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Episode 1709 Talkback - Top 5 Iconic Moments in Comics

That moment when you see something in a comic book that makes a permanent impression, that changes your idea of what can be done in comics and reminds you of why you love to read them: these are the moments we're celebrating in this Top 5 episode, as we count down some of our favorite cliffhangers, turning points, splash pages, and other fleeting flashes and flourishes of narrative brilliance to grace the medium over the years. (Special CGS salutations to our good friend Ian Levenstein of Comic Timing, who not only salvaged the recording of this episode, but is also in it!) (1:56:03)

Listen here.


  • mwhitt80mwhitt80 Posts: 3,925
    edited September 2018
    Good episode guys. Ian i really enjoyed you on the show keep it up guys
  • nweathingtonnweathington Posts: 6,162
    edited September 2018
    Okay, here’s my top five. Like the Geeks, I'm just going by the impact these moments had on my personal relationship with the medium, so you're going to see some that, in the grand scheme of things, may not seem all that iconic. But each of these moments changed the way I saw comics and what they could accomplish in terms of storytelling. It's hard to rank them exactly, so I'm going to post them in the order in which I encountered them:

    1) Captain America Bicentennial Battles splashes
    I’ve talked about this book several times here in the forums, but here we go again. For me, this book wasn’t about any particular moment. It was about the sheer size, the power, the dynamism—the visceral impact of a comic book image. I was six when I got this on a family vacation. It was the only thing I had to pass the time at night in the cottage we had rented. (The little black-&-white TV only picked up one or two channels.) During that week I must have read it over a dozen times, and by the end I was lingering longer and longer over each panel. I think it’s still my measuring stick for what an action comic should be. It also showed that a comic could carry a message and still be highly entertaining.

    2) The Tick—“wub, wub, wub”
    During high school, I bought very few comics. I was more interested in buying records, music gear (guitars strings ain’t exactly cheap), and sci-fi/fantasy novels, so I completely missed the Watchmen/Dark Knight wave. As a freshman in college, there was a comic shop right next to campus. Eventually it drew me in, and the second thing I bought there was The Tick #2 and a reprint of The Tick #1. I'd read a bunch of humor comics as a kid—Archie, Harvey, etc.—but this was the first time a comic made me laugh out loud. The flagpole gag was particularly brilliant, and something that would only really work in a comic book. It was my introduction to independent comics, and to the idea that comics could be really funny while also being really smart.

    3) Justice League #5—“One punch”
    The Bwah-ha-ha JL had been around a couple of years by the time I started buying up the back issues, but I ate them up. Superhero comics that could be both deadly serious and hilariously funny? Where had this book been all my life? Not only is this particular scene a great bit of storytelling and comic timing, but it showed superhero comics didn’t all have to be from the same mold.

    4) Bone #2—“Stupid, stupid rat creatures!”
    Quite possibly the most perfect single page of comics ever produced.

    5) DC: The New Frontier #1—The Losers on the Island that Time Forgot
    Really, the “moment” is the entire 32-page opening to the miniseries. It’s a gut-wrenching mini-story in and of itself. The only problem with it is that it’s so wonderfully done, the rest of the miniseries—as great as it is—has absolutely no chance in hell to live up to the bar it sets.
  • nweathingtonnweathington Posts: 6,162
    edited September 2018
    Re: Chris’ comments on DeMatteis/Buscema’s ending to Spectacular Spider-Man #200, Sal loved that story. He said drawing that last sequence with Harry in the ambulance dying was the most emotional he’s ever been while working on a story, almost to the point of tears. After seeing the pages, Marc decided they didn’t need any dialogue (it was done plot-first, not full-script), and I think that was the right call.
  • Mark_EngblomMark_Engblom Posts: 324
    edited September 2018
    Always love a Top Five episode, though the audio issues cut into a bit of that enjoyment. I understand the necessity of the remote hook-ups, but it's tough to listen to.

    Here's mine:

    5. The Death of Norman Osborn: Although the death of Gwen generally gets the spotlight, I've always felt the storyline's most powerful moment came in ASM #122 when Norman Osborn was ironically impaled by his own Bat Glider. As intense as this scene remains after all these years, you can imagine what effect it had on me as a kid. A jumble of triumph, relief, irony and, yes, even pity and horror....but permeating it all, a brutal sense of justice. Heady stuff for a superhero comic book...especially for the early 70's! Of course, as will happen in comics, Marvel foolishly undid the Green Goblin's death some twenty years later, thereby diminishing some of the scene's original power. However, despite the retroactive tomfoolery, it remains one of the most dramatic scenes I've ever encountered in my four-plus decades of reading comics.


