31 May 2021

Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons (No. 91)

Watchmen (1986-1987)
by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

(from The 100 Best Comics of the Century! in The Comics Journal #210, 1999)
In narrowed circles, Watchmen will be dismissed for merely being the fare-the-well vision of superheroes. True, the 1986 tale is indebted to genre conventions, but it additionally refurbishes devices from science fiction and the mystery novel, specifically the "murder at the club" sub-species. Here, however, the cast of indelibly delineated members just happen to wear masks. With this, the psychological implications of dressed-up heroism are acknowledged, examined, and then folded into richer, more complex patterns of human behaviour than covered in any crime fighter's handbook.

In fact, Watchmen as a whole represented a richer, more complex, and more ambitious narrative infrastructure than serial comics had seen before. Writer Alan Moore consciously fabricated a fastidious, densely layered, and unfailingly smart dramatic milieu. A chilling realism, but one step removed from normalcy, shapes integrated innovations from the momentous (Nixon's fourth term) to the incidental (the necessitated collateral drugs for same). Arch dialogue, aphorism, witticisms, and good jokes pepper a prose that spoke in tongues to multiple purposes and sustained a level of daunting and unprecedented word-smithing.

Dave Gibbons gave the absorbing clash of familiar and alien a reassuring coherence even while embedding the graphic tie-rods and visual lief motifs. Consciously operating within a strict comics grid, his painstaking and efficacious renderings exemplified the S&M adage that with discipline comes freedom. The series' distinctive presentation - of covers, titles, quotes, text addenda - made a strong, unified thematic statement that stood apart from commercial product.

Watchmen remains dazzling, even glaringly brilliant, so much so that it is impossible to gather it all in one reading. (Follow the sugar cubes! Construct the urban intersection at the cross-hairs! How early can you deduce, with absolute certainty, Rorschach's identity? Watch for visual conceits like the blood-splattered smiley-face that broaden into suggestive geometries the circle slashed by line segment, the circle within circles.) Repeated readings reveal how uniquely it shines.

(from Prisoners Of Gravity, 1991)
I think that I'd have to echo what David Bowie said about his influence, y'know, this is the face that launched a thousand pretensions. At the time I hoped that Watchmen might show up a lot of the essential silliness and redundancy of the superhero genre. It wasn't meant as a revitalization of the superhero, it was meant as a tombstone for the superhero, at least in my terms. I couldn't see any point in doing superheroes, from my point of view, after Watchmen. Unfortunately everybody else could, and there have been an awful lot of bad Watchmen clones, or not just specifically Watchmen clones, but this would extend to Dark Knight as well, people who were looking at those faintly grim and post-modern superhero comics of the mid '80s, and instead of moving on from there, have just recycled them again and again and again for the last six years. It's almost like, you know, post-modernism by numbers. You make a few references to William Burroughs, you make a few references to some currently popular band like R.E.M. that'll impress your young readers with how hip you are, um, you throw in some garbled sort of psych-, sub-psychedelic philosophy, um, and you've got a modern comic. It doesn't matter whether it has any substance, it doesn't matter whether it has any direction, but it hits enough of the right buttons so that people will recognise this as something modern and experimental and daring, and of course it is not in the least bit experimental or daring. To me, the people who have taken chances are not in the mainstream... The people who've taken the chances are the people like Chester Brown, the Hernandez Brothers, Peter Bagge, Julie Doucet, all of those people. They are not getting big royalties for this summer's giant Batman crossover, but they are doing the work that is dangerously dangerous and radical and innovative. They're the ones who deserve the credit.

Moore's writing is remarkable. He catches the rhythms of speech so naturally, presents his world so seamlessly, that the whole seems effortless… Gibbon's art has never been better. Each panel a semiotician's heaven… undoubtedly the most ambitious work of science fiction since Gene Wolfe's Book Of The Sun, and the most ambitious and, in my opinion, most successful graphic novel ever.

(from an interview in The Comics Journal #180, 1995)
For better and for worse, Alan Moore is very interested in structures, and that kind of structuring is what made Watchmen stand apart from other books. It's not the dystopic vision, it's not the Twilight Zone ending, it's the fact that there's something formally at work there that you're only peripherally aware of, as you're reading through this thing, that gives weight and authority to what's being told.

Alan Moore World
Watchmen at Wikipedia

30 May 2021

Covering The London Review of Books: Jon McNaught

Jon McNaught was born in 1985. He lives in London, UK, where he draws comics, and works as an illustrator, printmaker and lecturer. He is the author of the distinctive and award-winning graphic novels Kingdom, Birchfield Close, Pebble Island and Dockwood, all published by Nobrow Press. He is also a regular cover artist for the London Review of Books. Below is a selection of his amazing LRB covers, which are available to order as prints from the LRB web-store

28 May 2021

Covering The New Yorker: Joost Swarte

Dutch graphic designer and artist Joost Swarte (pronounced Yost Svarta) has been contributing to The New Yorker magazine since 1995. In 2018 his New York Book collected over 450 of his illustrations for the magazine (published in France by Dargaud). In 2012, Fantagraphics Books published Is That All There Is?, a collection of his alternative comics work from 1972 to date, including the Raw magazine stories that brought him fame among American comics aficionados in the 1980s. A career spanning interview from The Comics Journal #279 (November 2006) is available on the TCJ website.

