is the best super team. While most other teams like The Avengers, The X-Men and the JLA rely mostly on power and brute force to win they day, the FF has the unparalleled genius of Reed Richards on their side. This is why if the Earth needed saving, I would call the FF before anyone else. I think that no matter what the problem was, Reed Richards would find a way to solve it.

vancouver mark said...

It's been a troubling 24 hrs figuring this out. Joe's response set a clearer parameter for me.
My initial reaction is always FF, but that really is all about the Silver Age. During the Bronze Age, the best team clearly was the Avengers, and the best run was obviously X-Men.
So that narrows it down to two.

Mind you, the Gerber/Buscema Defenders was something very special. And it was soon followed by a Kraft/Giffen Scorpio/Zodiac run that's one of my favorites ever.
But no, it's got to be between the Avengers and X-Men.

But But But when I first starting buying Marvels in 72/73 my immediate favorite was FF and the one comic that enthralled me most was Marvel's Greatest Comics featuring Kirby FF reprints. And the Giant-Sized FF and FF Treasurys featured silver age reprints that I always read first.
And when a Comicshop finally opened in town I spent the rest of the Bronze Age hunting and hunting FF back issues.

So, FF.
And Avengers and X-Men.

david_b said...

I second Doug's mention of the Gerber/Buscema-drawn Defenders. I'm reading later Bronze issues trying to enjoy them, but I'm still drawn back to the first 2 dozen issues as the team's best.

And another reason I originally picked the FF..?? Such a glorious legion of new supporting characters introduced and brought forth, far more than any other title, even Spidey..

Inhumans, Black Panther, Frightful Four, Big G, Surfer, Alicia, Blastaar, 'Him', even the Negative Zone itself.., you name it.

lordjim6 said...

Defenders and the Invaders. I agree that the art on the man Invaders series is sub par, but I've read most of the modern (Silver age and beyond) adventures of the Golden age heroes, and it's almost always better than the more mainstream stuff. As for Defenders, you can give me any era from the first series and I'll love it. I've read all of of the essentials Marvels put out on them (which covers almost the entire run except the last few years) and have preordered the next one. So far I can't understand the hate for most stuff after Gerber! If anything it got better with time!!!

Joe Pilla said...

Recognizing that this is off-topic, I feel that I must rush to the defense of Frank Robbins--not because I think that his work on CAP, THE INVADERS, and Morbius was anywhere near his best (I most certainly do not!)--but because Doug's disdain and lordjim6's "sub par art" reference compel me to.

Robbins' writer/artist run on Batman in the early '70s--highlighted by such moody gems as 'TEC 426's "Killer's Roulette" and 434's "The Spook that Haunted Batman"--was a fine complement to the more celebrated O'Neil-Adams issues credited with returning the character to its Gothic roots.

I've always thought that Robbins and the Marvels of the late '70s were a strange fit. Roy Thomas's championing of the JOHNNY HAZARD vet notwithstanding, there was no book in the stable then truly appropriate for Robbins. He was too early to demonstate his talent for film noir mood on MOON KNIGHT. And, outside of that GHOST RIDER issue with the Phantom Eagle, rarely had a chance at Marvel to display his chops at the aviation action which was his forte.

Of course, I'm not saying that one MUST enjoy Robbins on, say, THE INVADERS. I did, but, then, I was clearly predisposed to do so.

But, dismissing Robbins so blithely does rankle me. Was he a master of Marvel-style superheroics like Kirby or John B.?
Clearly not. But, as a proven creator of vivid comics, he was,I think, worthy of at least a modicum of respect, hmm?

Doug said...

Joe --

I don't think I disrespected Frank Robbins in my comment above. His art is simply not my cup of tea. I can't speak to his writing, as his art on those Batman stories would preclude my even looking at those books. He is certainly not the only artist whose work I don't care for. I don't think he's a hack, either -- in spite of my not liking the strange contortions of the body and skeletal facial features, it is obvious to me that those aren't rush jobs. It's his style.

It just doesn't appeal to me. As you stated, give me the Marvel house style, or the DC house style -- whatever those may be. I'm just not really into anything that's all that avant garde in my longjohn comics.

I'd throw Bill Sienkeiwicz into the conversation as well, and even Walter Simonson's Thor run (highly regarded by many a'reader). Those guys' work would never be my first choice.


Joe Pilla said...

Fair enough, Doug!
With any particular art style, each of us has the right to say it's spinach, and to say the Hell with it, so to speak.

But, as the Bronze Age progressed, it was increasingly obvious that the Big Two's slavish tendency towards a house style, adopted to encourage fans to "buy the line," was actually costing them readers.

That's why I think that the impact of Miller on DD, Simonson on THOR, and, to a lesser extent, Sienkiewicz on MOON KNIGHT in the early '80s was so marked. All three certainly could have replicated the Marvel house style perfectly well (as Simonson did in his first stint on THOR). But, their determination not to smother their individuality in the house style made their books the glories that they were.

Make no mistake. At that time, I was also enjoying the work of Perez and Byrne, two stars who were quite comfortable carrying on the legacy of Kirby and Buscema. And their TITANS and FF were wonderful, too, for all their conventionality.

But, let's be grateful for the mavericks, like Miller, Simonson, and, yes, Frank Robbins. Their individuality made their books stand out on the racks--and drew this Marvelite--sometimes against his will--to broaden his tastes.

Doug said...

I'm not going to disagree with anything you said in your last comment, Joe. It's the nature of corporate branding versus creative input/evolution, isn't it?

Of course, when you look at all of the storylines "corporate" has let "creative" get away with in the last decade, I'd have to say I would prefer a return to the days of the overall "house style"!


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