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The Top Ten Comic Book Mini Series

Marvel Civil War

“I don’t need your civil war,”
– Guns N’ Roses, “Civil War”

During the 1980’s, the comic book industry, after seeing the success it brought the television networks the previous decade, decided to create their own mini-series. Before then, if a comic book wanted to tell an extended story, they would just tell the story over multiple issues with little to no fanfare. The story arc would be given a name after the fact (e.g.: the X-Men’s “Dark Phoenix Saga” is the name given to issues #129 – 138 of the comic title, “Uncanny X-Men.”) But when comic books industry hit its first bubble in the eighties, the companies decided that they can generate even more sales if they hyped their story arcs ahead of time, and dubbed them as events. And it worked!

Of course, all the hype in the world can’t save or sell a poor product. So in order to be a commercial success, it has to be a critical success. Part of the reasons for these mini series was to grab a wider audience; they wanted fans of all ages to expand their horizons and follow characters they wouldn’t or didn’t consider in the past. At least, that is what the executives wanted. The editors sometimes wanted to shake up the status quo of their respective comic book universe(s). While the writers just wanted to tell a good story.

Another way to tell if a mini series has crossed over into the mainstream and into the realm of “common knowledge”, i.e.: a story so popular that the major characters and plot points would be considered a fair trivia question, or as a clue on “Jeopardy”, (e.g. “Star Wars”, “Harry Potter”, “Wizard of Oz”). And the best indicator of this is if the story was later adapted into a major movie. It may have taken Hollywood two or three decades to created the F/X and CGI necessary, but before then, most fans believed that some of these stories were just impossible to ever adapt to the silver screen (e.g.: “Lord of the Rings).

So which stories did the double duty of revolutionizing not only their in-book world, but our “real” world at the same time? Without further ado, here are our lists…

The Top Ten Comic Book Mini Series

Keith’s List

  • 10. Earth X (Marvel, 1999)
  • 9. Kingdom Come (DC, 1996)
  • 8. Watchmen (DC, 1986-87)
  • 7. Age of Apocalypse (Marvel, 1995)
  • 6. House of M (Marvel, 2005)
  • 5. Marvel Zombies (Marvel, 2005)
  • 4. Civil War (Marvel, 2006)
  • 3. Flashpoint (DC, 2011)
  • 2. Secret Wars (Marvel, 1984-85)
  • 1. The Dark Knight Returns (DC, 1986)

Honorable Mentions: The Killing Joke (DC); Crisis on Infinite Earths (DC)

My List*

  • 10. Scott Pilgrim (Oni Press, 2004-10)
  • 9. Marvel’s What If? (Marvel, 1977-84)
  • 8. Injustice: Gods Among Us 2012-16
  • 7. Identity Crisis 2004
  • 6. Sandman 1989-96
  • 5. Secret Wars 1984-85
  • 4. Infinity War 1992
  • 3. Crisis on Infinite Earths 1985-86
  • 2. The Dark Knight Returns 1986
  • 1. Watchmen 1986-87

Honorable Mentions: Maus (Pantheon); Amalgam (DC/Marvel); Flashpoint (DC); Darkest Night (DC); Age of Onslaught (Marvel); Age of Apocalypse (Marvel); Death and Rebirth of Superman (DC); Old Man Logan (Marvel); The Killing Joke (DC)

*Note: I originally had “Batman: Knightfall” on my list, before I was informed that it was not a mini-series, but more of a crossover event that was later compiled into a three-volume graphic novel set.

If you want to read the Wikipedia plot synopses of these stories, check out the list from our sister blog:

Next Top Ten List: Top Ten Star Wars video games.



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