the first great adventure strip of that aforementioned “golden age”, that time when Caniff, Foster, Raymond, and others dominated the Sunday comics with stories of grand heroes and their feats of daring-do. They all owe a debt to Roy Crane, whose broad humor and rollicking yarns propelled Wash Tubbs and Cap’n Easy to legendary status. Not to mention, one of the greatest of landscape artists ever to pick up a brush and zip-a-tone and commit to newsprint!
Between the two of them, the greatest visual use of the Sunday Comics page ever; not only in terms of design, but in terms of conception. McCay’s late 19th-century Victorian dreamscapes and Herriman’s surrealistic desert vistas are as crucial to the strip as the names on those mastheads.
The best art-comic ever. Bar none. Every art-comic should work with a canvas this large, this ambitious. Pop Art Panels of eye-popping color in foldout pages like comics the way you dreamed they could be! And if it was still 12 cents and on newsprint, what an achievement that would be!
7.Fantastic Four issues #1-100 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
8. The Fourth World Omnibus vol.#1-3 by Jack Kirby
Kirby Unleashed! At last! And for a few great years, unencumbered by the shadow of Stan Lee and his over-bearing need for attention, Jack Kirby let loose with every idea he could muster in a series of books that re-invented what a comic book-or a comic book company–could be in tales passionate and strange, timely(no pun intended) and timeless.
Some of the bravest comics ever made. Robert Crumb broke every taboo in sight.
Funny stuff, creepy stuff, ghastly stuff, and all of it percolating just underneath the veneer of mid-20th century suburbia. Yikes! And great drawings to boot!
10. Warlock (Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-11) by Jim Starlin & many others
The comic of my teenage years. When Jack seemed un-moored by the loss of the Fourth World, Neal Adams was busy in advertising, and a good deal else was just mediocre, Jim Starlin carried the freak flag high for super-hero comics, in grand cosmic space-opera that drew inspiration from Kirby and Ditko’s wildest imaginings, and juggled the concepts of god, identity and existence like some kind of Emmett Kelly on acid. Populated by a neurotic golden hero, a hot assassin chick and an impish troll. What more could a fifteen-year old want in a comic?
11. Mad Magazine; the Kurtzman issues.
This would have been in my top ten, but I got the impression that anthologies weren’t being considered. C’est la vie-I’m including it now. When I first saw the early Wally Wood, John Severin, Jack Davis issues I must have been 8 or 9, and they were in paperback reprint form; you’d find them along with the contemporary Mad paperbacks in somebody’s big brothers bedroom or something. While the “Don Martin, Dave Berg, Mort Drucker “Mad” collections were great, the early parodies of Archie, Superman, Tarzan etc., were a revelation to me-unbridled wise-ass humor, gorgeously illustrated–and those were the ones I sought whenever we were searching my buddy’s brother’s room for cool teenage stuff. Whenever they’re reprinted,I buy them all over again.
12. Thimble Theater(Popeye) by E.C. Segar
Are there any characters in comics quite as original as the one-eyed sailor, his freeloading buddy and stick-skinny girlfriend?
weird, dark nasty shit. You don’t want to live in this world.
13. Love and Rockets vol 1 &; 2 by Gilbert Hernandez, Jaime Hernandez
Remember I asked, among comics greats, who’d had the stamina to sustain greatness(in one long form work) for as long as Hal Foster? These guys–between Gilbert and Jaimie, the greatest comics work of their generation. Maybe the greatest contemporary comic book—alone among serialized comics of the late twentieth century, it rivals Kirby and Lee’s FF-and maybe, just maybe, it surpasses it. Breathtaking.
14. Pogo by Walt Kelly
15.Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff
Two great strips, both beautifully visualized. One skewers the politics of the period in brilliant satire worthy of Swift or Orwell; the other embraces the cultural zeitgeist whole, bringing the experiences of WWII fighting men and women to the folks back home, every day in scenarios both heartstopping and heartbreaking.
16. Dennis the Menace by Al Wiseman and Fred Toole.
Dennis’ genius is fully fleshed out in these wacked-out tales of mid-20th century suburbia. The well ordered, idealized American utopia of the late 50’s-early 60’s completely and utterly undermined by a four year old whirling dervish. Pity Henry Mitchell.
Like “Warlock”, this is one of those fond memories of my youth. It was a thrill to witness this story unfold in the pages of Detective Comics; to see Archie Goodwin at the top of his game, to see Walt Simonson grow more and more confident with each passing page. Together they reinvented a long forgotten also-ran from Simon and Kirby’s backlog and invested him with new life, borrowing liberally from apocalyptic sci-fi and “the Day of the Jackal” .
18. From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
the most fully realized graphic novel(that was conceived as a novel from the get-go)I’ve yet read and the only one I’ve read that I feel attains as much nuance and depth as a great prose novel. As time has gone on I’ve become slightly skeptical about the graphic novel, preferring my comics in the strip form of the newspapers–but this one took my heart and mind, turned it in on itself and broke me into little pieces .Eddie Campbell’s drawings are extraordinary. Evocative, emotive. One of the most powerfully frightening books I’ve ever read, in any medium, from any period. A brutal masterpiece. Just thinking about it gives me chills.
19. Dr. Strange by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko
weird scenes from the gold mine. Steve Ditko created a lexicon of signs for inter-dimensional, other-worldy realities that has impacted nearly every comics creator who has followed him over the boundary between the empirical and the dreamed.
20. This last entry was going to be Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware, but that’s more because Ware’s work is of significance and should be recognized on a list like this, more than because the work is a favorite of mine-or grist for my creativity. It’s not. I admire Ware’s work, and at times I’m just plain blown away by his capabilities–there’s nobody else like him, no doubt. But He’s not one of my favorites. Strange ,isn’t it?
So then, for number 20-a few of my faves-in no particular order:
Batman in Detective Comics by Frank Robbins
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century by Phil Nowlan, Russell Keaton
Notes for a War Story by Gipi -(& anything else by Gipi)
George Sprott & Wimbledon Green by Seth
Richard Stark’s Parker by Darwyn Cooke
Little Annie Fanny by Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder & various