100 Issues of Spawn on the Wall, 100 Issues of Spawn…

21 Significant or Entertaining Issues That Just Happen to Be the 100th Issue of a Continuing Series

1. Fantastic Four (vol. 1) #100 (Marvel, 07/70)
This post represents my 100th attempt to entertain and amuse with this growing list of comic lists, so it seemed like a good time to salute those issues that proudly sport the number “100” on their covers. First up: the 100th issue of Fantastic Four, the first Marvel Age series to join the One Hundred Club. (Some Marvel titles, like Captain America, may have published their own 100th issues beforehand, but they cheated by taking over the numbering of Marvel’s earlier monster and suspense mags.) “Villains! Villains! Villains!” is what the cover promised, and boy howdy if the book didn’t deliver, with cameos of virtually every baddie the Fab Four ever faced (true, all the villains save two were actually androids made to resemble the FF’s greatest foes, but close enough for clobbering purposes). The issue didn’t get the extra-sized treatment that would become de rigueur for anniversary issues in later years, but the letters page did contain “a personal note from Stan and Jack” on reaching 100 issues, thanking the fans for their support: “Stan and Jack hereby pledge to continue unabated their efforts to see that the F.F. continues to earn its title as ‘The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine!'” Of course, what made those words so poignant was that a disgruntled Kirby would exit the book just two issues after this milestone issue, ending one of the great writer/artist collaborations of all time.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man (vol. 1) #100 (Marvel, 09/71)
Brace yourself: In this issue, Peter Parker spends a good chunk of time talking to himself, cursing his super-powers and bemoaning his woeful lot in life. I know! Perhaps mindful of diluting the impact of issue #50’s classic “Spider-Man No More” storyline, writer Stan Lee concocted a story for this issue in which Parker not only decides to hang up his web-shooters for good but also downs a potion designed to permanently remove his spider-powers (something he had been working on, he informs readers, on the off chance his radiation-spawned powers ever started to endanger his health). Immediately after imbibing his home-brewed elixir, he collapses into a fever dream in which his enemies pummel him with generous doses of both fists and guilt (“After all you’ve tried to do for people — you’re still hated — still despised by the jeering public,” the Green Goblin says whilst dive-bombing through our hero’s dreams). But that’s a walk in the park compared to the shocking surprise awaiting Parker when he finally wakes up: an extra four arms sprouting from his torso! Dun dun dun! No, wait — just one “dun.”

3. 100 Bullets #100 (DC/Vertigo, 06/2009)
Hoo boy. OK, it’s not that I don’t want to talk about the 100th issue of 100 Bullets, which (entirely appropriately) happens to be the final issue of the series. No, it’s just… well, it’s hard to talk about what happened in the series finale without talking about what happened in the series, and 100 Bullets is the kind of title that everyone should pick up in trade paperback form (as in, right now) and savor from start to finish. What I can tell you is this: when the book began, readers were introduced to Agent Graves, a mysterious man who offerS random people four things: a gun, 100 bullets, a photo and incontrovertible evidence that the person in that photo was responsible for the gift recipient’s shattered life. Oh, and the gun and bullets are completely untraceable and no one can be charged for any crimes committed with them. What’s his game? How does he get his information? And what is this mysterious Trust that keeps popping up? Writer Brian Azzarello spun several years of intrigue, plot twists and over-the-top violence out of the intriguing set-up, with everything coming to a head in the final issue. Azzarello was quoted prior to the book’s release that he conceived of the final page in 1999, around the time the series debuted, and looking back at the book’s entire run it’s easy to believe that.

4. Batman: Legends of Dark Knight #100 (DC, 11/2007)
It’s the great debate within Batman fandom that will someday provoke a schism on par with the Protestant Reformation. Specifically, Robin: useless twerp or what? Pro-Robin fans point to his role as a source of light in Batman’s otherwise dark universe, and a symbol of how Batman’s grief can and must be channeled into something more productive than stomping drug dealers; those who itch to pop the punk point to the illogic of Batman tarting up a boy in primary colors and placing him in harm’s way. Legends of the Dark Knight was an outside-of-official-continuity series that allowed rotating creative teams to tell self-contained stories about Batman’s past cases; a 100th issue devoted to retelling Dick Grayson’s origin story was an obvious choice, especially given the prominent role Robin played in that summer’s Batman & Robin film. There are nods to other Robins (Jason Todd, Tim Drake, Carrie from Dark Knight Returns) in the backup features, but the cover story is all Dick’s, a modern retelling of the classic story from Detective Comics #38 that introduced young “Master Dick” into Batman’s life… and makes a better case for Robin’s purpose in life than Joel Schumacher ever could.