Power Trip
Art by Joost Swarte
When I travel, I love seeing the different ways people live. Sure, I collect all sorts of initial information from the Internet. But, once on a trip, I prefer not to be online. A simple mobile phone, just in case of an emergency, is enough. If I need information or if I lose my way, I ask the locals.

Smart Designs
Art by Joost Swarte
I love to show how things work, how a window can be opened, how a table is constructed. A lot of that comes through while drawing. I’m always analyzing objects, observing human behavior, and reconstructing what I find as I work on the page... I feel a responsibility to the readers. I try to express myself clearly even when the message is complex. Drawing comes first for me; architecture is really something I got to do later. But you’re right that there are similarities: in both lies the fun of analyzing a problem and resolving it in an elegant manner.

The Mouse of Wall Street
Art by Joost Swarte
“The stock market is all about fear and anxiety, best shown in how a mouse reacts to a cat,” says the Dutch cartoonist Joost Swarte about his drawing for this week’s cover. When Swarte first sent his sketch, the markets were in free fall - but then a day later they had rebounded. Swarte amended the image to show “the optimistic mouse.”

Summer Adventures
Art by Joost Swarte
I always relish how a cartoon can trigger thought and laughter with just a small drawing. Cartooning has an edge on all other media. You don’t need anything else such as canvas and paint, or camera and actors: the road to expression is only a sheet of paper and a pencil away.

Love Stories
Art by Joost Swarte

Novel Approach
The New Yorker (17 May 2010)
Art by Joost Swarte

Summer Reading
The New Yorker (20 August 2007)
Art by Joost Swarte

Fall Books
The New Yorker (5 October 1998)
Art by Joost Swarte

27 May 2021

Cartoonist Kayfabe: RAW Issue-by-Issue!

The Cartoonist Kayfabe YouTube Channel is THE place to get an audio/visual inside scoop on comics from two lifetime comic-book makers - Jim Rugg and Ed Piskor! In the videos below Jim and Ed turn the pages of the 1980s ground-breaking, experimental comix magazine RAW, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. Future instalments will be added below as they appear!

Cartoonist Kayfabe review RAW #1

Cartoonist Kayfabe review RAW #2
 Watch on YouTube here.

26 May 2021

The Weirdo Short Stories by Robert Crumb (No. 10)

The Weirdo Short Stories (1981-1993)
by Robert Crumb

(from The 100 Best Comics of the Century! in The Comics Journal #210, 1999)
Robert Crumb has always treated the comic strip as a genuine art form fully suitable for essays, cartoons, biography, stories, even fairy tales, and his Weirdo work is done in an amazing variety of formats and styles. To be sure, there are a handful of throwaway cartoons and dumb fumetti (corny photo-stories starring Crumb and buxom women) but most of the material shows great range and depth in its writing and artwork.

Crumb's earliest comics work was done in a super cartoony, big-foot style. His work never lost that expressive cartooniness, but in Weirdo it is allied with more realistically observed and rendered details - his figures, especially, look like they've been drawn from life. Some of his pieces are inked with thick, heavy brushwork; others by an elaborate network of fine hatching and cross-hatching which creates a wide gradation of tone and texture.

My favourite cover is probably the one for issue 4, a modern-day variation of "Christ Carrying the Cross" by Hieronymous Bosch. Christ, holding a copy of Weirdo, is surrounded by a crowd full of scruffiness and corruption; conniving corporate leaders, politicians, a cop, a big-haired preacher pushing genuine prayer cloths, and in one corner a beatific young woman with golden hair wearing St. Veronica's vile bearing the sacred image as a t-shirt.Bosch is an apt choice since Crumb shares the Flemish painter's jaundiced view of a weak and foolish humanity, although they obviously differ on lust as a deadly sin. The border illustration is a cross between a medieval Last Judgement and an old MAD cover.

My second favourite cover is from issue 14, subtitled "America wallows in its own filth", which portrays a typically voluptuous Crumb girl with muddy legs and a Madonna top on her bra-less bosom, riding a hog and singing "Sally in the Garden"as an army of Kilroys crowds the pig-pen. In both pieces the penwork is excruciatingly lovely. Crumb also takes particular care in playing with the flat colours of the printing process to achieve depth and subtlety.

Crumb is never brainless or shrill. Even his most bile-filled rantings are done with wit and intelligence and self-deprecation. His essay "Where Has It Gone, The Beautiful Music of Our Grandparents - It Died With Them... That's Where It Went" begins with Crumb being driven crazy by obnoxious pop music in a restaurant. After assaulting a rock star and his agent, Crumb launches into a fascinating history of music, contrasting the overly-refined classical "masterpieces" created for the aristocracy with the low-down folk music of peasants who would jump and dance with such abandon that their noses bled. He bemoans the destruction of folk traditions around the globe - a young man with a blaring boom box being the envy of his village.

Crumb's ability to use comics as a medium for serious work is fully evident in one of his most interesting pieces, "The Religious Experience of Philip K. Dick", which chronicles the last years of the highly-regarded science fiction writer who experience an intense vision of the apocalypse and believed that he was possessed by the spirit of Elijah. The dark, heavy style of the artwork perfectly reflects the mood of the story. Dick re-experienced the brutal parroting of John the Baptist and even his everyday life was coloured by flashbacks to times of persecution. Paradoxically, Dick functioned much better in the real world while "possessed" than he had before. In the end the question lingers: was he experiencing the onset of schizophrenia or a "mystic revelation"?

Drawn in a similar style is "Footsy". With remarkable recall Crumb vividly paints a bitter and funny picture of his high school world, where his social ineptitude with girls forced him to deal with his desires furtively via this "sneaky little game". Crumb never spares himself the rod in his work. 

"I Remember The Sixties" relates how LSD transformed his life. It dissects the Summer of Love which was soon destroyed by "wolves" and rampant paranoia. crumb's own LSD visions ranged from the hellish to states of "ecstatic grace". The piece ends on a strange note with a dream of Paradise Lost as Crumb encounters some young centaurs who only see him as a funny, bent old man. 

Another great piece is an excerpt from "Boswell's London Journal, 1762-63", which relates the plump, pleasure-loving Sir James' social and amorous exploits. He will be discussing philosophy in one breath and tartly commentating upon a whore whose "avarice was as large as her ass." 

It is ironic and indicative of the state of culture in this country, that the work of one of its truest artists has appeared primarily in obscure, underground, always-on-the-edge-of-going-under rags like Weirdo.

Weirdo was a magazine-sized comics anthology created by Robert Crumb in 1981 - published by Last Gasp Press - which ran for 28 issues until 1993. Individual issues can still be found, but Crumb's Weirdo contributions were collected in R. Crumb: The Weirdo Years 1981-1993 published by Last Gasp in 2018.


25 May 2021

Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet (No. 96)

Dirty Plotte #1-12 (1991-1998)
by Julie Doucet

(from The 100 Best Comics of the Century!, The Comics Journal #210, 1999)
Of all the autobiographical cartoonists to have emerged onto the scene in the 1990s, perhaps none has come so far or accomplished so much as Julie Doucet. Her most recent work, and her first lengthy story, My New York Diary, was a tremendous accomplishment, managing simultaneously to vastly expand her reach as a cartoonist while at the same time sacrificing none of the charms of her earliest work.

Dirty Plotte began life as a fairly crude little mini-comic featuring stories of self-abasement, destruction and debauchery. Before long Doucet had transformed her work into a full-sized American-style comic book without changing its thematics and tone. The earliest issues of the series have a ferocious intensity about them, but the savagery is tempered by a sometimes whimsical sense of humour and an approach to confessional story-telling that is equally self-depreciating and self-aggrandising.

With My New York Diary in the tenth through twelfth issues of Dirty Plotte, Doucet came into her own for the first time. The story of a woman adrift in a new city while caught in a relationship gone not dreadfully but pitiably wrong is evocative and genuinely moving while at the same time it maintains the artist's distinctive visual look, albeit toned down a notch. By de-amplifying her work Doucet has, ironically, given it more resonance.

I'd say that Julie Doucet is one of the most promising young cartoonists working today except for the fact that Dirty Plotte demonstrates that that she has accomplished a great deal in comics already. So let's just say that Doucet is one of the best cartoonists working today and leave it at that.

These are among the most personal and powerfully intimate comics ever made. In their obsessive, utterly-fearless precision they draw us fully into Doucet's private dream-vision, a gleefully-nihilistic, rageful and tenderly melancholic perspective on a dark and complicated world, the panels so dense with raw anthropomorphous energy they seem more like living organisms than lines on paper.

Okay, she's not a comic story-teller in the "normal" sense, but her personal vision is honest and compelling... I find her completely sincere, incapable of "structured, linear narratives", sure, but her "stories" are like powerful dreams... I admire her work and sympathise with the crisis she's going through... Her struggle is to continue to draw under the magnifying glass of recognition at a young age, when one is still developing and not so sure of how to get along in the world... I'm happy to see that, while she's drawing less than before (I'm sure she's close to being burned out by the constant barrage of demands for her talents from all sides), it's as good as ever... I thought her latest Dirty Plotte was great! I hope she can make it through the ocean of bullshit that she has to cope with... Even if she has to back off and quit drawing for a while... I hope she's tough enough to survive...

Dirty Plotte: The Complete Julie Doucet was published in 2018 by Drawn & Quarterly, which received Eisner and Ignatz Award nominations that year for Best Archival Publication. It collects the entire 12-issue comic book series, including the acclaimed My New York Diary, as well as rare comics and previously unpublished material; a reproduction of the first Dirty Plotte mini comic; essays about her comics legacy and feminist influence by curator Dan Nadel and academic Martine Delvaux respectively; an interview by comics scholar Christian Gasser; and personal anecdotes from Jami Attenberg, Adrian Tomine, and more!


City of Glass by Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli (No. 45)

City of Glass (1994)
by Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli

(from The 100 Best Comics of the Century, The Comics Journal #210, 1999)
It's rare that any adaptation of a well-written novel lives up to the standard set by the original and comic books have not had a history marked by stunning success in this arena. Except, perhaps, for one.

Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli's adaptation of Paul Auster's short detective novel City of Glass not only lives up to the promise of the original text but also asks to be taken seriously alongside it. Paul Auster's City of Glass, as the Avon-published comic is known, does not merely render Auster's text visually but actively brings new metaphors to the surface by plumbing the novel's depths to a degree heretofore unheard of in a comic book literary adaptation.

Take, for example, the lengthy expository monologue in which Peter Stillman tells his history to the protagonist, Quinn. Reading the text it is almost unimaginable visually, yet Mazzucchelli dives straight into Stillman's mouth to find mythic icons, reflections of primitive visual representations, and a tour de force presentation of symbols (a guitar, ink, a television) that are stand-ins for direct face-to-face communication. With these pages Mazzucchelli suggests, in a fashion more direct than Auster's text alone, the inability of Stillman and Quinn to communicate one to one. The discussion is always mediated, always partial because their experiences of language (one a writer, the other raised in absolute solitude) are so totally at odds. In every way Mazzucchelli has made the copy in this instance superior to the original.

If there is one drawback to Paul Auster's City of Glass it is that the remaining parts of the trilogy (Ghosts and The Locked Room) haven't received similar treatment. Without them, the story remains incomplete. Nonetheless, if the comic book gives up something for its lack of successors, it gains much more with the addition of David Mazzucchelli's skilful and thought-provoking artwork.

(from an interview in The Comics Journal #194, March 1997)
Auster's book is so much about language, and the structure of language, and identity, and, in fact, the structure of identity, the shifting nature and layering of identity, that the visual metaphors that Paul [Karasik] was coming up with were necessary and apropos. That was really the challenge, to find a visual way of expressing these things without having to keep all the text.

(from the introduction to City Of Glass 2004 edition)
By poking at the heart of comics structure, Karasik and Mazzucchelli created a strange doppelganger of the original book. It's as if Quinn, confronted with two nearly identical Peter Stillmans at Grand Central Station, chose to follow one drawn with brush and ink rather than one set in type. The volume that resulted, first published in 1994, overcame all my purist notions about collaboration. It offers one of the richest demonstrations to date of the modern Ikonologosplatt at its most subtle and supple. [Read the full introduction here...]

The original 1994 edition of City of Glass by Karasik and Mazzucchelli is long sold out, but the second 2004 edition with an introduction by Art Spiegelman is still available from your local comics store.

Paul Karasik Comics
David Mazzucchelli profile at PaulGravett.com

24 May 2021

The Buddy Bradley Stories by Peter Bagge (No. 47)

The Buddy Bradley Stories
(Neat Stuff / Hate, 1986-1998) 
by Peter Bagge 

(from The 100 Best Comics of the Century! in The Comics Journal #210, 1999)
The success of Peter Bagge's Buddy Bradley stories - starting off with the Bradley Family stories in Neat Stuff and continuing through Hate - is due in large part to the strength and familiarity of his characters. Despite (or perhaps because of) Bagge's our-exaggerated art style, Buddy Bradley and his family, friends, hangers-on and oddities provide an almost painful reflection of people we know and se in our everyday lives; sometimes even ourselves. To read Hate and Neat Stuff is to stare into a hilarious distorted portrait of modern America.

Such familiarity is important to comedy, especially comedy that depends upon a large and continuing group of characters. Bagge's work with the Bradleys differs from his other work (such as Martini Baton) and the work of other "gag" cartoonists in that the laughs are not built around punch lines but around the characters, their reactions to their surroundings and the company they're forced to keep. Bagge's genius lies in the fact that readers identify with characters that often behave like greedy, lustful, immoral, indecent slobs. Bagge is not only one of the most distinctive cartoonists to come down the pike, he's hands-down one the comic industries best writers.