    4. The Marriage of the Earth-2 Superman & Lois Lane: Behind the iconic (and somewhat deceptive) cover of Action Comics #484 was the story of how the Earth-2 (or "Golden Age") Superman finally wed his Lois Lane. Earlier in the tale, Lois Lane had fallen in love with and married Clark Kent who'd forgotten his life as Superman due to a magic spell courtesy of The Wizard. After Clark eventually regained his memory (and superpowers) and took care of the Wizard, there was only one thing left to do.

    Taking his bride to his Secret Citidel (an art-deco precursor of the Fortress of Solitude) Superman and Lois privately reaffirm their vows in a touching Kryptonian ritual. In all the years I've read and enjoyed Superman stories, there aren't many moments with more grace and understated beauty than this one. All of it done in the shadow of Kal-L's Kryptonian parents, who looked like the reigning gods of some lost 1930's sci-fi pantheon.

    Pure class.


    3. Krypto's Last Stand: As a stirring elegy to the Silver & Bronze era Superman, "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?" was packed with extremely iconic moments, but I think the one that tops them all (at least for me) was Krypto's Last Stand. As part of the army of enemies invading Superman's Fortress of Solitude, the Kryptonite Man clearly wasn't aware of a dog's reaction to a stranger in his master's home. Without hesitation, Krypto lunges for the Kryptonite Man while already succumbing to his deadly radiation. Despite the many years of Krypto wearing the goofy cape and using thought balloons to think very human thoughts, it's here at the very end that Krypto was never more dog-like...not only for his shocking savagery, but also for his fierce loyalty and laser-focused hatred for someone intent on doing his master harm. I don't know what's more upsetting, imagining Krypto's "death howl" echoing through the Fortress, or the sight of Krypto's green carcass with the red cape still attached. Heartbreaking.


    2. "He's Opening His Eyes": In the story "Down Amongst the Dead Men" (Swamp Thing Annual #2) the Swamp Thing makes the first of many journeys into the supernatural realms by essentially "willing" himself into the Great Beyond...meeting a number of familiar characters along the way. However, to give the impression the story is merely a routine "flyover" of DC's supernatural characters does it a disservice...because Alan Moore's beautiful, poetic gift with words make the journey a fascinating, mysterious, occasionally disturbing, awe-inspiring, and utterly unforgettable experience.

    Like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, the Swamp Thing is escorted by three major figures of DC's supernatural set. The first was the jocular Deadman, the third a newly-frightening Demon...and between them both, the Phantom Stranger...who informs the Swamp Thing that before he enters the kingdom of Hell, he'll first need to obtain permission of the highest order...


    1. "Yes, Father. I Shall Become a Bat." Few things in fiction are as memorable as beginnings and endings. In the case of superheroes, whose stories never really end, it's their beginnings that stick with us. Of the zillions of superhero origins perma-looping through my brain, none of them are quite as powerful...or as the origin of BATMAN.

    Of course, Batman's origin story has been told and retold a hundred different times by a hundred different storytellers over the nearly eight decade history of the character. Of those multiple iterations and creative perspectives, my absolute favorite remains Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One (1986). Like nobody else before them (or since, for that matter) Miller and Mazzucchelli brought a real cinematic gravitas and grandeur to an origin story story that had traditionally been presented as brisk four or five panel flashbacks. Basically as an afterthought. Now, for the first time (at least in my experience), Bruce Wayne's crucial first steps as Batman were being told in "real time", providing insights and inner dialogues that had never really been explored in previous Batman origins.

    Sharing the narrative spotlight with a young Gotham police lieutenant named James Gordon, Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City after a dozen years of training and preparation. Following an overconfident venture into Gotham's underworld, a seriously wounded Bruce returns to Wayne Manor seeking his father's silent counsel...

  • hauberkhauberk Posts: 1,374
    I'm going to have to do some digging to find screen caps. In no particular order:

    - The Williams Brothers throw down in Avengers 160. The whole final battle is excellent, but there's a scene where Wonder Man wades into Grim Reaper's scythe, ruining his uniform while shearing off the Reaper's scythe... just awesome

    - The first page of the Judge Dredd America storyline - Democracy protester lying dead, wrapped in the flag at the foot a stair, Dredd, with smoking Lawgiver standing at the top of the stairs, the Statue of Liberty behind with the Statue of Justice towering over it. A single caption: "Justice as a price. The price is freedom."

