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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"TOP TEN COMICS" LIST

Recently the comics website Hooded Utilitarian invited me to contribute a list of Ten Comics for a wide-ranging poll.  The results can be found here.  The actual query was:

“What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?”

A tough question.  I didn't even try to list what I thought were the Best, because I think that's impossible, so my list ended up being a weird combination of all three.  Like many people polled, I stress that this list came basically off the top of my head, and would likely have been different at any other time.  Also: ten is too restrictive of a number.  Anyhow, I tried not to think about it too hard.

You can see my list here.  Some people added comments, and since I didn't at the time, I thought I would do so now.  My list is in no particular order.


Eightball #22 ("Ice Haven"), Daniel Clowes

I can't really attest to what I think are the "Ten Best Comics" because there are so many highly touted comics I've never sat down with.  But I can say that Eightball #22 is the best comic book I've ever read.



Gasoline Alley, Frank King

This is the most fascinating of the classic newspaper comics to me, because of the attention to detail, the little quirks and ephemera of life, that King has recorded in his strip.  (I can sit and stare for hours at a page, just digesting--  "...so that's what telephone stands looked like in the 20's...")  ... And for the fact that it presages so much of what we find in contemporary art comics--  quiet, somewhat deadpan observation; subtlety of characterization; the emphasis on the rhythms of day-to-day  life.  Plus lots of excitement and adventure.   Charming, warm, and funny.


Strange Growths, Jenny Zervakis

Jenny's scratchy, poetic observational stories about family life, nature, and people on the bus, are some of the most groundbreaking comics ever published that most readers have never seen. 


Krazy Kat, George Herriman

Another comic that probably could be construed as "Best" in many ways, the thing that turns me on about Krazy Kat is the artist's unflinching, career-long approach to creating beauty, suspense, humor, absurdity, and tenderness out of the most basic of narrative materials--  a stage, a love triangle.  Pure delight.


OMAC: One Man Army Corps, Jack Kirby, with Mike Royer

Whether you like it or not, Jack Kirby is one of the most important artists of the 20th Century.  OMAC is "Kirby Unleashed," a frenetic, absurd, confusing world of monumental ideas-- good, evil, justice, corruption, redemption.  Like many of Kirby's later works, OMAC was unceremoniously and abruptly cancelled mid-story, but in the case of OMAC, even the final, pasted-in panel works to drive home the sheer bewilderment at hand.


Ernie Pook’s Comeek, Lynda Barry

Personally, the one strip that, as a teenager, forced me to reassess comics as an artform.  The rollicking freedom of her early work is unmatched, and when she began mining deeper, more literary ground, she did so in a way that felt utterly natural and real.


The Monster Stories, Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

First published at the nadir of the comic-book industry (the late 1950's) in titles like Tales to Astonish and Journey Into Mystery, these demented, beautiful, throw-away stories are my favorite comics of all time.  Purely outlandish, intriguingly repetitive escapism, the Monster Comics featured tales of giant robots, walking trees, huge anthropomorphic hills, intergalactic babies, you name it.  The maniacal delight of taking any preposterous idea and turning it into a 13 page story is evident, and infectious.


Dirty Plotte, Julie Doucet

Julie's work was a bombshell dropping on the comics scene.  Highly, crazily, personal, they combined the uncompromised confessionalism of the undergrounds with a luscious, cartoony loopiness that comic books had rarely seen before.  In other words, she created a new direction for "alt-comics," one that is still being explored to this day.


Caricature: Nine Stories, Daniel Clowes

When the stories collected in this book were first coming out, issue after issue, in Clowes' Eightball, you could feel the boundaries of what comics could do expanding with each new arrival. 



Extraits naturels de carnet, Laurent Lolmède

Even though I barely speak French, these are comics that I return to again and again.  Lolmède is that pure, ugly, inky, grotesque type of cartoonist that makes depicting the world in blotty, gorgeous lines look easy.  Looking at his work makes me want to draw comics.

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COMICS THAT I CAN'T BELIEVE I DIDN'T INCLUDE ON THIS LIST:  Life in Hell, Matt Groening; Dave Kiersh's Teen Angst stories; Love and Rockets, Los Bros Hernandez; ACME Novelty Library, Chris Ware; Hercules Among the North Americans, Mark Marek; Jeff Zenick's zines; Cecil and Jordan in New York, Gabrielle Bell; "Wild Kingdom," Kevin Huizenga; ask me again next week.

3 comments:

  1. Great to see Strange Growths on the list. It's one of those things that I never hear about, so I can almost convince myself that I imagined it (especially since my zine collection is so disorganized that any given title can only be found by random chance).

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  2. I think Kirby's "Machine Man" was up there with OMAC, and I think it lasted slightly longer ... then Ditko took over (though he didn't write), and it was still pretty funky for a while.

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