What’s the greatest year in Marvel’s first 80 years?
That’s a tough one, unlike some of the other milestones in the lifespan of the House of Ideas. For example, what’s the most important year from the Marvel era? That’s easy. 1961. It’s the year the Fantastic Four debuted, and the one where the publisher came to be. None of what followed could have happened without that year, as the idea working rested on the creation and success of Marvel and its first superheroes. But greatest? That’s a more difficult thing to decide, especially because it’s so subjective.
But for me, it’s actually quite easy, 2 especially after tackling my project in which I read, by my estimation, one million Marvel comics to decide which title, story or arc won the year for each year of my life. I felt this way going in, and after reviewing the history of Marvel comics, I definitely believed this year was the pound-for-pound champ for the greatest year in the publisher’s history. What year was it?
Now, I have to drop a caveat before I share why that year takes the crown. I did not go back and read all of the major comics Marvel released from 1961 to 1983. But after reviewing each of the years during that span – and having read a decent chunk of the early Marvel stories already – and considering all of the criteria that guided me during this week’s exercise (short answer: my key determinants were quality, broader impact, lasting impact and personal affinity), it became increasingly obvious to me that 2006 wasn’t just a special year, but arguably the greatest the publisher has ever had.
The year had it all. Looking for line changing events that had a substantial impact on both Marvel’s comics line and its cinematic future? That year had three to choose from. Want flagship titles that are firing on all cylinders? 2006 was lousy with them. Want secondary titles or oddball books that are doing something special? You have a lot to pick from. Love Nextwave? Baby, this year had the market cornered on Nextwave.
2006 was the year that set Marvel comics on a very specific path going forward, for better or worse, but it’s also one that is packed to the gills with some of the finest superhero storytelling you could ever ask for. So instead of trying to argue my point by comparing the line-ups for each year, or something similarly insane, I’m going to go down the simple route. I’m going to look at the titles that made 2006 such a great and memorable year, examining not just the flagship titles but also the oddities that made this year stand out as much as it does, even if many of them are the definition of your mileage may vary. And hey, maybe after I’m done making the case for 2006 as Marvel’s greatest year ever, you’ll be on my side, worshiping at the altar of an unassuming year in the midst of the aughts that doubles as the G.O.A.T. for Marvel.