    - Legion of Superheroes 248 - Omega stalks across the galaxy to destroy the Legion. Awaiting in Legion HQ - Wildfire. Wildfire popping his visor and leveling the place was a moment that blew me away and cemented him as a favorite Legionnaire.

    - "Gaze into the fist of Dredd!" from the Dark Judges saga. Dredd is the ultimate bada$$.

    - Iron Man 200 - Obidiah Stane cheats Tony of his victory.

    Honorable mention:

    - Marshal Law - "I'm a hero hunter. I hunt heroes. I haven't found any yet but I know where they are." Marshal Law just absolutely blew me away. There was just so much happening in the backgrounds. That moment though stands out, it was stark by comparison.

    - Captain America 321 - Cap picks up a gun.

    - Legion of Super heroes 38 Things go off with a bang!
  • Yeah @Mark_Engblom, this one in particular was difficult to get around sound wise, as my regular recording laptop is in the shop, and @wildpigcomics' setup was having difficulties as well. So I wound up having to Frankenstein together a recording from two sources to avoid that background hum as much as possible. Hopefully it wasn't too bad, all things considered.
  • Hopefully it wasn't too bad, all things considered.

    No, it was fine for the most part. It seems Murd's connection was the worst. Your efforts to make it as listenable as possible are certainly appreciated.

  • Thor_ElThor_El Posts: 135
    A couple of what I would consider my Top Five moments are obvious ones. But the BIG moment I always return to is one that was covered many times: The reveal of the Thunderbolts as the Masters in Thunderbolts #1. My jaw dropped. It remains my absolute favorite to this day.

    Another major moment is from Fantastic Four #267: The death of Reed and Sue's child. The emotional impact of this, coupled with Byrne's use of the page layout really made this a punch in the gut. This family, who had overcome all manner of threats and cosmic menaces... laid low by something as human as the loss of a child.

    Another major moment is from WAR OF KINGS. Gladiator, the most loyal of the Imperial Guard... a man who has remained loyal to the throne no matter who sat upon it... who served the Shi'Ar above ALL else... finally declaring his loyalty not for the Empire, but for Lilandra herself. A sight I never thought I'd see.

    Another cosmic event, ANNIHILATION, led to a moment where we see Galactus as he truly is; see the power he has at his command. Enraged at his torture and abuse at the hands of Annihilus, he regains his freedom and let's the universe know how unhappy he is. He unleashes the power at his command, destroying three full star systems. Here, we began to once more truly appreciate the force of nature that the Devourer really is...

    Finally, a moment that seems almost ridiculous when you think about it. Thor, Norse god of Thunder, in battle with Count Dracula. And during the battle, the Vampire Lord seeks to assault the Thundergod with the very elements they both command. The result...?
  • Strange Tales 179, Death Ship
    Adam Warlock does a soliloquy on "leadership" that has influenced me to this day.

    Chris mentioned this. Harry Leland (Hellfire Club) uses his powers on Wolverine sending him though the house into the sewers below. There's a panel with an enraged Wolverine turning and looking back up through the hole. I remember seeing that panel and thinking, "oh shit"

    Dave Cockrum's Magneto splash from X-Men 104.
    The image and text still define Magneto for me.

    Batman on horseback in Dark Knight Returns.

    I don't know why, but Batman on horseback is all kinds of awesome.

    Realizing that Batman had a "reboot" personality in Batman RIP.

    For me, its an example of Morrison at his best. Being totally confused until he drops that little bit of info and then suddenly everything makes sense.
  • BrackBrack Posts: 739
    One Piece chapter 216 - the Straw Hats raise their arms to show the X mark to Vivi as they bid her farewell.
    First time the comic made me cry. But not the last.

    Akira - Neo Tokyo Explodes
    There's no characters, but you know exactly what comic this is when you see the image.

    Ashita no Joe - Joe's final repose
    I've not even read this comic, or seen the last episode of the anime. But have seen this scene parodied time and time again in anime & manga. Possibly the most parodied manga panel of all time. Very much iconic.

    Dragon Ball Z - Over 9000
    Odd one this, as it's an iconic moment that doesn't exist due to the anime dub misquoting. It's actually Over 8000, but it's too late to tippex all those memes.

