1937 – Detective Comics (Bruce Nelson)
Of the serialized features I’ve seen reprinted in pre-Batman issues, Bruce Nelson’s oriental intrigues were the best drawn and most interesting.
1938 – Action Comics (Superman)
Creativity and raw, primal energy bursts off every page of the super-vigilante/activist, Superman.
1939 – Action Comics (Superman)
Superman is already starting to be changed by his own success, but is still great. (runner-up tie: All-American Comics for Scribbly and Smash Comics for Black X and John Law)
1940 – Whiz Comics (Captain Marvel)
Quickly eclipsing Superman, the more colorful, more fun, and more powerful Captain Marvel (runner-up: Batman)
1941 – Whiz Comics (Captain Marvel)
The ingenuity that was disappearing from Superman by now was all turning up here. (runner-up: Action Comics for Superman)
1942 – Detective Comics (Batman)
…But for the best rogues gallery, that was shaping up to be Batman’s. (runner-up: All-Star Comics for JSA)
1943 - Police Comics (Plastic Man)
After an uneven first two years, Plastic Man finally became a joy to both look at and read. (runner-up: All-Star Comics for JSA)
1944 – Police Comics (Plastic Man)
Consistently fun and funny. (runner-up: Spirit)
1945 – Police Comics (Plastic Man)
And innovative storytelling. (runner-up: Batman)
1946 – All-Star Comics (Justice Society of America)
Always fun, although uneven.
(runner-up: Stuntman Comics)
1947 – All-Star Comics (Justice Society of America)
They get better over time....
1948 - All-Star Comics
At least the best titles do, while the rest of comicdom became domesticated to the point of boredom.
1949 – Batman (runner-up: Adventure Comics for Johnny Quick)
As the creative teams refined formulas, the best titles became formulaic, but very good formulas!
1950 – Adventure Comics (Shining Knight)
Or, they could just get Frank Frazetta to draw it!
1951 - Two-Fisted Tales
But by now none of the superheroes were cutting it anymore.
1952 – Star-Spangled Comics (Tomahawk)
Frank here too...
1953 - Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge
Still no superheroes left in sight...
1954 – Batman
Until now. Something had happened to re-energize Batman. The stories are more fun and feel more fresh again.
1955 – Batman (runner-up: Congo Bill)
And more of the same.
1956 – Showcase (for Flash II) (runner-up: World’s Finest Comics for Superman & Batman)
The Silver Age Flash, the Challengers of the Unknown -- this was a terrific year for new concepts.
1957 – Detective Comics
More wacky Batman fun.
1958 – Adventure Comics (Green Arrow)
Jack Kirby delivers!
1959 – Our Army at War (Sgt. Rock) (runner-up: Showcase for Green Lantern II)
I’m no fan of war, but these stories speak of the human condition better than DC was doing with the superhero genre up to this point.
1960 – Justice League of America
I’m not really a fan of this either, but it was a slow year otherwise…
1961 – Fantastic Four
The FF was not great right off the bat, but it was good and promised great things from Marvel that would eclipse DC. This would be a good time for confessing I was a Marvel Zombie from 1975 to 1991…
1962 – Amazing Adult Fantasy (Spider-Man) (runner-up: Fantastic Four)
As good as the FF was, Spider-Man was simply so much better. It didn’t just speak of the human condition – if you were ever a shy, nerdy boy, it spoke directly to YOUR condition!
1963 – Amazing Spider-Man (runner-up: Fantastic Four)
More of Lee and Ditko’s amazing run…
1964 – Amazing Spider-Man (runner-up: Avengers)
…proved that innovation could be both fun and charming.
1965 – Amazing Spider-Man (runner-up: Avengers)
1966 – Fantastic Four (runner-up: Amazing Spider-Man)
For Marvel in general, each year’s worth of titles got better than the previous year, building up to this stellar year – but not for Spider-Man, which lost Ditko and much of its greatness.
1967 – Fantastic Four (runner-up: Avengers)
The FF was still on fire, and Roy Thomas was slowly transforming the Avengers into better than a second-best title.
1968 – Fantastic Four (runner-up: Captain America)
Although it was sometimes feeling rushed, the FF was still tops.
1969 - Silver Surfer (runner-up: Fantastic Four)
This title started out so great and went downhill so badly.
1970 - Avengers (runner-up: Fantastic Four)
The Avengers woke up out of a two-year lull as good as ever.
1971 - Mr. Miracle (runner-up: New Gods)
But Marvel’s star was declining and whenever Marvel declined, DC picked up the pace.