With the Buddy Bradley stories, Bagge created some of the most fully realised, three dimensional characters in comics. The fact that they often behave like jerks or worse only makes them all the more funny and recognisable. What does that say about us?

I enjoy his work immensely. It cracks me up. I think he's an up-and-coming great cartoonist of our time... I can count on one hand the number of comic artists of his generation whose work is as strong... maybe on two or three fingers... It's a laff riot, what can I tell ya?

Peter Bagge comics (including The Complete Neat Stuff and The Complete Hate collections) are available from Fantagraphics Books or your local comics store.

Peter Bagge on Twitter
Peter Bagge at Reason.com
Peter Bagge: Conversations
Cartoonist Kayfabe Review: Hate #1

23 May 2021

Pictopia by Alan Moore & Don Simpson (No. 92)

Pictopia (1986)
by Alan Moore & Don Simpson
with Mike Kazaleh, Pete Poplaski & Eric Vincent

(from The 100 Best Comics of the Century! in The Comics Journal #210, 1999)
Alan Moore's Watchmen and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns were no more to blame for the increasing cruelty and violence in superheroes in the later part of the 1980s than Moore and Miller were to blame for the increasing ruthlessness and greediness of Thatcher's and Reagan's social policies of the same period. But writer Moore and artist Don Simpson would critique society's sanctioned heartlessness using brutal superheroes as a metaphor. Along the way, they would raise a lament to the demise of comics themselves, both as a social institution and as a valued industry. That's a lot to pack into a 13-page story, one of the shorter works in this list of 100.

Moore, a clever student of comics' history and already a jaded hand in the field, was at his most trenchantly concise and riding high dudgeon. Simpson, all-too-familiar with the inherent absurdity of superheroes and the comics industry through his own Megaton Man, acted as the hammer. 

Here Sammy Sleepyhead rouses neighbours with his incestuous nightmares. Red Dimstead, driven to hooking, brings home South Seas Sullivan the sailor as her husband Deadwood dries out in alcoholic read. Elections are contested among political caricatures. Out on the streets, resident but out-of-work residents of the Funnies Ghetto, acting as society's geeks, "let you disfigure them for a buck." Holdover characters reluctant to get with the program are threatened with no longer fitting into "continuity".

As an indictment of a literate public and soured public taste, Pictopia is as sharp, poignant and hilarious a prosecution as comics has yet levelled against itself. As a jab at larger societal problems, it foreshadowed Moore's and Sienkiewicz' visually explosive and politically explicit Shadow Play: The Secret Team from 1989's Brought To Light.

Pictopia first appeared in the comics-anthology Anything Goes #2 (1986), published by Fantagraphics Books, which was designed to raise funds for their legal defence costs in a defamation suit brought against them by Michael Fleischer for comments made about him by Harlan Ellison in The Comics Journal #53 (1980). A deluxe, oversized edition of Pictopia was finally published in 2021 by Fantagraphics Books. Pictopia was also reprinted in Brighter Than You Think (2017), a collection of 10 short comics written by Alan Moore accompanied by insightful analysis by Marc Sobel, published by Uncivilised Books.

Alan Moore World
Don Simpson, Cartoonist At Large

22 May 2021

The Recommended Reading List

Comic-creators recommend their favourite comics!
This list is a work-in-progress and will be updated regularly.

A Contract With God by Will Eisner
Frank by Jim Woodring
Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray

Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Prince Valiant by Harold Foster
The Strange Death of Alex Raymond by Dave Sim & Carson Grubaugh

Barnaby by Crockett Johnson
Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet
MAD edited by Harvey Kurtzman

American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green
Dirty Plotte by Julie Doucet
Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book by Harvey Kurtzman
MAD edited by Harvey Kurtzman
The Autobiographical Comics of Spain Rodriguez
The Buddy Bradley Stories by Peter Bagge

Madman's Drum by Lynd Ward
The Cartoon History of the Universe by Larry Gonick
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Alec by Eddie Campbell
Cages by Dave McKean
Frank by Jim Woodring
Master Race by Bernard Krigstein & Al Feldstein
Pogo by Walt Kelly
Tantrum by Jules Feiffer
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

A Contract With God by Will Eisner
Frank by Jim Woodring
The Spirit by Will Eisner

A Contract With God by Will Eisner
Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson
EC War Comics by Harvey Kurtzman & Others

Alec by Eddie Campbell
American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
Arcade: The Comics Revue edited by Art Spiegelman & Bill Griffith
Dark Knight by Frank Miller
Hellboy by Mike Mignola
Love & Rockets by Jaime Hernandez
Luther Arkwright by Bryan Talbot
MAD edited by Harvey Kurtzman
Maus by Art Spiegelman
Palestine by Joe Sacco
Tales of Telguuth by Steve Moore
The Book of Jim by Jim Woodring
The Loneliness of a Long-Distance Cartoonist by Adrian Tomine
The Sketchbooks of Robert Crumb
The Spirit by Will Eisner
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Barnaby by Crockett Johnson
Thimble Theatre by E.C. Segar

Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
The Autobiographical Stories in Yummy Fur by Chester Brown

A Contract With God by Will Eisner
Fourth World Comics by Jack Kirby
Master Race by Bernard Krigstein & Al Feldstein
The Autobiographical Stories in Yummy Fur by Chester Brown
The Willie & Joe Cartoons of Bill Mauldin

Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green
City of Glass by Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli
Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book
Krazy Kat by George Herriman
Little Nemo in Slumberland by Winsor McKay
Little Orphan Annie by Harold Gray
Madman's Drum by Lynd Ward
Master Race by Bernard Krigstein & Al Feldstein
Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
Plastic Man by Jack Cole
The Autobiographical Comics of Spain Rodriguez
The Bungle Family by George Tuthill
The Mishkin Saga by Kim Deitch with Simon Deitch
Thimble Theatre by E.C. Segar
Uncle Scrooge by Carl Barks
Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

Wash Tubbs / Captain Easy by Roy Crane

Binky Brown Meets The Holy Virgin Mary by Justin Green
Gasoline Alley by Frank King
Krazy Kat by George Herriman
Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz
Zap Comix by Robert Crumb & Others

Krazy Kat by George Herriman
Pogo by Walt Kelly

The 100 Best Comics of the 20th Century!

The 100 List | The Reviewers | List Making
Cartoonist Kayfabe

The Comics Journal #210 (1999)
Cover by Seth

as compiled by The Comics Journal #210, 1999

  1. Krazy Kat (1913-1944)
    by George Herriman

  2. Peanuts (1950-2000)
    by Charles Schulz

  3. Pogo (1949-1973)
    by Walt Kelly

  4. Maus (1986-1991)
    by Art Spiegelman

  5. Little Nemo in Slumberland (1905-1927)
    by Winsor McCay

  6. Feiffer (1956-1965)
    by Jules Feiffer

  7. Donald Duck (1942-1965)
    by Carl Barks

  8. MAD #1-24 (1952-1956)
    edited by Harvey Kurtzman

  9. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary (1972)
    by Justin Green

