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The Comics Journal Top 100 Comics of the 20th Century

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

Recently, very recently in fact, I've become completely burned out on superheroes. Mostly this stems from an insistence by both fans and creators alike that superhero "storytelling" be a list of checkmarks to fulfill. Simultaneously, I've gained a greater respect for the art, realizing that comic books are a unique medium because of the tension negotiated between the pictures and the text. 

 

After reading a book of Frank Miller interviews from The Comics Journal, I stumbled upon TCJ's Top 100 Comics of the 20th Century. Of course, only four of the titles were superhero comics. I've taken it upon myself to branch out and try new things, having drifted from the kind of independent books I used to ferret out and hit a wall in terms of artistic experimentation. What I mean is, on my own terms I've had a lifetime of comics that went something like this: X-Men->Batman->Sandman->Hellboy->Bone->Strangers in Paradise->Cerebus.

 

I'd hit a limit on growth until discovering this list.

 

Krazy Kat by George Herriman +

Peanuts by Charles Schulz +

Pogo by Walt Kelly +

Maus by Art Spiegelman +

Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McCay +

Feiffer by Jules Feiffer

Donald Duck by Carl Barks

Mad Comics by Harvey Kurtzman and various +

Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green

The Weirdo stories of Robert Crumb

Thimble Theatre by E.C. Segar

EC's "New Trend" war comics by Harvey Kurtzman and various +

Wigwam Bam (L&R) by Jaime Hernandez

Blood of Palomar (L&R) by Gilbert Hernandez

The Spirit by Will Eisner +

RAW Magazine, edited by Art Spiegelman and Françoise Mouly

The Acme Novelty Library by Chris Ware

Polly and Her Pals by Cliff Sterrett

The Sketchbooks of Robert Crumb

Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks

The New Yorker cartoons of Peter Arno

The Death of Speedy Ortíz (L&R) by Jaime Hernandez

Terry and the Pirates by Milton Caniff

Flies on the Ceiling (L&R) by Jaime Hernandez

Wash Tubbs by Roy Crane

The Jungle Book by Harvey Kurtzman

Palestine by Joe Sacco

The Mishkin saga by Kim Deitch

Gasoline Alley by Frank King

The Fantastic Four by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby +

Poison River (L&R) by Gilbert Hernandez

Plastic Man by Jack Cole

Dick Tracy by Chester Gould

The theatrical caricatures of Al Hirschfeld

The Amazing Spider-Man by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko +

Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson +

Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau +

The autobiographical comics from Yummy Fur by Chester Brown

The editorial cartoons of Pat Oliphant

The Kin-der-Kids by Lyonel Feininger

From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes

Amphigorey by Edward Gorey

The Idiots Abroad (Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers) by Gilbert Shelton and Paul Mavrides

Paul Auster's City of Glass by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli

Cages by Dave McKean

The Buddy Bradley saga by Peter Bagge

The cartoons of James Thurber

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Tantrum by Jules Feiffer

The Alec stories of Eddie Campbell

It's a Good Life, If You Don't Weaken by Seth

The editorial cartoons of Herblock

EC's "New Trend" horror comics by Al Feldstein and various

The Frank stories by Jim Woodring

Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer by Ben Katchor

A Contract with God by Will Eisner+

The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams

Little Lulu by John Stanley

Alley Oop by V. T. Hamlin

American Splendor #1-10 by Harvey Pekar and various

Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray

Hey Look! by Harvey Kurtzman

Goodman Beaver by Harvey Kurtzman and Bill Elder

Bringing Up Father by George McManus

Zippy the Pinhead by Bill Griffith

The Passport by Saul Steinberg

Barnaby by Crockett Johnson

God's Man by Lynd Ward

Jimbo by Gary Panter

The Book of Jim by Jim Woodring

The short stories in Rubber Blanket by David Mazzucchelli

The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick

Ernie Pook's Comeek by Lynda Barry

Black Hole by Charles Burns

The Master Race story by Bernard Krigstein and Al Feldstein

Li'l Abner by Al Capp

Sugar and Spike by Sheldon Mayer

Captain Marvel by C. C. Beck

Zap Comix by Robert Crumb and various

The Lily stories (Daddy's Girl) by Debbie Drechsler

Caricature by Daniel Clowes

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

Why I Hate Saturn by Kyle Baker

The Willie and Joe cartoons of Bill Mauldin

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

The New Yorker cartoons of George Price

Jack Kirby's Fourth World by Jack Kirby

The autobiographical comics of Spain Rodriguez

Mr. Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

The "Pictopia" story by Alan Moore and Don Simpson

Dennis the Menace by Hank Ketcham

The humor comics of Basil Wolverton

Los Tejanos by Jack Jackson (alias Jaxon)

