THE BARE ESSENTIALS
Every comic book character has a story that tells you just who they are and what they are about. These are the stories that define who that character is and make fans out of everyone. In this article I'll take a look at a few popular characters and the stories that can only be described as essential.
Batman/Two Face - The Long Halloween (1996-1997)
When it comes to Batman pretty much everyone points to The Dark Knight Returns, and yes I concede that it is a fantastic story and one of Batman's essentials without doubt but I'm going to have to go with The Long Halloween for two reasons, the first is that its my favorite Batman story of all time and more importantly the second reason is that no only is it one of Batman's essential stories its also one of Two-Face's most essential.
The Long Halloween takes place very early in Batman's crime fighting career and sees his budding relationship with Jim Gordon grow stranger and include a third party, that person being Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent.
In the story the three are looking to solve the case of the Holiday Killer who as his name suggests murders people on a different holiday of each month. Not only is there a murder mystery surrounding who The Holiday Killer is this story also chronicles the events that turn Harvey Dent into the notorious Two-Face.
Daredevil - Frank Millers Daredevil (Daredevil #158-#191, 1979-1983)
This storyline has no real name but has simply become known as "Frank Miller's Daredevil". Before taking on Daredevil Miller confesses no one cared about him and to most he was simply as a poor mans Spider-Man. During Miller's run however the book had become one of Marvels best selling. Miller laid the groundwork and then reinvented Daredevil into what he has become today.
While Miller was writing Spider-Man there was a cameo by Daredevil and Miller instantly fell in love with him. As Miller stated most heroes are known for what they can do, Spider-Man can stick to walls, Batman is ridiculously wealthy and smart and Superman can do just about everything, but Daredevil is more known for what he can't do, that of course is see. Miller wanted to write the character and take him out of obscurity and near cancellation.
The backbone of his 33 issue run however is were Daredevil once again meets his old college love Elektra, now a hired assassin and is put up against her by The Kingpin and Bullseye. Eventually the Kingpin's ties to Elektra are severed and it comes to a dramatic confrontation with Daredevil, Elektra and Bullseye.
Green Goblin - The Death Of Gwen Stacy (Amazing Spider-Man #121-122, June-July 1973)
Every hero needs an arch-enemy, a person so villainous that he can get under your skin like no one else. To Spider-Man, The Green Goblin is just that. Its funny how his essential story was meant to be his last. Before this two part storyline Norman Osborn was suffering from a bout of amnesia, forgetting he was The Green Goblin and more importantly that Peter Parker was Spider-Man. Also at this time Norman's son Harry had become addicted to drugs and was at The Osborn estate while trying to get over his addictions.
While visiting Harry, Peter, his girlfriend Gwen Stacy and good friend Mary Jane Watson are all thrown out by Norman who blames Harry's condition on them. After suffering from possible financial ruin and on the brink of a mental breakdown Norman suddenly recalls everything and decides to make it his mission to killer Peter and his loved ones once and for all for what he has done to his family.
Knowing just the right place to strike Norman, now once again as The Green Goblin kidnaps Gwen Stacy as bait to lure Spider-Man to The George Washington Bridge. With Gwen unconscious and The Goblin taunting Spider-Man the two start to go at it, once Spider-Man gets close to Gwen, The Green Goblin throws her off the bridge, thinking fast Spider-Man shoots a web line to Gwen and catches her by the legs. The Green Goblin takes the opportunity to escape as Spider-Man is pulling her up thinking he saved her but as he pulls her into his arms it becomes quite apparent that she is already dead, Spider-Man doesn't know if it was the whiplash from the sudden stop from his web that had broken her neck or if The Goblin had broken it beforehand, but blames himself for what has happened anyways, after all with great power comes great responsibility. Of course we the audience are in the know and we know it was the sudden stop that broke her neck due to the panel.
Swearing vengeance for what he had done Spider-Man tracks The Green Goblin to an old abounded warehouse. With unrivaled fury Spider-Man beats The Green Goblin within a inch of his life but still can't bring himself to kill his mortal enemy no matter what he had done. With an opportunity at hand The Goblin sends his glider to impale Spider-Man from behind, but just before he is about to be hit Spider-Man's spider sense warns him to move and in doing so the glider impales The Green Goblin instead killing him.