    2000AD Prog 227
    Luckily due to our primary school having a pile of old 2000ADs, I actually got to read this one a few years after its publication and it stuck with me because it is Grant, Wagner and Bolland firing on all cylinders.
  • Been away from the forums for a bit, but I’ve kept up with the episodes, and a Top 5 is guaranteed to get my flappy gums flapping (in a metaphorical sense, since . . . I’m writing). Anyway. Another great top 5 episode, with a fantastic premise. I particularly appreciated that the Geeks Gathered ™ went with moments that were personally iconic, plucked from their own history of reading comics, rather than the “Big Ones” that could have easily been regurgitated. So, in keeping with that, I will add my own, personal top 5 iconic moments—those scenes that just blew my mind, when I first read them, and which continue to pull me back whenever I’m looking for something great to re-read.

    #5: Batman: the Dark Knights Returns --- “This should be agony.”


    Dark Knight was one of the first comic collections I ever bought (the Warner Books edition at my local bookstore), and it continues to be a favorite of mine. Putting aside the actual narrative, the aspect of this book that continues to impress me is the mastery of the comic page from Miller. His use of a 16-panel grid to control the rhythm of the story is magnificent, and his use of splash pages is masterful. Every one of those big images hits you in the chest with an emotional impact that, to this day, has not been diminished by time or familiarity. And that first big splash, when Bruce has put the Batsuit back on, is fantastic. And that line, “This should be agony,” is one that has stuck with me, ever since.

    #4: Animal Man --- “I can’t read it.”


    There was a house ad for subscribing to two new DC series—The New Guardians & Animal Man. I subscribed to The New Guardians. **sigh** Luckily, I became aware of something “new” going on in Animal Man and picked up the first trade, when it came out. I enjoyed those first four chapters, but wasn’t overly impressed. But, when I read the opening pages of that fifth issue and got to this page…I have never had such a strong emotional response to a comic as that. My heart dropped into my stomach and my jaw hung open. I couldn’t believe Morrison did that to us, shared this poignant story from the coyote, pleading for help from anyone—in particular, this superhero, Animal Man—and as we readers prepare for Buddy Baker to say, “YES, I WILL HELP YOU!” Morrison pulls the rug out from under us with that simple, almost obvious line: “I can’t read it.” Oh, man. At that point, I was all in on Animal Man, and Grant Morrison was a name I would be on the lookout for, up to this day.

    #3: Sandman --- “I am hope.”


    Neil Gaiman’s Sandman is one of my all-time favorite comic series. And this scene from issue #4 was the one that solidified my affection for this series. Morpheus has gone into Hell, still recuperating from his 70-plus year confinement, to retrieve his helm from the demon Choronzon, who stole it, while the Sandman was incapacitated. Morpheus challenges Choronzon to a duel, and the demon chooses a war of wits, each entity needing to quickly conceive of something that can overcome what was previously stated by their opponent. It quickly escalates to the point where Morpheus states he is “The Universe…life embracing,” and the demon retorts with “I am anti-life,” at which point Morpheus lands the final blow: “I am hope.” The demon is at a loss for words, knows of nothing that can conquer hope, and loses.

    #2: Saga of the Swamp Thing --- “You can’t kill a vegetable by shooting it through the head.”



    Along with the aforementioned “Dark Knight,” one of the other Warner Books collections I first bought was the Saga of the Swamp Thing, volume 1. “The Anatomy Lesson” might be my all-time favorite single issue (though that could obviously change within the hour). I’ve read it dozens of times. And the point where the Floronic Man narrates what he learned about the Swamp Thing—that, unlike he and we and everyone has believed since his origin, Swampy is not Alec Holland turned into a giant plant. Alec Holland is dead, only his intelligence and memories remain, infused into this plant creature that walks like a man. The one hope Swamp Things always had was that he might find a way to turn back into Alec Holland. But if he never was Alec Holland, to begin with, then that possibility no longer exists. His life has been a lie, and he can never get back what he’s lost. This “simple,” almost minor tweak of the Swamp Thing character, which did not negate anything that came before, was mind-blowing and led to one of the best runs in “Big Two” comics’ history.

    #1: Crisis on Infinite Earths --- the Flash sacrifices himself for the multiverse.