  10. The Weirdo Short Stories (1981-1993)
    by Robert Crumb

  11. Thimble Theatre (1925-1938)
    by E.C. Segar

  12. EC War Comics (1950-1955)
    by Harvey Kurtzman & Others

  13. Wigwam Bam (1990-1993)
    by Jaime Hernandez

  14. Human Diastrophism / Blood of Palomar (1986-1987, revised 1988)
    by Gilbert Hernandez

  15. The Spirit (1940-1951)
    by Will Eisner

  16. RAW Magazine (1980-1991)
    edited by Art Spiegelman & Francoise Mouly

  17. The ACME Novelty Library (1993-present)
    by Chris Ware

  18. Polly & Her Pals (1912-1958)
    by Cliff Sterrett

  19. Sketchbooks (1964-present)
    by Robert Crumb

  20. Uncle Scrooge (1952-1967)
    by Carl Barks

  21. The New Yorker Cartoons (1925-1968)
    by Peter Arno

  22. The Death of Speedy Ortíz (1987)
    by Jaime Hernandez

  23. Terry & The Pirates (1934-1946)
    by Milton Caniff

  24. Flies On The Ceiling (1988-1989)
    by Jaime Hernandez

  25. Wash Tubbs / Captain Easy (1924-1943)
    by Roy Crane

  26. Harvey Kurtzman's Jungle Book (1959)
    by Harvey Kurtzman

  27. Palestine (1993-1995)
    by Joe Sacco

  28. The Mishkin Saga (1992-1994)
    by Kim Deitch with Simon Deitch

  29. Gasoline Alley (1981-1951)
    by Frank King

  30. The Fantastic Four (1961-1969)
    by Jack Kirby with Stan Lee

  31. Poison River (1988-1992, revised 1994)
    by Gilbert Hernandez

  32. Plastic Man (1941-1950)
    by Jack Cole

  33. Dick Tracy (1931-1977)
    by Chester Gould

  34. Theatrical Caricatures (1928-2003)
    by Al Hirschfeld

  35. Spider-Man (1962-1966)
    by Steve Ditko with Stan Lee

  36. Calvin & Hobbes (1985-1996)
    by Bill Watterson

  37. Doonesbury (1970-present)
    by Garry Trudeau

  38. Yummy Fur Autobiographical Comics (1988-1993)
    by Chester Brown

  39. Editorial Cartoons (1964-present)
    by Pat Oliphant

  40. The Kinder-Kids (1906)
    by Lyonel Feininger

  41. From Hell (1989-1998)
    by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell

  42. Ghost World (1993-1997)
    by Daniel Clowes

  43. The Amphigorey Books (1972, 1975, 1983)
    by Edward Gorey

  44. The Idiots Abroad (1982-1987)
    by Gilbert Shelton & Paul Mavrides

  45. Paul Auster's City of Glass (1994)
    by Paul Karasik & David Mazzucchelli

  46. Cages (1990-1998)
    by Dave McKean

  47. The Buddy Bradley Stories in Neat Stuff & Hate (1986-1998)
    by Peter Bagge

  48. The Cartoons (1927-1961)
    of James Thurber

  49. Understanding Comics (1993)
    by Scott McCloud

  50. Tantrum (1979)
    by Jules Feiffer

  51. Alec (1981-2010)
    by Eddie Campbell

  52. It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken (1993-1996)
    by Seth (aka Gregory Gallant)

  53. The Editorial Cartoons (1929-2001)
    of Herblock

  54. EC Horror Comics (1950-1955)
    by Al Feldstein & various

  55. Frank (1992-present)
    by Jim Woodring

  56. Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer (1988-1996)
    by Ben Katchor

  57. A Contract With God (1978)
    by Will Eisner

  58. New Yorker Cartoons (1935-1988)
    by Charles Addams

  59. Little Lulu (1945-1959)
    by John Stanley

  60. Alley Oop (1933-1971)
    by V.T. Hamlin

  61. American Splendor #1-10 (1977-1983)
    by Harvey Pekar & Others

  62. Little Orphan Annie (1924-1968)
    by Harold Gray

  63. Hey Look! (1946-1949)
    by Harvey Kurtzman

  64. Goodman Beaver (1962)
    by Harvey Kurtzman & Bill Elder

  65. Bringing Up Father (1913-1954)
    by George McManus

  66. Zippy (1970-present)
    by Bill Griffith

  67. The Passport (1954)
    by Saul Steinberg

  68. Barnaby (1942-1946, 1952)
    by Crockett Johnson

  69. Madman's Drum (1930)
    by Lynd Ward

  70. Jimbo (1976-1996)
    by Gary Panter

  71. The Book of Jim (1993)
    by Jim Woodring

  72. Rubber Blanket Short Stories (1991-1993)
    by David Mazzucchelli

  73. The Cartoon History of the Universe (1990-present)
    by Larry Gonick

  74. Ernie Pook's Comeek (1979-2008)
    by Lynda Barry

  75. Black Hole (1995-2005)
    by Charles Burns

  76. Master Race (1955)
    by Bernie Krigstein & Al Feldstein

  77. Li'l Abner (1934-1977)
    by Al Capp

  78. Sugar & Spike (1951-1992)
    by Sheldon Mayer

  79. Captain Marvel (1941-1953)
    by C.C. Beck & Otto Binder

  80. Zap (1967-1998)
    by Robert Crumb & others

  81. The Lily Stories (1992-2002)
    by Debbie Drechsler

  82. Caricature (1995)
    by Daniel Clowes

  83. V for Vendetta (1982-1983, 1988-1989)
    by Alan Moore & David Lloyd

  84. Why I Hate Saturn (1990)
    by Kyle Baker

  85. The Willie & Joe Cartoons (1944-1945)
    by Bill Mauldin

  86. Stuck Rubber Baby (1995)
    by Howard Cruse

  87. New Yorker Cartoons (1926-1995)
    by George Price 

  88. The Fourth World Comics (1970-1974)
    by Jack Kirby

  89. Autobiographical Comics (1974-2012)
    by Spain Rodriguez

  90. Mr. Punch (1994)
    by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

  91. Watchmen (1986-1987)
    by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons

  92. Pictopia (1986)
    by Alan Moore & Don Simpson

  93. Dennis the Menace (1951-1994)
    by Hank Ketcham

  94. The Humour Comics (1942-1973)
    of Basil Wolverton

  95. Los Tejanos (1982)
    by Jack Jackson

  96. Dirty Plotte #1-12 (1991-1998)
    by Julie Doucet

  97. The Hannah Story (1994)
    by Carol Tyler

  98. Barney Google (1919-1942)
    by Billy De Beck

  99. The Bungle Family (1924-1945)
    by George Tuthill

  100. Prince Valiant (1937-1971)
    by Hal Foster

Read about the making of the TCJ Top 100 Comics list here...

The Making of 'The 100 Best Comics' List

The 100 List | The Reviewers | List Making
Cartoonist Kayfabe

(Editorial from The Comics Journal #210, 1999)
Everyone tells us this is a bad idea. One of the
Journal's most respected critics went so far as to write the editors a letter begging us not to try, suggesting that the entire idea of making lists out of art was antithetical to this magazines stated aims and goals. Other complaints have ranged from "it's unnecessary" to "it's completely without value."

