Yesterday morning, the Hooded Utilitarian posted my list along with 21 others who contributed to a giant survey of comic book creators, retailers, publishers, educators, commentators (like me) and other industry folk from all over the world to determine the 10 Best Comics. In total, 211 people responded.
I sent my list on June 15, in response to the question, “What are the ten comics works you consider your favorites, the best, or the most significant?” I started my email response to the Hooded Utilitarian with the following: “I want you to know, this is IMPOSSIBLE.”
And it is. But despite that…
- Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli
- Bone by Jeff Smith
- Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson
- Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
- Maus: A Survivor’s Tale by Art Spiegelman
- Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
- Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
- Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
- Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud
- The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard
Start clicking and see if something interests you.
There are plenty of comics that are just as good as the above that deserve to be listed, and even some that are better. But I had a few guidelines to help focus my list down to a manageable size.
First, I had to have actually read the material. Of the above, only Peanuts has material that I have never read. But I’ve read enough of it that what I haven’t read would have to be an absolute bomb for it to tarnish the goodwill. That means there was some material that I am fully expecting to love and that I love for its mere existence and concept that I had to leave out. I really wanted to include Carol Tyler’s You’ll Never Know on my list. It sits by my desk in my to-read pile from last year‘s Comic-Con.
Second, I leaned much heavier on the “most significant” portion of the question. As some have pointed out, the question asked by The Hooded Utilitarian is really three different questions which could result in three very different lists. Because what interests me is comics’ efforts to find new audiences, I interpreted “most significant” as the comics that have been most successful in winning over new readers. That was probably my biggest barometer. Each of the above have helped establish a genre or publishing strategy or level of skill that has expanded what comics can be and are today. In retrospect, I might’ve leaned a little too heavy on modern material but I think some of the most innovative and inclusive material is being made now (if you know where to find it).
OK, so let’s hear it. What did I miss?
(More random thoughts after the jump.)
One of my favorite regular columns is the monthly Comics College by Chris Mautner at Robot 6, hosted by Comic Book Resources. Each entry is a great introductory overview of what’s best to read from the great comic book masters and why they are so good, making this a fantastic source for newcomers or people who’ve always wanted to expand their reading. It also covers their lesser known work and stuff that maybe should be avoided.
The great part of the column is that it is looking at masters from all over the art form of comics. It’s not just superhero creators, or just alternative comics creators. It’s both those, as well as manga, newspaper strips, underground comics, euro-comics, comics journalism and more.
This month’s subject is the Norwegian cartoonist simply known as Jason. This prolific creator tells funny genre mash-ups with a deadpan economy of dialogue and understated emotion with characters struggling over love and guilt. Next month, George Herriman will be featured. His classic comic strip Krazy Kat is among the most highly regarded in the history of comics.
The Comics College column debuted in August 2009 and has covered the following comics masters past and present (click on the link to be taken to the column):
- Los Bros. Hernandez (Love and Rockets)
- Jack Kirby (The Fantastic Four, Jack Kirby’s Fourth World)
- Osamu Tezuka (Astro Boy, Phoenix)
- R. Crumb (Zap Comix, Book of Genesis)
- Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Mr. Punch)
- Chris Ware (Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, Acme Novelty Library)
- Lewis Trondheim (Dungeon, Little Nothings)
- Harvey Kurtzman (Mad Magazine, Frontline Combat)
- art spiegelman (Maus, In the Shadow of No Towers)
- Eddie Campbell (Alec: The Years Have Pants, The Fate of the Artist)
- Harvey Pekar (American Splendor, Our Cancer Year)
- Kim Deitch (The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Shadowland)
- Kevin Huizenga (Ganges, Curses)
- Hergé (Tintin)
- Charles M. Schulz (Peanuts)
- John Stanley (Little Lulu, Melvin Monster)
- Seth (George Sprott: 1894-1975, Wimbledon Green, It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken)
- Frank Miller (The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City)
- Joe Sacco (Safe Area Gorazde, Palestine)
- Jason (I Killed Adolf Hitler, Hey Wait…)
- George Herriman (Krazy Kat)
- Jack Cole (Plastic Man, Betsy and Me)
- Adrian Tomine (Summer Blonde, Scenes from an Impending Marriage)
- Grant Morrison (All-Star Superman, We3)
- Jessica Abel (La Perdida, Artbabe)
- Gabrielle Bell (Cecil and Jordan in New York, Lucky)
- Scott McCloud (Understanding Comics, Zot!)
- Charles Burns (Black Hole, Big Baby, X’ed Out)
- Jacques Tardi (It Was the War of the Trenches, West Coast Blues)
- Phoebe Gloeckner (A Child’s Life, The Diary of a Teenage Girl)
- Marjane Satrapi (Persepolis, Chicken with Plums)
- David B (Epileptic, Babel)
UPDATE: I’ll keep updating the list as new entries get posted.