    Murd may not have been able to choose just one iconic moment from this series, but I do not have that problem. This, for me, is THE BIG ONE!
    First, many people my age remember this story and feel that, in death, Barry Allen became a far better character than he was in “life.” I might dispute that, but there’s certainly an argument to be made, and I do agree that the Wally West series that followed Crisis was pretty great. So, for that reason alone, it should be noted as an iconic moment in comics history.
    For me, though, it has added significance. I did not pick up Crisis when it was first published; it was a series that my local bookstore (I had yet to discover comic shops) did not order. I came to it a short time later after its completion when, while browsing through the Mile High catalog, I spotted a notation beside this particular issue that stated: “Death of the Flash.” My favorite superhero, dead? I had no idea, and I needed to find out how this happened. So, I obviously ordered that issue, along with whatever other issues from Crisis that were in stock. When they arrived, I read the series, and the issue, and was blown away, not just by the story, but by the art, as well. Because this was my introduction to George Perez, who quickly became, and remains to this day, my favorite superhero artist.
    So, not only was this an iconic moment in comics history, but it also showcased Barry Allen, my favorite superhero, at his most heroic, while introducing me to my favorite superhero artist, all time. It had to be my number one.


    G.I. Joe #21
    ---- “Silent Interlude”


    This, again, is another comic that could easily be hailed as an iconic issue. It’s a touchstone for many in my age group. G.I. Joe was the gateway comic for many readers in the mid-80s. And, as good as this issue is, that final, tantalizing mystery of the similar tattoos on Snake-Eyes on Storm Shadow’s arms sparked the imaginations of everyone reading it and led to many stories, from Larry Hama, that would expand and fill in the relationship between these two characters. What a great issue!

  • ChrisMurrinChrisMurrin Posts: 153
    edited September 2018
    Great episode. Always love Top 5s. Here are mine. I thought of the topic as moments that define a character or book to me.
    5. "Face it, just hit the jackpot!" - Amazing Spider-Man 42.
    The reveal of Mary Jane changes Peter Parker's life, launching an adventure that lasted for decades.

    4. "One Punch!" - Justice League
    Eric already mentioned this one above. A classic moment.

    3. "Who's gonna talk about Matt Murdock?" - Daredevil, Born Again (not sure which issue)
    Daredevil reaches his lowest point. It feels here as though the Kingpin has triumphed and driven Matt insane. A great moment from my favorite comic story ever.

    2. Gretl Anders dies - Iron Man 182
    Iron Man is my favorite title. This was among the first couple dozen issues I read. Tony Stark's alcoholism bottoms out here. Guess I have a thing for low points.

    1. "One of them...hurts." - The Dark Knight Returns.
    One of my favorite scenes ever. It's often stated that criminals fear Batman, but here we see WHY.

  • DmanDman Posts: 148
    I'm halfway through this episode and really enjoying it. I'll have to come up with my own Top 5 iconic moments. It'll be tough but fun. I always enjoy the Top 5 episodes.

    Ian, always a pleasure!
  • VertighostVertighost Posts: 232
    edited September 2018
    Great episode!
  • SteevenSteeven Posts: 215
    My memory is terrible, so coming up with five is making my brain hurt.

    One would be the scene in Secret Wars, I think it was issue #3 when Spider-Man took on the X-Men and had them beat were it not have been for Professor X. That was the scene that showed me how awesome Spider-Man was.

    Not sure of the issue, but in the Under Siege run (Avengers #273 – #277) when the Masters of Evil assault Jarvis. That scene really shook me. I mean, they nearly killed Hercules, but that didn't shake me as much as what happened to Jarvis.
  • alienalalienal Posts: 505
    edited October 2018
    I'm with Steeven above, thinking of my top five Iconic Moments was giving me a headache. I guess I could give it a try just of the top of my head, though:
    1. As a big time Avengers fan, it'd have to be Avengers 58, last panel "Even an Adroid can Cry!" John Buscema! Though he said he didn't like drawing superheroes that panel was awesome!
    2. Was it Batman 232 when Ras Al Ghul introduces Talia to Batman and she kisses him on the cheek? Love that panel! Batman's surprised face (drawn by Neal Adams).
    3. My Watchmen iconic moment had to be when Silk Spectre realizes her relationship to the Comedian. I thought they didn't do that too badly in the movie, too.
    4. Planetary issue 12...when the Planetary team finds out who really runs their organization (the 4th Man!). The "realization" panel by Cassaday is awesome!
    5. I don't remember the exact issue number (maybe issue 21?) but in Lazarus when those of us in the dark realize that there's "more" to the Carlyle family Lazari that meet the eye.
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