5. Birds of Prey #100 (DC, 01/2007)
The premise was ripe for cheesecake overdose, but to their credit DC Comics and writer Chuck Dixon introduced Birds of Prey in 1996 as something sorely lacking in comics at the time: a smartly written, action-oriented series about superheroes who performed covert missions and just happened to be women (though a few token guys were brought in to assist as needed). As the series approached the century mark, writer Gail Simone seized the opportunity to shake things up a bit by removing longtime team member Black Canary from the roster and introducing a slew of new heroines to assist Barbara “Oracle” Gordon in her never-ending battle for truth and justice. This issue — featuring an actual Mexican prison breakout, huzzah! — also marks the debut of Katarina “Spy Smasher” Armstrong, a tough-as-nails, high-ranking government agent who could make Jack Bauer cry for his mommy in two, three minutes tops… and who, as time went on, appeared to have her own plans for Ms. Gordon’s little troupe of do-gooders. Intrigue!

6. Daredevil (vol. 2) #100 (Marvel, 10/2007)
The first go around, Daredevil didn’t do anything special for its 100th issue, unless you count “swinging through San Francisco with the Black Widow” as special. It’s just as well; the series was still several years away from the Frank Miller stylings that would define the character. For DD’s second ongoing series, though, Marvel pulled out all stops for this special anniversary issue, starting with a jaw-droppingly gorgeous wraparound cover by Marko Djurdjevic (though the other two variant covers by Michael Turner and Lee Bermejo were pretty nifty, too). With 99 issues of mind games, public exposure, imprisonment, Kingpin beatdowns and other assorted storylines to live up to, scripter Ed Brubaker turned in a tale that both amped up a formerly lame super-villain’s evil quotient and sent our hero on a fear gas-fueled trip through his own tortured psyche — only to snap out of it and discover his wife has been arrested for murder! Just another day down at Nelson & Murdock, folks…

7. Dark Horse Presents #100 (Dark Horse, 08/95)
By the mid-’80s, the Big Two had largely given up on anthology titles, betting instead on the kiddies preferring titles starring name-brand characters over, say, titles that offered the thrill of encountering entirely characters, such as DC’s Showcase or Marvel Premiere. Dark Horse Presents, the first comic series published by independent publisher Dark Horse Comics, bucked the trend, providing a place to showcase such strips as Concrete, the Mask, Hellboy, Sin City, and other destined-to-be-lucrative properties. True to the marketing spirit of the ’90s, DHP #100 actually consisted of five different “100” issues, each one sporting a different cover and exhibiting work by some of the creators that helped Dark Horse achieve this significant milestone. There’s something for everyone — which is another way of saying “you’re guaranteed to find something in these five books that will suck big time” — but that’s part of the charm: discovering new voices you normally wouldn’t check out if their strips were given their own books or produced by obscure publishers. I mean, any publishing universe that makes room for Concrete, Hellboy, Bitchy Bitch and Milk & Cheese in the same issue… well, by God, that’s a universe I want to call home.

8. Fables #100 (DC/Vertigo, 01/2011)
The members of the Fables community in Bill Willingham’s opus did not literally travel to hell and back over the course of 99 issues, but they may as well have; banished from their homelands by the Adversary and his imperial hordes before the series began, the refugees from a thousand worlds made a home for themselves in our “mundy” world, only to get drawn back into open warfare with the tyrant who conquered their storybook lands. Once that war came to its conclusion, life carried on for those freedom fighters who survived… but no sooner did one crisis end than another one reared its head in the form of Mister Dark, a bogeyman archetype who draws strength from the fears of those around him. The issues leading up to this titanic battle detail the Fables’ plans for confronting their new nemesis; in this 100-page issue, they move in to put an end to Mister Dark and his chilling plans for New York City once and for all. And if that battle to end all battles wasn’t enough, the anniversary issue also features a back-up prose story, a board game, and even a puppet theatre to cut out and assemble. Seems kind of appropriate to make a book about ageless characters one for the ages, don’t you think?

9. Firestorm (vol. 1) #100 (DC, 08/90)
I have a soft spot for ol’ Flame-Head, going all the way back to when his action figure came out with the Super Powers line and his book was one of the first superhero titles I found on the corner store comic rack. By 1990, he amassed more than a decade of solid material in the early-’80s Justice League of America title and in his own book, as well as a plum spot in the Super Powers cartoon franchise, but it wasn’t enough to raise his public profile, and definitely not enough to stave off cancellation (perhaps readers were wary of embracing nuclear-spawned heroes after Chernobyl; your guess is as good as mine). With the end in sight, writer John Ostrander penned a story arc that would ultimately lead to Firestorm’s accidental exile to deep space while completing a mission to save the Earth. All in all, it wasn’t a bad way to send a hero off into the sunset, and it left the character open to a return if the writers ever wanted to bring him back… which they would, again and again. “For now… the end,” the last page tells us, and… yeah, they weren’t kidding about that “for now” part (spoiler!).