Iron Man - Demon In A Bottle (Iron Man #120-128, March-November 1978)
Tony Stark as fought many different enemies over the years but neither of them have ever come so close to destroying Iron Man did as Alcohol. After his amour malfunctions and shoots at a repulsor blast at a foreign ambassador, killing him Tony Stark turns his amour over to the police for inspection. After this event Stark's drinking, which was always present, increases dramatically.
With his amour turned in Stark gathers information on a villain named Hammer and flies to Monaco. Hammer is alerted of his presence however and sends his solders to attack him and Stark is taken prisoner by Hammer. Hammer then reveals to Stark that he has his amour and was the one who caused the amour to malfunction.
Stark eventually escapes from capture by tricking one of the guards watching over him. Once Hammer learns of this he sends several villains after him, eventually they find him but Stark finds the amour that he handed over to the police and suits up and defeats the villains he then goes after Hammer who gets away.
Once home Stark continues his drinking and yells at his butler Jarvis who than resigns. Stark keeps drinking in an attempt to forget about his problems but is confronted by a woman who tells him about her ex-husband who was addicted to drugs which caused the end of their marriage and eventually to his death. Stark then finally admits to his drinking problem and agrees to let the woman help him through his withdraw. Eventually Stark defeats his alcoholism and makes amends with Jarvis, who tells him that he sold his shares of Stark International to S.H.E.I.L.D. giving them the controlling interest in the company. Despite this Stark remains optimistic since he had finally kicked his drinking problem.
Joker - The Killing Joke (Batman: The Killing Joke #1, March 1988)
I was going to write about this story like I was the others but there is really no need. I'll just point everyone to the article that fellow Retrojunker Achillies wrote about it. He goes very in depth about the story and does a much better job talking about then I could in just a few paragraphs. Check out the article at the below link
Kingpin - Severance Package (Spider-Man's Tangled Web #4, Oct 2001)
Although only in it for a few pages the story about Tom Cochrane, one of The Kingpin's generals is truly the greatest story ever told about the villain. When one of The Kingpin's high profile jobs worth millions in weaponry, headed up by longtime employee Tom Cochrane is foiled by Spider-Man he immediately knows the consequences. Soon his phone rings when Tom answers its The Kingpin who tells him a driver will pick him up in one hour. Tom's wife knows that Tom is going to be killed and begs him not to go but he says that's not what he signed up for and that because of it his family is set up financially. Soon the doorbell rings, its the driver and its time to go. Soon they arrive at The Kingpin's tower which is when Tom kills the driver and steals his gun.
Tom makes his way to the penthouse where he meets The Kingpin who asks him if he knows the reason why he was sent for. Tom says he does and then pulls out the gun. Tom then makes a single request to The Kingpin "Please let my family live." The Kingpin doesn't respond and simply tells Tom to move to the front of the desk and to attack him so that it looks like The Kingpin was depending himself. Tom does so and The Kingpin quickly snaps his neck. After dropping Tom's body The Kingpin gets on a phone the person on the other end asks "Do I go in?" and The Kingpin simply replies with "No. Leave the Cochrane family alone. They're done."
Spider-Man - Nothing Can Stop The Juggernaut (Amazing Spider-Man #229-230, June-July 1982)
In hopes of using Madame Web's psychic powers to defeat The X-Men Black Tom Cassidy sends The Juggernaut to kidnap her. Web gets a vision of this and asks Spider-Man to stop The Juggernaut. Incredibly out matched by The Juggernaut, Spider-Man fails to stop him at every turn and soon The Juggernaut reaches Madame Web and pulls her from her life support system nearly killing her. Spider-Man manages to get her to a hospital and then once again tries to stop The Juggernaut finally defeating him by tricking him in a vat of wet cement.
The story does an amazing job showcasing The Juggernaut's power and how Spider-Man as powerful as he is, is noting but a gnat and a mere annoyance to The Juggernaut the whole time, yet Spider-Man shows his heroic spirit and never gives up fighting even if he has no chance, only prevailing because for once in his life he he has a bit of good luck.
I know this article is shorter then the ones I usually write, guess I was lazy this time around. In all honesty this is a article idea that I have had in my head for a while now and decided to leave it for a night when I had nothing else to do since it for once it required no research and I could write the entire thing in a night. Sometime down the line I'll do a Vol. 2 to this one with more essential stories from other popular comic characters. Hope you enjoyed it.