Often in the comic book world, creators and writers want to tell a story outside of the normal books that are published every month. Depending on how these stories are marketed they can be called limited series, mini-series or maxi-series. Most often these stories are big events or a special story that the creative team feel cannot be told in the regular book that character appears in. These stories are mostly in regular continuity but sometimes they are not, telling a tale of a different version of a character. If a character is part of a team and the publisher wants to see how that character would sell on his own than they might try out a mini-series to test that character’s popularity without the group.
Right now, we’re going to give you what we think are the top 5 of these stories. You will notice that our top 5 include some older stories. There is a reason for that. The stories picked are stories that made sense as a mini-series. These are stories where the publisher still managed to stay within continuity with the regularly published books. They were books that were well planned out.
It seems that within the last 10 years, publishers put out limited series and special stories way too often. These stories seldom fit in with the continuity of the regular monthly books. Sometimes you have more than one event going on with some of the same heroes thrown in which makes even for a more confusing read. Sometimes you will get caught up in a maxi-series and then they will publish a spin-off mini-series to go with that. This is all while the monthly book is going on and crossing over with both those stories. You don’t know what to read first or which book is necessary to keep up with the whole story. Frustrating and confusing. We are going to take you back to a simpler time when it wasn’t that hard to follow an event and they were much loved.
5. Watchmen – DC Comics
Watchmen is a series that ran from September 1986 through October 1987 published by DC Comics. Written by Alan Moore and with art by Dave Gibbons, this book was described by the BBC as “The moment comic books grew up”. Originally, this was supposed to be a story about the Charlatan characters that were recently purchased at that time by DC Comics. However, DC thought the story left these new characters too damaged to use in the mainstream DC universe and had the characters changed to totally new characters.
On this alternate Earth, the story takes place in 1985 where heroes emerged in the 1940’s and 1950’s and many were retired at the time of the story. When one of the heroes get murdered in his civilian identity it launches an investigation with the other heroes.
Why is it on this list?
This story showed realism and successfully took mainstream comic publishers to levels that they were seldom able to be comfortable with. Watchmen showed real heroes with real-life problems. Moore and Gibbons wanted to display the real flaws of the heroes; they wanted to show the best and worst of human beings. The realism and twists in Watchman have made it legendary to comic readers. So much so that a movie was made from the book which did an excellent job of taking the comic out of the book and putting it on the silver screen.
4 Wolverine – 1st limited series – Marvel comics
You would be hard-pressed to say that there is a character more popular in the Marvel Universe than Wolverine. Created by Roy Thomas, Len Wein and John Romita Jr in 1974 and first appearing in an epic battle with the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine later joined the All New X-men and has been a break out character ever since. Needless to say, comic book audiences were more than primed when Chris Claremont and Frank Miller came out with his first limited series in 1982.
Wolverines first limited series told the story of his engagement to Mariko Yashido.
Why is it on this list?
This story takes place in the X-Men continuity meaning that his character took a leave of absence from the X-men to go abroad to Japan and ask his lady love to marry him. There was no Wolverine in 5 other books at the time. The fight sequences in this book solidified Wolverine as one of the fiercest fighters in the Marvel Universe. Finally, this book is where we get Wolverines famous catchphrase “I’m the best there is at what I do, but what I do best isn’t very nice.”
3. The Dark Knight Returns
This 1986 Frank Miller classic was on our list Top 10 Reasons Batman Is the Most Feared Character in Comics. This book was a defining moment for the Batman character. Even though the story took place in an alternate future, this book helped create the myth of the dark knight detective being a mysterious force of the night.
An aged Batman returns to crimefighting after a long retirement. He first takes down a gang that has terrorized Gotham City. He then must defeat two of his arch enemies Two-Face and Joker. The story’s climax is Batman taking on his once best friend, Superman, who is now a government stooge.
Why is it on this list?
As stated, this version of Batman defines the Dark Knight from this point moving forward. Even for an alternate future, this is a Batman that could actually come to pass. Yes, we know Jason Todd didn’t stay dead which was a catalyst for Batman’s retirement, but Dark Knight attitude set in Miller’s story set a tone for Batman that is still relevant today. A young girl named, Carrie Kelly, marked a landmark for the character of Robin. This was the first time Robin was a female. Even though this was thought to be a one-shot deal that was at first short-lived, Carrie Kelly became a very popular Robin. So much so that the character was also introduced as Robin’s babysitter in the current canon.
2. Secret War – Marvel
The first Secret War by Marvel was a 12-issue maxi-series written by Jim Shooter with art from Mike Zeck and Bob Layton. The series ran from May 1984 until April 1985 and brought a collection of heroes and villains together in one book. Outside of an Avengers event, this was the first major gathering of both heroes and villains in the Marvel Universe in one title.
A cosmic entity named The Beyonder kidnaps major heroes and villains and puts them on a world made up of many different planets called Battleworld. The Beyonder tells them that they must slay their enemies to get all they desire. With members of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, the X-Men along with other solo heroes fighting to stay alive against a host of Marvel’s biggest and baldest villains made for some of the best fight sequences in comics.
Why is it on this list?
Secret Wars did something that comic events rarely do today: it stayed in continuity and it came out on schedule. While the Avengers, X-men, Fantastic Four, Spiderman and Hulk were in space their books carried on without them successfully. The heroes did come back before the end of the event; however, nothing was revealed to give away the story. Then there is Spiderman’s symbiote costume which is the beginning of another popular character Venom. The introduction of the second Spider Woman is another reason this book is a landmark. Classic fight scenes include Spiderman single-handedly taking on the X-men, a powerless Ben Grim and arrowless Hawkeye surrounded by a slew of villains and the Wasp’s fake romance with Magneto then striking when the time is right.
1 Crisis on Infinite Earths
Crisis on Infinite Earths is the ultimate limited series. Written by Marv Wolfman and art by George Perez, Crisis ran from April 1985 to March 1986. Talking about Crisis is an article all by itself, but this was an attempt by DC Comics to simplify the DCU. Ever since DC published “The Flash of Two Worlds” in The Flash 123 (1961), teaming Jay Garrick Flash from Earth 2 with Barry Allen Flash of Earth 1, DC had set up a multiverse. DC ran with this idea and the multiverse expanded to an infinite amount of Earths. With the multiverse, you had imaginary stories and stories that could be explained as not being in regular canon but an alternate Earth. This made DC seem a little less grounded than their major competition Marvel Comics. So, they created Crisis on Infinite Earths to fix their universe.
This is a story of two entities the Monitor and the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor wants to destroy the multiverse one universe and he was doing a damn good job at it. The Monitor wants to save the everyone and he tries to band heroes together from different universes to do it. Many worlds and characters die but eventually, all creation is down to existing on one Earth.
Why is it number one on this list?
Crisis was able to tell a story in 12 issues and cross over in almost every major title and totally stay in continuity. If Robin from Earth 2 died in Crisis he didn’t show up in another book that month to fight and if he did he died by the end of that book to show continuity. At one point in the main Crisis book there were red skies everywhere, so in every book that month there were red skies. The character deaths were many and often memorable. Barry Allen Flash died alone saving the multiverse just a little longer. Supergirl sacrificed herself taking on the Anti-Monitor single-handedly giving a wounded Superman and the other heroes a chance to escape.
She did hurt him and made him retreat. DC was cleaning house and getting rid of duplicate characters and characters that had no real story or purpose. Just as a character died there was also rebirth. There came a new Dr Light and a new Wildcat. Crisis on Infinite Earths also featured every character in the DC multiverse in 12 issues. Whether it be small cameos to watch them die or if they had more of a major role, every character in the DC arsenal made a panel. The only character that did not make an appearance was Hal Jordan Green Lantern because during that time he had given his role of Earth’s Green Lantern to John Stewart. Ultimately, Crisis did what it was intended to do: simplify the DC universe.
That’s our top 5 greatest limited series. Leave a comment and let us know if you agree or had a series to add.
Kenny Walker Jr