10. Green Lantern (vol. 2) #100 (DC, 01/78)
Hard as it may be to believe in this Age of Reynolds, but Green Lantern wasn’t always seen as a heavy hitter in DC’s lineup. While his Silver Age incarnation flew high as DC’s hero for the Jet Age, slumping sales sparked an abrupt right turn into “relevance” that, while critically lauded, didn’t translate into higher sales and the book went on hiatus in 1972. Returning four years later with its numbering intact, the book would later find its footing by exiling Hal Jordan to space (and, you know, dealing with crises in the 99.9999999% of his space sector that wasn’t Earth), but before readers got to that point they could mellow out to the soothing sights of Hal Jordan hitting the open road as a big rig driver — the career of choice for heroes and rebels in the late ’70s. Introducing both a forgettable villain and a new, even more forgettable superhero (who couldn’t even be bothered to come up with an original name, for heaven’s sakes), this tale penned by Denny O’Neil was not one of his better efforts, but at least the story’s footnotes helpfully deciphered CB lingo for aspiring truckers across the land. Threes and eights, good buddies!

11. Green Lantern (vol. 3) #100 (DC, 07/98)
Um. Okay. I’m not sure how hot tempers still run over this, so I will just make the observation that, in retrospect, transforming Hal Jordan into an insane mass murderer bent on universal domination was probably not the most artful way to refresh the Green Lantern brand. (It certainly didn’t help matters that his replacement, Kyle Rayner, only got the ring by literally being in the right place at the right time, and spent an inordinate amount of time being the rookie who needed everything explained to him.) The “Emerald Twilight” saga, released around the book’s half-century mark, angered many GL readers, but enough fans stayed around to help see the title reach its 100th issue — and its inevitable “team-up you never expected!” In a nutshell: Rayner is accidentally shunted back in time to meet a top-of-his-form Hal Jordan, and the two Lanterns team up to foil Sinestro’s latest eeee-vil plan. The story is full of Rayner’s “ummms” whenever questions about his sudden appearance arise, and it ends with Rayner’s ticket to the present accidentally bringing Jordan along for the ride… which means a whole lot of ‘splaining to do in the next issue, when Jordan-from-the-past starts asking about what he’s been up to all these years. Honestly, it was nice of DC to throw the old guard a bone, but bringing back Jordan so soon after his death in “Final Night” sent very mixed signals about how committed the top brass were to Rayner’s status, and the book continued on as such until the next big event that established Jordan as the company’s marquee Green Lantern. (For now, anyway.)

12. Justice League of America (vol. 1) #100 (DC, 08/72)
Just how meta can you get? In the very same 100th issue of their title, the members of the Justice League of America converge on their old headquarters to celebrate their 100th meeting as a team, complete with cake and a reunion of Leaguers past and present. But no sooner do they cut the cake than — fwooosh! — they’re all spirited away to Earth-2 by the Justice Society of America. Yes, it’s time for another of the annual JLA/JSA team-ups so richly remembered by Silver Age fans; this time, the JLA has been brought to Earth-2 (rather rudely, I might add) to assist the JSA in yet another earth-shattering crisis that’s quite literal in this instance: a giant, ethereal hand is holding Earth-2 in its grasp and threatening to squeeze it into atoms. By methods too convoluted to get into here, the heroes learn the only way to stop the hand is to find the Seven Soldiers of Victory (who were, in real life, a group of Golden Age heroes that had yet to be revived for Silver Age readers), who were last seen battling a similar menace years before. Hard to see what a cowboy, some archers, a time-displaced knight and a normal dude in a striped shirt can do that the likes of Superman or Dr. Fate can’t — but that’s the beauty of the Silver Age, where anything was possible.