The Dirty Plotte series by Julie Doucet

The Hannah Story by Carol Tyler

Barney Google by Billy DeBeck

The Bungle Family by Harry J. Tuthill

Prince Valiant by Hal Foster

 

I got a few volumes of Krazy Kat, Pogo, and the work of Harvey Kurtzman from the library, and I'm loving them. I hope to make it through the whole list, as I've maybe only read about twenty of these titles and was only familiar with half of them. I'm most embarrassed to not have read any Love & Rockets, but they're hard to find. 

post #2 of 12

Big one missing from the list is Cerebus, ostensibly because, according to Gary Groth, "The reason Cerebus didn’t make the Journal’s Top 100 list is because none of the critics who participated could agree on what story line qualified, splitting the vote."

 

Otherwise that's a fine Comics 101 guideline. Have you been following the whole Sim/Fantagraphics conversation where they're offering to publish Cerebus hardcovers and he's saying they have to start with Form & Void? Jesus, Sim, way to wave away a hand extended to help and saying "Gee, I kinda like the view from where I'm hanging off this cliff by my fingernails."

 

Do the plus signs denote the works you've sampled so far? If so, you have a lot of treats in store. I particularly recommend looking up Krigstein and Jaxon next. They're pretty dissimilar, that's just off the top of my head. Love & Rockets is essential, ask your local library to send away for the books for you. I bought the entire set for my library, and I can't imagine other libraries haven't done likewise, so somewhere out there has them for you to get through interlibrary loan. I'll know if I suddenly get ILL requests from North Carolina that you're getting busy.

post #3 of 12

I see ZERO Spawn on this list. Invalid.

post #4 of 12

No, but the Journal interview of Todd fuckin' Mcfuckin'Farlane is a masterpiece of slapheadedness.

post #5 of 12
Thread Starter 

Haha, yeah, the plus signs were me keeping track of what I found at the library. I've also read a few others like the Alan Moore stuff and Gaiman's Mr. Punch

post #6 of 12

Well, you're off to a good start, man.

 

If you haven't read Chris Ware, once you do, try to chase it with something funny, because he can be depressing as fuck.

 

I get the historical significance of Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary but it's a little too heavy on the self-regarding Catholic-guilt surrealism for my tastes.

 

Palestine by Joe Sacco is a must-read. Really, anything on that list is worth at least a perusal. One other surprising omission: Phoebe Gloeckner. A Child's Life and Other Stories is greatness, but again, chase it with something funny.

post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gabe T View Post

I see ZERO Spawn on this list. Invalid.


Pass on Spawn, but no Charley's War - ugh.

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

What's amazing about Spawn is how quickly it attracted big name talent. Moore, Miller, Gaiman, and Sim all worked on the book! Sim's issue still holds up as a fascinating meditation on creator writes and the shackles of comics as corporate product. 

post #9 of 12

Nice to see Al Hirschfield on the list. 

post #10 of 12

Didn't see it on the list, but I'd also highly recommend the IDW collection of Bloom County. It's one of the all-time great cartoon strips (I personally give it the nod over Doonesbury), and even though a lot of the references are dated, it's a testament to just how good this comic was that so much of it holds up. And as someone who normally isn't big into the collector aspect of comics I have to say, it is some damn fine shelf porn.

post #11 of 12

This will be both the stupidest and most tangentally-related-to-the-thread post ever, but I saw a video of McFarlane and Rob Liefeld back in their glory days. McFarlane was wearing a leather jacket. And I realized, holy shit, those two look EXACTLY like Richie Cunningham and the Fonz.
 

post #12 of 12

Yikes.
 

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