Some of the greatest superhero stories ever told in comic books have occurred within one-shot issues. Many of these single issues deviate from the norm of their respective series and portray our favourite heroes at their most human. This is a list that told powerful and important stories for their respective characters.
The Incredible Hulk #420 – Lest Darkness Come
In this issue the Hulk has to face a real world horror when his former sidekick, Jim Wilson, contracts HIV. Jim Wilson pleads with the Hulk to give him some of his blood in order to save his life, however Hulk refuses as he does not want Jim to turn into a Hulk-like creature. The levels of fear of HIV/AIDS was still high in 1994 when this issue was published and to show the immensely powerful Hulk struggling with a real world issue many readers may have faced as well took this issue to new heights and showed the Hulk character at his most human.
Daredevil #191 – Roulette
Daredevil visits a now paralysed Bullseye in hospital, he can no longer move or even talk, but must lie there and endure round after round of Russian Roulette. As the story reaches the final round it is revealed that Matt Murdock is who he is and despite his deep hatred for Bullseye there is only one way their story can end, with an empty gun. Miller builds almost impossible tension as he takes the reader right to the edge of belief that The Man Without Fear is about to take a life. This was the issue that marked the end of Frank Miller’s first run on Daredevil. Miller culminated his series with the darkest superhero tale to date (Daredevil #191 pre-dates The Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One).
Amazing Spider-Man #248 – The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man
After Spider-Man himself reads a newspaper article about a young fan who is dying of Leukaemia, he decides to pay him a visit. What unfolds is one of the most touching and sad moments in all of Spider-Man’s many issues. The pair bond and Spider-Man shares some of his stories including how his negligence caused the death of his Uncle Ben, a touching scene that causes the young boy to comfort his hero. This one-shot is a great example of why Spider-Man is still a fan favourite to this day.
Superman Annual #11 – For The Man Who Has Everything
Created by the famous Watchmen duo of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, For The Man Who Has Everything is one of Superman’s most famous one-shot stories. Batman, Robin and Wonder Woman arrive at the Fortress of Solitude to celebrate Superman’s birthday only to discover him in catatonic state. He has succumbed to an alien plant known as Black Mercy in a plot by the super-villain, Mongul. The Black Mercy will show Superman a realistic dream of his ‘heart’s desire’. While the heroes battle Mongul, Superman must cope with his dream of living a full life on Krypton with a wife a son, as he begins to wake up he must face the challenge to give up what he believes is real and say goodbye to his family. An incredibly powerful Superman one-shot that provided the best look into the character’s psyche since his inception in 1938.
Batman – The Killing Joke
The Killing Joke is the single most famous and important Batman/Joker one-shot. The story became infamous for telling the origin of the Joker; a family man and failed comedian who suffered ‘one bad day’ that finally drove him insane. After escaping from Arkham Asylum Joker begins a rampage of crime including paralysing Batgirl and kidnapping Commissioner Gordon. The issue culminates in a stand off between Joker and Batman at an abandoned Gotham theme park. This famous tale portrays the Joker at his most vicious and violent but the legacy of the comic stems from the debate of whether Batman, did or did not kill the Joker at the end after he tells him ‘The Killing Joke’. Created by Alan Moore, The Killing Joke is single handedly the most horrifying Batman one-shot that continues to inspire and challenge comic book creators today.
What are your favourite one-shot comic books and why?