13. Legion of Super-Heroes (vol. 4) #100 (DC, 01/98)
Introduced in a cute throwaway Superboy story in the 1950s, the Legion of Super-Heroes gathering a sizable fan club throughout the ’60s, but the team’s habit of taking over already-existing titles (Adventure Comics first, then Superboy’s first series) prevented them from scoring their own 100th issue for the first 40 years of their existence. By the time they hit that milestone in one of their own ongoing issues, the team had seen plenty of changes and editorial directions; most recently, a reboot introduced new members and stranded part of the team in the 20th century (which couldn’t have been much fun for them, when you consider the lack of creature comforts that you or I would experience if we were sent back to 1000 AD). Of course, an old foe also arrives in the present to cause merry havoc for everyone, and it’s up to the Legion and our present-day heroes to team up and save the day. Come for the plethora of heroes, stay for the beautiful foldout cover and pin-ups of Legion members trying different genres on for size.

14. Marvel Team-Up (vol. 1) #100 (Marvel, 12/80)
This issue has a special place in my heart, as it’s one of the first actual comic books I can remember holding in my grubby little hands. My junior-sized brain at the time didn’t care about cover creases or the fact the lead feature is one of the few Spider-Man stories that Frank Miller ever worked on; no, my only thought at the time was, “Cool! The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man together in one story! And they’re fighting each other!” (And that, kids, is how Marvel Team-Up stayed around for 150 issues, despite wildly varying degrees of quality from one book to the next.) True, the heroes only fight because they’re mind-possessed by the two young mutants (one good, one bad) introduced in this double-sized issue, but that’s just details, gang. Also on tap: a back-up story starring Storm and the Black Panther that includes a flashback to their first encounter in Africa — an obvious “must-have” for fans of both characters. All in all, not a bad way to mark a milestone.

15. Marvel Two-in-One #100 (Marvel, 06/83)
“So this is… THE END!” proclaims the Thing on the cover — a nice bit of meta-commentary, considering this is indeed the last issue of Marvel Two-in-One, a team-up book cancelled to make way for the Thing’s solo series the following month. After a near-century of illustrious and not-so-illustrious guest stars (ladies and gents: Modred the Mystic!), the Thing teamed up with his ever-lovin’, blue-eyed self — or, rather, his other-dimensional self who was human-looking but living in an alternate reality. If you want to call it living, that is — it turns out the powerless Ben Grimm saw his former teammates die trying to defeat Galactus, and the space god’s feast on Earth’s resources left the planet a slowly dying wasteland, with super-thugs like the Red Skull fighting for the right to rule over the remaining survivors. It’s a great story, if a little jarring in places, like the scene in which Grimm and his followers find a swastika flag flying over “these shattered towers” of the “proud, resplendent World Trade Center” (sigh)…

16. Showcase #100 (DC, 05/78)
First published in 1956, Showcase started out as an anthology series filled with tales of fearless firefighters and frogmen before it found its niche as a try-out mag for new DC properties. Starting with the Silver Age Flash’s first appearance in #4, though, the book introduced dozens of new characters who went on to varying degrees of fame, from the Silver Age versions of Green Lantern and the Atom to the Metal Men, Hawk and Dove, B’Wana Beast, the Sea Devils and Jonny Double, among many others. The series went on hiatus in 1970 with #89 and returned in 1977 just in time to perish in the DC Implosion 11 issues later… but not before it published a 100th issue that featured an appearance from practically every character that ever appeared in the series, up to and including #1’s Fireman Farrell. The storyline about an unknown force futzing with time and knocking Earth off its orbit is completely secondary to the joy of watching these disparate characters interact, and that’s OK — even the book’s letter column admits the “awesome anniversary edition” was written just for fun. Besides, the real fun for longtime fans/extreme trivia nerds was in playing “guess the name and debut issue of every featured player” (with the answer key helpfully added to the end of the book).

17. Spawn #100 (Image, 11/2000)
I’ll come right out and say it – I have never understood the appeal of Todd McFarlane’s Spawn, and I’m pretty sure the character has lasted this long (and survived the wreckage of one hella bad movie) based on McFarlane’s star power alone. I’ll admit the series has dipped into some wicked satire at times and there’s some fodder for theology students looking for a quick thesis topic, but… well, you can only look at pretty poses and cape shots for so long and wonder what else is there, you know? And my ambivalence towards the character is only reinforced by this 100th issue of his ongoing series, a book that — Image Comics and all that — comes with six variant covers by six big-name artists for your hoarding pleasure. The story itself is typical fare: Spawn returns to the eighth level of Hell for a final showdown with Malebolgia; Angela arrives to join the battle; Malebolgia impales Angela on a  lance; Spawn decapitates Malebolgia; Spawn delivers Angela to a host of angels who offer him forgiveness and redemption; he refuses and accepts another, more selfless favor instead; Spawn makes peace with his place in the world. Subtlety, thy name ain’t Todd.