We disagree. Comics, more than any other medium, benefits from a broad view. Very few art forms have as polluted a sense of history as comics. When the past is lauded, it is for its contribution to the present-day project or icon rather than for the works themselves. Moreover, the typical way of accessing the art form is through items of complete disposability; the daily newspaper, or the monthly serial comic book. And those are the comics that one can find. Others, including the most-lauded works of the last 30 years, have been accessed and read by less than 10,000 people.

Those within comics are extremely aware of this, a problem in and of itself. The story of this mediums struggle against commercial restraints and the blandness of its generally-held mass audience values is so deeply ingrained within the views of many knowledgeable comics readers that it has changed the way the medium is viewed. Most egregiously, it allows for a sort of critically apologetic dialogue: a comic is great within the context of its depraved origins, not as art itself; even more pointedly, there are not great comics works as much as there are great comics creators struggling against apathy or more insidious tyrannies of the market-place.

This list is a call for an uncompromising re-examination of the comics medium in terms of its best works. It is our hope that in viewing the achievements of the comics art form across a century - from the lurid, pulpy fun of its adventure comics to the well-crafted drama of its serial strips to the startling idiosyncratic delicacy of its high-end artistic triumphs - comics readers will see the medium in a new light. Casual or occasional readers may find a number of comics works worthy of their attention, while more serious readers may re-discover them.

We should note, particularly for first time readers, that the following is, unapologetically this magazine's list. Other serious comics readers no doubt have different ways of looking at the art form - we weren't interested in diluting what we have to offer by seeking a form of consensus that would by definition be political rather than aesthetic (the various comics industries are awash in politics of the most casual, well-meaning kind). Longterm readers will note that the areas of interest in this magazine - classic strips, the modern alternative comic, cartoon-related illustration - are well represented here. This magazine's view of the art form has been developed for more than 20 years, and it's one we believe has an enormous amount of value. We look forward to reading and enjoying other comparable lists, if any are attempted.

The most basic casualty of this approach is that this is a list of English-language comics, our magazine's area of interest, concentration and expertise. While our dedication to international works from Lat to Moebius to Tezuka to Mattotti to Swarte and hundreds of others remains as strong as ever, our critical focus has always been on English-language comics, specifically American comics (And except for those artists published through North American outlets, it can hardly said to be a British list; a more thorough examination of the best comics from the United Kingdom is in the planing stages).

Seth is right, writing in the article on cartoonist's lists that follows, when he says it is too bad that the following is not an international list - but that is a mistake that has more to do with the Journal's critical history than the design of the list. A list that purported to be international in scope that leaned exclusively toward popular, translated-only works would be a bigger distortion than one that excludes them outright. So in that respect, the Journal will follow the lead of similar list makers and stay primarily within our own borders. Similarly, despite the fashion in this decade to embrace a sequential definition of comics, this magazine has always studied panel cartoonists and cartoon-illustrators with a favour equal to comics artists. For that reason, they are included here.

A brief note about our process: The columnists - representing a cross-section of the Journal's writers - were asked to submit Top 100 lists. Those lists, together with those made by the editors, were used to compile a master list - placing a high value on consensus (also when it came to noting which comics were names: short story, series, graphic novel, or a career's output) and level of ranking.The editors took that master list, and after intense period of discussion and debate that included calling upon written sources, professionals and scholars, adjusted it very slightly, resulting in the following list...

...While our contribution to this end-of-century process ends here, yours can begin after its reading. And the larger process, whereby art is consistently and thoroughly examined and re-examined, continues, we hope, for as long as there are works to consider.

See the "TCJ 100 Best Comics of the Century!" list here...

TCJ.com: The Comics Journal #210
Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter 
A Moment of Cerebus: The 'Cerebus' Omission 

Read Yourself RAW! - An Introduction

Read Yourself Raw (Pantheon Books, 1987)
edited by Art Spiegelman & Francoise Mouly

The aim of this blog is simply to highlight the cutting-edge comics of today and explore classic comics of the past.

The name of the blog is a tribute to the 1980s experimental comics magazine RAW, edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. Specifically, the name is taken from the 1987 collection, which featured the best of the first three issues of RAW

A total of eleven issues of RAW were published between 1980 and 1991 (eight over-sized, self-published issues in Volume 1, with a further three digest-sized issues in Volume 2 published by Penguin Books). The magazine's influence on a generation of artists cannot be understated. It even made it onto David Bowie's list of "top 100 must-read books".

Art Spiegelman & RAW: His Other Masterpiece by Allen Rubenstein
In Love With Art: Francoise Mouly's Adventures in Comics With Art Spiegelman by Jeet Heer
RAW Magazine at Wikipedia

E: Read [dot] Yourself [dot] RAW [at] gmail [dot] com