18. Star Wars #100 (Marvel, 10/85)
Has anyone ever tallied up just how much Marvel owes George Lucas for bringing his movie to life? Back in the mid-’70s, when gas prices were high, bellbottoms were wide and presidents used words like “malaise” in their pep talks, the comics were in a bit of a rut. The promise of a Superman movie gave some fans hope, but rising production costs were killing profits and a sense that it had all been done before was slowly creeping over the industry. With superheroes on the decline, the big publishers turned to anything else (horror, satire, the heart-wrenching dramas of night nurses) that looked like the next big thing, but even executives who worked with guys in capes on a daily basis sniffed their noses at the new “space cowboy” movie coming out of Hollywood. Fortunately for Marvel, writer/editor Roy Thomas saw the potential in Lucas’s vision and scored the adaptation rights to Star Wars — giving the industry its first million-issue seller since the height of Bat-mania. Writing an ongoing Star Wars series proved to be a challenge for the writers (the movies had their own storyline and the books couldn’t deviate too far from it); the decisive Rebel Alliance victory at the end of 1983’s Return of the Jedi left the comic book only a few loose ends to wrap up before it folded in 1986. In its 100th issue, our heroes learn of a new threat posed by an alien race that patiently waited for the end of the war between the Empire and the Rebellion so they could swoop in and conquer whatever was left standing. The issue ends with Luke proclaiming the Alliance at war again — but it didn’t amount to much of a fight, as the book’s final issue was only seven months away.

19. Strange Tales #100 (Marvel, 09/62)
As we’ve already seen, publishers will sometimes use the 100th issue as a suitable place to end the title’s run. Strange Tales #100 is a rarer beast: a 100th issue that marked a continuing series’ change from one editorial direction to another. Debuting in 1951, ST was a typical suspense/horror book of its day, merrily aping EC’s method of mixing ghoulish imagery with ironic endings. With the Comics Code Authority in place to clamp down on such shenanigans, the book lost a lot of its bite; by the time Marvel’s superheroes swung into high gear, the book was a relic from a bygone era. Bowing to the inevitable, the book switched to showcasing superhero stories starting with #101; the Human Torch headlined the first few issues, with Code-approved ST reprints filling out the back end. Before the switch, though, there was time for one last hurrah, and ST #100 is a great example of the wild and weird stuff Marvel/Atlas put out in the 1950s. Jack Kirby tells the tale of a crooked carnival owner lost in his own deadly maze; Don Heck serves up a Cold War parallel set on Uranus; Steve Ditko draws the story of a tree made self-aware by an atomic blast (and pretty peeved about it, too). Say what you like about the kids coming up through the ranks these days, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see that much talent inside one book again.

20. Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen #100 (DC, 03/67)
I mentioned this book a while back in a list of books that help explain why it took Superman 58 years to pop the question; in it, Jimmy Olsen and Lucy Lane tie the knot in the first of what’s only the beginning of several preposterous plot points (seriously, girl: him?). Equally preposterous is the fact that a book starring Jimmy Olsen — the world’s most famous superhero sycophant/bow-tied virgin — would last long enough to enter into the double digits, but comic readers were a less discerning breed back then. Once you get past the “Special 100th anniversary issue” blurb on the cover, there’s not much else in the book suggesting the book is special in any way, though the wedding plot does provide plenty of “gosh, remember when…” moments to remind readers of Jimmy’s heroics and romantic conquests (gak) from past issues. No time for reminiscing, though, because the rest of the issue is chock full of: super-strength potions! Vengeful imps! A bawling Lois! Super-ladies fighting over Jimmy! Red kryptonite lipstick! Extraneous Beatles references! And basically all the other silliness that typified basically any Jimmy Olsen book until Kirby cleaned house.

21. X-Men (vol. 1) #100 (Marvel, 08/76)
It seems a bit of a cheat to call this the 100th issue; after all, the original X-Men title sputtered to an end with issue #66, and it’s only by stuffing reprints between its covers that the book survived long enough to host the debut of the “all-new, all-different” — and far more successful — team in issue #94. But hey, any excuse for a party. By issue #100, the new creative team of Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum had had a few months together to work out the kinks, and at the time it must have seemed only natural to bring the book’s entire cast together in one of Marvel’s patented hero-versus-hero slugfests. Aside from the X-Man-on-X-Man smackdown, true X-fans will tell you two reasons why this book would become historically significant: (1) it’s the first mention of Colossus’s and Wolverine’s “fastball special” move and (2) it’s the issue that sets up Jean Grey’s Phoenix story arc, which — and you’ll have to trust me on this one — will become somewhat important in the X-Men mythology over the years.

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